Monday, November 26, 2012

Keeping Age Appropriateness with Students

There's one thing for sure--kids, no matter their ability, should be treated with dignity and respect.  It becomes increasingly more difficult, however, when you have older students with cognitive and developmental disabilities.  This holds true with students who may be in regular education classes, but display other disabilities.  It should go without saying, but I think it is important to repeat.  Students should be treated just like their peers no matter what their disabilities are.

It's taken me time, but I do see how Barney & Friends can be educational.  I have three kids under six years old and they enjoy it.  I, myself, am just old enough to have missed the Barney craze as I was raised with Mr. Rogers, Captain Kangaroo, and the Electric Company.  It really irks me though when I see Barney used as a theme or as a supplement to teach manners or social skills to older kids.  What's really tough is when you have a student with autism that has been attached to a character his whole life and now it is no longer age appropriate.  I can't say I have the answer to that one, but I can say that there are alternatives such as transitioning it into something more appropriate.  Lucky for you--there are lots of resources out there for finding age appropriate games and activities.

If you're stuck on characters for your games and activities, consider researching and finding ones that are liked by others in the same age group.  You could do a Google search or you could go right to the source and find some kids.  I have a couple of go-to sites that narrows the search by age, subject matter, media type, and common core standards.

Much of what I do applies to both classroom teachers and speech language pathologists.  As always, it might take some flexibility and creativity to work it into what you're already doing.  I tend to use technology for a couple of reasons.  First, the resources are limitless if you know how to find them.  Second, kids love SMART Boards, iPads, computers, and other technology. I use these to supplement curriculum vocabulary, content support, visual examples, interactive activities/manipulation, following directions, and showing experiments to name a few.

Here are a few of my favorite sites that you can find age appropriate activities including videos, interactive games, and other great information.

Common Sense  Media is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide kids and families trustworthy information and education in the media world.  The site ranks games, apps, movies, tv shows, websites, books, and more.   Most of the media is rated by both adults and kids.   They rank the educational value, positive messages, positive role models, violence & scariness, sexy stuff, language, consumerism, and drinking, drugs & smoking.  That pretty much covers what adults are looking at before introducing it to kids.

Here's what I really like.  I'm always getting asked by teachers, parents, kids, and anybody else about which apps are best for this or that.  "Do you know of any apps for middle school language?" or "I'm looking for a math app for my middle schooler, but I don't want it to be to baby like."  Common Sense Media has a feature called Learning Products Quick Finder where you can choose the age (2-17yrs), category (apps, games, websites), subject (language & reading, math, science, social studies, arts, and hobbies), and skill (thinking & reasoning, creativity, self-direction, emotional development, communication, collaboration, responsibility & ethics, tech skills, and health & fitness).  Follow them on Twitter for up to date information @CommonSenseNews.

These three sites are similar in that they've taken out the middle man and have already sorted and categorized the media for you.  All you have to do is search and select your areas of interest.

If you're an educator, then you've probably heard of Discovery United Streaming.  This website is a collection of educational media resources for different age groups and subject matter aligned with core curriculum standards.  Included are curriculum resources such as a lesson plan library, weekly thematic focuses, and even professional development.  This website does require a subscription.  You should check with your school because it is likely that they subscribe to this service.  This site is a major step up from YouTube.  If you're thinking of looking something up on YouTube, try Discovery Education or one of the following websites.   Follow them @DiscoveryEd on Twitter.

PBS Learning Media is another great site for finding age appropriate activities for students.  Again, you can narrow a search by age group, and media type.  I probably stumbled upon this site searching for some Bill Nye "The Science Guy" videos to supplement some weather activities for my severe cognitive impaired students.  Being that PBS caters to kids as young as pre-school, you can find activities for all age groups.  PBS Learning Media also provides documents, audio files, images, videos, and interactive media.  It's amazing to find activities that supplement what you're doing in the classroom.  I found one that you have to find the right clothing for different types of weather called Gerald's Weather Wheel.  What's great about PBS Learning Media is that it is free.  You do have to sign up for an account.  I love this website and use it all of the time to search for age appropriate games and activities for students of all abilities.  Go on there and search your current subject to see what appears.  Follow them @PBSLrnMedia on Twitter for more information.

Watch Know Learn is another great site to supplement classroom activities with videos.  These videos are taken from various sites such as YouTube and TeacherTube and are organized by age group, subject, and common core standards.  This site along with the others that I mentioned above are great ways to find age appropriate materials.  Follow them @WatchKnowLearn on Twitter for up to date information.

Hopefully, this will give you some ideas of where to look for age appropriate activities.  Get creative.  Think of ways you could incorporate interactives, videos, and games into your lessons.  

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