There will be a new experience waiting for me when school starts in September. I will be co-teaching with a resource teacher. We will co-teach a language arts class with an emphasis on reading comprehension. I am so looking forward to this new experience.
For many years I have integrated communication skills into classrooms by joining in cooperative learning exercises or “being a center” during center rotations. I have planned and delivered small group lessons as well as whole class lessons. We have called this collaboration. To me, co-teaching will be a bit different than just collaborating. Yes, we will team up and join forces and share our best strategies but I will get to be a teacher! It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.
Our purpose for co-teaching is to address the needs of students we share who struggle with reading comprehension and social thinking. In her book, I Get It! , Audra Jensen writes, “Reading comprehension is more than decoding words. It depends less on language comprehension and more on a student’s social thinking ability”. The resource teacher will bring her expertise as a reading teacher and I will bring what I know about social thinking skills. Audra Jensen’s organized Book Chat approach looks interesting as a touchstone for what we will do. This book is available at http://www.socialthinking.com
I found and read a fantastic article written by Susan Gately for TEACHING Exceptional Children, Vol. 40, No. 3, pp. 40-45 (http://www.cec.sped.org). Gately writes , “As in social situations, the task and importance of understanding and interpreting various cues is necessary for effective comprehension of narrative texts. To obtain reading comprehension, students must understand the author’s vocabulary, style of writing, and story structure as well as characters’ social experiences and how these contribute to the development of motivations, goals, and actions within the story setting”. She lists eight Strategies for Higher Order Reading Comprehension Skills:
- Priming background knowledge helps to focus reading as a thinking activity. The more readers know about a topic, the easier it is to connect the text with background knowledge.
- Picture Walks To conduct a traditional picture walk, survey illustrations of a story, make predictions about the story, and confirm the predictions. Be sure that any incorrect assumptions are repaired and not reinforced.
- Visual Maps can be used when there are no illustrations to use to prime background knowledge. This strategy will help students get “primed” for what they will read about characters, setting, and the problem faced by the characters.
- Think-Alouds and Reciprocal Teaching helps by modeling thinking about the text to students. Think-alouds help students learn four strategies: predicting, questioning, clarifying, and summarizing. In reciprocal teaching, the teacher stops often to share thoughts, for example, “When I read the words XYZ, I thought aboutABC” or “I’m confused about ABC. Let’s see how I can figure this out.”
- Understanding Narrative Text Structure starts with discovering who the main character of the text is and what he did. Develop simple story frames of who-did-what events. Events of the story can be written on sentence strips, organized by the students, and then matched to the cues in the story frames.
- Goal structure mapping uses shapes, lines, and arrows to organize stories so that students understand how events of one character may influence the actions of another character.
- Emotional Thermometers help students gain a sense of various intensities of feelings. Shades of color help students see the intensity of feeling in a concrete manner.
- Social Stories can help students consider perspectives of others in social situations and the perspective of various characters.
Please read the complete article. It is full of important information that will assist students with ASD in reading comprehension.
I have already been thinking about Emotional Thermometers. While buying paint at Home Depot, I picked up these paint chips to use as visuals.
I think using the color blue would be great to point out the different shades to express the level of sadness a character might be feeling.
Red could be used for anger, green for calm/happy, and yellow for worried/anxious.
Back to the subject of co-teaching… I am happy to say that the resource teacher approached me with the idea to co-teach. She saw the positive results of the lunch buddies social skills groups and realized the potential benefits of working, I mean teaching, together.