I gave the General Education Core Academy a try. I attended during two summers and had a great time. The presenters had a trove of materials and exciting ideas for teaching the Utah Core Standards; they even had an appendix at the back of the binder for adapting the ideas for students with disabilities. However, there was one problem. I taught students with significant cognitive disabilities (SCD) and the core curriculum concepts, even with the adaptions, were way out of reach for my kiddos.
Things have changed. Not only do Utah general education and mild-to-moderately disabled students have a new core – The Utah State Common Core – there is a new core for students with SCD. Our new standards are linked to the Utah Common Core and are called the Utah State Common Core Essential Elements. With this change in mind, the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) and the Utah Personnel Development Center (UPDC) decided it was time for a Significant Disabilities Core Academy. This was held in June, 2012 with fifty teachers from across Utah attending. The teachers were given a storage bin with great materials to help them get started implementing the new ideas.
Eric Slaymaker, also from Hartvigsen, presented on SmartBoards in the Classroom. He also presented on websites that work especially well for students with SCD.
Christine Timothy from USOE taught us how to do a quick assessment of math skills and other ideas from the book, Teaching Math to People with Down Syndrome and Other Hands-On Learners. She provided all the materials to conduct a brief math assessment.
The new Utah State Common Core has a strong emphasis on reading informational texts. Sue Somson and Kat Winch from Jordan Valley School in The Canyons District taught literacy skills using AbleNet’s Focus on Math and Focus on Science series. AbleNet generously donated books for all participants.
Students with significant cognitive disabilities can participate in and enjoy the discovery of scientific experiments. Glenna Roundy and Beau Burmingham from Kauri Sue Hamilton School in Jordan District demonstrated surface tension, high and low pressure, and other exciting science experiments that can be done in any classroom.
Cathy Longstroth from UPDC demonstrated developing basic math understanding using Numicon math manipulatives.
Cindy Myers from Salt Lake City School District presented on math manipulatives that teach base ten and place value with an emphasis on money skills. She used the new curriculum, KP Mathematics to teach this session.
Jolene Shimada from Hartvigsen School in Granite District and Cathy Longstroth kept the group engaged in math games that teach. We rolled dice, freed the animals, played SKUNK, and explored tactile dominoes.
When surveyed on the usefulness of the material that was presented, the response was that 97% of information was useful for teachers of students with SCD. 53% of the information was “very useful.” Some of the teachers commented that they could hardly wait for school to start in the fall so that they could use the ideas and the materials.
All in all, it was a great opportunity to share ideas, become more familiar with the standards and Essential Elements of the Utah State Common Core and explore the possibilities of teaching our students in this exciting era.
Author: Cathy Longstroth, Utah Personnel Development Center (UPDC)