OT kit

I created an OT (Occupational Therapy) kit for an assignment in one of my Education classes. This kit is geared towards Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 1 and is focused on developing pre-printing skills, such as pencil grip and hand strength (as well as some hand-eye coordination activities). The materials within each activity are every day objects that can easily be found around the house. All of the activities are meant to be fun and challenging, so students will actually enjoy practicing these skills.

If I were to implement this kit in my classroom, I would have students choose an activity to work on for 5-10 minutes before a printing/writing class in order to warm up their hands. These activities could also be turned into centres in a Pre-K or Kindergarten classroom, too.

Food Olympics

Playdoh SpagPenne

This station consists of two different activities. For the first activity, students hold a piece of dry spaghetti in between their thumb and index finger and attempt to pick up a dry penne noodle off of the table. In the second activity, students stick spaghetti noodles into a lump of Play-Doh on the table and use their thumb and index fingers to pick up Froot Loops (or Cheerios, beads, etc.) and thread them onto the spaghetti.

Modifications

  • use the coloured Froot Loops to make a pattern on the spaghetti noodle (ex. pink, purple, green, pink, purple, green)

Mr./Mrs. Ball

Mr Ball

Making Mr. or Mrs. Ball is really easy – just cut a small slit into a tennis ball (the bigger the slit, the easier it is to open Mr./Mrs. Ball’s mouth, so you can have a few with differing sizes to make the activity more challenging as students progress).

Students have to use their thumb and index finger to squeeze Mr. or Mrs. Ball so their mouth will open. Then students hold the mouth open and use their other hand to ‘feed’ the ball some buttons, round chips, etc. When Mr. or Mrs. Ball is full, just hold their mouth open and shake out the buttons to start all over.

Modifications

  • count how many buttons you feed Mr. or Mrs. Ball one by one

Cotton Ball Push

Turkey Baster

Students use their turkey baster to blow the items off of the edge of the table (note: make sure you use your thumb and index finger to pinch the end of the turkey baster). This activity is a lot harder than it looks! Students may need to hold the small end of the turkey baster with their other hand to ‘aim.’ Materials of different sizes (ex. packing peanuts, cotton balls, small foam beads, etc.) can be used to increase difficulty.

Modifications

  • blow the cotton ball into a certain area of the table (marked off with tape)
  • count how many items you can blow off of the table in 1 minute

Tweezer Pick Up

Tweezers

Students use their thumb and index finger to pick up various items (pom poms, cotton balls, beads, popsicle sticks, buttons) with the tweezers.

Modifications

  • have various items all mixed together and students use their tweezers to sort them into categories (type, colour, size)
  • count the items that you can pick up in 1 minute
  • count how many of each item there are as you pick them up

Fishing

Fish

This activity uses triple the hand strength/finger grip! First, place the fish on the floor and have students stand when they use the fishing rod. Students must hold the rod in between their index finger and thumb and move the fishing rod so that the binder clip on the end touches one of the fish (this will be a test of hand-eye coordination as well). Once they touch a fish, students bend down and use their pencil-grasp fingers to open the binder clip and clip it to their fish. Finally, students use their index fingers and thumbs (on each end of the pencil) to turn the rod around and around in order to ‘reel in’ their fish (as the string gets shorter and shorter from being wrapped around the pencil).

Modifications

  • challenge students to touch the binder clip to a certain colour fish
  • see how fast you can reel in all of the fish
  • math: “We started with 6 fish and you reeled in 2. How many are left to catch?”

Firefighter

Firefighter

Students will love to be a hero and put out the fire on this burning building! Make sure to laminate the colouring page (or put it in a page protector) so that it can be used again and again. First, students colour in the flames on the picture with washable marker. Then, they dip their sponge into the small cup of water and use it to ‘put out the fire’ by washing off the marker.

This activity would go great with a Social Studies unit learning about community helpers or a Health unit on Fire Safety!

Crazy Straw Maze

Crazy Straw

This is another activity that can be surprisingly tough (especially with very bendy straws). Simply cut out some shapes from felt or foam and add holes in the middle. Students thread the shapes onto the straw and attempt to get them off of the other side of the straw by maneuvering the straw and shapes with their index fingers and thumbs. Note: Do not use crazy straws that make a complete loop (shown below), as the foam shapes will not be able to pass through this obstacle.

Modifications

  • name the shapes as you get them through the maze
  • put shapes through the maze in a pattern (square, then circle, square, then circle)
  • see how many you can get through the maze in 1 minute

CrazyStraws

DO NOT USE CRAZY STRAWS LIKE THIS —->

Hang the Laundry

LaundryStudents simply hang up baby or doll clothes onto a bungee cord or string. Ensure that students are using their thumb and index finger to pinch the clothespins open.

Modifications

  • hang up the laundry in a pattern (yellow, green, pink OR sock, sock, mitten)
  • math: how many people can you dress with the clothes that are on the line?

Hockey

HockeyA Canadian classic! Popsicle sticks as hockey sticks (use your index finger and thumb!), pom pom as a puck, and masking tape to make lines/goals.

Modifications

  • play in teams (you must pass to each partner before attempting to score a goal)
  • shoot to the goal on the other side of the table from behind the opposite side

Penny Flipping

PenniesLay all the pennies out in a line on the table (this works best if all of the pennies are the same way – all with heads showing, for example). Have the students flip the pennies over, one by one, using their index finger and thumb.

Modifications

  • use coins of different denominations and have students count the total as they flip (ex. for dime dime dime they would say 10 cents, 20 cents, 30 cents)
  • have students start at opposite ends of the line and see how fast they can flip all of the pennies over as a team

Tug of War

Rubber Bands2 students form an ‘O’ shape with their index finger and thumb (like the gesture for A-OK!) and hold the rubber band within the ‘O’ they made with their fingers. Students rest their elbows on the table, wrists bent, and slowly move their arms (from the elbow) apart. Try to make the other person’s ‘O’ break. Note: try to have thick rubber bands or bands covered in fabric so that they won’t snap and hurt the students. Emphasize that students use caution – we aren’t trying to hurt each other, just make our fingers stronger!

Beading

BeadsHand-eye coordination, hand strength, and fine motor skills are rolled into one. Students can take home whatever they make in this station, which is a bonus!

Modifications

  • use your beads to make a pattern
  • practice tying knots in your string
  • count the beads as you thread them

Mazes

MazesLaminating or putting mazes in a page protector means they can be reused many times.

Pom Pom Sort

Pom Pom SortStudents use their thumb and index fingers to pick up the pom poms and put them in the corresponding colour-coded tube. This is also a great way for students to learn their colours.

Modifications

  • primary-secondary colours: have pom poms in the primary colours and tubes in secondary colours. Students have to put the two primary colours into the corresponding secondary colour tube (ex. red and blue pom poms go into purple tube)
  • math: I had five blue pom poms at the start and I have one left in my hand. How many pom poms are hiding in the tube?
  • quick pick up: how fast can I sort all of the pom poms?

Ring Toss

Ring TossDecorate your paper plate rings any way you want. You can make a base for the paper towel tube post or have one student hold the post while the other partner throws the rings.

If students make their own paper plate rings, cutting the holes in the plates is a great hand-eye coordination and hand strengthening exercise.

Hope you enjoyed my OT kit!

What OT activities do you incorporate into your classroom?

Until next time,

-KKF

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someone explain this to me

standardized testRegarding the issue of standardized testing, I am honestly confused. Obviously at some point in the past, someone thought it was a brilliant idea. But in light of the countless real-life horror stories and studies about standardized testing that prove their detriment to students, I am unsure of how anyone who advocates for standardized testing is still around and can actually validate their side of the argument (though I’d be interested in hearing some substantiation of that position).

Personally, I see no benefits to this method of testing, and I am fairly certain that almost all educators and those well-versed on the matter would agree. So why are standardized tests even still being debated as a viable option for finding out how students are doing in school?

Standardized tests throw equity, individualization, differentiation, multiple intelligences, anti-oppressive education, creativity, multicultural learning, and critical thinking (so basically all of the educational foundations that I have learned in my program so far) out the window in exchange for an identical test (written by people who have most likely never met the students who will be taking it) that is handed out to vastly unique students with very different needs, which tests them on arguably irrelevant information that is to be memorized and regurgitated.

In regards to using standardized tests as a measure of accountability for teachers, I also see this as a huge failure. This is completely defeating the purpose of the teaching profession. Teachers should not be accountable for drilling information into their students’ heads, but rather on how well they feed their students’ minds and curiosities, and foster a joy of lifelong learning (which standardized testing does NOT do). Forcing teachers to cover material that is not of their choosing, only because their students will be evaluated on it later seems very backwards and is completely against my beliefs. We should never teach something simply for the sake of evaluating how well students retained the information, but to actually grant students with a useful life skill. Also, the misconception that all learned knowledge can or should be tested is also extremely flawed. In this day and age, only assessing through tests has no excuse, when so many other methods of evaluation exist and are more equitable.

I would also argue that the type of students that standardized tests seek to create (mindless memorizers that only focus on the facts, not why they actually matter) have less worth as members of society than engaged, socially responsible, creative, critical thinkers. When heading into the workforce or interacting with those around you, your value cannot be encapsulated on mere paper. We are human beings, not bubbles on a page. We are people, made up of personalities and experiences, memories and emotions. And by enforcing standardized testing, we are taking away that personal, deeply intimate, human connection aspect from the learning process and our students. Students should not be treated as numbers on a page; they are living beings with limitless potential, and I think THAT is how they should be treated.

In summary, from a future teacher’s perspective, I truly don’t see how standardized tests can still be viewed as a just method of assessing students, an efficient use of highly trained teachers’ time, or a fulfillment of educational goals as a whole.

-KKF

 

a hard pill to swallow

You know you are an Education student when the things you learn in your classes trickle into your everyday life and, no matter how hard you try, you cannot stop critically viewing the world in a different way than before. Talking about differentiated instruction and meeting all students’ needs, no matter how diverse, definitely played a big part in how I reacted today.

Since I am a firm believer in learning from my mistakes, I thought I would share this half-failure, half-success story with all of you. Honesty is modesty.

Today, I headed into my In-School Mentoring like I do every week. It was just another day, getting to spend an hour with an energetic, happy-go-lucky, easy going Grade 5 student. Contrary to my plans, though, things went a bit awry.

In true teacher fashion, I usually prepare a list of activities that will fill more than the allotted 60 minutes, just in case. Usually, my mentee likes to draw, so I decided that we could do pointillism pictures (and felt confident that that would take up a fair amount of time, as they are a fairly time-consuming medium).

Image

My mentee had no complaints about this, and we set to work on our creations. About five minutes in, however (when all I had managed to draw was a line of waves across my page), my mentee was finished an entire picture, as his personal spin on pointillism was not to cover the entire page with close-fitting dots (like in the picture above), but to make a more spread-out style. I began to feel slightly uneasy at this point, as I thought that these pictures would take at least half an hour or so. I asked my mentee to create another pointillism picture, and challenged him to try a more detailed drawing this time. This was clearly not interesting him, though, so I ended up suggesting a different, impromptu activity: 3D hand drawings.

Image

I hoped that this would be more interesting for my mentee, but it was to no avail. As soon as my mentee made a small error in his drawing, he completely closed himself off and wouldn’t say a word (which I had NEVER seen him do before – he is the most talkative, ambitious, fun loving kid). This is when I really started to panic. I knew that I would have to think on my feet and change my plans FAST to turn this session around. We ended up spending the rest of the hour (which was another gruelling 30 minutes of me grasping at straws to keep my mentee entertained and responsive) playing a table game with cereal box goals and crumpled up paper balls/pucks. Thankfully, he kicked my butt in this activity, which really helped to boost his spirits and re-energize him, and I think that we ended on a good note.

I can’t help but feeling that I let him down in the first half of our time together, though. I was perfectly content to do my pointillism and 3D hand drawings, and was secretly hoping my mentee would enjoy these activities too and spend enough time on them so that I could finish my drawings. I’m glad that I realized things were going off the rails when I did, and that I averted a crisis that would have been more difficult to fix had I waited a bit longer, but I can’t help feel disheartened, as I have never seen that response from him before.

This truly was a great learning experience for me, though. As teachers, it is our job to identify which methods are working for our students, which methods aren’t working, and ways that we can adapt things so that they DO work. It is scary for me (a meticulous planner and organizer) to have to improvise and utilize my ‘quick thinking’ skills, but it is also fulfilling to succeed at something so far out of my comfort zone.

I do also realize that, as a teacher, every day students may come into your classroom in a bad mood or mindset because of something that happened at home that morning or on the playground with their peers. There are a lot of outside factors we cannot control, so we simply have to do our best to make things as smooth and bearable as possible. At the end of the day, we can’t beat ourselves up over what went wrong; we have to realize what went right and plan a way for things to be improved for next time.

An optimist through and through, I am choosing to congratulate myself for handling the situation the best way I knew how and finding a way to lift my mentee’s spirits. While potential failure for a perfectionist like me is a hard pill to swallow, the side effect is a realization that education isn’t about being perfect, but working hard to become the best teacher possible and viewing each mistake as an opportunity to learn.

challenging common sense

This post will be discussing Kevin K. Kumashiro’s book, Against Common Sense (Revised Edition).

against common senseKumashiro defines common sense as things everyone should know. These things are implicitly taught and learned from experience and exposure to a certain culture, society, institution, family, etc. Hidden curriculum (the things we learn in school that aren’t taught through specific subject area content, ex. raising your hand, lining up to leave the room, etc.) is a form of common sense.

The knowledge of common sense is important to educators because it can be restrictive and oppressive. It is based in tradition, doesn’t allow for new ideas, alternative perspectives or variety. Common sense can also privilege some, while marginalizing others. Common sense prevents people from questioning norms – why would we need to question something that “just makes sense”? We have always done something a certain way, and that way is always regarded as correct, so we have no need to think of other ways in which it could be done. For example, students sit in desks while the teacher stands at the front of the room, and this is seen as a traditional classroom set up which no one challenges.

Creating teachers that challenge common sense is a huge goal of the Faculty of Education. The school system I grew up in prompted students to know the answers to questions, but future teachers are encouraged to ask questions which they often don’t know the answer to, or may not be able to answer at all. I think this semester will involve a lot of asking, “Why do we do things this way?” and “Why do we think like this?” To be a successfully reflective teacher, you must constantly be asking yourself why your classroom and lessons are set up the way they are, and consider ways in which they could be altered in order to be more universally accessible.

desk

This reading has opened up my eyes to the possibility of having a desk-less classroom (as common sense tells us that a classroom must have desks in it). What do you think are the pros and cons to desks vs. a different seating set up, such as tables, or floor cushions? Let me know what YOU think!

-KKF

P.S. Here is a link to the full Kumashiro text.