Teachable Moment for Calendars and Schedules

Multistep calendar system
Hello and welcome to Perkins eLearning To Go! Each week our hope is to provide you with an inside look at special education topics, in particular visual impairment. Through a series of interviews with leaders in the field and a fresh look at our webcast series, we know you will learn something new when you are on the go. Now it's time to sit back, relax, and let's hear what this week's podcast is all about.
Hello and welcome to Perkins eLearning to Go,  this is Valerie.  It is teachable moment time again.  As a reminder a teachable moment is a short teaching strategy that is adaptable into the classroom.  Today we will be listening to four teachable moments on calendar systems and schedules.  I will be putting in the links to these so you can review them later,  for now, enjoy these teachable moments. 
Multistep object calendar system
CONNAUGHTON: Hi! I'm Megan Connaughton. Today, I'm going to be talking about a multi-step object calendar system.
This system is a great idea for a student who is ready to move on from the simple, one-step calendar system.
NARRATOR: Megan Connaughton stands behind a desk, on which a multi-step calendar system is displayed.
From left to right, the system consists of two rectangular, green, plastic bins labeled number "1" and number "2", and a red, finished bin labeled with a Meyer-Johnson picture communication symbol that illustrates the sign for "finished".
CONNAUGHTON: For this particular system, we've simply added a second green "time for" bin and kept the red, "finished" bin at the completion of the sequence. This calendar system is a great opportunity for students to be able to anticipate multiple activities throughout their day.
When using this system, you can use objects for students who work well with objects, and it can also be adapted to be used for more abstract symbols, such as photos and object-photo combinations.
Close up of the objects in the calendar bins.NARRATOR: In a tight shot, we see the objects in the calendar bins. In bin number "1" is an illustrated book titled "Bedtime". In bin number "2" is a large, blue plastic disc.
CONNAUGHTON: When using this system, you first start by placing the first activity in bin number "1", followed by the second activity in bin number "2".
When using this particular example, the student would look in the system and find first, "I have books!" They'd take the object, complete their activity, and move it to the "finished" bin.
When they return to the calendar system to see what's next, they would next find, "Oh, there's nothing left in bin number '1' (and) move on to my next activity."
A blue cirle symbol of a computer switch cover that represents the activity computer.This particular symbol is a computer switch cover, which is meaningful to a student.
It represents the "activity computer". They would take that object and move on to their next activity.
The system can also be adapted to be used for students who are ready to move on from objects to a more abstract form of representation.
Transcript: Object Schedule Systems
Marguerite Bilms talks about object schedule systems and how to use them in your classroom or in your home.BILMS: Hi! My name is Marguerite Bilms and I am here today to talk to you about object schedule systems and how to use them in your classroom or in your home.
An object schedule system is for learners who are learning at a concrete level of development, so they are pre-symbolic in their understanding of words an how they correlate to individual activities or individuals. There’s a variety of ways that you can use an object schedule system.
This system, in particular, was developed for a four years old who is a deafblind learner and is still learning at a concrete level. Meaning, that they are still understanding what objects mean and how they relate to activities that have further, abstract meaning.
There are many benefits to using a calendar system, in that it’s pre-literacy. You’re building concept development, you’re helping the child develop memory skills and overall communication-both expressive and receptive.
When you’re considering how to develop your own schedule system, you need to first think of what objects are meaningful to the child. I cannot emphasize that enough — that it must be meaningful to the child and the adult or the teacher must be conscious not to implement their own bias when picking out objects.
One of the biggest issues is using miniatures when talking with our children. If you are telling a child that they are supposed to go “in the car” or “on the bus” and you give them a miniature car, they don’t conceptually understand that this small car means the big van that they get into.
Marguerite holds a toy car in her hands.NARRATOR: In her hands, Marguerite holds a toy car. The car is black and silver, with a red and yellow decal.
BILMS: They don’t have experience with feeling the whole car or seeing the whole car, they have the experience of stepping into the car and sitting in a car seat.
So if you’re thinking of something that’s meaningful to the child, think of something they use in that moment that they can associate.
Naturally, you can’t put a big, large van into the child’s schedule system, but you can use a piece of a seatbelt, you can have a toy that’s only consistently used in the car, or maybe they have a preferred blanket. Those are some options to consider.
So when you’re selecting objects to implement throughout the day with your child, I like to start with objects that I use consistently and routinely, usually surrounding recreational activities, or mealtimes, or toileting. This way, the child gets consistent exposure and repeat exposure.
When you want to start expanding on which objects you use with your children, you want to start at a concrete level. Meaning, if the child eats out of this blue bowl for a snack everyday, this is the blue bowl that you should be using in your calendar system.
Marguerite holds up a small, blue, plastic bowl.NARRATOR: Marguerite has just picked up a small, blue, plastic bowl. Off to her right, there is also a larger plate, made of yellow plastic.
BILMS: It becomes more symbolic when you have the student reference a bowl, then eat off a yellow plate. So you want to avoid that at first.
You want to make sure that the student understands the correlation between one object and using that exact object in the moment. Not just using it as a point of reference.
In further discussing how meaningful the object should be to the child, consider how they experience their own activities on a day-to-day basis. If the child eats by mouth and they use a spoon, then that’s great! That a great symbol to use for them but then consider, are they a g-tube user? If they use a g-tube, then the spoon may mean nothing to them. So maybe it’s something involving a g-tube.
Marguerite holds a large feeding syringe in her right hand.NARRATOR: In her left hand, Marguerite holds a spoon and a large feeding syringe in her right hand.
BILMS: You want to use these objects consistently, throughout the day, at any point of reference that you can. Even if you don’t have a system in place yet, you can still bring the object to the child in the moment and have a conversation about it.
I can bring this bowl over to a student and say, “We’re going to go to eat. You want to help me carry your bowl? Bring the bowl to the kitchen. Let’s eat.”
Also, consider what language you use when you’re working with your children to make sure you have consistent labeling.
So, do you refer to this as a “snack time bowl”, a “bowl”, “your blue bowl”, “your round bowl”? What do you call it?
Whatever is meaningful to the child is fine, as long as you remain consistent so that you’re using the same words that maybe another teaching assistant, teacher or educator will be using with the child. Once you’ve determined which objects you’d like to use with your child, you can then start thinking about the system.
Marguerite points to the calendar system that consists of a green, plastic bin and a red, plastic bin, side-by-side.NARRATOR: On the desk, to her left, is the calendar system. It consists of a green, plastic bin and a red, plastic bin, side-by-side. Both of which are lined with black Veltex.
A Meyer-Johnson picture communication label illustrating the “time for” sign is at the top of the green bin, and the picture communication sign depicting the “finished” sign is on the top of the red bin.
BILMS: You can either have a traveling schedule system or you can have a scheduling system that is in a set location that the child can routinely access and in a predictable environment. Initially, you don’t want to over-complicate the system., as the student is still learning how to use it. What’s the meaning of it and how to implement it.
So, we have a green start bucket and as you can see, I’ve put a Meyer-Johnson symbol that says “Time for” on the top. This is not meant for the student to understand or access, it’s for the educators to know which language to use when using the box.
Meyer-Johnson symbols that say “Time for” on top of green bucket and a red, “Finished” bucket.So, we have a “Time for” bucket and then we have a red, “Finished” bucket.
The colors matter because this student has some residual vision and can identify colors. Or at least, recognize colors. If the student is totally blind, you might want to consider using boxes of different texture, different sizes — something to help differentiate the “Time for” and “Finished” bucket.
If the child has a field loss and has a preferred field of vision, you might want to consider the angle that the box is at so that they can most easily identify the object that’s in the boxes and then access it with ease.
So, now that you have your objects in place and you have the system in place, how do you use the system? What you do is you have the child approach the system with you. Once they arrive, you should have the object in the “Time for” bucket and ready for them to access. So as the student approaches, you have them reach in, to the best of their ability, and take out the object.
NARRATOR: In this case, the object is the book, “Goodnight Moon”, which Marguerite now displays.
Marguerite gets the book, “Goodnight Moon” from the green bin.BILMS: It’s important to give them communication when you’re discussing the schedule system. So, you can sign to the student that “it’s time to go read a book” and I want to reiterate that, this being a concrete object, meaning this is the book that you’re going to read. So we’re not bringing this book over to the book area and reading “The Hungry Caterpillar”, we’re going to read “Goodnight Moon”.
So the student goes with you and takes the book to the area that you’re going to read in and engages in the activity. Once the book is finished, you can say, “The book is finished. Let’s go back to our schedule system. Have the student help you carry the book, to the best of their ability, return to the schedule system, have them place it in the “Finished” bucket and tell them, “Okay — books are finished. Let’s see what’s next.”
Once that activity’s finished, you want to make sure the object for the next activity is readily available so that the student can access it immediately. In this case, I have a swimsuit. So, “we’re going to go swimming” and this is the child’s exact bathing suit. This is the bathing suit that the child will swim in. So we’re making sure it’s concrete and not symbolic.
Marguerite puts the bathing suit in the green, “Time for” bin, waiting for the student next activity.NARRATOR: The bathing suit is placed in the green, “Time for” bin, waiting for the student and her next activity.
BILMS: So it’s already in the “Time for” bucket, so the student reaches in, removes their bathing suit, we have a conversation (“it’s time to go swimming”) and we continue to repeat the sequence as much as is appropriate for the child.
We always want to make sure to go from left to right, because this is pre-literacy skills, we want to start that left-to-right process, that motor-planning. It’s very important as, down the line, our schedule systems might increases and they will always go from left to right.
If a child’s not physically able to carry their items independently, there’s a variety of ways that you can adapt. You can have them carry it in a bag, they can carry it with your support, or you can carry it for them and just keep talking to them about the object as you travel. So even if they can’t hold their bathing suit, I can hold it and say, “I have your bathing suit! We’re going swimming!” and let them reference it throughout your travel.
It’s important to realize that while this schedule system was designed for a 4 year old, that doesn’t mean it’s only appropriate for a 4 year old. It’s for any individual that’s learning at a concrete level. So you want to make sure that the student’s able to access their environment and communication to the best of their ability. You also want to make sure that the student has a strong foundation of concept development before you move on to the next step in symbolic understanding.
The length of time it takes for a student to master their object schedule system depends on the student. There is no set time. Ultimately, we want to make sure the student understands objects in a variety of forms before they move on to the next level of abstract learning.
And that’s today’s Teachable Moment!
To do that, you can take the object and mount it on a piece of black foam board, with a text or Braille label as well as a photo, depending on the individual visual and tactile needs of the student.
A rectangular card with a label that reads books.NARRATOR: Megan holds a rectangular, black card, approximately 9 x 12 inches, made from a sturdy material.
In high-contrast, white print, is a label that reads "books".
Below the label is a small photo of the book "Bedtime".
The actual book can be attached to the card with Velcro.
CONNAUGHTON: From there, the system works the same way: place the first activity in bin number "1", followed by the next activity in bin number "2".
Activity bin represents by number.This calendar system is a great opportunity for working on pre-literacy skills with students.
It not only allows them to work on anticipating multiple activities throughout their day, but allows them to practice left-to-right comprehension, as well as simple sequencing.
And that is today's "Teachable Moment"!
Transcript: Partial and Tactile Calendar System
Sharon Stelzer talks about calendar system made with partial objects and tactual objects.STELZER: Hi, my name is Sharon Stelzer, and I'm a teacher in the Deafblind department at Perkins School for the Blind, and I'm here today to talk about calendar system, specifically about calendar systems made with partial objects and tactual objects.
NARRATOR: Sharon Stelzer stands behind a desk, on which are displayed two calendar systems.
On her right is a rectangular board, approximately 3 feet long and 8 inches high. The board is covered in black Veltex, and divided into 5 segments, by 4 vertical strips of masking tape.
To her left is a board that is twice as high, also divided by 4 vertical strips of masking tape and one horizontal strip that bisects the board, creating ten calendar panels.
STELZER: This is one of the systems for one of my students. She is 14 years old and she has trisomy 22, she has visual anomalies due to complications from her trisomy 22. She has cysts and scarring on both her cornea and sclera, which means that she has lost some vision in the past few years, due to the scarring and because of her cysts.
So this is a student's (calendar system). I am going to talk about today about how she has moved from a morning or an afternoon schedule, which is just a simple, 1-tier to a 2-tier system.
Photo of calendar systems that are on an angle.So the first thing I wanted to talk about...you might have noticed that the calendar systems are on an angle. This is really helpful for students who are visually impaired because it brings the calendar system from a flat surface, which is harder to look at, because you're leaning over and you might have to, you know, look down at something...it brings it right up to their visual field and this has been extremely helpful for her.
Our calendar is extremely motivating.
It's made up of (this is all made up of) cardboard, triple-thick cardboard, and it's covered with a Veltex covering that Velcro can stick to it. So, it's really easy to make. This is just simple masking tape because she can see with high- contrast, and she does use her vision for high-contrast and very simple kinds of objects are easier for her to see. And then we also have the tactile component, so that she can see both of those kinds of things.
So, we always work in the left-to-right manner for her...and she is new to me this year, so we started off with just a morning schedule and then we would change it for an afternoon schedule and what I noticed was that she wanted more information about her day, and she was really ready to hear about her whole day, so we moved to a 2-tier system so that she can see her whole day in one shot, rather than having to go through her morning schedule and then her teachers having to set up an afternoon schedule, so she can have all of the information at one point in her day.
A close up of the 2-tiered calendar system that filled with black object cards and objects to represent learning activities.NARRATOR: We see a close up of the 2-tiered calendar system. The top tier is filled with black object cards that have white labels and objects that represent the five learning activities: snack, speech, meeting, gym, and OT. The afternoon schedule consists of the activities: smartboard, lunch, daybook, and home.
STELZER: Each of her objects is on a durable, plastic board, and you could use anything. You could use cardboard, you could use an index card...and the nice thing about this is it's a dark color, so for her it's a high-contrast.
What I like to do is, she's not a Braille reader and she's not a print reader, because of her vision. So she really is getting all her information from the tactual object itself.
Sharon holds a black card with a white label that reads PT. The symbol for PT is a small, green and white suction ball.NARRATOR: Sharon holds a black card with a white label that reads "PT". The symbol for PT is a small, green and white suction ball.
STELZER: So, this is her symbol for physical therapy and what it is, as you can see, it's a nice, high-contrast.
The "PT" gives her exposure to print. Some of her symbols — we also have Braille — so she has exposure to that as well — and the nice part about this is that it's all put on with Velcro, so it's "easy on, easy off" and one of the features of that is then she can explore an object herself.
So what we did for her is, as we had new symbols come into her system, that we make them together, and I think that's a really important point — is that if the student can be part of the process in making their calendar systems, they learn it easier, it's more motivating, and I'd like to give you an example of that right now.
So her first picture was, she comes in in the morning and she always likes a little snack. She has a long bus ride in. What we did...she likes cereal in the morning, so we came up with a symbol for her snack, and all this is is an empty packet of hot oatmeal cereal.
Sharon holds the object card labeled snack. She has removed the symbolic object, an empty packet of instant oatmeal, that had been Velcro'd to the card.NARRATOR: Sharon holds the object card labeled "snack". She has removed the symbolic object — an empty packet of instant oatmeal — that had been Velcro'd to the card.
STELZER: and what we did with her is — so we made her cereal together. Then what we did was we made the object. So we took the empty packet — and I helped her — we cut it down together, put just simple Velcro on the back, Velcro’d it right on, and so she knew exactly where this came from. So she had the cereal first, then she made the objects, and she learned it just like that, and it was really a great thing for her.
What we've done to expand upon that which I didn't bring today, is then she has choices. As we added more selections for her snacks in the morning, we save the empty containers. So that is one of my tips for you today — definitely save everything so that you can use them to make the objects that are part of the student's schedule. So we did that together, and then what she does is she goes through her schedule and we talk about what she does...and she is highly motivated about her schedule, and everything that she does. As you can see, there's nice, high-contrast.
Always having part of her schedule, having and helping her set it up, we use these objects — at the end of the day that she takes home in a diary, or a journal, so that she can discuss her day with her Mom. So I think those are all really important steps.
Sharon holds the object card labeled recycle with a symbolic object, a can for recycling.She had a new class where she was doing a recycling job. Now that she is 14, she gets out in the community, even more than she was before and she has a new job, where she goes to a local business and they were collecting cans and then, what they get to do is they bring them to a local grocery store and turn in the cans for the money.
But, in order to make an object for this, we took a can, we cut it down, and then we were able to squish it, so you put it right down on the ground...so we cut off the top, put it on the ground, stomped on it, and it made a beautiful object...and we just felt around to make sure there were no sharp edges, we stuck the Velcro on, we put it on our durable, plastic board and it was ready to go and be put on her schedule. So that was her new symbol for her recycling job. So they help make their objects if they can, they help set up the day, they go through each object and find out what their day is going to be like.
You can talk about "first”, “then", "next", what's going to happen "after"...all kinds of vocabulary that you can build in and really having taken the student's lead, and seeing what they're interested in...and my particular student loves parties.
We happened to celebrate her birthday party and we came up with two different symbols: we have a candle for her birthday and then a general, little horn for the regular birthday party.
So really, that was taking her lead and what she was interested in and incorporating that into the schedule...and that's really my Teachable Moment about calendar systems.
Transcript: Schedules and Calendars
NARRATOR: A montage of photographs, depicting students and teachers.
A graphic of the Perkins (School for the Blind) logo and the words "Teachable Moments".
A title: Schedules and Calendars, with Hilary Travers.
Schedules and Calendars with Hilary Travers.TRAVERS: Hi, my name is Hilary Travers and I'm a teacher at Perkins School for the Blind in the Deafblind program and today I'm going to be talking about schedules and calendars.
With me, I have a calendar I created for one of my totally deafblind students. She is 17 years old and we created this schedule for her for a range of reasons.
The number one reason is that it's portable. That was huge for us. She wears this bag across her body and it works really well because she can bring it to all of her classes, she can bring it out in the community, and it doesn't necessarily scream, "schedule". It's really "normalizing", it's trendy, it has a nice color.
We created this based off a vendor at Etsy actually but you can use two pieces of cardboard, which was our original system, or even the checkbooks that you get at a restaurant are actually very practical.
Hilary holds a folio that is covered in a brown fabric with a yellow, geometric chain pattern.NARRATOR: Hilary sits behind a desk. In her hands she holds a folio that is covered in a brown fabric with a yellow, geometric chain pattern.
There is also a long strap made of the same fabric that allows the folio to be carried over the shoulder.
TRAVERS: Once we look inside the schedule, there are two distinct sides to it.
The left-hand side has soft Velcro and the right-hand side is a zippered pouch.
We used to have a schedule that had two sides of Velcro and I will explain the benefits of having a pouch instead, but the left-hand side of our schedule — as we read left-to right — is where the student creates her schedule, where she aligns things in the morning and the right-hand side of the schedule is where the finished words will go.
Inside of the schedule that shows on left-hand side has soft Velcro and the right-hand side is a zippered pouch.On the finished side of the schedule, the original Velcro on this side was (so) she could move things from left-to-right, to signify that they are finished.
We now have the pouch because this particular student was getting so obsessed with the words on the finished side of the schedule and she wanted to constantly review what happened in her day and it just seemed more practical to hide the words until the end of the day, when we could re-align and refocus on what she covered.
So, on this left-hand of the schedule — I'll put this down for a moment — In the morning, we would set up her words.
A 3-ring binder that has two strips of Velcro tape that run vertically, down the page.NARRATOR: Hilary picks up a 3-ring binder and presents it towards the camera. Each page of the binder has two strips of Velcro tape that run vertically, down the page.
On these strips are the words the student will be using to create her schedule. The pages of the binder are labeled with the days of the week.
TRAVERS: So, for example, today we would flip on our teacher list to a Wednesday's day, we would set up on a felt board some of her words on her schedule.
So, for example, "Wednesday" — maybe she would do her schedule first, she would go to the bathroom, and she would attend morning meeting. So, we'll have these on a felt board, set up in the morning, and she'll then put them on top of her own personal schedule here and we'll go through each word with tactile sign language just to make sure we have comprehension and clarity. We use perma-Braille paper to create these uncontracted Braille words.
The benefit is that they're durable, they're water-proof, they don't tear easily and you can attach a Velcro to the back really, really, simply — and on a budget — and so, she put these on her schedule, we read them and she moves through her day.
As the activities are finished, you know, if she finishes her schedule, we'll sign the schedule as "finished", she'll open up her pouch, take the word off, move it across and that word is "finished". She then will move on to the next one, she'll sign "bathroom" and then she'll go on to her next thing.
One of the major benefits of this is it really allows us to use some expansion activities so, we've really focused on the word "aware" this year, in terms of identifying as a location question.
Showing of the schedule in a sequence of events.So, this year, we now are saying, "Now" — you know — "we are doing our schedule". When it's finished, we'll say, "The schedule is finished, where are you going?" and she'll say, "I'm going" — and then sign the next thing on her schedule, so she's learning to anticipate, she's learning how to read the schedule in a sequence of events, and she's really understanding that "where" responds to the location of the next event on her schedule because she is physically getting up and moving independently, which has been really awesome for us.
Another extension activity that we've started to work on is answering the "who" question. So, when we have certain classes like "meeting", we can ask, "With who?" And then she'll say, "With" — and the sign the name of the staff person that she'll be with and it's, again, great because she's identifying that the word "who" in sign language is attributed to people and persons in her world, which is really great.
It's been our most successful way of understanding question words. So, that's really nice for us — and you can expand this — you could do "aware" if there are certain areas, or if you are going on a certain field trip.
You can expand the activity, depending on your student's communication level and cognitive ability and you can really explore with different "wh'" questions, you know, throughout your day.
And that was today's Teachable Moment!
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