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>> Welcome to the module entitled, Assess Classroom Practices,
the second module in the Power AAC training.
Power AAC is a project sponsored by the Pennsylvania Training
and Technology Assistance Network.
This training is one of a series
of modules designed to build the capacity of local educational agencies
to serve students with complex communication needs,
who require the use of augmentative and alternative communication systems.
This self-directed module reviews common classroom practices
with students with low or no speech,
who require or use AAC systems.
After you complete this module, you will understand basic principles
and daily practices of a Power AAC classroom.
As a means of identifying your current educational practices
and adopting Power AAC classroom practices,
you will be asked to complete a self-assessment profile.
Training in the Power AAC project is primarily self-directed.
Each module is presented in a variety of formats,
including a video format,
PowerPoint presentation format
and a print version of the PowerPoint with transcription notes.
Some of the modules include supplemental presentation materials.
Each module includes a pre and post-test assessment.
Please complete the pre-test before starting this module.
Let's start by hearing how some teachers describe their classrooms.
One teacher looking to have a Power AAC classroom
stated that the students in her class have severe disabilities.
The curriculum in her classroom is centered around functional activities,
with a lot of hands-on learning.
We can imagine that in her classroom, she and her students
might do cooking activities.
As a strategy to teach math concepts,
her students might be measuring ingredients
and counting items prepared.
This teacher goes on to say that her students need a lot of repetition,
and they do best when they follow a daily routine.
In order to provide repetition and routine,
this teacher has her daily schedule posted in her classroom.
As part of her routine and schedule,
she does a variety of activities.
A cooking activity is done every day to provide a functional and fun way
of learning and applying not only math concepts,
but also as a strategy to teach communication skills.
She has called this time in her day "Cooking with Core,"
which tells you that she is using cooking
as an opportunity to apply core vocabulary words.
If you are currently using functional activities in a daily routine
with lots of repetition,
you can keep on using those practices as part of a Power AAC classroom.
They are all implementation strategies
and best practices that are used in Power AAC classrooms.
Another teacher mentioned a specific curriculum in her classroom.
Their curriculum team meets to review the upcoming lessons,
in order to develop meaningful activities around the theme or topic of the lesson.
Critical in their planning is their listing of ways
that those activities address their state educational standards.
In Pennsylvania, this would be the Pennsylvania core standards.
Power AAC practices
can work with whatever curriculum has been adopted by your school
or selected by you for use in your classroom,
plus Power AAC practices are compatible with state standards
that involve the development of communication skills.
Using core vocabulary, students with complex communication needs
can participate in standard aligned instruction.
In this way,
Power AAC practice can raise expectations for achievement for your students.
However, you may have to adjust or change how you do some of your activities
in your daily routine and curriculum.
Let's look at some of the changes
that you might have to make by once again hearing from some teachers.
As you learn from these teachers,
you may hear references to terms and implementation strategies
that are unfamiliar to you.
As you progress through these training modules,
these implementation strategies and practices
will be covered in greater detail.
For now, you are going to stop,
look and listen to teachers who are implementing AAC systems
with students in their classrooms.
This teacher reported that she identified the vocabulary
that her students needed to participate in classroom activities.
The teacher focused on concrete words to keep things easy for her students.
This resulted in a vocabulary of nearly 1000 words.
We can imagine that for each new activity, the teacher
listed the special words needed for that activity,
focusing on the concrete words.
We can guess that she was primarily selecting nouns.
Over time, she had accumulated a set of nearly 1000 words.
To organize this massive noun vocabulary,
she lined one wall in her classroom with cases that had sliding drawers;
multiple copies of the symbols for these words
are stored in individual drawers.
Each symbol was laminated with a Velcro dot placed on the back,
so it could be attached to various AAC devices
or other types of displays.
After all this effort, one might conclude that this teacher
would be confident that she was providing her students
with vocabulary and language instruction
that was making a real difference.
However, this teacher looked at this common practice
and noticed that her students weren't using most of those concrete words
outside of the activity.
The evidence showed that the AAC system she was using
provided some means of communication in her classroom,
but wasn't useful
in all the other places her students spend their day,
and it wasn't preparing them for life outside of her classroom,
or in the adult world.
She recognized that a communication program
that emphasizes activity-specific nouns
provides only temporary success in a classroom,
but does not provide for or prepare the student
to communicate when he is trying to talk with people in the real world.
As a Power AAC classroom teacher or speech language therapist,
it is important to keep identifying the vocabulary
you want to target in an activity,
but the vocabulary identified should focus primarily on core vocabulary words,
not exclusively on activity-specific or concrete words.
Any vocabulary instruction takes time and effort,
and the majority of time and effort
should be invested in targeting and teaching core vocabulary words.
Teaching and using core vocabulary
is a top priority in a Power AAC classroom.
In module 3, you will learn more about core vocabulary
and will be doing some activities to practice applying core vocabulary words
in your classroom activities.
But for now, let's hear from another teacher
to learn how he is implementing AAC in his classroom.
Unlike the previous teacher who had nearly 1000 individual cards
that she presented to her students,
as a management strategy,
this teacher created classroom boards for all of his classroom activities.
He keeps the boards in a big ring binder
and pulls out the board needed for the classroom activity.
The students share a single communication board,
passing it around to participate in the activity.
The boards he is showing us represent just some of his many cooking boards.
His students share these boards and use them to name the utensils,
appliances and ingredients of a cooking activity.
However, this teacher identified several problems with this approach.
His first problem is familiar.
His students used the board in the activity,
but when the activity is done,
his students no longer have a means to communicate.
While his students have had some success during the activity,
they still need a way
to communicate outside of structured pre-planned activities.
The second problem the teacher identified
has to do with communication partner dependency.
His students depend on him to choose the correct activity-specific board.
They wait for him to present a communication board to each of them,
and because it is a shared board,
they wait for their turn with the board in order to say something.
Without intending to,
the teacher has taught his students to depend on their communication partner
to determine when they can talk
and what words can be said in any specific activity.
And when the activity is over,
they have learned that the board they have been sharing will be put away.
As soon as it is put away,
talking is done.
That leads to the last issue, the use of a shared AAC system.
The teacher has structured most communication in his classroom
around having communication boards that are passed from student to student.
It is not uncommon to have lesson materials
developed which might be passed around and shared between students.
Students know that lesson materials are needed for a limited time
in order to complete the lesson.
However, when that practice is applied to a communications system,
it brings the shared communication system to the level of lesson materials.
When a communication board is used as a lesson material,
it reduces the value of an AAC system.
It is good practice to provide each student
with access to an AAC system;
however, rather than having a communication display
that is shared between students,
or passes from student to student,
each student in a Power AAC classroom
who is at risk for developing functional speech
needs to have his or her own personal AAC system.
This AAC system might be a manual communication board,
a speech-generating device or a mobile technology app.
The needs of your students will determine which type of AAC system is appropriate.
In module 3, you will consider AAC system options
that might be appropriate for students in a Power AAC classroom.
You will learn some basics of the process
for selecting or designing appropriate AAC systems.
But for now, let's think in broad terms about the AAC systems
you will use with students in your classrooms.
Each student in a Power AAC classroom who is at risk for developing speech
needs his or her own personal AAC system.
Each one of these personal AAC systems
needs to include a set of core vocabulary words.
The student's personal AAC system
stays with the student throughout the school day
and goes home with the student.
With an AAC system available to the student
that includes core vocabulary words,
the change in practice for the teacher
is to use the available core vocabulary words
across all activities of the school day.
Let's listen to one more teacher
describe how she has supported the use of AAC in her classroom.
This teacher places symbols and mini communication boards around her classroom
and throughout the school.
This makes it easy for her students
to go to different locations in a classroom or school
and use those symbols in that location.
This strategy is one aspect of an AAC approach
that is commonly referred to as "environmental engineering."
The practice of labeling objects
in a classroom with AAC symbols is done to help teach symbol meanings.
Placing communication displays at different locations
is done for convenience for the teacher,
and is useful for ambulatory students who may not always find it possible
or convenient to transport his or her personal AAC system.
In a Power AAC classroom,
you are going to continue this practice of environmental engineering
with AAC symbols and communication boards placed around your classroom and school.
However, because a Power AAC classroom emphasizes core vocabulary,
you will engineer your classroom and school with core vocabulary words.
You might engineer the classroom or school environment
with individual symbols in various locations
to reinforce use of core words in various contexts.
You could also place core board displays in key locations
throughout the classroom, school or home.
In module 6,
you will learn more about developing and using visual support materials
and environmental engineering materials.
Let's highlight some of the key practices of a Power AAC classroom.
As a teacher in a Power AAC classroom,
there is no need to change routine or curriculum
that you use in your school.
You will continue to do functional and academic activities,
and apply other evidence-based educational principles.
Plus, you will continue to implement AAC systems throughout your school day.
However, as part of each student's individualized educational program,
you will advocate for personal AAC systems for any student in your class
who is at risk for developing intelligible speech.
That AAC system might be a manual communication board,
speech-generating device or mobile technology app.
The change for many teaching teams will be in the use of core vocabulary.
The words you target in a lesson,
the words and symbols you put around the room,
the visual supports you make and the language
you model will shift from infrequently used extended
vocabulary words to frequently used and powerful core vocabulary words.
Remember, communication intervention in a Power AAC classroom points
to the teaching and use of core vocabulary.
Through the teaching and use of core vocabulary,
your students will participate and be successful with your classroom curriculum.
You are encouraged, following this module,
to apply what you have learned.
Please consider completing a self-assessment
of your current AAC practices in your classroom.
This will help you decide what to keep doing,
and what needs to change.
List the names of the students in your classroom
who are at risk for developing functional speech.
For each student listed,
note whether that student has a personal AAC system
or a shared AAC system.
Describe the vocabulary that is available to the student,
focusing on the core vocabulary.
Describe environmental engineering strategies being used in your classroom.
Determine how much of it focuses on core vocabulary.
Ask a trusted colleague to observe you with your students
to give you honest feedback and input.
Even the most seasoned,
experienced classroom teacher benefits from having constructive input
Keep the information from your self-assessment,
and review it periodically in order to see the progress that you are making.