Our Inclusive AAC Learning Group officially began September 14, 2020. After what somehow felt both like months of planning and yet still not enough time to be ready, we opened our group to a small but eager group of first through third grade students on Monday afternoon. We are looking forward to welcoming more students, but are taking advantage of the small group to find our sea legs and develop our rhythm.
When we first started dreaming about this group our main vision was to provide students who use AAC devices a community, increase their AAC skills, as well as giving them opportunities for more direct learning in math and reading alongside their peers. From that large vision the group felt like a blank slate, with the opportunity to do pretty much anything that we think would benefit the academic and ccommunication of the students in the group.
So where to start?
I cannot think of inclusion without thinking about Shelly Moore’s bowling video.
Take a moment and watch it. Once you watch it you cannot unsee it. I want our group to plan for the hardest to hit pins (watch the video) in thehopes that we will knock down everything in between.
We want this group to reach all students – proving Joey and students like him with opportunities for problem-based learning and higher level thinking while also practicing their academic and communication skills. So how do we do that? Can we do that?
Our plan is to structure the two hour sessions as one would an advanced academic or “gifted” classroom – with a whole group meeting that discusses a broader question or debate, and then small group opportunities to further dive into topics and practice specific skills. The small groups will reunite to share what they worked on, problem solve ideas, and learn from each other.
We are going to spend the year researching the answer to one question – what is community? We will use everything we learn throughout the year – from stories in picture books to what we learn about our American history and ancient civilizations – to answer this question and watch our knowledge grow. My hope through this process is that we engage all the students in deeper thinking and understand that everything we learn can help us answer broader life questions.
On the opening day we began by asking the students to share what they know about the concept of community. We recorded their thoughts and looked at where we could find the community vocabulary on Joey’s device. Everyone got to take a turn using the device to find the words and answer questions about when they grow up. As we learned how to navigate Joey’s device it became clear to the students just how much time it takes for Joey to select one word.
In these first few weeks we are just getting to know how this group works together so that we can figure out our pacing. We want Joey to have enough time to share and find his words, while also making sure we keep the others engaged. We foresee doing this through project-based learning, small groups, and open-ended games and activities. Although we have so many ideas and plans right now, we are trying to let the students lead the group. To make this successful we need to find our rhythm together so that it is truly an inclusive community based around the needs of the students in front of us – not our needs as the adults in the room.