Lakeshore Public School teacher Stacey Falconer uses hands-on strategies to connect with her junior class for students with learning disabilities.
LAKESHORE PUBLIC SCHOOL has been successful at incorporating creative, hands-on learning and movement strategies into special education classes to effectively teach literacy and numeracy.
The Burlington junior class for students with learning disabilities has embraced experiential learning and teaching strategies that get them moving to help them stay focused and attentive to instruction, said teacher Stacey Falconer. She uses hands-on, engaging, and real-life activities, combined with lots of movement, as much as possible. For example, the class would write phonic sounds on tennis balls, throw them into a field and students would race to gather the balls to spell words. Also, the class utilizes sporting themes like bowling or tennis to illustrate math and language concepts.
Falconer said these kinds of creative approaches help students better retain the material to make learning meaningful and memorable. Part of that approach includes devoting 100 minutes weekly to what she calls ‘personal passion’.
“This is when all of our academic skills are used to investigate and create something we really want to know more about, or a skill we'd like to master. We make extensive use of technology, so we call ourselves ‘Techdudes’,” she said. “We believe if we can imagine it, we can make it happen. Our goal is to become a bit more skilled than we were the day before. I help the Techdudes realize I am just a facilitator who will help break new concepts into more readily understood pieces.”
She teaches students to understand they’re part of a global community, and through activities like virtual field trips, they learn about new places and become engaged by asking and answering questions. She explained technology provides access to programs to help students read and write by sharing “complex thinking without worrying about the conventions of writing.” The class, for example, mimics in the classroom the popular computer program Minecraft – in which users piece together objects to create something in a 3D format – to study area and perimeter fractions.
Allowing for a flexible classroom environment is important for success, Falconer said. Students record their challenges and successes through shared Google documents with links to work samples, video clips demonstrating a concept they have worked on, pictures reminding them of a strategy they found useful, and feedback from teachers and parents.
“This makes our curriculum relevant because they see how it applies to the bigger picture and their role within the world. I teach that who they are as a person is of equal importance to what they are learning,” Falconer said. “I think much of my teaching focuses on how they will use their strengths to make a difference. I teach my students to know and understand themselves as learners and to believe they are capable of making a meaningful contribution to this world.”
Gus Mihailovich, Principal at Lakeshore Public School, said Falconer’s class has blossomed through her unique and innovative teaching strategies.
“Stacey is often sought after to lead professional development classes. She utilizes current digital technologies and seems to always be on the cutting edge of applying these tools in the classroom,” he explained. “The layout of the room is very creative with different types of furniture and learning spaces. Student empowerment and self-advocacy are strong elements in her practice.”