If you are itinerant like me, you may be spread all over multiple districts or just work for one, but no matter where you are there is high probability that some or most of your students are little islands. These amazing tiny humans, who work harder than their hearing peers, lack a connection to kids like them. I know, as the only Teacher of the Deaf at my schools, I feel alone at times. I am lucky to have my focus group to connect with, but when I am my buildings I am alone. I don’t have a “grade level team” to rely on for support. I span K- high school all in one day, so I can relate to my students being the only one.
This year I decided to implement a communication journal with two kindergartners. I had tried this activity in years past and found it to be sort of okay…not at all amazing (because of how I structured it-never the kids). This year it was beyond my expectations. There were so many educational boxes checked.
- Language Development
- Social skills
- Fine motor
- Question skills
- Calendar skills….and more
This is what I used this year. A composition notebook. It was easy to carry back an forth and the layout of a notebook is familiar to the students. The cover is very sturdy, which is great for going in and out of my bag for 10 months. I made sure I had a wide rule style. Bigger spaces are easier for young writers.
There were a couple of things I would change about using a composition notebook.
The lack of white space for an illustration. Lines sort of effect the illustrations. The page count. Having a preset page count put an expectation for how long…how much to write. I think a journal that I can add pages to would take the pressure off of getting to the end of the notebook.
This is a format I used years ago with two students. It was a positive experience, but be sure the technology is available for the experience. Being itinerant can offer challenges with access and opportunities for integrating technology into our sessions. I think 10 years ago I struggled more, but now so many of us have tools at our disposal. This can also be done via two hearing teachers who are in different districts/schools. You can support your student and a colleague’s student. Everybody wins!
Have students communicate with a forgotten art-LETTERS.
- Teach them the structure of a friendly letter
- Use fun stationary
- Fun pens and pencils
- Create something to keep the letters in: a box, folder, or large envelope
- Use stickers to act as stamps
- Have a mail box-if you see multiple students in one location
- Send actual MAIL via the post office or inter school mail-this is dependent on your situation, guidelines and parent permission
Most of us text at least once a day. Texts are typically short and concise. This can be a way to have older students mentor younger students. The messages can be short and topic related. How you do this is obviously not via a cell phone.
- Google Slides-each student can communicate per slide.
- Index cards
You may have students with varying skills. Maybe writing is not something they can physically or academically handle. These students might need a friend the most. Being able to draw, add clip art, pictures, photos or dictate to you can still make for a positive experience.
- Parent permission
- Students who are interested-pair excited & willing kiddos
- Materials/Method of Communication
- School approval
- Remember to view content-this is supposed to be productive & positive
- Follow it through- As the teacher don’t forget make it happen and be careful who you pair….nothing worse than a student who wants to stop (this is supposed to be fun), but the buddy wants to continue….feelings can get hurt.
- Enjoy the Process!!!!
The Power of Connection
The experience I had years ago was not the same as the one I just had this year. I think I was better prepared, better organized, and made it part of our sessions-on a schedule. My students were vested in themselves and each other. This activity stretched beyond our sessions, it was no longer just a writing journal. At the end of the year I made two copies of the journal. I bound them and sent them home. Their parents read and saw the growth, the excitement, the pride and the connections that were made between the children. This whole experience granted me the honor and privilege of being inside their world.
I highly recommend trying this out. These ideas can be used for really any student who needs a connection. Getting our hearing impaired or deaf students connected to someone like them is priceless.
I’m always here to discuss or answer questions. Reach out!
I am adding a free resource link. I developed this journal this year….after I started the composition notebook. My plan is print and use this year for multiple communication buddies/partners.