24 May 2017

Summer School Curriculum for a Kindergartner with Down Syndrome

Abigail's favorite thing in the entire wold, second -maybe- to ice cream, is learning. She loves books, letters, words, numbers, and counting. I realize some of those things sound redundant, but they aren't. "Hi, Roxy! Rrrrr," she says in the morning, telling the dog what sound "R" makes. Her teacher reported during Abigail's IEP meeting that she doesn't want to play with toys during free time, she just wants to stand up front with the calendar and pretend to be the teacher. Summer break is like a punishment around here.

Abigail's intense desire to learn + the very well established "summer slide" + her learning difficulties = summer school is a really smart path to trod.

I decided that we were going to do school four days per week for 2-3 hours per day during Theodore's naptime and we would be in the basement (so as to keep the main floor quiet). My kids are (usually) well behaved in the morning and willing to play with each other or independently, but by the afternoon, they need supervision and structure, so it seems like an ideal time to insert some focused school work. We'll see how my theory plays out come June 12th. Abigail just turned 6 and is in Kindergarten this year and will be repeating it next year, but with a larger percentage of time spent in the mainstream classroom. You can read more about why half way through this post.

*Quick note: I am not getting paid to promote anything in this blog post. This is all just my honest opinion. The Amazon links are linked to a program where a minuscule percentage of sales are donated to Abigail's school, but I have no idea if when you click on them, that program will transfer to your cart. You can designate your own organization to benefit from your purchases at Smile.Amazon.com

1. Before I did anything, especially visiting Pinterest (ie, the Source of Inadequacy Inspiration), I decided what subjects we were going to study. My goal is to keep Abigail from loosing what she has already learned. I also think of it as making sure her foundation is solid. I had to keep reminding myself of that as I started researching and Pinteresting ideas because there are a million really awesome, enriching, brilliant ideas that are sure to make you feel like a failure for not already doing them. I opted for math, reading, and writing, as those are the biggest subjects in her classroom this year. I looked up pictures of lesson planners online and copied one into my bullet journal style planner. (Abigail's is on the left side.)

2. Abigail has homework every week and her teacher often sends home the completed worksheets they did in class, plus we talked about it extensively during her IEP meeting, so I had a pretty good idea about what types of activities would be best when I set about researching. I spent lots of time on Amazon viewing different workbooks and reading customer reviews.

For math, I decided on DK's Math Made Easy. It's one of the more expensive options, but it really seemed to me to be the closest to the worksheets she brings home.

I also wanted to do a fun math activity each day, and this is when I started using Pinterest. I tried to be really specific in my search - "addition for Kindergarteners" - and tried to stick with things similar to Abigail's weekly homework bags. I already had the jungle animal counters, I bought them a few years ago on Zulily, but they do have them available on Amazon. Learning Resources makes a million different themed counters and they are great quality. We have used ours over the years for color and shape matching and patterns. Anyway, I numbered sturdy index cards 1-10 and made "+," "-," and "=" sign cards. We'll shuffle them and she can draw cards and use the animals to find the sum. I made up another worksheet to go with the cards for a hashmarks system she and her teacher worked out.

I found this on Pinterest, which promises to be wicked cool - addition and writing practice.

Which brings me to this awesomely handy invention. They are dry erase sleeves, so you can use the same worksheet over and over if you want. I plan to let Abigail write in the actual book so I can track her progress and because I'd rather her not running around willy nilly with a dry erase marker, but for some activities, this will save me from writing the same things over and over again.

Then I have a few extra things we can throw into the mix as the summer wears on, like number flash cards for 0-200 and this Count to 100 book I bought at a friend's Usborne party.

Reading. So Abigail is currently using a tiered reading system at school and has a nearly 100% accuracy rate with the first level and something over 50% for the second tier. As far as I can tell, they don't publish that exact program anymore, but I found this version that is nearly identical and happens to be insanely affordable. I got the first tier to keep up Abigail's self confidence when reading, which I'll intermix with the second level throughout the month.

It'd be pretty awesome if by the end of the summer, I need to buy the third tier. Most of her reading exercises will be based off the book, well go through it again and talk about what sound the letters in the book make - "What's this word? Oh, 'sun'! What sound does 's' make?" Abigail also really struggles with her verbs, so I made up some verb flashcards based on the books. We'll go through the pictures and match up the card with the action. "Is she sleeping or driving?"

I also bought a package of general sight words, they all seem to be the same, so I bought ones that were inexpensive to go with the sight words print outs that Abigail has brought home from school to practice with.

I also have a few extras for this category too, various educational games she's received as gifts at holidays and some worksheets her teacher sent home.

Writing. I thought handwriting was the easiest subject to compile. I found a handwriting book that is part of the Handwriting Without Tears series. I was really attracted to this because it was written by an occupational therapist and it seemed to teach students how to actually write the letters. Most supermarket handwriting books are made for kids who can just trace or copy what they see, but I think Abigail could benefit from something more instructional. It breaks letters down in such a way that plays to some prewriting exercises we've done that her equine therapy therapist recommended.

I also bought a ream of handwriting paper for $8 and made up some worksheets for Abigail. She'll trace in pencil what I write in high lighter (she does that technique at school) and I'm trying something I saw on Pinterest. Abigail already knows how to spell her first name, but I'm introducing it with her first name and we'll use it to teach her how to spell her last name. On Thursdays, I'm going to have Abigail trace a fun little story using sight words she knows, something totally fresh that I think she'll love.

And then I got some grippies to help her hold her pencil properly, especially as her hand muscles start to fatigue. (Easily fatigued is a Ds thing.) I suspect she'll hate them, but it's worth a shot. The Frozen pencils are something we've had lying around for a while now.

Lastly! I ordered some stuff to put on the walls. I got a numbers chart that I don't really know what to do with. I just figured when the kids need a break and look around the room, I wanted them to be seeing educational stuff. I also ordered a wall pocket chart that we can use with index cards and the sight word cards we already have. (The wall chart does sell it's own recommended flash cards separately, but they are crazy expensive, so we're using our own.)

Abigail can work on putting together sentences, Eleanor can work on spelling her name, and I can make up my own flash cards with index cards as we go.

Phew, okay! At this point in the process, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed with options and ideas. When our giant Amazon box arrived, I tore it open and then it just sat there for a few days while I walked around feeling inadequate.

3. I needed to break things down, so I made a "master list" for the subjects which tells me approximately what I want to do each day. For example, for reading, each day we'll read one book and do one activity. On Mondays we'll just run through the flash cards. On Tuesdays we'll play a game. On Wednesdays we'll do the verb flash cards for the book. On Thursdays we'll do more flash cards. I did this for each subject. Parameters. It's the equivalent of saying "I want to have breakfast for dinner on Tuesdays, Mexican on Wednesdays, and a slow cooker meal on Thursdays."

4. Next I needed to get specific. So, now we're moving to "eggs and bacon this Tuesday, pancakes next Tuesday, waffles the Tuesday after that." I decided to assemble the lesson plans for the first week only so I can see how my plans flesh out in reality before I commit to planning the entire summer. I'll probably take things week-by-week, assembling plans on Friday afternoons, at least for June. On Friday mornings, we'll go on a field trip and won't do school in the afternoon.

This step took me awhile. My desk was a mess for many afternoons while I tried to figure out the nitty gritty. This step is definitely only manageable after you've finished the first three.

Cat - you're so helpful

I numbered the books so I could keep better track of them. I assembled packets of flash cards. figured out which math game we would play on which day and I made sure I had all the pieces we'd need. I wrote down in detail which pages of which workbook we were doing on which day.

I assembled all the papers in an accordion folder with four pockets on each side (one for Monday, one for Tuesday, etc). This way, when we sit down to do school, I can simply pull out each day's work and we can get started.

Anything that didn't fit in the folder went in a small basket.

All extra supplies went in a large basket that I'll ideally only need to pull out on Fridays when I make the following week's lesson plan.

Organization and structure are synonymous with support. The more organization and structure I have, the more successful this venture will be!

5. Lastly, I rearranged some furniture in the basement and made a little school area.

One light is burnt out, the others haven't warmed up yet. The perfect dreary before photo.

Voila! Abigail's summer school is ready to go! I'll update again in late June to let you know what is and is not working for us in the event you'd like to try any of these ideas out. In the meantime, I've got a little preschool to drum up for a certain little girl who just might die of jealousy/heart break (I swear they are the same when you're three-years-old) if she doesn't get to "do school" too.


Diane said...

Wow! You are so organized! I am impressed.

nichole davis said...

I just ordered a book for summer homeschool for Landon. Now you have inspired me to do the same for both my girls. It will be tragic when Mya no longer goes to school for the summer. She does the same thing as Abigail and tries to run the class. I swear someday she will be working in a classroom!