5 Ideas for making Halloween easy for your child with autism

If you have a child with autism or know one, you can probably imagine the potential problems that might spring up when you take them trick or treating. If you do not  know much about autism, it can be difficult to describe how a person with autism might feel, as each person displays different traits on the spectrum. However, imaging you are in a busy shopping mall with a lot of noise and activity on Christmas Eve and you have the stress of buying presents on your mind. Then imagine you are required to answer questions whilst under this pressure. You may feel a flight or flight sensation, which children with autism do when put in busy, stressful situations. Halloween can make your child with autism feel that very flight or fight sensation so here are some suggestions for helping them deal with this holiday event.

1. Do you really need to go?

Is your child going to realise they have missed something fun or will you manage to get away with not going out for trick or treating? You know your child best and know how they react to particular situations. Will they be able to cope? If the answer is no, then stay at home - it really sin't worth the stress for everybody and try again next year. If the answer is yes (such as in my case, my daughter with autism will be adamant she wants to go), then off you pop but you need a plan of attack (perhaps that's not the right word!).

2. Have an exit strategy

Develop a plan with your child about what you are going to do, for how long and how it will be done such as: firstly, we will go to these houses, then we will knock on their doors, if they answer we will say 'trick or treat!, then we might get candy... 

Discuss the plan (or better still draw a visual) with your child so they have a clear idea of what to expect and what to do if nobody answers or they don't give out candy! Then build an exit strategy into your plan so everybody is clear on the rules such as: if you run away from me - then we have to go home. This will help you later if things unravel, but don't be afraid to up and leave if things become too much.

3. Bring the appropriate equipment

My daughter rarely leaves the house without her sound reducing headphones nearby. She wears them when she knows there will be loud noises or just lots of traffic around. If your child with autism needs a soother or piece of equipment to help them get through trick or treating, then be sure to bring it along.

4. Let people know your child has autism

Wearing a badge or some sort of signage is a great way to let others know that your child has special needs. You do not need to buy one, even a sticker with writing such as "I have autism, please be patient with me" can work wonders. My daughter wears a badge when she goes out and this is because she wants to. It goes without saying that your child must be happy to wear this sign before you put one on them!

5. Have fun and relax

Your child may not want to wear a costume or they may want to dress in something very odd! Pick your battles and try to enjoy the evening. Practice what they might say through role play, when they knock on a door. Explain that people may or may not give candy and that's okay. 

The irony about Halloween as a holiday season is all children are wild, over excited and often act inappropriately, so your child with autism will not be standing out!

Side note:
If you're not going out for trick or treating, ensure your child knows what will happen that evening. That strangers will be coming to your door. Be extra careful on this night if you don't want visitors knocking on your door, a small sign would be appropriate nearby. In some neighbourhoods, it is encouraged to only turn your outside light on if you are taking part, if not keep your light out. Find out what your neighbourhood custom is and do the same.

Good luck and Happy Halloween!

5 easy ways to integrate ICTs into your Geography lessons

There is really no better way to engage students of all ages, than with information and communication technology (ICT). Students just love the hands on elements that ICTs provide and listed below are five super easy ways to integrate ICTs into your geography lessons.

1. Google Earth - Equipment needed: computers/ipads and Google Earth software (free to download)

Whole Class: I love starting a lesson with the spinning globe.. just sitting there, spinning with no explanation of what we are doing that day. Let the students get all excited and hooked in early on! It's always fun to zoom in on your school's address and hear the kids go 'wow!' as they see their school. Google Earth also provides the perfect opportunity to discussion birds eye view verses street view by using the little figure to jump on to the road outside your school building. 

Independent or pairs: Find your address and draw a birds eye view of your house. 

2. Bee-Bots - Equipment needed: Bee-Bot robots and hand built floor map or tiles

Whole Class or Pairs: These are great for K-2 years and a perfect way to solidify their knowledge about direction and positional language. Draw a map on tiles or on a large canvas (I've seen classes where the teacher has just turned over an old Twister mat and drawn a map on there with the students). Keep the lines nice and wide when drawing roads as the Bee-Bot will need to move along them. Now students must program their Bee-Bot to follow directions to a set location. Great for exploring birds eye view, map directions and digital technologies.

3. History Pin - Equipment needed: Visit the History Pin website and computers/ipads

History Pin isn't just for discussing history but it can specifically address the Year 1 HASS curriculum set by ACARA for 'how places change'. Visit locations to see photographs of places as they change over time. Students love exploring this website and you can even add to your own school location by taking some photographs of your place!

4. Draw on Map App - Equipment needed: Draw on Map app (paid version if possible) and iPads

There are a few mapping apps around but I really like this one because students can draw directly on the map. This makes it perfect for young students who can demonstrate their understanding of direction by using their finger to record a path to a location. You can also switch between satellite maps and street maps, so you can zoom in on your school or even your student's own house to make it even more personal! The free version of the app is great but if you go for the paid version you'll get more features such as pasting images of buildings and arrows.

In pairs: Draw a path from your house to your partner's house. Take a screen shot and save or share with the rest of the class through mirroring to your SmartBoard/laptop. 

5. Interactive QR codes - Equipment needed: iPads and any of TechTeacherPto3s Geography packs

Independently or in pairs: students scan the QR code and examine the photograph of the place being discussed. Examine the photograph, what features can they see? Where is this place? What is this place used for? Images are stored in Google Drive but are set up so you do not need a Google Drive account. This is a great activity for students to undertake with iPads and encourages hands on engagement with geographic terms and images. You can find Geography packs for Foundation, Year 1 and Year 2 all with QR codes by clicking here.

Spooky senses Science fun in the classroom

Halloween science fun that explores the senses! This simple Science activity will help your students describe objects using only some of their senses.

I love integrating units of work with seasonal activities. It keeps students engaged and allows for cross-subject discussions. 

Halloween is a great example of this because, even though it's only just gaining popularity in Australia, it provides an opportunity to discuss other country's celebrations and ways that the change of seasons are marked.

When I was growing up there was a game called Nelson's Eye that was played at parties and this is especially fun at Halloween when everybody is in full spooky mood!

I've created a variation on the old Nelson's Eye game so that my students can explore their five senses. I call it What's in the bag!

Halloween science fun that explores the senses! This simple Science activity will help your students describe objects using only some of their senses.

Here is what you will need to set up the game in your classroom:
  • a canvas or non-transparent bag
  • plastic resealable bags
  • senses flash cards (you can grab these for free at my store, just follow the link below)
  • various objects that are soft, squishy, noisy, hard, soft etc.. to place inside the plastic bags. Some examples I've used before are:
    • hard boiled eggs, mashed or whole (like an eye!)
    • boiled spaghetti (veins!) or hard uncooked (children will think these are sticks)
    • grapes (more eyes that go pop!)
    • wool (monster hair)
    • ice mashed or hard
    • mud (guts)
    • dried apricots (tiny brains!) 
Halloween science fun that explores the senses! This simple Science activity will help your students describe objects using only some of their senses.

How to play:
  1. Place 1 item, secretly in the bag. Don't let the children see what it is. Leave it in the plastic resealable bag otherwise you'll have a huge mess on your hands (or if you're game you can use a fresh canvas bag each time and just wash them after use).
  2. Pick one student to come to the front and place their hand in the bag. Discuss with the student which senses they are using by sticking the flash cards to your whiteboard.
  3. Ask the student to describe what they are feeling before guessing. This is a great opportunity to get students to discuss vocabulary for materials (soft, hard, long, short, round, square, squishy!)
  4. For the Halloween spin you could say "is it a witch's eye?" and the children will all say "ugh yuck!"- but they are engaged! 
  5. After a while let the student guess what the item is and show them by pulling it out of the bag. 
  6. Repeat again and again until all students have had a turn.
  7. Reflect or brainstorm all the vocabulary you've used to describe the items inside the bag by writing them down on the whiteboard as you go along.
  8. Review the senses they used - could they see it? hear it? smell it?
If you'd like to grab a copy of these five senses flash cards just click the image below. 
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Halloween science fun that explores the senses! This simple Science activity will help your students describe objects using only some of their senses.

Halloween science fun that explores the senses! This simple Science activity will help your students describe objects using only some of their senses. #techteacherpto3 #foundationintofirst #halloween #science

Using tags to engage students in HASS

Use tags to engage students in History and Geography in early years HASS.

Have you heard of the new craze sweeping classrooms called tags? 

Well they might not be 'new' to US teachers but here in Australia we're yet to get on board that tag-train yet. However, I've found tags a really useful way to engage little learners in complex (let's not say 'dry') subjects such as Geography and History. 

I've used these little tags with Foundation through to Year 3 students and they are very popular (yes even in Year 3!). Students just love to find a way to show off to their peers and what better way than to prance around the playground with your achievement on your chest.

Preparing tags.
  1. You print out and laminate your tags and then punch a hole in them (don't worry you will use them year after year so it's time well spent). 
  2. Find a small container to keep them in so they are handy behind your desk.
  3. Purchase some lanyards (I got mine cheap from the dollar store but most places that supply stationery can provide them). I usually purchase one lanyard for each child but if you're planning on using tags for different subjects it can be useful to have a lanyard per subject.
  4. Create a small wall space for your lanyards to hang when students are not wearing them (such as when they go home) by assigning a student name per hook with sticky labels. 
The purpose of tags.

The aim of tags is to engage students with small achievable goals and, once reached, give them a tag to wear on their lanyard. 

I created some Geography and History tags to use with my Foundation Year students last year and, using a matching goal sheet, I would give out tags when students reached that academic goal.

For example, the Foundation Year Geography ACARA elaboration we were working towards was...

I can describe how places can be cared for.

Once I felt the student had mastered this elaboration, I ticked their goals sheet and awarded them a matching tag.

The goal sheets became particularly useful during parent teacher discussions. I would pull out the student's geography book and inside the front cover would be glued their goals for the whole year for that subject. I would use it as a reference point for discussions with parents about goals met and new goals we are aiming towards.

Students loved their tags and it became a bit of a battle to get them to take them off at the end of the day. I know some teachers let them wear them home, but you know you probably won't see them again. I just trained my students to hang them on their hook and, like Pokemon cards, they began to collect all of the geography goals one by one! I gave students a second lanyard for their history goals, which proved equally successful!

Tags are a win, win for teachers, students and parents alike!

You can grab any of my tags for Foundation HASS subjects (below) and Year 1 HASS are also available at my TpT store. 

Use tags to engage students in History and Geography in early years HASS. Use tags to engage students in History and Geography in early years HASS.

Use tags to engage students in History and Geography in early years HASS. #foundationintofirst #history #geography #teaching #earlyyears