Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Make Your Room Age Appropriate

Ask yourself, "are they doing this in the other ninth (or second, or fifth, or seventh, or twelfth) grade rooms?"

If the answer is no then ask yourself:
  • do we HAVE to do it this way for medical reasons? A yes answer might be the student with the pillow in her lap to position her hands to prevent edema.
  • do we HAVE to do it this way because it is an accommodation to help us meet our age appropriate goals? (I'm making the assumption that the goals are age appropriate.) A yes answer might be that we are reading the shorter, illustrated book because it is an adaption of Les Miserable that makes Les Miserable accessible to our class.
If not it is time to change what you are doing!

Step One - review the leisure choices at school:
  • Banish Barney. Then banish all his friends. Barney is a pre-school show. After pre-school Barney is all done at school. You can't change what happens at home, but no first, third, fifth grade should be reading, talking about, carrying around Barney (or Tiddlywinks or Elmo, etc.)
  • Age out the other characters as kids grow. Sorry but Dora is out the door at age eight or nine. Arthur and Buster at the same time. Mrs. Frizzle and her magic school bus too.
  • Baby Beluga is for babies. Give Raffi and his friends the heave-ho. Folk music is a nice replacement, trust me lots of aging hippies listen to it so it is age appropriate and it still has that sing-song kind of tone. Better yet bring on the Pink and the Bob Marley.
  • Baby toys are out the door. Give them to charity, drop them off at Early Intervention. Save the baby toys for the babies. Better find another alternative to those bright plastic keys (real keys? real key chains? no keys?). Recover those puzzles with age appropriate pictures and laminate. Contact paper over those age inappropriate illustrations on some items. Phase out the Power Rangers and replace them with real heroes like fire fighters and police officers to learn about.
  • Replace educational posters with images of young children with something else. The kids in the posters should be the age of your students.
  • Donate the baby books to the library. If you students need sturdy books there are many ways to adapt age appropriate books instead of buying board books.
Step Two - Positions please!
  • I am sorry, but after about kindergarten children do not spend time at school horizontal on the floor, whether or not you have a mat. Buy a mat table. Get a mat table. Get the Elks, the Knights of Columbus, Home Depot, Johnny's grandpa, someone build one.
  • And after about fifth grade there is no more sitting on the floor. By age eleven or twelve it is time to sit in a chair. (Bean bags are cool 'till college though!)
  • Crawling stops at pre-school. Unless there is a medical/physical therapy related reason for a student to continue crawling, then it is time to stop. I have never, ever seen a physically challenged student who does not have a cognitive issue crawl at school. No way, no how. That would be embarrassing. So why do we let our kids do it? Stand them up in their walkers or gait trainers, put them in their wheelchairs. If they are not independent in those mobility devices then it is time to find one they can be independent in. Crawling is not a functional means of travel outside the home.
  • Sink the stroller. Do I really need to explain this one? After you are four you need a wheelchair.
Step Three - Let's Chat
  • No baby talk. Enough said.
  • Watch your tone. (I remember a student my first year of teaching who always stuck out her tongue at anyone who used that "you are stupid, baby voice" with her. Approximately three people in the building understood why she did it.)
  • Have conversations, even if they are bound to be one sided, that are age appropriate. ("I watched the Sox Game last night, did you see it? What do you think, do they have a chance?")
  • Program devices with matching age (and gender) voices and age appropriate vocabulary. No 16 year old girl's Dynavox should have the word pocketbook instead of purse!
Sorry if this sounds ranty. I have had a massive number of encounters of the age inappropriate kind lately. At work, in the mall, visiting other schools, I am incredulous at some of what I see out there.

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