Tuesday, October 6, 2009

task analysis, scissors, and rock stars

Task analysis was something that was taught to us over and over again in grad school. It's simply breaking down larger tasks into smaller pieces to make them teachable and achievable. This sounds like what all teachers do every day, but it generally refers to more specific tasks like how to use a microwave or how to brush your teeth. (During the summer of '08 when I regrettably took 3 grad classes, all 3 classes made us do the same activity- compose a task analysis on teeth brushing. i believe one class came up with 21 steps)

In a lot of ways it's something you'd use working with students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but it comes in handy with students with autism since they tend to be very literal- it reminds me to teach each step and make no assumptions. And, with kindergartners you never know when you're going to break down the most basic tasks.

The other day splatypus and I were tag-teaming it with one of our little friends. (I LOVE co-teaching because it means one teacher can work with a student for awhile and just when the teacher thinks she's reached the end of her patience and she is about to run out the door and never return to teaching she can look at the co-teacher and say, "your turn" and the other teacher can magically swoop in, full of energy and not yet grinding her teeth. This saves a lot in dental bills and advil, and rescues our students from our frustrated outbursts of "how many times do I have to tell you?" My partner-in-crime and I have this down to a science. All it takes is making eye contact across the room and we know when to switch.)

Back to our little friend who was having trouble using scissors. It's very possible she never saw a pair of scissors before she walked into the classroom in the beginning of August. So, we were taking turns slowly showing her how to hold the scissors and cut. A lot of times children just learn from watching others use scissors and copying what they see, and occasionally children may need to have certain steps demonstrated or corrected. This little friend required a bit more.
Take a moment and try to list each step you'd need to include when teaching someone to use scissors.....

I have-

-Pick up the scissors
-Turn them so the blade points away from you and the handles are straight up and down with the larger of the two holes at the top
-Put your thumb in the hole on the top
-Put your fingers (at this point I didn't really care which fingers) into the hole on the bottom
-Stretch your fingers away from your thumb to "open" the scissors
-Pick up the piece of paper you want to cut with your other hand
-Put that piece of paper between the blades of the scissors
-Bring your fingers and thumb together to "close" the scissors
-Repeat the opening and closing of the scissors while moving the scissors slowly away from you, a little further on the paper each time
-Stop and check- is it cutting the paper? If not, check if you are holding the scissors up and down and if you are remembering to open and close the scissors each time
-When you have finished cutting the paper STOP opening and closing the scissors
-Put the scissors on the table
-Take your fingers out of the holes

Give you a headache?

Now, try to do all that in Spanish.

Now, try to do all that in Spanish with other kindergartners arguing over the correct pronunciation of abrir and cerrar so you have to stop and explain to them that people from El Salvador and people from Bolivia may say their words a little bit differently, but it's all still Spanish.

It was at that moment that I sat back and thought, wow, splatypus and I, and all teachers really, are just amazing. The things we can do- all at one time, with no planning, in different languages. We rock.

2 comments:

splatypus said...

i heart you. i heart you because you describe what in my mind was a frustrating moment as a wonderful teaching moment. i could not do this without you.

Tia said...

I once had a partner in crime, and I miss her dearly. We were to read each other's body language, by the endo of our time together, and when she grabbed that bottled water, like a well needed adult beverage, I knew she needed a breather, and I would jump in, while she ran our for a quick but well needed breather.

Also, I am general ed. lang. arts teacher of grade 8. I have a level 1 ESL student. We do not have an ESL teacher, and the tutors available are stretched thin throughout the building and under trained. Any advice?

A think tank focused on creative solutions for future problem solvers -tree