One of the skills that is essential for children with special needs to learn is self advocacy. Once children are able to problem solve for themselves and do not rely on others to notice their need for help they become more independent and feel more empowered. So I'm always looking for ways to embed self-advocacy into our day.
The minute my two first graders walked into my room this morning they squealed. "ANTS!!" they yelped, and pointed at the floor which was covered in a long line of ants silently doing their ant-thing of walking with determination in a line. I tried not to show exactly how grossed out and disgusted I was by the infestation while somehow calming the girls down.
Unfortunately for me, calming down was not something they had any intention of doing. They became so wound up by the ants that I could tell we would get little else done. Plus, the ants were marching right on the edge of our carpet, just begging little eyes to watch them instead of me.
So, in the interest of becoming problem solvers and practicing self-advocacy I decided our class would write a letter to asking for someone to come help us with the ants.
30 minutes later my kiddos were very involved in our emergency ants letter and barely noticed that I'd managed to teach the 'ing' chunk, gotten some good phonics work in, reviewed the concept of a letter, and practiced interactive writing and shared reading. Not bad for a spur of the moment lesson with distracted children.
They proudly marched the letter up to the office and when asked by one of the secretaries who let the ants into our room replied, "The Queen".
We then practiced putting on our 'magical I can't see you' glasses to make the ants disappear. (These glasses also work wonders when friends are not doing their job in our classroom, or when someone is doing something really, really interesting.)
When the ants came up the rest of the day it was brief- perhaps because they remembered that we'd already taken that important step of solving our own problem, or perhaps because they were worried that I'd make them write about it again...