Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Using Author Studies with Children with Intellectual Disabilities

Recently my team started planning with the general education kindergarten team. We try to do the same activities and lessons they do, just adapted to meet the needs of our students. This sounds like a no-brainer, but sadly I'm finding that this isn't the case in many schools with programs for students with intellectual disabilities. It took us until March just to figure out coverage so that we could attend the kindergarten team meetings. 

The kindergarten team decided to do an author study on Kevin Henkes. While I loved reading Lily and the Purple Plastic Purse to my gen ed kindergarten students I've found his books a bit painful for my current students. They are long and the little jokes he writes in his illustrations often get overlooked by my students. I probably would have chosen something more like Mo Willems or Jan Thompson, but I'm determined to make this common planning work. So instead of tossing out their idea and doing my own I took a deep breath and embraced Kevin Henkes.

 The thing with author studies is that it really doesn't matter who you do- you can manipulate anything in the text to fit the needs of your writers. Check out our "What Kevin Henkes Does" chart.

I know you're shocked by our observations. He uses WORDS. And Pictures! And he writes so we can read it! That's EXACTLY what we work on as writers! (Imagine me passionately pointing this out to my students over and over again.  Imagine me holding up a student's book and saying, "Johnny used words JUST LIKE KEVIN HENKES. Johnny said his words slowly and wrote down the first letter so that we could read it, JUST LIKE KEVIN HENKES". Powerful stuff, the author study.)
Since identifying emotions is also something we work very hard on I decided to draw our attention to the fact that KH uses emotions all the time in his books (Wemberly Worried, Sheila the Brave were the books we focused on). After reading Henkes books and making our anchor chart of what he does as a writer we started in on writing our own class text. I prepared the words and board maker symbols ahead of time. Every student got to make their own page and select what animal they wanted along with what feeling. Then I gave them the four word cards and asked them to sequence the sentence (The animal is ...). My higher students were able to write their own words in the sentence.

Everyone illustrated their page and then we put it together into our own class big book, inspired by Kevin Henkes.

 Our next step is to write our own individual texts. Some of the students are given the board maker symbols and just like our class book they can choose the animals and feelings. Then they are responsible for sequencing the words and gluing them in order on the paper.

Other students are able to write their own Kevin Henkes book that is much more open ended, they just need to have an animal or feelings in the book.
Next week we'll share with the general education classrooms and we'll all be able to talk about Kevin Henkes and our own interpretations of his work.

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