Active Participation in Math for Nonverbal Students:
How to include students with complex communication needs in math activities.
We have been looking at delivering good instruction to students who are nonverbal in LIFE Skills classrooms and moving them from the premium parking section (students in the front of the room for preferential seating, but who are not engaged in any academics or social interactions) to some active participation. Math instruction is a hard one. It is already a challenge with LIFE Skills students since nearly every student in the class is functioning at a different level in math. Here are a couple of easy suggestions that can up your game when it comes to active participation in math for nonverbal students.
Going from classroom to classroom supporting teachers is great- I see some awesome instruction out there. But I can tell you, without a doubt, Math is it’s own animal. There are already so many variables and challenges in meeting state standards that having students who are non-verbal, non-responsive, or who have complex communication needs can seem beyond doable. Are you struggling with what to do with students in this category as you deliver your math instruction?
Early Math with Estimation!
Estimation is a great way to get some active participation in math by practicing number awareness using the same errorless choice and instruction that we featured in Errorless Comprehension for Non-Verbal Students and Offering Choice to Non-Verbal Students. Estimation can actually be a great activity for all students who still struggle with number sense (like kids who say a car cost $100 and a pop tart $1200). With this strategy using errorless choice simply means we present two choices that could both be right. It looks something like this.
“Student, how many crayons do you think are in this box?”
Show the student two number icons.
“Do you think it is seven (show icon) or eight (show icon)”.
Student gives a response. Neither answer is wrong, it is just a guess.
“Okay, Let’s count to see if your guess was right!” (Count together, count aloud, or use a programmed VOD to count).
That’s not so bad, right? And it follows along with the errorless choice we have been building on as well as getting non-verbal students to actively participate in math. Remember, for our students with the most complex skills, this may be just another way to train on a recognizable and consistent response mode more so than a concrete math skill. Make no mistake, though, this is a great prerequisite skill to work on that relates to a more complex content standard. Also, it removes the student from the premium parking section and gets them actively participating.
More or Less
Another great strategy that is easy to program into a VOD, use with eye gaze, nod or blink is a “more or less” response. This can be used with money, measurement, counting and overall calculations. It is a little more complex than estimation, but still allows for some active participation in math. It looks something like this:
“Student, who has more?” or
“Student, who has less?”
Simple. You could also try this:
“Student, does Maya have more (show icon) or less (show icon) than Luke?”
Student gives a response.
“Okay. Let’s count and see.”
This is an even more complex presentation model than the last, but can you see how it is all progressing and challenging the student in different ways. Now you can incorporate tactile 1:1 correspondence, refer to a number line, practice counting, or visually presenting number symbols. More importantly, they are actively participating in math.
Start today. Pick one of the great scripts from Comprehension, Choice or Math and start using it with your nonverbal, unresponsive, or minimally responsive students so that you can move them from passive premium parkers to actively participating learners!
Want more about working on comprehension activities with students who have complex communication needs? Check out this post on NoodleNook today! Some nonverbal students have mad math skills! Especially when they get good step by step instruction. Try this Money Math Activity, which can be customized for many needs. Read the article, download the Freebie and try it today in the NoodleNook TeachersPayTeachers Store! You may need a communication board, like the PECS Communication Flip Board or the Communication Board to use with students. Either way, check out this blog post on Least Dangerous Assumption to see some other students with mad skills… or the post on Offering Choice to the Minimally Responsive! So much good stuff on NoodleNook, you should subscribe today!