Oh, how to figure out a way to implement the therapy, take meaningful data, document that on the required online system, and then share activities and progress to parents/teachers all in ONE 30 minute lesson’s time frame!!! (And I’m being generous with allotting 30 minutes because of course there is the transition to consider). Seeing that communication is the backbone to my job, that part is highly important to me! I have different systems in place including rubrics, notebooks, newsletters, and of course good ol’ fashioned email. I started implementing the newsletters as a way to get information home about the books, topics, and language concepts for the month to help with home carryover. I customize these per type of group, so I have roughly 7 different versions each month. All of the communication is very important to me, but I really need an easy method for reaching parents in real time with meaningful notes. Enter Brightwheel…
I recently met with two parents and our principal concerning some program changes that our district is implementing, In the course of the conversation we made our way to other topics and one of the parents asked if I had ever tried the Brightwheel app. I would not consider myself the most fluent with apps. And by that of course I mean I am completely happy to stay with other techniques but I am slowly branching out and exploring. For me, and app needs to make life easier and this one certainly met that challenge.
It actually has a broad scope of abilities that are suited for a daycare including letting parents know about feedings, bathroom, scheduling payments, and checking students in. If you are familiar with Class Dojo it feels similar in being able to click on preset functions. (I could see teachers who are with students all day using the feeding button to help share news about students trying new foods, communicating what they ate that day, or even sharing bathroom skill progress because that is an important part of some students’ efforts). The features that I love however are the photos and notes. Parents will see the pictures/notes in their feed in the app, similar to the way you scroll through instagram, however this is all about their child as the star 🙂
I started a slow roll out with it to get comfortable and ensure that it was a system I could truly sustain. I explored using the two students whose parents had introduced me to it. They were my guinea pigs. Next I added all of the students in my three language groups where I push into their literacy classes. This was ideal because it included the original two students and I could address a large set of students/parents with entries for just three classes. I have been exploring how easy it would be to additionally use with my other articulation and language groups. My next roll out will be to include their parents.
Here is the feature I love the most: You can send one photo or note out to any set of students you want…individual, a particular set, or the whole class. This gives me great bang-for-my-buck because I can take a photo of the book we will be reading and jot a note about the concepts and send it to the entire group with one click. Using Brightwheel, I now take pictures of the story, various materials, and choices boards and send it to let parents know what we are doing. The visuals are great because it also helps to reach parents who speak a different language. Plus, it gives something tangible for carryover at home. They can use the picture of the choice board as they read the book at home. I can also screenshot parts of my pdf materials and send that, so the options are wide open!
Step two is that I send photos/notes individually when the time presents itself to share progress or specific details. That may include suggestions for something to do at home, communication they used in group, or even accuracy levels. Primarily they are getting pictures of the materials but sometimes I am able to take pictures of the individual children and I will send that to their parents only. Boy, do the kids love seeing themselves on the iPad!! With my articulation students, I have been playing around with it and I take pictures of the specific words/picture cards we used that day for easy practice time at home. Or I’ll snap a shot of the activity and quickly type some words to use for home carry over. They also love being photographed “in action” for mom or dad to see. This is all surprisingly quick!
Okay, wait, there is another feature I love equally – it is free! You can upgrade for some features, but the main ones I need are free! You can manipulate some portions through their website and others through the app on your phone and devices. I use my phone (android) and iPad interchangeably. As I learn the app more I will share my experiences and hopefully this is something you find useful too – even if it is for just a few groups. This app clearly has a wide range of target audiences, but I feel like it is perfect for the busy SLP who wants desperately to share info but only has so much time! I’d love to hear experiences from anyone who has been using Brightwheel or wants to try it out!
I’ve got to admit there is a lot of nostalgia when I think of Sesame Street, both as a child and mother. They teach the basics in pre-readiness…not just academic reading but also social-emotional readiness. Not to mention how impressive their longevity has been. And now, Julia lives on Sesame Street and this has opened up even more opportunities for learning and understanding and awareness.
This spirit from Christine Ferraro, a Sesame Street writer is just magical — “I would love her to be not Julia, the kid on ‘Sesame Street’ who has autism. I would like her to be just Julia.” YES!!!!!
Make sure you also see this interview with the puppeteer behind Julia, Stacey Gordon, and her son with autism. I love the part where shares why Julia is so special to her…“It means that our kids are important enough to be seen in society. Having Julia on the show and seeing all of the characters treat her with compassion…it’s huge.”
Sesame Street – I love you! Thank you for more Sunny Days!
In the March ’17 edition of ASHA Leader (and my morning’s facebook feed) I read an article about a communication program for adults with aphasia at the University of Alabama. (That’s my grad school – Roll Tide!) I’ve always said that you could throw an SLP into any space with any random materials (or even none at all) and we can facilitate communication therapy. The SLPs at Bama are using coffee as their therapy tool. I think this is so innovative and is creating such a meaningful environment for these adult clients! Check out the article and be ready to be inspired! What therapy tools have you used in creative ways?
Today I learned that there are three particularly valuable sources of information…NPR, Jimmy Fallon, and 8 years olds! All three had information about a brand new solar system that NASA announced yesterday. If I had tuned into one of those sources last night I would have also been in the know. Instead I was working on paperwork and indulging in the TV show “Hunted”. It’s a good thing I have these other sources in my life!
Today, I was working with a future astronomer on his fluency goals. All year he has been bringing in current event articles to his 2nd grade class related to space. He told me that a new solar system had been identified with 7 earth-sized planets orbiting a small star. Scientists think there could be possibility for water, which would lead to potential life. So we immediately pulled up more articles online – I was fascinated! I was bombarding him with questions – talk about role reversal! And this was all discovered through telescopes and observations about shadows. Did I forget to mention these planets are 40 light years away?!?!
So I asked my husband if he had heard about this – thinking I was the carrier of breaking news. He receives several science feeds from NPR and other sources, so, yes he was well aware. I should have known better.
Then I asked my dad – figuring he was probably too busy being retired today to know about it. “Oh yeah, I heard about it last night on The Tonight Show”. Of course.
I learned today that even though I may not be up-to-date on the latest scientific discoveries, I sure can apply fluency enhancing strategies to the content! It was an amazing source of material, particularly with the high interest level (meaning mine!) This student has been doing some project-based learning recently using his planet research to create a “Planet Mobile” with three facts for each planet.
My first grade groups are so interested in his project, they are using it as their exit ticket. He is making Neptune next, so I was starting to think about the next steps…looks like we might have a whole other solar system to make!
So next time you find yourself needing to be more “in-the-know”, just turn to NPR, Jimmy Fallon, or an 8 year old!