In my time working with students on the autism spectrum, I’ve witnessed them struggle to recognize emotions and acknowledge non-verbal cues from others.
Throughout their schooling, my high school students have heard that this is one of their social challenges, but rarely do they know why this is the case. One student told me that one of her teachers told her “don’t worry, the other students know you have autism so they’ll try to explain what they’re feeling.” At 17, she was nervous that when she went off to college she would have to explain her diagnosis to everyone so they could understand her. Why should she have to disclose that information instead of trying to learn how to understand both herself and those around her?
I struggled to find ways to teach students with a range of cognitive abilities how and why they need to recognize emotions of themselves and others in a concrete way. There were lots of complicated scientific studies explaining why individuals on the spectrum have trouble recognizing emotions, but most of my students aren’t able to grasp that information. So I simply typed “emotions” as a search term in Kiddom’s K12 library of teaching resources to see if any of the results would work for my students.
Using Kiddom’s Library to search for free social emotional learning resources
The first search result turned out to be the perfect assignment: “Are Emotions Contagious?” This video explained the science of mirror neurons in an understandable way for middle and high schoolers and allowed them to better see how important it is to recognize emotions and what the impact of mirroring emotions can be.
From my experience, students are able to more easily recognize times when someone else impacted their lives than they are able to recognize how they impact everyone else. This assignment challenged them to identify how the emotions of their peers have affected them as well as how their emotions can have an effect on their peers. I selected the video and assigned it to my students as homework via Kiddom, along with a reflection piece about how the video connects to their lives.
The assignment was challenging for many of my students. They found the video interesting, but struggled to connect it to their own lives. I got responses like “I am an independent person so no one can change my emotions but me” and “some people will see a friend looking sad so they start to feel sad, but I am never sad, so I just cheer friends up.”
I was heartbroken. These responses illustrated that my students couldn’t acknowledge how emotions were a part of their experiences, or even what emotions they were displaying to the world. As I kept reading through the responses, some breakthroughs trickled through, “Once, I was having a very hard day. My friend told a horrible joke, but when she started laughing, I couldn’t help but start laughing too.” “One day I was having a bad day. I think I made my friends have a bad day. I spread my negativity.”
These responses gave me hope that I can eventually help my students get to a place where they can better recognize not only the emotions of someone they are talking to, but also an awareness of their own emotions and how they can impact those around them.
We still have a ways to go, but maybe if I display happiness and other positive emotions, I can help my students get there. One thing is for sure, the proliferation of social emotional learning resources is wonderful.
Differentiation: the word that makes teachers quake in their shoes thinking about all the extra work they’ll have to do.
Meeting all student needs has been a task for teachers for a very long time, but never ceases to make even the most experienced teacher anxious. In some schools, students are placed in homogenous classes based on their current skill level. But in each of my classes, though I only have about 6 students, each and every student is at a different level. This becomes even more complicated when you don’t want students to see how different their work may be from other students’.
Our skills-based program differs from most schools — instead of focusing on content, we have a list of skills that students need to learn, such as pulling out main ideas from a reading or how to design a scientific experiment, and use different content to teach those skills. In class, I will often model a skill for them, like going through a reading myself and talking through the steps I take out loud so the students can hear. It doesn’t matter if the reading is above or below the levels of some students, as they aren’t reading it; they just need to see the process I used to practice the skill. But then comes the independent or small group practice time and I’m stuck with the dilemma: what to do with all the different levels?
Handing out papers that don’t appear the same openly tells the class who needs a different assignment. Imagine the reactions of students who already struggle to keep their emotions in check on a daily basis or who have low self esteems from their experiences in past schools. Yikes!
Finding a way to assign students work that is on their level without pointing out their differences is key. Using Kiddom, I can virtually hand out a different assignment for each student, and they won’t have to see it. All they will see is that they were given an assignment, and then get straight to work. I can either choose the students that I would like to be sent a certain assignment or I can go to a specific student in the class and start an assignment from there. Emotions spared and skills practiced — check and check.
Students can independently complete their given assignment and submit them all online. I then go in, grade the assignment, and send messages to individual students if needed. Individual assignments, private grades and conversations all support my students in building skills and confidence. Kiddom allows me to provide students with practice on the skills that theyneed to work on and get feedback from me without fear of their peers overhearing.
Once assignments are graded and different students are grouped by their mastery of all the different skills assigned, I also have the option to assign work via mastery groups. I don’t have to go searching through the other grades to see who needs what; Kiddom saves time by calculating and organizing it all for me.
A lot of new teachers struggle trying to not only plan for their whole class, but then planning for individual students who may learn differently. You can have extra assignments made, but how do you assign them without making students upset? With Kiddom helping me operate my classroom, I can level my extremely unleveled classroom and keep my students engaged, focused, and happy.
Want to dive right in? Click here to access a demo class!
At least three times a week I hear one of my students say “I can’t do this, I’m autistic.”
This is really frustrating, not because I just want them to do what I’m asking (though, that would be nice), but because I hate that they think that their diagnosis is so limiting. They are stunted by thinking only about a worst case scenario, instead of all of the possibilities that exist for them. I have tried many strategies to reframe their perspective. We’ve implemented growth mindset vocabulary into every class, shown them work from the start of the year and now to reflect on improvement, and more. It works for some students for a little bit, but they quickly go back to the “I’m autistic” mindset.
There was one day where multiple students in each of my classes blamed their autism on everything they did (or didn’t do). At my wits end, I turned to social-emotional learning curriculum from Kiddom’s library of teaching resources.
I was searching for something about how to effectively teach students how to cope with things with which they struggle. I came across a TedEd lesson, “The world needs all kinds of minds,” without noticing the author. This sounded perfect, but I was nervous how my students would react to some random person, who was probably neurotypical, telling them that their differences were beneficial in the world. I clicked on it anyway, and Temple Grandinstarted speaking.
As soon as the video started, I knew we had to watch it. My hope was that if parents, teachers and others couldn’t get through to them, maybe someone with the same diagnosis would have better luck. I was right. I have rarely seen my students so engaged. They stayed off of their cell phones, asked questions, and laughed at every joke Grandin made. After the video, we had a discussion about the ideas brought forth in the video and used the questions from the lesson we found on Kiddom. They were then to write about how Temple Grandin made them feel.
It was incredible. Their responses included:
“It was awesome seeing someone like me up on stage”
“If you think you’re gonna succeed you will succeed”
“Made me feel like I could do anything”
Seeing these kinds of comments coming from students who normally struggle to feel empowered was incredible.
It’s nice to see education technology companies like Kiddom integrate social emotional learning resources into their library of free resources. And it’s great to be able to access resources like this directly from the tool I already use to monitor class progress.
P.S. Want to dive right in? Click here to access a demo class!
One of the toughest things about working with high school students, especially those on the autism spectrum (as parents and teachers who work with these students will tell you), can be teaching them about accountability. Not just teaching students to take accountability for their own actions, but also helping the adults that work with them model it to support their students. Finding a tool that requires teachers, students, and even parents to accept responsibility can be tricky. This is why I use Kiddom, so I can make everyone accountable without adding any extra work for myself.
Holding Students Accountable
One of the primary goals of my school is to prepare students for independent life. This doesn’t just mean teach them enough to pass tests and get into college. We also work on their social skills, executive functioning skills, strategies to cope when they are struggling emotionally, and much more. In order to grow in any of these areas, students must take accountability for themselves. If they don’t see a problem, how can we expect them to fix it?
Kiddom allows students to be in the driver’s seat with their schoolwork. Not only do they have access to all assignments electronically (no more “my dog ate my homework excuses” accepted in my tech-friendly classroom) but they have the opportunity to take the initiative and ask for help, even when I am not standing in front of them. From day one, the expectation for my students has been that if they are struggling with a homework assignment, they are to try their hardest and let me know ahead of time if they were unable to complete it, otherwise they were not going to get credit. Kiddom allows them to stick to that expectation and take accountability over their learning.
Keeping Teachers Accountable
Practice what you preach — we’ve all heard the saying, but it’s not so easy to do. If our goal is to get our students to take accountability for their work, teachers must do the same. In the same way you add students to Kiddom, your class codes can be shared with other adults at the school too. In this way, teachers are responsible for responding to and have easy access to student data and work.
Each teacher at my school has a learning specialist that partners with us to make sure that what we choose to teach and how we choose to teach it is the best fit for our population of students with ASD. I have seen teachers who don’t quite “get” some of our students and therefore have trouble meeting their needs. Again, this is where Kiddom holds adults accountable andsupports their professional development. I can share my class codes for Kiddom with my learning specialist, and they can see exactly what assignments I am giving to my students. I am held accountable for assigning appropriate work for my students, as well as differentiating assignments for students who need it. This way, when we meet as a group of teachers each Monday, my learning specialist already knows what is going on and can give me feedback along the way before it’s too late and a student falls through the cracks. Teachers can also share classes to really make sure we know what every student is working on in each class. This way, I can help them with their math homework at night, even though I am not their math teacher, because I can see exactly what work they have been assigned. I also see when they get assigned extra work in their humanities class, so I may assign them less work in science so as not to overwhelm them in one day. Kiddom allows us to truly share our work with our supervisors and fellow teachers on an ongoing basis so hopefully no more students fall through the cracks.
Keeping Parents Accountable
I work at a boarding school, so I have the additional responsibility of acting as proxy parent, seeing my students at night, and checking in to ask them if they have done their homework. This year, I have a day student as well, so I have to rely on the parents to push their daughter to complete her work. Kiddom really helps me with this as well.
At the start of this school year, my day student got very behind quickly, and her father said that he had no idea what homework she was supposed to be doing, and that she had just told him she had finished it already. We quickly learned that we had to work especially hard on getting this student to take accountability for herself. We were able to explain to him how Kiddom works, that he could easily see assignments that she had, ones that were late and if they had been handed in or not. He was able to take some steps to support her and ensure that she really was doing her work and staying up to date.
For students who are still struggling to be self-advocates, their parents can double check the work that needs to be done via their student’s account, as well as call their child out when they say they’re done. This also puts an extra piece of accountability onto the student, with one more adult pushing them to do what they need to do on their own.
Accountability is a huge piece of the very complicated student puzzle. It can be the turning point for a student who is struggling in all aspects of school to start to see growth in herself and therefore keep working and pushing. If our students can see the adults in their lives being held accountable and accepting that, we will see so much more in our students than we may have thought.
P.S. Want to dive right in? Click here to access a demo class!
“The executive functions are a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve a goal.”
Have you ever had trouble paying attention to the work that you needed to do? What about struggling to organize and plan a task? Initiating a task? Monitoring what you were doing and connecting that to what needed to be done? Regulating your emotions? Odds are you have struggled to balance all of these skills at some point. Imagine experiencing obstacles in all of them, all the time! What supports would you need to accomplish your goals? This challenge is what my students and I deal with on a daily basis.
I work at a school that focuses on students on the autism spectrum or with non-verbal learning disability. One of the most common attributes of autism is a deficit in executive functioning skills. A student on the autism spectrum often will struggle with at least three of the following five skills:
Organizing and planning
Because the majority of my students are on the spectrum, executive functioning is one of the first things we focus on in planning curriculum. How can we expect our students to take a test, follow the steps of a lab or even do a simple homework assignment without these skills? Sometimes it might seem like the students don’t care or are just refusing to do the work, when in reality there has been a breakdown in their executive functioning.
Kiddom is a tool to help students manage their executive functioning deficits without having to single anyone out. If any of your students a) lose hard copies of paper, b) cannot remember what the homework is from the time we have class to nighttime, c) struggle to monitor what they need to do, d) organize and plan when they will do different assignments, e) regulate their emotions when work gets overwhelming, or f) all of the above, using Kiddom can be the perfect solution. It keeps all papers in one place for students, so they don’t have to go searching through folders, backpacks, or even different email accounts, as well as having one place to look if they aren’t even sure if they have any work.
At the start of this school year, my students were assigned to write a lab report. In order to break down the different pieces and avoid overwhelming them, we had homework assignments focused on completing each section separately over a few weeks time. When it came time to put all the different pieces together, one student spoke up saying “Well, I don’t know where my pieces are; I typed them all but can’t find them.” The two of us spent about 45 minutes searching through her 10 different email accounts (yes, 10), each with their own set of Google Docs, to pull together all of the pieces. Had we been using Kiddom at this point, each homework assignment for the different sections would have been on one page and she would have been using 1 email to complete all the work. No more searching!
This is my class Timeline: a list of every assignment I’ve given. I can filter by student to personalize.
Seeing due dates for different assignments, or being able to see which assignments are late, allow them to better organize and plan when they’re going to do different assignments. Finally, I know that my students get unbelievably emotional if they know they have an assignment but can’t find it or can’t remember where to look for it. With all classes using Kiddom, it can ease those anxieties. Students know the one site to look at and can see exactly what they need to do.
Believe it or not, teenagers tend to not like looking different from the “normal student”. Even in my classes, where all students have differences, and the majority struggle with executive functioning, they fight anything that they see as making them stand out from the crowd. No matter how many times I tell them how it will help them succeed in class, they don’t want to hear it. This is where technology tools like Kiddom can come into play. It is something that can be introduced to an entire class, even the students who don’t necessarily struggle with their executive functioning. This way, students who really need it can feel “normal” and are more invested in using the site.
The chat feature is tethered to assignments, making it convenient for feedback.
Along with being able to use Kiddom with the whole group, it allows me to give feedback via comments on the assignment, instead of trying to pull a student aside where their peers can see and revving up those emotions. This also puts some accountability on the students to use that feedback and come to me with questions. For the most part, even students who don’t have those deficits will benefit and enjoy using Kiddom.
Kiddom is one of the easiest “fixes” to executive functioning deficits that teachers can introduce and work with students of all ages. At times, trying to find where student breakdown is can be time consuming, and by the time you figure it out, half of the school year is gone. Introducing Kiddom can save some of the already stretched teacher time. The best benefit that I have seen when aiding students in their executive functioning skills isn’t really the increase in completed work; it’s the confidence that appears in the classroom.
P.S. Want to dive right in? Click here to access a demo class!
Today, we released a redesigned student experience on Kiddom to help 21st century learners access and submit work, track their own progress, and solicit feedback from teachers in real-time, from one place.
Over the past century, education technology has often left students out of the equation. That’s unfortunate, because students today move fast and are incredibly tech-savvy. At Kiddom, we believe students shouldn’t have to wait until progress reports are printed to learn where they stand in class or on specific skills. Students shouldn’t have to wait to see their teachers in person to pose clarifying questions or solicit feedback on an assignment. And from what we’ve gathered, teachers are constantly looking for ways to empower students to take control of their learning. With our redesigned student experience, the possibilities of student ownership are endless.
Timeline — Everything in One Place
When students login and click into their class, they’ll be greeted by their Timeline. Timeline allows students to view assignments (past, present, and upcoming) from one place. This not only includes teacher-created assignments, but also all the Khan Academy videos, CK-12 exercises, CommonLit readings, and other resources their teacher might’ve assigned for differentiation purposes via Kiddom’s Library of resources.
Submitting Work and Soliciting Feedback Made Easy
When students click on an assignment from their Timeline, they’ll be able to see any instructions or attachments their teacher may have included, as well as the standards or skills has appended to the assignment. Students may upload and submit their own work and also engage in a discussion with their teacher regarding the assignment.
Reports — Monitor Progress and Self-Advocate
When students can actively monitor their progress in class, they’re more likely to advocate for themselves. With our redesigned Reports, students can track their overall class progress, as well as progress on individual standards and skills — all in real-time. This means they finally have the data they need, when they need it.
We’re Just Getting Started
The new student experience has been long overdue. And while we’re incredibly excited about the positive impact it will make in classrooms around the world, there’s still a lot more work to be done. Over the next several months and into the next school year, we’re going to focus on adding community features to accelerate our vision of building a collaborative education platform. In the meantime, let us know what you think of the new student experience with a comment or chat with us directly using the in-app chat tool. Happy teaching and learning!
Editor’s note: We’re still testing the new Kiddom student experience. If your students signed up before Friday, April 21, 2017, they may not experience the new Kiddom just yet. We plan to conclude testing on Friday, April 28, 2017, at which time all students will be on the redesigned student experience. For more information, contact our support team.