katherine zagotsis
Highly Accomplished Teacher. AAC Communication Partner & Advocate. Mum of one. Accidental Leader. Reflectionist, Mentor and life-long learner.

Engaging Now! 7.4

Demonstrating 4.5

The First Week of 2018

February 3, 2018 | Focus Areas: | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | 0 COMMENTS

It’s the end of Week 1 with my new class, 5 of whom are new Receptions.  My focus has been on establishing relationships with children and their families.  I’ve written a letter introducing myself and my team, explained processes, answered questions and sent SeeSaw invitations home.  I mentioned my availability and also gave parents my email address should they ever want to contact me outside of school hours.  I’m also working with two different SSO’s this year, C. for 4 days of the week and D. on Fridays.  Most of the morning on the first few days was spent comforting and reassuring the new students as they were unsettled coming into a brand new environment.  I remembered my target from a previous post and was gentle when their parents dropped them off in the morning, getting right down to their level and saying things like “You’re okay. Say bye to Dad.”  Not on the first day, but the days following, I opened the ‘Self-talk’ folder on ProloQuo2go and modelled the buttons I am okay, I can take a deep breath and I can count to 5.  The next day after modelling this, I was sitting with P. and could see him taking several deep breaths to calm himself.  He was upset to the point of vomiting on Wednesday, so this was great to see.  (I need to remember to leave a change of clothes for myself at work).  By Friday, the number of students upset in the morning had significantly decreased and the amount of time as well.  One student, who cried for an hour on the first day was teary for 10 minutes and then was fine after he’d spent some time on the swing outside.  I noticed that the class as a whole stopped seeking adult reassurance as much by the end of the week and instead found ways to self-regulate like going into the quiet room and listening to music.

Childcare Workers

I had a childcare worker for support in the morning on Monday and Wednesday.  The one who came in on Monday commented what a lovely calm environment it was, that she didn’t think that we needed any support. I agreed and suggested that she leave after an hour.  The lady who came in on Wednesday helped us to walk the students across the Gym.  I noticed immediately that it would’ve been very difficult without her help.  We have one student who is very unsteady and vulnerable on their feet, needing 1:1 support to make longer transitions.  We also have several who do not want to go in the direction that I want them to go as well as one potential absconder who needs his hand held. I was told that the student who required 1:1 support often used a stroller to get to the yard when they were in childcare.  It’s time-consuming, but I didn’t want to do this, I want to help strengthen her muscles and this would be great practice.  Going to the Gym however, she was really tired from the walk across and I think that her energy would be better spent completing the circuit and working with the Physio students, so a stroller would be useful in this case.  Transitions, especially coming back to the classroom from the yard was the biggest logistical nightmare of last week.  We had two students who went in the opposite direction as the gate had been left open, two who knew exactly where to go as they’d been in the same class last year, but needed help following that plan and I was wary of bigger students who might knock A. over so walked with her.  Some days this could take up to twenty minutes.  And this was with one less student.

Target: Whoever is with A. at Yardplay, walk back to class with K. and H. while the other gets everyone else.  Encourage H. and P. to walk back independently.

Wednesday’s childcare worker was watching one of the students closely in the Gym and said

“I’m surprised at how well he’s coping.  To be honest I didn’t think you’d get him over here.  It took us three terms to get him off of the swing and sit at a table.  I’ll definitely let the others at childcare know.”

A little bemused by this, I responded that I was glad that he was doing so well.  But in the back of my mind, I also noted that I was going to get him to sit at a table the following day.  I’m stubborn persistent like that.

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The photo above is of H. sitting at the table next to me, completing a vehicle puzzle.  I’d remembered his handover notes saying that was one of his strong interests and thought that he might find it engaging.  I’d also been told that this was a child that presented with high levels of anxiety, so I was cautious about how much I could push.  I got the ‘Check your schedule’ visual and showed it to him, encouraging him to walk with me into the next room.  I’ve already noticed that he doesn’t like transitioning from one room to the other so was patient when I asked him to do so.  I helped him to take the visuals off of his schedule and then led him to the table.  I sat with him and used ProloQuo2go to name the vehicles as he completed the puzzle.  What this photo doesn’t show is how he kept turning to me and saying “Puzz-lll! Red car! Taxi!”  He wanted to include me in his learning.  What I’d thought might be a lesson in me setting my expectations and a potential battle of wills turned into one of the highlights of my day. He was so engaged in fact that I had to move him to another table where he sat independently.  He then reached across me and did some babbling on the iPad: Submarine, submarine, submarine and then afterwards said “submarine” verbally.  He has quite a lot of language, but it’s not always clear. I’m predicting that ProloQuo2go will be helpful with this.


I was surprised and excited to see that several of the students are already showing a strong interest in ProloQuo2go.  They’re already tapping the buttons on the Core Words page, one led me to the large low-tech version I have on the wall and got me to read the words aloud while they pointed and when I’d finished two pieces of work with a student, he tapped on Go, More, Get.  I could have ignored this, but instead I presumed competence.  I went and got him more work.  C. mentioned to me that she was a little nervous about using the iPad with students more, that last year she’d only used it during Group-time.  I reassured her, that it really is like learning a new language and to start with More and Finished.   Julia ran a short workshop in Week 0 and had explained that ‘More’ and ‘Finished’ were where she had started at the beginning of last year when she first started using ProloQuo2go.  There’s a lot you can do with these: Do you want more to eat? Are you finished playing?  I also suggested that she modelled I need to use the toilet before taking children to the toilet.  C. took  one of the iPads home one night to practice and has already gone above and beyond that.  She’s using ProloQuo2go with the students so much that the iPad is flat at the end of each day and is also explaining to me the sequence of steps she used for longer sentences e.g. Wash your hands.  We’re already having conversations with each other as we’re modelling e.g. “Where’s that?” and “I can’t find ____, show me?”  This is exactly how I learn, so I’m finding it really beneficial for myself.

 The Timing of it all

Every year I find it difficult to write down what we’re doing and when.  It was harder this year when I didn’t know the students, but I needed to have a rough idea of what was happening throughout the week.  Swimming is predetermined and on Tuesdays there are two different teachers in the classroom.  Everything else I’ve timetabled in.  Gym is on Wednesday as

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this year I want to work with the Physio students.  I think they’ll be really beneficial for this year’s class.  I booked the Sensory Room for later in the week as I thought the students might be feeling tired by then and could use some relaxation.  I originally considered going for a walk around the block for the Community Access Program, but need permission for one of the students to do so and from observing this week, they need practice walking around the school before going outside of it.  I’ve kept Cooking the same time as I’ve done it in previous years and I’m glad I did as toileting is taking a long time.  I also like to be a little more flexible on Friday afternoons, allowing the students to have some free time.  What I wasn’t expecting was just how long and how much more of a priority eating was going to take.  Recess took less than twenty minutes and lunch less than half an hour last year.  This year it’s taking half an hour for Recess and 40 minutes for lunch and it is so much busier.  At one point last week I was spoon-feeding one child while helping another to support their bottle so they could drink while telling another to sit at the table to eat.  They were not at all impressed that I wouldn’t let them take their Froot Loops and eat them on the floor.  There are also more safety issues around eating and I’ve re-read one student’s Oral Care Eating and Drinking Plan, which states that they require 1:1 supervision and can only eat for 15 minutes at a time, otherwise they will become too tired.  I’ve started using a timer to ensure we adhere to this, but with two out of seven students who have one of these plans as well as students who don’t but have other issues, I want a little more knowledge myself.

Target: research training options for ‘Mealtime Management’ and ‘Oral Care Eating and Drinking Plans.’

After talking with C, we decided that the best thing to do was to have lunch after 2nd Yardplay.  This way it will be less stressful as there’s more time.  I’ve since changed my timetable to reflect this: Term 1 Timetable. The very nature of these children mean that things are going to be slower-paced to what I’m used to.  And that’s okay.  I’ll adapt to whatever is needed.


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