One of the biggest challenges I have found during remote learning is maintaining the ability to sit. When we are in the classroom, our bodies are always moving! We interact and play with each other, transition, practice functional routines, work on projects, independent work tasks, and even run! The virtual learning setting tries to force our bodies to sit. My body enjoys being on the move, and for a lot of our learners, sitting for more than a few minutes is not a skill that they have mastered yet. I like to fit one activity from each of the topics below in order to keep our hands moving and encourage participation. My team and my fellow teachers have collaborated in order to create engaging movement activities for circle time and small groups.
Gross Motor Ideas
The following gross motor ideas encourage myself, my team, and our learners to get up and move our bodies. Moving our bodies gives our brains a break, helps the blood flow through our bodies, and gives our eyes a break from the screens. I like to fit one gross motor activity in each morning group time.
- Beach balls: Each learner was given a beach ball in their take home bags at the beginning of the school year. Some ideas of using the beach ball is by using a dry erase marker to draw shapes, write letters, write numbers on each color of the ball. Encourage the families to play catch with the ball, choose a color, and work on receptive and expressive language skills while also working on kicking, hitting, throwing, and catching.
- Move it or Lose it: The Autism Helper Move It or Lose It activity cards are a wonderful way to encourage gross motor imitation skills, following directions, and getting up and moving our bodies.
- Go noodle flow: This website shares a ton of free movement activities!
- Ribbon dance and dancing with scarves: Each of our learners were given a ribbon and a scarf after I received a donors choose grant. Youtube has some amazing dances from different instructors, including other children, that we work on following along.
- Physical Therapy games: The physical therapist that works in our classroom has given us weekly activities and games to practice gross motor skills.
- Functional routines: Encouraging our learners to get up and move is also a wonderful time to practice our functional routines and independence within the home.
- Calm Classroom: This is a new program that my school district is using. At the end of our morning group time, we use recordings and visuals to implement our weekly calm classroom lesson and get our minds and bodies ready for small groups.
The use of items that our learners can get their hands on is a great way to include fine motor activities and projects. My team and I work very closely together in order to be sure that we are delivering lessons and activities that are appropriate. When working on art projects, we are able to differentiate for each child based on if they are able to use a scissor, if they can tear paper, how can they hold a pencil, can we encourage holding a broken crayon? We also encourage the use of play-dough, beads, and all of the materials that our Occupational Therapist has sent home for each learner. When every person on screen has the same materials, we are able to encourage socialization the best way that we can. My team and I coach families through the use of these fine motor activities that their learners can use during other language rich, academic heavy, or stressful lessons.
The items that are our favorites to use for fine motor activities:
- Stretch tube
- Large and small pom poms
- Paper towel rolls
- Rubber bands
- Popsicle sticks
- Pipe cleaners
- Markers, crayons, and scissors.
My local library has been overly generous supplying weekly materials that go along with stories and themes. This sparked an idea to engage my learners! I enjoy having story visuals, nursery rhymes, and song visuals in the hands of our learners to allow for participation even in the virtual setting. This helps teach the relationship between the people behind each screen. I also love The Autism Helper Language and Social Skills Games for Video Calls. These encourage getting up, moving, finding and sharing items around the house, using expressive and receptive language skills, and interacting with peers, teachers, and family members.
A few other resources that our learners use to practice interactions between screens are:
Putting It All Together
Have fun, and think outside the box! Technology is always growing, and screens are most likely here to stay in some capacity. When I am creating lesson plans, I always ask myself “what will my learners be doing at the same time?” I try my hardest to make sure that they are engaged and that they can participate. Without the engagement, it feels like a lecture. I will list some of my favorite materials below. These items allow for differentiation, individualization, independence, and participation!
- Stuffed animal
- Baby doll
- Construction paper
- White paper
- Crayons or markers
- Whiteboard and dry erase markers
- Wiki sticks
- Coffee filter
- Watercolor paints
- Different colored beards
- Dixie cups
- Cotton balls
- Two items that are opposites
- Egg shakers
- Paper plates
- Snow from outside
- Grass and dirt from outside
- Plastic silverware