Middle and Upper Division Faculty Make Presentations at the NYSAIS Special Education Conference

October 27, 2016

On October 11th MMFS middle and upper school faculty members presented two workshops at the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) Special Education Conference. MS head teacher Rosalie Osborn and language therapist Leah Wasserman gave a presentation on Making Effective Use of SLP Push-Ins and US head visual art teacher Ashley Szczesiak gave a presentation on Art-Making as Metaphor: The Value of Project-Based Learning Structures for Special Education Students. Below are descriptions of both workshops.

Making Effective Use of SLP Push-Ins
The topic of Rosalie Osborn and Leah Wasserman’s presentation was the effective use of speech-language pathologist (SLP) push-ins. An SLP push-in occurs when a speech-language pathologist joins a regular class to strengthen students’ expressive and receptive language skills for academic learning. During the conference Rosalie and Leah explained how an SLP can successfully work with teachers before, during and after class to support the language needs of a variety of learners. They do this by identifying the underlying linguistic concepts of the lesson and then by providing individualized cues, prompts, and scaffolding to the students during class. Afterwards, they assess what worked and didn’t work and make adjustments as needed. Rosalie and Leah supplemented their presentation with examples of daily lesson plans and class activities with attention to language skills and language support and modification for tests. The workshop concluded with an interactive activity in which participants were asked to identify different linguistic concepts and practice addressing them with content material.

Art-Making as Metaphor: The Value of Project-Based Learning Structures for Special Education Students
By Ashley Szczesiak, Upper Division Head Visual Arts Teacher
The topic of the 60-minute workshop I presented at the NYSAIS Special Education Conference was “Art-Making as Metaphor: The Value of Project-Based Learning Structures for Special Education Students.” All teachers are seeking tools to achieve the goals of differentiation, higher order thinking, and interdisciplinary approaches for special education students. My presentation used art-making to demonstrate how teachers can use projects to achieve those goals. Questions guiding the workshop included: How can the same project-based learning structures inherent to the teaching of visual arts transcend classroom boundaries and be integrated into all forms of classroom learning, regardless of subject matter and grade level? How can project-based learning develop deeper relationships with our students and facilitate the collaboration and trust needed to feel safe, confident, and cared for while simultaneously being challenged and supported to grow? How can we use the classroom as a site for our own research to understand what we actually need to teach?

Embodying the use of project-based learning as a means of cultivating independent thinking, the workshop engaged 15-20 fellow teachers (only half of whom identified as arts teachers) in the process of an art-making activity with the goal of generating reflection on our own teaching practices. Participants selected an image printed on paper when they arrived at the workshop. They then rotated through three different groups, each of which featured “thinksheets” of a different color. The thinksheets featured quotations by art educational theorists Jacques Rancière & Mary Jane Jacob (yellow sheets), Paolo Freire & bell hooks (red sheets) and M.C. Richards (blue sheets). After reading and discussing the thinksheets, participants were asked to cut the colored sheets into strips, weave them together–altering the proportion and placement of each strip in relation to how theories associated with that color connected to their personal teaching pedagogy–and paste them on their images.

Our concluding conversation considered the value (despite the initial discomfort or anxiety that might arise) of pushing beyond our comfort zones as teachers and of re-engaging with project-based learning approaches to subjects we teach. Reflections on our art-making processes and personal teaching pedagogies informed our conversation about how we could create structures to guide students through challenging but ultimately rewarding project-based learning.

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