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Free Choice

Children arrive on a staggered schedule in the morning. In order to salvage what can easily become lost time, Susan schedules free choice during the first 35 minutes of the day. This morning is much like any other with children moving about the room freely, choosing toys, books, manipulatives, or taped books to interact with. Susan and her aides move among the children, engaging in their activities when appropriate, resolving conflicts, and facilitating technology use.

Today, JR and James--two boys with Down Syndrome--are sitting at the computer playing with Bailey's Bookhouse (Edmark), an early reading software program with engaging activities and graphics. JR and James both speak in two- and three-word phrases, and are the best of friends. JR has much more computer experience; however, this morning James is in charge of the mouse. JR repeatedly points at the screen, suggesting activities to click on. When James clicks on the letter "F," a picture of a fox playing a fiddle appears on the screen. JR vigorously pantomimes this action for James as the computer says, "Foxes fiddle."

video iconView Video Clip of James controlling the mouse, as JR pretends to play the fiddle.

After a few more letters, James returns to the home screen and JR points to the picture of Edmo, the dog. James says, "Dog?" and JR replies, "Dog, outside." James explores this area and clicks on Edmo. "Hi, I'm Edmo," it says. JR giggles and repeats "Edmo." Together they explore the alphabet section, create a story, and listen to rhymes.

JR and James at the computer.JR and James spend their free time exploring "Bailey's Bookhouse."

Across the room, Robert is sitting at a table where a selection of books has been placed. He asks Carol, an aide, to read the big book, The Little Red Hen, with him. Carol points to the title and says, "The little..." and pauses while her finger goes to the next word. Robert fills in "red" and "hen." He opens the book and Carol points to the title on the inside cover and asks, "What does this say?" Robert replies,"The lll re he." As Robert turns to the first page, Carol reads while Robert rocks back and forth, looking intently at the pictures. On the second page, the repeated part of the story begins. The hen asks who will help her plant the wheat and the farm animals all say "not I." As the story progresses, the animals all refuse to help the little red hen. As each animal answers one by one, Carol pauses and Robert fills in "dog," or "mouse;" he occasionally signs the name in American Sign Language as well. On the last page of the story the hen says none of the animals will help her eat the wheat, because she did everything. Carol finishes with, "And she..." and Robert fills in "did."

On the floor in front of the book rack sit Mary and Craig, two younger students in Susan's class. Mary has been sitting on the floor for quite some time looking at Sesame Street books when Craig sees her and comes over. He sits facing away from her, picks up a book, and starts looking at it. Mary looks up from her book to look over Craig's shoulder at his book. This interplay between looking at their own books and looking at one another's goes on for several minutes.

Mary and Craig reading books on the floor.Mary looks over Craig's shoulder while paging through her own book.


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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP)  in collaboration with the Center for Literacy and Disabilities (CLD)  at Duke University.   NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by CLD, NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

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