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Small-Group Activity


It's just before lunch and, as usual, the class is broken up into four groups in different centers. Susan has one group of children with her; they reread the story and work on word concepts, using communication boards and activating voice output devices. Joan, one of three assistants, works on writing and drawing with the children. Greg works with his group at the computers, while Chris does art activities with the children. Each of these center-based activities builds on the book-of-the-month theme.

Susan is sitting at a small kidney-shaped table with JR and Bill. JR is eight years old, has Down Syndrome, and speaks in two- and three-word phrases. Bill is seven years old and has been diagnosed as having global delays. Susan is rereading The Very Busy Spider, by Eric Carle with the boys. Each child has a communication board in front of him (even though Bill can speak). In addition, Susan has placed key vocabulary from the story into a sheet protector. As they read the story, the boys participate by pointing to vocabulary words as they come up in the story.

"Along came a . . . ," says Susan, prompting JR to fill in the word from his vocabulary page. "Cow," replies JR as he points to the word on the sheet. "Great! What letter does 'cow' begin with?" asks Susan. JR isn't sure and Bill is hesitant so Susan makes the sign for "C." Bill mimics Susan's sign and says "C" as JR looks on.

JR with Susan pointing to the word JR chooses the word "cow" from a set of written words to complete the story line.

During the next rotation (Susan rotates the small groups every fifteen minutes), Robert, Barbara, and Mark are seated with Susan to read The Very Busy Spider. Robert is an eight year old with Down Syndrome who loves books. He communicates using a combination of signs, single words, and pointing. Barbara has cerebral palsy, is nonspeaking, and has reduced muscle strength. Mark, a very verbal eight year old with cerebral palsy and severe visual impairments, also sits in.

Barbara has a BIGmack (Ablenet) switch with the spider's repeated line ("but she was too busy"), Mark has a communication board with just a few locations on it containing characters in the story, and Robert is using the vocabulary sheet Susan used with the earlier group. Susan also has a yellow flannel board with enlarged picture symbols of the animals in the story mounted on it. One by one as she goes through the story, Susan asks the children to point to the animal coming up in the story or identify on their communication boards specific vocabulary. At one point, it is Barbara's turn to say "but she was too busy," so Robert leans over and hits her switch.

In yet another rotation, Mary, Craig, and Amy are working together on a book called The Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly (Folklore). Susan has created a large paper spider that she uses to demonstrate the path of the spider throughout the book. Mary, a nonspeaking seven-year-old with Prader Willie Syndrome, has the job of activating her BIGmack switch whenever the word spider comes up in the story. A picture communication symbol of a spider has been adhered to Mary's switch and the word "spider" has been prerecorded into it so that she is able to alert the group to the spider's presence. Mary has had great difficulty over the years following directions and making connections, but she is very successful using her switch during this motivating story.

Mary hitting her BIGmack switch with Susan's help.Mary lets the group know the spider is back by pressing her BIGmack switch.


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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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