This is what Cara says about getting started:
As with anything new that is started, there are some frustrations which go along with the process of building groups. When we started the groups this year, we knew that they would be different from the ones we had last year: different students, different times, varying topics. At the beginning of the year, we had to become familiar with the ways in which each group would work. The great thing about these groups is all of the support that we give to each other and get from the teachers and the instructional aids. Without this support, these groups would truly not be possible.
Jeannie’s class was one of the groups which was the most challenging at the beginning of the year. There were times when we all thought, “is this really going to work out?” We still had those kind of days as the year progressed; however, the students began to understand what was going to be asked of them: sit at the table, listen to the book, complete the activity, and have snack. To get students with varying disabilities to follow this order is a challenge in itself, but sticking to the routine has helped tremendously.
We decided that having 3 different groups works well. The sensory group is for the more profoundly disabled who may not be able to do fine motor activities as well. With all the students we talk about the items in the boxes and encourage exploration and communication. We describe the properties of the items to promote language. We ask them questions about what is in the boxes, for example how it feels or if they like it. We also have them verbalize (if they are able to) the repetitive line in the books. The fine motor group is for the kids who have emergent skills in using scissors, paint, glue, and color (with assistance if needed, of course). The language group is a mixture of kids who are presented with a language based activity as well as either a fine motor or gross motor activity. The dichotomy between the groups is ALWAYS fun to watch!
The biggest key to having varying groups is preparation! Joy and Cara come up with the group topics for each week of the month and try and come up with ideas throughout the month. Joy came up with an awesome idea of putting a giant white board in her room where she’s able to write down any ideas that come to her! We’ve found that relying on our memories for ideas for the groups is not always the best idea 🙂
To conclude, forming groups may be challenging and a lot of work goes into them, but the final result is very gratifying for everyone.