Try This: Auditory Distraction Simulation

Try this exercise in auditory distraction. This is a simulation of what it might be like to be vulnerable to noise distraction in a classroom. Most students can filter out background noise to an extent, and teachers work hard to limit background noise and interruptions while they are teaching.

Auditory Distraction in Direct Instruction Vs. Collaborative Learning: The example above is one where there is direct instruction going on: a teacher giving verbal directions to her group of students all at once. This type of instruction is important for giving assignments or announcing general information, though most teachers prefer to facilitate learning in groups or in project based context. Collaborative learning often involves vigorous and animated discussion, though, so this simulation might be a snapshot of what it is like to have an auditory attention defecit while attempting to follow direct, group instructions.

Attentive Listening: One of the four agreements at Le Jardin is “attentive listening”, which is helpful because it entails listening quietly, taking turns speaking, making eye contact, using expressive body language that shows understanding (head nodding, etc), and making note of questions for later if the speaker is still speaking. All students need to develop attentive listening skills, as they are not something we are born with. Most infants cannot discern separate sounds, though they may appear to listen attentively when sounds interest them. (Werner, L. (2007, March 27). What Do Children Hear? : How Auditory Maturation Affects Speech Perception).This does not always turn out well if not developed further, preventing fuller auditory awareness and flexibility, which is conducive to learning new things.

The link for the simulation above was found at the PBS website:

What is “Neurodiversity”?

                    From the book Neurodiversity by Thomas Armstrong PhD:
                  “The term, which was coined by Australian autism-activist Judy Singer and American journalist Harvey Blume in the late 1990s, suggests that what we’ve called in the past “disabilities” ought to be described instead as “differences” or “diversities.” Proponents of neurodiversity encourage us to apply the same attitudes that we have about biodiversity and cultural diversity to an understanding of how different brains are wired.
                    It would be absurd to say that a calla lily has “petal-deficit disorder,” or that a person from Holland suffers from “altitude-deprivation syndrome.” The fact is, we appreciate the flower for its intrinsic beauty and value citizens of the Netherlands for their unique landscape. So, too, we should celebrate the differences in students who have been labeled “learning disabled,” “autistic,” “ADD/ADHD,” “intellectually disabled,” “emotionally and behaviorally disordered,” or who have been given other neurologically based diagnoses. We ought to appreciate these kids for who they really are and not dwell upon who they have failed to become.”

A diagnosis of “disability” or “disorder” can be extremely helpful to understand the nature of a student’s learning needs that are different from their peers – in order to provide the right kind of support – but the negativity of our society’s general outlook on these differences in people is what is not helpful.  The language of “disorders” and “disabilities” still have a place in context of the challenges that a student is facing, but the shift toward putting emphasis on unique strengths is of fundamental importance as well.

Just Thoughts: Differentiated Assessment

differentiated assessment

This cartoon raises a few interesting questions. For one, what was the unit objective? Was it “learning how to climb a tree”? If so, what was the criteria for assessment? Was it speed? Safety? Height? Is this an individual test, or a group effort? In any case, it’s easy to predict the outcome: the monkey is going to excel, the fish is going to be seen as a failure, the penguin and the seal will be labeled inattentive, and the dog and elephant will be regarded as clumsy and disruptive. The bird will remain unchallenged, and therefore distracted. All of them would rather be elsewhere, doing other things.

How do we test relevant skills authentically? Perhaps an elephant should be accommodated with a ramp, and tested on patience and balance rather than toe-grip and speed. The fish could benefit from an assessment that values depth as a criteria, rather than height. But the even bigger question here is: “what is the importance of tree climbing”? Is this a relevant skill for an elephant or a fish? The instructor would do well to realize that his students are a diverse animal community, and put more emphasis on how to collaborate by defining students’ personal strengths to benefit the group and the actual world in which they live. But, given the narrow skill set that he is assessing in this case, it is fair to accommodate the elephant by providing a ramp, the penguin, graduated stairs,  the fish, a tree under water. Is this “fair” to the monkey? I think this cartoon is great because it illustrates how irrelevant “fair” is in the context of differentiated assessment.

Learning Support at le Jardin Academy

The Learning Support Program at Le Jardin Academy is in place to support students with diagnosed learning disabilities and/or with specific learning needs that are different from their peers. We believe that every student can achieve academic confidence and success with specific accommodations, and through differentiated instruction and assessment. We work as a team with Teachers, Students, Parents, our LJA Counselor, and the administration to provide tailored, balanced, and effective support for each student as needed.