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All Posts by Krystie

About the Author

Hi, I’m Krystie. I’m a special education teacher and assistive technology specialist by training. I never stop appreciating those seemingly tiny events, like touching an AAC icon for the first time, that can reflect such monumental growth for a student. AdaptEd 4 Special Ed is a way to share our successes and “oops” stories- A reminder that there is always someone to lend a hand or an ear.

Nov 01

17 Kitchen Skills to Teach in Special Education

By Krystie | Life Skills

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17 Ideas to Teach Kitchen Skills In Special Ed That "Beef" Up Your Student's Life Skills

None of us can afford to cook with our class or go on CBI’s every day.

Some days you just need something that’s quick, easy and is going to teach your students some important life skills.

Here’s a list of 17 special education life skills activities that will get your students ready to cook… without cooking.

If you want to increase your students’ independence, “beefing” up and focusing on specific skills is the perfect way to get your students ready to finish a recipe.  And cooking, without cooking, is the perfect way to achieve that.

Here’s how it works.  

17 Kitchen Skills to Teach Your Special Needs Students- tried and true skills that will get them ready to cook.

1. How to Set a Kitchen Timer

Most recipes require your students to be able to set a timer, especially anything that’s going into the oven.  

So… why not work specifically on teaching your students how to set a timer?  You probably have a few timers already lying around your classroom, and I think it’s a good idea to teach them how to use a few different types.  Digital, Dial, or Turn are the most common.  Below are a few of my favorites, head on over to Amazon to get them now if you don’t already have them.   I also teach this concept using file folders- sometimes it can be great to give the students hands-on practice without all the noise!  

Digital Timers on AmazonTurn dial timer on AmazonTwist timer on Amazon

 

17 Kitchen Skills to Teach Your Special Needs Students- tried and true skills that will get them ready to cook.

2. How to Set the Oven

Just like setting a kitchen timer, it’s really important to teach your students how to set the oven independently.  Many ovens look different.  Some are digital, some have turn dials.  It’s important to teach how to use both.

If possible it’s nice to get a toaster oven that’s the opposite of the oven you have so you’re able to teach both turn dial and digital.  For the classroom, I find that the larger toaster ovens work so much better!  Here’s a couple I like… 

When we’re just get started, I often get out these file folder activities.  It’s nice to be able to have the whole small group working on one skill, so they’re ready when we have a recipe and they need to set the real oven.  Set the Oven File Folders Available Here

17 Kitchen Skills to Teach Your Special Needs Students- tried and true skills that will get them ready to cook.

3. Setting the Stove to a Specific Heat

Most recipes on the stove call for a specific temperature.  It says things like… medium, low or medium/high heat.  

Often times our stoves are labeled with numbers or not labeled at all.  (If yours is old like mine, the numbers peeled off a long time ago.)

To improve your students’ levels of independence, teaching how to turn on and set the stove is a truly important life skill.

  • Don’t have a stove?  This is also a great activity to do with an unplugged hotplate.  It gives the students the hands-on practice without the heat.  Plus they can pass it around if you’re doing this activity with the whole class or a small group.  Or you can accomplish the same thing with these Set the Stove File Folders.

Hot Plate Suggestion: Cheap and Simple electric hotplate (this is the one I use, it’s nothing fancy- but it gets the job done.) Induction hotplate-AMAZING because it never get’s hot to the touch.  The pan will… but not the burner itself. (this is the one I lust after 😍)

 

17 Kitchen Skills to Teach Your Special Needs Students- tried and true skills that will get them ready to cook.

4. Do I Already Have It? Check the Kitchen.

We need to teach our students to check the kitchen first before you buy anything. 

I love doing this activity and having my students partner up.  We usually do this if we’re headed to the store and will be making something soon.  You can also do it as a stand-alone activity using it to build your students familiarity with their classroom kitchen as well as building their kitchen vocabulary.Do I have it or need it? Getting ready for the store- check the kitchen before you go.

Here’s a pic of what I use, but you don’t necessarily need anything fancy. As you can see the first step is to check either have or need.  Then just send them off in pairs looking for a specified item.  (this is also a great way to check their receptive language skills, even something as simple as a fork- it’s good to know if they know it.)

 

17 Kitchen Skills to Teach Your Special Needs Students- tried and true skills that will get them ready to cook.

5. Matching Measuring Cups and Spoons

This can be as basic as writing the measurements on 3×5 cards and having your students matching the correct measuring cup/spoon to the label.  Or it can be as complicated as having a few recipe cards and having your students look at the recipe to determine which measuring cups/spoons they will need.

If you need to buy some new measuring cups here’s a couple sets I like. Measuring Cup Suggestions: color-coded measuring cups are nice, bright and metal.  If you’re wanting something with HUGE visuals- this is the set for you

17 Kitchen Skills to Teach Your Special Needs Students- tried and true skills that will get them ready to cook.

6. How to Use Measuring Cups

Most of our kiddos need a lot of help with this.  Just knowing which measuring cup to use isn’t enough.  They need to be able to measure their ingredients properly.  

How to Measure Properly visual support for special education students.

How to Measure Properly

Click on the picture to download the visual above for FREE.  Then get out some rice or flour and have them start scooping/leveling away.

If you’re just getting started- you’ll probably need some new measuring cups, please don’t just use some old mis-matched sets.  It makes it so much harder for your kiddos!  Check out this measuring cup set with HUGE visualsIt’s a great way to get started.

17 Kitchen Skills to Teach Your Special Needs Students- tried and true skills that will get them ready to cook.

7. How to Use a Liquid Measuring Cup

I find that liquid measuring cups are always really hard for my students to fill properly.  They’re always over or under.  Getting just to that line is super hard, and usually, takes a bunch of tries.   

Over the years I’ve learned that having them fill a cup with the liquid then using the cup to fill the liquid measuring cup is much more successful (especially if they’re trying to get water from the sink, the variable pressure of the sink just makes things a bit too difficult).  

Give your students a cup and have them practice filling the cup precisely to the line.  This is a great partner activity.  My students do a great job of holding each other accountable to filling it to the right spot.

If you’re in need of a new set of liquid measuring cups, I like these ones.  They’re clean and simple to read + they’re plastic so you don’t have to worry about glass shattering everywhere in the classroom.

17 Kitchen Skills to Teach Your Special Needs Students- tried and true skills that will get them ready to cook.

Where Does it Belong? Pantry or Fridge

This is a great activity to do when you get back from a CBI trip and have new groceries.  

But, if you don’t have anything on hand you can always just pull up some images online- or have your students provide you with suggestions and then call on someone to tell you where it should go.  If you have the physical items have your students put the ingredients away. It’s great practice and increases their familiarity with the kitchen.

Sometimes, we don’t have enough ingredients or different types of ingredients, and I have students struggling with this concept- that’s when I whip out the Where does it belong? Fridge or Pantry File Folders.

17 Kitchen Skills to Teach Your Special Needs Students- tried and true skills that will get them ready to cook.

Where Does it Belong? Fridge or Freezer

Same game as above.  Just refrigerator/ freezer.  This a surprisingly difficult concept for my students.  I always find that my kiddos struggle more with this than refrigerator/ pantry.  I don’t usually have a ton of different refrigerator/ freezer items on hand (especially one’s that can sit out) So… I usually get started with file folders, and practice with the real thing whenever we come back from the grocery store. 

17 Kitchen Skills to Teach Your Special Needs Students- tried and true skills that will get them ready to cook.

Read the Recipe: Set the Oven

Do you have some extra cookbooks or recipe books just lying around?  A great way to use them is to get your students used to looking over a recipe and finding specific information.  (remember, we’re all about the baby steps)  

Give your students some extra hands-on practice, by having them set the oven dial.  If you don’t want them using the real thing during independent work- grab this file folder oven dial set here.  Or if you have a counter-top turn dial oven– you can have them practice on an unplugged version during independent work. 

17 Kitchen Skills to Teach Your Special Needs Students- tried and true skills that will get them ready to cook.

Read the Recipe: Set the Timer

Up the challenge with your timer setting, by having your students look over the recipe and determining what they’ll need to set the timer for.  

Especially useful for baking recipes if you’re giving them a cookbook.  

17 Kitchen Skills to Teach Your Special Needs Students- tried and true skills that will get them ready to cook.

Food Sorts: Healthy or Unhealthy

This is a great independent workstation sorting activity, but in order to get your students started with this idea, it’s a great thing to do in a small group.  

Complete with real food, pictures online, or file folders.

 

17 Kitchen Skills to Teach Your Special Needs Students- tried and true skills that will get them ready to cook.

13. Food Sorts into Categories

Categorizing items is something that most of our students find challenging. Is it meat or dairy?  A fruit or a vegetable?   

Make it hands-on with fake food, or even better use the food you have in your kitchen if you have a bunch of different things.

We don’t usually have a lot of food on hand (we buy what we need for recipes) so, I find that this is a great concept to have your students complete using file folders with real photographs, my students get the idea without us constantly having to buy tons of extra food.

 

17 Kitchen Skills to Teach Your Special Needs Students- tried and true skills that will get them ready to cook.

14. Grocery Store Mapping My Route

Once your students are beginning to be able to categorize food- this is a great next step to get them ready to be able to follow a grocery store list and know where to find the necessary ingredients.  

Make a list with your students and talk about what sections the ingredients would be found in.  Then discuss the best way to make your way through the store.  Should you be zig-zagging back and forth, or should you grab all the produce at once?  If you’re looking for something premade- I have a set that teaches this.

Once they’re doing pretty good with this… try going to the store and have them complete grocery list scavenger hunts.  

17 Kitchen Skills to Teach Your Special Needs Students- tried and true skills that will get them ready to cook.

15. Make a List

If your students can read- you can always let them find a recipe that looks good to them and make a grocery store list (having them determine if you already have any of the ingredients is always a great idea)  

If your students cannot read independently there are tons of video recipes online that they can find.  Or you can write down the list, then have your students attach an image next to it.  (this my favorite).  Below is a video walking you through the steps.  (but, it’s basically using google docs, copy/ paste, and inserting images) 

  Keyboard Shortcuts link.

17 Kitchen Skills to Teach Your Special Needs Students- tried and true skills that will get them ready to cook.

16. Learning Kitchen Vocab...

Kitchen vocabulary is pretty important if you want your students to be able to increase their independence level they’ll need to know the basics by name.  You can use adapted books or make it into a game.  Make it a game by partnering students up and challenging them to see who can find it first.  (you can even give them a few things they need to find to make it more difficult).  Or sometimes a simple photograph book is what you need to get started.  

17 Kitchen Skills to Teach Your Special Needs Students- tried and true skills that will get them ready to cook.

  • 17. Set the Table

You can make this as simple as using a “Setting the table” placemat and having your students match the items.  Or you can beef it up by looking at recipes and having your students determine what dishes/ utensils they’ll need.  If you need a new setting the table placemat- you can get an adorable one here!

 

Those are all the ways I work on kitchen skills with my students without cooking.  Leave a comment below if you have any other ideas you’d like to share, or if you found this list helpful.  I’d love to hear what else you do!  

-Krystie

 

Aug 31

Core Vocabulary- Why and How to

By Krystie | Speech and Language

What is Core Vocabulary? 

Core Vocabulary is beginning to enter the limelight. To many of us it may seem like the hottest new thing. However, in truth, core vocabulary has been around for many years.

The early exercises in core vocabulary began with linguists who took immense samples of spoken and written language and analyzed them (I like to think of it as a language sample to the power of a million). What those gigantic samples offered was a look into the everyday use of language. As it turns out, there is a relatively small chunk of words (roughly 350 words) that people use in order to communicate about 80% of what they say.

In other words, we use and re-use the same high-frequency words throughout the day for the majority of our communication. These 350 or so words are what we refer to as “core vocabulary” because they make up the core of our communication.

What may be surprising are the types of words that are part of this core group- words like “it,” “go,” “put,” “stop,” “little.”

These words may seem insignificant in the face of burlier words like “stethoscope” and “volcano,” but they pack a much bigger punch. Consider it this way: have you used the words stethoscope or volcano today?

Maybe you have if you are a doctor or are planning your next vacation to Hawaii, but I’m going to safely assume that it’s those other words like “it” and “go” that have been rolling off of your tongue all day.

This knowledge that we can say a whole lot with a pretty small group of words has extremely important implications for our special education students. With exposure and access to that small group of core vocabulary students can communicate in all the ways that are natural to us: commenting, asking, requesting, initiating conversation, rejecting, expressing feelings and so on.

With access to core vocabulary words there is access to sentence building and free expression.

It’s the difference between giving a student an icon for all of the items he may come across at the doctor’s office (there’s that stethoscope!) and giving a student icons for more powerful words such as “scared” “what?” “hurt here.”

Core vocabulary is, in essence, using a little to say a lot.


Why you should teach Core Vocabulary in your special education classroom.  With CORE words you can teach your students: initiation, commenting, requesting, asking and more.  Adapted 4 Special Ed

What Does CORE Mean for Our Students?

As an SLP (or educational professional in general) there are always opportunities to learn new things- always a plethora of new ideas and concepts waiting to be explored. This can be exciting and refreshing, but it can also be overwhelming at times.

For me, core vocabulary started out as one of those overwhelming things.

I had heard about it here and there and I was genuinely interested, but at that time it only existed as a buzz word on the periphery of my daily work. Looking back it seems that there was a clear path that I needed to travel in order to get to where I am now- a place of involvement, motivation and hope.

For me, there have been three key parts of this journey: 1) The realization, 2) The knowledge and 3) The liftoff.

With any luck, hearing about this journey can help you navigate your own journey and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, take core vocabulary out of the periphery and bring it into focus.

Part 1: The CORE Realization

I was at Closing the Gap 2014 in Minnesota when I got my first real taste of core vocabulary. To preface this, I had come from a world where it was the norm for students to be using loose pictures or a selection of icons on a page-based system to “communicate” throughout their day. But there was a rampant problem: they weren’t communicating.

Of course there were personal successes here and there, but overall my students were not learning to communicate.

At best, they were learning to make requests. Requests for cookies, crackers, breaks and play time with the forever-requested tablet. Now, to give everyone their due, the whole team had worked very hard to make requesting a success.

The hardest workers of all were the students.

But it was that first video clip I saw of a classroom using core vocabulary to actually communicate (to comment and question and converse!) that changed my entire outlook on AAC.

I saw students using single words to make profound statements (“Don’t!” “Go” “Stop” “Look”).

I saw students experimenting and putting words together to get their own unique messages across (“I do it” “Want that” “I like it”).

I saw teachers communicating with students, students communicating with each other, and a program with enough strength to support language growth throughout the entire day. In an instant I was convinced that core vocabulary was going to offer so much more to my students.

What was the moment of realization for you? Have you had it yet?

CORE Vocabulary is critical to communication.  When you focus on CORE vocabulary development you'll be able to teach your students how to truly communicate.

Part 2: The Knowledge

Our gut feelings are some of our most important tools. As clinicians and educators we know this. My gut feeling that I needed to implement core vocabulary was a strong first step.

However, a gut feeling can only get you so far. The next step in the journey is education. It’s not enough to know that something works. To be truly invested, we need to understand why it works.

In an effort to better grasp this thing called core vocabulary I needed to jump in headfirst and get educated. I began where most of us do- with a good old internet search. There are a lot of fantastic resources out there.

One of the most well-known blogs for AAC was one of my first stops: PrAACtical AAC. I bounced around and collected information from wherever I could, but decided I would benefit from grasping the big picture.

That’s the mindset that eventually brought me to the Pittsburgh AAC Language Seminar Series. Unlike anything else I have ever heard of, this seminar is a 2 & ½ day immersion in all that is core. Learning from some of the most influential people in the AAC field (name dropping Bruce Baker, Tracy Kovach, and Caroline Musselwhite!) is a surefire way to ground yourself in the basics.

And, just in case the impressive presenters aren’t quite enough to get you off of your seat and moving, there are other amazing perks to the experience. How about FREE registration?! How about meals and lodging provided?! In case it sounds too good to be true, I can personally vouch that this was easily the most hospitable experience of my life!

Interested in seeing if the Pittsburgh AAC Language Seminar Series might be a good fit for you? Check it out here:

CORE Vocabulary in Action.  It may seem complicated, but it's really just everyday life.  Check out this blog post, and we'll show you exactly how simple it is.

Part 3: The Liftoff: How to Implement CORE Vocabulary

Rolling out a core vocabulary program bridges the gap between “interesting” and “practical.” Each day is a test drive, but one that is backed by knowledge and inspiration.

If you are lucky then you have colleagues who have been going on this exploration of core vocabulary with you (I was lucky!) But, regardless of whether or not you start as a team or as a solo act, the first stage in the “liftoff” is spreading the word.

For me, as an SLP, this meant that I needed to reach a variety of people. I needed to reach out to administrators, to other SLPs, and to special education teachers. I took what I had learned about core vocabulary and organized it.

It seemed to make sense that all of the information that had motivated me would motivate others as well.

This, in a surprisingly short period of time, turned into what looked like a suitable presentation on the topic. I started slowly. I had some laidback talks with a program coordinator about what I had learned and why it could be so beneficial to our special education program. The more I talked about the knowledge I had acquired, the deeper rooted it became. 

I knew once people had a glimpse, that core vocabulary would appeal to them- at least to some of them initially. This is where a team can start to form. If you spark an interest then people will come to you for more (which is pretty handy when you are ready to move on from that solo act)!

CORE Vocabulary  makes up the majority of communication.  80% of of what we say are CORE words.  Taking the time to systematically teach your special education students versatile core words will get your kiddos communicating!
CORE Vocabulary  makes up the majority of communication.  80% of of what we say are CORE words.  Taking the time to systematically teach your special education students versatile core words will get your kiddos communicating!  These CORE Adapted fairy tales are rewritten in CORE vocabulary.  Giving your early communicators a chance to successful read these familiar tales.
CORE Vocabulary  makes up the majority of communication.  80% of of what we say are CORE words.  Taking the time to systematically teach your special education students versatile core words will get your kiddos communicating!  Asking and Answering WH Questions can be a huge challenge for students with special needs.  Take it one step at a time with this asking questions mega bundle.

-Meg