Rivky is known amongst the other teachers as being excellent at coordinating behavioral plans and having the most creative activities for her classes. She understands that the key to her students’ success is having a classroom where structure, predictability and schedules are followed. Her teaching approach is to create a safe and caring environment for her students and she was able to accomplish this by using the alphabet as the theme of the school year. Rivky divided the alphabet to be taught over the weeks of the year and familiarized her students with not only recognition and sounds of the letters but also words. For example, when learning the letter H the children engaged in written and hands-on activities that involved H words. They built and painted a house and spoke about concepts relevant to the home such as identifying name and function of the rooms and practicing functional adaptive daily living skills relevant to the home. Also, the student’s learning together in a group setting helped them increase their social awareness, appropriate behaviors and communication skills.
Rivky strongly feels that “students crave structure and consistency which encourages them to feel more comfortable and reach their potential in their behavior and learning by providing a structured and stable environment students can thrive and grow.”
In the beginning of the school year, the students of Room 101 were unaware of each other and did not have the basic pre social/academic skills needed to be a part of a classroom setting. At this point of the school year, a complete transformation has taken place. One of the students, Tariq, age 5, used to throw himself on the floor if he was placed in a social situation. However, now he is more socially aware and has recently shown interest in involving his classmates during group time and cares about his friends. These characteristics show real capabilities to empathize with his peers and develop appropriate socialization skills with others. Tariq is now able to move on to a less restrictive environment where he will use the skills he gained to learn in a smaller group setting.
Another student, Isaac, age 4, now speaks in full sentences and can carry a simple spontaneous conversation with a peer. Just last year, he was not speaking at all! His parents are very excited with his progress and his ability to generalize the skills he acquired in the classroom into the home setting. Jason, age 4, used to run everywhere without being aware of the expectations set for him in his environment but now is able to self-monitor his behavior and can focus on a task for a longer duration of time.
So how did she do it?
Rivky says routine is what the student’s thrive on! It is a crucial component along with appropriate activities planned for every single minute. An example of this is the daily journal the students kept. In their journal, they would complete an activity that involved the letter of that week. The students were always occupied and every minute accounted for. A daily routine was posted on the wall as well as the alphabet letters to help guide them through the year. The students had their expectations firmly set and it provided consistency and predictability that the children seek.
Rivky built an environment that was safe and comforting for the students where they were able to leave their social anxiety and fears behind and grow within the secured environment that was created for them.She introduced fun and hands-on activities that challenged them within the structure she had built. Many of the activities incorporated multiple skills that involved social components and taught cooperation.
It is through all these activities that the students are now not only aware of each other but they now truly love being together.Students now notice when a classmate is absent and are able to vocalize the fact that they miss having him in the classroom and are waiting anxiously for his return. Their social awareness increased because of the various activities and instruction that was taught. Rivky states that the point of teaching the students social interaction is to create an internal pull to be social, which will result in the students interacting with others on their own. “The whole concept is using reinforcement to encourage children to not only do what they need to do, but to turn an undesirable task into an intrinsically motivating experience that the students want to do”.
Rivky began as a Teacher’s Assistant, then moved on to a Classroom Teacher, then Master Teacher earning her BCBA certification and recently promoted to an Assistant Educational Coordinator for the 2016-2017 school year. We congratulate Rivky and look forward to the wonderful changes she will make in the lives of others in the coming years.