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Showcasing Geeti Ghose & Joanne Lindevald & "Celebrations Around the World"

"We didn't find any lessons on the Internet that addressed the needs of our students or could be accessed by them," Geeti Ghose recalls. "We have students representing many different ethnic backgrounds, so the content area of celebrations seemed very appropriate. We wanted to choose the most important holidays of each country to highlight."

So Ghose and teaching partner Joanne Lindevald set out to create Celebrations Around the World, a thematic unit on multicultural social science studies. Both are teachers for the Contra Costa County Office of Education at Liberty High School in Brentwood, California, who work with severely handicapped students with developmental and physical disabilities.

A student shows Joanne Lindevald her choice of color for an Easter egg.

"My students have severe and multiple disabilities," explains Lindevald. "They all are non-verbal wheelchair users with limited motor movement. We use a variety of adaptations and accommodations to help them access classroom curriculum. Some examples are touch-sensitive adaptive computer keyboards, special switching devices that allow them to operate ordinary household appliances with only a soft touch of their head or hand, and simple communication devices."

Because so few resources are readily-available for students like hers, Lindevald creates multi-media lessons her students can access and understand that are based on core, standards-based curriculum. This often pairs a concept with a spoken word, symbol or picture, and real objects. Ghose and Lindevald have used lessons published on their Web site to teach their students about other cultures since the site's creation in 2002. Students access the activities on their own, and the interactive nature of the online work is motivating for the special learners. A favorite activity is the study of Cinco de Mayo.

"My students read stories, watch videos, search the Internet to find information on the celebration, and have a Cinco de Mayo celebration in class," reports Ghose. "The goals for students are to understand the beliefs, customs, traditions, and celebrations that have shaped the history of the United States."

The class garden is planted and maintained as part of the science curriculum.

Adds Lindevald, "We generally follow up by creating a piata and cooking traditional foods, with the students participating and doing as much of it as they can as independently as they can. My goal is that each student communicates choices and participates fully. Each student has individual goals that I keep in mind for any group lesson."

The music, piata creation, and cooking and tasting of Mexican food make Cinco de Mayo a festival of fun in their classrooms, and Ghose and Lindevald are glad to share their ideas for students with special needs.

"I am happy to hear from other teachers regarding how they differentiate instruction and adapt curriculum," says Lindevald. "I find it a stimulating challenge."

Images courtesy of Joanne Lindevald.
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Article by Cara Bafile
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