Thursday, December 13, 2012


This has been another productive day!!!  The participants' homework was to write a lesson plan using the format we provided.  We surprised them by having them teach the lesson to their group and many of them came prepared with materials!!!  We also had one student act as he/she had ADHD so we had some very funny moments.  We sure enjoyed learning from them-- and especially how resourceful they are in their teaching.  They must pay for any supply they use and they are not paid much-- even in relation to the Nicaraguan economy.  One teacher brought in match sticks to teach about Braille, another came in with a picture of Dora the Explorer to teach colors and another brought in a small cereal box made into a TV.  One of the students got up and started running around while another kept taking other people's things.  Ulises warned them that he remembers me (Julie)  from class and that they'd better fully participate or else they'd get me for a student which is really bad.  :-)
Jennifer teaching her lesson on colors using Dora the Explorer

Dania teaching her lesson using what she could find
We have been conscientious about building upon things we've been doing all week.  We've also been doing all we can to create a warm, hospitable environment where they feel comfortable participating and being themselves.  "We can't do that because we live in Nicaragua" has not been a phrase used this week--- they truly want to make an impact in education.  During Bloom's Taxonomy Kris challenged them to come up with questions for each level related to Nicaraguan History and to work at creating questions at the higher levels instead of just the Knowledge level.  Then, when discussing Multiple Intelligences, the teachers were given a few minutes to come up with an activity related to the category they were given-- but they needed to relate it back to Nicaraguan history since it had been a topic already.  The eight groups were able to demonstrate the concepts and one group even broke into song.  Soon-- all the Nicaraguans were proudly singing and clapping to their National Anthem.  This was a remarkable moment for me and of course, I had tears in my eyes.

We have been emphasizing positive reinforcement and immediate feedback.  They are very serious!!  Kris and I independently looked over their homework assignment from the night before.  I wrote two stars on the papers and Kris wrote one.  They were concerned that they were doing something wrong!!  (of course, it was very rudimentary grading in our limited Spanish)  There are two people who cannot be here tomorrow because it is graduation at their school.  They were really concerned about missing class tomorrow but we reassured them they needed to be with their students. :-)  Thankfully, we had an extra translator today who was able to help out Ulises and we had the materials ready for the Unit Plan.  We were able to give them the papers and there were no complaints.

Julie, Ligia, Kris
We took a class picture and several wanted to have their picture taken with us.  I have been posting a powerpoint slide show every morning with some of the pictures we have taken.  Several have asked to have copies of the pictures and will be bringing their own flash drives tomorrow.
Resourceful, intentional, devoted--- these are the teachers we have been privileged to interact with this week!!
Muchas Gracias!!
Julie (& Kris)
Julie, Gladys & Kris-- Ulises is in the back reading as usual

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What a Wonderful Learning Day for All

We finished day 3 of the module today with 24 students in attendance.  It was a wonderful day with so many laughs, tears of joy, some frustration, and maybe even some anxiety!  We had them completing a matching/concentration game with the terminology they had learned so far.  This was a fun and new experience for many as they hadn't played a similar game before.
Students working very hard playing the concentration game.
The most fun of the day was Julie leading the Farmer's Game which proved to be a challenge, and some groups wanted that challenge to end, but stuck with it to the end (with Julie prodding them!)  They learned so much during the game about working together, critical thinking and thinking outside the box.  They weren't allowed to write anything down so they were creative.
There continue to be so many rewarding moments.  A smile is universal, and we have seen so many so far this week that it challenges us to continue to create an environment with learning activities that reward everyone.
Julie facilitates the Farmer's Game.

High fives! Challenge solved!
A little frustration!
Another celebration! The joy of learning.
I know that I can say that this has stretched me and reminded me of how much thinking goes into EVERY thing that you do as a new teacher.  We showed F.A.T. City and discussed cognitive and associate learning.  There hasn't been one moment of this week that hasn't been a cognitive moment in the classroom.  What an opportunity.  Thanks to Julie!

Keep learning,

Monday, December 10, 2012

UNAN-Leon Diplomado Training-December, 2012

What a learning experience, and we haven't left yet.  Dr. Julie Delkamiller and I leave for Leon, Nicaragua today to teach an Introduction to Special Education Module at UNAN-Leon.  There are 45 teachers who have registered for the Diplomado in Special Education which will include 6 one-week modules over the next two years.  We have met for hours that would add up to weeks trying to determine the best way to use our class time.  So many possibilities with the need to consider what is possible.

We will need to say THANKS now to Ulises who has been very busy translating materials for us.
Do you know what it looks like to travel internationally carrying all of your materials, including 50 one-inch notebooks, so you will be as prepared as possible?  The best way is to show you....
50 binders waiting for the UNAN-Leon Special Education Diplomado Students
We arrived on Friday night at 11:30pm in Managua to beautiful Christmas lights on the palm trees and around the hotel.  What an amazing sight.
Christmas lights at the Camino Real in Managua, Nicaragua-Amazing!
On Saturday, Ulises came down to the hotel to meet us and Julio showed up in a sedan that would fit 2 of our 5 suitcases (the giant ones with the notebooks were never going to fit.)  After quite a bit of figuring things out, Julio had a friend that would come to pick them up and take the 3 suitcases to Leon.  We were then off to Granada- more hammicas and then to the Chocolate Museum. We had hoped to visit the Masaya Volcano as Ulises and I had never been there (yes, Ulises lives in Nicaragua), but the volcano was closed because it was a holiday.
On Sunday, we spent the day preparing for Monday.  Realizing that the copy shop wasn't open and many last minute details that needed to be completed. Accepting that Ulises would be translating our materials day by day and that we had done everything in our power to prepare for the week.
The classroom is ready for the 45 students!

A horse parade to celebrate starting teaching on Monday (or because people love a horse parade!)

The most beautiful horses we have seen in Nicaragua were in the parade!
Thanks for reading,
Kris Swain

Special Education Training Begins

Kris Swain and Julie Delkamiller ready to start the Diplomado.
Planning is such a large part of education, and we planned for the 45 students who signed up for the Diplomado.  They were actually invited by UNAN-Leon and around 70 individuals expressed interest to our local Nicaraguan coordinator, Indiana.  There are also many reality checks in education such as when 22/45 students show up at some point on the first day.  Less than 50% attendance isn't usually a goal but some Nicaraguans seem to think 50% isn't bad.  I (Julie) must always go back to the Starfish story-- we are making a difference for this one.

Time to get to know each other with Bingo. Many of the students hadn't played Bingo before so a fun activity for all!

Monday was difficult with all the IRB forms, demographic forms, the survey and the pre-test.  Yet, when we showed parts of the Rick LaVoie DVD called "F.A.T. City", they really became engaged.  We were just thrilled that it had Spanish voiceovers and Spanish subtitles.  It's old, but so very effective!!  From the NICHY website, we were able to find fact sheets for all of the disabilities-- and they were already in Spanish.  This is the bulk of material in the notebooks.  We were then able to assign readings for homework and gave them a new shiny yellow highlighter for the task.
Tuesday began with the majority of participants arriving on time.  (success!)  We also know that many of them are riding crowded busses on scary highways over an hour each way just to get here.  A lot of interesting conversation arose around the readings from the homework, especially with the categories of disabilities: 13 for the U.S. law and 4 in Nicaragua.  Regardless of the categories, we are focused on strategies to serve these students.  They are so eager to know absolutely everything right now-- we kept reassuring them that we have 6 modules to explore these concepts and strategies.
Omar and Ulises were the translators in March 2008. They are with us again! Still looking incredibly young!
Martiza has passion in her voice as she talks about strategies!

Maritza, Marta, Gladys, and Lidia are teachers at the deaf school project in Leon.  It was so gratifying to see Maritza very enthusiastically share ideas for working with students-- and-- they were things I've been trying to implement in the project for 4+ years.  (success!)  I couldn't help but joke with them that they remembered!!   When reviewing the homework assignments, the four of them completed both of the homework sheets (success!)

Kris attempted the 2 hole punch-- but ended up with about 8 in her paper.
The best purchase of the day! The participants have never seen a 3-hole punch

Apparently a 3-hole punch is quite a rare thing in Nicaragua as most people had only used a 2-hole punch that we were borrowing from UNAN-Leon.  Tomorrow will be fun as we use the read deal!

We finished F.A.T. City and there were so many "A-ha" moments from the participants.  We also gave some low-tech strategies that we hope to incorporate the rest of the week.  While information is important, we also know it is more critical to model organization and strategies.
Scaffolding at the Cathedral-- use it as an example for education but hopefully more supportive than this one.

One of the only ramps I've ever seen in Nicaragua-- will use as an example of accessibility