Sunday, March 11, 2012
Unique Learning System
I promised I'd provide my answers for the Unique Learning System linky party, so here they are:
-Do you use ULS or N2Y or both? My district pays for Unique Learning System (ULS) for all center-based classrooms, so I use that. They don't pay for News-2-You (N2Y). I think I'd probably like to use N2Y with my students, but I haven't yet. There is a teacher in my building who uses N2Y with her students, but she has to pay for it out of her pocket, and I'm just not in a position to do that right now. If I'm going to spend on a "big ticket" item for my classroom anytime in the near future, it's going to be an iPad! (oh my goodness...want, want, want!)
-What type of classroom do you have? I have a self-contained (center-based) classroom of students who are SXI (severely multiply impaired, for those who do not have the same acronyms as Michigan does - they are all both cognitively and physically or otherwise impaired). They are MOCI (moderately cognitively impaired) and SCI (severely cognitively impaired) level cognitively.
-What level of ULS do you use (elementary, intermediate, middle school, high school, transition)? I use the intermediate level. My students are mostly middle school aged now, but when I started using the curriculum (with the same group of students) they were intermediate age. I think I could change my subscription level, but the intermediate level still works and is appropriate for my students so I haven't bothered to check into that.
-How often/how extensively do you use the curriculum? I am required by my principal to do at least one activity or lesson from ULS per day. As my students need a lot of repetition, we repeat a lot of the activities throughout the month (which is assumed by ULS) and do more than one per day, usually, with some always being repeats or extensions. As far as the month goes, I always do all the stories and articles and their corresponding comprehension questions. We always do the Bingo game, the cooking lesson and the art/craft activity. Most months, we do the science experiment and the "survey and chart" activity. Other activities - the leveled math and literacy activities, etc. - get put into individual students' work boxes or used during centers, depending on what kids need to be working on which skills. I don't use everything, certainly, but definitely enough to make it worthwhile.
-How long have you been using the curriculum? I've been using it for 3+ years now (on my fourth year...I think! maybe I'm only in my third year...yikes. I'm becoming forgetful in my old age). The first year, two other teachers in my building and I piloted the curriculum, and then the next year, the district adopted it for all center-based special ed.
-What do you like most about the curriculum? I really love that it gives me a framework for instruction that goes beyond the standard seasons/holidays. Before using ULS, I had no curriculum to follow (other than the AUEN, but that's merely skills and skill sets, and certainly drives IEP goals but not how to teach them or anything resembling themes or units). So, I followed the seasons and the holidays...and felt really stuck in a rut. Especially since I have my kids for several years at a time! I would stress myself out over finding fun and new activities for, say, winter...that my kids hadn't done the year before. So, I love the variety!
I also really like that it's aligned with the EGLCEs (goodness, I'm getting that acronym wrong, aren't I? no? yes? I always just say it ee-glickies...) and works on content and form that's similar to our state assessment, the MI-Access. My kids have improved on their MI-Access scores since starting ULS, and I believe that has a lot to do with their exposure to similar activities and ways to present items as are on the test. And no, I'm not all about "teaching to The Test," (don't get me started...just DON'T GET ME STARTED...on how I feel about NCLB...) but when your school has been a failing school for a few years in a row, and you have to squeeze in more and more professional development hours or start to lose funding and/or your job...The Test becomes pretty important. So there's that, too!
-What do you like least? Honestly? I think most of the stories (lessons 1 and 3) are stupid. Very, very dry. I know, I don't expect great literature from curriculum-based stories, but I could quite honestly usually write something better. But...on the other hand, see what I said above about The Test. They're not all bad, for the purpose they serve. And I can (and do!) certainly supplement.
I'm also not a fan of the fact you're only given access to two months at a time (the current month and the next). It would help in planning if you could have the entire year - or even half of it - at a time. I mean, I'm not obsessively planning my year four months in advance. But sometimes it gets irritating. Like for example, when they have the unit on voting in, say, September...I'd love to be able to save that for November so it's a bit more topical. But if I save voting for November...what do I do in September...yeah. I don't really get their timing rationale sometimes. But that's a rather minor issue, most of the time.
So, if you use ULS or N2Y now, or have in the past, or might in the future...link up here!