This is an old reflective post from the first few weeks of my DukeEngage program:
Each day brings new activities and new experiences at the Carlson School. However, one constant aspect of each day includes reading and literacy activities that help the students to expand on and express these skills.
One of the coolest things about our classroom activities at the Carlson School is checking emails with the students, something that we do daily. Each student has his/her own email account and the students send and respond to emails during this time. The students all have different ways of responding to the emails they receive, so it is great to check emails with different students on different days to understand the versatility and forms of communication that each student possesses.
This is one of the things that really helped me to understand the students and their own methods of communication. I first spent a lot of time helping two students with their emails that I had clicked with from the beginning. One of the students, the only verbal student in our classroom, would verbally tell me what he wanted to say in the emails, while the other student, who uses his iPad to communicate, would type out things on his iPad to include in his email.
After some time, I got the chance to help another student with her emails, which was also a new experience, since she uses eye gaze as a method of communicating and could not directly type or say anything. This means that she has an iPad-like device in front of her, and uses the same app that other non-verbal, device-using students use to communicate, but instead of touching the words on the device, her eye gaze selects them for her. Checking emails with her was the first time I truly got the chance to watch how she communicates, so that was a new and interesting experience. I also got the chance to check emails with some students who used the PODDs, which was a bit harder for me, especially for starting new emails since you had to first find out what the student wanted to talk about in the email by going through all of the different topics on the PODD.
It was so cool to see the students email their families and friends, because this also helped me to learn more about the students, their interests, and their afterschool activities. It was also nice to see them email teachers in other classrooms at the school, and to see which people the boys in the classroom were crushing on. All in all, emails is one of the surprising things to me that I never expected we would do in the classroom, since I was never too sure exactly what the students would do for reading and literacy activities. This was also one of the rewarding classroom in terms of getting to know the students and watching them send and receive such positive emails from their friends, family, teachers, and classmates.