Kelli Ohms is a Special Education Functional Life Skills Teacher working with students from 6th grade to 22 years in Albion, Indiana. Follow Kelli on Twitter @KelliOhms. Kelli has been using Seesaw in her classroom since November 2014.
Being a functional life skills teacher, my class is not set up like a typical classroom. Students do a lot of individual and small group work. All students spend time on academic subjects like basic reading skills, money skills, and social skills. We also spend time on life skills activities. We’ll take trips out into the community to work on life skills needed in the community, and each Friday we cook a full course meal for lunch to work on cooking a variety of foods and following directions.
We started using Seesaw last November as a way to document and share the work my students were doing in the community and record evidence of the key academic skills they’re working towards. Due to the nature of my class, students pick and choose most of the items they post in their Seesaw journals, with some additional items which they are told to add. At first, my biggest challenge was teaching my students to add items independently, but now they enjoy adding new items to their journals, and even request to post unprompted! I also give students option to "write about it" or "talk about it" so there is commentary from the student along with the photo or video. They pick based on what they’re most comfortable with doing, and I allow that because it is their journal.
Helping Classroom-Parent Communication
The biggest way Seesaw has helped my classroom is with parent communication. Prior to Seesaw, I was writing notes home each day with a brief summary of what the student covered during their day. This took up a lot of my time at the end of my day, and parents only received detailed information about their child on progress reports every 9 weeks.
Now that I use Seesaw, Parents have loved getting real-time updates on what their students are working on in class and how they are making progress. Seesaw has helped parents to see first hand how their child is performing a variety of skills, including math, reading, and life skills. For instance, I had a parent who did not think their child could count money. Through a video on Seesaw, the parent saw their child in the beginning stages of counting money. The parent has now started giving part of the child’s allowance in coins so they can continue to practice at home. Since this change at home, I have also seen increased accuracy and improvement in this skill at school!
Increasing My Students’ Motivation
Because of Seesaw I’ve also seen an increase in student motivation for work because students can independently see their own progress. Now that they have several months of posts in Seesaw, they can look back and see how they are improving; they say, "Look how I did today! It’s better!". Students are also excited to post to Seesaw to show their parents the work they are doing at school. Knowing that their parents look at their journal is especially motivating. They are very proud, and enjoy it when they get a comment from their parents during the day even before they head home on the bus.
Simplifying Documentation and Data Collection
As a teacher, Seesaw has helped me improve my data keeping and documentation, and makes it easier to see over the course of a couple of months how students are doing. Now I have easy visuals to access as I am going through data to document for progress. This has also improved my teaching because I can replay how students are making errors, and see how to teach skills in another way. I have also found it beneficial to pull up pictures and videos during annual case conferences with parents to show student progress, which I wasn’t able to do very easily before.
I would suggest Seesaw to everyone! It’s quick and easy to set up and it’s user friendly for teachers, students, and parents. It doesn’t take extra time out of the day, and it’s not just one more thing to work with. Seesaw keeps picture and video documentation of student work in one easy to access location! It gives parents a glimpse into the day to day in the classroom, and makes them feel more involved and up to date on student progress. It has simplified many aspects of my classroom, and increased student motivation!