My Teaching Challenges
What’s the best possible way to get my high school Deaf/ Hard of Hearing students’ attention first thing in the morning? Buncee, of course! I teach English and U.S. History at the high school level for Deaf/ Hard of Hearing students at Willie Ross School for the Deaf in Longmeadow, MA. In addition to the normal language deficits they experience as a result of being deaf, many of my students are immigrants from other countries, including the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Iraq and Africa. As a result, American Sign Language (ASL) provides communication access for our students, English is their second or third language. Some students may come to school with little or no language, but have communicated with home signs and gestures.
My morning messages now consist of daily appointments and activities with attractive visuals and animations. It engages the students immediately and enables everyone to participate, regardless of reading levels and abilities. For some students, it’s dancing the “Carlton” animation in the morning (from Fresh Prince if you’re too young!) a “dab,” or a “whip and nae nae” In order to make the content of the morning messages relevant and meaningful, I also try to include information and visuals that relate to their world. As an example, the morning message below includes a video of a Deaf hip-hop artist in the UK.
How did I decide to use Buncee when there is an explosion of online educational programs to choose from? After much research and experimentation during free trials, I realized that many programs appear promising at first glance but end up being time consuming and difficult to manipulate. Buncee was at the end of my list of potential programs because it promised too much and I was skeptical that it could deliver!
On the 25th day of my free trial, after I had still not activated my trial, I received an email from Buncee encouraging me to give it a try. Using basic stickers and animations, I was able to complete my first presentation in less than 15 minutes. My students thought it was amazing! “How did you do that?” they asked. “Teach us!!” By the time I had completed my 5th Buncee presentation, I was hooked. As a “reward” for my efforts, I received Buncee ‘virtual trophies’ and became even more motivated to continue. (Teachers respond to positive reinforcement too!) I was convinced that this was the program that would meet my students’ needs.
Examples of Projects Using Buncee
For the first few months, I just wanted to keep it in my teacher’s toolbox. I needed something to keep everyone focused so we could discuss concepts, vocabulary, and as well as dance together with the ‘stick man’! Recently I opened it up to my students and created a US History Buncee Challenge. One of my seniors completed an amazing biography of Helen Keller shown below.
For those students who struggle with reading, I have developed ‘workgroup’ assignments. One student who serves as the ‘project manager’ reads and signs simple sentences in ASL while the other students read along and/or follow visual directions. Our current project is making greeting cards that we will sell in the school.
As a result of the hands-on learning associated with using Buncee, students are showing more progress in their reading than they did before. They use Buncee to label their vocabulary words, print pictures to accompany the words and then create their own Buncees using the ‘sticker’ function. This process, which is accessible to all of the students, helps my students to develop their literacy skills.
Buncee also reinforces the concept of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in the classroom by providing options for communication access. It encourages receptive language skills for students – whether it be by using text, video, or listening skills. And students have the opportunity to develop their expressive skills using all these modalities as well. Many of my Deaf and Hard of Hearing students are technologically savvy, but some students do not have computers or Wi-Fi at home. So, for these students, Buncee is easy to use, provides communication access and develops confidence using digital media. Other specific benefits of Buncee are the functionality- ease to create visual concepts, attach videos, and explain abstract concepts. For Deaf and Hard of Hearing students or ELL students, these are crucial skills for language development.
At Willie Ross School for the Deaf, we strive to meet each student’s needs, whatever they may be. Buncee has proven to be an excellent tool to help us continue our successful individualized approach to teaching!