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31 Ways to Enjoy an Inclusive Summer

Summer is finally here, and I am looking forward to having time to share content through my site. As an easy way to get started, here is a list I created last summer to help families generate ideas for activities that children with a wide range of needs, interests, and abilities will find accessible and enjoyable. Feel free to add you own and keep this list growing!!

  1. Tell stories around the fire. Use AAC device for catch phrase/sound effect/punch line. Let everyone try!
  2. Rain? Try a big family puzzle. Turn taking, talking & eye-contact are not necessary & everyone works at his/her own pace.
  3. Head to a drive-in. No need to use quiet voices & those needing to move around during the film can do so.
  4. Remember headphones during fireworks or watch from a distance to make the night comfortable for all.
  5. Play audiobooks on road trips; those who cannot access books independently get to “read” & the family gets to share a story.
  6. Take pics of a fun day & assemble into a book. Kids can take snaps, write captions, etc. Read & repeat to build fluency!
  7. Try a kayak, paddle boat, or bicycle built for two. It’s more fun than a solo trip & a buddy provides support.

    Summer kayak trip

  8. Create a ritual that everyone can look forward to & participate in: an after-dinner stroll, a weekly visit to the park, etc.
  9. Invite friends over for non-competitive games like scavenger hunts, charades, and sidewalk chalk exhibitions.
  10. Let everyone in the family suggest one NEW summer activity; one that is accessible & fun for all.
  11. Get a museum pass & cut visits short when it is too crowded/overwhelming. Make several short visits vs. one long one.
  12. Create collaborative art-make a mural on a sheet, create photo collages, or paint an old chair.

    Collaborative painting

  13. Dive in! For many, the pool/lake/ocean is the ultimate “accessible environment” & enjoying the water is THE quintessential summer experience.
  14. Make gluten-free s’mores.
  15. Play board games that build literacy skills-Scrabble, Boggle, Story Cubes, etc.
  16. Play board games that build math skills-Pay Day, Yahtzee, Candyland, Monopoly, Sorry, Connect 4, Tangrams, Rummikub, etc.

    Family-friendly games

  17. Connect w/ pen pals-learn about the world & build lang/literacy skills. Writing to a pal is also a great excuse to try new assistive tech.
  18. Have some sensory fun–dig in the sand, play in the mud, or make water balloons!
  19. Suggest skits, backyard performances & improv games. Lots of fun & helpful in developing communication, social, & literacy skills.
  20. Cook or bake something new and let everyone take part. Use a switch to mix/blend if needed.
  21. Dive into your child’s fascinations-learn about Minecraft, read vampire books, ask new questions about One Direction, etc.
  22. Find a summer activity (jump rope, kick-the-can, tag); develop many possible adaptations/versions as possible.
  23. Ride around your city on your child’s favorite type of transportation-bus, train, subway, or pedicab. See the sights & relax.
  24. Camp in the backyard. Save $ and don’t worry about forgetting meds, special foods, or adaptive equipment!
  25. Take a day trip & build background knowledge. A trip to a pond to learn ecosystems? To the state capitol to learn about government?
  26. Give kids odd jobs to earn spending $; find chores that teach new skills, if possible (organizing, counting, cooking).
  27. Learn a new card game. Use pool noodles as card holders for little hands or for those needing support.
  28. Play some mini golf & give different roles to different players-putting expert, cheerleader, scorer, etc.

    Mini golf

  29. Look into inclusive summer camp experiences like those promoted by the National Inclusion Project.
  30. Shoot silly videos. This is an easy way to let everyone be expressive & create in their own ways (with or without words)..video serves as a keepsake too.
  31. Volunteer (e.g., bring treats to an animal shelter). Some kids who get a lot of support love the chance to provide it.

Pedro's Whale by Paula Kluth

A plan for Pedro

One of the most exciting parts of writing a book for children is seeing all of the ways it is used by students, families, and teachers. I got one email from a parent telling me that she used Pedro’s Whale to teach her children about their brother with autism. At one of my workshops, a principal told me that he used Pedro to teach his staff about supporting individual differences.

A few teachers have told me that they used the book to give their paraprofessionals ideas for providing appropriate supports in inclusive classrooms. I love all of these stories and feel especially satisfied when people tell me that they were able to use the teaching ideas in Pedro’s Whale to create these lessons as we had always hoped the book would be used as a tool for learning.

How to use Pedro's Whale
So far, those brief back-of-the-book ideas have been the only thing I could offer teachers looking for lesson ideas for Pedro’s Whale, so I was so thrilled to get an email from Lynne Dudas, letting me know about her graduate school project involving our book. Lynne created materials to help students in elementary grades learn about characteristics of classmates with autism using The Common Core Standards in literacy, Pedro’s Whale, and other books. You can get her plans over on the Teachers Pay Teachers website (a great virtual store that allows educators to sell curriculum materials to other educators)

Have you used Pedro’s Whale to teach children about individual differences? Have you ever used it to teach other audiences? Other topics? I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions!

Lesson plan using Pedro's Whale

Another perfect Pedro plan

This post needs to begin with a big “thank you” to Nicolette Brata-Coolen. Nicolette wrote to me and sent some great artifacts from a lesson she created based on Pedro’s Whale and another title, Arnie and His School Tools: Simple Sensory Solutions That Build Success, by Jennifer Veenendall. Because she took the time to send me her lesson, I now get to share it with you.

Nicolette teaches Early Childhood students at Bandung Independent School in Indonesia, and has made teaching about differences and supporting ...

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Pedro's Whale class project

What is your whale?

I am so excited to post another great teaching idea from a general education teacher who is soooooo very dedicated to supporting all of the diverse learners in her classroom. This amazing educator gave me permission to share a lesson she designed with her student teacher.

The lesson is based on Pedro’s Whale, a book I wrote with my dear friend and colleague, Dr. Patrick Schwarz. First, the students read the book, which is a story about a little boy who uses a whale toy to learn, make friends and deal with challenges. Then, they all identified their own “whale”, an object or interest that they sometimes used for comfort, inspiration or connection. Finally, every student developed one strategy that he or she could use to deal with bullying and build a stronger classroom community. Once each student had created these two products, the teachers added them to a gorgeous classroom bulletin board.

The best part is that the teacher used the bulletin board as a sort of backdrop during parent-teacher conferences so she could talk to families about the conversations of support and connection that had been happening in her classroom.

Whale Bulletin Board

Could not love this idea (or this teacher) more! Thank you for sharing it, Ms. N!

Pedro's Whale by Paula Kluth

Pedro’s Whale

Based on the real-life event that inspired Paula Kluth and Patrick Schwarz’s bestselling “Just Give Him the Whale!,” this simple but powerful story introduces educators to one of the best, most effective inclusion strategies: using students’ fascinations to help them learn.

Pedro, a young boy who loves whales more than anything, is heartbroken when he’s told to put away his favorite toy whale on the first day of school. But then Pedro’s teacher discovers the secret to helping him do his best work: not only giving him his whale, but also incorporating his special interest into the whole curriculum. Soon, Pedro’s whale is helping all the children learn, as the teacher works whales into math lessons, storytime, simple science experiments, and more! Pedro’s whale helps him make friends, too, as the other children start to share his special interest.

Everyone who reads Pedro’s Whale will remember its eye-opening message: when you work with instead of against what students love, they feel safe, happy, and ready to learn. Used in tandem with “Just Give Him the Whale!,” this enlightening story will help teachers maximize inclusion and ensure that students with and without disabilities reach their full potential.