I am a special education teacher. It's a calling I heard late in life so I am only now, at the age of 43, learning the joys of creating curriculum and finding ways to recycle stuff that others think is junk. I love what I do: I get the educate those who have the most powerful and fragile minds all in the same body.

This means I have to be creative and energetic. I have to think as I have never thought before; quickly and while on the move. There is no time for the special education teacher to sit in his chair behind his desk. (Frankly, there's not much time for any teacher to do so, but that's another post entirely.) Worse, now that the so-called Affordable Health Care Act is beginning to affect even schools, teachers are going to be faced with less help from aids, paraprofessionals, and others in the school building. We are going to have to be creative and we are going to have to find ways to use, reuse, and recycle stuff.

So I had an old shoebox. And last year someone gave me a giant bag full of brand-new, empty, unlabeled prescription pill bottles. I knew I could use them for something, but what? Then it came to me about a week and a half ago. Below you will find several pictures of the new creation I have built for ordering numbers and also developing fine and gross motor skills for students with developmental disabilities.

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My first incarnation of this game involved the use of a $6 fishing tackle box from the local Wal Mart. The box is about 1.5 to 2 inches deep and the dividers are easily moved to accomdate different configurations and/or amounts of pill containers.

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I thought the number 24 would be a bit random, so I stopped at the number 20 (you can still use the other four spaces or simply remove the dividers to create a definitive stopping place). This easily fits into the domain: mathematics: operations and algebraic thinking; counting and cardinality (common core/extended standards) in the K-2 grade band.

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The numbers I got at a yard sale a long time ago, the pill bottles were free, and the tackle box cost $6. But I was not entirely satisfied. This version of the task does require some fine-motor skills, believe me it is not as easy as it looks to get those bottles standing straight or putting in more bottles without knocking others over, but I was hopeful to do more with it. So I developed the next version of the task.

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In this version, I have used an old shoe-box as a container for the pill bottles. The next picture gives a better idea:

1375281255524Using my X-acto knife, I carefully cut 20 holes in the lid of the shoe-box–just a little smaller than the diameter of the pill bottles. This intentionally limits the task to twenty numbers. The difference here is that students will have to exert effort in order for the pill bottles to fit into the holes. Furthermore, the shoe-box was deep enough for the pill bottles to fit all the way to the bottom. You can see this in the picture below.

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1375281265759This is a simple task at some levels. And, to be sure, after a while the holes will have to be re-cut in another shoe-box or reinforced in some way or other. Furthermore, after a while the students may well memorize the order of the numbers–GOOD!–and the job/task may become a little dated. Still, we can always use this job for skip counting, filling in the missing number, or we can add new numbers for higher counting. The best part, though, might be that we have done a small part to keep usable resources out of the local landfills.

I have field-tested this task and it works well with students who have an ASD.

PS–one other alternative use for this task is that the lids could be removed and the student could be asked to put into the containers the amount of objects to match the number on top. One could use small objects like paper clips or even Skittles.

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