*Special thanks to Sue Finnes for suggestions and edits on this post.
RPM is an exciting journey! Most would agree that it is a big learning curve in the beginning. Most parents will tell you it is a struggle, but those who persist do not regret it. The perseverance pays off. If you are just starting RPM and feeling overwhelmed, this is expected. The only way to overcome this is to just do it, study it, and in many cases, contact a provider so you can get help on how to best implement for your child. While this is not a training, I hope this information will prove helpful to you.
What is RPM?
RPM is and EDUCATIONAL METHOD. It empowers the learner to express his/her thoughts, reasoning, opinions, facts, by going through the open learning channels in the instance of learning. It leads to reasoning, purposeful spelling and movement first in academic lessons and latter in hobbies, life skills, and any way of functioning.
RPM was developed by Soma Mukhopadhyay. You can reach the official RPM site here.
What can you do before you even begin RPM?
In RPM we presume intelligence. To successfully implement RPM you will need belief and actions that go along with that belief. This may take time and that is ok. Here are some thing to do.
1—Read AGE appropriate books to your child/student—this develops vocabulary, builds listening skills, auditory tolerance to enjoy life and function, and other benefits. Your child doesn’t need to sit next you. Just tell them you are reading to them and keep them in earshot. Your child can do any task while you read. If your child closes the book or somehow shows annoyance slowly build the tolerance by starting with just a few minutes a day.
2—Talk to your child—talk your child in an age appropriate way. Explain where you are going and what you are doing. (I am not talking about reciting the schedule, but as one human speaks to another) It will feel awkward at first, but as you continue often there are changes in the child. It brings dignity. Assume your child is listening—talk to, not about.
What are the goals of a proper RPM lesson?
1-Education goals—such as the content being taught, reasoning/understanding content, and vocabulary, etc.
2-Skill goals—such as ‘how’ to choose and ‘what’ to choose, spelling out words and answers, handwriting, typing, etc.
3-Communication goals—such as communicating facts (known responses), connections, ideas, thoughts, opinions, stories, poems, etc.—from choices, one words responses, to phrases, to sentences, to paragraphs.
4-Tolerance goals—such as tolerating holding the pencil, the teacher’s voice, the topic, visual tolerance, length of lesson or each topic, etc.
There are so many different goals that can be picked for each area.
What elements are included in a proper RPM lesson?
Each lesson needs:
1—TEACHING or STATING—Where you teach
2—ASK—where you check for listening by asking a question about what you have stated. You also work on new or emerging skills at this level since all the responses are known responses—factual.
3—EXPAND—Where you teach the student reasoning skills, communication of opinions, etc. These are very critical from the beginning. They are NOT test questions. These answers can be figured out by contextual cues of the content you taught and prior exposure and knowledge. Eg . if you have stated that an example of a noun is a place you can ask ‘would you say that Austin is a noun’
4—COMMENTARY—Words you use to make the lesson a discussion and interesting.
5—SENSORY ACTIVITIES—Where you engage the senses for learning to take place as well as make it possible for the student to response and show true understanding and knowledge.
Here are lesson plans I made to get you going. Consistency is most important in successfully implementing RPM. RPM should be done daily…at 10 minutes a day will bring progress. One batch is for students 8 and under. The other is for 9 years and up. You will NEED to read the introduction before implementing the lesson plans. There is critical information in there.
Video Explaining Commentary
The lesson plans give you a basic structure of what to teach and questions to ask to aide in learning. The following video is critical to watch to help you implement these lesson plans correctly:
Here is an example with a real student of how I expand on a basic lesson plan:
This was my basic plan, and the words in italics are what I actually said in the lesson- for some this would be too many words or too slow of a pace…a lot of these words are being used to keep his attention and act as prompts. In RPM, there is continuous prompting/talking in the beginning and that fades with time. It has in all my students as they have advanced—fading of prompts.
STATE: Today we are talking about nouns
ASK: What are we talking about? (NOUNS. or FAMILIES)?
Now I need to teach you about some things that are called nouns. N o u n s (talks as I roll the paper and puts on tape for a target to point at) you might have heard something about these nouns before, still important to know about them. We are talking about n o u n s nouns or f a m i l i e s families. What’s the first thing we are talking about? You’re going to say to me, well I think that we are going to be talking about (said in different voice to catch attention) nouns or families? (N picks nouns) What a weird word!
STATE: Nouns are a person place thing or animal
ASK: what is a noun? Is it (RUNNING or a PERSON.)?
Nouns are a p e r s o n person or a p l a c e place or a t h i n g thing or an animal a n i m al animal. So, if someone said, Nicholas, I know you’re getting tired here, but what’s a noun? R u n n i n g running a noun or a p e r s o n person will be a noun? (Tap choices and said) Running or a person? (N picks person) person yes that very nicely done. Person will be a noun.
ASK: What else is a noun? (KICK or PLACE.)?
Then if someone said to you Nicholas I think there is something else that is a noun. Would you say a k i c k kick is a noun or a p l a c e place is a noun. And you would say (said in weird voices again) kick or a place is a noun? A place that will be a noun…oops (pencil drops, reset and motor model), kick here or place there (N picks Place) ...yes a place will be a noun, a thing or an animal.
EXPAND: So, is a city a noun? (YES. or NO)?
So then here we go…hum hum hum lets say I said to you the word c I t y city. Is city a noun? Y e s yes it is or n o no don’t count on it? Help me (said in weird voice)…a city yes it is or no it isn’t. (N picks yes) yes a city is a now
EXPAND: Why is city a noun? Because it is a (PLACE. or FAMOUS THING)?
Now if someone said why is a city a noun? You would say, easy because a city is a p l a c e place or because a city is a f a m o u s famous t h i n g famous thing. Why is it a noun? You’d say easy a place or a famous thing? (N picks place) Yes, cities are a place. Like here we are in the city of Greenville. G r e e n vi l l e. it’s a noun. …(led into next point about proper nouns---hold up paper to see the capital letter).’
Further Understanding of RPM techniques used with this Student
Nicholas, is a pretty auditory learner in this clip. You can tell that because he is A) not looking at the things I am writing, much. B) When I use a weird voice or tap (go through auditory channel) it gets him to look or use his other channels. C) He correctly picks the answers showing he is listening AND thinking (thoughts are auditory and he gets the expansion questions correct).
As a teacher, it is my job to help him access learning and be able to respond by going through the open learning channels. The “weird” voices, tapping, motor modeling (hand over hand to show how to choose and then immediately putting his hand back to center so he could independently reason and pick the choice—RPM does NOT use physical support to help or steady a child to choose or spell), handing the pencil, writing, holding up the paper to his visual level, using folded paper and holding it up at the right level for his motor movements, talking a lot as I folded paper and prepared choices—both to hold his attention and get him engaged and thinking as I knew he was listening—were all catering to his needs.
You can also see he doesn’t have great muscle tone. He is NOT having a behavior by not looking (when I went through the open learning channels he performed) or his hands being floppy. He doesn’t have a lot of motor control over the eyes and hands, but as you can see he is very teachable and made improvements over the three days. Therefore, even with some lack of control, these things improve and can be “trained.” That is why we work with students, because just like you and me, they can learn—both the brain and body. He will be able to spell and learn to navigate the stencil letter-boards and other skills.
Nicholas is being a great student. He is a bit tired in this clip, but you can see he tries and puts forth effort. He doesn’t need to look like he is listening to listen. Keep that in mind—alternate sensory system—not generalized like yours’ and mine.
Some students would need a much faster pace. Some would need less dialogue and quicker delivery of choices. Some would do great with choices on the table. Some I would be having spell each word after picking the choices. Nicholas wasn’t motor ready to spell a lot of words. I had him spell some, but my first goal was to get him to hold the pencil in the correct form and be able to clearly choose, which he really is getting good at.
(Just my own assessment of my teaching, I think I could have helped him more had I get his tactile channels and kinesthetic channels more engaged in the lesson (maybe have him write words with me when I wrote them on the keyword sheet or make little models, or wrote with the back of the pencil on his arm more often…etc). I could have gone a bit faster too. I recognized that as I made this video. This is why it is helpful to record your teaching. I am still learning and improving my skills.)