Intevention, Double Dose or Core

I went in this morning to get some work done before returning next month. Before leaving for break, I was prepping data for our intervention team to review and make decisions on. These students were all getting the same intervention, "Just Words." We had pretested grades fourth through sixth with the WIST. We found that in both fifth and sixth that well over 60% of our students were needing some sort of phonics based intervention. (This was not a shock to us but to our administration is was. I fail to see why since these kidoos didn't have core phonics while in the primary grades nor did they ever have mastery of phonics skills.)

It was determined that Just Words would become part of students core instruction instead of Words Their Way. Just Words became core based on the number of students who needed the program. This was not the case in fourth grade. After pretesting students in fourth grade, less than six were determined to need a phonics program in this case it became a tiered intervention program.  The hope for fifth and sixth is that students can move from Just Words to Words Their Way. Just Words moves to an intervention for those who continue to need it. Even if student's don't move, the increase in their scores is fabulous and the carry over has been seen in students writing. Which is even better.

Our primary students receive daily phonics instruction as part of their core instruction provided by their classroom teacher. There are students who are either pulled out or seen within the classroom who receive the same lesson again or it is pre-taught to them; in this case it is a double-dose. A double dose is getting the same instruction twice but in a different way. In most cases this is done by the classroom teacher but not always. In my building double-dosing is done on top of what ever intervention the student is receiving and is seen as part of the expected core instruction.

Beginner Readers

Last week I introduced a kindergarten student that I work with, with one of my favorite beginner reader reading programs is SRA's Reading Mastery. It's a scripted program that teaches basic decoding and comprehension skills. I love how this program gives students that strong foundation in phonics that they all need to be great readers. It works with the idea that students need to be able to segment and then blend words. The words they are learning to read are taught to be read fluently and spell them. Items are taught orally first with tons of practices--errorless practice that some many students need. This errorless practice has helped to hear the sounds in words and reblend them to the original word. A skill that he was having trouble mastering.

Yes, its decodable.  Since this will not replace the students core guided reading program, I'm not to worried about that. But decodable text has a place and at some point in time he will get both from me. Authentic text has its place and for this student it will help to expand his vocabulary and language use in ways that decodable text cannot. Decodable text is great to ensure students understand how to segment and blend words but if it's used all the time than students don't learn to master other reading strategies that great readers use when they are reading.

The ideas and concepts behind Reading Mastery can be used as word study for students in DRAs 1-3 or Fountas and Pinnells A-C. As students learn sounds, rhyming words, and spelling.

RM 1 Review Game

RTI and LD: Finding Answers

The National Research Center on Learning Disabilities, has materials to help parents and teachers get the answers they need about RTI and LD. They define confusing terms and explain new education models, such as response to intervention and its relationship to the methods schools use to determine whether a student has a learning disability. They suggest questions that can be asked to teachers and administrators at your child's school and identify information you can expect to receive from the school.

NRCLD's goal is to help educators, policymakers, and parents understand the complexity and importance of making sound decisions regarding whether a child has a specific learning disability. Their  research in this area--including studies of the role of and best practices associated with responsiveness to intervention.

Big changes in education law. Big changes in your role as a teacher. Big changes in your classroom. You need help. Their materials are designed to answer your questions about specific learning disability determination and responsiveness to intervention. They include "how to" tools to help you navigate RTI and video segments of teachers describing how they have answered some of the same questions you may be facing.

A resource that I've shared with parents and teachers is their "ABCs of RTI." It takes the confusion out of a very complex system.

What resources do you share with parents?

Parents and IEP's

I know for some schools they have IEPs right from the beginning of the school year straight through to the end of the year. Some (like me) are supper busy the last half of the year. Since, I work in an elementary school many times my parents have no clue what an IEP is or if the student's ILP is the same thing. (No)

The road to special eduction is not a mystery and we should make possible to make sure parents understand the process. This removes confusion and makes that initial staffing go much more smoothly.

In response to this, I have a handout that I give to all parents when they sign permission for assessment. They have told me that it has helped in preparing for that first meeting and getting some clue about the special education process. Anyother ideas about helping parents through the process that you have found that work for you??

A Parent's Guide to the IEP

Rhyming with Mother Goose

By mid year, I expect that Kindergartens can identify rhymes and produce rhymes. Its hard for students who English is not their first language and for students with significant language delays. Mother Goose has been around for ages and is something my mom read to me when I was little. Many of my students have no clue who she is or the fun her poetry and rhymes can be. I used This Old Man to create rhyming cards and several emerging math activities for students.

This Old Man

RTI for Parents

Response to intervention or RTI is one of the most difficult things to get up and running in a building. It's hard to get everyone on the same page with student needs and finding creative ways to help them in the classroom.

I come across this article yesterday, as we were getting ready for Kid Talks. Kid Talks have become our first round in how we set out RTI. It doesn't matter if they have an IEP or not but it gives teachers a change to talk with others and gather ideas about what they can do in the class. Kid Talks are short, sweet and are facilitated (get keep the team on track and on time). The teacher walks away with a plan of attack, a SMART goal, and has planned  help--if needed. Since RTI focuses on what is happening within the classroom, I don't have to make everyone but go when invited by classroom teachers.

RTI is new to everyone and explaining it to parents is even harder. I gave this article to teachers at my building to read and decide if they wanted to share it with parents. I like it because it provides information that a parent can relate to and understand. So much of everything for parents on RTI is written from a researchers or teachers point of view. The National Center for Learning Disabilities has many other great informational pieces be sure to check them out.

A Parent's Guide to Response-to-Intervention   

If your looking for move information about RTI check out CEC's RTI Blog.

I'm always looking for new ideas on how others support or get support in their classrooms to meet students needs--how does your building work through RTI?

Sound and Letter Bingo

I was asked by a group of Kindergarten students that I work with to create a bingo game for them. So, I created one with upper and lower case letters and added inital sound pictures to it as well. You can use any letters that you already have to as game pieces. Enjoy :)
Sounds and Letters Bingo

Wilson 3 Day Lesson Plan

Being part of the Building Leadership Team means that I'm out of the building at least once a month. To make sure that my students continue to move forward, I created a lesson plan format that someone without any Wilson knowledge could pick up and run with. Each  lesson moves at a quick pace with constant interaction between me and the group. The skills taught for decoding on day one of the lesson are taught for encoding (day two). Reading comprehension is taught on day three. The ensures that students get all 10 parts of a Wilson lesson. Enjoy!!
Wilson 3 Day Lesson Plan


My Just Words group is starting this week by learning about suffixes and some spelling rules. I created this game using words from Unit 4, to work on reading words accurately and then sort them based on the ending sounds. The unit will start with a simple suffix concept with just the suffix -s. We have spent sometime in previous units with this suffix. Students will learn the sometimes suffix -s says /s/ like in shops and at other times it says /z/ like in bugs. Next, I will add the -es suffix to basewords. 

Another concept that they need to use mastery on is the baseword. Mastering how to read and spell basewords in a single syllable is super important before we move into multi-syllable words. Before we are done with the unit, I'll teach -ing and -ed suffixes. Students will learn that the -ed suffix says /ed/ as in rented, /d/ as in spilled, and /t/ as in chomped.

I see anchor charts in our future.
Just Words Unit 4 Go Fish

Counting to 10 and 20

A change that Common Core has brought to teaching math is helping students understand the relationship between numbers and quatities and connect counting to cardinality. I created Match Me a Turtle for my students to count a set (dice dots) and see sets and then match the digits to the turtle. Then they can match the digit and turtle with the number word. By using dice students learn that no matter how you arrange a number of dots, they will digit doesn't change.

These connections are higher-level skills that require students to analyze, reason about, and explain relationships between numbers and sets of objects. Once they have mastered numbers and sets to 10, they will be comfortable with working numbers to 20. Common Core states that students should have this skill mastered by the end of Kindergarten.
Students implement correct counting procedures by pointing to one object at a time (one-to-one correspondence), using one counting word for every object (synchrony/ one-to-one tagging), while keeping track of objects that have and have not been counted. This is the foundation of counting.
Students answer the question “How many are there?” by counting objects in a set and understanding that the last number stated when counting a set (…8, 9, 10) represents the total amount of objects: “There are 10 bears in this pile.” (cardinality). Since an important goal for children is to count with meaning, it is important to have children answer the question, “How many do you have?” after they count. Often times, children who have not developed cardinality will count the amount again, not realizing that the 10 they stated means 10 objects in all.
Young children believe what they see. Therefore, they may believe that a pile of cubes that they counted may be more if spread apart in a line. As children move towards the developmental milestone of conservation of number, they develop the understanding that the number of objects does not change when the objects are moved, rearranged, or hidden. Children need many different experiences with counting objects, as well as maturation, before they can reach this developmental milestone.

The first math game is to 10 and the second to 20 also includes base 10 blocks along with the number word.
 Match Me a Turtle

Fall Couting to 20 With Base 10 and Words

Letter Naming

Finding new letter naming games for students to do is difficult. I came across this alphabet board a couple of weeks ago and the kindergarten students that I work with were ready to take it on. I currently use it for letter naming but in a couple of weeks when I move them on to letter sounds, this board will be perfect to help them transfer the skill form the rhyme they are current learning to different pictures that start with the same sound.

I found this alphabet poster hidden in a file and put it in a file folder. Each student has their own board and one of each letter of the alphabet in a bag. I pull a letter out and they have to find the letter in their bag. Once they have found the letter they then find its match on the board. Some have made that connection that other animals start with different sounds than what they have been learning.


I have a couple of non-readers that have been working in Wilson the last couple of weeks. They have become strong, accurate readers and ready to begin working on reading those words fluently in sentences. These sentences contain the words they have learned plus the sight words they have been taught. The color coding helps them know which words they can't sound out. These sentences allow me to ask questions about what in going on the the sentence--such as "Is the lid hot?" I can ask them "What's hot?" Yes, this level of comprehension is basic but its at a level that they can decode and understand. For them is very cool. As their decoding builds through out the year, I add sentences that match the words they are learning to read, so their comprehension can grow. 
Just Words Unit 1 High Frequency Sentences

Just Words and Wilson Reading System

Both Just Words and Wilson Reading System are great programs from Barbara Wilson. I have seen first hand how these program can take nonreaders to fluent grade level readers. Granted it takes a couple of years. One thing they have always struggled with is applying sound/letter knowledge to reading and spelling nonsense words. Students have to be able to apply their sounds to letters so that they can decode unknown words. One game that I have created that they have been asking for more is a small group version of I have Who has for Halloween. It focuses on reading nonsense words from Just Words Unit 3 and Wilson Reading System Book 2. For more information about both of Barbara's programs check out her website at

I Have Who Has Just Words Unit 3 Nonsense

Common Core State Standards

The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

In August 2010, Colorado rewrote the State Standards from preschool to twelfth grade to reflect that adoption of Common Core. The state standards and Common Core define mastery and help students and teachers achieve clearer results in order to guide schools to greater outcomes.

State academic standards are the expectations of what students need to know and be able to do. They also stand as the values and content organizers of what Colorado sees as the future skills and essential knowledge for our next generation to be more successful. State standards are the basis of the annual state assessment. Standards are not the same as lesson plans or curriculum. They are the content understandings and abilities that lead a student to success beyond school.

The content areas include Mathematics, Science, Reading and Writing, Social Studies, Music, Visual Arts, Theatre, Dance, Comprehensive Health and Physical Education, and World Languages. In addition, the state had developed standards for Expanded Benchmarks and English Language Learners.

Colorado Academic Standards are created to support an aligned P-20 system which provides an inclusion of early school readiness expectations and postsecondary competencies. Historically, these standards have been organized by grade spans but have evolved to be articulated by grade. Additionally, state standards reflect workforce readiness and 21st century skills such as critical thinking and reasoning, information literacy and invention. The ability to take responsibility for additional learning, self-direction and interaction with others to learn new information quickly and more naturally is the new emerging direction of our work.

What is P-20 Education?
P-20 is short for an integrated education system that extends from pre-school through higher education.

What is the Goal of P-20?
The goal of P-20 is to help create a more seamless and integrated education experience for all students through Academic and Career Pathways.
P-20 Academic and Career Pathways in the following areas:
  • Arts & Communication
  • Business
  • Health Sciences
  • Science, Technology, Engineering & Math
What are P-20 Academic and Career Pathways?
Academic and Career Pathways are an integrated collection of learning experiences intended to develop students’ core academic skills; and provide them with continuous education and employability credentials; in order to place them in high-demand, high-opportunity jobs.

Common Core Standards-Reading Foundational Skills

K-2 Math Common Core

Importance of Spelling: "Can't we just use spell checkers?"

Spelling over the last few years has been the subject of a commonly mailed piece of Internet “wisdom.” And I quote:

“Aoccdrnig to rscheearch by the Lngiusiitc Dptanmeret at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.”

Translation: According to research by the Linguistic Department at Cambridge University, it doesn’t matter in what order the letters in a word are, the only important thing is that the first and last letter be at the right place. The rest can be a total mess and you can still read it without a problem. This is because the human mind does not read every letter by itself, but the word as a whole.
This paragraph has been widely circulated on the Internet since 2003, and it is still referred to, either as a point of interest or to defend inconsistent (poor) spelling, or choosing not to teach it. Is it because it rings of the truth that it makes scholars and educators cringe? Hardly. Among other things, there was no such research, and the words in the passage don’t follow the rule of “only the first and last words matter.” It’s a myth. It is fluent readers who can figure out this highly predictable text – and the path to fluent reading includes a firm foundation in the sounds represented by letters and their spelling.

How do we Read?
Do we read whole words in an instant, or by sounds? The fluent reader quickly perceives whole words, but the path to fluency is through mastering the connection between letter combinations and the sounds they represent. The fact is that our letters stand for sounds, not ideas. While some still debate “whole language” versus “phonics” instruction, experts such as Priscilla Vail recognize that language has structure and texture, and our students need to develop both. “Structure refers to the nuts and bolts used in assembling or decoding the written language… phonics instruction provides this solid grounding. Texture refers to the ornamentation which gives language its color, intensity, rhythm and beauty. Whole language instruction provides texture by soaking children in literature. Structure by itself would be boring, just as free-floating texture would be flimsy.”

Rather than relegate spelling to a back burner, spelling can and should be an integral part of language instruction for every student. It is mortar that helps students master the basics of language, especially students who may struggle with reading. Rather than dismiss it as a frill to “focus harder” on reading, teaching spelling and handwriting enables a struggling student to use different senses and strengths to learn and master the relationship between the sounds and symbols of our language, which is the backbone of reading. Other students will be able to more deeply understand the patterns of our complex language and become master communicators.
Spelling Helps Reading
Learning to spell helps to cement the connection between the letters and their sounds, and learning high-frequency “sight words” to mastery level improves both reading and writing. The correlation between spelling and reading comprehension is high because both depend on a common denominator: proficiency with language. The more deeply and thoroughly a student knows a word, the more likely he or she is to recognize it, spell it, define it, and use it appropriately in speech and writing. One of the major goal of the English writing system is not merely to ensure accurate pronunciation of the written word – it is to convey meaning. If words that sound the same (e.g., rain, rein and reign) were spelled the same way, their meanings would be harder to differentiate.

Teaching spelling systematically can also dispel the myth that spelling is unpredictable and too confusing for all but those with a natural gift for it , which often happens when a “correct mistakes as they happen” approach is taken. The idea that English is too mixed up to make sense of is a myth perpetuated by lack of instruction and poor teacher preparation. Spelling is not simple, but when people understand its structure, it is perfectly decodable and not limited to people “born to spell” to understand. For example, many people struggle with spelling the word “broccoli.” Which letter should be doubled? If a student – or teacher or parent - understands the syllable types of the English language, the word makes sense. “Closed” syllables end in a consonant and have a short vowel sound. Open syllables end in a vowel. Often, a consonant is doubled so that a vowel is clearly short, including when we add suffixes. Examples are bagged, collie, and broccoli, which would be divided into syllables as broc – co – li. Perhaps it’s unfortunate that people who are naturally good at spelling and reading are likely to be teaching it; they may not have needed to have these rules explained, or perhaps don’t remember the explanations because they did not have to practice them. Understanding the rules and patterns helps the student who doesn’t intuitively pick them up and enables the teacher to clear up confusion instead of having to resort to “it’s just how it’s spelled."
Others might acknowledge the value of learning to spell, but think that learning the rules and patterns is the stuff of drudgery. When students are practicing in ways that are effective, and getting appropriate feedback and experiencing success, practice is not drudgery. It may not be as fun as recess – but often it can be satisfying and even enjoyable, especially when technology is used creatively so that students can use their strengths with individualized lessons. For instance, students can choose games and activities at sites such as to practice their words as much as they need. By including language-rich experiences with the words, students use auditory and visual pathways in the learning task. This helps students conquer the challenge of remembering the spellings of words, because the “working memory” can be used more efficiently if both the visual and auditory channels are engaged in the learning task.

Technology is a powerful tool that can make learning easier. Some would argue that it’s powerful enough to make learning to spell unnecessary. After all, what are spell checkers for? Spell checkers are wonderful tools for the small mistakes that good spellers make and for common typographical errors such as typing “t e h” instead of “the.” In the hands of the student with good language skills, the spell checker is a real timesaver. However, it can actually interfere with the learning process. The writer must rely on starting the word correctly and getting most letters right, and the spell checker will not correct when a misspelling is another legitimate word. Therefore, the student who spells “does” as “dose” will not see the red “correct me” line, and will continue to entrench the misspelling habit, and the reader will be confused. The more advanced the writing task, the more likely we’ll need to use exactly the right word. When a college student writes “lessening” instead of “listening,” that student has not learned to think about the relationship between the meaning and spelling of words. His writing is suffering for the lack, and perhaps his reading is as well. Spell checkers also can’t be counted on for giving the right word even when they recognize an incorrect spelling. If a writer types “definantly” instead of definitely, Microsoft Word will suggest “defiantly.” “Surpised” will yield “surpassed.” The language learner will be more confused, not less. In other words, spell checkers give us reason to teach spelling and precise word usage *more* thoroughly, not less.

Good use, even mastery, of our complex language does not have to be a thing of the past or reserved for a few. By using the knowledge from years of research and experience and our ever-developing technological tools, we can teach each student to spell well and enable them to read and write fluently. We owe it to our students to give them the skills that are the tools to learning and communication throughout their education and their lives.

 Spelling List 2 for 4th-6th
Spelling List 2 for 2nd Grade

Thinking Maps

Kindergarten Crayons has a great post about Thinking Maps Make Me Think. Thinking maps are a great way for students to create a visual about what they are learning and connect it to prior learning. They are similar to graphic organizers but students learn to use them across all content areas and on tests as a planning guide. Be on to look out for pictures both here and in class.

DIBELS or Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills

During flex testing students in grades Kindergarten through Second grade were given the DIBELS. That data was used to determine which students would need extra support during the first part of the school year. That information will be discussed during Parent-Teacher Conferences in October. If you have specific questions about your child's DIBELS scores, how they scored, and if they needed extra support please contact me or your child's homeroom teacher. The document below explains DIBELS and can help answer your questions.

What is Dibels?

Finding Just Right Books using the Five Finger Test

I teach students to find Just Right Books using the Five Finger Test.
Five Finger test is one way to "test" a book before you spend too much time with it and get frustrated.
1.  First choose the book you think you would like to read.

2.  Find a page of text somewhere in the middle of the book.  Find a page with lots of text (words) and few or no pictures.

3.  Begin to read the page.  It is best to read the page aloud or in a whisper if possible while doing the test so you can hear the places where you have difficulty.

4.  Each time you come to a word you don't know, hold one finger up.

5.  If you have all five fingers up before you get to the end of the page, wave the book "good-by."  It is probably too difficult for you right now.  Try it again later in the year.

6.  If you have no fingers up when you finish the page, then the book may be an easy read for you. 

7.  If you have less than five fingers but more than one or two fingers up when you finish reading the page, the book may be just what you need to grow as a reader.  Enjoy!

Classroom Library

Classroom Library I have found that nothing creates a more effective reading workshop than an organized library. Every teacher organizes her library in her own way, but you may find some of the ideas below helpful if you are trying to organize your own. Many of the ideas have come from books or from visiting other teachers' classrooms.

Within each section of the library, books are categorized in baskets by genre or topic. Each basket is labeled to indicate the type of books a reader will find inside. Throughout the school year, students and I work together to determine each student's "just right" level for books to read in the classroom library.

As students get to know themselves as readers, they work their way through the levels. A student can read books at their "just right" level and books below their "just right" level. (For example, a student whose JR level is Yellow 2 can also read Yellow 1, Red 2, and Red 1 books.) Every book has a colored sticker with a number that corresponds to the levels on the arrow above.

What do the color codes mean? Each color on the reading level arrow corresponds to a Fountas and Pinnell Guided Reading Levels. The chart below shows how the classroom library codes compare to the Fountas and Pinnell levels and to grade levels.


Spelling List 1

Spelling List 1 consists of missed sight words from last weeks pretest and will focus on closed syllable words and short vowel sounds. At the end of two weeks there will be a spelling test. The goal is to increase word attack, reading fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension skills at the word level. This will help students to understand spelling concepts in order to help them remember a word's spelling, meaning, and grammatical role.

Edward W. Dolch developed lists of the 220 most frequently used words in children's books. Form 50 to 75% of the text consisted of the words he put on his lists which became known as the Dolch words' lists. A reader who knows the Dolch words will recognize the majority of the words in a typical selection. Its important that students not only know how to read them but also to spell them.
4th Grade Spelling List

5th/6th Grade Spelling

2nd grade Spelling List

Readers Rights

I believe that students should be able to decide what books they are going to read, including those we read together. My goal is to get students to read, to get students excited about reading. In valuing their opinions, even about the books we share in class, they learn that I their preferences are as important as mine. I came across the "The Rights of the Reader," by Daniel Pennac while I was reading The Book Whisper this summer. Though I will not be posting it on the room, I wish to share it with my parents so they can begin to understand how I take their children who hate reading to children who can't wait to finish the book and have another one lined up to read.

The Book Whisper by Donalyn Miller is a wonderful eye opening view into how one teacher takes on the daily challenge to turn all students in readers. She helps her students to discover the rewards of reading no matter how far behind students may be. Donalyn Miller writes an ongoing blog for Reader Rights

Who am I?

Wordle creates  “word clouds” from the words you use. We will use Wordle throughout the year.

About Me

Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.

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