Homework is my nemeses. I have to grade it. I have to make sure it gets done and turned back in. Enough! This year I only give students reading homework nightly and told them at the beginning of the school year that I wouldn’t nag them and that they needed to be responsible for doing their homework one their own. I was not going to call home or take recess or write them up. If they wanted to go diving into the treasure chest that it needed to be done nightly.  And guess what they all stepped up. They did it nightly. They give me their homework graphs every morning to sign and didn’t complain when someone else in the group gets rewarded first way before them.

Parents are allows coming to me with stories about their child spending more than two hours a night doing homework. They are aware for the importance of why they need to do the work nightly but don’t understand why so much is coming home.  Some of the work may be from things that should have been completed in class that just didn’t get done and other is the assigned homework.
Interestingly, there is a growing voice that says that homework should be from what was taught two or three days ago.  I really like this idea because homework is to be independent practice (i.e., things that students can do on their own without help or the student has demonstrated mastery in class but you just want to make sure that they’ve got it).  How do you use homework? What strategies have you found work best to ensure that students do the work nightly and turn it in?

Ways to Make Homework Meaningful
  • Homework can keep concepts fresh in student’s mind and indicate when reteaching is necessary.
  • Homework should never be very difficult and should only require materials that are generally available in the home.
  • Tailoring homework assignments to students’ learning style strengths can immediately lead to better results.
  • Never let students believe that homework is assigned as busywork. Give them a clear purpose for why it needs to be completed.
  • Don’t use homework to lower student’s grades.
  • Provide appropriate feedback on all homework assignments—written comments not just a grade.
Tips for Parents and Caregivers
  • Communicate your belief that homework is an important part of learning.
  • Make an agreement with your child about how much after-school time he will spend doing his homework each day.
  • Work with your child to establish a homework schedule and do your part to honor it.
  • Provide a place where your child can work.
  • Remember that your child’s homework is his responsibility, not yours!
  • It’s tough luck, if your child forgets their homework.

The Changing Kindergarten

Getting Ready to Read is a wonderful website that is designed for parents and early children learning like transitioning to kindergarten. My parents have stated that the "Getting Ready of Kindergarten Handouts" have helped them be better prepared for kindergarten. 

Kindergarten as it was known five years ago is not the same as kindergarten today. Kindergarten twenty years from now will be vastly different than it is today. Kindergarten has moved from a program that focuses primarily on social and emotional development to one that emphasizes academics, especially early literacy, math and science, and activities that prepare children to think and problem solve. These changes represent a lasting impact on kindergarten curriculum and teaching into the future. Regardless of the grade or age group they teach, all early childhood teachers have to make decisions regarding what curriculum and activities they will provide for their children.

Kindergarten education is literally changing before our eyes! Here are some of the ways it is changing and the reasons why.
Longer school days and transition from half-day to full-day programs. Reasons for longer school days and full-day programs include:
             •Changes in society,
              •An increase in the number of working parents,
             •Recognition that earlier is the best option, and
             •Research which shows that a longer school day helps children academically.

Emphasis on academics including math, literacy and science. Reasons for the emphasis on academics include:
             •Standards that specify what children should know and be able to do,
             •State standards that now include the kindergarten years, and
             •Political and public support for early education and skill learning because they reduce grade
                failure and school dropout.

More testing. Reasons for the increased testing include:
               •The accountability movement and
               •Recognition that district testing that begins in third grade and earlier puts more emphasis  
                 on what kindergarten children should learn.

Enriched curriculum with emphasis on literacy designed to have children read by entry into first grade. Reasons for literacy in the kindergarten include:
                •Recognition that literacy and reading are pathways to success in school and life, and
                •Recognition that learning to read is a basic right for all children.

Self Determination

As the year winds down, my 6th graders are looking forward too and talking about middle school and all the cool things that they get to do. Many are taking an active part in their IEP meeting for the first time. One thing I do to help them transition into middle school is to talk about self determination--what it looks like and what it means for them to become their own advocate. It was an exciting conversation to have with them as their teachers are having them research jobs and careers. We talked abut what self determination and created a circle map to define it. (Self determination is a person's ability to control his or her destiny.) The group defined self determination as taking responsibility of their actions and choices, making independent choices and problem solving on their own, setting and achieving goals both short and long term, and doing things without an adult telling them that it needed to get done.

What was every cooler was that they were able to clearly identify how they demonstrate their self determination throughout their day. Some of the things that they came up with were doing nightly homework, doing chores, being responsible, and making a long term goal about what they want to do after high school. They also talked about things they needed to work on like asking for help and when they achieve a goal then setting a new one.

Some people think self-determination is just for students with significant needs not students with learning disability but all students not matter need to become their own advocate. This are skills that need to be practiced throughout their K-12 education not just when they start planning for life after high school.

Ending Sound Fun

I have a couple of students that have become accustomed to listening for beginning sounds and leave off the ending one. It’s like they don’t hear it.  I have created a sort and game that will help these guys listen of the last sound they hear. It doesn’t matter if the word ends in a /e/ because they won’t hear it.  When I do word study with students who don’t have the decoding skills to read the word, I use pictures for concept, word sorts, or games. Some think that phonemic awareness instruction can be strictly oral but I have found that the students that need more than the average practice to master the skill pictures help all students. Fountas and Pinnell have several activities geared toward sound isolation in their Phonics Lessons: Letters, Words, and How they Work (grades K and 1).

My building doesn’t use their phonics materials as the core phonics program. In the past three year we’ve gone from Fundations from Barbara Wilson to Mondo Phonics. Mondo is our core guided reading program. Pick one and use it every day until students demonstrate mastery.

Helpful Websites:
ReadWriteThink offers a lesson to teach phonemic awareness. The lesson uses chants and matching activities to help students recognize words with the same sound.
This lesson may be too easy for second grade, but it reinforces words that have the same sound.
This website offers many lessons for a SmartBoard. About halfway down the page, there is a lesson for beginning and ending sounds.
Supporting Picture Books:
Kellogg, S. (1992). Aster Aardvark’s alphabet adventures. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
This picture book is a good book to read-aloud. It features sound substitutions at the beginning of words.
Slepian, J. (2001). The hungry thing. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.
This book also features sound substitutions at the beginning of words. It helps students focus on the beginning sounds.
Gowler, R. (2001). Barnyard song. Hartford, CT: Atheneum.
If you want to focus on ending sounds, this book can help. Using it at as a read-aloud will allow you to find words that end the same.
Ahlberg, A. (1999). Monkey do. London: Walker Books Ltd.
This book also features words that end the same.

Final Set B M R S

Taking Play Dough to New Places

Over Christmas Break I stumbled upon TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design). TED brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers and are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less).  I have happily gotten lost in all the videos and ideas that are posted. This one is a hands on demo with play dough and how a pre-k child learned about circuits. I couldn't help but smile about how hands-on and easy this could be for older students who need extra practice with making circuits to help them understand how the concept works plus explain it. Fabulous!

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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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