Practical Tips for Families with IEPs

I'm always on the hunt for anything that I can give parents to help them through the IEP process. Being in the Elementary grades, we are often the first ones to guide them through the process and should feel empowered not intimidated by the process.

                                                                           Source: via Sheryl on Pinterest

  Source: via Lynn on Pinterest

Math Warm-Up as a Formative Assessment

Math for many of my students is like going to the dentist. They either love it or hate it. Sometimes it depends on the teacher and how much time they spend teaching the skill vs having time to just practice it. Many times students with disabilities need lots to time to practice the new skill and then they need to see it over and over again. I don't know about you-but mine are really good about knowing it at school and when they get home well:)  I like using a warm-up as a formative assessment and create small groups for remediation.

A couple of things that help: 1) if there is more than one way to solve it, teach it to them so they can find the one that works for them. It may not be efficient but if it gives the correct answer then why argue. I had one student who could use a more efficient strategy to answer multi-digit multiplication problems but never got the right answer. In collaborating with his math teacher and him, we decided that we wanted him to use a strategy that got him the right answer every time.

2) Provide review each and every day. I collect them a couple times a week or daily and look at them. Why?? I'm looking for specific things. I'm looking for errors. I want to know if its a basic fact error, a component skill error, or a strategy error. 

Basic facts: are the one hundred addition and multiplication  facts formed by adding or multiply any two single-digit numbers and their subtraction and division products. 

Component Skill Error: are the previously taught skills that are integrated steps in a problem solve  strategy. In lower grades its usually involves a counting or symbol identification error. In upper elementary, a much wider range of component errors. An example is this fraction problem: the student knew to convert both fractions to a common denominator but did not know the component skill of rewriting a fraction as an equivalent fraction. 



Strategy error occurs when the student demonstrates that he does not know the the sequence of steps needed to solve the problem. An example the student subtracts the denominator from the numerator when asked to convert an improper fraction to a mixed number.

Once I know what kind of error the students are making I can design my small groups for remediation. If a student misses problems because of basic facts errors, I work to figure out which facts specific facts they need to work on and provide practice on both accuracy and speed. 

Component errors are usually because they were not attending. I will reteach the skill that they are missing. For strategy errors, I create a high structured lesson and reteach the skill step by step. I ensure mastery at each step along the way. 

Making 10 Goldfish Math

Truth or Dare Week 3

This week's prompts are:
Truth: If you had 24 hours left to live, how would you spend it?
Dare: Post a photo or video of your bedroom as is. Tell us about what we see.

Since I'm in the process of moving & am currently staying at my parent's house, I don't really have my own 'room' at the moment. Therfore, that leaves me no other choice...

I'm going with Truth...

If I had 24 hours left, I would spend them with my closest friends and family. Where is more difficult. Having been some many places in the US and have some wonderful memories of. I think it would have to be on a beach with tide pools; hunting and holding. I have so many memories of spending summer vacations as I was growing up crawling through tide pools.

Prompts for next week are:
Truth: If you could be one celebrity simply based on their fashion sense, who would you be & why? 
Dare: Post a photo or video of your closet. Tell us what you like & what you would want in your dream closet. 

Parent's First IEP Meeting

For those of us in elementary education, we are offend the first to tell parents that their child needs extra help. Getting to that meeting sometimes is a great relieve and sometimes its not. I think that it depends on how the parents feel about the whole process along the way. RTI demands us to keep parents in the loop about student progress the whole way through. By the time you start thinking, the child needs an IEP (Individual Education Plan)  it shouldn't be a surprise.

When the student is part of the RTI process, you have the time to share with the parents and classroom teacher how the student is responding to the intervention(s). Its during these meetings that you can have the tough conversations about process/lack there of and what will happen next. Having open lines of communication is key. In Colorado, this information becomes the backbone of our IEP reports and evidence reports for giving a learning disability label. Its important to document the parents voice throughout the process and listening to them. This is a chance to educate them on what special education is and isn't. By the time you get to that conversation about looking at special education it should be a no brainer. Parents questions and concerns should have been answered about what they can expect prior to the first IEP meeting. I have created a parent checklist that can be given to parents when you send home an IEP prior to a meeting or have it for them at a meeting. You will find below a checklist that my team used last year as a checklist for ourselves. I'm planning on using it with my parents this year.

Click on the picture to grab your copy.  Have a beautiful Sunday and smile. Hug your family members a little more and tell them you love them.

Text Complexity

I have DRA, Fountas & Pinnell, and Lexile scores, they all tell me how hard a text is. I start the a book level and then think about my readers. I think about what skills they need to have to read the book I selected with as little support from me as possible. Common Core is all about text complexity. Common core asks students to gain a deeper understanding of text. They need to be able to answer a variety of questions both literal and inferential.  Even Kindergarten students can answer higher order thinking questions. 

Laura Varlas points out in this weeks, Education Update from ASCD, that increasing the complexity of text creates two challenges for teachers: figuring out that the assigned texts are appropriately complex, and helping students handle more difficult reading.

Grant Wiggins, (Understanding by Design), points out "staying true to the demands of standards, without over scaffolding, and in heterogeneous classroom where teachers may have students reading three levels below proficiency." He continues to point out that interventions will need to focus on vocabulary and complicated sentences. This information reminds me of Lori Jamison Rog's, comment on struggling readers in her book "Guiding Readers," that 90% of struggling readers need to work on comprehension strategies. And to trust your assessments and use them to guide your instruction.

How do you increase the complexity of text without over scaffolding? You have to differentiate your instruction.

Differentiation Non-Negotiables
We must
  • Know you content and it should be taught.
  • Respect and respond to ALL learners.
  • Know your instructional strategies and how to use them.
  • Use multiple sources of data to inform decisions.
  • Differentiation is not a set of strategies but a way of thinking about the teaching.
  • Differentiate how students will access core and master core.

Actions to Take
  • Design learning based on task analysis that includes an analysis on what student need to access the instruction plus look at students readiness, background knowledge they bring.
  • Provide sources of information at various reading levels to match the needs of learners.
  • Know where students are going to the need support to access the content.
  • Let students know how they will be graded prior to the beginning of the instruction.
  • Use flexible grouping; this will allow students to work and learn with a variety of classmates. 
  • Gives students both choice and responsibility around learning.
  • Collaborate with colleagues and parents.
  • Ask yourself:
    • What will I do if some students don't learn?
    • What will I do if some students already know what I want them them to learn?
Differentiation is how everyone gets core. Differentiation is how students will access complex text with a deeper level of understanding. I'd love to hear how you differentiate; to support students access to complex texts.

Friday's freebie is "Little Book of Colors" click on the picture to get it. Have a great weekend!

Little Book of Colors

Guilty Pleasure Linky Party

Blog Title

This week has been filled with blog hopping. I love finding new ideas

My guilty pleasures hmmm....
1) I need my SyFy. Weekly is best but I'm all for a weekend marathon of Eureka or Sanctuary. I'm sad now since both series have finished their runs and need to find something else to get my weekly fix.

2) Starbucks. Need I say more. My once a week treat iced latte in the summer and hot when it gets cold. Usually on Fridays but for really long weeks--maybe more ;)

3) I need help. I can't be left alone to shop on Amazon. It starts with one book and within minutes it becomes four or five.  I love, love books. I buy books for my classroom library all the time. I buy books for students to take and read. Does anyone have a 12 step??
4) Shark Week. This year its 25 years old. For one week each year, I get all the shark you can handle and more. Misunderstood but beautiful.

I love blog hopping. Be sure to check out the others linking up. Click on the top picture to hop that way.

Truth or Dare #2

Out blog hopping this morning and stumbled on to An Organized Mess. She hosts a weekly Truth or Dare Linking Party. I'm linking up with Shades of Gray and a Pinch of PinkKiss, Laugh and Dream, and Special Teaching in the Middle for Truth or Dare.  

The Rules:

1. Follow your hosts via GFC or RSS: An Organized MessShades of Gray & A Pinch of Pink, & Kiss Laugh & Dream
2. Choose truth, dare, OR if you're feeling frisky - do BOTH!
3. Be sure to visit a few other blogs & leave feedback on their blogs.
4. Have FUN & Be YOURSELF!

This week's prompts:
Truth: Have you ever stolen anything? If so, what?
Dare: Post a photo of yourself taken first thing in the morning right after waking up. 

Being the chicken that I am -- I suppose I'll choose...
Dare: Here is a photo of what I typically look like in the mornings
 (other than the smile) after my morning run. 

Now looking for the coffee. Have a beautiful Tuesday.

RTI: Part 2

Part 2 of RTI Q and A:

1) What is student progress monitoring?
Progress monitoring is defined as repeated measurement of performance to inform the instruction of individual students in general and special education. The amount of progress monitoring depends on where the student is in the pyramid. A student our is only needing core instruction-benchmarks assessments are all you need to do. Like DIBELS where you give beginning, middle and end of the year screening. Students in Tier 2 it's suggested that they are progress monitored bi-monthly.

Tier 3 students weekly or bi-weekly. It should be noted that progress monitoring Tier 3 weekly allows you to make changes more quickly and move these students through the referral process in a timely fashion. Depending on the skill, I'm working on, I do daily collection with things like letter identification, letter sounds, or number identification.

I'm a huge fan of having my students do their own graphing of their progress. It keeps them motivated and moving towards goals. I also send on these graphs home weekly. This is one way to keep parents in the loop on student progress. Parent involvement in the RTI process is huge and in Colorado required by the time a student is staffed for a learning disability. Part of our paperwork is to document what we did to keep parents informed through the whole process.

2) What are culturally and linguistically responsive practices?
The use of culturally and linguistically responsive practices by teachers involves purposeful considerations of the cultural, linguistic, and socio-economic factors that my have an impact on students' success or failure in the classroom. Attention to these factors, along with inclusion of cultural elements in the delivery of instruction, will help make the strongest possible connection between the culture and expectations of the school and the culture(s) that students bring to the school. Instruction should be differentiated according to how students learn, build on existing student knowledge and experience, and be language appropriate. In addition, decisions about Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions should be aware of students' cultural and linguistic strengths and challenges in how they respond to instruction.

In Colorado, (and I'm sure with others) this means making sure core instruction in the classroom uses those research based strategies. That doesn't mean teachers providing interventions should tune in to those strategies. This is were my team tends to get hung up in the referral process. We have to prove that students are receiving those strategies in core and not making progress-when compared to others ELL students in the grade. This is where progress monitoring is a huge help.

Sites to check out:

Remember Sale ends 7/15

Award Time and Something Fun

Fun in First
I was awarded the Versatile Blogger Award while on vacation at Monterey Bay, California. (One of my favorite places in the world.) Award first, then something fun.

I am totally flattered by Dana who awarded me this award!  It made my day! Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my little blog. I was awarded Versatile Blogger Award from Dana at Fun in 1st grade. 

Here are the seven rules to follow when receiving this award:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.  
2. Include a link to their blog.   check!

3. Include the award image in your post.  check!
4. Give 7 random facts about yourself.   

5. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award.  check!
6. When nominating, include a link to their blog.   
7. Let other bloggers know they've been nominated.  

Seven random facts about me-
-I grew up in California (love Monterey Bay).
-While in high school, I was an exchange student to Australia.
-While in college, I taught preschool.
-My younger sister is an Aerospace Engineer.
-I have complete 3 half marathons.
 -I’m the only red head in my family.
-I just finished my endorsement in early childhood special education.

And the Award goes too:

Last weekend I was playing at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I love this place for all the things they let you touch. They are such a family, learner friendly place, so worth the drive. Two of my favorite exhibits were the jellyfish and sea horses. Below is a video that I made to share. You will also find a freebie, inspired by jellyfish. Have a wonderful weekend.

Oh, by the way there's a sale on at my store. Stop by and check it out this weekend.

Guiding Readers Chapter 7

I love this book. I have many guided reading books in my library but no of them lay out what you should do for readers quite like this one. Chapter seven focuses on those struggling reading in the upper grades. We all have at least one each year, a 5th or 6th grade students reading well below grade level.  These guys are part of the RTI system regardless of their special education status. For me they get their guided reading from me--as a have a group that low. 

What stuck out to me, was Rog's comments on boy readers. When I reflect back on the upper elementary groups from the last couple of years, they are made up of mostly boys who state that they hate reading. They were as mostly not staffed and would not qualify for special education. Rog states, "that only 10% of struggling adolescent readers need work on decoding." They can decode but have no comprehension skills.  

In my building, we have pounded decoding in our students K-3 but have not focused on comprehension. We all struggle with the older kids how just have no clue what they are reading. This last year, teachers were giving The Comprehension Toolkit. (If you don't have it, it's so worth the price.) I have used it the last couple of years with my older students and this year with kindergartens. 

She also points out that choosing text is also something that needs to be at the forefront of our planning for struggling readers. That no more than 5% challenging words and concepts should be present. Easier said than done. I have used my computers readability to get an idea of how easy or hard a text is. I have found using the guided reading level doesn't always help--it gives you a range and it could an easy R/40 or a hard R/40. What makes it harder is finding text that boys want to read. Another place, I like using is Intervention Central's, Oral Reading Fluency Passage Generator. I type in the passage I'm using and it spits out readability and I get my running record at the same time. Yeah!!!

This spring I spent close to 6 weeks, reading about Titanic using the Comprehension Toolkit. A boy a requested for it because of the anniversary. By the time we were done, I had taught three strategies and made one girl so sick of reading about the Titanic. Well, I was done with it too. The three boys loved those six weeks.  I think that if I had used a novel, it would not have been as much fun and no one would have been engaged with anything. I like the acrostic that Paul Kropp has for what you need to keep in mind when looking for books for boys. You'll find a poster below. How to you engage boys in wanting to read?

In all my guided reading groups I work in student choice. No always six weeks of it but live is always better when I do. I have found boys prefer nonfiction over narrative.  I never try to water down text or books for my students. I plan my scaffolding around my readers and make sure that they have enough background knowledge to read the text successfully. I'm a firm believer that the book you choose needs to match the readers needs; both decoding and comprehension load. I use my assessments to guide the direction they need to move in.

BEAR Poster

What's mastery?

In the world of Common Core, we have to shift our thinking to mastery and what it looks like as we move through core. Everyone has there own definition of mastery. Which makes it hard to figure out how mastery is defined.

Determining what's acceptable evidence of mastery is key.  It's not enough to simply identify what knowledge and skills are essential. You have to determine what evidence will show that students have  mastered the essential knowledge and skills.  If not, how will you know if they have mastered the information???

Robyn Jackson (Never Work Harder than Your Students), points out that to figure out what mastery is to ask two questions:
1) What will students be able to do? 
Meaning you have to look at your core curriculum and determine what is the essential content and  processes that students need to know. 

2) What criteria you judge this demonstration of mastery?

Example might be: students correctly multiply fractions 80% of the time; correctly identify 45 of the 50 states; or correctly answer 75% of the reading questions on a novel.

There is no answer to this question. A lot of this boils down to your end of the year testing. It also depends on your stated learning goals.  Once you have determined the criteria for mastery, you can determine what summative assessment will best reveal this mastery.

The key elements in mastery learning are:
  • Clearly specifying what is to be learned and how it will evaluated
  • Allowing students to learn at their own pace
  • Assessing student progress and providing appropriate feedback or remediation
  • Testing that final learning criterion has been achieved
In fact, the end of the unit or summative assessment should be planned first. That's right before you even plan your lessons. If you use Backwards Planning, you know that it's the easy way to make sure students will master your objectives. The summative assessment should only test the need to know things that you have to cover. I give mine as a pre and post test. It helps me know if they have mastered the material. On last note, all students are held to the same standards. Differentiation is not about having different standards for different students. One set of standards and the how you present, teach, and support your students is differentiated. How do you define mastery?

RTI 101: Frequently Asked Questions (Part 1)

With the new school year right around the corner (4 weeks and counting-where did the summer go), I have had several people ask me some questions about Response to Intervention. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll try to answer those questions the best that I can.

1) What is at the purpose of RTI?
The purpose of RTI is to provide ALL students with the best opportunities to succeed in school, identify students with learning  or behavioral problems, and ensure that they receive appropriate instruction and related supports. The goals of RTI are to:
  • Integrate all resources to minimize risk for the long-term negative consequences associated with poor learning or behavioral outcomes.
  • Strength the process of appropriate disability identification
2) What impact does RTI have on students who are not struggling?
An important part of an effective RTI framework is the quality of the primary prevention level (core curriculum). ALL students most receive a rigorousness core curriculum that is culturally and linguistically responsive and aligned to state's standards. This allows teachers and parents to be confident that a student's need for more intensive intervention or referral for special education evaluation is not due to ineffective classroom instruction. In a well designed RTI system, a solid core is considered effective and sufficient for about 80% of the student population.  

3) What is universal screening?
Universal screening is defined as a brief assessments that are valid, reliable, and demonstrate diagnostic accuracy for predicting which students will develop learning or behavioral problems. Universal screening is for ALL students. Think DIBELS-you give it to everyone three times a year. Universal screenings tell you which students who have got it and those that need more intensive help.

For more information check out two of my favorite go to RTI sites:

 How is RTI is set up in your school? We have been working hard to increase our rigor in core. It's paying off we're seeing fewer students in Tier 2.  The form below is one that has helped to ensure that no one falls through the cracks. Have questions about RTI ask them.

Student Progress and Request for Assistance

Award and Freebie

I can across this quote over the weekend and it seemed like my life the last couple of weeks with everything going on in Colorado.

Last week, Storie from Stories by Storie blessed Toad-ally Exceptional Learners with an award. I have been blogging for almost a year.  I have learned so many great ideas from so many of you. 

When I visited her site, I also found out there are some "rules" for this award. 

1.  Follow the person who gave you the award.
2.  Link back to the person who gave you the award.
3.  Pass the award on to 15 new bloggers.

So, here's my attempt at 15 blogs, in no particular order.  Oh, I know some of you are counting to see if I really chose 15.  I confess...I didn't.  If you aren't following one of these sites already, I encourage you to stop by and take a peek. In no particular order:

I've been working on making word study games, that I can use with either Wilson, Just Words or to send home for students to play for extra practice. Click on the picture and it will take you to my store. You can find others that I have made.

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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