What I do

I'm always asked what my job looks like. What kinds of students do I work with throughout the day?

As a Resource Teacher in Exceptional Needs means that I have a room (YEAH) where I can do small pull out groups to provide targeted interventions for students. These days, in my district, I don't just provide services for students with learning disabilities but I also have students with autism, physical disabilities, and speech too. It all depends on what kind of support the student needs to be successful and make progress. I have some students I only see in class for 30 minutes and have others that I see closer to 9 hours in a week. Each year my high needs students shift depending on the grade and how much progress the student made the year before.

I work closely with grade level teams to ensure students are generalizing what I teach in small groups back into the classroom. I plan with grade levels as much as possible-it tends to be with the ones where I have the greatest need. This year its my sixth graders. I have my work cut out.  But with the help of those teachers, we can get those students to grow at least a year or more before they go to middle school. I hate to send on students who struggle with reading anything close to grade level. They are scary low. I help teachers focus on making data based decisions--and that hard with a curriculum that's paced out to ensure that all the tested material is covered before state assessments. It's great that we see the kidoos as ALL of our's--it helps when making the hard calls.

Where do all the RTI kids go? The last two days, my life has revolved about all the students who are reading below grade level 1st to 6th. Our school has 2 Title One Reading Teachers and 2 Exceptional Needs teachers. Myself and my counter part broke apart the students with IEPs because they are our number one priority. Once the students are broken into strategic and intensive, we start looking at how best to group them. Then, we go back and look at who is going to take which group. We look at where the great grade level need is first and start figuring out who is going do take which group and for how long. We make decisions based on the data and putting the kids first. Our Title 1 team may service a student on an IEP sometimes and that's okay. And I may have group that's all RTI kids and that's okay. Because it's about what the kids need not what's best for the adults. (Yes, our district says another interventionist can provide IEP services. It just means that we have to talk way more offend and make sure the parents are okay with that.) the RTI kids get their needs met as well. We make changes as we need to--that's what progress monitoring is for. Kids come and they go as they need to. With the make-up of the group changing as long as the kids are making moves.

So, what does my day look like?? Well, I don't know let. I know that I have students who need in class support for math and pull out for math that I must do. I know that I have students that need an hour a day of reading. I guess--I have a very rough draft of what my day looks like. I think I even have a lunch and plan :-)   Will this plan change if I get more students with IEPs--you bet. IEPs get my time first and then RTI.

That's what Resource is in my building. What does it look like in your build? I hope you have had a wonderful week and are planning something fun for the long weekend.


Progress Monitoring or Monitoring Progress

The term 'progress monitoring' has been around since the beginnings of Response to Intervention (RTI) or in my district is Response to Instruction.


Progress monitoring is the documentation where I assess students using CBM's (Curriculum Based Measurements) to show whether or not the intervention I'm using with the student is working. I collect a baseline score, I determine a goal, draw an aimline and collect weekly or bi-weekly data from the Progress Monitoring CBM probes. The graphs I use depend on what the goal is, what the CBM is and where the student's baseline is. (I've shared several.) My district uses DIBELS Next K-3 but I'm not always responsible for the progress monitoring. But I have IEP goals that I do have to monitor. Some places online to check out:  www.easycbm.com, www.RTIGraphs.com, and www.interventioncentral.com for online graphs if your not wanting to make your own.

So what's monitoring progress??? It's a core instructional practice that involves monitoring the academic growth of all students. My school wants to makes sure that ALL students are growing, from the low ones all the way up to the high ones because every child deserves a "years’ worth of growth" no matter where they started. 

At my school we all "take ownership of ALL the kids" on the grade level, there are very few practices that one teacher does without all the teachers on the grade level doing it.  No matter if they have a label and nowhere near making grade level benchmarks. Every student is focused on to ensure that they make that growth. We work at a team.

The research of Robert Marzano, specifically points outs some key best practices, Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback, in “Classroom Instruction ThatWorks: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement”.  When students know what it is they need to do, to improve and grow, the more targeted and accelerated their growth will be.  

Robyn Jackson’s book “Never Work Harder than Your Students” has great ideas that are easy to set up and maintain. (If you've not read it, I would highly recommend it.) The use of common formative assessments created by grade level also help students, teachers and parents know which objectives they are learning and which ones they need to continued practice with.  You know my love of graphs and tables that students can use to graph their pre and post assessment throughout the quarter. 

This make sense because you are always changing your instruction to help the student make that target. The target doesn't move because students know where the target is. I have to help them get to the target. (Learning Targets: Helping the Students Aim for Understanding in Today's Lesson by Connie Moss & Susan Brookhart--is my current read)

Monitoring how students interact with the curriculum is how they will make that years growth. Doesn't is matter what you call it-Progress Monitoring or Monitoring Progress--I'm not so sure. What I do know is that you have to monitoring the students to ensure they are getting it; so that can make those targets.


Data Notebooks

I'm a firm believer that if you make students responsible for their own data, they will challenge themselves they will work harder and smarter than with me just telling what their goal needs to be. Over the last year, I've shared a number of pieces that I put in my students data notebooks to own and keep track of their data.

The piece I want to share today, I believe is the one that helps students be smarter about the goals they set. It's a reflection sheet. Just as teachers need to reflect on their own practices and student data--students need to do the same thing. I'm always asked, "How do you get students to make reasonable goals?" I always tell them "You don't." I guide my students. I tell them where they are and where they need to be be. (On some of the graphs I do put what the grade level goal is.) At first my student make wild goals and don't make it. But even in the failure--I find a success and celebrate. No matter what it is--I find something that we can celebrate. Those failures help them set smarter goals as the year progresses. Before too long the goals students set begin to make more sense but they own it.

Once the end of the four week cycle comes to an end and I've talked to all the students in the group. I hand out the reflection sheet. I tend to work through it as a group. I provide them with ideas about things that they could have done or those things that went well. After they have reflected on what they did. Students then create a new goal. Having them reflect on what they did, gets them to be smarter about what they did the last time. It's also a great way to see what strategies they are using and which ones students need more direct practice with. Does anyone you some kind of student reflection tool?




Beginning of the School Year

This week marked my 6th year teaching Exceptional Needs students in Lakewood. It also means the usually beginning of the school year changes. My team has two big changes this year--1) a new Exceptional Needs Teachers who's joining us from the great Arizona and 2) DIBELS Next.

Well to be fair, everyone in the building is taking on DIBELS Next. So what the big deal, its not that different than DIBELS 6th edition. I like that Initial Sound Fluency is no more. YEAH!!!! This was a pain. Instead its First Sound Fluency which replaces Initial Sound Fluency of early phonemic awareness. The Oral Reading Fluency is closer and consistency at grade level across all passages. Plus the retell means something.  New scoring directions for Nonsense Words. We'll have to see how it all goes Friday, when we have flex testing. I'm looking forward to seeing how students score on this version and if it provides better information to place students in interventions to help them make moves. Anyone use DIBELS Next?? I'd love to here how it helped students.





I hope that the beginning of your school year is awesome!!


Note to Self

This past week, I went back for three days of professional development before students start on Monday. I had my beginning of the year meeting with my instructional coach about last year. We talked about what worked well, things that I wanted to change, and things that I needed to work on for the coming year. She made a point that I also need to do a better job at celebrating the daily achievements that I make as teacher. Its hard when working with exceptional needs students to look at the successes that I make in my instruction each day. I always celebrate my students successes. Like most, I am my own best friend and my own worst enemy. I wanted to share a quote that I stumbled across after our meeting to made me think about the work I need to do this year as I continue to grow as a teacher-leader-learner. Have a beautiful and restful day.





Things I Send Home

I have something short to share as I'm busy getting ready for the first day of school on Monday.

I send home many things throughout the year depending on information I wish to share. I do data folders (Boomerang Folders) for all my students. It doesn't matter if they are general education or have an IEP. I started this last year. I would send home newsletters, weekly data, homework, etc. Most of the pieces go home within the first ten weeks of school--depending on when the SMART goal is completed. Many parents are not familiar with what a SMART if or why they should they should know about them, so I created a 1 pager that I send home with the first round of data.

When I start sending homework, I send parents a "Questions you Can Ask" 1-pager. (As well as bring it to conferences.) It's lists out sample questions that parents can ask before, during, or after reading something. The questions are not reading level specific so they are good for the whole year and easy for parents to use at home.










Technology and Students

If your students are like mine, they are always asking "What's my password?" And then it depends on what system they are trying to log in to. So, then I spend the next 5 minutes finding the right log in. AHGGGG!!

Last year I put them on index cards for all my students and put them on the wall. If you didn't know it, they went there first before raising their hands. One problem with this system is that students have to go through all the cards to find their's. Not that they would know what to do with someone else log-in but getting students to be responsible consumers of technology; they need to know that it's for their eyes only. (I have problems getting them to log out correctly.) I came across this today and love it. No more worrying about wondering eyes and everyone has their own color strip. Even my kindergarten students can find theirs.








                                                              Source: littlelearnersinc.blogspot.com via Charity on Pinterest





Reading Comprehension Freebie and Sale Time


I've been working on creating reading comprehension rubrics that I can use with my students. I like using rubrics because it helps to focus both students and myself. They tell me if I need to go back to reteach something or if students are ready to move on. You'll find one for "Making Connections" below. 

You may have heard but the HUGE back to school sale on Teachers Pay Teachers starts today--Sunday, August 12th and Monday, August 13th.  Everything on TPT will be 10% off using the code BTS12 and a ton of sellers will be offering even more discounts for up to a total 28% off your purchase.  My store will
 be 20% off.






Writing Next Year

Why is teaching writing so hard? I don't remember it being so difficult but that was ages ago. Things have changed so much since I was 12. Back then, things like Common Core, State Standards or State Testing were not on anyone radar.

Did you know on average American students spend less than three hours per week on structured writing activities? Or that it's possible to increase the amount of time students spend writing to 4 hours a week. Until I went to the Every Child a Writer training--I had no clue.

Common Core aligned writing to include post high school needs and increasing students ability to complete expository writing. Most of the writing students do is narrative and the rest of the world wants employees who can write a description or argument. Being an Elementary Special Education teacher, I'm always looking at what students need to be successful after they leave me. Thinking down the road is hard but it helps in planning where students need to go.

I many cases my students don't have IEP goals for writing but they have problems writing more complex pieces once they move beyond a paragraph. Helping them move pass this is difficult. I hoping that by using ECAW in small group with I have them that they can go back to class with a strong knowledge in writing that their classroom teacher can help fine tune their writing--to move them forward.

I have put together the the begins of I Can posters for my students. As my students work through writing this year, I will be adding to them. I hoping that these target will focus students to work on one thing at a time. This way when they go to work on their own writing they a focus on one thing instead of several. Once one is mastered they can focus on anyone.

I'd love to hear how others teach writing. Do you go into class, pull out? Classroom teachers what works for you??  Enjoy a beautiful and restful weekend.

Be sure to stop by my TpT store during the Back to School Sale!!






Things I Give Parents

I send home or give parents lots of things over the year--data, progress reports, and newsletters. I have many parents that ask for about reading levels about what students need to do either to move up or simply give them an idea about where they are in the big picture. The "Parent's Guide to Reading Levels" contains both DRA and Fountas and Pinnell reading levels 1st to 6th grade with a brief list of major themes that have to be mastered. The other form I use to track my students over several years. It's great for IEP meetings because everyone can see the students progress over the years. It is labeled in Fountas and Pinnell. My building uses both-we give the DRA twice a year and our core reading curriculum in labeled in Fountas and Pinnell. I'd love to hear what you share with parents throughout the year. Have a great Wednesday!!

















Writing using ECAW

Last week, I had the pleasure to trained in "Every Child a Writer." Every Child a Writer is a resource by the National Literacy Coalition.  Over the last couple of years, my building has been training teachers to use this resource. I love the fact that it moves students--no matter how they write. I'm so excited to use this next month with my students. Guided writing groups are created using a scored writing sample at the beginning of the year. Students are moved between groups depending on they did on their daily independent writing. Students are writing daily--at least 15 minutes. Writing just like reading, if you don't practice you don't get better.
This will be very cool for my students. It will make teaching small group writing to students.  Everyone using the same language will help use build upon each years knowledge.  They have created ways to progress monitor students, to show parents and use with students. To help focus students, they create a TAPP: Topic, Audience, Purpose, and Plan. It goes on the top of all pieces of writing.  I will share more throughout the year, as students write. I created a poster for TAPP to share and a reading rubric for you. Have a beautiful Monday.





Choosing Vocabulary Words


Selecting Vocabulary Words to Teach

When I plan my lessons, vocabulary becomes a top priority. I know that a student’s maximum reading comprehension is determined by their word knowledge. Their progress through reading levels is determined by their knowledge of words. They need to a strong word base comprehend text. I make sure that when I’m teaching new vocabulary words I want them to know how to define the word, recognize when to use that word, know its multiple meaning (if any), and read/spell the word.

So, with all those words out there, how do you choose?

When I’m planning, I group my words into three tiers.

Tier 1 words

Tier 1 words are words that students typically know. For example, a Tier 1 word might be butterfly. Another Tier 1 word might be march (move like a soldier). A word like march can be easily instructed during text discussion by marching in place. But because this word has multiple meanings, it also merits further instruction. This can be accomplished through oral language activities that follow the text discussion.

Tier 2 words

Tier 2 words are more complex than Tier 1 words. They usually are ones that students need to understand that are all over the core curriculum. Words like area, perimeter, rivers, mountains are important for them know.  These are the words I spend my time on; making sure they know these words.

Tier 3 words

These are low-frequency words that are found mostly in content books in the upper grades or words that students need a brief working knowledge of but don’t need to understand the word at a great depth. I tend to think of these words as nice to know but not critical to students understanding the text a great depth of knowledge; like metric system or time zone. These words I usually tell the group when we are doing our picture walk. Something short and sweet-just enough for them to get the jest and move on. 

I'm always on the hunt for new ways to teach vocabulary. What are your favorite ways to teach students vocabulary? 




Should Guided Reading Go Away?

Mark Barnes posted on his ASCDedge blog this week about guided reading highlighting the top 5 reasons why it should be eliminated. You can check it out here.

Reason 5: Guided reading doesn't teach reading. True, in most of my guided reading groups I'm teaching comprehension strategies or it's a skills group. Whether or not it needs to happen within the structure of guided readings, I'm not so sure what structure you would use. I do agree that students need to be reading "just right" books and not doing worksheets.

Reason 4: It's boring. Well I have to agree. If your doing the same thing day in day out; you would be too. I think this is where Daily 5 comes in to play. Students are working on authentic tasks not worksheets. 

Reason 3: Guided reading holds readers back. I can see when your sending 3 or 4 weeks beating a novel to death a problem. But if your groups are moving through several books a week, their not going to be bored. I think you have to balance the need to work on comprehension and the goal of finishing a classic novel. 

Reason 2: It's all about teacher control. We tell students what they are going to read and don't provide them with choice. I want my students to find a love for reading. It's hard enough getting them to read anything but they have to have choice. I like pulling three books from their guided reading level and say here pick--majority rules. 

Reason 1: It teaches students to hate books. Barnes found that by creating a year-long independent reading project students read more. I'm not sure that using guided reading to teach comprehension strategies means than students will hate reading. But I do know that if I had to spend several weeks, reading a boring novel, and pulling everything last this out of it--I would hate it. 

There is no easy way to make sure students learn to love reading. Is not using the structure of guided reading the way to teach reading? Barnes has pointed out that when we don't push students when their are in small group reading, give them choice over what they are reading,  how they will prove what they know, they will not find a love for reading. I don't know. What are your thoughts? Hey, be one of the first four visitors of leave me a comment and I'll share with you my new High Speed Addition: Sports. Oh-make sure you me your email. 


About Me

Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I'm Ms. Whiteley. I teach in the beautiful Mile High state--Colorado. This is my 13th year teaching in an rural K-6 Elementary school as a Exceptional Needs Teachers. As Exceptional Needs National Board Certified Teacher, I believe that ALL students can learn and be successful. When I'm not in school, I love to take my two Italian Greyhounds hiking 14ers and reaching for the stars. Thanks for Hopping By.
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