Response to Instruction

 It's that time of year, when the kid talks and problem solving teams start getting together. This year, my team started last month. It was not as bad as I imagined--it always helps when teachers come to these meetings ready to talk and with current, relevant data in hand. This is a challenge when in between benchmarks.  My team gets together for kid talks (the first step) every four weeks with follow up every six.

This is where the team helps the classroom teacher, create a SMART goal that they will monitor until the follow up. How did we get to this place? Well, it was lots and lots of clean up last year and building capacity with data collection. The team spent last year tackling the students who never seemed to leave RTI--either they went through the special education or made progress to be on par with their classmates and were sent back to tier 1. 

One thing that the team and our building has embraced is collecting the data and doing something with it. As teachers we are swimming in data and many time it either sits and gathers dust or it's used to drive instruction. Using it is what makes students grow--no mater where they start. For example I have a students no has many bad habits including talking when not their turn or off topic, not attending to the task at hand or the details. She wears you down to where you can no longer keep up and give in. Over the last three years she has grown little but using the data showed that she had been getting the intervention. This year, I focused the intervention to comprehension and decoding strategies. In the six weeks, she has started to attend to the details while she reads. She rereads and reads for meaning. (HEY) These are firsts.

The success that she has had has drive conversations with her teacher and our ELL Resource teacher.  We have aligned our instruction to focus on a couple of targets and not worrying about everything she needs to do. And yes it's a very long list as a fifth grader. I have hope that these early successes will drive her to herself and take a more active role beyond self monitoring. Without data, I would be doing the same tier three that she'd been for the last two years.

I created a document that has helped me keep track of the goals and data for students no matter what tier they are in. I hope you find it useful--I know my student look forward to weekly progress monitoring and seeing their growth. Have a great week.

Language Disorder Accommodations

This year, I have a couple of students who have significant Expressive Language Disorders. In their case language skills almost 4 years behind their chronological ago. This makes it tough as these guys have begun to move into the intermediate grade. This is a list of things that I have share with classroom teachers so that they can keep in mind as they plan and incorporate into your classroom in a meaningful way.

Expressive language refers to the use of spoken language. A student with an expressive language disorder is unable to communicate thoughts, needs or wants at the same level or with the same complexity as his or her same-aged peers. Students with an expressive language disorder may understand most language but are unable to use this language in sentences. Difficulties with the pronunciation of words may or may not be present. Expressive language disorders are a broad category and often overlap with other disabilities or conditions.

These guys have difficulties with word-finding difficulties, limited vocabulary, overuse of non-specific words like “thing” or “stuff,” over reliance on stock phrases, and difficulty “coming to the point” of what they are trying to say.


1. Modeling
When asked a question, a student with expressive language disorder may provide you with an incomplete sentence. If you were to ask what they saw at the zoo, the student may respond with "tiger." The best thing to do is to model back a full and correct sentence, such as "I saw a tiger." You do not have to have the students repeat the sentence; just hearing the words in the correct order will help.

2. Choices
When you are asking students with expressive language disorder questions, instead of asking them to form their own sentences, give them choices. Following our zoo example, instead of asking "what did you see at the zoo?" you might ask the student "did you see the lions or the tigers when you were at the zoo?" This takes the stress off of the student to make up their own sentence from scratch.

3. Visuals
Place visuals around your classroom to help remind students of words that they could use. Students with expressive language disorder have difficulties remembering words, so seeing them posted may help.

4. Slow down
This is for you and the student. When you are speaking, slow down and model good speech for the student. When the student is speaking, remind them to slow down and make sure that their sentences are complete. This should increase the students self monitoring skills.

5. Time
Let the student know if you are planning on calling on them. This will give them time to think of a response. When the student is talking, allow them the time that they need.

6. Accommodations
Students with expressive language disorder may require different accommodations. If your student is more comfortable with writing their assignments, or with verbalizing the answers, you should allow them to do this. Try things like word prediction software.

Implications for Instruction
  • Repeat back what the student has said, modelling the correct pronunciation, word form or sentence structure. It is unnecessary to ask the student to repeat the correct form after you; what is important is that the student hears the correct form.
  • Provide the student with choices of correct grammar, sentence structure or word choice to help them process the correct form or word to use. For example: “Is it a giraffe or an elephant?”, “If it’s a boy, is it he or she?”
  • Be patient when the student is speaking; not rushing a student who has expressive language difficulties will reduce frustration levels.
  • Use visuals to support expressive language skills. Pictures or written cues can be used to prompt the student to use a longer utterance or initiate a phrase within a specific situation or activity.
  • Help build the student’s vocabulary by creating opportunities for focusing on language processing skills, such as sorting and grouping, similarities and differences.
  • Help students connect new words and information to pre-existing knowledge.
  • Use visuals, symbols or photos to help students organize and communicate their thoughts.
  • To facilitate students’ speech intelligibility and expressive language skills, encourage them to slow down while speaking and face their communication partner.
  • Provide descriptive feedback for students when the message is not understood. For example: “You were talking too fast, I didn’t understand where you said you were going after school.” This will also improve the students self-monitoring skills.
Implications for Planning and Awareness
  • Meet with the student and parents early in the school year to discuss how the school can support the student’s needs. This could include finding out about: the student’s strengths, interests and areas of need successful communication strategies used at home or in the community that could also be used at school.
  • Learn as much as you can about how expressive language affects learning and social and emotional well-being. Reading, asking questions and talking to a qualified speech-language pathologist will build your understanding and help you make decisions on how to support the student’s success in the classroom.
  • Review any specialized assessments available, including the most recent speech-language report and the recommendations listed.
  • Collaborate with the school and/or jurisdictional team to identify and coordinate any needed consultation, supports such as speech therapy, or augmentative communication and assessments.

Unfortunately students with expressive language disorder may only experience social problems because of they cannot effectively communicate their ideas and feelings. Here are some strategies you can use as a to help students with expressive language disorder.

1. Conversations
Students with expressive language disorder may need to be reminded to participate appropriately in conversations. Things like greeting people, answering and asking questions, starting or maintaining a conversation are all things that you may work on with your student.

2. Skills
There are certain communication skills that we may take for granted that a student with expressive language disorder may struggle with. Teaching these students to do things like read body language is important. Role playing can be used, or story telling.

Implications for Social and Emotional Well-being
  • Engage the student and parents in planning for transitions between grade levels, different schools and out of school.
  • The student may have difficulty with social and conversational skills. Teach the language to use in specific social communication situations, such as:
    • greeting people and starting a conversation
    • asking and answering questions
    • asking for help or clarification.
  • Explicitly teach social communication skills, such as how to read body language and expressions. Use direct instruction along with modelling, storytelling and role-play.
  • Provide support in transitioning from one activity or place to another. Cues, routines and purposeful activity during transitions may be helpful so that the student clearly understands what to do.
As a teacher who has had student graduate from Lakewood High School, I have to share their wonderful Lip Dub they created this year. Way to go Tigers!! There Roar will put a smile on your face. Have a great week

Lakewood High School Lip Dub 2013 - Roar from Lakewood High School on Vimeo.

A Timer and a Freebie

The last month or so I've had a wonderful time reviewing a produce from SmileMakers. I use timers for everything. I have a stash. Everyone laughs because I often have two or three timers out for groups-one for me for the group time; one for a specific task that they do daily like sounds and letters; and a third should a student need a minute or two. This year I have several students who need visual support to manage time. I reviewed the Time Tracker
Visual Timer & Clock.

I loved:
  • 3 colored lights and 6 sound effects that alert children to time remaining
  • Helps students learn to manage time 
  •  Viewing and a large, easy-to-read LCD display
  • Time break down: 80%, 15%, and 5%
Some challenges the timer has:
  • Poor directions; not easy to change times
  • The main drawback is that the controls are awkward
  • Engineering is horrible
  • No AC Adapter and to use 4 AA batteries
There is both a manual and an automatic mode, but they are both pretty similar. "Manual" means you set the amount of time for each phase, along with the optional sounds. "Automatic" means you set the total time, and the percentage of the total for each phase. Once you have a standard one set, you can reuse it but if you need to change it you have to do some button-pushing.

My students love when I use the timer. It has helped students manage their time for projects and settle my students with autism. With the programming challenges, I would only this product if you always want to use the same time span. I say this because you can set a default time which is relatively easy to reuse. Once set, I added voice warnings to tell students when the colors had changed. This is probably my favorite feature of the timer. When I'm working with students, I'm not always in sight of the timer and can hear it and check in with students from wherever I happen to be in the room. I love that SmileMakers has a program designed with a teachers budget in mind.

I love that SmileMakers offers Teacher Perks, added savings, just for teachers. Teachers will receive free shipping with any order of $49 or more or $4.99 flat rate shipping with any order of $48.99 or less. Teachers will also get special private sales & free gift offers. You don't even have to bother with a coupon code: if they're teachers, they will qualify for the free shipping offer!

It's been a while since I've had a freebie. This one is two closed syllable real and nonsense words and fluency work. These cards can be used for Wilson, Just Words, or small group syllable practice.

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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