Vocabulary is tough to teach; let alone to student with exceptional needs. It doesn't seem to matter how many times I go over the term or have them tell it to me. They never seem to get to a place of mastery with it. Using Thinking Maps has been a tremendous help to them this year--they are USING them. OMG!!! This has never happened before. As I'm reviewing at the beginning of a lesson and ask "What's the formula for perimeter?" and someone might start guessing, while someone will get up and walk over to where the map is and come back with a  hand up. For my guessing students, I tell them to go check the resource as I wait for the student. They come back and tell me the answer. But these can't stay up for state testing. I've been racking my brain to find ways to get students to remember terms. I've been using iPads for retelling and storytelling--what about to reinforce vocabulary. I began to think of ways to bring in technology to work on vocab but not take more than one 30 minute lesson period to do it. I think I've figured it out but I'm still playing.

So began this idea of finding ways to bring in apps and websites, so students can create definitions for  vocabulary. My goal is to have students work weekly on expanding their vocabulary with various tools. (And not taking forever.) My hope is that they will begin to rely less on the Thinking Maps and begin to demonstrate mastery for the term they need to know. As they create examples I will share them. I have a one to get to the ideas flowing. You'll find a List.ly for some apps and websites, to support our vocabulary work. Have a great week!!

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iVocabulary Apps
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Math and Common Core

Math has been challenging for me this year. I go into one class and pull out two other groups to teach/reteach math. Last year the comment that I got from evaluations was, "How is what you're doing helping students access core in a timely manner?"  Meaning, stop spending all your time filling in the holes and do it as your helping students understand core. Well-easier said than done.  But I had a light bulb moment early in the week, when I was talking with my coach about my math instruction.

I have to say it has been easier to do than I thought. My district has done most of the work for teachers. They have broken down each unit using Understand By Design: Backwards Planning. I can then take the unit and figure out what skills students must have to make through the unit and that is where I put my time when I'm working in small groups. I must admit this thinking gives me the time that I need to reteach skills that students should have mastered years ago. Using the Gradual Release framework, I have been able to at least help student's do better in math if not out-right master the content being taught. 

My building coach, has also been pushing back on my thinking to increase the rigor of my instruction by helping to redesign my learning targets to increase students depth of knowledge. I usually start my targets with an essential question--it tells them what I want them to walk away with at the end of lesson. In many cases for the last few weeks they have started with "Can I." She asked my if I thought my question got at the depth I was wanting and if it matched my lesson. The day she visited, students had to create two different graphs and find the measures of center, so they could interpret the graph but the posted essential question was Can I create the graphs. See the disconnect.

As we talked, she showed me a Common Core Resource that was a summary of math standards and questions I could use to develop math thinking. Between this resource and spending time making sure that lesson matches with the depth I'm wanting, should help me increase my rigor and help students get more out of what I teaching. I have shared this resource below. How do you increase and maintain the rigor for your students with exceptional needs?

Tis that Time of Year

This year parent/teacher conferences and State testing hit at the same time. Talk about crazy times!! This is also where the exceptional needs teams gets slammed with referrals. In Colorado, Dyslexia falls under a Learning Disability where I have 8 different categories  (Basic Reading Skills, Reading Fluency, Reading Comprehension,Written Expression, Calculation, Problem Solving, Oral Expression and Listening.Comprehension) to work with. I came across this information from the The International Dyslexia Association Ontario Branch, which highlights things that both teachers and parents can look for:

Reading Difficulties
  • Learning sounds of letters
  • Separating words into sounds
  • Slow and inaccurate reading
  • Poor reading comprehension
  • Oral Language Difficulties
  • Delayed spoken language
  • Misinterpretation of language that is heard
  • Lack of awareness of different sounds in words and rhymes
  • Organizing thoughts
Writing Difficulties
  • Organization of ideas
  • Poor spelling
  • Poor letter formation and spatial organization
Mathematics Difficulties
  • Memorizing math facts
  • Correct sequencing of steps when solving problems
  • Transposing digits within numbers
For me determining if a student has a learning disability is much more difficult than looking for these things but also looking at how the student is doing in a targeted intervention and how they look compared to their grade level peers. This is the time of year where many conversations take place as to whether to refer or not. In my mind its better to refer when in doubt than to not. Even if student does not have a disability that information can be used to create stronger programming. Have a great weekend.

Special Needs Sunday

Last month, one of the second grade teachers in my building came to me and asked how she could use technology (be it a laptop or iPad) to help her with her new student. Her new student just happened to be transfer student with autism. (This year I'm not working with second grade but we collaborate all the time together.) She had seen some of the things I was having students do with iPads and wanted to explore ideas to support him during Daily 5 when he had to be independent.

I create directions for many of the tasks I want students to do with the iPads--more so when I want them to do independently. This is the first time I have created them for an individual student to use. This is a grand test and the first time where a classroom teacher has approached me about how to integrate technology to help students.

She had found Sentence Marker and wanted him to use it after he finished his phonics/word work. I created directions for her to add to his binder, so he could use the app independently while she was teaching. She said he LOVE spending time on anything tech; I suggested that his directions should include a timer that he can set himself. The timer is new.  It will be interesting to see how this works on Monday. But its been a very successful so far. I can't wait to see how this works. Has anyone tried something similar, what success did you have? Have a great week.

Bloomin' Creating Apps

Bloomin' Apps has made it's way to creating. All with free apps. The fun my students had creating this examples was unbelievable. They can't wait to do it again. Students had to read and reflect before they could come anywhere near an iPad. The video was done using Gina the Giraffe, Talking Tom, and Roby the Robot. I've talked before about how the students created their scripts and then went to town. Word Mover is like magnetic poetry but free. The students used this app for their response. After reading about Extreme Weather, they have to create a poem using word association. Have a great weekend!

Progress Monitoring with GRR

I have spoke at length about how I use Gradual Release throughout my teaching. Last month, I began using the Gradual Release Student Rubric for my students to self-assess after each lesson. This past week I started  asking them to tell me why they are that number. I tell students right after reviewing learning target then I will ask them to tell me where they are on the rubric for "Collaborate" ate the end of the lesson and why. I use it for all four parts of the lesson, so it doesn't matter if Monday's is an "I do" or "Independent" wok on Tuesday. They have to tell me and why.

You would not believe how they have risen to the challenge. They can clearly articulate how their behavior was and what they need help with. This is HUGE--having students who can clearly state what they need is tied to my districts teacher evaluation rubrics.

I have created a track form that helps me with differentiation. It's a simple--using the essential question as the base I then add the students feedback and note what I need to do for the next lesson for the student to move  up on the rubric. (This move covers two other items from our teacher rubrics.)

How do you track student self-assessments? Have a great week!

Throwing a Sale!!!

This week has been crazy. I throw together an Oral Spelling Bee for our Area Spelling Bee next week. Its always fun but you have to love it when communication falls apart. (This was to happen back in December, so the students could practice.) The students had a great time this afternoon. Even at the end of my crazy week, I had fun.

Everyone love a good sale. I'm joining other at Teachers pay Teachers Super Bowl Sunday for a Flash Sale this Sunday and Monday. Everything in my store will be on SALE!!!

I also have a math freebie for you. It can be used at any time in the year but it provides a great review as my students have to get ready for state testing. I've been working on a new set of word problems for multiplication. I'll share a sample when here soon.

M & M Math

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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