RTI-Springing into Your Progress Monitoring

It’s the time of year, where those last minute special education referrals come in. I know for my team we have to have most of our paperwork in by the beginning of May because we are changing IEP systems for next year. Most of the questions I field these days are do we or don’t we. So I thought that this would be a good reminder for all who are on the fence about a kidoo.  Most of the time it boils down to adequate progress but what does that look like.

It looks different for each kid. I look at the progress monitoring data and the classroom data. I ask myself, “What does one expect for a typical student and can they do that?” For example take MAPS testing-we don’t really use it for anything but I do like the act that all students take it and I can get the average class score, the average gap, the student’s gap and compare numbers. I do the same with iReady. We don’t use much in the way of progress monitoring like DIBELs or AIMSweb.

Elements of Effective Progress-Monitoring Measures

To be effective, progress-monitoring measures must be available in alternate forms, comparable in difficulty and conceptualization, and representative of the performance desired at the end of the year. Measures that vary in difficulty and conceptualization over time could possibly produce inconsistent results that may be difficult to quantify and interpret. Likewise, using the same measure for each administration may produce a testing effect, wherein performance on a subsequent administration is influenced by student familiarity with the content.

By using measures that have alternate forms and are comparable in difficulty and conceptualization, a teacher can use slope (e.g., academic performance across time) to quantify rate of learning. Slope can also be used to measure a student’s response to a specific instructional program, signaling a need for program adjustment when responsiveness is inadequate. Excel spreadsheets are great to add trend lines and other data points to create a plug and play graph.
Effective progress-monitoring measures should also be short and easily administered by a classroom teacher or special education teacher.

Common Progress-Monitoring Measures

Progress can be monitored by a variety of methods. From a norm-referenced standpoint, it is possible to use widely available assessments such as the Test of Word Reading Efficiency (TOWRE; Torgesen et al., 1999) or the Woodcock-Johnson Achievement Battery (Woodcock, McGrew, & Mather, 2001). With such tests, alternate forms are available to demonstrate student improvement over time, but usually there is at least three months between administrations (Fletcher et al., 2007). Other measures, such as the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Literacy Skills (DIBELS; Good, Simmons, & Kame'enui, 2001), have been reviewed by the National Center for Student Progress Monitoring and vary considerably in reliability, validity, and other key progress-monitoring standards.
CBM is a form of classroom assessment that 1) describes academic competence in reading, spelling, and mathematics; 2) tracks academic development; and 3) improves student achievement. It can be used to determine the effectiveness of the instruction for all students and to enhance educational programs for students who are struggling.

I hope these ideas help you out as we move into Spring. Be sure to pick up a freebie too.

Speech/Language Support for the Classroom

I work in a rural schools where the speech therapist comes by two days a week and do not have time to collaborate with teachers or the special education team. I created this list speech and language strategies to give classroom teachers with ideas to implement within the classroom.

When developing the strategies, efforts were made to address the most common areas of need. Please note that all suggestions may not be appropriate for every student and you may need to modify them on an individual basis. I hope this list helps you out.


1. Talk with parents about your concerns and share strategies that seem to help.
2. If you cannot understand a student and you have asked them to repeat themselves, it might help to ask the student to show you or say it in a different way. For example, ask the student to write the word if they are able to do so.
3. If the student’s response contains a known sound error, it’s important to repeat what the child said with an appropriate model. (e.g., If the child says ‘nak’ for snake, you would say, “Oh, you want the snake”). This way you are not focusing on the error or calling negative attention to the child, but providing an appropriate model.
4. With younger children bring whatever you are talking about closer to your mouth so that the child is more apt to focus on speech production.
5. If you hear a consistent speech sound error use written text to increase the child’s ability to see, hear and be aware of that sound. (e.g., Ask the student to find all of the words containing the error sound in a page of a story. Make this a routine in your classroom so that no student is singled out.)
6. If you have a student who is able to make a sound correctly some of the time when they know an adult is listening, set up a non-verbal cue with that child to let them know that you are listening. (e.g., for example, putting your hand on the student’s shoulder, before you call on them to read aloud.)
7. Highlight words in their own writing or in classroom worksheets that contain sounds that the child is misarticulating.

Grammar and/or Sentence Structure:

1. If the child says something incorrectly repeat it for them correctly in a natural way. Be sensitive about not calling negative attention to their language. For example, if the child says “I goed to the store.” You’d say, “Oh you went to the store.”
2. When the child’s speech or writing contains grammar or word order errors, show them in writing the correct form.
3. When working with the child individually with written or oral language, repeat the error and ask the child how the sentence sounds. For example, the child says or writes, “I goed to the store.” You say, “I goed to the store? Does that sound right?” If the child is unable to correct it give them a choice. For example, “Which sounds better, ‘I goed to the store.’ or ‘I went to the store.”?
4. For frequently occurring errors, build it into daily oral language as practice for the entire class.

Vocabulary and Word Meanings:

1. Prior to introducing new units/stories compile a list of key vocabulary words. Discuss words and possible meanings with students.
2. When introducing words, try using a graphic organizer or visual mapping to come up with word relationships including antonyms, or synonyms.
3. When possible pair a visual picture with the vocabulary words. When vocabulary is abstract and pictures are not available, try to relate the words to a personal experience for students to relate to.
4. Place words and definitions on note cards. Use cards to play games such as matching or memory.
5. Create word list with vocabulary and definitions to display in a visible place within the classroom.
6. Provide student with vocabulary list including definitions one week prior to beginning a new unit.
7. Encourage use of word-games with family (Tribond, etc.).
8. Consult with a speech therapist for ideas using graphic organizers.

Basic Social Language Skills/Pragmatics:

1. Social Stories (Stories written to positively depict a situation in which a student has a difficult time- providing the student with appropriate ways to interact or respond.)
2. Visual schedules (Provide students who may need visual input to assist with transitions, expectations for the day.)
3. Allow student to work in a group with students who are accepting and supportive.
4. Search for opportunities that support appropriate social interactions. (i.e. ‘Bobby, will you please go to Sue’s desk and ask her to bring me her Math folder.’)
5. Avoid having activities where students ‘pick’ a partner. Assign partners instead to avoid feelings of rejection.
6. Board games and card games can be beneficial as they promote turn taking and sportsmanship. Be available to support sportsmanship and help to remember that playing the game is more important than winning the game.
7. Comment on positive models for targeted social skill when used by other students in the classroom. (Jenny, I really like how you raised your hand instead of interrupting me when I was talking to the class.)

Following Directions:

1. When giving directions, repeat them again using different words.
2. Using gestures when giving directions can be beneficial.
3. If there are several directions, give one to two directions at a time versus all at one time.
4. Be specific when giving directions.
5. If possible, give a visual cue. For example, if making an activity you can demonstrate the steps as you go along. Showing the completed project would also provide them assistance.
6. When working with projects that have multi-step directions, it may be helpful to write the directions on the board.
7. Create a list of common directions that are used throughout the day. When needed, they can be laminated and placed on the board for the entire class, or can be smaller to be placed on the individual’s desk.
8. The student may benefit from sitting next to an individual who would be willing to provide assistance with multi-step tasks.

Processing Information:

1. Ask basic questions that have the answer in a picture or hands-on activity.
2. Provide small group opportunities where the children can discuss newly learned concepts or ideas.
3. Provide adequate time for the child to process what you have asked and form their answer. If the child does not respond after a given period of time, ask the question in a different way.
4. Use several modalities when teaching materials (speaking, reading, writing, listening, visual, hands-on).
5. Do frequent comprehension checks when teaching. Stop periodically and discuss the information you have presented.
6. Encourage the child to ask for help.
7. Provide additional support for writing down information, such as assignments in the student’s homework notebook. Actual pictures could also be taken of what needs to go home (i.e. Math book, writing notebook, etc.). Some students may need written directions on how to complete assignments so that parents can assist them in the home.

Expanding Expressive Language Skills:

1. When interacting with a young child, repeat what the child says, and add a word that is appropriate to the context. For example: While playing with a toy car, the child says “car”, you could respond “Car. GO car.” If the child uses two words- expand to three words, etc.
2. Speak in sentences that are one to two words longer than the child’s typical utterances. If a child usually combines two words, you should be modeling 3-4 words in your interactions. You may feel that your speech sounds silly, you are eliminating complex structures that the child is not yet ready to use, which allows the child to concentrate on the next level of development.
3. It is also important to expose the child to adult and peer models of conversation. Although they are not yet ready to use these structures, they are exposed to the appropriate models.
4. Introduce new words or concepts to a child by using the word in a variety of situations as well as using the word repetitively. For example, when teaching colors: show a blue ball, a blue car, the blue sky, etc. Also, use pictures or objects when available to help reinforce the ideas.
5. Music, movement, nursery rhymes, fingerplays, and storytime are very motivating times for children to promote spontaneous speech production.


1. Allow the student to complete his/her thoughts without interrupting or completing the sentence for them.
2. It is important not to ask the child to stop or start over their sentence. Asking the student to ‘take a breath’ or ‘relax’ can be felt as demeaning and is not helpful.
3. Maintain natural eye contact with the student. Try not to feel embarrassed or anxious as the student will pick up on your feelings and could become more anxious. Wait naturally until the child is finished.
4. Use a slow and relaxed rate with your own speech, but not so slow that you sound unnatural. Using pauses in your speech is an effective way to slow down your speech rate as well as the students.
5. Give the student your full attention when they are speaking so that they know you are listening to what they have to say. It is helpful that the child does not feel that they need to fight for your attention. With younger children it is also helpful to get down to their level, placing a hand on their chest as well as using eye contact assures them that they have your attention.
6. After a student completes a conversational turn, it would be helpful for you to rephrase what they said in a fluent manner. This can be helpful as the student realizes you understand what they said, but also provides a fluent model for them.
7. Try to call on the student in class when you feel that they will be successful with the answer (when the student raises their hand) versus putting the student on the spot when they have not volunteered information. In addition, new material or complex information may cause the student to feel more stress and thus, increase dysfluencies.

Basic Concept Understanding and Use:

Pre-K through Grade 1:
1. Provide a visual demonstration of the concept. For example, if working on the concept ‘on,’ actually put an item ‘on’ a table.
2. Have the children physically demonstrate the concept when possible. Have the student actually get ‘on’ a carpet square.
3. Let the student use objects to demonstrate comprehension of the concept. Have the student verbalize comprehension by explaining what they did with the object. ‘Where did you put the bear?’ ‘I put it on the table.’
4. Have the student use the concept in a variety of situations throughout the day. Use their bodies, pencil and paper, in different places of the school, etc.

2nd through 5th Grade:

1. Allow students to use manipulatives to solve math problems to give them a visual cue.
2. When working on time and measurement concepts use visual organizers (i.e., timelines, thermometers, graphic organizers, etc.). Allow students to use these visual organizers on tests or projects.
3. Keep a running list of concepts the student is having trouble with and utilize others (i.e., classroom aids or student teachers) to help work on those concepts individually.
4. Give students time to talk through new concepts in social studies, science, math, etc.


If you have a student whose vocal quality is consistently poor (hoarse, breathy, rough, or they have no voice) or their vocal quality gets progressively worse as the day wears on try the following:

1. Allow them to have a water bottle at their desk for the student to take frequent sips of. (If necessary, use a visual aid for student to track intake- a reward may be needed.)
2. Discuss healthy ways for students to use their voices, i.e. drink water, no caffeine, no yelling or making strange noises, or to use a quiet voice, but NOT to whisper.
3. Provide a positive comment to a student for using good vocal hygiene, such as not shouting to get attention.
4. Place a visual cue on students’ desk (like a picture of someone talking). When you hear vocal misuse, touch the picture on the desk to help remind the student to use good vocal techniques.

Have a great week.

Pet Linky and Giveaway

 I have shared from time to time about my two dogs. They are Italian Greyhounds that found their way to me through a local rescues. In many ways its like they rescued me. The two of them go with me everywhere. They are in many ways like velcro. Aria and Louie love being part of my pack.

Aria came to me by way of a Fall Break and a long drive. She had been picked up by Animal Control and was sitting in an animal shelter 5 hours away. She was just skin and bones with kennel cough on top of it. They figured she has been on the street for at least two months. She was so thrilled to go to a pet store on the way home;) She was four at the time. She loves the park or hiking and even climb 14ers. Fellow hikers always stop and smile when they see her in her backpack.

Louis came to me from a Foster mom north of me. He has Lupis, bad skin, but great teeth. He's my leggy boy. He too follows the sun. He goes goes with his girl. Even to the top of 14ers.  He takes care of her too. Even when it comes to going to the vet-they travel together unless it comes to spending all day with the vet.

They run with a larger pack. My sister has 3 others. They go out with us to the park, hike, or climb 14ers. Right know they are all living together--they all love the sun and get alone with each other.

Be sure to check their photo album, pick up a freebie, and click your way to a chance at the giveaway.

Have a great week. I'm looking forward to Spring Break in the Colorado Mountains with both Aria and Louie.

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March Pick 3 Pinterest Linky

 This month for the Pick 3 Pinterest Linky I was thinking about a couple of skills my First and Second grades needs to work on while I test my fifth graders.  These little guys are working on everything from counting to 1,000 to reading rhyming words. 

I have one student who needs to work on reading, writing, and building basic number sense to 120. Yes, second grader's need to be able count and have strong number sense to 1,000. These also make great books to count by 2s, 5s, 10s, and so on.

I have used this idea to help them work within 1,000. Instead of blocks I use dice. They love doing this.

Beginning reading skills are important. One skill that keeps stumping my readers is rhyming. One game that I keep pulling out is a card game.  The love it some much I have sent it home for them to play with family members.

Building vocabulary is very important to me because many of my students have language disorders that have impacted there reading comprehension. I love this idea of having pictures paired with words. Though this one is based on pets but one based on each book. Be sure to pick up a freebie for stopping by.

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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