My Teaching Beliefs

Today, I'm linking up with With Love from Texas for this blog hop on my teaching beliefs.

The funny thing about looking for a new position, is listening to others beliefs about their students, program, and building--it focused my own beliefs about the students I work with.

I believe in my students--they can do anything.  I think this is why  love doing student data folders. It is the singularly most important thing that I do with them each year. They take at SMART goal and create their goal and then charge for it. Are the goals always reasonable-no but the important fact is the ownership of their learning.

Others always find it weird to party of other little things like making a goal or finishing a book. These are the things that make my day.

I think one of the hardest things the do in small group is getting them to take risk. They now the other members and sharing is hard but setting up the group rules and not judging them for speaking up and sharing. They in turn get to the point where they understand it's OK to talk and share.

In sum way this Dr. Who quote tells all about my teaching.

Until next time,

Be sure to hop by Rissa's Teaching in the Heart of Florida to learn about her beliefs for her students.

Teaching in the Heart of Florida

BTS with #SPEDChatSaturday

Its funny to think about going Back to School. I'm hoping to have a new position in the school district that I grew up in. But everyone in Parker is getting ready to go back.

My room is in storage. Well everything I own is in storage. Last year I moved, got half way to buying a house and then lost my FTE, so everything is still in storage:(.  I keep all my students in binders--the IEPs, contact notes from parents, teachers, and outside therapists. I also create student data binders, so they can keep track of their own data. I have found it to be very powerful with motivation.

One thing that I do add to my student binders is specific materials that they are working on mastering that are tied directly to their IEP goals. One in particular students always struggle with is reading non-sense words without segmenting. I created it so students could go from segmenting to reading the whole word with each word on the ring. Plus, I love how I have been able to move students basic reading skills with this product.

For the first time last year I used GoogleDocs to create all my collaborating documents with classroom teachers. It was one less thing I had to keep track of and everyone could add information to. I kept SMART goals, progress monitoring notes, and who was taking care of what. No losing anything.

Because the size of my caseload, I put all IEP dates on my calendar--meeting, call parents about set up date and time, testing dates. Anything and everything that has to do with meeting compliance I have there for the whole year. Missing dates should NEVER happen. This is my may to make sure that it doesn't.
I drive my team mates crazy with how organized I happen to be. But I try very hard to leave school at school. My life is so much better when I don't bring it home-besides I anything I bring home says in my bag.

I put everything in binders both my students and my lesson plans. Plus, I do everything on everything online.

 What I wouldn't do for more time--there never is enough time to move students. I would wish that by the end of the year students find themselves and realize that they have a voice and they can use it!

I love my timer. I always use it. Be it for warm ups or for the whole group time. Its the only way I can find to stay on time  Teachers hate it when students come back late.

Yes, lesson planning take time. (I use I plan on my laptop and keep my iPad on my teaching table. I can print it out when asked to I need too. Its not free but for 12 dollars I can set it up to meet the needs of those in the groups.)I find that the more time I put into a lesson plan and really think it through from beginning to end the more bang for my buck I get each day. I try to sketch out the whole week even if it changes I know where the group is going. Knowing the group or student scope and sequence and where they are headed each week is time well spent.

When I think of authors in my classroom Dr. Seuss takes up more room than any other author. My promise-I'll make you work hard because you can and it will take you places you never dreamed you could go.

"Must Haves" Monday Link Up

It's funny thinking about going back to school. Thank you to Mrs. McDonald's Creative Teaching for the challenge. Working with students from preschool to 6th grade with a variety a needs. Many things that I put in place at the beginning of the year  I put in place for everyone. 


Late in the last school year I bought Boardmarker's online access for hundred dollars because I used it for everything. Boardmarker has helped my students who need visuals as a accommodation. Last year, I had a 5th grade student who I created pictures for all the vocabulary words each week from Storytown. (Some weeks I had to add from Google.) The one thing I love about the online program is that they are always adding to the library--very cool! They even have sign language. Over the summer I found a copy of their Sigh Language clip art  to target more specific language needs. I'm hoping to build a student's expressive language--at least to give her some way to communicate with students and others.

Data Folders/Data Binders

All my students keep and collect their own data. Because they come and go I keep them in their group bucket but once a week when I do progress monitoring they keep track of their score and progress. At the beginning of the year, they set and write a SMART goal on what they want to keep track of. (In many cases I encourage them to pick something attached to their IEP.) Folders are easy to hand off to paraprofressionals and take to meeting with teachers and parents. A bonus is that principles are always impressed that they can do it. I set goal lines and talk to them about what they need to work on over the week to go up but they do ALL the work. For some I put their graphs in either Google or Excel. I like Excel better because I can add trendlines-which for some kidoos is a great way to show teachers and parents their student is making progress.

Last year I used the idea from The Organized Classroom Blog-it held up for the whole year plus I could store student specific materials up front in the folder. Adding papers was a pain. I have been thinking about putting these in binders for next year. Click on the picture to get her directions.

Teacher Notebook

Be it a spiraled lined notebook to a binder, I keep all the year student/teacher/parent communication and notes in it. I have tried adding staff meetings and professional learning to the same notebook and can't do it-it just to much. The thing I love about this is that all the information is in one spot not on the stickies on my desk that don't stick any more (we don't have any of these).  My building has late start once a week for team collaboration-I take this notebook with me. This is easier than bring 20 student binders or those notes on my desk to meetings. Plus is makes it easier to keep track of parent concerns about a student or tracking classroom teacher concerns of RTI. 

Thank you for checking out my "Must Haves" for Back to School 2015! Click on the Freebielicious Icon to check out others' ideas. Store by my store from a freebie (click on the picture)


What is Composing and Decomposing? (And why is it important to Computational Fluency)?

One task that I find students struggle with is seeing the trees in the forest--breaking apart numbers to small ones. This skill is the beginning of place value in the kindergarten and first grade but becomes a powerful addition and multiplication strategy later on. Common Core Standard 2.NTB.B.5 moves students to using the break apart strategy on an Open Number Line to add and subtract.

When talking about computational fluency, many of the current articles use the terms composing and decomposing numbers. These are terms that may not be familiar to most parents. They are really not anything new. These terms refer to the idea that numbers can be put together or broken apart to make other numbers.

For instance, the number ten can be broken up (decomposed) in many ways.
10 = 5 + 5
10 = 4 + 6
10 = 3 + 3 + 2 + 2

This may seem like a simple idea, but to a child just learning about numbers it is not simple at all. We want to foster this understanding because it is a critical understanding in terms of becoming computational fluency.

When solving the problem 28 + 45 a student decomposed 28 into 20 + 5 + 3.
Can you see how that would make this problem easier to solve?
28 + 45 = 20 + 5 + 3 + 45 = (45 + 5) + 20 + 3 = 73

This skill can even be helpful when learning basic facts. For instance, when doing 7 + 8, a student might decompose the 7 or the 8 to make ten and extras.
7 + 8 = 5 + (2 + 8) = 5 + 10 = 15

Students have developed a firm understanding of place value of two-digit numbers and to subtract multiples of ten, and are ready to add and subtract within 100 (including the case of adding or subtracting a two-digit number and a one-digit number, and two two-digit numbers). First students are given problems where regrouping is not necessary, and later, problems where regrouping is necessary. Further, students understand that in addition and subtraction, digits in the ones place are added and subtracted; digits in the tens place are added and subtracted; and sometimes regrouping is necessary. In addition, sometimes we must regroup ten ones to form an additional ten, and in subtraction, sometimes we must break a ten into ten ones. The eventual goal of this standard is fluency. This will not happen all at once; students will build gradually towards having procedures and strategies by which they can fluently add an subtract, including standard algorithms and skip-counting up or down.

In a given addition and subtraction problems, ask students to identify which digits are in the one and tens positions. In addition, they should be able to identify the digits in the ones and tens positions.
Provide students with a variety of manipulatives and technologies (such as base-ten blocks or drawings) which can aid in their practice of addition and subtraction through 100.

Use properties of addition to make addition more fluid. For example, 64 + 8 can be thought of as (62 + 2) + 8, reordering addends allows (2 + 62) + 8, regrouping addends yields 2 + (62 + 8) which gives 2 + 70, which is equal to 72. This is what is meant by using a strategy with the properties of the operations.  Another strategy would be using skip-counting for addition (e.g., 58 + 15 can be found by skip-counting up from 58 by ten, and then by five. An additional strategy is to break down place value: 58 + 15 can be thought of as 50 + 10 + 8 + 5, which is 60 + 13, or 73.

Students should have at least one algorithm in place that is robust and works in all cases, but they also should be encouraged to use alternative strategies if they can do so quickly and accurately.

6 Things to Help Early Readers

Three key research conclusions that support seeking help early are:
  • 90 percent of children with reading difficulties will achieve grade level in reading if they receive help by the first grade.
  • 75 percent of children whose help is delayed to age nine or later continue to struggle throughout their school careers.
  • If help is given in fourth grade, rather than in late kindergarten, it takes four times as long to improve the same skills by the same amount.

Yet identification is only the beginning. Effective and intense intervention must be offered immediately. Students who lag behind their peers must be given extra help. These groups should be fluid with students moving in and out as they master skills.

Early signs of difficulty should not be based on immaturity but data. When a kindergarten child confuses letters, associates the wrong sound with a letter, or cannot tell you a rhyme, it usually has nothing to do with social maturity. These warning signs do not necessarily mean a reading disability; these signs may indicate poor preschool preparation. They may not been exposed to letters and letter sounds, they usually catch on quickly once exposed. It is only after instruction has been provided and the child is still struggling that one can conclude there may be a more serious problem.

Key Six Pre-Reading Skills
(for children from birth through 5 years)

Print Motivation

  • Being excited about and interested in books
  • What can you do?
  • Make sure book sharing time is fun.
  • For children with short attention spans, keep it short, but read more often.
  • Don’t get upset when they put books in their mouths.
  • Read books you enjoy.
  • Choose books about things that interest the child.
  • Read with a natural, but cheerful voice.

Print Awareness

  • Understanding that print on a page represents words that are spoken, knowing how to follow words on a page, and knowing how to hold a book.
  • What can you do?
  • Allow children to handle the book and turn pages.
  • Use your finger to point out words as you move across the page.
  • Pointing out signs in your environment.
  • Read books with large bold print.
  • Introduce the cover and talk about the author and illustrator.

Phonological Awareness

  • Understanding that words are made up of smaller sounds. Hearing and playing with smaller sounds in words. Phonological Awareness comes before phonics.
  • What can you do?
  • Encourage your baby to babble, changing the beginning sounds.
  • Sing songs. Clap along with the song. Use rhythm sticks and shakers.
  • Do action rhymes.
  • Learn nursery rhymes. For older children, substitute a non-rhyming word in place of the rhyming word and see if they notice the difference.
  • Read books with rhyming texts.
  • Play “Say it fast; say it slow.” Butterfly Butt er fly Turtle Tur tle


  • Knowing the names of things, feelings, concepts, and ideas. Knowing the meaning of words and connecting words to objects, events, or concepts in the world.
  • What can you do?
  • Any book will help with this, but choosing ones with words not used in daily conversation and nonfiction books are especially helpful.
  • Label things.

Narrative Skills

  • Being able to describe things and events. Being able to tell and understand stories.
  • What can you do?
  • Talk with children about what you are doing. Ask them “What?” or other open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No.”
  • Ask, “What happens next?”
  • Allow young children time to respond. Be patient.
  • Tell stories.
  • Encourage pretend play.
  • Let them help you tell flannel board stories.
  • Read stories with a beginning, middle, and end.

Letter Knowledge

  • Understanding that letters are different from each other. Recognizing letters and knowing that they have different names and sounds.
  • What can you do?
  • Let babies play with shapes.
  • Allow children to handle letter shapes.
  • Learn the alphabet song.
  • Read alphabet books and books about shapes.
  • Books where you have to find things.
  • Help your child identify the first letter in his/her name. Then find that letter in books, on signs, and other things in the environment.

Top Ten Favorite Shows Linky

One thing that drives my family crazy is the TV is always on when I'm working on the blog or store or just grading and planing. Today I'm linking up with The Third Grade Nest this week for her Top Ten Favorite Shows.  Some have come and gone while others are still on and other yet I watch the re-runs. Sometime I let it run the background while I try to get things down.

I also look for story lines that make sense from week to week. I hate it when they totally jump off the rails and go down a rabbit hole that makes no sense whats so ever.

One thing that I also gravitate towards is SyFy-I get
that from my mom. It has to be in the realm of possible.

These are my go to shows when I need to get work done. What are your favorites?

The Importance of Memorizing the Times Tables (plus freebie)

One of the hardest math concepts is learning multiplication is an essential part of a student’s elementary education. It’s the foundation for more complex math student encounter as they move through school.

Why memorize the times tables?

Just like everything in life to do more complex task like walking before running learning
multiplication and memorizing the times tables are building blocks for other math topics taught in school - higher learning such as division, long multiplication, fractions and algebra. Students who have not memorized the times tables will find these levels of math much more difficult than they need to be. Students who have not mastered their tables will very often fall behind in math and begin to lose confidence.  Multiplication is used in our daily lives. You might need it when doubling a recipe, determining a discount at a store or figuring out our expected arrival time when traveling.


Calculators are great tools for figuring out complex calculations. However, using a calculator takes much longer for simple facts and can result in keying errors. Students who rely on calculators are also weak in estimating skills and are unaware of wrong answers that occur from keying mistakes. In Colorado and on most high stakes tests calculators are not allowed in many tests and admission exams—they have to use paper and don’t have the time to work them the using strategies.

Understanding or memorization or both?

It's not one or the other, it's both. A student must understand and memorize the facts. Early on, a student needs to understand what multiplication is - the grouping of sets, repeated addition, and a faster way of adding. Show them this with an assortment of manipulatives, by skip counting and by using arrays. As they master the basics, expand upon this concept by creating interesting word problems. Eventually comes a time to highlight the importance of rapid recall. Students need to know that they should recall the answer instantaneously. This is why quizzing and practicing need to happen at the same time.

Have fun together in this process. One of my favorite ways is to use games!  It's always a good review and opportunity for the whole family to exercise their brains.

How Parents Can Help Their Child Memorize the Times Tables

1. Make sure there is understanding.
2. Explain why it is important.
3. Demonstrate what fast recall is.
4. Be interested in math yourself.
5. Find out what facts they already know.
6. Involve your child in the goal setting process.
7. Focus primarily on the facts they need to learn.
8. Use a chart to monitor progress.
9. Provide encouragement along the way.
10. Spend quality time together practicing.
11. Acknowledge their success.
12. And most importantly: Have fun!

Spelling-How to Help

Like many of the kids I work with I dislike spelling. Growing up with parents who could spell anything (they were way older than me in grade school)-spelling with hard. I had to always work at it. Even now I have to double if not triple check my spelling before sending out an email, writing a note to parents, or just writing a paper. Today, I have some ideas for parents to help out with spelling as a family.

If you were to ask kids to name their most hated subject, most of them would say spelling, surprisingly not math. Many students struggle with their spelling words and the repetition of writing the words over and over doesn’t seem to help. This leads many students to become frustrated and to giving up.

At some point, a student may even ask, “Why do I have to learn spelling words?” Learning spelling words is important to the student’s future. Spelling words help lay the basic foundation students will need throughout his education and life.

Spelling is important because it aids in reading. It helps cement the connection that is shared between sounds and letters. Learning high frequency sight words also has been shown to help with both reading and writing. This is why students learn sight words during their early years. Spelling and reading also have a common factor, proficiency with language.

Student should be relaxed about spelling; if not, it will inhibit their writing. They will be less willing to write out their assignments. When you listen to a struggler speller speak or read something that he or she has written, it is impossible to not notice that their choice of words may be poor or limited. This is very unfortunate because writing is something that we do throughout our lifetimes.

Bad spelling also gives others a bad impression about you. No matter what you say, if the spelling is poor, the reader will notice this before anything else. Punctuation errors often go unnoticed, but everyone notices spelling errors.

As students get older and progresses through various grades, they will have to write reports and papers. Instructors at all grade levels, including the university level, will grade harshly on poor spelling. This will invariably affect the student’s grade and possibly determine his future success in life.

Resumes are typically written using various writing software programs. Even poor spellers feel comfortable writing resumes with these systems, but what most people don’t realize is that spell check is not 100% accurate. Just begin you don’t see a green or red line, that does not mean that there are no errors in your resume. If your spelling ability is strong, you do not have to worry about not being able to see your own mistakes. A poorly written resume will not get you a job; it will get you one of those meaningless, “we’ll call” sendoffs.

You cannot place your entire future on the line by not being able to spell. Not only is the ability to spell necessary in most occupations, but a person also needs to be able to spell well in order to be able to communicate and take notes and directions. You could be trying to write someone a note that could possibly save his life, but if the person only sees a note filled with misspelled words, then that person may not be able to comprehend what you’re saying. It’s a stretch, but the message is clear. Spelling is so very important.

Here’s a few things you can do at home:
  • Don't get on his case or criticize her about his spelling. Keep your encounters very positive. Praise his effort. Just keep the mind-set of a spelling coach, not a spelling critic.
  • Are you reading to him for 30 minutes a night? You should be. Always hold the book so that he can see the text. Encourage him to look at the text as you read. The more she sees words spelled correctly, the more he'll internalize the correct spellings.
  • Buy him a simple spiral notebook, and call it him spelling notebook. Buy him a children's dictionary with relatively large type and make sure he knows how to use it. Keep them both in a prominent place, like on the kitchen counter. But this isn't for you, this is for him. Every time he notices that he has misspelled a word, he should look it up in the dictionary and then write that word over and over on a page of him spelling notebook, like 25 times, saying it aloud each time so that it's a multisensory process. That's how he can "set it in stone." This is how a phonics-only curriculum teaches spelling at the same time as handwriting and reading.
  • Kids love games, and they love to see how their parents draw. So put those two together, and make a funny worksheet with lots of words that he tends to misspell and cartoons depicting them. Have your child "correct" YOUR spelling.
  • Let's say your child is very sensitive and you don't want to have him get down on himself about spelling. So don't make a big deal out of it. When you look at him school papers and notice misspelled words, don't say a thing. Just make a mental note. Then get yourself a set of handy, dandy index cards. Write a word that your child has misspelled on a card, and put it on your fridge as "The Word of the Day." At dinner, everyone in your family should use that word in a sentence. Have fun with it! If you did this every night for a year, there couldn't be very many words left in a child's vocabulary that he doesn't already spell correctly, or that you haven't covered!

Pinterst Pick 3: July Link-Up

I can't believe that summer is a third of the way over. The crazy thing is that I still have my list of things to do to get done. Where did June go. I'm currently dog sitting my sister's dogs this weekend. 

My first pick is an idea that I love. I have done many different things to get students to learn sounds and make words. Taping squares on the floor has raised eyebrows. 

This idea of lunchroom trays is the best I have seen. This would be perfect for three sound words. I think they would fit in a guided reading basket. 

Each year I work on make my data collection easier. Last year I created folders for students to keep their data in--my principle was floored that my first graders were able to track their own data. Plus, parents loved it. This pin has a link to free student data sheets--I plan on adding them to my student data folders int he fall. 

Every summer I have this pile of books. I try to get through them all-sometimes it happens but not always. This summer I started the pile about Spring break and its been growing ever since. Sometimes I think I need a 12 Step for Amazon with all the money I spend there.

Since, it's Friday I have a freebie for you. Be sure to sop by my store to grab it. My Kindergarten Tic Tac Toe is great for literacy centers and Daily 5 for students work on to help learn their sight words.

Have an awesome Forth of July.

Types of Articulation Errors

I think one of the hardest things to do is support speech kidoos who are making articulation errors. Being in a school where the Speech Pathologist comes by once or twice a week makes it hard to collaborate with them let alone have time to figure out when to recommend them for a formal evaluation.

Speech sound production is a complex process that involves precise planning, coordination, and movement of different articulators (such as the jaw, lips, teeth, tongue).

Correct articulation produces clear speech. Another name for clear speech is intelligibility. Errors in speech sound production are known as articulation errors. Articulation errors are common in children when they first learn to speak.

An example of this is a young child who says “wabbit” for “rabbit.” Most children eventually outgrow such speech errors, which are a normal part of learning to produce new sounds.

When a student demonstrates articulation errors beyond those of typical development, they may need to see a speech-language pathologist (SLP). The SLP evaluates the type of error(s) the child making and may develop an intervention or therapy plan. In speech/language sessions, the SLP teaches the child how to make the sound. He/she shows the child how to move the articulators, what type of sound it is (a “whistly” sound versus a “stop” sound, for example), and whether to turn voice on or off.

A child can make the following articulation errors when producing speech sounds: Substitutions, Omissions, Distortions, and/or Additions. 

S – Substitutions
Definition: Replace one sound with another sound.
Examples: “wed” for “red,” “thoap” for “soap,” “dut,” for “duck”

O – Omissions (also known as deletions)
Definition: Omit a sound in a word.
Note: This error affects intelligibility the most, making speech more difficult for the listener(s) to understand.
Examples: “p ay the piano” for “play the piano”, “g een nake” for “green snake”

D – Distortions
Definition: Produce a sound in an unfamiliar manner.
Examples: “pencil” (nasalized—sounds more like an “m”) for “pencil,” “sun” (lisped—sounds “slushy”) for “sun”

A – Additions
Definition: Insert an extra sound within a word.
Examples: “buhlack horse” for “black horse,” “doguh,” for “dog”

I'm always questioned by teachers and parents about when sounds are acquired. I have a copy of this picture in my "Everything-Teacher's Binder." I can pull it out an show them when what is acquired and provides them with the information that they need. Be sure to add it to your teacher binder--it's very helpful. Have a great day.

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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