Project Based Learning in a Resource Room

Coming back from Winter Break, I had a couple of girls want to be "The Teacher." I said okay and asked what they had in mind. They wanted to something other than guided reading. After asking more questions I pulled out ideas like animals, camping, or rain forest. I have three second grade reading/math groups and they each chose something different. The fun part was working out how IEP goals were going to fold into the mix. In some cases, it was easier said than done.



I had students start with making a KWHLAQ chart. This gave me an idea of what they wanted to do and learn while working on they Project Based Learning Experiment.  Starting this way gave me a template on what the group wanted to do while I focused on making sure IEP goals were met. Plus, they didn't get hung up on spelling and went to town. (This will be used as an assessment though out our project.)






From here I was able to complete my Google Presentation and create a road map of where they were going. This Presentation for each group, became the working list of what each student needed to get done.  They all started out with creating group expectations before setting them off to start their research. The list of requirements aligned with IEP goals. As I have them only 30 minutes, I didn't put a timeline on each item but let students move from task to task as they completed them. My thinking was it would give me a chance to differentiate each task for each student and they could move at their own pace--not getting hung up on the whole-the end being more important.

From this, the group moved to building their background knowledge through Symbaloo and Google safe for kids. This allowed me to pull the places together that would information they could look at, read and watch. I had the opportunity here to create a scored example of what the final written product needed to look like. I did this because their written work needed to align with their IEP goals. Their writing needed to include a circle map which could be turned into a five sentence tree map frame and then became their written paragraph. All with the help of the internet and books.
The thinking map frame is a Tree Map which was created to support them writing in complete sentences. They have a topic and concluding sentence with three compound sentences. Both thinking maps are designed to be a thinking frame and students are encouraged to use critical thinking and the information from their "resources" the books to create the final written product. Even when the same text is used, students will create their own paragraphs. Its that critical thinking that we celebrate as a group moving them away from always using my examples.

The example I created for them has all the pieces they have to create using their own topics. It also has the scoring rubric attached to it. Students have seen all pieces of my examples with each piece modeled and independently practiced before this project.  They paragraph will be used as part of the portfolio of examples since it targets multiple IEP goals.

Each tree map is corrected by me after students have completed their draft. I help them make sure sentences make sense and double check their spelling. The ideas are strictly these and supported by the resources their used. Its cool to see students work on the same topic but create very different paragraphs and they love sharing what they have found. I think I'm going to have to add a sharing aspect--probability somethings they will hate but I think with all the sharing they are doing it will work out.





I can't wait to see where they take the part of their project which is everything from a science experiment to make s'mores to making commercials  to save the rain forest and save endangered animals. Where ever they take me, I'm sure it will be fun. Until next time,


MTSS What???

The Colorado Department of Education’s (CDE) definition of Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) provides a basis for understanding how Colorado educators can work together to ensure equitable access and opportunity for all students to achieve the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). MTSS includes Response to Instruction and Intervention (RtI2) as well as additional, distinct philosophies and concepts. Colorado is not the only state moving towards this model.

Within Colorado, there are six Essential Components in the Multi-Tiered System of Supports framework.

  • Shared Leadership
  • Data-Based Problem Solving and Decision Making
  • Layered Continuum of Supports
  • Evidence Based Instruction, Intervention, and Assessment Practices
  • Universal Screening and Progress Monitoring
  • Family, School, and Community Partnering (FSCP)

CDE’s Definition of MTSS

In Colorado, MTSS is an integrated, comprehensive framework that focuses on CCSS, core instruction, differentiated learning, student-centered learning, individualized student needs, and the alignment of systems necessary for all students’ academic, behavioral, and social success. Colorado has a long history of providing numerous systems of support. These include the interventions within the RtI2 processes, supports including Special Education, Second Language Learners and gifted and talented programs. MTSS offers the potential to create needed systematic change through intentional design and redesign of services and supports that quickly identify and match the needs of all students.

Comparing MTSS to RtI2

CDE’s RtI2 processes focus on students who are struggling and provide a vehicle for teamwork and data-based decision making to strengthen their performances before and after educational and behavioral problems increase in intensity.

MTSS Differences with RtI2

MTSS has a broader scope than does RtI2. MTSS also includes:

  • Focusing on aligning the entire system of initiatives, supports, and resources.
  • Promoting district participation in identifying and supporting systems for alignment of resources, as well as site and grade level.
  • Systematically addressing support for all students, including gifted and high achievers.
  • Enabling a paradigm shift for providing support and setting higher expectations for all students through intentional design and redesign of integrated services and supports, rather than selection of a few components of RtI and intensive interventions.
  • Endorsing Universal Design for Learning instructional strategies so all students have opportunities for learning through differentiated content, processes, and product.
  • Integrating instructional and intervention support so that systemic changes are sustainable and based on CCSS-aligned classroom instruction.
  • Challenging all school staff to change the way in which they have traditionally worked across all school settings.

MTSS is not designed for consideration in special education placement decisions, such as specific learning disabilities. MTSS focuses on all students in education contexts.

MTSS Similarities to RtI2

MTSS incorporates many of the same components of RtI2, such as

  • Supporting high-quality standards and research-based, culturally and linguistically relevant instruction with the belief that every student can learn including students of poverty, students with disabilities, English learners, and students from all ethnicities evident in the school and district cultures.
  • Integrating a data collection and assessment system, including universal screening, diagnostics and progress monitoring, to inform decisions appropriate for each tier of service delivery.
  • Relying on a problem-solving systems process and method to identify problems, develop interventions and, evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention in a multi-tiered system of service delivery.
  • Seeking and implementing appropriate research-based interventions for improving student learning.
  • Using school-wide and classroom research-based positive behavioral supports for achieving important social and learning outcomes.
  • Implementing a collaborative approach to analyze student data and working together in the intervention process.

MTSS and RtI2

The similarities and differences between Colorado’s MTSS and RtI2 processes. Both rely on RtI2’s data gathering through universal screening, data-driven decision making, problem-solving teams, and are focused on the CCSS. However, the MTSS process has a broader approach, addressing the needs of all students by aligning the entire system of initiatives, supports, and resources, and by implementing continuous improvement processes at all levels of the system.

My take away from this shift is that MTSS was created to provide enrichment and support for ALL learners. Whereas with RTI it was just those students who were not there closing achievement gaps.

January Pick 3 Linky--Teacher Collaboration

I think one of the more challenging parts of being a special education teacher, is finding time to talk (really talk) with classroom teachers. This year has only been made more difficult by have close to 40 students on my case load--that I see during a day.  I thinking sharing with teachers about their students are doing towards IEP goals is very important, it also gives me time to share with teachers specific ticks and tips that have worked since the last time I met with them.



 "Learning at the Primary Pond" has created a 1 page communication log for each student but I use it for all the students in the teachers class and put it in her box weekly. This way the teacher knows what kind for progress has been made toward IEP goals. This is also great to keeping everyone on the team in the loop with what the student is doing well and what they need to work on. Perfect
for progress report time or IEP writing time.





 Google is a girls best friend. Google is an over worked special education teachers best friend. The thing I like about google is that I can share my data with teachers before meeting with them. I have found that this makes our time together more focused and easier to create short term game plans. Edgalaxy has highlighted 12 different ways to use google to collaborate with teachers--my favorite being the forms which I can then turn in to graphs. I love my pictures at meetings-this does it for me.








My teachers like most are stretched to the point of breaking, when I'm looking for something new or to reinforce the idea that teacher collaboration I turn to Edutopia. They always have real life examples, ideas and conversations about what is new and old in education.  I have shared videos and articles with teachers from time to time.  This one is to "Ben Johnson from teacher leadership and getting the most on teacher collaboration.





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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