PLAAFP?? What...?

I don't know about anyone else but my school district LOVES to change things all the time. Well, in this case, a major tweak for many. Last year, my state formally rolled out Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance or PLAAFP. (The soft rollout started several years ago.)

You might be telling yourself not another acronym. #not new just added too

In all the IEPs I write I always describe, tell, report my student's current level of function across all areas. In most case behavior and academic. PLAAFP adds a new layer. My building special education writes (really it's a draft) them as a team--this is the hard part but helps the team look at the whole child. It also very the student a strong voice in their IEP.

By the time the PLAAFP is finished, it informed strengths, needs, and interests. It makes things very clear and its written in a way that all stakeholders understand where the student is and where they need to go and where the student
                                                                                    what's to go.

The PLAAFP should include the following:
The student’s strengths, interests, and preferences
The area of concern and how it manifests academically and functionally
How the disability impacts the student’s participation and ability to progress in the general education curriculum
Objective data collected from testing, teacher observations, evaluations and information from IEP team members or others who know the student

A focused IEP is a much more useful than one that lacks congruity and with tons of unrelated goals. (True you can write an IEP with lots of goals to cover everything the student needs to work on but let's get real can we really target all of them with the depth needed to achieve true mastery? I myself write goals to target the root cause of those needs.)

The ability, however, to direct attention and resources to the most relevant needs the student has, in the vital context of the student’s strengths, interests, and preferences, is what gives each goal the punch it needs to meaningfully support the student in their day-to-day academic and functional pursuits.

If a goal exists in the IEP that cannot be linked back to some portion of the PLAAFP, then either the PLAAFP is incomplete or the goal does not relate to what the team identified to be the most important areas of need the student has. Cross checking each goal with the PLAAFP is a great way to check if the plan is focused and appropriate. Many times I will do this when just working formal testing data to determine strength, needs, and what more information I need to gather.

Although the term “academic” is fairly self-explanatory, the term “functional” is not as well
understood. Functional achievement speaks to the age-appropriate activities in which a student engages that are not academic: dressing, eating, grooming, working, playing, socializing, etc. These are activities and skills that will facilitate the student’s success in actively contributing to and being a valued member of his or her community.

The PLAAFP is an opportunity. It's the careful consideration in its development and the commitment to use it to guide goal writing and the identification of other supports and services is invaluable in developing the most useful and effective IEP possible.

Why does my building write them as a team--well, to get a true picture of the student. When your testing everyone does their part. Writing the PLAAFP as a team allows us to take all the pieces of the puzzle and build the puzzle together.

You can grab a copy of the template my team uses with an example here.


Until next Time,


#HelloSummer TpT Sale & Giveaway

 Hello Summer!! It's hard to believe it's time to start thinking about what I need for next year. Also be sure to sign up below. Some AMAZING Teachers Pay Teachers authors and I have teamed up to discount some of our best resources but ONLY for June 23 -June 25!

So hurry to TPT and type in #HelloSummer to check out the deals! 


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June Show & Tell Linky

Good Morning, today I'm linking up with Stephanie at "Forever in 5th Grade," to bring you a glimpse into my end of summer planning for my Special Education Resource Room. This year I'll be working with 2nd and 3rd grades. Many of these guys were with me last year. Most of my thinking has been around how I want to strength or change systems I had in place last year like communicating with parents and making it authentic for students.
I have an crazy teacher rubric, this year I'm going to swing to the fences. I have in the past talked about Personalized Learning and how I'm working to use the thinking in s Resource Special Education room. I'm adding a Data Binder this year. 


Each student will have a binder where they will keep their data, Personalized Learning Plan, rubrics, and week reflection plans. This information will be used to info IEP meetings and make it easier for students to crate a video of presentation for their IEP meetings. I also hope I can give students more responsibly like their books, progress monitoring materials, attendance, behavior, and what ever else I want them to hold on to. I chose to make the paper pieces match the divider tabs in the hopes it would help with organization and I could spend less time with missing pieces. 


I was cornered about Spring Break by my wonderful 1st grade team. They wanted dibs on having me at their Summer PD, co-planning, co-teaching--well co--anything!! How could I say no! This is new territory for them as the school is becoming a EL school and they wanted to create a team to move and grow students.  I should mention I love running with them as well. We did the Colfax Relay in May. Yes, all 26 miles.




I send home a monthly newsletter. This idea will help with two things--increase parent communication and two help students to write to an authentic audience.  I'm looking forward to see what they do. They will also be contributing authors on the classroom website. I'm hoping since we use Google Sites this idea will not be all drama and something everyone will see of high value. My team has been talking about creating 1 site and working with grade levels to have a column on their newsletters as well.





One thing that I added to my Data binders was a way for my students' for reflect on and take control of their learning and a perfect way to use it as a Formative Assessment. Last year to used Robert Marzano's Checking for Understanding. This is one of three versions I have in my Teachers pay Teacher store. Even though I'm keeping the same students just a grade older than last year--this version was perfect for them as first and second graders. This is perfect for students to self-assess and reflect on their learning, you can target specific skills they say they are missing or confused or speed up you instruction because they've got it. You can buy it from my store-click on the picture.









It's Over and the Planning Begins

It's finally Summer Vacation. As my mind starts to unfreeze, I have begun to think about "how" I move students this year. Let me backtrack. I'm an Elementary Special Education teacher. A K-3 Special Education teacher who works with Students with Learning Disabilities, ADHD, Autism and Cognitive delays who moves students. I move then more than a year. Yes, you heard me--more than a year. As strange as it is, to hear a special education teacher tell you that--I do.

Let me tell you when I first started, it was hard. I mean really hard to move them. To motivate them. To use the data that came from progress monitoring. We teachers are sitting on TONS of data. It's that data. It's that data I use to engage, motivate and most importantly MOVE students. This was not something I was taught in "teacher school" or in my first teaching position. It came and being part of conversations with classroom teachers, the many RTI trainings and figuring out how to get students to show what they know on the state assessments. (This last one was the hardest.)

Moving students is HARD. But it can be done. These days we have Student Learning Objectives (SLO) and in my world, I also have IEP goals with an exception students should make more than a year's growth regardless of what I wrote in the IEP.  (Trust me--my classroom teachers are always going "Yeah right, that's going to happen??") I'm one of those teachers who has high expectations for herself and her students. That's my first rule in moving students. Set your bar high and they will reach it.  More on this another day. Back to data.


When you ask someone about data--this is not what you get told. Data is hard. It's ugly. It tells a story. It is your friend. Filter in RTI and you get a story too. Sometimes good. Sometimes not so good. It also brings labels. Because of RTI data is not so scary and as a special education teacher, I need it. I live it. You as a special education need it too. Yes, you too classroom teachers.

I start with Strength and Needs T-Chart. I find completing this at the end of the year best but I also on the fly looking at formal assessment data. All I need it all the data from the year (making sure to have the students end of the year assessments). I look at the data for data sake. I make factual statements about it and the progress made. I let the data do the talking--no reading into it!

Once I have been through all the data--sometimes I need additional information and make that note for the fall. But I develop one or two problem statements or common threads that surface. This can be sight words, fluency, decoding concerns that look more as a need for phonics instruction. This information leads to ideas of intervention needs, lightbulbs moments, thoughts to think on and talk out with other service providers.



I'm not sure what I love more about adding this to my Everything Binder - the fact that it works on helping me reflect on my students or that it helps me plan for next year. I'm pretty obsessed.

Strengths/Needs T-Chart would make an awesome addition to your Everything Binder or you RTI Planning.

Grab your free copy HERE!


Until Next Time,

Reflect to Increase Teacher Capacity

I don't know about you but every time I'm evaluated-I'm asked to reflect on my lesson and practice. Trust me, all I want to do right NOW with 10 days left is think about the beach. But as the school year draws to a close, it is an important time to stop and reflect on this past year, a year filled with a range of both expected and unexpected challenges and opportunities for many students, families, teachers, and administrators. Is just as important now as it is during the year. It’s also an opportunity to take a deep breath and think about how to best direct your energies in the coming year.

Self-reflection by teachers at the end of each school year is a vitally important part of their ongoing
professional development.  It is a way it will to improvement teaching and learning.  It allows us to fine-tune our craft by improving or eliminating what doesn't work in our teaching.  It gives us a chance to start over at the beginning of each new school year. I should point out, we can do meaningful self-reflection at any time of the school year in order to improve the teaching and learning experience.  A thorough analysis of what worked, what failed, and why, in both cases, conduces to future success.

Reflect on what every student should know and be able to do. Curriculum and instruction decisions are built around the question “What should every student know and be able to do?” Standards are designed to support student understanding. As teachers, we may focus on activities rather than teaching for understanding. This type of reflection should be ongoing throughout the school year. Traditional planning focuses on what we know and be able to do with each group of students. Through conversations with coworkers, teachers will develop an intentional focus on desired learning outcomes and student engagement.

Reflect on the learning space. One thing that is often overlooked in education is the learning space. Learning space is determined by adults in most schools. The way learning space is organized highlights what the adults in the school value. If we take the time to reflect on the importance of design, purpose, and space, we may find that the old structure is a barrier to student achievement. As I design my space in the beginning of the year I ask myself but I review this question as the year moves on: “Does this learning space support the type of learning opportunities we are designing for students?” All students deserve a learning space, not just a classroom.

Reflect on student voice, choice, and contribution. When I reflect on student understanding, I often reflect on student achievement or test scores, student growth, student engagement, or gaps in student understanding. This is a list that focuses on the right things. However, a focus on student understanding and student growth may not tell us if student voice, choice, and contribution were present throughout the unit. For me this is huge as voice and choice are BIG parts of my Teacher Rubric. Reflecting back on what skills to determine whether or not a recent lesson or unit helped students acquire or improve one or more of the skills. It’s easy to look at data points from tests, it’s harder and more important to begin reflecting on whether students had the opportunity for student voice, choice, and contribution!

Reflect on the understood curriculum. The danger in never-ending planning, using the all important of curriculum maps, units, vertical alignment, course blueprints, pacing guides, and support documents. But not reflecting on the understood curriculum can result in prematurely moving to the next topic because a certain unit needs to be finished by the end of the month. Without this how can we ensure that the learned curriculum is maximized?

Reflect on the whole child. In my Resource Room practice, I make decisions based on the whole child. Always reflecting on the data and asking “What does the whole child need to be successful, access, or be independent in the classroom?” “How can I support the whole child?” Ask most classroom teachers if they have a “whole child” classroom and they struggle to intentionally plan to support the whole child.

Reflection is critically important, yet it is so difficult to squeeze into our weekly schedule. It really wasn’t until I work to achieve National Boards I found a true purpose for reflecting on my practice. It’s hard. It’s hard to be honest with yourself, your practice or your team about what needs to change or what went will. But to grow as a teacher--you have to find the three minutes to look back on the lesson, the IEP meeting, or your class set-up to be better tomorrow. It's not uncommon for the lesson I did three days ago to circle back in my mind while in the shower or buying milk. I have learned I’m a processor. I give myself that time to reflect back on how things went. My end of the year reflecting will most likely happen closer to the 4th of July than the last day of school.

Take your time reflecting on your year. Process and reflect using my Free End of Year Teacher Reflection Workbook. Until next time,








Teacher Self Care Toolbox Ideas

May is the never ending month for me. I have less than 15 days to Summer Break and you’d think it’s 60. Mind you it’s not the only month I teach from the beginning to the end of the month without a day off. But by mid-May I’m fried! My students are fried! My team is fried! Hang tough--It's almost Summer Break. Try these on for size.


1. Do some deep breathing. Did you know you can trick your brain into thinking everything is fine (no need for those stress hormones, thank you very much!) with slow, deliberate breathing?

2. Reach out to your fellow teachers. Vent with your coworkers and hold each other accountable for your self-care contract.

3. Take a 15-minute timeout. Schedule your timeouts as periods during the day when you have no interruptions. Soon you’ll look forward to this mini-recharge.

4. Get moving! Even if you don’t have time for a formal exercise plan, you can see stress-relieving benefits from a minor activity like jumping jacks in your living room.

5. Get back to nature. Teachers don’t have a lot of time for long hikes or adventure trips, but being with nature can be as simple as taking walk or stopping by a park after work.

6. Disconnect from technology. Constant digital stimulation can increase your anxiety or sense that “you aren’t doing enough.” Plan some no-tech time.

7. Reflect on the little things. Think about all of the things for which you are grateful. Even when life is stormy, you can always find one bright moment to reflect on.

8. Nurture your artsy side. Artistic expression is one of the most therapeutic techniques for relieving stress. You might try drawing, painting, photography, or crafting.

9. Create a comfort kit. For those days when you’re feeling particularly defeated, a comfort kit reminds you that everything will be okay. It can include anything you love, from your favorite tea to a note from your BFF.

10. Pamper yourself.  Set aside some time during the school year for something special. It could be a nice dinner, a manicure, or a weekend day trip, experiences that will help you refuel and recharge for the school days ahead.





During the day - small ways to stay grounded. Let’s be honest we know someone who has this in their desks:
  • Tea
  • Chocolate
  • Protein boost (nuts, granola bar)
  • Healthy snacks
  • Stress ball
Got a few minutes-- two-minute strategies:
  • Do a few yoga poses or stretches to get your blood moving
  • Get out of the building for some fresh air and a change of scenery
  • Take a mindful moment and pay attention to your breathing to center yourself
After a tough day.
Get creative:
  • Knit
  • Quilt
  • Draw
  • Play air guitar
  • Bake cookies
  • Sing
Connect with others to fill your bucket:
  • Share projects with fellow teachers
  • Make positive phone calls to parents
  • Spend time with loved ones
  • Spend time with animals
  • Give back to your community by volunteering

Need a positive:
  • Keep a folder of kind notes or feedback from students and families
  • Keep a notebook of inspirational quotes
  • Record something positive each day in your journal
Chill Time:
  • Watch a mindless TV show
  • Take a hot bath
  • Read
  • Listen to music
  • Meditate
  • Take the scenic route home
  • Eat chocolate

Get moving:
  • Run
  • Dance
  • Yoga
  • Crossfit
  • Go for a walk


Everyone's self-care may look a little different, and there's no single way to take good care of yourself. Try some different strategies until you have a full toolbox: something that energizes you, something that helps you unwind, and something that helps you manage when you're having a hard time. Finally, encourage students to do the same. Self-care helps us be us. These suggestions from team help us--what works for your team? I can't wait to add more ideas to my toolbox.

Packing Up the Classroom Checklist

It will soon be time to pack up my classroom if you count 18 more school days as soon. I do! Over the summer, everything in my classroom is moved out into the hallway because they strip and wax our classroom floors.  This means everything in the room needs to be boxed or stored.  It still has me thinking about how long it takes to pack my classroom each year.  I thought I would pass on some ideas that have worked for me.  Some tips are for packing the room with an eye towards preparing ahead for September.  If you are an experienced teacher, I am sure you know most or all of these tips.  How helpful they are will also depend on how packed up your room needs to be at the end of the year.  I envy those teachers that don't have to box up every little thing! This year we return the first week of August-ugh!

So, in no particular order, here are ten tips for packing up your classroom:

1. Before you pack up anything, take a picture of your room from different angles.  Each year, I either draw a map or take pictures of my room and staple it to my bulletin board.  I leave a nice note for the custodians asking them to please put my furniture back according to the map/pictures if they can.  I then kindly thank them and tell them I hope they have a great summer.  In the past fourteen years, I think only once has my room not been put back in perfect order.  I would also suggest taking pictures of the different areas in your room so that you can see how you had it organized.  Maybe I'm just getting old, but there have been many times where I think, "How in the world did this fit in there?"  Having pictures helps!

2.  Put all your desk things in one box labeled "DESK or OPEN FIRST."  It makes putting your desk back together much easier and is really the first thing you should do when you get back. I know before I even walk in my classroom, there are a million and one papers waiting for me in the office.  When I set up my desk first, I have a place to put all those papers.  I also always make sure I put a dollar store box opener in this box.  Then when I come back to set up for September, I am not scrambling to find something to open all my supply boxes that were delivered over the summer.

3.  Copy all your first week papers before you leave for the summer.  It's really nice to have those back-to-school activities ready to go.  It's even nicer to not have to fight for time at the copier as all the other teachers are copying right before school starts.  Then, store them in a file you know you will find in August!  A couple of times I have completely forgotten I did this at the end of the year and recopied it all again in September.  Yeah, not so much of a time saver that way!  Now, I stick a note in my "DESK" box to remind me.

6.  I used to shelve my textbooks by subject. I don’t have a class set but copies of each grade levels math text. I make sure all the copies we lent out are back.  All the math books on the shelf, then all the science books, all the social studies books and so on.   I also make sure of any material lent out come back for next year.

7.  Organize your class library before you leave.  Even though this is a job in my classroom, our class library does get out of order to some degree.  This is a great activity for your friends at the end of the year.  I take all the baskets out and we put them on their desks.  Each friend has to make sure the books in the baskets match the genre or guided reading level before they can put it back on the shelf. While they do this, I have them keep an index card and write down any titles they haven't read yet but would like to.   It organizes my library, and it gives my friends a head start on some summer reading suggestions.

8.  If you didn't use it this year, seriously consider getting rid of it or passing it on to another teacher.  I am so guilty of not doing this, but have gotten better about it the past few years.  I had things like odd math manipulatives I never used, some weird writing paper that wasn't good for my friends, and a bunch of classroom decoration that I just never used or used at a younger grade level.  Since I couldn't stand throwing out a lot of it, I put it in the teachers' lounge on a table with a sign that said, "FREE!"  It was all gone within the day!  Less clutter for me and hopefully helpful to someone else.

9.  Painter's Tape is your friend!  We have to label all the furniture in our room.  For years I used regular masking tape which just seemed to bake on over the summer and was a monster to take off.  I've started using that blue painter's tape, and it's been great.  I just put a strip on any furniture that needs to be labeled and use a Sharpie to write my name and room number on it.  Come August, it just peels right off with no sticky residue. 

10.   Label everything. You may think you will, but you won’t.  Face it, the chances of you remembering what is in each box by the time you head back to school are slim to none if you do not label what is inside.  Write down every single thing that goes in each container and you will find that it is not only easier to set up your classroom in the fall, it will be easier to keep it organized throughout the year and find it next spring.  Choose sturdy labels that will not fall off in storage.

11. Enlist your students to help clean. As excited as you are about the last day of school, your students are about ten times more excited.  They can hardly stay in their seats and concentrate.  Focus that energy and turn it into something productive.  Give students organizing, packing, and cleaning tasks around the room.  Have them weed out useless pieces of crayons, empty glue sticks, and dried-out markers.  Assign them to the classroom library where they check to make sure all of the books are in the correct bins. Let them wipe off the desks and chairs with sanitizing wipes.  The classroom was theirs for an entire year too and it teaches them a valuable lesson about taking care of their space until the very end. 


You have worked so hard this year to make learning fun, meet standards, complete all of the paperwork, and maintain your enthusiasm.  Do not get overwhelmed with thoughts of cleaning up your classroom.  When you have a plan, anything can be accomplished.  Have a great summer!






Math Preschool Style

Preschooler, experiencing the world through play as they explore and learn with great enthusiasm. Giving preschoolers a solid foundation in early math literacy is critical to their future academic success, not to mention how important it is to their day-to-day functioning.

How preschoolers learn the many aspects of math

Most preschoolers, even without guidance from adults, are naturally interested in math as it exists in the world around them. They learn math best by engaging in dynamic, hands-on games and projects. Preschoolers love to ask questions and play games that involve the many aspects of math. The table below lists the key aspects of preschool math, along with simple games and activities you can use to help your child learn them.

Math Games and Activities

  • Count food items at snack time (e.g., 5 crackers, 20 raisins, 10 baby carrots)
  • Use a calendar to count down the days to a birthday or special holiday. Help your child see the connection between a numeral like "5," the word "five," and five days on the calendar.
  • Practice simple addition and subtraction using small toys and blocks.
  • Play simple board games where your child moves a game piece from one position to the next.
  • Have your child name the shapes of cookie cutters or blocks.
  • Arrange cookie cutters in patterns on a cookie sheet or placemat. A simple pattern might be: star-circle-star-circle.
  • Let your child help you measure ingredients for a simple recipe - preferably a favorite!
  • Measure your child's height every month or so, showing how you use a yardstick or tape measure. Mark his or her height on a "growth chart" or a mark on a door frame. Do the same with any siblings. Help your child compare his or her own height to previous months and also to their siblings' heights.
  • Talk through games and daily activities that involve math concepts.
  • Have your child name numbers and shapes.
  • Help them understand and express comparisons like more than/less than, bigger/smaller, and near/far.
  • Play games where you direct your child to jump forward and back, to run far from you or stay nearby.
  • Use songs with corresponding movements to teach concepts like in and out, up and down, and round and round.


Website Ideas

The Early Math Learning website (www. earlymathlearning.com) includes free downloads of PDF files of this Early Learning Math at Home booklet as well as individual chapters. Additional articles and resources for families will be added regularly.

The California Mathematics Council maintains a For Families section at its website (www.cmc-math.org/family/main.html). Here you will find articles on mathematics education issues of interest to parents, hands-on activities to do at home and information on how to host your own Family Math event at your preschool or education center.

The Math Forum (www.mathforum.org) is a web portal to everything “mathematics.” Here you can ask Dr. Math questions and get answers! You will also find weekly and monthly math challenges, Internet math hunts, and math resources organized by grade level.

Head Start–Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (www.eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc) is linked to the federal Head Start Program. Here you will find information about government programs for early learning, including resources that are available to families.

Thinkfinity (www.thinkfinity.org) is a project of the Verizon Foundation. This website has more than 55,000 resources—including many that focus on math—that have been screened by educators to ensure that content is accurate, up-to-date, unbiased, and appropriate for students. The resources on this website are grouped by grade level and subject area.

PBS Parents, the early education website of the Public Broadcasting Service (www.pbs.org/parents/education/math/activities), offers numerous resources, including the stages of mathematics learning listed for babies through second grade children. It is also a rich source of math activities to do at home

Math at Play (www.mathatplay.org) offers multimedia resources for anyone who works with children from birth to age five. Here you can explore early mathematical development and the important ways that caregivers nurture children’s understanding of math concepts through social-emotional relationships, language, everyday play experiences, materials, and teaching.

Let’s Read Math (www.letsreadmath.com/math-and-childrens-literature/ preschool/) wants to make parents and families aware of the growing body of children’s literature with themes related to mathematics. Here you will find a long annotated list of live links to preschool children’s books with math themes, listed by title, author, and mathematics topic.


Tier 2 Interventions: Take RTI to the Next Level

Response to Intervention-Tier 2 Interventions are classroom based and a challenge to do consistently. I have depending on my case load, helped with Tier 2 interventions. Students who join me are either those the RTI team is wanting to move forward with formal testing and need more data or they are students who only need a quick push to get back to core instruction. But it all moves around the data and how classroom-based interventions are pulled together. This is not easy!

As a classroom teacher, you are using a variety of differentiated instructional and assessment strategies. Universal screening and progress monitoring tools are in place. You are using the resulting data to guide your instruction and to determine which students need Tier 2 interventions. You know that in order to be effective, those interventions must not be “more of the same,” since the strategies you used in your Tier 1 classroom did not work for these students. Your challenge is to meet the needs of each Tier 2 student while maintaining the instructional integrity of your general education classroom.

To do this, consider the following two questions:

*How can I design effective Tier 2 interventions?
*How can I differentiate targeted interventions to meet the needs of each of my Tier 2 students?

How can I design effective Tier 2 interventions?

Tier 2 evidence-based interventions use systematic, explicit methods to change student performance and/or behavior. In systematic methods, skills and concepts begin with the most simple, moving to the most complex. Student objectives are clear, concise, and driven by ongoing assessment results.

Additionally, students are provided with appropriate practice opportunities which directly reflect systematic instruction. Explicit methods typically include teacher modeling, student guided practice, and student independent practice, sometimes referred to as “I do, We do, You do.”

Tier 2 Intervention Design Example:

I do
1.Teacher models and explains

We do
2.Students practice (with teacher’s guidance) what the teacher modeled
3.Teacher provides prompts/feedback
4.Students apply skill as teacher scaffolds instruction

You do
5.Students practice independently (either in-class or as homework)
6.Teacher provides feedback

As you design interventions that are systematic and explicit, make sure you spend plenty of time on the “We do” stage. That is your best opportunity to catch mistakes and clarify misconceptions.


How can I differentiate targeted interventions to meet the needs of each of my Tier 2 students?

To design effective differentiated interventions, you must know what your students' needs are. Consistent data collection is key for both moving on to Tier 3 and Special Education and moving students back to the core curriculum. (If you have not checked out my Plug & Play Data Collection Spreadsheets--you can here). 

Are your students visual, auditory, or tactile/kinesthetic? Many Tier 2 learners are primarily visual and tactile/kinesthetic. They need concrete examples such as pictures and graphic organizers, as well as hands-on experiences.

Students who are poor readers typically exhibit strengths in the visual/spatial intelligence. They “think in pictures” rather than in words. Because these students are often able to put details into their pictures that others may not discern, encourage them to sketch what they are reading or hearing. Next, guide them as they first explain and then write about their pictures.

Tier 2 Intervention Example

In my school, one 4th grade teacher during a unit in the core reading program devoted to poetry had students learning how to write haikus, something not included in the core reading program but clearly aligned to the reading standards for that grade. Another 2nd grade teacher chose to use reader's theater, a well-known intervention program in which students "rehearse" the presentation of reading material to their classmates in a play or dialogue format, to increase the development of fluency.

By dividing the entire grade into tiered instruction, the model provides to students who are already achieving at benchmark levels opportunities for enrichment that go beyond the core instructional program. Our school schedule built in a time each week to collect the progress-monitoring data would be collected on students in Tiers 2 and 3.

Suggested Timeline for RTI Implementation

Phase 1            
  • Establish a Professional Learning Community
  • Differentiate instruction in Tier 1
  • Conduct professional development on RTI
  • Begin an Action Plan
  • Set up RTI teams
  • Select an RTI model
  • Choose or design universal screening and begin using
 Phase 2
  • Hold discussions on decision rules, fidelity of implementation, and documentation procedures
  • In Tier 1, regularly use data from assessments to make instructional decisions
  • Make decisions about when and how Tiers 2 & 3 interventions will be conducted
  • Choose or design progress monitoring and begin using
  • Begin differentiating interventions in Tiers 2 and 3
  • Finish Action Plan
Phase 3
  • In all tiers, use data to make most instruction and intervention decisions
  • Differentiate instruction and interventions consistently
  • Evaluate practicality and usefulness of  universal screening and progress monitoring

Give a shoutout--What are your favorite Tier 2 classroom based interventions? Specialists, how do you support classroom teachers with their Tier 2 interventions? I'd love to hear!

April: Show & Tell Linky

Happy Tuesday. Today I'm linking up with Stephanie from "Forever in 5th Grade" for this months peek into my Resource Room.  This month I have been helping with PARCC testing. It's also the time of year when I start reflecting back on the past 9 months and beginning thinking about next year.


I know for me this year, striking a balance between the art and science of teaching was not as balanced as I would have liked. I think I bent more towards the art and a little less than the science. Using data binders students kept track of their goals and data. This helped move them more than a year. These are a must for next year.
I have things I want to trash to like rotations. But I want to add more co-teaching and student driven embedded data collection--students collecting their own IEP data and taking more ownership of their growth.



If you have not tried Seesaw--I would.  I came across Seesaw and was impressed with the idea that it is student and time friendly. I only have my groups for about 30 minutes. This means I either need to do it when I have 2 minutes or they need to do the uploading and creating within that 30 minutes. I love the app options that can be uploaded into the platform. My hope is this is REALLY student friendly and will become a place students can create and show off their app-smashing.

Students are proficient in using Seesaw as part of their workflow and it has been a great and easy place for them to put their work to share, self-assess, and track their own progress. A must for next year. Seesaw makes data collection in Special Education and RTI easy to do. (Which we all need. Right?)

CHAMPS: bulletin board set to help implement the CHAMPS program into your classroom
CHAMPS. A behavior management system I added this year. I love this as I set a visual expectation for each task like "Group Instruction" or "Test." Students are aware of what the expectations are before I start talking. A must keep!



Student created rubric with pictures to show them what is expected to score a 3
I love putting things in pictures. Pictures move faster to the brain than words. This one has become our Problem Solving Rubric which shows not tells students what is needed to score a 3 on the rubric. Problem Solving is one skill I want students' to take back to the classroom. When I do rubrics I do them with each group's input. The picture helps remind them what it needs to look like. I need to add more like this--not sure for what but this needs to happen.


If you remember I had a couple of groups early in the year almost to grade level and started reading rotations with them. Well with 30 minutes, this was not successful. As they were 2nd and 3rd graders, they didn't have tons of independence to maintain work on their own part of this idea. I ended up moving them back to guided reading and changing their schedule to have them spend more time in the classroom. 

This year has been filled up ups and downs. Ideas I want to keep and ideas that need to be trashed. I need to find more ways to embed data collection of IEP goals and RTI needs. What do you want to trash? What do you want to keep? Share them.


Shut the Front Door!!

It's that time of year when I'm going crazy! Yes, you know that time of year--where you have IEPs, parent/teacher conferences, transition meetings, PLUS all you own end of the year teacher evaluation stuff you HAVE to do.  This is the second year I have had to do SLO (Student Learning Objectives). Yeah!! I can use my IEP data--no hoop jumping here. But even without having to do this, I would have kept track to show myself and the world (if they cared) my students made a year's growth.

The key--the DATA!. I know you have been told this all the time but it's true--if you look at it and DO something about it then you get something for your hard work.

One if my favorite things is to make pictures with the numbers to show off to parents at IEP meetings or teachers when I meet with them. This makes it so much easier to talk about what the student is and is not doing and make it REAL. When you put numbers to student performance and have a picture to go with it--conversations change. Teachers jump on board. Parents see what you're talking about.

I'm going to share my secret weapon with you (& it's FREE). It's a Plug & Play 20 Excel for Class Progress Monitoring. Yes, you heard me right. Just put in your data and goal line and the graph is created for you.




Like all data graphs, you might need to change the Y-axis depending on the data and add a trendline (if that's your thing). But that is all you need to do.

These graphs are perfect for RTI Intervention Monitoring, easy for anyone to put the data in, and great for SLO!

Oh--did I mention it was free.  You can find the 20 Progress Monitoring Graphs in my Free Resource Library. If you have not signed up yet, get yours here!

I'd love to hear what your favorite ways are to show off student data and keep track for your SLO data.

Have a great Early Spring Weekend!
Until next Time-




POW: DRA Comprehension Rubric

 This is the time of year where my team is working thought DRA's for their SLO (Student Learning Objectives) and figuring out what they are going to do when we come back from Spring Break.

A question teachers have been asking is what to do with the DRA rubric after they are scored. How do you use the information to plan instruction and next steps? (I always tell teachers to use the data they have to collect or they have created first before trying to figure out else they may need.)

When you look at a DRA rubric it is broken into two parts: oral reading (decoding and fluency and comprehension.) If you missed the first post in this series click here to get caught up.

This week, I'll talk about how and why I create targeted instruction around the comprehension part if the rubric.

I look at where the student scored on the rubric--taking note or strengths and weakness.

The Comprehension rubric is broken in 3 different skills--book knowledge, retell or summary, and higher order thinking questions.
In this case, a strength the student has is his book knowledge. With this book, it includes using the non-fiction text features as well. He struggled with retelling and the higher order thinking questions. (This would be a great jumping off put to collaborate with SLP to provide extra language support.)

When I start planning where I want to start, I make sure I have the students' previous small group work. I will use them to decide what the next steps need to be. 

This student's guided reading data shows he has been struggling with retells and I also have to provide several prompts. When I think about Bloom's Question Stems, I know retells are easier than reflection questions. (Bloom's Questions Stems: remembering vs evaluating).  This will be the first place I start.

When talking with his Speech/Language provider, she lets me know she sees the same struggles with retelling but she'd been playing with picture supports and was seeing more success. (This is both an accommodation but also a great skill for students to have. Going back and using the text as a resource. Think state testing or STAR assessment--students CAN go back to the text.) 

This made me think about my instruction and the types of books he was reading. He is currently in Fountas and Pinnell G's and H's. Since these books as still mostly pictures, copying the pictures and drawing pictures would be a good place to start. This would also support his language needs. 

To start with, I copied a couple pictures from the book. This would be used to model going back into the book to use it as a resource as I modeled retelling the story. These pictures than could become a graphic organizer like Thinking Maps (Flow Map). This could be paired with a Retelling Rubric below. Here the I'm only scoring the retell. I took it right from the rubric. During my modeled lesson, I will demonstrate a 4. I also model using the pictures from the books. Student's have to be taught to do this skill. In my planning, I will make a point of doing both before moving to drawing the pictures.



As I'm planning out the Retelling Skill Lessons, I keep in mind grade level expectations--no book but then I think about what skills the student(s) needs to get there. I also keep in mind, when teaching comprehension skills I may need to get easier books to work with. I scaffold out the list of lessons so I can see what I'm thinking:
1) Modeled: without resource making sure to reference back to the rubric (at least a couple of days over a couple of different books)
2) Modeled: with pictures from the resource to create a Flow Map (at least of couple of days over a couple of different books)
3)Shared: with pictures (if you are doing most of the thinking then go back to a modeled lesson)
4) Shared: with pictures (moving them to independent thinking)
5) Independent with support using the book or resource to retell.

I will need to make sure the student's score 4s before starting the process over with student created drawings.

Why spend the time teaching retelling a story using student created drawings? Because it is a more appropriate grade level skill plus students will come across books with fewer and fewer pictures as they move to harder text. Student created drawings can be used across all curriculum areas and move the student to take control of what they need to access the curriculum--self-determination at its finest.

The last step is to start teaching the skill. I will plan on reassessing the comprehension part of the whole DRA rubric using the blank DRA forms in four weeks to see if the student has made growth. If so than I would teach, how to answer the Higher Order Thinking questions at the bottom of the comprehension rubric or I will plan on reteaching retelling/summaries again. I love using the Reading Comprehension Stems I've shared below. It's a great jumping off point when I work on comprehension skills. I use them for progress monitoring both in writing and in conversation. If you're have not signed up for my Free Resource Library, click here. (Its super easy and besides did I mention it was free to join. Who doesn't love free!)

I'd love to hear about your favorite reading comprehension teaching strategies. Pictures and my bad draws always seem to make students laugh and grow as a reader.

Until next time,















About Me

Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I'm Ms. Whiteley. I teach in the beautiful Mile High state--Colorado. This is my 13th year teaching in an rural K-6 Elementary school as a Exceptional Needs Teachers. As Exceptional Needs National Board Certified Teacher, I believe that ALL students can learn and be successful. When I'm not in school, I love to take my two Italian Greyhounds hiking 14ers and reaching for the stars. Thanks for Hopping By.
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