Showing posts with label RTI. Show all posts
Showing posts with label RTI. Show all posts

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.

What is Progress Monitoring?

Progress monitoring is a scientifically based practice that is used to assess students' academic performance and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction. Progress monitoring can be implemented with individual students or an entire class.

What is progress monitoring?

Progress monitoring is a scientifically based practice that is used to assess students’ academic performance and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction. Progress monitoring can be implemented with individual students or an entire class.

How does progress monitoring work?

To implement progress monitoring, the student’s current levels of performance are determined and goals are identified for learning that will take place over time. The student’s academic performance is measured on a regular basis (weekly or monthly). Progress toward meeting the student’s goals is measured by comparing expected and actual rates of learning. Based on these measurements, teaching is adjusted as needed. Thus, the student’s progression of achievement is monitored and instructional techniques are adjusted to meet the individual students learning needs.

What are the benefits of progress monitoring?

When progress monitoring is implemented correctly, the benefits are great for everyone involved. Some benefits include:

  • accelerated learning because students are receiving more appropriate instruction;
  • more informed instructional decisions; documentation of student progress for accountability purposes; 
  • more efficient communication with families and other professionals about students’ progress; 
  • higher expectations for students by teachers; and fewer Special Education referrals

Overall, the use of progress monitoring results in more efficient and appropriately targeted instructional techniques and goals, which together, move all students to faster attainment of important state standards of achievement.

Who should be practicing progress monitoring?

Anyone who is interested in improving results for children should be implementing progress monitoring. Whether you are a regular educator, special educator, related service provider, administrator, or family member, you should be interested in implementing research-based progress monitoring practices. It's always a good idea for teachers and special education teachers to have it ready to show to parents or other stake holder. It's great to show parents and students.

What are the challenges of progress monitoring?

  • Educators and families need information about the effectiveness of progress monitoring that would encourage them to adopt the practice.
  • Teachers and other practitioners need support in translating progress monitoring research into easily implemented, usable strategies.
  • Technical assistance on progress monitoring must transfer knowledge in ways that accommodate differences in background, training, and beliefs, as well as differences in the nature and philosophy of the instructional programs and practices already in place.
  • This information dissemination must take place in a variety of formats, in usable forms, and at different levels of specificity.

It’s also call:

Progress monitoring is a relatively new term. Some other terms you may be more familiar with are Curriculum-Based Measurement and Curriculum-Based Assessment. Whatever method you decide to use, it is most important that you ensure it is a scientifically based practice that is supported by significant research.

What is Mental Math?

For me mental math plays a huge part of building number sense and a students ability to work math in their heads. Some days most of my math block is spent doing mental math and other days it may only be 3 minutes of an activity. I have listed some for my students favorite. They work great for interventions and RTI.

Mental math is the main form of calculation used by most people and the simplest way of doing many calculations. Research has shown that in daily life at least 75% of all calculations are done mentally by adults. However, unfortunately due to the emphasis on written computation in many classrooms, many children believe that the correct way to calculate a simple subtraction fact such as 200-3 is to do it in the written form.

Through regular experiences with mental math children come to realize that many calculations are in fact easier to perform mentally. In addition, when using mental math children almost always use a method which they understand (unlike with written computation) and are encouraged to think actively about relationships involving the particular numbers they are dealing with.

In order to be effective Mental Math sessions should:

  • occur on a daily basis (5-10 minutes per day)
  • encourage ‘having a go’ on the part of all students
  • emphasize how answers were arrived at rather than only whether they are correct
  • Promote oral discussion
  • allow students to see that there are many ways to arrive at a correct answer rather than one correct way
  • build up a dense web of connections between numbers and number facts
  • emphasize active understanding and use of place value

Following are some possible activities for K-5 classrooms:

Fill the Hundreds Chart:

On day one display a Hundreds Pocket Chart with only 5-6 pockets filled with the correct numerals. Leave all other pockets blank. Select 3 numerals and 3 students. Ask each student to place his/her numeral in its correct pocket and to explain the strategy they used to help them complete this task. Repeat the above with 3 numbers and 3 students per day until all pockets are filled. Take note of students who use a count by one strategy and those who demonstrate an awareness of the base ten patterns underlying the chart. Select numbers based on your knowledge of individual student’s number sense (e.g. you may select a number immediately before or after a number that is already on the board for one child and a number that is 10 or 11 more than a placed number for another child who you feel has a good understanding of the base ten pattern).

Possible questions to involve other students:

Yesterday we had __ numbers on our number chart and today we added 3 more. How many numbers do we now have on our number chart? How do you know?
If there are __ numbers on our number chart how many more numbers do we need to add to fill our chart? Ask several students to explain the strategy used to solve this problem.
We now have ____ numbers on our number chart. If we continue to add 3 numbers every day how many more days/weeks will it take to fill our number chart? Explain your thinking.

Today’s Number is… 

Select a number for the day (e.g. 8) and write it on the board or chart paper. Ask students to suggest calculations for which the number is the answer. Write students' suggestions in 4 columns (addition examples, subtraction, multiplication and division). After 8 or 10 responses, focus in on particular columns or types of responses that you would like more of. For example,"Give me some more addition examples", "Give me some ways which use three numbers", "Give me an example using parentheses" etc.

What's My Number

Select a number between 1 and 100 and write it down without revealing it to your students. Have students take turns to ask questions to which you can only answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Record each question and answer on chart paper. For example:

Is it greater than 30? No
Is it an even number? Yes
Is it a multiple of 3? No
Does it have a 4 in the ones place?...

After 3 or 4 questions ask, “What is the smallest number it could still be? What is the largest? Discuss why it is better to ask a question such as "Is it an odd number?" than "Is it 34?" early in the game. To ensure that all students are involved have them use individual laminated 100 charts with dry erase markers to mark off numbers after each question is asked. Keep going until the number has been named correctly. During the game you may also want to keep track of how many questions are asked before the number is named. Next time you play challenge students to guess the number with fewer questions.

'Friendly' number activities
Give a number less than 10. Students must respond with an addition fact that will make the number up to 10. For example, if today's target number is 10 and you say 6 the student must respond with "6 + 4 = 10". Vary the target number e.g. 20, 50, 100, 200, 1000 etc. to suit students' ability level.

What is RtI?

What is RtI?
Response-to-Intervention (RtI) is the practice of providing high-quality instruction/intervention matched to student needs. Progress is closely monitored and changes in instruction are based on data collected from on-going assessment.

RtI represents an educational strategy to close achievement gaps for all students, by preventing smaller learning problems from becoming insurmountable gaps. (NASDSE, 2006)

Tier 1:
Whole Classroom: Quality core instruction provided to all students 80%-90%

Tier 2:
Small Group: Supplemental needs based instruction 10-20%

Tier 3:
Intensive:  individualized instruction 5-10%

What do the tiers mean?

Tier I
ALL students receive Tier I interventions, also known as “Best Practices.” Tier I interventions will be successful with 80- 90% of the student population. Classroom teachers provide Tier I interventions and supports.

Tier II
Based on academic school-wide screening, students who are not meeting grade level benchmarks and for whom Tier I interventions are not supportive enough will receive Tier II interventions. They receive the same instruction as students in Tier 1 as well as targeted interventions. Tier II represents 5-10% of the population. Tier II interventions are provided by the classroom teacher as well as support staff when necessary.

Tier III
Students who are not making adequate progress at Tier II will receive Tier III interventions. Tier III interventions include intensive instruction, specific to the student’s highest area(s) of need. Tier III should only represent 1-5% of the population. Tier III interventions are provided by the classroom teachers as well as specialists in the specific area of skill deficit.

Description of Critical Elements in a 3-Tier RtI Model
The following table outlines the essential features of a three-tier model of RtI including suggested ranges of frequency and duration of screening, interventions and progress monitoring. This is intended as guidance as they determine the various components of their RtI model.
Tier 1
Core Curriculum and
Tier 2
Supplemental Instruction
Tier 3
Increased Levels of
Supplemental Instruction
Size of instructional
Whole class grouping
Small group instruction
(3-5 students)
Individualized or small
group instruction
(1-2 students)
Mastery requirements
of content
Relative to the cut points identified on criterion screening measures and
continued growth as
demonstrated by progress
Relative to the cut points identified on criterion screening measures and
continued growth as
demonstrated by progress monitoring
Relative to the student’s level of performance and
continued growth as
demonstrated by progress monitoring
Frequency of progress
Screening measures three times per year
 (DIBELS, AIMSWeb, iReady)
Varies, but no less than
once every two weeks
Varies, but more continuous and no less than once a week
Frequency of
intervention provided
Per school schedule

Varies, but no less than
three times per week for a minimum of 20-30 minutes per session
Varies, but more frequently than Tier 2 for a minimum of 30 minutes per session
Duration of
School year
9-30 weeks
A minimum of 15-20 weeks

What are the Benefits of RtI?

  • RtI ensures a shared approach is used in addressing students’ diverse needs.
  • Parents are a very important part of the process.
  • RtI eliminates the “wait to fail” situation, because students get help promptly within the general education setting.
  • The RtI approach may help reduce the number of students referred for special education services while increasing the number of students who are successful within regular education.
  • RtI helps to identify the root cause of achievement problems.
  • RtI’s use of progress monitoring provides more instructionally relevant information than traditional assessments

How Parents/Guardians can support at Home:

  • Reading is Fundamental (These tips have been adapted from Reading is Fundamental (
  • Invite your child to read with you every day.
  • When reading a book where the print is large, point word by word as you read.
  • Read your child’s favorite book over and over again.
  • Read many stories with rhyming words and repeated lines.
  • Discuss new words and ideas.
  • Stop and ask about the pictures and what is happening in the story. Encourage your child to predict.
  • Read from a variety of materials including fairy tales, poems, informational books, magazines and even comic strips.
  • Let your children see you reading for pleasure in your spare time.
  • Take your child to the library. Explore an area of interest together
  • Scout for things your child might like to read. Use your child’s interests and hobbies as starting points.
What should parents do if they believe their child is struggling?

  • Contact your child’s teacher
  • Request a parent/teacher conference
  • Access the parent portal and other daily means of communication
  • Review your child’s work to see if there is progress
  • Talk with your child to ensure they know you are supporting them at home as well as in school

125 × 125Be sure to stop by my Teachers pay Teacher store for great RtI progress monitoring tools during the 2-day Cyber Sale all items 28% off. My students love  my RTI: Nonsense Word Fluency Activities. Its a great way to open guided reading so students to practice going from the individual sounds to the whole word. 

Supporting Struggling Readers

As parent/teacher conferences approach (or in my case later this week), something to keep in mind to think about changing up ideas to support struggling readers while talking with parents and to try as students are brought to an RTI team. Sometimes rethinking the basics is all students need.

  • The teacher's knowledge matters: knowing which skills to teach and when, teaching reading skills in balanced reading programs.
  • Classroom organization matters: access to books and writing materials, classroom routines, community reading, "just right" reading, "on your own" reading.
  • Reading choices matter: levels of difficulty, genre, topics, cultural representation, task difficulty and achievement.
  • Explicit instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics matters: effective word study instruction, assessment, building decoding fluency.
  • Explicit and strategic instruction in comprehension matters.
  • Response to reading matters: types, contexts, purposes and assessing reader response.
  • Assessment matters: frequency, context and type.
  • The amount of text that children read matters.
  • Fluency matters: correct words per minute, tone, phrasing.

Fine Motor Skills

If the child has difficulty with handwriting and/or fine motor skills . . .

Handwriting problems are frequently the result of neuro-developmental dysfunctions and their associated information output and integration problems. These occur in children who have: a) fine motor-coordination problems; b) trouble expressing their thoughts on paper; and c) short attention spans with impulsivity. In my experience, I have seen many different reasons for handwriting difficulties: sensitivity to paper due to a neurological side effect of chemotherapy, and vision or eye disorders. If you believe that your student has a "handicapping condition," contact your administrator about a 504 plan for modification of work and support from the school.

The following are some suggestions that may help improve the writing abilities in children with severe problems:
  • Always encourage the child while avoiding public criticism. We adults may need to change our attitudes based on a proper understanding of the reasons for the writing problem.
  • Minimize or modify written work. Such an agreement may remain private (i.e., not known to the child's peers, who will frequently tease the child for problems they do not understand). You may want to assign an Alphasmart keyboard to the child or allow them to do written work on the computer in the classroom. If you have a strong feeling of "community" within the classroom, other children will understand the modification. Contact your student's parent about accepting computer generated homework as well.
  • Increase time allowed for written task completion. By reducing pressure and anxiety, the child frequently responds with better written output.
  • Vary priorities required during writing. On one task, emphasize organization, good ideas, and legibility, while on another, stress only the mechanics of writing (e.g., spelling, punctuation, capitalization). Many children with developmental dysfunctions can only effectively concentrate on one or two priorities at a time - they may "come unglued" when expected to handle multiple tasks they have not yet mastered.
  • Stage long-term tasks. For example, a book report or research project could be broken down into units, with the child turning in a summary of each chapter, note cards, outline, etc. This will also teach study skills that will be a benefit throughout school.
  • Grade to allow for success. Comments should be positive. The child who thinks he can't tends to give up.
  • As soon as possible, introduce the child to typing and/or word processing. School typing should be allowed to completely replace written work, if needed in severe cases.
  • If an ink pen is difficult or to messy to use, try alternative writing tools such as pencils or felt-tip pens. Graph paper for writing math problems helps with the organization and alignment.
  • Allow printing if cursive writing is too cumbersome and frustrating for the child.
  • Try placing a rubber pencil grip on the pen or pencil. Teacher supply stores have a wide variety of styles, colors and composition (some are softer than others). Find one that works!
  • Reteach the pencil grip. Many children (and adults) have acquired an awkward pencil grip. 

Second Language Learners

I have found that ideas and strategies for Second Language learners work very with special needs students especially those with language based disorders. If the child is a second language learner is they:
  • should hear stories read frequently in small groups in order to hear many different types of stories;
  • observe verbal and nonverbal cueing strategies (pauses, exaggerated intonation, gestures, and so on);
  • hear thought-provoking questions to promote interaction during story reading;
  • be exposed to predictable books and be encouraged to "read along;"
  • hear and read well-illustrated books so that the pictures provide additional clues to meaning;
  • reread favorite stories to reinforce vocabulary, language patterns, and awareness of sequence;
  • do follow-up activities using different formats and materials;
  • use story grammars to analyze story elements;
  • write and illustrate language experience stories that access prior knowledge;
  • participate in dramatizations and have direct experiences with concrete objects and activities;
  • have vicarious experiences (films, filmstrips, puppets, pictures, etc.);
  • develop functional oral language;
  • be exposed to the Language Experience Method of teaching reading;
  • have opportunities and materials for primary language reading practice for those who can read in their primary language;
  • experience realia and apply lessons to real life situations;
  • have teachers who preteach a concept (into);
  • experience fill-in-the-blanks (word substitutions/cloze);
  • use pictures first and then replace with words;
  • have access to technology and videos for building schema in the content areas;
  • and learn to use graphic organizers for summarizing and/or retelling.
Have a great week! 

What Parents needs to know about RTI

What Are the Essential Components of RTI?

Simply, “Response to Intervention” refers to a process that emphasizes how well students respond to changes in instruction. The essential elements of an RTI approach are: the provision of scientific, research-based instruction and interventions in general education; monitoring and measurement of student progress in response to the instruction and interventions; and use of these measures of student progress to shape instruction and make educational decisions. The core features of an RTI process as follows:
  • ·         High quality, research-based instruction and behavioral support in general education.
  • ·         Universal (school-wide or district-wide) screening of academics and behavior in order to determine which students need closer monitoring or additional interventions.
  • ·         Multiple tiers of increasingly intense scientific, research-based interventions that are matched to student need.
  • ·         Use of a collaborative approach by school staff for development, implementation, and monitoring of the intervention process.
  • ·         Continuous monitoring of student progress during the interventions, using objective information to determine if students are meeting goals. (Progress monitoring like DIBELS Next)
  • ·         Follow-up measures providing information that the intervention was implemented as intended and with appropriate consistency.
  • ·         Documentation of parent involvement throughout the process.
  • ·         Documentation that the special education evaluation timelines specified in IDEA 2004 and in the state regulations are followed unless both the parents and the school team agree to an extension.

  • What Are the Key Terms?

  • Response to Intervention (RTI) is an array of procedures that can be used to determine if and how students respond to specific changes in instruction. RTI provides an improved process and structure for school teams in designing, implementing, and evaluating educational interventions.
  • Universal Screening is a step taken by school personnel early in the school year to determine which students are “at risk” for not meeting grade level standards. Universal screening can be accomplished by reviewing recent results of state tests, or by administering an academic screening test to all children in a given grade level. Those students whose test scores fall below a certain cut-off are identified as needing more specialized academic interventions.
  • Student Progress Monitoring is a scientifically based practice that is used to frequently assess students' academic performance and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction. Progress monitoring procedures can be used with individual students or an entire class.
  • Scientific, Research-Based Instruction refers to specific curriculum and educational interventions that have been proven to be effective –that is, the research has been reported in scientific, peer-reviewed journals.

What Role Does RTI Play in Special Education Eligibility?

IDEA 2004 offers greater flexibility to school teams by eliminating the requirement that students must exhibit a severe discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement in order to be found eligible for special education and related services as a student with a learning disability. This increased flexibility has led to a growing interest in using RTI as part of an alternative method to traditional ability/achievement discrepancy comparisons. IDEA 2004 addresses RTI procedures within several contexts.

Effective instruction and progress monitoring: For students to be considered for special education services based on a learning disability they first must have been provided with effective instruction and their progress measured through “data-based documentation of repeated assessments of achievement.” Furthermore, results of the student progress monitoring must be provided to the child's parents.

Evaluation procedures: The law gives districts the option of using RTI procedures as part of the evaluation procedures for special education eligibility. Comprehensive assessment is still required under the reauthorized law, however. That means that schools still need to carefully examine all relevant aspects of a student's performance and history before concluding that a disability does or does not exist. As before, schools must rule out learning problems that are primarily the result of factors such as poor vision, hearing, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, lack of appropriate instruction, or limited English proficiency.

Early Intervening Services: IDEA 2004 addresses the use of RTI procedures is by creating the option of using up to 15% of federal special education funds for “early intervening services” for students who have not been identified as needing special education, but who need additional academic and behavioral support to succeed in the general education setting. The types of services that can be included are central to the RTI process, and  include professional development for teachers and school staff to enable them to deliver scientifically based academic and behavioral interventions, as well as educational evaluations, services, supports, and scientifically based literacy instruction.

How Can Parents Be Involved in the RTI Process?

Being informed about your school's RTI process is the first step to becoming an active partner. Ask the following questions:
  • ·         Does our school use an RTI process? (Be aware that your child's school may call their procedures a “problem solving process,” or may have a unique title for their procedures, e.g., Instructional Support Team, and not use the specific RTI terminology.)
  • ·         Are there written materials for parents explaining the RTI process? How can parents be involved in the various phases of the RTI process?
  • ·         What interventions are being used, and are these scientifically based as supported by research?
  • ·         What length of time is recommended for an intervention before determining if the student is making adequate progress?
  • ·         How do school personnel check to be sure that the interventions were carried out as planned?
  • ·         What techniques are being used to monitor student progress and the effectiveness of the interventions? Does the school provide parents with regular progress monitoring reports?
  • ·         At what point in the RTI process are parents informed of their due process rights under IDEA 2004, including the right to request an evaluation for special education eligibility?
  • ·         When is informed parental consent obtained and when do the special education evaluation timelines officially commence under the district's RTI plan?

What Are the Potential Benefits of RTI?

Perhaps the most commonly cited benefit of an RTI approach is that it eliminates a “wait to fail” situation because students get help promptly within the general education setting. Secondly, an RTI approach has the potential to reduce the number of students referred for special education services. Since an RTI approach helps distinguish between those students whose achievement problems are due to a learning disability versus those students whose achievement problems are due to other issues such as lack of prior instruction, referrals for special education evaluations are often reduced. Finally, parents and school teams alike find that the student progress monitoring techniques utilized in an RTI approach provide more instructionally relevant information than traditional assessments.

For your freebie check out Classroom Freebies Too. Here you will find a list of questions I give to parents either at the beginning of the year or when their child moves into the RTI process. Be sure to check it out! 
Have a great week. 

What is Phonological and Phonemic Awareness??

Phonological and Phonemic Awareness

Phonological awareness is a broad skill that includes identifying and manipulating units of oral language – parts such as words, syllables, and onsets and rimes. Children who have phonological awareness are able to identify and make oral rhymes, can clap out the number of syllables in a word, and can recognize words with the same initial sounds like 'money' and 'mother.'

Phonemic awareness refers to the specific ability to focus on and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. Phonemes are the smallest units comprising spoken language. Phon
emes combine to form syllables and words. For example, the word 'mat' has three phonemes: /m/ /a/ /t/. There are 44 phonemes in the English language, including sounds represented by letter combinations such as /th/. Acquiring phonemic awareness is important because it is
the foundation for spelling and word recognition skills. Phonemic awareness is one of the best predictors of how well children will learn to read during the first two years of school instruction.

Students at risk for reading difficulty often have lower levels of phonological awareness and phonemic awareness than do their classmates. The good news is that phonemic awareness and phonological awareness can be developed through a number of activities.

What the problem looks like:

A kid's perspective: What this feels like to me

  • Children will usually express their frustration and difficulties in a general way, with statements like "I hate reading!" or "This is stupid!". But if they could, this is how kids might describe how difficulties with phonological or phonemic awareness affect their reading:
  • I don't know any words that rhyme with cat.
  • What do you mean when you say, "What sounds are in the word brush?"
  • I'm not sure how many syllables are in my name.
  • I don't know what sounds are the same in bit and hit.

A parent's perspective: What I see at home

Here are some clues for parents that a child may have problems with phonological or phonemic awareness:

  • She has difficulty thinking of rhyming words for a simple word like cat (such as rat or bat).
  • She doesn't show interest in language play, word games, or rhyming.
  • Click here to find out what parents can do to help a child at home.
  • A teacher's perspective: What I see in the classroom
  • Here are some clues for teachers that a student may have problems with phonological or phonemic awareness:
  • She doesn't correctly complete blending activities; for example, put together sounds /k/ /i/ /ck/ to make the word kick.
  • He doesn't correctly complete phoneme substitution activities; for example, change the /m/ in mate to /cr/ in order to make crate.
  • He has a hard time telling how many syllables there are in the word paper.
  • He has difficulty with rhyming, syllabication, or spelling a new word by its sound.

How to help

With the help of parents and teachers, kids can learn strategies to cope with phonological and/or phonemic awareness problems that affect his or her reading. Below are some tips and specific things to do.

What kids can do to help themselves

  • Be willing to play word and sounds games with parents or teachers.
  • Be patient with learning new information related to words and sounds. Giving the ears a workout is difficult!
  • Practice hearing the individual sounds in words. It may help to use a plastic chip as a counter for each sound you hear in a word.
  • Be willing to practice writing. This will give you a chance to match sounds with letters.
  • What parents can do to help at home
  • Check with your child's teacher or principal to make sure the school's reading program teaches phonological, phonemic awareness, and phonics skills.
  • If your child is past the ages at which phonemic awareness and phonological skills are taught class-wide (usually kindergarten to first or second grade), make sure he or she is receiving one-on-one or small group instruction in these skills.
  • Do activities to help your child build sound skills (make sure they are short and fun; avoid allowing your child to get frustrated):
  • Help your child think of a number of words that start with the /m/ or /ch/ sound, or other beginning sounds.
  • Make up silly sentences with words that begin with the same sound, such as "Nobody was nice to Nancy's neighbor".
  • Play simple rhyming or blending games with your child, such as taking turns coming up with words that rhyme (go – no) or blending simple words (/d/, /o/, /g/ = dog).
  • Read books with rhymes. Teach your child rhymes, short poems, and songs.
  • Practice the alphabet by pointing out letters wherever you see them and by reading alphabet books.
  • Consider using computer software that focuses on developing phonological and phonemic awareness skills. Many of these programs use colorful graphics and animation that keep young children engaged and motivated.

What teachers or parents can do to help at school?

  • Learn all about phonemes (there are more than 40 speech sounds that may not be obvious to fluent readers and speakers).
  • Make sure the school's reading program and other materials include skill-building in phonemes, especially in kindergarten and first grade (these skills do not come naturally, but must be taught).
  • If children are past the age at which phonemic awareness and phonological skill-building are addressed (typically kindergarten through first or second grade), attend to these skills one-on-one or in a small group. Ask your school's reading specialist for help finding a research-based supplemental or intervention program for students in need.
  • Identify the precise phoneme awareness task on which you wish to focus and select developmentally appropriate activities for engaging children in the task. Activities should be fun and exciting – play with sounds, don't drill them.
  • Make sure your school's reading program and other materials include systematic instruction in phonics.
  • Consider teaching phonological and phonemic skills in small groups since students will likely be at different levels of expertise. Remember that some students may need more reinforcement or instruction if they are past the grades at which phonics is addressed by a reading program (first through third grade).

I hope these ideas help and answer some questions for parents. Have a great week.

Response to Intervention--Freebie

Its that time of year--after Spring Break when the last minute chaos and drive to get any stuck in your RTI process out and identified for Special Education before the year ends. I know my team, tries to have a short short list before going to break. Even if we have surprises, then we have time to get to everyone.

I have a couple of resources to share. These have helped my team make sure the information we need is in place before moving to a referral.

I know with all the students and interventions going on, sometimes I get lost as to where students are in the process. This flow map helps keep me on track.

Something else that has been a great help for our whole Problem Solve Team, are all these forms. Here you will find everything from parent letters to invite them to meetings, data collection forms and checklists for just about everything. It is totally editable. So you can make it work for your own team. (Make sure to download from Scridb a docx. If you have problems downloading it as a document, email me and I'll send you a copy.)

Don't let the end of the year chaos sneak up on your team. Have a great week!!

RTI Data and Technology

This coming year, my new mate is split between two schools half time. Question: How do you share RTI information with team members who spend half of their day in another building? Answer: With a Google Site.
As I have shared earlier, I want my team to have there own chart with just the identified students and maybe the tiered students within those groups to track growth. Just like our general education teachers have for all their students.

So, I decided that instead of have a paper and chart that gets hung--I would create something that viewable anywhere and could we could build upon it as the year progress. I created a Google site. It seemed to be the one way we could put meeting notes, planning notes and SMART goals for all groups and our RTI charts. We can add our weekly meeting notes with updated data on goals. More closely monitor that students are making more than a years growth.

The home page has a staffing calender and reminders for SMART Goals.

 The Data Wall for Reading has the categories broken down with the data points and the student data embedded in a spreadsheet on the same page. No flipping through to find the data. The team can see the whole case load in one shot. The Fountas and Pinnell level expectations for the whole year as well. (Get your copy below.)

The second page has the math data. Like with reading-one side has the data points for the year.

Google is perfect because we can add the same charts for the middle and end of the year. Charts can also be added for progress monitoring too. This will become the perfect way to share data throughout the year with everyone on the team.

Pulling this site together was easy enough. Some trial and error finding a template that would work best but that the nice things about Google. Plus documents created in Google talk to Google sites.

It's hard to believe that school will be starting soon. I spent my morning unpacking my room. I'll share pictures of my new way to store my iPads later this week.  Have a great week. If your traveling--safe travels.

What I do

I'm always asked what my job looks like. What kinds of students do I work with throughout the day?

As a Resource Teacher in Exceptional Needs means that I have a room (YEAH) where I can do small pull out groups to provide targeted interventions for students. These days, in my district, I don't just provide services for students with learning disabilities but I also have students with autism, physical disabilities, and speech too. It all depends on what kind of support the student needs to be successful and make progress. I have some students I only see in class for 30 minutes and have others that I see closer to 9 hours in a week. Each year my high needs students shift depending on the grade and how much progress the student made the year before.

I work closely with grade level teams to ensure students are generalizing what I teach in small groups back into the classroom. I plan with grade levels as much as possible-it tends to be with the ones where I have the greatest need. This year its my sixth graders. I have my work cut out.  But with the help of those teachers, we can get those students to grow at least a year or more before they go to middle school. I hate to send on students who struggle with reading anything close to grade level. They are scary low. I help teachers focus on making data based decisions--and that hard with a curriculum that's paced out to ensure that all the tested material is covered before state assessments. It's great that we see the kidoos as ALL of our's--it helps when making the hard calls.

Where do all the RTI kids go? The last two days, my life has revolved about all the students who are reading below grade level 1st to 6th. Our school has 2 Title One Reading Teachers and 2 Exceptional Needs teachers. Myself and my counter part broke apart the students with IEPs because they are our number one priority. Once the students are broken into strategic and intensive, we start looking at how best to group them. Then, we go back and look at who is going to take which group. We look at where the great grade level need is first and start figuring out who is going do take which group and for how long. We make decisions based on the data and putting the kids first. Our Title 1 team may service a student on an IEP sometimes and that's okay. And I may have group that's all RTI kids and that's okay. Because it's about what the kids need not what's best for the adults. (Yes, our district says another interventionist can provide IEP services. It just means that we have to talk way more offend and make sure the parents are okay with that.) the RTI kids get their needs met as well. We make changes as we need to--that's what progress monitoring is for. Kids come and they go as they need to. With the make-up of the group changing as long as the kids are making moves.

So, what does my day look like?? Well, I don't know let. I know that I have students who need in class support for math and pull out for math that I must do. I know that I have students that need an hour a day of reading. I guess--I have a very rough draft of what my day looks like. I think I even have a lunch and plan :-)   Will this plan change if I get more students with IEPs--you bet. IEPs get my time first and then RTI.

That's what Resource is in my building. What does it look like in your build? I hope you have had a wonderful week and are planning something fun for the long weekend.

Things I Give Parents

I send home or give parents lots of things over the year--data, progress reports, and newsletters. I have many parents that ask for about reading levels about what students need to do either to move up or simply give them an idea about where they are in the big picture. The "Parent's Guide to Reading Levels" contains both DRA and Fountas and Pinnell reading levels 1st to 6th grade with a brief list of major themes that have to be mastered. The other form I use to track my students over several years. It's great for IEP meetings because everyone can see the students progress over the years. It is labeled in Fountas and Pinnell. My building uses both-we give the DRA twice a year and our core reading curriculum in labeled in Fountas and Pinnell. I'd love to hear what you share with parents throughout the year. Have a great Wednesday!!

RTI: Part 2

Part 2 of RTI Q and A:

1) What is student progress monitoring?
Progress monitoring is defined as repeated measurement of performance to inform the instruction of individual students in general and special education. The amount of progress monitoring depends on where the student is in the pyramid. A student our is only needing core instruction-benchmarks assessments are all you need to do. Like DIBELS where you give beginning, middle and end of the year screening. Students in Tier 2 it's suggested that they are progress monitored bi-monthly.

Tier 3 students weekly or bi-weekly. It should be noted that progress monitoring Tier 3 weekly allows you to make changes more quickly and move these students through the referral process in a timely fashion. Depending on the skill, I'm working on, I do daily collection with things like letter identification, letter sounds, or number identification.

I'm a huge fan of having my students do their own graphing of their progress. It keeps them motivated and moving towards goals. I also send on these graphs home weekly. This is one way to keep parents in the loop on student progress. Parent involvement in the RTI process is huge and in Colorado required by the time a student is staffed for a learning disability. Part of our paperwork is to document what we did to keep parents informed through the whole process.

2) What are culturally and linguistically responsive practices?
The use of culturally and linguistically responsive practices by teachers involves purposeful considerations of the cultural, linguistic, and socio-economic factors that my have an impact on students' success or failure in the classroom. Attention to these factors, along with inclusion of cultural elements in the delivery of instruction, will help make the strongest possible connection between the culture and expectations of the school and the culture(s) that students bring to the school. Instruction should be differentiated according to how students learn, build on existing student knowledge and experience, and be language appropriate. In addition, decisions about Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions should be aware of students' cultural and linguistic strengths and challenges in how they respond to instruction.

In Colorado, (and I'm sure with others) this means making sure core instruction in the classroom uses those research based strategies. That doesn't mean teachers providing interventions should tune in to those strategies. This is were my team tends to get hung up in the referral process. We have to prove that students are receiving those strategies in core and not making progress-when compared to others ELL students in the grade. This is where progress monitoring is a huge help.

Sites to check out:

Remember Sale ends 7/15

What's mastery?

In the world of Common Core, we have to shift our thinking to mastery and what it looks like as we move through core. Everyone has there own definition of mastery. Which makes it hard to figure out how mastery is defined.

Determining what's acceptable evidence of mastery is key.  It's not enough to simply identify what knowledge and skills are essential. You have to determine what evidence will show that students have  mastered the essential knowledge and skills.  If not, how will you know if they have mastered the information???

Robyn Jackson (Never Work Harder than Your Students), points out that to figure out what mastery is to ask two questions:
1) What will students be able to do? 
Meaning you have to look at your core curriculum and determine what is the essential content and  processes that students need to know. 

2) What criteria you judge this demonstration of mastery?

Example might be: students correctly multiply fractions 80% of the time; correctly identify 45 of the 50 states; or correctly answer 75% of the reading questions on a novel.

There is no answer to this question. A lot of this boils down to your end of the year testing. It also depends on your stated learning goals.  Once you have determined the criteria for mastery, you can determine what summative assessment will best reveal this mastery.

The key elements in mastery learning are:
  • Clearly specifying what is to be learned and how it will evaluated
  • Allowing students to learn at their own pace
  • Assessing student progress and providing appropriate feedback or remediation
  • Testing that final learning criterion has been achieved
In fact, the end of the unit or summative assessment should be planned first. That's right before you even plan your lessons. If you use Backwards Planning, you know that it's the easy way to make sure students will master your objectives. The summative assessment should only test the need to know things that you have to cover. I give mine as a pre and post test. It helps me know if they have mastered the material. On last note, all students are held to the same standards. Differentiation is not about having different standards for different students. One set of standards and the how you present, teach, and support your students is differentiated. How do you define mastery?

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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