Showing posts with label differentiation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label differentiation. Show all posts

Thinking Outside the Box with Math

It’s funny to think about changing instruction just for engagement. But that is what I did with better support my differentiation efforts. Oh, I should mention my principle LOVED the engagement on a recent walkthrough.

Last time I mentioned spending more time looking at and using more “science” than “art” in my elementary resource room. Mostly, because I have no programming. That let me down what could have been a rabbit hole to find some sort of small group instruction but not sit and get. I mean even in my eight student math group, I have the same range you would find in a classroom and all at least two years behind.

Would it surprise you to know, that most special education resource rooms only do some version of sit and get? Differentiated but limit independent skills practice. Many times all these guys need is a reteach and time to practice—think guided release from Fisher and Frey. But what if you have kiddos who need more direction instruction—what do you do then? Bore one or move to fast for them to get the skill.

What this “idea” MUST have: guided direct instruction, varied independent practice, engagement, and easy to put together (both time and money).

Visible Learning research stresses:

  • Focusing on progress: shifting from focusing on what teachers are doing to what students are learning
  • Errors are welcome: creating a classroom where errors facilitate learning and growth
  • Explicit success criteria: students know the learning intentions of each lesson and the criteria for success
  • The right level of challenge: teachers set challenging goals, and offer students opportunities for deliberate practice to meet those challenges

Creating math centers has helped meet students' individual needs and continued to challenge everyone without the fear of failure and create an environment where risks are celebrated. I have found that thinking outside of the box is what has motivated students to do their best and reach for challenges and be more accepting with grappling with the material they don’t understand.  But it didn’t come at the cost of having success criteria that pushes them to focus on their progress in math.

I’m not sure it means they changed their minds about math and they know like it but I do know they work harder during our math time. They ask more questions. They take more risks.  But
Math centers have become a fun way for my students to gain independence in the classroom while reinforcing the concepts taught back in their general education classrooms.

Math centers allow them to practice a math topic in a variety of ways--each one focuses on the same skill allowing student s to gain independence while working towards mastery.

They have four centers:
  • Direct Instruction 
  • Independent Skill Practice
  • Technology
  • Games
Students visit all four centers twice over the course of a week. Direct instruction is teacher-directed and I provide instruction on the current math skill using guided release. 

Independent skill practice is either current skill or past skills depending on where they happen to be on their way to skill mastery. But this station like technology and games is totally independent practice.  Unlike Direct Instruction, this means its differentiation depending on where the student is on their learning math skills. 

I'm very fortunate to have iPads, which means they have a math app folder from which they choose how they want to spend that rotation time. I change the apps with each skill change, so there is allows something different there.  

The Games station doesn't always change when skills change. It depends, with our current skill, money, I slowly changed out the games as I taught the new ones. 

I hope I have given you an idea of how you can change up your math group. 

Chat soon, 

Why Personalized Learning?

First, What is Personalized Learning?

Personalized Learning is an approach to education that tailors learning according to the individual needs of each student. The Personalized Learning approach to education has evolved over the past decade through the growing public charter school movement in California and incorporates many of the latest educational research results as to how children learn successfully.

Why do It?

Personalized Learning blocks were added to the master school schedule at the start of the year. Mind you--it was not meant to be one more thing but for many grades, I think that's what it became--with all the extra data work they had to put in. And mind you each grade made it its own. Oh, it has also moved several times from where it started on the master schedule to where grades wanted it--schedule changes as a resource teacher are always tons of fun. Not to mention the IEP guidelines changes mid-year to where the time may not count towards IEP times if it's not out of the classroom--which is not the point of personalized learning time. We all use the time to count towards IEP services.

The Personalized Learning system is a unique, blended classroom and non-classroom-based public educational model that is tailored to the needs and interests of each individual student. It's an approach that honors and recognizes the unique gifts, skills, passions, and attributes of each child.

We use the time to provide targeted intervention for ALL students not just the low ones.

The key attributes: 

  • data-driven,
  • flexibility groupings,
  • small groups,
  • more one-on-one teacher and student interaction, 
  • attention to differences in learning styles, 
  • student-driven participation in developing the learning process,
  • technology access, and
  • varied learning environments, 

The easiest way to start--formative assessments. Formative assessment may look different in different classrooms, but the purpose remains the same. Formative assessment help create groups of students--those who have got it, those who need more practice, and those who just don't get it. It's an easy way to ensure students get what they need to be successful. Formative assessment should:

  • Inform knowledge
  • Inform and redirect practice
  • Provide immediate feedback for teachers and students
  • Occur frequently
  • Provide useful data
  • Be ongoing and embedded
  • Include formal and informal assessments of knowledge

Quick Ways to Check Student Understanding

  • Thumbs up/Thumbs Down (or 1, 2, 3): Wondering if your class is ready to move on? Just ask. It doesn’t have to be complicated, show a thumbs up for understanding and a thumbs down for more help.
  • Colored Cups: A variety of tools can be used here, but Solo cups post-it notes work great. Each student should have a red, yellow, and green cup. Throughout the lesson, students can use the cups to let you know where they are in their understanding. Green, ready to move on or needs a challenge, yellow indicates a level of confusion, and red tells you the student is struggling.
  • Mid Lesson “exit slips” with Mini Whiteboards: Traditional exit slips wait until the end of the class to ask a couple questions that will tell teachers what material sunk in and what needed to be reviewed. Why wait until the end of the class? Pick a question that will be easy for you to review quickly and assess understanding on the spot. Determine and prepare these questions ahead of time.
  • Auto-graded Assessments: Use a tool like OpenEd to assign students independent assessments. The platform will auto-grade and provide results as well as recommendations support.   

Personalized Learning is about how learners use voice and choice to develop learners. The learning environment changes. The culture and climate in the classroom changes. Yet these changes do not happen right away. It addresses the needs of ALL students. Personalized Learners is creating a culture of learning and making sure students get what they need to be successful. Why not give it a try and see what you think? 

Until Next Time,  

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!

What is Effective Comprehension Instruction?

It is Explicit, Intensive, persistent instruction. I do mine in small and large groups.  Small groups allow me to focus in on the specific skill the groups needs. I find this is a great easy way to differenate students because each student does not need to be in the same reading material--they are grouuped to practice the specific comprehension skill. 

To become good readers, most students require explicit, intensive, and persistent instruction. In explicit comprehension strategy instruction, the teacher chooses strategies that are closely aligned with the text students are reading. The teacher models and "thinks aloud" about what a given strategy is and why it is important, helps students learn how, when, and where to use the strategy, and gives students opportunities to apply the strategy on their own.

Modeling is followed by practice, guided by the teacher, who works with students to help them figure out how and when to use the strategy themselves. As students read, the teacher provides feedback and engages them in discussion. In subsequent lessons, the teacher asks students to apply the strategy on their own to other texts.

Students are encouraged to plan before reading so that reading has a clear goal or purpose, to continually monitor their understanding during reading, and to apply repair strategies when breakdowns in understanding occur. To improve self-monitoring, the teacher may model for students how to do one or all of the following:

·         think about what they already know before they start reading and during reading;
·         be aware of whether they understand what they are reading;
·         employ strategies to identify difficult words, concepts, and ideas;
·         ask themselves: "Does this make sense?"; and
·         be aware of how a particular text is organized.

One of the most important features of explicit instruction is the teacher's gradual release to students of responsibility for strategy use, with the goal that students apply strategies independently. However, teachers do not ask students to work on their own until the students have demonstrated that they understand a strategy and how and when to use it.

The Primary Comprehension Toolkit from Heinemann (grade K-2) allows me to teach specific comprehension skills in a sequence that makes sense to the reader.  The student does the work--I have to listen to how they are applying the strategies to text.

My students LOVE expository text (non-fiction). Most of the reading students do throughout their schooling — indeed, throughout their lives — will involve expository text. Without an understanding of the organization of such text, students often have difficulty understanding what they read. Unlike a narrative, an expository text has no familiar story line to guide students' reading. To read expository texts successfully, students must learn that authors may use a variety of structures to organize their ideas, including cause-and-effect or compare and contrast relationships, time-and-order sequences, and problem-solution patterns. Indeed, students need to know that authors may use some or all of these structures in any given chapter or section of a text.

They need to learn that expository text can differ from narrative text in the way it is presented on a page. For example, expository text may be organized by means of text headings and subheadings, and may contain extensive graphics, such as tables, charts, diagrams, and illustrations. Instructional practices that facilitate students' understanding of expository text include helping them learn how to:

·         chunk information in a text by grouping related ideas and concepts;
·         summarize important information in a text by grouping related ideas and concepts;
·         integrate information in a text with existing knowledge;
·         apply information in a text to real-world situations;
·         interpret and construct graphics such as charts, tables, and figures;
·         synthesize information from different texts; and
·         develop presentations about the text

We have been working monitoring comprehension and knowing when you have fallin' off the road. When reading this lesson in the Primary Comprehension Toolkit, I was thinking no big deal, they've got it. Well for students how have never been asked to really think about what they are reading this was a huge shock. I found that sentence stems and tons modeling and shared reading was needed to move them on. 

and this one show two examples of the sentence stems.

My hope in using the Primary Comprehension Toolkit is to have student's think more critically about what they have read to in turn create new works that show how they created meaning strategically in reading and writing. This set of strategies being tied to their Personalized Learning Plans. I hoping to see great products but I'll have to wait until next week to see what students do.

Project Based Learning in a Resource Room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November Pinterest Pick 3

 I can't believe the year is almost over. Between planning for Christmas and working through the 4 C's, things have been crazy. You ask what the 4 C's are? Well, in many places the 4 C's are used in STEM, STREAM, or GT thinking but is some districts in the States its becoming a way of planning. In many ways to takes Common Core outcomes and challenges teachers to think about education as what it takes to work for company's like Google or  Instagram. The big thing: Backwards Planning to cover the standards and IEP goals.

My picks this month are to help provide a way for me to connect more dots as I plan the next 8 weeks for my instruction.

Thinking for working with the STEM or STEAM world when planning to meet IEP goals pushes you to thinking. Wrapping one of these into daily instruction and planning to do it with purpose as with Backwards Planning is not as easy as one thinks. I have decided to met the current IEP goals communication is key for where they are in their DRA reading goals. My district then wants me to create a communication rubric with my students. I'm not worried--they have done one with me already and several with their teachers. The nice thing, I will not have to assess this 4 C every week just as an interim and/or a summative assessment. 
 This website has tons of great ideas that they use in real classrooms. Finding real examples of Project Based Learning with videos talking about what worked and how students grew from the projects is well worth a visit. I don't have the time to do projects for the sake of a project they have to have a real impact and provide real growth on those IEP goals.

I have messed with creating a whole PBL experience for my groups but I'm not sure how to do it. This list of questions will help me create PBL over Christmas Break. I have added pits and pieces to their groups like presenting their retells like reporters and putting together a sentence in their notebooks that will make a short story in eight weeks. But these are little pieces--I would really like to try taking the cake.

Have a great week!

Should I RTI?

My life has been crazy this month. I bought a new town home and moving in the school year has been challenging.  All my stuff is hiding in the garage and I have no clue where anything is. It's tons of fun. Though since the beginning of the month, my Special Education team has been working on referrals from Tier 2 interventions. We have been working with a group of fabulous Reading Recovery teachers who provide many of the Tier 2 interventions. Its been a learning process for everyone.

Why should I do it:

  • RTI is an academic based intervention addressing primarily academics rather than behavior
  • Many kids act out and exhibit emotional and coping problems in school due to being behind academically and not understanding the work and concepts
  • RTI addresses these academic deficits that lead to acting out
  • Reduces behavior problems and increases coping skills
  • Improves grades and achievement
  • Boosts student confidence, work completion, and willingness to work
  • Improves student’s self concept
  • Increases student’s independent working and responsibility
  • When should I do it:
  • When student’s act out due to being unable to do the work
  • When it appears a student is avoiding work
  • When a student seems to act out or behave as the class clown in correlation to having to begin and work on academic tasks
  • When a student displays work refusal, withdraws from group and pairs work, and seems to make excuses for not doing academic tasks and it is known the student has low scores or low ability in the academic area or an area related to the ability to do the task

How do I do it:

In a nutshell, RTI is a 3 tiered system where each tier of intervention targets more specific academic deficits and more individual students, such that tier 1 interventions target a whole class, tier 2 small groups or pairs, and tier 3 individual students

The basic idea is:

  • Determine the academic deficit areas
  • Test these areas to get a baseline
  • Implement an academic intervention targeting the specific academic deficit area
  • Test the student again after delivering the intervention
  • If there is progress, continue this intervention
  • If there is not progress, try the intervention again or a different one and then test
  • If you try the same intervention again and it does not work, try a different one and then test
  • Continue this process until you find an intervention the student responds to;.
  • 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 understand your students’ learning modalities and multiple intelligences. As you no doubt remember from your college classes, the modalities are how we take information into the brain.

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.

Have a great week!

Tag Galaxy

I was at a training last week that highlighted different Gifted and Talented strategies for classroom teachers to use in their classrooms and Tag Galaxy has become my new best friend. Like many teachers, we knew that anytime you can tie pictures to words even the simple ones, students are more likely to make meaning and connect it to themselves. Plus, to  move words from short term to long term memory students have to build personal relevance with the words. Pictures do that. I have for the longest time used Google Images to do this. But Tag Galaxy is even better than that.

 First when you put in any word, Tag Galaxy creates a sun and satellites. You will want to stick with the sun. the satellites are smaller pictures that tie to your word search but they are not as effective at getting at what you are looking for.

In my search, I used Italian Greyhound. the sun is all the pictures out there and the satellites are everything from dog, puppy, sight hounds, and Italian. If you click on the sun, it will enlarge and you can surf the sun for the picture you are looking for. (Like with all picture searches, I would go out first and make sure that they are clean if you have students using it.)

Once you pick a picture, it will take you to the original picture source. You cannot save from the Sun or print.

Going back to the G/T presentation and what you could do with students--I have a group of 5th graders that I could see using this to pull pictures for their weekly spelling words instead of me doing it or having them draw the pictures. I have always tried to find ways for my students build their own personal relevance with words.  Not only to help their reading and writing but to increase their own vocabularies so they have a greater background knowledge to pull from.

Until next time.

Strategies for Teaching Reading to Visual Learners

There seems to be confusion about whether or not students with autism are able to learn to read. While students with autism may have a difficult time with phonics instruction and comprehension they CAN learn to read. Even when students aren't speaking and writing, they can learn to read and spell. Keep in mind that literacy covers a wide range of skills from exposure to print material to formal instruction.

Why spend the time to teach reading?
The ability to read can help to increase functional communication. Information a student may not process and understand auditorally may be understood visually. Reading will increase knowledge as well as provide a leisure skill. Reading can also increase social skills by providing a common topic to talk about.

Why teach reading using whole words instead of phonics?
Many children with autism have strengths in visual learning and decoding skills and are weak in auditory learning and comprehension. By modifying a reading program to focus on visual learning styles, students with autism can experience success. There is more than just a link between literacy and language. Language is the basis for literacy. Text that we read is oral language set down in visual mode. We cannot see spoken words, but we can see written words. For children with strong visual spatial skills, this can be their key to opening a locked door. One child with autism stated that learning to read was like finding water in the desert. 

How early should literacy skills be introduced?
Koppenhaver & Erickson (2003) conducted a study in North Carolina with preschool students with autism. They found that by providing a literacy rich environment for preschoolers with autism and severe communication impairments, the students increased their understanding and use of print materials and tools (without direct instruction, but in a tightly structured environment). By increasing natural opportunities for engagement with printed materials and writing tools, emergent literacy behaviors increased.

What Can I Use in My Classroom?
Comprehensive Literacy: The most popular method currently practiced is a comprehensive literacy approach. Many educators are using a 4 Blocks framework developed by Patricia Cunningham. The Blocks include:
  • Guided Reading – to enhance comprehension
  • Self-Selected Reading – to build fluency
  • Word Block – to develop spelling and word decoding
  • Writing – to teach how to write

This method includes a phonics dimension, but does not focus on phonics. Exploring more on this topic may be useful. Many books and courses are available that teach the dynamics of the 4 Blocks framework.

During reading, take photos of the student and constructed into a book. The books are duplicated so that all students have their own copy during a guided reading activity. The target words in the language experience story are used in word games for additional practice. The book is duplicated; some copies are adapted, and made available to the students for self-selected reading. The target words are also used for writing journals and daily news. Preliminary results from research indicate that more literacy behaviors are exhibited when the student uses language experience books that are adapted with Picture Communication Symbols (PCS).

What do these ideas have in common?
Instruction starts with words, not letters or sounds.
Instruction begins with words that have meaning and motivation for the student.
Instruction and materials are individualized for each student.
Games are incorporated into instruction and provide lots of practice when working with words.
Remember that language made visual will enhance communication and that all students can learn to read. Keep reading material on the child’s instructional level.
All students are different and what works for one child may or may not work for someone else. The important goal is to begin teaching every child to read, regardless of the barriers. If you hit a barrier, be creative and find another way to get to the goal.

Ideas for Your Room
  • Look over your classroom and see if there are any modifications for making language visible and to encourage reading.
  • Try setting up an interactive bulletin board or word wall with a picture and word match activity.
  • Set up baskets or boxes with various levels of reading materials. You can include books, magazines, maps, menus, training booklets or just about anything that has words on it.
  • Set up a writing center with different types of writing tools (paper, pens, pencils, crayons, letter stamps, magnetic letters on cookie sheets, etc.)
  • Consider adapted books based on language experience of the classroom routine.
  • Take digital pictures of the daily activities
  • Insert the pictures into a PowerPoint slide show.
  • Write a sentence for each picture
  • Adapt with Picture Communication Symbols (PCS) to make language visible.
  • Print and Enjoy Reading!
  • Encourage students to use literacy materials in their dramatic play. For example, in the home area place food packages, appliance instructions, and menus.
  • Read aloud to your students and use pictures to insure comprehension.
  • For primary students that are progressing on a reading program, Teach Me Language, by Sabrina Freeman and Lorelei Dake have published a language program that incorporates reading. 
Don't forget an extra 20% off at my TpT store today and tomorrow.
Have a great week.

Quick Differentiation

Something quick to help with differentiation on the fly as your planning your lessons. Kind of a cheat sheet. I find it helpful when thinking about how to reach small pockets of like needs in a classroom. Differentiation is designing and implementing curriculum, instructional strategies, and assessments that are responsive to the needs, background, interests, and abilities of students.

Three ways to differentiate the K-6 lessons:

Modify the student independent practice.

  1. Change how students are required to demonstrate mastery - multiple choice, open response, illustration, dramatic performance.
  2. Provide word banks to written response questions.
  3. Provide texts on students' reading level when-ever reading a text is a requirement for the student independent practice.
Modify how you teach the lesson. 


Add or revise visual scaffolding during the lesson, such as charts or graphic organizers.
  • Teach the lessons in small groups.
  • Vary the allotted lesson time by breaking up the lesson into two days, focusing on more modeling examples in day one.
  • Allow students to preview the text used for the lesson before the lesson.
Modify the content used to teach the lesson.

  • Choose a text for the lesson that is at the reading level of your students.
  • Add supporting learning objectives to the lesson to help students master the original learning outcome.
Six Rules of Differentiating
Students should always be grouped based on their needs and abilities.
  • Sometimes whole class, sometimes small group, and sometimes individual.
  • Individualized instruction at 20 - 30 levels.
Student work should always measure a specific learning outcome explicitly taught in class.
  • It is Responsive to the learning outcome of the lesson.
  • It is not Busy work or separated from intentional instruction.
Students' needs and abilities change over time and therefore groupings should reflect that change.
  • Flexible groupings that change based on student abilities.
  • It is not: Static groupings that stay the same throughout the year.
Students' work should be done at their level.
  • It is Qualitative student work.
  • It is not Quantitative student work in which some students do more and some do less.
Decisions about differentiation should be based on assessment and anecdotal evidence of students' needs and abilities.
  • It is Using assessments to identify students' strengths and weaknesses.
  • It is not Using assessments as a pass or fail approach.
True, responsive differentiation will not look the same in each lesson.
  • It is sometimes necessary to change the student independent practice, other time requires changing how the lesson is taught, and other times it will require changing the text of the lesson.
  • It is not: The same differentiation plan for every lesson.

Unit Planning

Now, that groups are formed, I can begin planning. To start the year off, I'm pulling out a small group of 4th graders for math during the last half of the block. I need to create a differentiated math units. Easier said than done. But this summer I came across any other book written by Robyn R. Jackson "The Differentiation Workbook." Its been very helpful full in pulling apart my districts Curriculum Alignment Project (it's tells us what to teach when) but doesn't do much in the way of differentiation.

I've adopted pieces to meet my needs and have shared a couple. I'll share more as I work through my unit planning.

I start by determining what all students Need to Know and list them out. I then figure out what my criteria for mastery is and what my evidence is that they have it. The Needs to Know become the over arching lessons that I'll shoot for. This is where I what my group to be at the end of the month. These are the grade lesson standards that they will be tested on in the spring. I think with this unit--I will not be doing tons of modifications for students. But this forms makes it clear what the learning targets need to be.

I used the table below to draft plan my first two lessons. I used it as a place to put my learning target statements and instructional plan. One thing I do with all my lessons is a ticket out, so I see who got it and who didn't. This will help me plan which direction I need to go in the next day. I can also use them as part of my body of evidence that the student has mastered the target. 

I share more next week as I plan this unit out. Have a great weekend.

Text Complexity

I have DRA, Fountas & Pinnell, and Lexile scores, they all tell me how hard a text is. I start the a book level and then think about my readers. I think about what skills they need to have to read the book I selected with as little support from me as possible. Common Core is all about text complexity. Common core asks students to gain a deeper understanding of text. They need to be able to answer a variety of questions both literal and inferential.  Even Kindergarten students can answer higher order thinking questions. 

Laura Varlas points out in this weeks, Education Update from ASCD, that increasing the complexity of text creates two challenges for teachers: figuring out that the assigned texts are appropriately complex, and helping students handle more difficult reading.

Grant Wiggins, (Understanding by Design), points out "staying true to the demands of standards, without over scaffolding, and in heterogeneous classroom where teachers may have students reading three levels below proficiency." He continues to point out that interventions will need to focus on vocabulary and complicated sentences. This information reminds me of Lori Jamison Rog's, comment on struggling readers in her book "Guiding Readers," that 90% of struggling readers need to work on comprehension strategies. And to trust your assessments and use them to guide your instruction.

How do you increase the complexity of text without over scaffolding? You have to differentiate your instruction.

Differentiation Non-Negotiables
We must
  • Know you content and it should be taught.
  • Respect and respond to ALL learners.
  • Know your instructional strategies and how to use them.
  • Use multiple sources of data to inform decisions.
  • Differentiation is not a set of strategies but a way of thinking about the teaching.
  • Differentiate how students will access core and master core.

Actions to Take
  • Design learning based on task analysis that includes an analysis on what student need to access the instruction plus look at students readiness, background knowledge they bring.
  • Provide sources of information at various reading levels to match the needs of learners.
  • Know where students are going to the need support to access the content.
  • Let students know how they will be graded prior to the beginning of the instruction.
  • Use flexible grouping; this will allow students to work and learn with a variety of classmates. 
  • Gives students both choice and responsibility around learning.
  • Collaborate with colleagues and parents.
  • Ask yourself:
    • What will I do if some students don't learn?
    • What will I do if some students already know what I want them them to learn?
Differentiation is how everyone gets core. Differentiation is how students will access complex text with a deeper level of understanding. I'd love to hear how you differentiate; to support students access to complex texts.

Friday's freebie is "Little Book of Colors" click on the picture to get it. Have a great weekend!

Little Book of Colors

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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