Showing posts with label freebie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label freebie. Show all posts

Reading Comprehension Strategies 2.0

I do small group reading both decoding and comprehension strategies. 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 group's needs. I find this is a great easy way to differentiate students because each student does not need to be in the same reading material--they are grouped 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 the discussion. In subsequent lessons, the teacher asks students to apply the strategy on their own to other texts.

I stumbled upon Padlet. I had used Padlet in professional classes but I had never taught about using it with students. It wasn't until I wanted to replace stickie notes with a paperfree version, I came back to Padlet. 






I love not having a billion stickie notes "flying" around lose and getting lost as well. My students love using it on the iPads. I love they can share with each other and give feedback. I use Padlet to help them plan and monitor their comprehension. My hope is this will help them complete their non-fiction projects.

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 storyline 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.

My hope in using the Primary Comprehension Toolkit and Padlet is to have students 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'm hoping to see great products but I'll have to wait until next week to see what students do. Be sure to checkout Padlet and play with how it can help your students monitoring their own comprehension.



I also use my Reading Strategy Posters. They are great for reminding students to use strategies while they are working on their own. They are perfect for ELLs, students who need additional language supports, and Depth and Complexity posters to challenge students as well. You can grab your copy below.









Vocabulary Development Strategies

I’m not a Speech/Language Teacher. BUT I have many students how NEED way more language support than just a one-shot deal. Finding ways to embed extra language support without it taking up tons of extra that I just don’t have in groups is hard. This week I have collected a few ideas that I have helped me build more vocabulary and language support in my small groups.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK?

The key weakness in all of these practices is the limited or rote interaction students have with the new word/concept. Here is a short list of these less effective approaches.

1) Look them up. Certainly, dictionaries have their place, especially during writing, but the act of looking up a word and copying a definition is not likely to result in vocabulary learning (especially if there are long lists of unrelated words to look up and for which to copy the definitions).
2) Use them in a sentence. Writing sentences with new vocabulary AFTER some understanding of the word is helpful; however to assign this task before the study of word meaning is of little value.
3) Use context. There is little research to suggest that context is a very reliable source of learning word meanings.
4) Memorize definitions. Rote learning of word meanings is likely to results, at best, in the ability to parrot back what is not clearly understood.

All of these less effective approaches is the lack of active student involvement in connecting the new concept/meaning to their existing knowledge base. Vocabulary learning must include active engagement in constructing understanding and not simply on passive learning of information from a text.

WHAT DOES WORK?

Reviewing the research literature on vocabulary instruction leads to the conclusion that there is no single best strategy to teach word meanings but that all effective strategies require students to go beyond the definitional and make connections between the new and the known. The research on effective vocabulary teaching as coming down to three critical notions:

Integration—connecting new vocabulary to prior knowledge
Repetition—encountering/using the word/concept many times
Meaningful use—multiple opportunities to use new words in reading, writing and soon discussion.

Increase the Amount of Independent Reading

The largest influence on students' vocabulary is the sheer volume of reading they do, especially wide reading that includes a rich variety of texts. The following strategies can help motivate reluctant readers:

  • Matching text difficulty to student reading level and personal interests (e.g. using the Lexile system)
  • Reading incentive programs that include taking quizzes on books read (e.g., Accelerated Reader, Reading Counts)
  • Regular discussion, such as literature circles, book clubs, quick reviews, of what students are reading
  • Setting weekly/individual goals for reading volume
  • Adding more structure to Sustained Silent Reading by including a 5-minute quick-write at the end of the reading period, then randomly selecting three or four papers to read/grade to increase student accountability.
  • Select the Most Important Words to Teach
  • Students with weak reading skills are likely to view all new words as equally challenging and important, so it is imperative for the teacher to point out those words that are truly important to a student's academic vocabulary base. (THINK--picture walk) 
  • Teaching vocabulary is teaching new labels or finer descriptions for familiar concepts. In contrast, teaching concepts involves introducing students to new ideas/notions/theories and so on that require significantly more instruction to build real understanding. 


Teachers can get more out of direct vocabulary work by selecting words carefully. More time-consuming and complex strategies are best saved for conceptually challenging words, while relatively expedient strategies can assist students in learning new labels or drawing finer-grained distinctions around known concepts. Making wise choices about which words to teach directly, how much time to take, and when enough is enough is essential to vocabulary building.

Tips for Selecting Words:
  • Distinguish between words that simply label concepts students know and new words that represent new concepts.
  • Ask yourself, "Is this concept/word generative? Will knowing it lead to important learning in other lessons/texts/units?"
  • Be cautious to not "accessorize" vocabulary (e.g., spend too much time going over many clever adjectives that are very story specific and not likely to occur frequently). Rather, focus attention on critical academic vocabulary that is essential to understanding the big ideas in a text (e.g., prejudicial: As students learn the meanings of pre- and judge, they can connect to other concepts they know, such as "unfair.")
  • Using State and Common Core Standards to see what is taught
  • Use Tiered Vocabulary
    • Tier 1 Academic Vocabulary: Basic words that commonly appear in the spoken language. Because they are heard frequently in numerous contexts and with nonverbal communication, Tier 1 words rarely require explicit instruction.Examples of Tier 1 words are clock, baby, happy and walk.



An Example:
I have a student who picks her own tough or challenging vocabulary as she reads.
She currently is an Instructional DRA K/20 and is a second language learning.
One task she has to complete while she reads is creating a list of 5 to 8 words she felt were hard.
She often has more than that but when I conference with her we talk about the words she found.
She then takes her 5 words, finds the pictures from Google or Bing, and creates a video to support
what she has learned.







Picture Walk Idea
“I Spy”: This activity is similar to reading books with your child. Label and point to pictures on the
pages of an “I Spy” book. Make it a game and see who can find the most objects on the page! Make
it more challenging by assigning specific items to you and your child that incorporate basic concepts
(“You find a small key and I’ll find a big one!”) You can also play “I Spy” without the book and find objects around the house or in your community.

Want to more ideas on Designing Effective Vocabulary Development Instruction Grab your Freebie
here. Click the image.


I’d love to hear what you do in your small groups to build in more language support in your groups.

Until Next Time,

How to Create an RTI Intervention

I set out to unravel and get to the heart of Response to Intervention (RTI) like I’ve done before with close reading.  I was surprised to read on the RTI Network’s website that, “there is no single, thoroughly researched and widely practiced ‘model’ of the RTI process.”  Of course, that would be too easy, ha!

I started looking at the triangle tier diagram wondering if I could improve on it only to discover that if you’ve seen one triangle diagram, you’ve seen one triangle diagram. There are a lot of differences from one to the other.  Some show that tier 3 is special education services, some show that special ed is the next step after the triangle.  Some indicate that tier 1 includes all students. The RTI Network says that tier 1 is low-level interventions in the classroom that not all students would need.  They state that when these tier 1 interventions are successful, students are “returned to the regular classroom program.” So that would mean that students who never need interventions are actually not a part of tier 1.

Here’s what I concluded: each school/district is going to choose what RTI means to them and how it is implemented in their jurisdiction.  One thing stays the same: teachers need a way to document interventions and create interventions regardless of how their schools define tiers. For example in my building special education is not on the pyramid and the only tier 3 support my building currently has is Reading Recovery for K-1. Classroom teachers have to create all interventions using what they have access to in their classrooms. This is the first year where I have been in a position to provide direct tier 2 support. (Even as a special education teacher, I do not have access to tier 3 interventions.)
My job this year is to help classroom teachers create successful, purposeful, data drive interventions that lead students either through the special education identification process or help them go
back to core instruction.

Big Picture
I help teachers take these data, guide them in creating an intervention, create a SMART goal, and determine how they will collect the data. I love this. It works no matter the size of the group. Here's a snapshot of how I do that.

For this example, if these guys are identified with learning disabilities and also receive tier 2 interventions from the classroom teacher in addition to the core reading instructions she provides.
As a result, the classroom teacher has a smart goal (Read plan & SLO). I have also created a smart goal for this group.

Goal #1: When given daily small group reading, Polar Bears will increase their guided reading level from 3/C to F/10 by March 1.

Goal #2: When given daily small group targeted reading, Polar Bears will decrease the number of errors on a DRA 4/C from 51% accuracy to 90% on running records by January 31 to demonstrate independence on a DRA 4.

The second goal was added once we saw they were not reading what was written in the book and felt they needed a separate goal to work on this particular skill with me in a group but this was layered with the 1st.

From their data, which we used their mid-year DRAs to set the baseline for the intervention. Then the SMART goal. So what did this intervention look like? We talked about not changing anything in their guided reading as we could see they weren't reading what was written, we theorized adding a reward for reading correctly was going to be our first stop. Hence, the short time frame for the goal.
The Plan: keep doing targeted guided reading in Level DRA 4s and add a reward for reading each word correctly. The other change--keep the same book for the week to really focus on decoding first and spend the last day on comprehension.

The Problem: Progress monitoring. The DRA was going to be the pre and post-intervention data. They needed to be Independent 4 in a month.  I decided to pre/post each guided reading book. To not take group time on Tuesday, I’d pull them Monday for a cold read to create the pretest data. The post running record would be Friday. 4 days to work the text.

The Reward: My school psychologist always suggests using something that is highly motivating for the student. (I used beads to keep track of words read correctly.) With both of the boys: 1 word---candy. Yes, candy. (I know!) To help not let them walk off with 100 pieces apiece; I set up an exchange. I would also change that exchange each day as they got better. For example: first read--15 correct words equals 1 piece.  Second read--20 pieces equals 1 piece. And so on. I also keep track of the beads they were earning. This would help me gauge what changes I needed to make to keep them moving. Remember the end goal.

If these two boys didn’t already have an IEP, this change could be added to their RTI data showing a change in intervention. For myself and the classroom teacher, the goal is larger--we want them to grow as readers and not move into 3rd grade as nonreaders.

They still have a couple of weeks to go before I know if this work. I'll update you on their progress. The thing is that even if it doesn't work--it's made them better decoders and we’ll have new information to use to go forward with, to change the intervention and make it even more tailored to them and more specific to help them become independent fours.

I hope this idea gives you an idea on how to change things up and help get very specific about what students need to move. Make sure to grab a copy of the workbook to help guide you in making small data-driven decisions to move students within the RTI framework.



Until Next Time,


Why First Sound Fluency Matters? {Freebie}

Letter-sound correspondences involve knowledge of the sounds represented by the letters of the alphabet the letters used to represent the sounds.Why is knowledge of letter-sound correspondences important? DIBELS has changed LSF to First Sound Fluency--(which is better.)
Knowledge of letter-sound correspondences is essential in reading and writing
In order to read a word:
  • the learner must recognize the letters in the word and associate each letter with its sound
  • In order to write or type a word
  • the learner must break the word into its component sounds and know the letters that represent these sounds.
Knowledge of letter-sound correspondences and phonological awareness skills are the basic building blocks of literacy learning. These skills are strong predictors of how well students learn to read.

Pinterest

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What sequence should be used to teach letter-sound correspondence?
Letter-sound correspondences should be taught one at a time.  As soon as the learner acquires one letter-sound correspondence, introduce a new one. I suggest teaching the letters and sounds in this sequence: a, m, t, p, o, n, c, d, u, s, g, h, i, f, b, l, e, r, w, k, x, v, y, z, j, q.

This sequence was designed to help learners start reading as soon as possible. Letters that occur frequently in simple words (e.g., a, m, t) are taught first. Letters that look similar and have similar sounds (b and d) are separated in the instructional sequence to avoid confusion. Short vowels are taught before long vowels. I teach upper case then lowercase. However, when I'm assessing the student they get both all the letters. (think DIBELS or AimsWeb Fluency probes.)

An example Instruction: For RTI and if I'm working 1 on 1 with a student. (I have had given this to para's or parents to do as well.)

Sample goal for instruction in letter-sound correspondences:
The learner will listen to a target sound presented orally identify the letter that represents the sound select the appropriate letter from a group of letter cards, an alphabet board, or a keyboard with at least 80% accuracy.

Instructional Task:
Here is an example of instruction to teach letter-sound correspondences. The instructor introduces the new letter and its sound shows a card with the letter m and says the sound “mmmm.” After practice with this letter sounds, then I review with the student.

The instructor says a letter sound.
The learner listens to the sound, looks at each of the letters provided as response options, selects the correct letter, from a group of letter cards, from an alphabet board, or from a keyboard.


Instructional Procedure:
The instructor teaches letter-sound correspondences using these procedures:
Model:
The instructor demonstrates the letter-sound correspondence for the learner.

Guided practice:
The instructor provides scaffolding support or prompting to help the learner match the letter and sound correctly.
The instructor gradually fades this support as the learner develops competence.

Independent practice:
The learner listens to the target sound and selects the letter independently. The instructor monitors the learner’s responses and provides appropriate feedback.

The Alphabetic Principle Plan of Instruction:
Teach letter-sound relationships explicitly and in isolation. Provide opportunities for children to practice letter-sound relationships in daily lessons. Provide practice opportunities that include new sound-letter relationships, as well as cumulatively reviewing previously taught relationships.

Give students opportunities early and often to apply their expanding knowledge of sound-letter relationships to the reading of phonetically spelled words that are familiar in meaning.

Amanda from Mrs. Richardson's Class has created a 20 minute Guided Reading Plan which I use with my Pre-A's and A's. The big piece is these guys are in books which is huge for them and makes their day.

Pinterest

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Rate and Sequence of Instruction
No set rule governs how fast or how slow to introduce letter-sound relationships. One obvious and important factor to consider in determining the rate of introduction is the performance of the group of students with whom the instruction is to be used. 

I tell the teachers I work with, think MASTERY. Start with the ones the student knows and then add no more than 5. Master and then add the next ones that make sense. Use your Probe data to drive your plan. 

It is also a good idea to begin instruction in sound-letter relationships by choosing consonants such as f, m, n, r, and s, whose sounds can be pronounced in isolation with the least distortion. Stop sounds at the beginning or middle of words are harder for children to blend than are continuous sounds.

Instruction should also separate the introduction of sounds for letters that are auditorily confusing, such as /b/ and /v/ or /i/ and /e/, or visually confusing, such as b and d or p and g.

Many teachers use a combination of instructional methods rather than just one. Research suggests that explicit, teacher-directed instruction is more effective in teaching the alphabetic principle than is less-explicit and less-direct instruction.

FREEBIE TIME


This year I'm working towards being paperless. Why?? I' traveling to other rooms to provide services. As it is I'm a bag lady on the best of days but as a Special Education teacher you have to be ready for just about anything when it comes to planning inclass support. My way around this--technology. Not for everything but since I use Seesaw for communication and goal tracking; let's find other things to do with it.  For this First Sound Fluency activity, you will need Seesaw and have your class setup.  I tend to give students a page at a time to ensure it is correct. It can also be used as an assessment or as a center.



Until Next Time,

PLAAFP?? What...?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Until next Time,




 photo PLAAFP Instagram_1.png

It's Over and the Planning Begins

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

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

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


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

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

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



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

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

Grab your free copy HERE!


Until Next Time,

Reflect to Increase Teacher Capacity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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








Shut the Front Door!!

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

Have a great Early Spring Weekend!
Until next Time-




POW: DRA Comprehension Rubric

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,















Problem of the Week: Deciphering DRA Decoding

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


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


When you look at a DRA rubric it is broken into two parts: oral reading (decoding and fluency and comprehension.) 

For this student, I co-planned with his classroom teacher and we decided to start with decoding. For this week's POW, I'll walk you through why we decided to spend our time there first. (Next, week I'll talk about the comprehension part of the rubric and our plans.)

This student student's DRA score is Decoding--Intervention and Instructional--Comprehension.  Ahhyy!  In this case, group the student down NOT up or with instructional leveled peers. This means something in their skill set as a decoder needs some more work which will be easier in an easier text where the student has the confidence to be.

I use highlighters to break down the student errors: decodable (aka:phonics) and sight words. This information helps me differentiate and target his specific reading needs.

In his case he needs to work on using his decoding strategies and build his sight word knowledge. I think n most cases pulling the student into the next lower reading group--in his case working with a group of instructional DRA H/14s will provide him with decoding practice skills he needs to move into 16s and be successful.

In my building, everyone uses the same sight words list. Data collection shows he knows the first 200 and is working on the next 100 but with this information he needs to add 400 and 500 he needs to become familiar with.

I do this in my lesson plans daily before writing. Each group spends two minutes running through vocabulary they struggle with. This includes sight words needed to access text, text specific vocabulary, and any universally missed words I heard while the group is reading. This stack is meant to just add to their word knowledge. Word mastery is at the beginning of the lesson.

I have included two freebies I use when working on phonics and make sure students are meeting expectations. If you need to sign-up to access my Free Resource Library click here.




Psst: The sight word list we use are in my store here and to support RTI here.





Tested--Now What?? Reading Comprehension

A quick note as I'm getting ready for Spring parent-teacher conferences this week. One of the assessments I'm helping my classroom teachers with is the DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment). Even though it has fallin' by the wayside, my teachers and I love having a solid number where students are reading at.

FYI the DRA can be given to students kindergarten to sixth grade. To determine a level students decoding (words on the page) and their comprehension (understanding) and with harder text reading fluency (speed) all of those factors most score at an independent level on the rubric to be at an independent level. The same is true for the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment Systems.

How what am I going to do with the rest of my year?

Well..what about using the rubric to create skill groups to move students more before the end of the year benchmark get done. After spending the first part of the year teaching decoding with phonics and vocabulary instruction--it know time to really focus on comprehension. One of my favorite ways to work on comprehension is through games. This is one of their favorites, they are always asking for...be sure to get uses here.

More to come on using the DRA or BAS rubric to create goals and instruction. Have a great week.









6 Early Literacy Skills Predict Reading and Writing Success

Its that time of the year when I start planning and thinking how to support incoming preschoolers to kindergarten at the Big Building." These are the ideas I share with parents are they visit my program and get ready for next year.

Early literacy is everything children should know about reading and writing before they can actually read or write. Literacy skills begin developing in the first 5 years of life with a toddler holding and chewing on a book, to wanting a favorite book read over and over, to becoming a preschooler or kindergartner who loves to “read” a story to you from memory.

According to research performed by the National Reading Panel and other experts, young children entering school with specific early literacy skills have the greatest opportunity to become successful readers and writers. Early literacy skills include Vocabulary, Print Motivation, Print Awareness, Narrative Skills, Letter Knowledge, and Phonological Awareness. These important foundational skills are the building blocks for learning to read and write. Children having been exposed to, or having most of these skills, will benefit more from the reading instruction they receive when entering kindergarten than the child with fewer skills or no exposure at all.

Some think their child’s success in reading and writing depends on getting the “right” first grade teacher, but their success really depends on how much they learn at home about reading and writing before entering school. Early experiences with books and language are most critical for future success in literacy. Skills that should be promoted at home:
•             Print Motivation — is taking an interest in and enjoying books. A child with print motivation loves being read to, plays with books, and pretends to write. Trips to the library are fun, motivational, and FREE! Exchange books with other parents with children of your child’s age. Encourage print motivation in your child by making reading a special shared time with you. Make books accessible to your child. Let your child see you enjoying reading. Talk to your child about how we use reading and/or writing almost every minute of the day.
•             Vocabulary — (knowing the names of things) is the most important skill for children to have when learning to read. By the time your child enters school, he/she should know between 3,000-5,000 words. Help develop your child’s vocabulary by reading and rereading a variety of books (fiction and nonfiction) and teaching the names of all the objects in your child’s world.
•             Print Awareness — is a child’s ability to point to the words on the page of a book. It includes learning that writing (in English) follows rules: print moves top to bottom and left to right, and that the person reading is someone that knows what all the letters and words say. Point out and read words to your child everywhere you see them: on signs, advertisements, labels, stores, candies, products, etc.
•             Narrative Skills — help a child understand and tell a story and describe things, like what happened at a birthday party or about a trip to Grandma’s. Parents can help strengthen their child’s narrative skills by asking him/her to tell what is happening in a story or book, instead of always listening to you read. Ask your child to tell you about things he/she has done or will do that involve a regular sequence of steps: getting ready for school, what your family did/will do on vacation, how to play a particular game, etc.
•             Letter Knowledge — is the ability to recognize and name letters (upper and lower case) and produce the sounds they make. Develop your child’s letter knowledge by using lots of fun reading and/or writing activities: pointing out and naming letters in a book, on a sign or on a label; drawing letters in sand or shaving cream; painting letters on paper with brushes, etc. Talk about letters and how some are similar in shape (l, H, F, E, and T or W, M, N, V). Teach the child how to write the letters in his/her name (one letter at a time) when he/she begins using a crayon to draw or “write”. As your child learns each letter, have him/her practice producing the sound the letter makes.

•             Phonological Awareness — is an understanding of hearing and manipulating sounds in words. Phonological awareness includes the ability to hear and create rhymes (bat, cat, gnat, hat, mat, and sat), say words with sounds left out (bat without b is at), and put two word chunks together to make a word (fl + at = flat). Most often, children having difficulty with phonological awareness have trouble learning to read. An understanding of phonological awareness begins with a child’s exposure to and practice with the previous five steps. Phonological awareness is one of the final steps in preparing children for actual reading instruction that begins in kindergarten.

I hope you find these strategies helpful. I'd love to hear how you help parents understand the foundational skills needed to be successful.

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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