Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts

How I use Google Sheets & Forms for my IEP Goal Data Collection

One of the hardest things to do as a Special Education teacher is to group like need IEP goals into a small group, work on IEP goals within that group, and have a way to collect the data without losing your mind at the same time.

Differentiating instruction is easy, targeting everyone's IEP goal but I have found a data collection method that works! No more looking for papers or stickies. I talked last about how (you can check it out here) I use Google to simplify my IEP data collection and progress monitoring.

At the beginning of the year, I group like IEP goals together and create one group to start my data collection. This way I'm collecting the same information on one Google sheet and form instead of seven or twenty. Google has become my go-to data collection method when I'm doing the collection. don't get me wrong it will morph into my students doing the work before too long but even then I can keep updating my information to ensure that no matter what happens when my students do their own data collection--I have accurate information.

Why is using Google Drive such a huge thing for me as my go-to data collection method?

I am paperless.

I do the vast majority of my teacher work in some way online. That means I use my Google Drive for my lesson plans, data collection, observation notes, and behavior tracking. It doesn't hurt that it's free and super simple to use.  Plus I love how easy it is to share with students and teachers. I can also make intervention changes without having to do any data collection by hand.

Chat soon, 

PS: Coming soon--how to use your data collection to make decisions about interventions

Appy Hour: Where's My Water? & Why I use it

I introduced a group last week to "Where's my Water?" To be honest (if you don't know it) it's a game. So why in the world would I let them play a random game--well that's easy--to work on problem-solving and critical thinking.

Where's my Water? is a free app. The other reason I love using this app, I can reset play each time I use it.

The other thing to remember with consumption apps is it's not an everyday thing or even an every week thing--maybe a once a month thing and in addition to other problem-solving activities. I use it as an additional tool in my toolbox. I also have my groups earn there play time.


My district teacher's rubric has problem-solving, critical thinking and system thinking as part of my evaluations.

How I use it?

Bottom line: they play--we talk--they write and share

As it gets harder, students have to do more to pass each level. It takes trial & error learning from your mistakes to pass each level. These are things are shared at the end of each group sessions.

Those mistakes and how they did it is where the learning is. Students share how they passed a level or share how they solved that problem. Students are scored on our group made feedback rubric.  This is the evidence I add to my evaluation rubric.

This conversation is added to Seesaw by video or in writing to show their thinking as they played. Students have the last 5 minutes of our 20-minute group to this.

Until Next Time,

PS: If you loved this idea then you'll love my FREE AppSmashing Email Course. I walk you through using 6 apps with students and demonstrate how you can use them together to create innovate and creative projects that stretch students thinking and get them to apply what they know. You can check it out here.


Appy Hour Tuesday: Reading Fluency

We all have a love-hate relationship with reading fluency. Though all students benefit from fluency work, focused activities like repeated reading (for the millionth time) especially help struggling, word-by-word readers, word callers, and readers who sound fluent but lack comprehension. (Does your need some freshening up like mine?--KEEP READING)

As a whole--struggling readers have spent more instructional time learning decoding skills at the word level than reading connected text. Meaning??? Because of all hard word put into accurate word-by-word reading readers are using all their mental energies during a first reading, struggling readers benefit from activities that require them to do a second, third and even fourth or fifth reading. Hence why repeated reading are so important but get soooo boring for students as they focus on the sound of the language and the meaning. In this way, their reading becomes smoother and they continue to build comprehension skills.

Repeated readings also help word callers--readers who are skilled at decoding but do not focus on reading words in an expressive way to show what the text means. Having them practice the same text, their mindset changes from just getting through the reading to actually making sense of it through presenting it aloud in a meaning way.

What does this have to do technology?

Well?? What it is: 16 cute faces that react to sound, for example by opening their eyes and mouth wider, varying their reaction to correspond to the volume of the sound: The louder the sound, the greater the reaction from the faces. The length of the reaction also corresponds to the sound: The longer the sound, the longer the face is held in reaction mode. This app is free and it works on iPhone, iPad and iPod-touch.  Oh and it's super fun to watch the faces change in response to sound!

Some specific examples (not an exhaustive list):

  1. After going over intelligibility strategies of putting stress on each syllable and exaggerating each sound, practice a word list, starting with some automatic ones like days of the week, with the goal of getting maximum reaction from the app's faces for each syllable (not trailing off). Accuracy can be measured by how many of the words got equally strong reactions from the app's faces for each syllable.
  2. Practice phrases and mark the stressed elements with prolongation and increased volume, as measured by the reaction from this app. The list of phrases could include ones. The emphasis on the word different words should be apparent from the Bla | Bla | Bla app's reaction to volume and duration. 
  3. And repeated reading

Check out the poetry work using Bla Bla Bla by my students this year

Visual indicator of volume and speed can help pace and shape prosody. Affecting these characteristics of speech has been shown to increase fluency (using metronomes and delayed feedback all provide auditory feedback on pacing and affect prosody, but visual feedback, in the form of pointing to a word being read for example, has also been shown to be effective). Therefore using visual feedback such as this app to increase awareness of prosody and pacing to shape fluency is within supported reason, so to speak.

Want more AppyHour to use with your students?? Check out my FREE Email AppSmashing Course.


Until Next Time,

P.S. Did you grab your FREEBIE--it's perfect to use with Bla Bla Bla!!

5 AppyHour iPad Apps

My groups are paperless. How in the world do I pull that one off? Well, I have 4 iPads and students who have pushed me to think outside of the box. As the only K-3 Resource Room special education teacher aka Cross Catagories K-3 Special Education teacher, these guys may receive support from me for multiple years--that can be boring.

I was lucky last year when my building gave me 4 iPads. I could use them any which way I wanted from data collection or give them to students to use in class. Well, most of my grade levels work at some level 1 on 1 with technology; most grades its Chromebooks.

I have talked before about using SeeSaw as our main platform for students to turn in work or to get assignments but I have not shared their favorite apps. With their help, here are my students' top 5 iPad apps. They are not in any order nor are all of them free but they are used on a regular basis by my students which means more than anything they are user-friendly and once students are taught how the app works are off to the races.

One other note: I give students time to play with any app I introduce. After which they are expected to use it as taught. I help with troubleshooting but I don't manage the tech as it takes away from the lesson, my teaching, and what I want my students to get from the lesson. It has to be student user-friendly, no passwords and no weird operating problems.

Why paperless? Well, I do tons with SAMR. This idea focuses on why they are using technology to do the task and is more than plug'n play. (Which has its place.)

There are rules to AppSmashing. Wait-what?? Rules? Yes!! They make sense.

  1. Limit to 3 Apps
  2. Limit Time to 10 Minutes/App (I push for them to turn in something they are proud of and shows off their learning.)
  3. Allow Student Choice
  4. Allow Creativity to Shine
  5. Require Audio and Images



For math, fact practice my student's LOVE is Mathtopia+. Yes, it's plug 'n play (substitution) but I can track their progress, have them go back to a specific number in a specific operation to restate practice. I start my math groups with 5 minutes or so of fact practice as a warmup. It's fun and fast-paced. Plus, they don't think twice about practicing or going back to work on a different number.

Make a Scene from Innivo can be used for just about anything from speech/language support, writing, and math. Pair it with Educreation and you are working Modification.  Currently, my student's are creating multiplication story problems with Make a Scene: Farmyard, taking a screenshot, and then adding their work to Educreation to do the math work.

Educreation is freeish and can be found online and in the app world. I love this interactive whiteboard. Students can import a photo, do their work on it, add audio or a video, save it, and turn it in as either a video/audio clip or a photo. We also use Explain Everything and Chomp but not as often. Interactive whiteboards are important for students sharing their thinking and walk you step by step what they did to solve the problem.

 Adobe Spark Post was a life saver in helping a student create his book Movie Trailer. After much trial and error, this was the last app we tried to get writing on his pictures. The workflow to make it happen after so many problems was a challenge and took more time than I would have liked by the time was all said and done but the end product was beyond his wildest dreams. He never thought he could make a trailer like those he saw at the movies. But this app was dream saver. He had already had his pictures, so 1 by one imported them into Spark Post, added the text and resaved the picture.
Yes, there is a free version of Animoto videos. The free version is amazing. My students created Book Movie Trailers and loved the backgrounds and music options. You can also find it on the web. The downside, no adding text to pictures unless you already had it on there. Hint: Adobe Spark Post. Once you have your pictures, upload, follow the steps to create short videos that you'd think took some major work to pull together.

These are just a few of my student's favorite. What are your favorite apps for Smashing? To learn about more AppSmashing apps and how I use them with students be on the lookout
for a free course coming soon.

Happy App Smashing!
Until Next Time,

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.

November Show & Tell

Today, I'll linking up with Stephanie from "Forever in 5th Grade" for her monthly Show and Tell about what's been happening in my room. It only seems like yesterday I was welcoming students back from Summer Break and now I"m thinking about January. AHHHH!!!

A big thing I have been working on this year is getting students to get and receive authentic feedback.  Launch comes from John Spencer and AJ Julian. I went to Summer PD and learned about Launch and liked the idea but really wondered how I would make it work in a 30-minute IEP based session. At the same time of this presentation by AJ, my district rolled out a Design Thinking Cohort. Here's the thing--this idea was a direction I was hearing I needed to move my instruction to score really well on my evaluations because of the student voice, choice, and feedback. Even as a special education teacher these three ideas are the cornerstone of my evaluation.

One thing I found was Design Sprints. Here they only have 30/45 minutes to build 2 prototypes and give each other feedback.  I make sure to have time to do a group debrief but we don't do the whole cycle. I would love to have more time to do the whole cycle but to really hit student voice, choice and feedback--not sure I really need to carve time to do the whole cycle with my students.

Design Sprints also break up the day to day work they do as well. The pumpkins were done a couple of days before Halloween Parties. They loved the change of pace.

The other place I build in student voice and choice is in their daily work. My 3rd graders are working paperless while they read a short chapter book. This is their targeted guided reading time. All their assignments and work is turned in using Seesaw. I create the reading response directions using different apps, so they can move to something other than Chatterpix or Explain Everything to complete their assessments.

They are getting more used to giving themselves feedback in this system and have begun to get it to others. The work they turn goes in the hallway and is shared to an authentic audience. This has changed the quality of work they produce and they know t make several tries (aka prototypes) to get it just how they want it. I have chunked it out by chapter and given deadlines for when things need to be turned in so they aren't just spinning and have to get things done.

The big thing: The assignments target the chapters they have read but all the questions are based on Bloom's. Mind you they hate this but they rise to the challenge and figure out the answer and how they want to turn in the assignment. I do delete work that is not of high quality. (This is a very long and second conversation. But this solves my students who want to rush through everything.)

Here I have let go of everything. I conference with them just about daily--somethings it just a "Hey, tell me what your working on" or "Can I help with anything." I am a guide or somedays strickly an observer as they get the work done. (This is a huge step into--well I have no clue as I've never done anything like this. The big key to keep on going is 1--they are so happy to come to group each day. It's not a drag which in 3rd grade is can be a big thing for them. 2--the monthly grade level progress monitoring scores are raising. And 3--their chapter fluency reads and comprehension products student turn in scream growth. Mind you not all on my caseload an in this place. So we will see when their winter benchmark scores look like. I'm not stressed if they don't finish the book they are reading. I would to change it up and let them have more choice in what they are reading come January.)

The biggest voice, choice, and feedback task we did was before Thanksgiving Break and had a bonus of authentic feedback as well. This was a STEM activity creating a method to transport a turkey without harming it. So what that it was my father but the kids LOVED it! Having someone who worked in engineering and not be me was the coolest thing ever. They want him to come back. We're talking about something for January. Something STEM and something engineering related.

Here again, we only had 45 minutes to do the activity. Students created 2 prototypes and got authentic feedback from someone who worked in the field was the best.

With each of these, I was able to target student voice, choice, and feedback in a short amount of time. It looks very different with the other students I work with but my 3rd graders asked for their IEP time to be something different and the asked for something outside the box. I'm not sure if I will get to do a whole LAUNCH cycle with them but to create something where they know their voice is heard, they are challenged to think outside of the box too, and get and give feedback is a back deal to a group of 3rd graders who thought none of this was possible.

I don't know what is around the next corner of them this year but they have the skills to ask the questions and work through the challenges.

Until Next Time,

Inspiration Needed to Innovate??

One of the podcasts I listen to regular is John Spencer from The Creative Classroom. His podcast from last month "We need to Trust Teachers to Innovate" had me thinking about other ways to bring in Design Thinking.

As with previous years, I only see students for 30 to 40 minutes. This means I don't have time to do a full Launch sequence with students. (John Spencer co-created "Launch" with AJ Juliani) We tend to do Design Sprints hitting pieces of the process (check out my Instagram for more). This last one creating a Jack O'Lantern. This lesson was more about feedback and using that feedback to create multiple prototypes before the final version was due.

Getting back to John Spencer's podcast, it got me thinking about how I could innovate reading fluency. It got me thinking about how I could take our choice board and think outside the box like many of my 3rd graders were wanting me to do. As I was thinking about this idea could it really live within my fluency group?

The thing a really like about John is that he is a teacher. He understands everything that goes on within our walls but is ideas push traditional thinking. My takeaway--Innovation of the little things, give voice & choice and take learning outside of the box and off road! My Fluency Choice boards give students a chance to be author, filmmakers, artists, and engineers I'm giving them voice & choice in how they want to build their reading fluency.

Its a blind leap based half in data and half in something needs to change with what they are doing to improve their reading fluency. I'm also stepping into the unknown as I experiment with this idea.

This image John helps me visualize and rationalize my idea in the hopes that I'm not in the weeds. "But here’s the thing: innovation requires you to step into the unknown. If we focus all of our attention on best practices and codify these ideas into tightly packaged curriculum, we will inevitably fail to experiment."

So, I ditched what most would consider a fabulous Tier 3 Reading Fluency technology based Reading Fluency trial based on the fact the data didn't support going and asking for the money to buy the licenses to continue using the program. Talk about being stuck between the data and the need to change my intervention--I went with innovation.

The Choice Board I created uses technology because it will force my students to think outside the box and will make them become artists and filmmakers. And I don't have a problem with this as it fits my students' strengths while they work on their weaknesses. (A bonus in my book!!)

Most of these apps they have used to support reading comprehension, others are new but with a tweak all with tackle fluency. All I added was a dice. Students will roll the dice at least twice over the 30 minutes I have them. All their work will be turned in to Seesaw each day.

One thing John points out is "Have your students publish their work to a real audience. For all the fear surrounding social media, we make a mistake when we say, “avoid this” without saying, “try out this.” Too often, the goal is to avoid a digital footprint at all cost rather than finding ways to create a positive digital footprint."

I have been toying with the idea of having them podcast--going back to Launch. I'm wanting them to see the purpose so they need to launch it to an audience other than me and mom. But I'm not sure.

As I move to paperless with groups, I'm finding ways to bring a touch of innovation to each group. It's the baby steps and knowing its ok to fail. My students and I embrace our mistakes. We use them an evidence that we are learning and work to learn from them. We are all learning to grow from feedback--just like they did with the Jack o'Lanterns.

In both cases, I wanted and found real audiences for my students. This needs to happen for reading fluency. I just have to keep looking. What can you give students voice & choice with to help you innovate in your classroom? Try something... and play!!

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.



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:
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.



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.


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,

4 Must have iPad Apps that Give them a Voice



Everywhere you look the focus is on back to school. This review is geared to help spread the word about some incredible apps that may help your child brush up and get prepared for what lies ahead of them this school year.

I don’t want to overlook the essential organizational apps like Evernote, Keynote, or Dragon Diction. I understand that those apps may come loaded on your iPad and for many you may have personal favorites. Instead, I'm highlighting apps that give my students great voice and choice as those which can lead to deeper learning. So, with no further ado, I give you our Must Have Apps for Back to School:



I have students who HATE presenting. Tellagami gives them a chance to do just that. It's easy for them to use and create short presentations to go with their work. Bonus: it can be up-loaded to SeeSaw.



My students use Shadow Puppet for fluency work. They take pictures of their guided reading material or fluency center. They then pair it with audio. Shadow Puppet is also great for students to explain their thinking of math problems.



PicCollage is used for all thing photos. During math time, my students will take pictures of their work with manipulatives and smash it with a different app lick Shadow Puppet to add their thinking before handing it in.


At the end of the school year my students began to experiment with Chatterpix to sharing their thinking.  It works best smashed with a picture app like PicCollage.

My students do their best work with technology when they smash it with something else. App Smashing has give even my quite students a loud voice in demonstrating their thinking and showing their work.

In the world of Special Education we have to find unique ways to give students voice for them to demonstrate their learning. I hope you give them a try. These are my students favoriate. I'd can't wait to hear what your students favorite apps are.

Until next time,

Math Preschool Style

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

How preschoolers learn the many aspects of math

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

Math Games and Activities

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

Website Ideas

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

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

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

Head Start–Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center ( is linked to the federal Head Start Program. Here you will find information about government programs for early learning, including resources that are available to families.

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

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

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

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

Ideas to Teach Comprehension Strategies

Reading Comprehension strategies are why harder to see student's use independently than decoding strategies. As a Special Education Teacher, I tend to spend the first part of my year working mostly with decoding strategies and then teaching comprehension strategies the second half. I have found we mat spend weeks on just one to ensure students are using it on their own as they are reading. But their on may bumps along the way.

I have added a couple of examples from my a few groups.  You can see how student's make use of their understanding of different comprehension strategies in their reading. These are from modeled and shared lessons. I think the hardest thing for them to understand is how to show hoe they created their meaning strategy and use the keyword #understand what I'm reading. This is what each strategy does in a different way.

A "strategy" is a plan developed by a student to assist in comprehending and thinking about texts, when reading the words alone does not give the reader a sense of the meaning of a text. Reading comprehension strategy instruction has come to the fore in reading instruction at all age and grade levels. By helping students understand how these flexible tools work, I help readers to tackle challenging texts with greater independence.

What They Are?

1. Activating background knowledge to make connections between new and known information. In many classrooms, this instruction is divided into three categories-- text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world.

2. Questioning the text. Proficient readers are always asking questions while they read. Sticky notes (post-its) have become ubiquitous in classrooms in part because they are such a useful tool for teaching students to stop, mark text, and note questions as they read.

3. Drawing inferences. Proficient readers use their prior knowledge about a topic and the information they have gleaned in the text thus far to make predictions about what might happen next. When teachers demonstrate or model their reading processes for students through think-alouds, they often stop and predict what will happen next to show how inferring is essential for comprehending text.

4. Determining importance. In the sea of words that is any text, readers must continually sort through and prioritize information. Teachers often assist readers in analyzing everything from text features in nonfiction text like bullets and headings, to verbal cues in novels like strong verbs. Looking for these clues can help readers sift through the relative value of different bits of information in texts.

5. Creating mental images. Readers are constantly creating mind pictures as they read, visualizing action, characters, or themes. Teachers are using picture books with students of all ages, not necessarily because they are easy to read, but because the lush and sophisticated art in these books can be a great bridge for helping students see how words and images connect in meaning-making.

6. Repairing understanding when meaning breaks down. Proficient readers don't just plow ahead through text when it doesn't make sense -- they stop and use "fix-up" strategies to restore their understanding. One of the most important fix-up tools is rereading, with teachers demonstrating to students a variety of ways to reread text in order to repair meaning.

7. Synthesizing information. Synthesis is the most sophisticated of the comprehension strategies, combining elements of connecting, questioning, and inferring. With this strategy, students move from making meaning of the text, to integrating their new understanding into their lives and world view.

Ideas for Teaching

Modeling through think-alouds is the best way to teach all comprehension strategies. By thinking aloud, teachers show students what good readers do. Think-alouds can be used during read-alouds and shared reading. They can also be used during small-group reading to review or reteach a previously modeled strategy.

I use a think-aloud to:

  • Create a record of the strategic decision-making process of going through text
  • Report everything the reader notices, does, sees, feels, asks, and understands as she reads
  • Talk about the reading strategies being used within the content being read
  • There are many ways to conduct think-alouds:
  • The teacher models the think-aloud while she reads aloud, and the students listen.
  • The teacher thinks aloud during shared reading, and the students help out.
  • Students think aloud during shared reading, and the teacher and other students monitor and help.
  • The teacher or students think aloud during shared reading while writing on an overhead, on self-stick notes, or in a journal.
  • Students think aloud in small-group reading, and the teacher monitors and helps.
  • Students individually think aloud during independent reading using self-stick notes or a journal. Then students compare their thoughts with others.

I use a Model or Shared Lesson to:

  • Decide on a new strategy or reteach a strategy to model.
  • Other things I think about are:
    • Choose a short text or section of text.
    • Read the text ahead of time. Mark locations where you will stop and model the strategy.
    • State your purpose—name the strategy and explain the focus of your think-alouds.
    • Read the text aloud to students and think aloud at the designated points.
    • If you conduct a shared reading experience, have students highlight words and phrases that show evidence of your thinking by placing self-stick notes in the book.
    • Reinforce the think-alouds with follow-up lessons in the same text or with others.

As a Special Education Teacher, I spend at least one lesson a week during a Modeled or Shared Lesson. As a reading teacher, I have had to work not to be afraid of stopping in the middle of a lesson and redoing or doing a new modeled lesson. Teaching comprehension strategy work is HARD and I spend tons of time listening to and seeing what my students do as they practice independently. I take my time and work for skill mastery not accuracy mastery.  How do you teach your reading comprehension strategies? I'd love to hear what works for your students!

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.
Follow on Bloglovin
Special Ed. Blogger

I contribute to:

Search This Blog