In an effort to provide ideas for students with disabilities and their families, I've reached out to some of my mentors. Together, we'll be sharing resources and answering questions about teaching students with disabilities.
Today's idea is to create a writing journal with your student. Why?
Because of the following reasons:
a - writing is a fundamental skill that supports reading
b - writing and drawing are natural skills that students will naturally do.
c - writing coherently is a classroom and lifetime skill that allows for identity and personal development.
In a study that measured the effectiveness of writing intervention, it was found that supporting students in making simple sentences assisted this process for students with disabilities:
Sentence combining involves explicitly teaching students how to rewrite short, syntactically simple sentences into ones that are more varied in terms of style, length and syntactic structure (Saddler, 2009). For example, a series of simple sentences a young writer might produce such as: “The ball was red. The ball was big. The ball bounced when I dropped it.” could be combined in multitude of ways depending on the author’s style, for example: The big red ball bounced with I dropped it.
To offer ideas on supporting students, parents and teacher might:
a - read a story aloud to a student (or have them listen to the story using text to speech options)
b - ask, "What is the big idea of this story?"
c - write down exactly the words the student responds
d - break the idea down into simple sentences (as described above).
To support clear writing, you can use common graph paper or you might use the paper I've highlighted above. This is available through Amazon:
One of my favorite books to use with this approach is any of the Jon Klassen books such as "This is Not My Hat". These stories provide for conversation, prediction, and wonderful artwork that encourages interaction with a very surprising ending. All ages, even upper grades, love these books.
Saddler, B., Ellis-Robinson, T., & Asaro-Saddler, K. (2018). Using Sentence Combining Instruction to Enhance the
Writing Skills of Children with Learning Disabilities. Learning Disabilities: A Contemporary Journal, 16(2), 191–202.
I'm knee-deep in writing my Master's Capstone with a completion date of next Spring 2021. I find the research about integrating art within the learning environment affirming and fascinating. So what exactly is "arts-integration"? Glad you asked.
For that answer, I'm using this definition from Helen Robinson: "Arts Integration is teaching collaboratively engaging all students to promote learning through and with the arts." (Robinson, 2013).
Perhaps it is easier to define arts integration by saying what it is not. Arts integration is NOT arts and crafts. It is not tacking on endless craft activities to a reading of a novel or math lesson. It isn't activities that take away from instructional time, filling students time with busy work that is simply busy work.
Arts integration is using evidence based, rigorous curriculum and using art (writing, music, painting, drawing, sculpting) that connects students to core subjects like reading, math, science, and geography.
While the focus of my paper is how this approach benefits students with learning disabilities, my research has affirmed a belief I've had for a long time: good teaching for students with disabilities is good teaching for all students. My hope is that my research will lead me deeper into these ideas so that I can provide many access points for students to learn.
I've decided to re-name this blog to better reflect the direction of my paper and my thinking.
Robinson, A. H. (2013). Arts Integration and the Success of Disadvantages Students: A Research Evaluation.
A Research Evaluation. Arts Education Policy Review, 114(4), 191-204.
This week was Dr. Seuss Birthday Week. Even though I'm 56, I still love Dr. Seuss books and most students I know, do too.
To celebrate -- and to get some reading fluency practice - I tried a new idea to me. I selected two Dr. Seuss Books (One Fish, Two Fish, Three Fish..., and Green Eggs and Ham). The objective was for students to read these books aloud, listen to an exemplar (read by yours truly), connect with the four elements of fluency (smoothness, expression, speed, and accuracy).
Here's a recording of the book that you might also use:
To do this, I invited students to read aloud with a digital recorder (which they loved doing!). I recorded each student's reading and then transferred the file to my computer. I did the same with my exemplar, which was me reading "Green Eggs and Ham".
Here's a link to the recorder I used:
This was a perfect exercise to include in my Friday student conferences where I work to connect with students on anything in the classroom, including successes and misses. I look forward to these every week because I feel it is time I really get to know students better. While I do have up to 10 students at a time, while I'm doing these individual conferences of about 12 minutes per student, the other students are engaged in literacy centers that they are practicing from the week. NOTE: This has taken a lot of practice for students to learn how to move around the room, respectfully, getting their work done. I spend a lot of time at the top of the year reviewing classroom expectations where we literally practice moving from one table to the next. Why? Because learning to learn is an important life skill that most students aren't taught. Being in a classroom with other students is a big deal and one that students needs to master before they transition to middle school. So we work on it!
At students' conferences, I reviewed the four components of fluency by referring to an anchor chart. I connected the birthday of Dr. Seuss (I even wore a Dr. Seuss headband!) with our exercise and the learning we've done this year about fluency (it's mentioned almost every time during small group: "We're working on reading skills today and fluency is our friend!")
1 - Students were invited to listen to the exemplar with headphones for about 2 min.
2 - We discussed what they enjoyed about the listening to the recording.
3 - Next, I invited them to listen to their own reading for about 2 min. It's important that I share with students that I hadn't shared their reading with anyone and that this was only theirs and I keep that promise.
4 - After listening to their reading, I provided a short rubric that allowed students to gauge their reading into the four components by indicating with a mark or happy face: "GREAT" or "Good" or "I need practice". (formative assessment).
5 - Sometimes, students indicated more than one area they wanted to improve and so I assisted them in choosing ONE area that we can work on during independent reading and small group time.
The students enjoyed this conversation as did I. My next step is to have them read the same book again, after practicing the skill they want. I'd like to combine the two readings into one digital file so they can see/hear their progress. Then, I hope to move onto another book of their choosing where they can read and compare their growth for the end of the school year.
For this exercise I used:
My weekly routine for ELA goes something like this:
Monday - read aloud grade-level text
Tuesday - Shared reading grade-level text
Wednesday - Literacy centers (vocabulary, spelling, morphology)
Thursday - Writing Workshop
Friday - 1:1 Student/Teacher Conferences.
What I like about this schedule is that it forces me to consider how to teach the same text in a variety of ways. Admittedly, vocabulary can be a tricky subject for student engagement. I found this approach to work in a recent literacy center. First, I had the students write the vocabulary words, sounding out the letters/sounds as they wrote. In my classroom, we have a new focus on writing so I've been supporting students with graph paper - more on this later when I share more about the writing workshop on Thursdays. I do use a computer program called Quizlet for a few minutes (8 - 12) when introducing vocabulary but I try to really limit screen time in my resource room.
Next, I do a whole-group exercise where I use my favorite classroom tool - the sticky note! Students were grouped into teams and I would read aloud the definition and teams would take turn in finding the best word to match the read definition. I also wanted students to begin thinking about words as nouns, adjectives, adverbs, etc. and though we haven't done enough of this kind of study, literacy is encouraged when words become familiar. So, when I read the definition I say, "This word is a noun, which is a person, place or thing. .." Then I read the definition provided by grade level text. The team whose turn it is "votes" on their best choice for that definition. Then the correct definition is read.
The exercise can then be used for independent practice as seen in the photo at top. Students can do this in pairs or alone which supports students reading aloud skills.
It's not always easy to connect state education standards with curriculum and student needs, especially when the focus skill is writing. Writing is a difficult subject to grade well, and to assign well. Here's my take on a recent writing assignment that brings in SEL student needs, along with a seasonal twist, and of course - artwork!
NHere is my OAS standard posted with the artwork.
The objective of this center is to involve the students in a one on one conference about descriptive words about themselves. By the end of the exercise, I wanted students to frame the words they use to describe themselves and to begin to develop new ways that they can see themselves.
Over 200 descriptive terms, written on index cards were provided students and they were invited to find words that best described who they are, and who they want to be. Questions such as "What do you like most about yourself?: And, "What would you like to see MORE of in yourself?" NOTE: All words were positive descriptors: likeable, intellegent, fun, excited, etc.
Valentine's Day offers an opportunity to use visual images with words that make the exercise fun.
Students first chose their "hand" color and their arwork background color. They traced around their hands (some students with disabilities need more assistance with this, so small group work is important). Students then chose the color of their "heart". They were provided two cookie cutters that they could chose and trace around ONE. They cut out the heart, placing it behind one of the fingers.
Then, students were provided the word bank and engaged in conversation about how they describe themselves. This was a guided discussion but the choices were all their own to make -- I was careful to not over comment or under comment on their choices because what matters is how a student sees him and herself and I wanted to make sure they had that voice throughout the exercise. In short, this was not an exercise that was used to teach behavior but rather to better understand it.
The session was chunked into two sessions so that time with the word bank was given thoughtful consideration.
,,When I'm lesson planning, I often am asking myself, "How do I get this assignment, task, or skill "off the paper?" What I mean by that is how can I engage students into a process of exploring and asking questions rather than just an exercise of fill in the blank worksheet. Most students with disabilities need this access yet I'm learning that all students can benefit from this kind of teaching strategy.
This week, I created literacy stations that align with my students curriculum using a word sort. This is pictured here using 3 colors (red, green, blue) and following through with that color connection with markers that underline the root word or word segment: arch, graph, and rupt. Students were given one of two sets of cards with words that feature these segments and they were asked to 1) decode the word with the strategy of identifying the segment, and 2) sorting the words according to that segment. A differentiated version was offered to emerging readers with the colors used to assist students in matching and a non-colored/underline version for emerging readers that do not need that support. Once students did this a couple of times with me, they were ready to "beat their best" which was to say the words correctly, and then sort the words. The students did this twice, attempting to beat their best time, not to race with others. This was a lot of fun for me and for the students and it was rewarding to hear the students saying the words to each other, correctly. While a formative assessment was not offered at this stage, one will be offered as a review in a follow up literacy center.
Another example of getting an assignment came from a 6th grade teacher. One of the best benefits of ESS teachers collaborating with other teachers is that everyone learns more - the teachers collectively and the students. She created an anchor chart with possible answers (again, right from the students curriculum) and then the students "voted" by placing a sticky note with their name on the answer (A, B, C, or D) that they think is the best answer.
I modified this strategy by introducing a "question of the day" which is ONE reading comprehension question from the students curriculum. I created an anchor chart with the question, students voted (once they place their sticky note, they cannot change their answer). When students arrive the following day, we review the previous day's question and we share the answer. To do this without stigmitizing students, I decided that I would put EVERYONE'S name/sticky note on the correct answer when we do whole group review. Students inherently know which one they chose and so I don't want them to be called out in class, I do want them to learn the correct answer. Assessments can be more critical, learning together is the objective.
The Spring 2020 semester is here and with it comes two new graduate classes for me! Reading and Literacy and Educational Research are both topics I"ll be spending a lot of winter nights reading about.
What's great about the Master's work that I'm doing is the immediate application of strategies that I'm learning that are researched based and evidence proven. I have over seven textbooks (!) and all of them are interesting to me. However, the one entitled "I Am Reading" by Collins and Glover is especially interesting because of how it relates to the book from Donalyn Miller that I read over holiday break. This resource is an easy read and offers ideas on student conferences that I am particularly excited to know more about. Since I've started a reading centers rotation in my classroom this year, the ideas fit well into my lesson plans.
One idea I've concentrated on after reading these resources is how important it is for students to be reading at or above grade level. What I hope to do going forward, is to have that as my highest priority goal and have all my plans and schemes in the classroom supporting that objectives. For the special education classroom, this is the most important support I can offer students.
Student data is a necessary tool for student growth. My classroom this year features an "aquarium" theme and I developed this idea for mapping out my students test. Each student has a "fish" but the score and name are on the back of the fish to avoid anyone being singled out. Besides, I want everyone in the class to move forward at their own pace and this data "stream" (get it? fish, stream...???}) is one that grows as student's grow. Students scores are logged on the backs Fall 2019, then Winter 2020, then finally Spring 2020. Our universal screener (MAP) uses colors which are coordinated here (under 200 scores are in red, etc.). On the left are the benchmarks, 150, 200, 250.