Posts Tagged ‘special ed’
1. Use Plastic Flower Pots in Your Classroom and only throwable plants
2. Buy Unbreakable Lamps – Are there such things?
3. Always wear pull-away earrings-for those extra “special” hugs
4. Increase your supply of blue jeans – for that child who gives you extra “foot contact”
5. Patience is a Virtue
6. Sick Leave is there for a purpose —- Mental Health at risk can be considered
7. Find a really good substitute teacher
8. Use that little button in your room when necessary – administrators get the big bucks
9. Even the little ones can be really strong
10. Smile, Laugh, Eat Lunch with Others, Smile and Laugh, Remember –you LOVE YOUR JOB…Really!
“They don’t belong,” are words I can’t tolerate. I’m a special education teacher and I believe everyone belongs everywhere. It may take some children longer to acclimate to a situation than others, but with a team effort that includes the school and home, I believe it can be done. Unfortunately when a child has problems that include behavior and the child looks different, the feeling that “they don’t belong” seems to escalate.
One thing that works in my class when a student becomes overwhelmed with too much academics is reading books together as a class, that are projected onto the Smart Board. I’m fortunate to have my own classroom and a small group of boys and they all benefit from lots of read aloud so a book break is always beneficial. Seeing and hearing words and even being able to touch them on the Smart Board are very productive for these children with Learning Differences.
Sometimes I have to make really quick decisions about the book but the one site I always go to is biguniverse.com. They have a beautiful selection of top quality picture books and I’ve never gone wrong in any of my selections. I’ve started saving my favorites to my virtual bookshelf on the site so I can easily bring them up when I go to the site.
This week my special student and I are going to write a social story together using the create portion of Big Universe. We’ll write about what we can do when we feel really angry or confused. The site has 7,000 cliparts and I can even import my own pictures.
The three words “they don’t belong” should never be spoken together. It’s our job as a society to do all that we can to ensure that they aren’t. As teachers we are the first line of defense in helping our special children develop strategies to cope with situations that exist in the real world. I’m just glad there are sites like Big Universe that make my job easier.
Bullying in schools is rampant. As much as we would like to think our children are completely safe when we send them to school, we are sending them into a land mine of social fields that we have never thought to teach them about until recently. As a teacher I see bullying occur almost every day and I am constantly trying to find ways to stop the negative behavior and teach children why bullying behavior is harmful.
One of the big problems with bullying is its definition or how we perceive its definition. There are so many forms. The one definition everyone thinks of – the big mean bully who scares children – is one we have a lot of strategies to work with. It is the other kinds of bullying that are hard to teach both the bully and the child being bullied how to deal with. This type of bullying is emotional bullying. It’s very insidious. It can occur in the classroom right in front of the teacher. It occurs during a play group right in front of a mom. It occurs on the computer, during a messaging session. Emotional bullying is the worse kind because it gets inside the child’s head and that’s not as easy to heal as a bruise.
Taunting, teasing, and laughing inappropriately at a child are all bullying. Name calling, spreading rumors, forming groups and purposefully leaving one child out are all bullying. Even the negative connotations that eye contact and a nasty smirk with a child that is being taunted and teased gets across the room from the bully can be considered an act of bullying if it goes with previous behaviors of abuse. We need to give children some pictures or examples in their brain so that the next time they are on the playground, on the bus, in the hallway, or in the classroom, they can remember some of the appropriate ways to respond to a bullying situation.
Girls are great at emotional bullying. For years, maybe centuries, they’ve formed cliques. They have spread rumors, sent nasty glances, and slipped nasty notes into backpacks or purses. Boys can be just as good but in my experience they tend to bully only the ones considered lowest in the social scale. Girls don’t have a problem forming a social group against the beautiful blonde but boys don’t get together to bully the football quarter back.
The children I see bullied most often by boys are those least able to defend themselves. These children may be receiving special education services, or they may be socially naïve and immature. Boys do not want a challenge they can’t win fairly easily. They need the ego boost. How do we solve this problem?
The important thing to note with all of these acts of bullying is they begin early – in elementary school. Current surveys show that fourth grade can be one of the worst years for bullying in the elementary years. Don’t get me wrong. The other years are bad, but fourth grade stands out.
I have found books and videos help me to show my students ways to deal with bullying in a positive non threatening way. For young children the written word becomes proof and seeing it in a video confirms to them that a behavior is wrong. There are also many websites now that have books that show beautifully on a Smart Board. After reading the books and showing the videos it’s important to have a discussion with the children. Many of the books come with quizzes as do the videos. These can help you to assess their understanding.
Big Universe has several wonderful books that address bullying with gorgeous illustrations. Chester Raccoon and the Big Bad Bully written by Audrey Penn, and published by Charlesbridge is one of theses books. For more selections go to Big Universe and type bullying in the search engine. A great site for videos on bullying and other character education topics is Discovery Education. If you are a teacher and your school subscribes to United Streaming, you’re in luck!
We can’t ignore bullying. Just saying we had to deal with it as children and we turned out okay, is not the way to approach the topic. Pick up a book and let your student see how to handle negative behaviors positively. Let’s not send any more bullies into our world.
Children with emotional and social difficulties often have problems understanding and expressing their needs. They may not understand why they feel the way they do. Even more complex than this is that they don’t understand the correct way to respond to the way they are feeling.
Children on the Autism spectrum need to be taught how to respond to facial expressions and how to make those expressions themselves. Many of these children show a flat affect unless they are shown how to smile, show surprise, all the things most of us take for granted. The average child reacts to anger over a bad grade by squeezing their fists, crying, putting the paper away and vowing to study harder next time. The child on the Autism spectrum doesn’t filter this way. They tear the paper up, call the teacher names, stomp around the classroom and make it known to everyone that they are unhappy. These children need to be taught how to respond appropriately to a bad grade or other disappointing situations.
Childhood disabilities in the school room are becoming more complex. There are many more children entering the classroom with multiple disabilities that can’t be clearly labeled and as educators we have to be able to respond to the child rather than the label. Just because we don’t see Autism or emotional disability on the label doesn’t mean there can’t be inappropriate emotional reactions, and not all inappropriate emotional reactions are related to Autism or emotional disabilities. Any child with any type of brain trauma may show the same type of inability to interpret cues. Teachers need to become researchers.
How do we teach children who are unable to respond to emotional cues? They need direct instruction. One great way is through Social Stories. These are stories that an adult writes using a situation the child faces on a regular basis and coming up with a solution. The story is then read with the child regularly. The child can be put in the story as a character. This is where the Big Universe create a book resource is invaluable. The child’s picture can be inserted into the book, as can pictures of the classroom, cafeteria, playground, wherever the trouble spots are. There are hundreds of ways to write great social stories using Big Universe.
After writing a social story on Big Universe the story can be published to the website! In the next several weeks you’ll even be able to order hard bound copies if you wish but my favorite feature is the publishing to the web because then it becomes official. Kids with emotional disabilities of any type respond well to knowing something is a rule and will be more likely to do something if they know it is a rule that has to be followed. What’s more solid than seeing their stories on the web?
One of the outcomes of standardized testing in our schools is the way we handle the assessment of our special education population. Because No Child is to be Left Behind, our children with special needs are held to the same standards as all students. All children should have the same educational opportunities and should not never be looked upon as limited simply because of a disability. However, testing some of these children annually just to say that they have been tested is ludicrous.
States have been given the opportunity to create alternative assessments so a special education student does not have to take the one day question and answer test, but I have to question whether anyone creating these assessments have ever worked with these children or ever come into the classroom and asked teachers if these assessments are working. The answer is NO.
In Virginia there are two alternative assessments for the special education student in elementary school. They are both based on the premise that a student can’t take a multiple choice test (read my last blog). The first assessment is the VAAP, the Virginia Alternative Assessment Program. The student being considered for this must have a significant cognitive disability, which requires that he have individualized instruction most of the day among other criteria.
The second alternative assessment in Virginia is the VGLA or Virginia Grade Level Alternative assessment. The VGLA allows the student (in reality the teacher) to collect a portfolio of his/her work in place of the standards exam at the end of the year. The teacher actually collects an extensive portfolio of material that shows the student has met a wide range of criteria for all of the standards for their grade level in reading math and sometimes other academic areas.
The grading of the portfolios is very open-ended though there are guidelines but since no child’s binder is exactly the same a lot is left up to the discretion of the graders. Often it is how well the teacher has put together and collected the material. Did the teacher grade each document? If the answer is no then it isn’t supposed to be counted. If the evidence shows 3 correct answers and 3 wrong answers on a worksheet with 6 questions then the average scorer won’t take the piece of evidence as adequate but, the teacher can turn in a work sample showing just the 3 correct problems that meet the criteria and get a good score. As a teacher I’m better off cutting and pasting the correct answers and submitting just those, but is this teaching?
A teacher could teach and assess a student over and over again on the same information until they get good evidence. For many of these kids there are memory issues so the only way to get an assessment of their knowledge is to teach a topic and assess their knowledge shortly after the teaching. They won’t remember what you taught tomorrow. Is this learning?
The average math portfolio for a fourth grade student requires approximately 100 pieces of evidence to demonstrate standards have been met. For example just one strand of one standard in math is the student must “solve problems involving 1.) addition and 2.) subtraction with 3.) fractions having 4.) like and 5.) unlike denominators of 12 or less and with 6.) decimals expressed through thousandths using various computational methods, including 7.) calculators, 8.) 9.) paper and pencil, 10.) 11.) mental computation, 12.) 13.) estimation.” I probably lost track but there are at least 13 items that need evidence in this one strand. There will probably be at least 3 or 4 pieces of paper.
As a teacher, the process is exhausting and as a student I’m sure it’s not much better. The VGLA is no guarantee of a pass but it does show what a student can do. In the end the teacher and school never get the graded binder back so we can’t truly see how our student did, we only get numbers.
I definitely believe that all students need to be given the opportunity to learn and achieve to their maximum potential. As a teacher, that’s my goal for every student. The state and federal government have stepped in and said that they now need proof that shows I’m teaching these children to the highest standards possible. Why would I want to be a special education teacher, which pays no more money than a general education teacher, which pays very little, if I didn’t want to help these children reach their highest potential?
Here are some sites where VGLA type materials are available. Unfortunately it isn’t going away.
Math worksheets at Eraser Dog, Good Example of VGLA type questions on a California standards outline, Practice Problems for California Math Standards, which can be used in all states. These are examples only and should be matched carefully to your state’s standards. Good Luck!
This week I’ve been sorting through pictures. I’ve got thousands – the old fashion kind – taken with a 35mm camera. It’s funny how quickly things change and become out dated. I bought a converter specifically designed scan photos directly into a computer.
The old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” has come to my mind many times this week. Each picture is a special time in place. A picture has the power to make us smile, laugh, or cry. A picture has the power to place us at the beach, in the mountains, in a cozy country kitchen in front of a warm, crackling fire, or in a contemporary living room, lounging on a white leather sofa looking out through a wall of glass windows at a yard of wildflowers. A picture can tell a whole story without one written word.
The magic of pictures combined with the written words holds immeasurable power in books! The right picture, with the right words can bring to life a whole world for a child and activate neurons in the brain that will enrich the learning process. Unknown vocabulary is easier for children to figure out with good picture reinforcement. Reading comprehension is deeper and more meaningful with the enhancement of quality illustrations.
There’s a series of things that need to take place in order for complete comprehension to take place. The best way to demonstrate this is through pictures:
8 Strategies for Reading Comprehension
Reading is Fundamental or RIF has a list of tips for using picture books successfully. Being able to interpret illustrations, use illustrations to decode unknown words, tell a story from an illustration, put a story to an illustration and even create stories using pictures are all things that RIF outlines in the attached literacy skills.
Tips for Using Picture Books in the Classroom
As a teacher my problem has always been finding classroom sets of picture books. Now, thanks to technology and Big Universe that’s not a problem any more. Big Universe has 1,000 quality publisher picture books online! These books can be projected to a SmartBoard or other interactive white board for teaching and they can be used on any computer system 24 hour a day. Plus, there is a very high tech, easy to use authoring tool that let’s members design their own picture books. Now everyone, children, teachers, parents, can be a published author. There are almost 7,000 clipart pictures online and a user can import their own pictures and art.
Picture books are a wonderful way to teach reading and writing. In fact, using picture books to teach any academic subject is the best way to engage both the left and right sides of the brain ensuring you reach all learners in the classroom.
Are you a reader? Are you a writer? Were you able to truthfully answer, “Yes!” to both questions? Although both reading and writing are taught in school, most adults today identify themselves as readers, but not writers. Through the writer’s workshop, student writing is valued; students learn to write well and become comfortable thinking of themselves as writers. As they see the power of their writing, students of all writing skills levels desire to work earnestly in order for their audience of readers to appreciate their writing. The kind of motivation possible for student performance is rarely found in standard classrooms utilizing teacher led writing instruction.
Students are initiated into writer’s workshop by noticing how writers write. The teacher shares wonderful books and other texts, letting the students know that a writer wrote the text the students was reading. As students begin to appreciate the reading/writing connection, they begin to see reading and writing as complementary activities.
Students find that the workshop environment inspires them to want to write well. Writers have autonomy; they choose their own topics, writing instruments, and seating arrangements. Students who are hesitant to write can enter the process from many routes. The workshop holds many motivations: books, animals, natural objects, conversations with a friend, all could be utilized as part of the prewriting stage, as the writer researches a topic—just as “real” writers do. Once the students selects and researches a topic, the student may choose a preferred place to sit: at a table, on the floor with a pillow and clipboard, or near a secluded corner with earphones to muffle distracting sounds. A writing center provides the student with more choices: pencils, kinds of paper, pens, staplers, clipboards, and reference texts such as charts, dictionaries, word banks, and thesauri.
Lastly, writer’s workshop dignifies the student’s efforts. Naming the student a “writer”, the teacher listens with respect and she engages in dialogue with the student about his writing. “What did you mean by…” “I’d like to know more about…” “What will happen after…” The teacher demonstrates an honest interest in the student’s writing; the writer wants his reader to understand his writing. The relationship built by the teacher’s respect for the writer allows the teacher to shape the skills that develop within the student’s writing while the student works hard to create writing worth publishing…the last step of the writing process!
In the Writer’s Workshop model of instruction, pioneered by Lucy Calkins, Nancy Atwell, and Donald Graves, among others, students are encouraged to see themselves as writers. Helping students to accept the reality of their own authorship can be a difficult task for some children for whom writing may be a difficult task.
One of the benefits of the writer’s workshop approach, especially for students having difficulty with writing, is the idea of a “mini-lesson.” Children are presented with a “bite-sized” piece of guidance at the beginning of each workshop. They are encouraged to practice the skill introduced in the mini-lesson, eventually becoming skillful at applying the skill in their own writing.
We can use the idea of a “mini-lesson” as we work individually with students to support their identification as authors. The idea is to choose a small writing task that can help the author create a larger piece of work. Over the next few months, I will be sharing a number of small lessons designed to help reticent writers feel immediate satisfaction.
The first and most easily accessible kind of writing is poetry. In a beginning poetry mini-lesson, one could introduce the idea of repeated patterns. Poetic patterns can be ending sound patterns, such as rhyming, repeated consonants (alliteration), or internal vowel sounds that are repeated (assonance). Patterns can be whole lines that are repeated or individual words that are repeated. What could be a better way to end the lesson than by recording into an ipod to hear it in your own voice?