Posts Tagged ‘VGLA Worksheets’
Posted on January 12, 2010 by Big Universe in Uncategorized.
Tags: alternative assessments, assessment, Big Universe, hydrocephalus, learning disabilities, NCLB, Online Children's Books, Portfolio Assessments, Reading Comprehension, Special Needs, Standards of Learning, VGLA Worksheets
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I didn’t go into to teaching for the money. No one goes into teaching for the money. I love children. Ask any teacher that stays with teaching why they do it and they’ll tell you it’s because they want to make a difference in children’s lives.
Way, way, way……..back when I first wanted to be a teacher, when I was in high school, we were being told the market was going to be over run with teachers so it wasn’t a good choice. That was all I truly ever wanted to be so that threw me into a sort of inner turmoil. I started college going towards a medical degree, changed that to English and finally left after two years when I was 20 giving up a full scholarship.
Fast forward to a husband and three beautiful children all in their teens now… when the youngest went into first grade, the first year of all day school, I returned to college to get my degrees. First my bachelors, then my masters, with a double major in elementary and special education.
I always knew that I couldn’t just teach in a regular classroom. I love all children but I have always hated to see the “special” child taunted and teased and left behind. As a teacher I hate to teach to the masses and leave that small percent behind. I wanted to be the one to teach the small percentage.
So here I am today living my dream. I wanted you to have the history so you can see that I did not just choose teaching and go into it straight out of college without giving it any thought. I knew what I was doing. I even substitute taught while my little ones were in school when I didn’t have classes. The graduate program I took was a hands-on program where I spent a full day co-teaching and then took my classes at night. I knew what I was getting into. I knew. But, the lack of respect by my leaders is something I wasn’t expecting.
The Council on Exceptional Children has identified the top 10 Critical Issues Facing Special Education. The number one issue they’ve identified is the “National Special Education Policy.” Included in this is No Child Left Behind. Under NCLB all children are expected to show their achievement at grade level. While there are some alternative assessments those assessments are still missing the point. In order to show progress we as special educators need to be given a format to show that our students have shown progress commensurate to where they began, not that they are making grade level progress. When I can do this I will be doing my students justice.
Currently I am working with the Virginia Grade Level Alternative Assessment. That means I need to show that my student who is reading on a first grade level (thus the term “special education”) is able to read and comprehend on a fourth grade level. I also need to be able to show that this student who has poor short term memory is able to add and subtract fractions with unlike denominators. Does anyone else besides me see the problem here? The alternative to the alternative assessment is they can take the Standards of Learning exam at the end of the year and most probably fail.
So why did I give you the history of my journey to teaching? Because when you here about the high turn over rate of teachers you may think these are all young new teachers. But, they aren’t. There are many seasoned teachers being pushed to the brink and beyond.
I know everyone is facing poor economics these days. I’m looking at the total package. As a teacher there’s a feeling that as a whole the profession is treated poorly. Next year again, in my county at least, there will be no pay raises and no cost of living increases. As teachers in the county, more than the lack of money, we see this as a lack of respect. At the same time there is no money, the work load is increasing. This year alone my duties at work have increased and the paperwork has grown tremendously in special education. There are beneficial training classes being offered to help with the alternative assessments, after school.
I’m not whining. But sometimes I do want to cry. I get thirty minutes of planning time a day. That’s barely enough time to print out what I need to use that day. I go to work two hours early every day. I stay late. I work at home constantly. I have mandatory parent meetings with each of my student’s parents annually and now that’s just been increased by an extra meeting triennially. I now have an extra extensive assessment that I need to give my students. The alternative assessment is an extremely time intensive portfolio for each subject and I’m doing 10 portfolios this year. Doing these assessments with students who really don’t get the material is so… hard because the teaching is excruciating. The kids may get it for a minute. I can assess it for a minute…. . But is this learning? Is this teaching?
Luckily while I’m building the wheel everyday to teach my students there are a few websites that are helping me with my students. Big Universe is one of them. The majority of their books now have assessments that go with them. This is a great way for me to judge my children’s knowledge. For example, I have to do a biography with my students. I’m going to use Martin Luther King Jr.’s biography which has an assessment on Big Universe. I’ll show it on my Smart Board, read it aloud and have my students take turns coming up to answer the quiz questions. Along with anecdotal notes and some other work this will become part of my portfolios.
Teaching can be painful. The constant search for resources is very time consuming. If it wasn’t for the occasional gem like Big Universe, teaching would be even more difficult.
“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.
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.
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As our world becomes more and more diverse it becomes even clearer that the vocabulary, expressions and idioms of the English language have to be directly taught and explained to our children. As a special education teacher I work with children everyday who don’t know the vocabulary of things I have always taken for granted – garage, valley, harbor, barn… I read through everything, on the look out for vocabulary that I need to introduce to my students so they can understand what they are reading. It’s not just the special education students. It’s the general education population. We, as teachers and parents need to make sure our children really understand their world. Vocabulary is the first stepping stone to reading comprehension.
This week my group of fourth graders, the majority with learning disabilities is reading The Baseball Card . Wherever possible I use books that are accessible on the Internet. They are less expensive, ecologically friendly, and my students love reading on the computer. The Baseball Card is available on Big Universe. The Baseball Card a beautiful picture book that tells a story of a little boy’s special experience with his father. It all centers on an old fashioned playground game and a special baseball card. Even a book about baseball has vocabulary that is confusing to children who don’t have English as their first language or who don’t have background knowledge about baseball. Some of these words and phrases are – slugger, card shark, snicker, and the phrase “tip of the hat”. These are all great starting points for a reading lesson. Vocabulary should be introduced before reading the book.
Introduction of vocabulary can be quick but it needs to be visual. The Internet has made this easy. Using the Smartboard and Images any teacher can make a quick 5 minute vocabulary presentation before a reading lesson.
After the vocabulary is understood, read the book together then have each student read the book on their own. At this point it’s time to gauge their comprehension. As we prepare for the Virginia Standards of Learning I have found that having the students do tests similar to the SOL for the text they are reading is very valuable. It helps them generalize their knowledge. SOLtypetest1 (worksheet).
Reading and vocabulary are a necessary combination. As teachers and parents we need to realize those connections are not being made naturally. Direct instruction is necessary in order for students to comprehend reading material. It’s our job to see that we use all of our many resources to link what we are teaching in a way our students can understand, through visuals and clearly defined vocabulary. Beautiful picture books, like those on Big Universe do some of the work for us, now we have to fill in the blanks.
“When can we write our stories again?” “I’m just finishing up book three and it’s going to be the end of the series so I’ll have to start a new one.” “Please edit my book now so I can publish it!” These are all statements made in one of my recent classes. I teach special education and the students making these statements are fourth grade elementary school children with learning disabilities. “When can we write?” is not a question I’ve been asked by a child with a learning disability until I started using http://www.biguniverse.com in my classroom.
Big Universe has a tremendous area for creating, publishing and printing books. Kids, parents, teachers, anyone, can create their own book. Children, who normally can’t write a complete sentence, let alone one with adjectives, are able to do so when they are doing it around creative pictures and backgrounds. Teaching paragraph writing is much easier once a child realizes that writing a story, which they love to do on Big Universe, is the same idea as writing a paragraph. There’s an introduction, supporting details, and a great conclusion. Watching a child, who normally isn’t able to produce a cohesive piece of writing, print out their own book, is very rewarding. Big Universe makes this reward possible.
I always have my children read at least two of the beautiful picture books on Big Universe before they start working on their own books. I walk around the room as they are reading these books on their laptops and ask them questions about the way the book is set up. Now that they are writing books they notice the way the art is set and the text is put on the top or to the side. I also want my students to see that they can write two or three sentences on a page. Reading and writing are a natural connection. This connection is made flawlessly when the children can read a book and then write their own book on Big Universe.