Monday, September 26, 2016

Play Doh Arrays

Is there anything not great about play doh?

One of my students is working on beginning multiplication. He is a very physical student, and I needed a way for him to make the tactile connections that he needs to be successful. So we spent a minute before starting out math lesson to make "perfect" balls to make arrays with.



The process of creating the balls was quick, calming, and helped my student feel a connection to his wrok that he wouldn't have otherwise had.

I often write directly on the table, and encourage my students to do the same. We use dry erase markers. This is a time saver, is easily cleaned up by the student, and brings the work to the student's level.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Color theory in art

Today I took a field trip with the art class I am taking this summer to the Tacoma Art Museum. 

We were specifically looking for art that gave examples of use of color to convey depth, emotion, and movement, as well as looking for an example of positive and negative space.

As a sped teacher, I was thinking about how this is useful in the resource room setting, where there is always a lot of pressure to cram a lot of information into students in a short period of time.

Then I started thinking about how some of my students who struggle with visual perception had a hard time with understanding 3-D geometric shapes. When asked to draw a cube, they drew three boxes put together. Like this. 

At first, I thought they were kidding. But then I realized that really was what my drawing of a cube looked like to them.

Adding color to help students who struggle with visual perception is helpful. Understanding how to use it in a meaningful way is helpful, not just for arts and crafts, but to help them understand and process information.

Warm colors (reds, yellows, oranges, some violets) create the illusion of something coming forward. That is why it is helpful to highlight in yellow.

Cool colors (blues, greens, violet) create the the illusion of something receeding from your view. Printing on blue or green paper also is helpful to calm to the student, which may help them focus.

Helping students who struggle with visual perception can be a challenge. But the more you teach something, the better it gets. Teaching students how to think about the world around them is important. Making time to teach them about the world through art is as important as teaching them about it through science or math.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Rocket Math - Make It Visual

It's not a race.

That's something that I would be reminded of when working with students on their fluency. I would also remind my students that it is okay to work at their own pace, and we all learn at our own speeds. But making progress visual for them really seemed to help motivate them.

So we made it visual. The students graphed their own progress to see how they were improving each day on learning their facts. We also made a class rocket.


The smiles alone that the students had when they were able to clip up to the next level on their rocket were enough. They were so proud of themselves!

We had a system when doing Rocket Math. The system gave the students a chance to move and take responsibility for their learning. They would come in and get their Rocket Math level from the bin of files that I kept their Rocket Math sheets in.


I would then give one student the timer to time the group on their practice. I always gave them five minutes and allowed them to do this independently. This gave them the opportunity to take responsibility for their learning and to build social skills through working as a group.

Finally I would time them for one minute on their fluency practice. After the minute was up, they counted their results and graphed them on their individual rockets.


After they were done they put their rocket along with their Rocket Math practice in their folder for the next day. 

The students made progress on their ability to solve math problems quickly. This routine also built student confidence as a learner. Having things to do throughout the day that the student is in charge of is important for them. It also helped them develop a sense of team work while working at their individual levels. 

Dyslexia and Teacher Knowledge

For the first time this year I worked with a student who has dyslexia. While I was educated in my teacher preparation program on how to give systematic instruction for students with dyslexia, I found that the student did not make as much progress as I would have liked them to make in their reading fluency.

The National Research Counsel says that children learn to read well when:

  • Have normal or above average language skills;
  • Have had experiences in childhood that fostered motivation and provided exposure to literacy in use;
  • Are given information about the nature of print via opportunities to learn letters and to recognize the sublexical structure of spoken words, as well as about the contrasting nature of spoken and written language; and
  • Attend schools that provide coherent reading instruction and opportunities to practice (p. 315).

Several of my students who are struggling to learn to read have normal language skills. There is very little I can do about their experience of their exposure to print at home. What I can do is send home books and word work materials to foster exposure.

What can be controlled by teachers is the reading instruction and the opportunities to practice. Children with dyslexia struggle with phonological awareness. While their comprehension is good, they struggle to be able to read single words accurately and fluently. These students benefit from instruction that is systematic, explicit, direct, and intensive.

I am guilty as a teacher of saying that the child is just dyslexic to the child’s classroom teacher. Because the child comprehends well, we see the benefit of having the child in their general education classroom the majority of the time, with reading groups that are with other children at their reading level. The question I need to ask myself as a teach is what else can I do to help children in my classroom who have dyslexia become readers.

Studies have shown that having an understand of phoneme and grapheme relationships is vital to teachers who are teaching early reading. This makes it possible to better focus your instruction in the curriculum and gives the teacher more confidence in their instruction.

Being aware of the fact that dyslexia is a deficit in phoneme processing and not a visual problem is the key to being successful in your intervention for students with dyslexia. Ensuring that their reading instruction is rigorous and that the child is given ample opportunities to practice is important when having a student who has been identified as dyslexic or who has dyslexic type symptoms.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Maintaining contact with families

This is my response to a Randy Sprick video I viewed on maintaining contact with families. It was interesting and gave a lot of good advise.
Randy Sprick started the video by saying that some families are difficult, but the more effort we put in the better off we are going to be. He recommends doing the following things to initiate contact. Try to establish a relationship before the first day of school. Create an opportunity for face to face contact. If that is not possible make phone contacts as the second choice. You can find out from your colleagues who the toughest kids are and make contact with those families. Set up that the first contact as an introduction, so you are not making initial contact when there is a problem. Send out a letter that introduces you to the families. Another option is to send home a DVD that gives a walk through of your classroom and tell about yourself and your school and classroom goals and expectations. If you can’t make one for every student, make four copies, have students take them home to view them, then have them bring so you can send it out with other students.
You should create a plan for ongoing contact. Send home a letter that describes your management plan. Produce a newspaper or newsletter every other week. Use your class roster and rotate contacts. If it has been a couple months, contact the family to let them know how the student is going. Let the parents know that you are looking forward to have their child and working with them as a partner.
At the beginning of the school year of had a brief write up about myself with my email and phone number on it ready for the open house. There  I met many of the parents, got the best contact methods from them, and found out a little bit about their children. I also got more information about accommodations for that student, such as a student I have who has hearing aids needing to eat in the learning center rather than in the cafeteria. I also try to make phone calls home about students when they are doing well. In order to increase the amount of updates that parents get about their student’s progress, I also send home the child’s scores after their progress monitoring, so that the parents are able to see how they are doing.
Something that I would like to get better at in the my classroom is sending out a monthly or bi-monthly newsletter. This is a task that I could also engage my older students in helping me with. I feel like more positive feedback about their student would be helpful to the parents and help increase positive relationships with the school.

Shaping behavior

This is my response to a Randy Sprick video that I recently viewed on shaping behavior.
Randy Spick started the video by staying that you need to start with a firm belief that behavior of children can be changed. It is moldable and shapeable. A teacher needs to start with a sense of self-efficacy. They need to believe that they may not have found the tools yet, but will keep on trying to find the variables that can be changed to find something that will work with this group or individual student. Behavior management is the mechanism to get the students to responsible behavior, the mechanisms are the antecedent, behavior, and consequences. The antecedent is the condition for the behavior. The consequences are what happens after the behavior. Reinforcing stimulation as a consequence increases the behavior.
To manage behavior you need to manipulate the variables to have a positive impact on behavior. You should promote positive behavior rather than squash negative behavior. In order to have good classroom management you should have smooth transitions, model respectful interactions, have interesting tasks, teach expectations to a level of mastery, implement pleasant consequences (grades, notes, reward structures, parent approval, and correct misbehavior) eliminate unpleasant consequences (ridicule for answering questions, make them a target for laugher). You should know that misbehavior happens for a reason. There is a function to the misbehavior. They may not be aware of what they are doing or seeking attention. In conclusion he said that there is no management technique that is guaranteed to work. The more tools you have to work with, the better off you are going to be.
This year we have worked really hard in my room to implement good behavior management strategies. The student’s have been taught the expectations, have a high amount of structure, know the routine for transitions, and are have pleasant consequences in place for positive behavior. We often change up the pleasant consequences in order to keep the groups motivated to do their best. When there is misbehavior, it has usually been attention seeking, which has been taken care of by engaging the parent in the child’s learning and increasing the pleasant consequences of compliance.

Something that I need to work on is increasing the amount of tools for behavior management that I have. The more tools that I have to choose from, the better equipped I will be for when there is a high amount of misbehavior or when I have a difficult student. I can do this by reading more in the CHAMPS books about strategies or talking to my colleagues about what has been effective in their classrooms. As the student’s case worker, I also need to remind the teachers that I work with who have my behavior students in their classrooms that we all need to have a high amount of self-efficacy. We have never tried everything, and need to continue to try to find what will work for the more difficult students as the year goes on.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Preparing for special circumstances

I watched the Champs video on preparing students for special circumstances. Randy Sprick talked about two special circumstances. One was having new students come into your classroom and the other was having unique events in the school day. To be prepared for a new student he suggested teaching the student the expectations individually, and also go over the expectations with the whole class as a refresher. This works well if you do not have a new student very often. If you do have students more often you might consider pairing these students with a buddy. The buddy should not be the most responsible student, but a student who has made improvements in their responsible behavior. Give the two students permission to talk in order to have them explain what is expected throughout the day. Another suggestion he gave was to make a welcome video. For a school that often has new students, some schools develop a welcome room where new students can get oriented to the school.
The other special circumstance was unique events in the school day. Sprick suggested being well prepared for field trips. Get all the details, such as how long the bus ride is and what it is like there, and let the kids know what the expect ahead of time. The other example he gave was teaching assembly behavior to the students. He concluded by saying that if you develop going over expectations often, they will develop into rituals and routines.
Special circumstances that I have gotten better at prepared for as the school year has gone on have been changes in the schedule. Every week there is late start Wednesday, at least once a month we are on assembly schedule, and then we have half days for holidays and conferences. There are also schedule changes due to testing for benchmarking and special events that are going on school wide or in the student’s individual classroom. I make sure that all teachers have the pull out schedule for normal days, late start days, assembly days, and half days. I remind them the day before an assembly or a half day what schedule we are going to be on. I also prep my students ahead of time to let them know what time they are coming the next day. I make sure to be aware of field trips or special classroom activities, to make sure the students are prepared for that as well. Some of my students who are less flexible end up coming at their regular time anyway, and I send them back to class with a sticky note for them to put on their desk of when they are going to leave.
When I have a new student coming in I make sure that the teacher is prepared with their pull out schedule in advance. I make time to observe them in their general education classroom to get an idea of what they need to know and what they are struggling with. I typically have the other students in the group teach the new student the group expectations.
Something I need to work on with my students who are intellectually deficient or who have autism is how to better prepare them for schedule changes. After going through winter benchmarking, I realized that the added stress of the schedule change could have affected their performance on these tests. I need to make up visual schedules for them in advance for these days and teach it to them well in advance of the event.

I also liked the idea of making a welcome video that the students I currently have could help me make. I get about two new students a month, both from students with IEPs moving into the area and currently attending students getting qualified for sped. Having a video about what a Learning Center is and what the classroom expectations are would be helpful for them.