Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Student Goal Tracking

As Phase 1 of achieving my goal: To Better Juggle My Many Hats of Special Education, I’ve created a new strategy for myself this year to assist in tracking and reporting on the dozens of IEP goals I’ll be required to manage!

I’ve mentioned before how important I think goals are for student encouragement, motivation, and progress.  And as I look over the paperwork for next year’s kiddos, I realize now more than ever how imperative it will be for me to make student goals a priority.

My new classroom will primarily focus on daily life skills, thus next year’s goals are crucial benchmarks to basic daily academic and communicative functioning in both the school and community. Not only are these goals important milestones, I’ve noticed they are also significantly more specific than the goals I was used to in my former life as an inclusion teacher. This change is not only due to the life skills program, but also due to the levels and abilities of the students. Let me give you a quick example:

Inclusion Goal:
Will write a paragraph of 3-5 sentences with topic sentence, details, and concluding sentence.
Quarterly Progress

Life Skills Goal:
Will demonstrate an improvement in the readiness skills necessary for reading.
1.1  By November, will Identify 13 of 26 lowercase letters in isolation
1.2  By January, will identify 26 of 26 lowercase letters in isolation
1.3  By April, will identify 13 of 26 uppercase letters in isolation
1.4  By June, will identify 26 of 26 uppercase letters in isolation
9 out of 10 trials, every 2 weeks

Yikes. Lot more detail. Lot more benchmarks. More frequent reporting. Much more frequent tracking.

So, what I‘ve decided to do is to create “Goal Tracking Sheets” to help ensure I am tracking all student goals consistently and accurately. What I did was take each student's goal and write them on a separate sheet, with the appropriate tracking schedule provided below. Goal sheets are color coded with a border (courtesy of Graphics From the Pond-Love their graphics!) according to what kind of goal they are (Reading, Writing, Speech, etc.)

Here are a few examples:

You’ll notice that there is little room to write in each box, however, this is intentional. I intend on only writing a quick note each time, as I have to so frequently comment on so many goals.

Each tracking time, students will either receive a specific assessment score or a simple:

PS: Progressing Satisfactorily
NP: Not Progressing
A: Achieved

While I think this will help to ensure I am tracking and reporting on schedule, there is still the challenge of finding the time to DO all the assessing, especially considering some of my kids have very unique goals from others. Whole group assessments to report back on goal sheets are simply not an option for me.

What I plan on doing is giving each student a “Me Binder,” that contains all of the Goal Tracking Sheets I have created for them. Behind each goal sheet, will be actual activities and assessments for the student to complete that will provide me with the data I need to report on.  I have already outlined time in next year’s schedule for “Me Binders,” where students will grab their binder and complete a task that will provide me with the necessary data.  

Now, when I have to attend a committee meeting and report progress, I can just grab the student's “Me Binder,” filled with goals, tracking, and student work to share! Easy!

I hope you find this useful! I would love to hear feedback on this idea, as this is a summer planning initiative and I have not yet tried it!

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Many Hats of Special Education

As a Special Education Teacher, you know that you are incessantly required to plan and collaborate with numerous professionals on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. For me, this is what makes the job so rewarding, so interesting, and so fun. I love the opportunity to work together with others to create an education program that is so dynamic for my students. Besides, the reality is I can’t be an expert in every area, so this collaboration is key to the success of my students.

The challenge of this collaboration, however, is that as the Special Education Provider, you are the “Middle Man” between all of these fantastic professionals. It’s your job to teach differentiated curriculum, execute behavior plans, follow through with motor and speech and language benchmarks, create and track progress reports, write IEP’s, and on top of all this and more, be prepared at a moments notice to share and demonstrate evidence of student progress in all of these complex areas to parents, specialists, and administration.

Yes, it’s a lot. And you can feel as though you are being pulled in dozens of different directions. You attend a meeting with behavior specialists and leave with a whole new mindset of managing student behaviors, only to attend a literacy meeting that reminds you of how often you need to be instructing and assessing reading strategies. Well, which do you do first? Where should your focus lie? Where do you put most of your time and energy?

I speak from experience when I say that there is nothing worse than feeling so accomplished by your recent focus in one area, only to realize you have been slacking in another. There needs to be a balance in all of the areas you are required to support your students in. Your hats need to be readily accessible, and they need to fit correctly when you put them on. You owe this to yourself and your sanity, but more importantly, to your students.

So, as I continue with my incessant planning for my new position as a self-contained classroom teacher, I am trying my hardest to get organized now and create some tools that will help me to stay on top of my game, in more than just one area.  

My personal goal for myself this year: To Better Juggle My Many Hats of Special Education.  

If you can relate to this post, and would like to better learn to juggle your hats as well, I encourage you to check back to my blog this week! My upcoming posts will outline a few ideas I have created thus far to share, along with images or links to the documents for your feedback and or download.

Come back to visit on Wednesday for an idea to help you track and report on student goals!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My life Has Become So Pinteresting

To say that I have a slight obsession with Pinterest would be an extreme understatement. Pinterest has literally changed my life. Literally. Not only has it remarkably stolen consumed hours of my life, it has exposed me to a plethora of content I otherwise would never have found. Particularly, in regards to teaching.

If you follow me on Pinterest, have ever glanced at my boards, or checked out my recent activity, you know that I am not exaggerating about my obsession. Since my recent welcomed challenge, I have been frantically frequently pinning new lessons and ideas for my upcoming classroom. This is in part due to the fact that my mind is always fixated on my job, but also because the “See More Pins” button is flat out addicting. “See more” classroom ideas to make your lesson planning, classroom organization, and management easier? Um, yes please!

After entering the blogging community and searching the “catalog” of Pinterest, I stumbled upon TeachersPayTeachers. If you don’t know what this is, or haven’t visited the site very often – allow me to pass this life-altering torch to you and remind you to go back and visit.

TeachersPayTeachers is the world’s first open marketplace where teachers can buy and sell original downloadable education materials. The best part is that teachers are sharing, selling, and purchasing amongst other teachers. Hard working teachers are thus rewarded for sharing the activities and designs they post, while the teachers who purchase are saving the time and energy of creating these resources on their own.

Sound amazing? It is. And just when you think it can’t get any better, allow me to point out that the items for sale are at very reasonable prices. Even if you decide that the price is too much (although I doubt you will), remind yourself that your money will be going to another hard working teacher.  Say goodbye to reinventing the wheel, and say hello to teacher collaboration!

Aside from my ramblings above, there are two extra special things that I LOVE about TeachersPayTeachers:

1.     There are THOUSANDS of FREE DOWNLOADS!! Yes, thousands. For all different ages, subjects, classrooms, and levels. Remarkable. I know.
2.     You get to link to hundreds of teaching blogs! SO many people who share resources on TeachersPayTeachers run their very own blogs. And who doesn’t love to link up with more teachers, bloggers, and even more content!?

So, in case you're wondering what I'll be up to later -

And of course, perusing TeachersPayTeachers!

Check out these 5 Fab Feebies I recently found on TeachersPayTeachers to pin to my teaching boards!

You MUST check out these files and more from Graphics From the Pond!

How adorable are these Printable Tags from Dana at 3rd Grade Gridiron?!

Check out these 24 Guided Reading Prompt Cards by Shelley Gray. Students can choose the ready made cards and answer the prompts!  

I love the "I have, Who Has" Game. It practices academic skills while simultaneously working on listening and cooperative learning. Here's a favorite of mine from Michelle Hunt to review Money!

There are hundreds of sight word games on this site, perfect for students to do in centers. I love this Monster Mash Sight Word Game from Olivia Cason!

And don’t forget to Follow Me on Pinterest!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Welcomed Challenge

As you know from reading my blog, I’ve mentioned that I’m a Middle School Special Education Inclusion Teacher. Well, as of recent weeks, I am now a former, Middle School Special Education Inclusion Teacher. 

 Yep, you got it: I’m moving classrooms!

In the fall I will be transitioning into an 8:1:1 self-contained classroom as the lead teacher.

And my reaction?

I’m ecstatic!

Don’t get me wrong, I have loved my years as an Inclusion Teacher – mainly because the job allows you to:
·      Collaborate with numerous adults and professionals in the building
·      Co-plan and co-teach content areas, meaning, you always have someone to bounce ideas off of and assist you in the classroom with your preparation and execution
·      Be actively involved in the normal building routine and schedule
·      Attend classes with general education students, allowing you to work with all different students at your grade level
·      Work with students who need your support and assistance, but who can still be immersed in grade level content, routine, and structure 

But if I take a very candid reflection of my years teaching thus far, I have to be honest that I have been craving my own classroom, and a new challenge. The chance to create an environment, routine, and daily schedule, all on my own, where I can have complete control over what is taught and how it is taught. The chance to organize and decorate a classroom beyond just a resource room setting.  And the chance to work with a population of students who need much more support, and are at such different and varying academic and social levels both from each other and from what I am used to.

So as I take a step outside of my comfort zone, I am not only up for the challenge, I can’t wait for this challenge to begin! 

My mind has been swimming with ideas since I received the news! But my problem: I have a classroom full of inclusion, content rich lesson plans and materials.

What I need: academic, social, and behavioral resources at an early childhood, elementary level.

So excuse me while I so calmly shout:


I know that I am new to the blogging world, and throwing this out there may result in nothing but crickets, but I have to try! I have leaned so much from other bloggers since entering this community, and this transition could not have come at a more perfect time; right when I have become a member of a such a supportive network of educators!

So here goes….

If anyone has any ideas or resources that they can pass along I would be more than grateful and appreciative! 

Please feel free to comment and share your resources or simple words of encouragement!

Friday, June 8, 2012


Since I’ve entered the blogging community, what I’ve discovered I really love about blogging is that each post is like my own online notebook or diary of teaching information that I want to remember and apply. So while I do enjoy using my blog to share my lessons and ideas with others, sometimes it’s just as useful as an electronic future planner!

On that note – similar to my enthusiastic share of Voki, I’d like to share another amazing technology tool I’ve found! I’d like to eventually implement it in my classroom, so my hope is, if I write about it, I won’t forget to use it!

It’s called: Remind101

What It Is:
A website that provides a safe way for teachers to text message students and parents!

How It Works:
1.     Teachers sign up via email
2.     Add your class (you can add up to 10) – and a unique code is generated
3.     Students/parents then send a text to that code to “subscribe”
4.     From here, anytime the teacher sends a message – all subscribed will receive it

Why It’s Amazing:
1.     Remind101 is currently FREE!
2.     Students are identified by name, so no teacher ever sees a student’s number and no student sees a teacher’s number
3.     It works with any phone – not just a smartphone
4.     You can schedule messages to be sent later at different times
5.     You can view your Account Page where you can:
·      Review your history to see when your messages were sent and who they were sent to
·      View the students/parents who are signed up for the notifications

Additional Information:
·      Remind101 is currently in “beta” meaning it is new and still in the testing stage. There are actual testimonials and use cases on the website proving Remind101 is in use.
·      Standard messaging rates apply

How I Would Use It:
1.     To send reminders about homework, projects, or upcoming tests and quizzes
2.     To send reminders/confirmations for parent conference times
3.     To inform students of the work they missed when they were absent
4.     To remind students of school activity days (i.e.: spirit day, pajama day, etc).
5.     To report Daily Behavior Contract ratings with parents 
6.     To remind students/parents what Schedule Rotation Day we are on after a break from school

I am really hoping it is as wonderful as it sounds! I am always interested in new ways to communicate with parents and students, so it doesn’t hurt to try! Particularly for my population of students, this would be fantastic for the families who do not have access to a computer at home to receive email contact from teachers!

Here’s to hoping we find success with Remind101!

For more information on Remind101, click here and here!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


 Welcome to the final day of my Disability Awareness Unit! On Day 3, the students learned about IEP’s and were given a chance to view a mock IEP as well as preview and discuss the content of their very own paperwork.  

So now that the students are beginning to understand their needs and their programs, this final day is designed to teach students how to make sure they are asking for and receiving their services appropriately.

Day 4: Advocacy

Objectives: (Students will be able to):
·      Understand the meaning of advocacy and what it means to be a self-advocate
·      Role play being a self-advocate using various scenarios and prompts
·      Identify and understand their disability and what it means

Anticipatory Set:
For today’s Quick Work, students are given this simple WordSplash Sheet for the word advocate. Students are instructed to brainstorm what this word means. When students discuss and share their notes, I ensure that the students have an understanding that advocating means making sure you ask for what you need. This includes speaking up for yourself, asking for help, or telling a teaching when you are having a problem.

1.     I begin by explaining to students that part of the reason it’s important to know what your IEP says is so you can advocate for yourself.

2.     Paired Role Play
Students are placed in pairs and given an index card with a scenario on it to role-play how to self-advocate. One person pretends to be the teacher, and the other, the student.

These scenarios include:
·      I need to have the directions repeated
·      I need to leave the room to take my test
·      The pace of the class is too fast
·      I’m supposed to be sitting near the teacher
·      I need more time to take a test
·      I do not understand the assignment

Students are instructed to read the card and discuss what they would say before recording their skit. Students will then practice before performing in front of the class. 

To model this activity for the students first, I role play a scenario with my classroom aide, using the example, “I need to have the directions repeated.” At first I ask the students, if this were on your IEP, how could you “advocate" for yourself in class? What could you say to ask for help and make sure you understand the directions? After students offer some ideas, my aide and I role-play the teacher/student conversation.

3.     I always like to ensure that when students are instructed a new skill, particularly a behavior skill, that they are also given a tool to assist them in implementing this skill. At the closing of the student performances, I hand out these Advocacy Cards to help students remember key points of advocacy. Using the A D V in the word Advocacy, the card reminds students to:

A – Ask for help
D – Don’t be afraid
V – Use your voice

This handy tool can be placed on the kid’s desks or tucked away in their folder for an easy reference and reminder when necessary.

4.     Next, I address the confidential questions students wrote on index cards in the previous lesson. While the questions every year are different, students will often ask something in regards to why they have an IEP, so I decided to always address this as a holistic review and closing activity to the unit.

I address this question by reviewing that everyone learns in a different way and that sometimes learning can be challenging.  I explain that the specific challenge that each student has that makes learning hard has a name. I then confidentially pass out to students an index card that has their actual classification written on it. Students read what their disability is classified as, and then I discuss what these mean in front of the class.

5.     You can imagine that at the close of the unit the students are eager to view their own IEP’s. I will take time out of my class in the coming days to privately show students their paperwork, highlighting only the sections crucial to their understanding of their disability and program:

·      Special Alerts
·      Related Services
·      Program
·      Modifications
·      Testing Accommodations
·      Goals

Depending on the school year and how hectic our schedule can be, sometimes I will even share this responsibility with the other paraprofessionals working with my students; for example, I’ll ask a counselor to review the IEP during their next session. This frees up my time if needed, while allowing the students the opportunity to discuss the paperwork with another adult who is active in their education program.

So this concludes my Disability Awareness Unit! While this can be an incredibly difficult topic to discuss, I encourage you to have this conversation with your students. If we want our students to become independent self-advocates who take control of their own learning, then they must understand themselves and their needs in order to grow and find success beyond the walls of our classrooms. So please, share in this unit with them, and Prepare Them to Fly.