Friday, June 1, 2012

Teaching IEP's

In Days 1 and 2 of my Disability Awareness Unit, students learned about multiple intelligences and discussed classroom strategies that could help them to apply their Brain Smarts in the classroom.

As I often tell my students, there is a method to my madness! I purposefully begin my unit with these topics first, as I feel they must successfully “warm students up” and transition them into the incredibly challenging topic of discussing:


As I mentioned before, my students will attend their Annual Review meetings at year’s end, so it is imperative that they understand what a CSE Meeting is, and more importantly, what we are discussing in regards to their program and transition into the following year. If I want the students to become stronger, independent self-advocates, then they need to know and understand what their IEP is formally putting into place for them.

Day 3: Teaching IEP’s

Objectives (Students will be able to):
·      Identify and discuss the adults in the building who assist them in being academically successful
·      Understand what an IEP is: how it is created, who creates it, and what it represents
·      View a mock IEP
·      Review their own classroom modifications and testing accommodations
·      Confidentially ask any questions regarding the topic

Anticipatory Set:
For today’s Quick Work, students are given this worksheet to begin thinking about the adults in the school who assist them in learning and in being successful academically. Students record the adult’s name, and what that adult does for them. I model an example first by using my own name, as well as my classroom aide’s, since it’s easiest for the students to brainstorm in the context of our own class. I prompt students to think beyond teachers, such as the counseling center, or special reading teachers. We share and discuss student responses.

There are a few reasons why I choose to do this for Quick Work:
1.     It gives students the chance to step back and think about all the adults who provide them with services; including what these adults do and why the students are working with them. 
2.     It exposes students to the people who help to create their program and also makes more sense to the kids when they see the names of these adults on their actual IEP’s.
3.     It shows students how unique they all are from each other. While some students have services in common, everyone’s program is different and each student receives different support from different adults in the building for different reasons. 
1.     I always begin by reviewing the word, confidentiality (private and to yourself)
2.     I remind students from our previous lessons that everyone in the class learns differently and in a different way, and that sometimes it can be challenging to learn. Because of this, every student in the class has something called an Individualized Education Program or IEP
3.     I write Individualized Education Program (IEP) on the board and define it like this:
·      It is a document or paper that has information all about you on it
·      This includes:
o   How you learn
o   What helps you learn
o   Your strengths
o   Your weaknesses
o   What teachers can do to help you be successful
o   What you can do to help yourself be successful
4.     I then display for students a mock IEP that I have created in our online IEP Program. I only fill out parts of the IEP to show them; the same parts that I will eventually show them on their own IEP’s. 
       This includes:
·      Special Alerts
·      Related Services
·      Program
·      Modifications
·      Testing Accommodations
·      Goals 
This can be a lengthy discussion with kids. Some years kids are more inquisitive then others. While I do allow students to ask questions during this, I tell them they will have time at the end to ask personal questions about their own IEP’s so these questions should be asked in private. 

5.     We then discuss the creation of an IEP. I explain that everyone involved in your education (parents, teachers, counselors, etc.) sit down together in a meeting called a CSE Meeting (which I also write on the board), to discuss how you are doing in school, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and what you need to ensure you are successful. I explain that they create this IEP so that next year's teachers know what you can do and how to help you.
6.     Group Work
After our discussion, I break students into 2 different groups: The Testing Accommodations Group, and the Program Modifications group. (I will run one group and my aide will run the other, as an adult needs to be present in each). When students are in the designated group, they will receive an index card that they are to keep “confidential” that lists their actual accommodations or program modifications. My aide and I will have a master copy of all of the accommodations and modifications the students may have on their cards, and we go down the list and explain what they each mean. This actually will take less time than you would think, as most students have the same general support, such as Extended Time or Tests Read. I allow students to ask questions as necessary.
7.     I close the lesson by having students return to their seats and confidentially write down any questions they have regarding the day’s topic to address the next class. This part of the lesson is crucial, as it gives you a way to assess what the students understood, while giving them a chance to speak up and ask more questions for further clarification.

You’ll notice that in this unit so far, and particularly in today’s lesson, I never say the words Special Education or Special Ed. The reason is there is often a negative connotation associated with these words, and the students are aware of this and often insecure about it. If any questions or comments are made, am I honest that their program is referred to as Special Education, but that it only means they receive a unique education program that is designed for them. I want students to know that they learn differently, and not “wrong,” and that their program is in place to make sure they are learning in a way that works best for them.

Check back for my final lesson in my Disability Awareness Unit: Advocacy!


  1. Nicki,
    What a fantastic idea! I wish we had time to spend on things like this with our 8th graders and I doubt our high school does this with their students.
    Special Teaching in the Middle

  2. Why not teach students how to ask for what they need! This is a great way to teach students about self-advocacy, and give students practice via role-playing.
    Check out my Blog:
    On the Road to Accomplished Teaching