Thursday, December 11, 2014

Unique Week Part 2

For Unique Week, we also created activities for each classroom. Below is a run down of what we did. 

Primary: Students read It's Okay To Be Different by Todd Parr. After the read aloud, students completed an activity that can be found here or here. Below is a picture from one second grade teacher's bulletin board.


Intermediate: Students read Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud. After the read aloud, students completed an activity that can be found here or here. Below are some pictures from the AMAZING co-taught lesson in fourth grade. You can see that one teacher is reading while the other asked discussion questions while sitting with the student's on the rug. The teachers referred to one another often and the students were so excited and engaged. It was a great lesson to watch!

Middle School: Students watched this video from Kid President. It's called "20 Things You Should Say More Often" and it's incredibly cute. Kid President is all about being kind and thoughtful to others. Students discussed the video as a group. Finally, they wrote an exit slip sharing what they would say more often. 


To read Part One, go here:

Unique Week: Different but United

Monday was our first day of Unique Week! Unique Week is where we take a whole week to celebrate our community and everyone in it. Below is a break down of what went on!

Slogan: The week before Unique Week started, I started a contest in middle school. I asked students to come up with the best slogan using our Unique Week theme: community. Our winner was a seventh grade girl that came up with the snappy but elegant slogan of UNITED BUT DIFFERENT. Nice.

Posters: Two weeks before Unique Week started, a wonderful parent took the time out of her day to come to our school and take pictures of students playing and laughing together in groups. She took pictures of students during lunch and recess. The amazing art teacher created posters using these pictures and we displayed the pictures around the school. These posters will stay up all year.

Teacher Lunch: We had a teacher appreciation lunch on Wednesday. Not only did we want to work on the classroom community, but we also want to focus on our community as a staff. Thank you to all the staff members that stayed in the library, laughed, and talked to one another. Our community is strong because of YOU ALL! 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Fidgets: A Love Story

One of the first things we hear and talk about in the inclusive classroom is supporting students by using fidgets. Fidgets are those items that allow restless (fidgety??) students to move and get their sensory needs met without distracting their peers or becoming completely distracted themselves by needing to move.

To get more information about figets:
In middle school and the upper grades, I am all about introducing the fidget individually, slowly, and academically.

1. First, broach the subject of fidgets individually. I had one student in mind who mentioned that she felt the most calm when she was able to squeeze and run her fingers through something. We went online and she choose this one.
2. When it arrived, I showed her one on one how to use the fidget.

3. I gave her 30 minutes to practice during her class of the day.

4. The next day, I had her put the fidget in her pencil pouch so that she can take complete ownership of the fidget. It is hers to use throughout the day.

5. Moving forward, I plan on introducing the fidgets to anyone that's interested.  

Monday, November 24, 2014

Teaching Strategies in the Inclusive Classroom- Presentation

Thank you so much to all of the teachers that woke up early on their Saturday morning to spend some time with Sheila and me. We really enjoyed talking about inclusive supports and strategies! Attached is the pdf version of our presentation. Feel free to send us any questions!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The FIVE Best Differentiated Reading Websites

I spent my first four or five years of co-teaching and supporting students in the inclusive classroom by reading grade level nonfiction texts and then slowly rewriting the texts at a lower level. I have entire social studies and science books modified to meet the different needs of students. It was nuts! During my fifth or sixth year, I discovered online reading passages and I've never looked back! Here are my top five favorites.

5. The website:

    The pros:

  • It's free, free, free! 
  • There is an audio for everything!
  • The audio is done by people and not robots and some of them are GREAT!
  • There are so many nonfiction resources and topics
  • The American History for English Learners is perfect for social studies 
    The Cons:
  • The text is not differentiated so the audio component is important
  • There are no comprehension questions built in but the texts are so rich that it makes it easy to come up with your own
  • It would be great to have more science texts here!

4. The

    The pros:

  • It is organized by reading level
  • It is also organized by topic, skill, and teaching focus 
  • There are an incredible number of texts 
    The cons:
  • A lot of people like Reading A-Z and I just don't. I don't have a really strong justification but...
  • It costs money- I recommend your school signing up for this service
  • I personally don't like the format for middle school. 
  • The paper books seem wasteful.
  • The concepts for the lower level texts tend to not have comprehension points that are as strong or meaningful

3. The website: 

    The pros:

  • It has a variety of texts at the elementary, middle, and high school levels meaning they have the same concepts at different levels- natural differentiation! 
  • The text can be read aloud 
  •  Each topic has pictures with captions that connect to the content
  • They provide links to other texts that are connected to the topic 
    The Cons:

  • The elementary texts are pretty long and involve higher level vocabulary words.
  • It costs money- I highly recommend that your school signs up
  • It's hard to scroll down and read along with the text when the iPad is reading aloud. 
  • The printed version does not include pictures. 

2. The website:

    The pros:

  •  You can sign up for free!
  •  There are informational and literary passages
  • All the passages are short
  • You can search by topic, grade, lexile level, text type, and strategy

    The cons:

  • There isn't much to complain about- it's a great site. I'd love there to be even more stuff to choose from!

1. The website:

    The pros:

  • You can sign up for free! 
  • The same texts have been set up to read at different Lexile levels
  • There are comprehension questions connected to each text
  • The texts are current and change each week
  • This is a great site to use for all students for current event assignments

    The cons:

  • It doesn't read the text aloud BUT I use the accessibility tab on the iPad so everything can be read aloud- easy peasy!
  • I wish that they had a literary version of newsela. How wonderful that would be! 

Are there great sites with reading passages that I should know about? Fill me in!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

People First Language

People First Language matters so much to me both as a teacher and as a person. This way of talking and thinking is so important to me that sometimes I have a difficult time speaking about it eloquently or meaningfully. This blog is my best shot of doing just that.

People First Language is important because it puts the person BEFORE the disability. In an article about People First Language, Kathy Snow writes, "A disability is, first and foremost, a medical diagnosis, and when we define people by their diagnoses, we devalue and disrespect them as individuals (" One of the best (and easiest) ways to combat prejudice surrounding disabilities and people with disabilities is to focus on the language that we use. When we put the person before the disability, we are describing what the person has and not what the person is.

From a teaching standpoint, this is important because the way we talk about students ends up- subconsciously or not- coloring the way we support and teach them. When we talk about "IEP kids" or "SPED students" or "the Learning Disabled girl" we are lumping students together by their diagnosis. The unspoken assumption becomes that all students under the "SPED" or "IEP" label require the same supports and have the same needs.

Remember, the I in a student's IEP stands for Individualized. By putting the person first, we are able to see them for the complicated, interesting, and unique individual that they are.  I'll end with something else by Kathy Snow: " People First Language reflects good manners, not 'political correctness'...(". Totally, Kath.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Day Three with Math Rotations!

This is really a dream come true!

Sandy and Jenn- two middle school co-teachers- agreed to give math centers a try for their 6/7 grade math class. I became obsessed! I trolled the internet for good explanations and organization around math rotations or math centers. I found the perfect resource at one of my all time favorite sites right here. Stephanie from Teaching in Room 6 does a great job of breaking down how to set up math rotations. I used her blog and worksheets as a guideline to make this work for the 6th/7th grade split. So, here's how I broke it down:

1. Structure:
The 6th/7th split has two co-teachers and 16 students. There are also two different tutors that come in once a week each. This means that on 2 out of every 5 days there are three adults to every 16 students. A dream scenario for small group instruction. We have 60 minutes of math class time.

Math time looks like:

9:05- 9:10     Do Now (entrance slip)
9:10- 9:30     Rotation 1
9:30- 9:50     Rotation 2
9:50- 9:55     Exit Slip

There are three stations available. Students rotate through 2 of them each day.

Instruction with the math teacher, Sandy. Students see her for 20 minutes every day.

Skill practice and review with the learning specialist, Jenn. All students see her for 20 minutes every other day.

IXL on the computer. Students practice math skills for 20 minutes every other day.

2. Using Stephanie's template (found here), I created a schedule for each student. Each student received a clear, plastic sheet with their schedule and IXL password on one side (hidden from the picture below) and Math Rotation expectations on the other. We used Stephanie's expectations and I created a partially completed note sheet for the students. This way they had to write down the key behavior expectations and key words instead of passively listening to a teacher telling them to "just behave"! It allowed for a little more ownership.

Students are split into 6th and 7th grade. This is the easiest way for us to teach 6th grade math to the 6th graders and 7th grade math to the 7th graders. Otherwise, the groups are completely heterogeneous. This is actually easier for us as there might be one student in each group who is learning above the content given and one student who needs modifications, more scaffolding, or specialized instruction. This allows the teachers to more easily meet students' needs within the small group.  

3. So what does this mean for inclusive schooling?

  • Modifications and accommodations can be more easily met in a smaller teacher led group
  • Students can work on differentiated work on the IXL computer activity
  • Teachers are more easily able to reteach material and informally assess when students are confused or are not understanding the material 
  • Students are able to move and be active after 20 minutes of work
  • Students are able to learn in two different groups and in two different ways in one 60 minute block 

I will be back with updates on how it's going.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Middle School Norms

Yesterday after school I met with the middle school team in the school library. It was a Thursday- the day the general education lesson plans are due- and everybody was busy. Even so, everyone made the time and commitment to spend what ended up being around an hour of time to talk about the nitty gritty day to day expectations and procedures of co-teaching.

We are five weeks into this school year.

We had already had a co-teaching PD.

Schedules were made for both the general education teachers and learning specialists.

Small group instruction, team teaching, and alternative teaching had already started to take place.

Now was time to reflect on those last five weeks and put some true norms in place. Attached is the chart we made as well as the typed up version given to every middle school teacher. I came up with the norms surrounding IEPs but the team came up with the rest. Honestly, some of these norms are different than what I have done in the past. But that's kind of the point, isn't it? This is our team for this year and our needs are based on our current experiences. Feel free to take a peek and use as much or as little of the chart when creating your own norms. My expectation is that this chart will change and grow throughout the year.

I just received a book with pages upon pages of supports around working as a team so expect more about this topic as the year progresses!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Classroom Community and Being Kind

The inclusive environment is new to Jahn this year. This means that students are used to seeing their peers leave the classroom for chunks of a time. Some use words like resource, pull out, and special education. Some don't. All know that some students need more help and they get pulled out. Now all of a sudden students who disappeared during math or reading time are back in the room! Now there's a second teacher who teaches lessons! Now work is differentiated!

These changes are wonderful BUT we have to keep in mind that this change can be confusing or uncomfortable for students. Without getting into specifics, teachers have been telling me about language and complaints that they have overheard. Generally, the students are not meaning to be well... mean. They're confused by this new environment and don't have the language or background knowledge to understand the change. Below is a list of my favorite ways to do this:

1. The Bandaid Activity. 

I got this from Paula Kluth's awesome blog years ago. I just saw that she put it back up on her blog and with good reason. The Bandaid Activity was created by a kindergarten teacher but it's perfect for all grades. I used it as a first week ice breaker activity in a fifth grade co-taught classroom for years and years. This year, I did the activity in a sixth grade homeroom and one of the seventh grade teachers did it with her homeroom. Go to this blog to get the scoop on the lesson. Essentially, it's a really interactive and visual way to explain differentiation to students. 

2. Repeat after me: "Fair is what you need."

Students are aware that some peers learn skills really quickly and some peers take more time. We need to be honest about differentiation and student needs. That doesn't mean calling out students and divulging confidential IEP information. It does mean telling students that we all learn differently. Johnny needs glasses to see. If he is the only student who struggles with seeing the board, is it unfair to give him glasses so that he can see the board? Of course not! Johnny needs glasses to see the board. Ms. Snider needs to put scheduled meetings into her phone or she won't remember to show up. Seth needs time to clean out his binder each week. Rachel needs a calculator when solving eighth grade math problems. Fair is what you need. We all need different things. 

Use your language to promote kindness, community, and shared ownership.

"It looks like ____________ is talking. Support your classmate by turning your head towards him and listening while he talks."

"What can you do to help your classmate solve this problem?

"I want you two to take two minutes to figure this out together before asking for my help."

"Check in with a classmate before you check in with me?

"Who in your class can help you with this?"

3. Lessons and Activities on being kind:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Walking You Through a Co-Taught Lesson

My official job here at Jahn is the Inclusion Facilitator. My role is to support the middle school specifically and the school in general in the switch from what you might call a resource room model to a more inclusive, co-taught, heterogeneous one. This year is much more about supporting and coaching staff. I don't have a case load and I don't have a co-teacher. But I LOVE co-teaching. I absolutely love it! I have been providing supports in Ms. Shultz's social studies class and it's just been the most fun! We co-taught the other day and although it wasn't a particularly fancy or frilly lesson- it was affective. Below is my step by step process for how to think about co-teaching a lesson. Beware- it's pretty gushy!

Step for Co-Teaching According to Julia Snider:

1. Each co-teacher comes to the table with a particular expertise.

Ms. Shultz sent me this video to introduce her early explorers unit. Ms. Shultz came to the table with resources and content knowledge.

I told her that I knew how to teach Cornell Notes and had a handout available (thanks to my awesome former co-teacher, Fred Hackmann). I came to the table with a learning strategy.

2. Teachers have a plan for how they are going to share the stage. 

I stood (well.. sat in Ms. Shultz's comfy chair) by the computer and was going to be in charge of introducing and talking about Cornell Notes.

Ms. Shultz stood by the piece of chart paper and was going to be in charge of making a master example of Cornell Notes.

I asked students to, "Make your paper look like Ms. Shultz's."

3. Teachers collaborate during the lesson. 

Look, this was my first time co-teaching with Ms. Shultz. At the time of the first lesson, I had known her for less than three weeks. It takes time to get to know your co-teacher. The only way you can really know what works is to talk it out. In front of the kids. One of the greatest things we can do as co-teachers is to model to our students how to collaborate, solve problems, and work with one another. I absolutely loved turning to Ms. Shultz and asking her if she has a different way to explain writing a summary or if she has something else to add. Co-teaching is as awesome as it is because it involves actually showing students what working together really looks like. When Ms. Shultz didn't know if I would have students watch the video more than once in order to take notes, she asked me! Out loud! In front of the class! And it was awesome!

4. Differentiation and modifications are implemented.

An important part of co-teaching is making sure that modifications are implemented smoothly. It is important to make sure that differentiated work is presented in a manner that fits within classroom routines. Every student has a Do Now warm up to complete at the beginning of each lesson and an Exit Slip to complete at the end. The structure is universally designed so that every student can share their thinking. Every student is given their Do Now and Exit Slip sheet. Typically this looks like a sheet of paper. In some cases, it's an iPad. We use Co:Writer on an iPad for some students to answer their Do Now and Exit Slips. Their prompts are modified and they share their writing via Dropbox.

Just a quick plug for Co:Writer on the iPad. Students can get Co:Writer after being evaluated for Assistive Technology. However, you can also go onto the App Store on your tablet and purchase a copy for $20.00. It's a bit pricey but it's absolutely worth it. Co:Writer is a word prediction software that helps struggling readers and spellers predict the correct word that they want to spell. It also reads everything aloud and allows students to upload their work to Dropbox. This is a great way to work on IEP goals and keep track of student work. I highly recommend it! 

5. Repeat

Co-teaching can be incredibly satisfying and enjoyable for students and teachers alike. Two students told me today that the social studies class is their favorite class! Talk about what worked, be honest about what didn't, and get ready to try it again. The more you get up and collaborate in front of the students (which is in my opinion what co-teaching is really all about), the more comfortable and confident you will feel. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Back to School Night

Clean your tables. Dust your libraries. Put together a powerpoint. It's back to school night! This is my first year at Jahn supporting inclusive classrooms and schooling. Since we've only been here at school for a week and a half, a few of the Learning Specialists mentioned that we should talk about inclusion. They are so right! A huge part of creating a fully inclusive school that celebrates all forms of diversity and unity is to talk about it! Families make up an important part of the inclusive schooling. Inclusion is all about community building and families have so much to do with it.

Our principal, Mr. Herring mentioned inclusion and supporting diverse learners in the classroom during his opening remarks to Jahn families. I created (with the suggestion of my awesome colleagues) a flyer explaining what inclusion is. I emailed every general education teacher and learning specialist that is co-teaching this year and asked them if they wanted a copy. Teachers handed this out along with all the other documents, letters, and information provided.

So here's my tip today: Don't keep inclusion quiet. Talk about it, write about it, share this information with families and students. Inclusion is all about community building so we need to involve the community in our conversations.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

TIP OF THE WEEK: Co-Teaching

Tip of the week: Make a time to plan face to face with your co-teacher at least once a week every week! This is hard and takes a lot of time at the beginning, but will help you build your professional relationship. You can also use this time to bounce ideas off of one another and make solid lesson plans even better, more creative, and student focused!

Here is a link (and some screen shots) to my Prezi on co-teaching in the inclusive school!