Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Incorporating Supports Within the Classroom

The Jahn kindergarten team is just amazing and I want to brag about them a little! They do so many things so well. Today I wanted to focus on one of the most subtle of these. Ms. B, Ms. C, and Ms. R have seamlessly incorporated individual visual supports within the classroom. These supports are geared towards individual students and the class as a whole. Check it out!

Over here by the library, the teachers put up the classroom rules and visuals for ALL to refer to. 

Two great reminders that we must stop and ask for a break before leaving the room.

This one is a bit tricky to see but it's a diagram of how a minion sits on the rug during whole class instruction. This visual is on the board right next to one minion loving student's spot on the rug. What a great way to incorporate student interest and have it big and clear enough for any student to refer to! 

Here is the desk of a student that really likes minions. You can see that the visual supports (the K team has had great success with Power Cards this year) are on the student's desk ready to go. To the right is the Power Card in use. Oh hey, Ms. C!

This student loves Jimmy Fallon (and I mean... who doesn't?). Jimmy Fallon sitting up straight and calm is taped to his materials bin. He has a visual example of his talk show hero calmly ready to listen to directions any time he goes to his seat.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Testing and Self Advocacy- Tips and Tricks

I never write about students leaving the room but many students with IEPs and 504s have the testing accommodation that states they test in a separate, small group (or even independent) environment. The justification for separate testing among other reasons often is that Student A is easily distracted and needs a quieter, smaller environment to show his best work on assessments. I've made that justification! I've had that accommodation on IEPs! I'm right there with ya!

Here's the irony... many students who need a quieter environment are actually met with more noise, chaos, and general goofiness in their separate testing setting. This might happen because they are not used to the setting and they have been taught routines in the general classroom with their peers. This "testing room" feels like a free for all! Fear not, comrades! I find that these testing sessions are the perfect time to teach testing and self advocacy skills. Let's kick it!

1. Greet every student at the door one at a time

In middle school, I had the students meet outside of the testing room door. With younger students, you might want to practice walking in the hallway. I would close the door and stand in front of it. Don't let students in until you are done with your directions (but keep those directions short). 

2."Find a spot where you will be successful!"

One at a time, I would tell students, "Without talking, find a spot in the room where you can be successful." I do not send the next student in until the student before has found a seat where they can be successful. If a student is unable to find a seat quietly, I have them come back to the door and try again after the other students have gone in. This is not punitive. I tell students I am going to do this ahead of time and treat it like a fun challenge. This takes time at first but after practicing once or twice, they catch on quickly.

Some students might be most successful when sitting on a yoga ball where they can fidget.

Check out the poster that says "Advocate Test Taking Strategies". The other middle school learning specialist (awesome, awesome Cara Shannon) wrote a list of strategies and students took a sticky note and placed it next to the strategy that worked best for them. I included pictures of what each strategy looked like.
Other students might be most successful when their back is toward their classmates.

Even others benefit from spreading out so they can easily all the materials that they have available.

3. "I will hand out work to students who show me they're ready."

When testing, some students use a Math Help Binder. Some students use a portable word wall. Others might use an iPad or notes from their interactive math notebook. Whatever the case, students need to have the appropriate materials on their desk in order to successfully to do their work. They need to know what ready means for them.

Once all students are seated I say, "When you are quietly sitting with all of the materials you need, I will hand out your test." This gives students time to problem solve and think about what they need. I might give prompts (visual, nonverbal, or verbal) or supports depending on the student but I let all students start off independently. I might say, "Looks like you are missing one thing" and walk away. When all of the materials needed are on the student's desk (or table, or floor, or wherever they have parked themselves) I hand out their assessment.

4. Show the time
Image result for time timer
5. Have students start work independently

Some students have the test given in chunks or read aloud. Others are working on problem solving before asking for help. Even if a student needs you to read the test right away, I like to use this time to teach more self advocacy skills. I'll make eye contact with them and raise my hand, prompting them to raise their own hand.  This is an excellent opportunity to teach students to identify and then advocate for what they need. 

6. Give students time to come up with their own test taking strategies!

I wrote "Test Taking Strategies" at the top of this student's dry erase board. He filled in the information with his top three strategies.

7. Come up with an "I'm done" routine

Typically, I had students identify they were done by raising their hand. I would go over their list of strategies (reread answers, take a break, look through notes, etc.). "Do you need to use any more strategies or are you ready to go?" Students would make that choice for themselves.

8. "Pick up your materials and meet me at the door."

In middle school, I would have students meet me at the door and go over directions for walking back to class solo. In the younger grades, I might wait until everyone is done and go together. I also like to use this as an opportunity for students to talk to the general education teacher about their work. "Hand your test to Ms. Teacher and tell her thank you for all that you do." Not every student chose to thank their teachers but I liked to use this opportunity to teach students how to express their thanks. However, I never forced anyone to say this as I can't make someone feel feelings they don't have.

I hope you enjoyed my tips! What do you do to teach self advocacy skills around test taking?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Co-Teachers In-Sync

You know you're on the same wavelength as your co-teacher when you keep dressing alike. Our middle school math co-teachers are on the same page academically and sartorially!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Examples of Modifications When You're NOT in the Classroom: SCIENCE

My piece called Planning for When You're NOT in the Room: Part II has become my most viewed blog post by a landslide. By a mile. By a galaxy. You get it. Anyway, because of the interest in the content I thought it would be great to delve a little more intensely into this topic. Below are picture examples of how I provided meaningful science modifications to allow MORE access (and not exclusion) from the curriculum without swamping the one teacher in the classroom. Keep in mind that these mods and accommodations are created for individual students. My hope is that you see a set up that works for you and then individualize it to meet the needs and strengths of the student and the routines of the science teacher. 

The Journal

Most fourth grade classrooms and above use composition notebooks in order to keep science work organized and in one place. The front cover of the journal might look the same for every student, but the meat inside can be set up to meet the individual needs of a student. In my experience, the easiest way to modify for students for when you are NOT in the classroom is to provide supports that are already cut and pasted into their science journal. If students were expected to answer questions from the text on page 50 of their journal, the modified questions would also be on page 50 of the individual student's journal. The answer to most of my science modification questions: Modify, print, cut, paste, repeat.  

Daily Set Up

In one science class, the students were asked to make their science journals look like the journal on the board.This first set-up example is an accommodation and not a modification. The science teacher printed out 50 or so copies of the journal set-up shown above. The papers were placed in a pile at the side of the room and ANYONE in the classroom who needed this sheet was taught to go over to the pile, pick up a sheet, cut down the paper in order for it to fit into the journal and glue it in. I have also done the cutting part beforehand to minimize the amount of time it takes to get the set-up sheet well... set up. Another tweak I've made is to actually have the sheet glued or taped into the journal before they even get to class. This allows the focus to be on the content only. This is a good tweak for students that need more time to write. 
On the left is a journal set-up sheet in which I filled in the activity and big question. This limited the amount of time needed to look at the board. Another easy tweak would be to make a photocopy of the teacher's example journal which the student could look at while at their desk.

On the right is a modified journal set-up. Instead of asking a "Big Question" or an inference, the student focused on reviewing the key objectives. These objectives were decided during co-planning during the start of each unit and the student would be assessed on them. 
This is an example of a setup that includes partially written notes and writing prompts. This helps students to learn note taking skills and generalize strategies learned in writing class. 

Table of Contents

The one on the left is an accommodation for any student who needs help structuring the T of C. The one on the right is partially filled in. I never want to fully fill in work for a student because it is important for them to have ownership of the work in their journals.


Journals should be modified not only to meet student need, but to focus on important skills and strengths. The student on the right was a gifted artist. The student on the left benefited from seeing a visual in order to understand the vocabulary.

Here are some labels I made for a student that struggled with creating their own visual. In this case, I still wanted them to identify the appropriate picture that matched with the vocabulary word and definition. The pictures were printed on Avery labels. The student used them like stickers.

The Activity

The great thing about science is that the labs are typically interactive and set up in such a universally designed way that most can access. Remember, for some students it's about exposure to the content, the activity, and the social interactions. The objectives assessed and the overall unit goals might be different. Here is a post from The Science Penguin. It includes a freebie with lab team roles and a video (also, below) for how to set it up.   

Universally Designed Group Activities:
  • Individual jobs for each group member
  • Visuals to show science procedures
  • Teacher demonstration
  • Providing examples and word choice for how to ask group mates for help and work with others
  • Hands on!

The Content

The above example is modified from the actual textbook and I didn't want to show you the whole text since I'm not about plagiarism. In this example, students were expected to read the science textbook and answer the reflection questions. I provided a modified text that focused just on the main objectives I made for the student at the beginning of the unit. Other ways to share content:
  • Brainpop
  • Youtube videos
  • Read aloud text on iPad or computer
  • Read aloud text full class/ individually
  • Buddy read
  • Bookshare

Independent Work
Here is an example of a modified analysis questions for the student to answer independently. I cut and taped this into the student's journal before the lesson. 

Both of these are accommodations for students who struggled with the executive functioning aspects of the science journal. They were expected to answer the questions and do the same class work as their peers but struggled with creating organized tables or looking from their textbook and responding in their journals. The analysis questions are cut off since they are word for word typed from the science textbook. I worked with one amazing middle school science teacher that would print out the modifications and accommodations made. She would hand them to students and they would be expected to cut and paste them into their journals. Again, I would do this for students who struggled with the time management of this activity. Cutting and pasting in beforehand is also great for students who resist modifications. I have found that they are much more likely to use them when they are already in their journals as it looks like their peers' work. 

This students "science journal" was an iPad. He kept it in the room and took it home with him whenever he had homework or needed to study for a quiz. Extra sheets were kept in his science folder. 

Going Over Work 
Here's an answer key for a student who was struggling with going over answers whole class. He had modified questions and although the questions were connected with the ones in the textbook, he struggled with connecting them when checking his answers. This was a solution we thought of mid-year and was really successful. I've only ever used this specific support with one student.

What do you do to support students in science class? 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Co-Teaching Spotlight: Station Teaching

I'm continuing with Julia's Rocking Co-Teaching Series. Click below to read more about the other models already discussed in this series!
Model: Station Teaching

Definition: "Students are rotated between three or more stations, also known as centers, which are either manned by a teacher or assistant or are independent stations. Teachers repeat instruction to each group that comes through the station, though content or delivery can vary based on differentiated needs" (Collaborative Teaching in Elementary Schools by Wendy W. Murawski).

What does it look like?
  • Check out my example of math rotations here
  • Check out how to organize stations for older kids right here  
  • Students working in a small group throughout the classroom
  • Three or more stations around the room
  • Two or more teachers in charge of a small group
This video shows how young students use station teaching in a room with many adults. This is a great video to walk if you have 3 or more adults in one classroom (think: general education teacher, learning specialist, and paraprofessional).

 This video shows how to differentiate within station teaching. This is especially important to think about for stations that are to be done without an adult.

When should I use it?

  • When teachers want students to focus on one concept or topic at a time
  • Small group instruction
  • To teach students how to work independently for a short period of time
  • To teach social skills, interactions, and discussions
  • In order to provide regular movement breaks from one station to another
  • This is used regularly during guided reading/ reading instruction time

How to prepare for this during co-planning:
  • Use a co-planning template (here, here, or here on page 15)
  • Discuss how students should be grouped
  • Plan assessments 
  • Each co-teacher will grade the work from students in their rotation and then debrief with co-teacher
  • Discuss what each activity will look like and how this will be taught to students
  • Discuss where each group will be in the classroom, how to prepare students for transitions, timing, and going over expectations and routines 
  • Make sure that both teachers are aware of ways to modify instruction, challenge all learners, and meet the needs of all students  


Co-Teaching Spotlight: Parallel Instruction

I'm continuing with Julia's Rocking Co-Teaching Series. Click here to read more about team teaching. Okay, onto the next model!

Model: Parallel Instruction

Definition: "Teachers break the class into two heterogeneous groups and each instructs half of the class" (Collaborative Teaching in Elementary Schools by Wendy W. Murawski).

What does it look like?
  • Groups facing away from one another and teachers facing one another to limit distractions and noise
  • Two teachers teach the same content in the same way OR
  •  Two teachers teach the same content in a different way
(Collaborative Teaching in Elementary Schools by Wendy W. Murawski

Notice how the two teachers are facing each other and the groups of students are facing away from one another. Both teachers are teaching the same content in the same way.

Notice in this video the quick transition from full class to parallel instruction. The teachers are teaching the same content in a different way.

It is beneficial to go over norms and expectations around noise and behavior.

When should I use it?
  • When it is beneficial to have a smaller group (teacher demonstration)
  • In order to meet students' learning styles (visual versus kinesthetic instruction) 
  • When it's beneficial to group by learning styles or interests
How to prepare for this during co-planning:
  • Use a co-planning template (here, here, or here on page 15) 
  • Discuss how students should be split (by desk location, learning style, interest, last name, etc.)
  • Discuss if content should be taught the same way or differently
  • Plan assessments 
  • Each co-teacher will grade the work from students in their group and then debrief with co-teacher
  • Discuss where each group will be in the classroom, how to prepare students for transitions, timing, and going over expectations and routines 
  • Make sure that both teachers are aware of ways to modify instruction, challenge all learners, and meet the needs of all students 
  • Practice on transitioning to parallel groups
  • Parallel instruction can get noisy. Be cognizant of your voice and the voice level of the students in your group.

Co-Teaching Spotlight: Team Teaching

This year, many of the amazing teachers at my school have asked me how to best co-teach. The models are unfamiliar to many new co-teachers and they want to know how to most successfully use the two professionals that now share a room. 

I have a complicated relationship with the co-teaching models. I feel that oftentimes the models are misunderstood. Let's break it down, eh?

Myth: Team Teaching is the best co-teaching model.

Truth: No one co-teaching model is better than the other. The goal of co-teaching is to provide access to the general education curriculum and appropriately challenge all students. The trick is to vary the model used and not get stuck with just one. The type of model used depends on many things including lesson type, classroom dynamics, space, and teacher preference.

Myth: Co-teaching is only beneficial for students with disabilities.

Truth: Co-teaching is beneficial for all. Research shows that students with and without disabilities benefit from co-teaching. 

I'm going to call this: Julia's Rocking Co-Teaching Series because this is my blog and I can do whatever I want. The most well-known model is team teaching so I'm going to start there.

Model: Team Teaching
Definition: "Teachers share the responsibility for planning and content instruction. The students remain in a large-group setting while teachers work as a team to introduce new content instruction, work on building skills, clarifying information, and facilitating learning and classroom management... co-teachers are 'sharing the stage'" (Collaborative Teaching in Elementary Schools by Wendy W. Murawski).

Both co-teachers plan, instruct, assess, and grade assignments. (A Guide to Co-Teaching by Villa, Thousand, & Nevin)

What does it look like? 
  • Whole class
  • Two teachers teaching all students at one time
  • Two teachers facing the class
  • Both teachers engaged in talking to the class, showing visuals (writing on the board, showing premade examples, acting out directions, etc.).


Watch the video from 2:11 to 3:24. At 2:11, Co-teacher 1 goes over the vocabulary. At 2:51, Co-Teacher 2 goes over the objective of the lesson.

When should I use it?
  • Providing interactive instruction
  • Introducing a new unit
  • Facilitating class discussions
  • Role-play scenarios for students
  • Model appropriate behaviors
  • Model debating one another while still being respectful 
  • Model turn taking

 How to prepare for this during co-planning:
  • Use a co-planning template (here, here, or here on page 15)
  • Discuss why team teaching makes sense for this particular activity
  • Discuss co-teacher strengths and what each teacher can bring to the lesson
  • Break down what each teacher's role is beforehand
Example 1:
Ms. A:  Go over agenda
Mr. B: Introduce lesson
Ms. A: Write discussion points on board
Mr. B: Call on students
Ms. A: Lead summary of discussion
Mr. B: Pass out activity
Ms. B: Lead class in going over directions

Example 2:
"For a lesson on inventions in science, one co-teacher whose interest is history will explain the impact on society. The other co-teacher, whose strengths are more focused on the mechanisms involved, explains how the particular inventions work" (A Guide to Co-Teaching by Villa, Thousand, & Nevin)

  • This approach takes trust in your co-teacher. It might feel clunky the first few times you try this approach. Be honest with the class and collaborate out loud. "Mr. B, I am going to pass out the activity to everyone. Do you want to go over the directions?" "Ms. A, do you have anything else to add?"
  • This is great to use during unplanned moments, as well. Co-teachers might jump in to clarify directions, ask a question to the co-teacher or class, or provide a different viewpoint.