Vocabulary Instruction for Students with Disabilites

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Are you tired of messing around with traditional vocabulary instruction?

Vocabulary is such a hard skill to teach our students with disabilities. Typically the tradition routes don't work. Over the years I've had several kiddos who can read any word you put in front of them. One of my 3rd graders was able to decode all of the words in the Brigance Assessment all the way to 10th grade. 
The problem was though that the words he could decode got lost in translation.... or should I say comprehension. Vocabulary is the essential foundation of comprehension. Many of our students struggle with comprehension because they lack the essential vocabulary to make sense of what they hear. 

As teachers I think it is hard to remember that just because our students can decode words doesn't mean that they can comprehend them. That's a key distinction that many of the first and second year teachers I work with sometimes forget. 

So how do we tackle it? There are 4 easy steps! 

1. Listen UP! - Students should be able to HEAR their teachers give a student friendly definition. The teacher should then MODEL the word in a sentence for the student. This explicit instruction will aide in the understanding of the vocabulary word. 

2. Practice and Feedback - Students should have plenty of opportunities to practice the new vocabulary word in sentences with a peer partner or teacher. The teacher should give feedback as to whether it is being used correctly. 

3. Practice Makes Perfect - (or at least Vocabulary understanding) - This section is my favorite! Have fun practicing the word. Have students spell it with scrabble tiles and tell someone the meaning. Another way I have students practice vocabulary is by helping them to "think" in pictures. I find pictures of the word, and type the word over top of the picture. I make it into a slide show and then practice the words by reading them in the picture of the word. Having students work with it on the computer helps to increase engagement and attention to the task at hand. I've found fairly good success using this method! Here are some examples of what I mean below. 

In practicing with students I typically have them say the word, and then give me the word in a sentence to tell me about the picture. 

Here is an example: "I see the rain on the window"

Here's another example: 

"The sky is blue. The grass is green." 

With positional words that hardly have pictures I typically use objects around the classroom. 

So for the word "BETWEEN" I would model what the word was and looked like. To show understanding of the word I would ask the student to put something "between" two shelves. 

4. The last step is to practice using the vocabulary in writing or in talking with others. 

After we build our vocabulary up, I typically use my Reading For:  packs to help tie the vocabulary in with sequencing of a story as well. By teaching vocabulary first, our students are building a strong reading foundation that we can continue to use to help grow comprehension!

What sorts of things do you do in your classroom to build vocabulary knowledge? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

Happy Reading!

You Might Be a Special Ed Teacher if...

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

I hope you've had a great start to 2016. It's been quite a while, so I thought I would post this light and somewhat funny post for you all. So I bring you....

You might be a Special Ed Teacher if...

1. You hear “Student A needs his AT when he goes to OT. Make sure to review his ETR and IEP and follow it to the letter because IDEA says that he needs to be in his LRE.” and you understand that!

2. You never thought you’d say “No, it is NOT okay to lick your friend!” Or “Do NOT eat the fuzzies off of the gym mat!”

3. You have tried to take data on your own friends, kids, spouse, you name it, you’ve tried to take data on it. 

4. You’ve ever hidden Velcro in a "safe place" (aka your desk drawer, under the false bottom, so no one can find it…ever.)

5. You’ve tried to analyze the function of your family’s bad behavior.

6. You’ve spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out how to use positive reinforcement to get your family to complete their household chores.

7. You can complete paperwork with your eyes closed, hands behind your back, while standing on one foot.

8. You differentiate in your sleep.

9. You’re kind of like a superhero. You can write IEP’s, deal with parents, collaborate with general education teachers, relate accommodations to specials teacher, communicate regularly with related services, and tailor lessons to individual students in a single day!

10. Your bladder is bigger than most. You’re a busy person. Going to the bathroom takes some time and some days you just don’t have time for that.

11. Your heart is bigger than most also. You love your students and are excited to watch them grow, learn, and make progress. Sometimes the progress is as little as being able to say hi to a friend at recess, other times it’s as huge as helping your 3rd grader finally read!
So what makes you a Special Education Teacher?

Leave a comment below! I'd love to hear from you. 

Tips for a Successful IEP Meeting! (with MEME's!)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

So, I love Meme's and I love successful IEP meetings, so why not blend the two together?

(That's for my Office fans!)
Prep for the Meeting

Communicate with the parents- This should be a given right? We’ll you’d be surprised. My advice is to always ask for parent input in each are before even writing the IEP. I've never heard a parent complain that they had too much input into their child's IEP. Once you have a draft copy, send it home for the parent to look over, at least 1 week before the IEP meeting. About 2 days before the meeting, call the family and ask if they have any concerns about the goals. Nine times out of ten, you will get a BIG FAT NO. Whoop whoop, on to the meeting for you. IF they express concerns, try to clear up any of those before the meeting. If their concerns deal with a part of the IEP that you feel you cannot agree with them on, or it needs to be a team decision, then, take note, and bring it up at the meeting.

Convene the School Staff in Advance

School members can meet before the IEP to talk about any changes or concerns they may have before the meeting without the parent. Be careful though, to not predetermine anything that requires IEP team decisions. Sped law says that you can have informal, unscheduled, or conversations on issues like teaching methods, lesson planning,  or service coordination without the parent.

Organize your Data

Be a Data Nerd. Collect, collect, collect it. A wise man once said, “You can never have enough data.” ha-ha, I don’t exactly know who that wise man was, but I bet he worked in special ed!  If the parent’s indicate a concern like the student made no progress in Math and in your head you are like….No way, My data says, nope.  Make a line graph. Plot that data. A graph can show visual people what all your data here and there and on this and that page, and on this observation, and anecdotal record, and informal assessment, can’t.

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