Sunday, August 28, 2016

Growth Mindset and Special Education

   The concept of growth mindset embraces the idea that intelligence is not fixed, but can develop and grow. As quoted from Carol Dweck, one of the leading researchers in the area of growth mindset, "A growth mindset isn’t just about effort. Perhaps the most common misconception is simply equating the growth mindset with effort. Certainly, effort is key for students’ achievement, but it’s not the only thing. Students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck. They need this repertoire of approaches—not just sheer effort—to learn and improve." 
   Teachers who encourage a growth mindset in their students teach them to persevere, try new strategies, ask questions, and work hard. With growth mindset teaching, mistakes are OK to make, and are simply a signal to try something new, or to practice skills. Growth mindset applies to academics, sports, social skills, and life in general. Growth Mindset truly applies to children with disabilities, struggling writers, and children learning English. They spend much of their academic and social energy trying to succeed, while being met with many failures and obstacles. 
   I am looking forward to this school year as I try new reading and writing activities with my Special Education Resource students and English Learners. Here are the activities I have recently been working on~ Enjoy!

Growth Mindset Bundle for Special Education, ELL, and All Students


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Teaching Special Ed is not for Sissies!

Special education teachers have to love what they do. But it is not for the faint of heart! The field of special education is fascinating and rewarding. But it is hard work. You can't really turn it off when you go home to your own family, and the paperwork and meetings are never-ending. But it is worth it, if you love it!
You get to:

  • Teach children who learn differently
  • Watch them grow and mature
  • Watch their language unfold
  • Help them learn to make friends
  • Teach children to love reading
  • Meet amazing families
  • See your students' self-esteem blossom 

And here's the part that's not for sissies!

You will:
  • Spend hours writing reports and IEPs
  • See children who struggle
  • Advocate for children who struggle
  • Not always agree with the system
  • Feel overwhelmed from time to time
I guarantee it is worth it. Roll up your sleeves and start loving this incredible job of being a special educator! 

I have spent the last few weeks re-doing and updating my special education manual 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Special Education Paraeducators are Very Important People!

   I'm at it again! I am updating my Resource Specialist Manual for 2016. Special Education is constantly evolving, and I am learning new things every year that I teach. I am adding a section on paraeducators, since they are such an important part of the special education program. Last year we had 4-5 paras working with resource students in our school. They are key to making sure our students are able to access their education, academically and socially. Below is a new exerpt from my manual, How to Be a Resource Specialist, which I should have revised by mid-July. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Our Students Who Hate to Write

Special Education teachers know about these students! There are also plenty of students who are not in Special Education who have huge barriers to the writing process. Here are a couple of tips from my new resource: Special Education Writer's Workshop Informational Writing


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Even this Teacher Can Have a Growth Mindset!

Growth Mindset- when it first was discussed at staff meetings- I didn't pay much attention, and dismissed Growth Mindset as another educational fad! Then I opened my "seasoned teacher" brain and read a couple articles, and decided to embrace it!
Persevere, make mistakes, try a strategy, don't give up! 
Growth mindset follows what I believe about specific praise, Multiple Intelligences, and All Children Can Learn! My special education students and their families have inspired me to appreciate the baby steps of learning. I live in a smallish town, and it is a thrill to run into a former student at the grocery store, and see an adult who has conquered obstacles of drug abuse, learning disabilities, abandonment and poverty. Growth mindset was not in my vocabulary when I had this student 15 years ago, but she is living proof that persevering, making mistakes, and continuing to try a new strategy to beat the odds really works! And lucky teacher that I am- I see success in my former students much more than the failures! This is a child who has truly beaten the odds!
Part of my philosophy as a mom of four and special ed teacher of 35 years, is that you have to accept children(and all people) as who they are. Don't compare. Don't put too much emphasis on the milestones, standards, and benchmarks for typical growth. Build on what they have, and allow learners to backslide, regroup, and try something new. 
I want to explore Growth Mindset more and see where sports come in, working on strength and interest areas of each child, and parenting strategies. 
In the meantime, I created a little reader about Growth Mindset for you to use in your special education and general education classrooms. I have discovered that by using kid-friendly language and the opportunity to illustrate these readers, the students tend to enjoy and take ownership of their reading progress!

Enjoy this little reader that I have created!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Special Education Writing: Interactive Literature Notebooks

After 35 years of working in special education, I have research and implemented many best practices for teaching reading. I have developed a fairly simple philosophy, that more time spent reading great literature at the student’s instructional level, is the best way to increase reading skills. Based on that philosophy, I have created a classroom library/ program built on wonderful children’s literature, old and new. I have also found that struggling readers and writers learn skills best when they are taught in the context of interesting text. Chunking big words, using context clues, and noticing the author’s craft are a few. Struggling readers almost always struggle with writing. And in reality, what is an essential writing skill to have on the job? Writing a summary! I have developed fun and easy-to-access writing summary frames for four of my favorite pieces of readable children’s literature: Stone Fox, By the Great Horn Spoon, Little House in the Big Woods, and My Father’s Dragon. I have never encountered a child or adult who did not like these books, and most loved them! The first interactive notebook unit I wrote was for My Father’s Dragon, and one of my 5th grade boys asked me if I could create another unit for our next class book. Of course, when a resource student asks for a writing activity, you know there must be something good about it! I have also included suggested teaching points for guided reading in each unit. they are not scripted, and you can take them or leave them. I know that I find it helpful as a teacher, to have a guide of key vocabulary, themes, and writing structure to guide my teaching. I have not included an answer key for the units, partly because there is no correct answer, and the child should think of these interactive notebooks as a way to tell the story. By illustrating the stories, this also gives them ownership and understanding of the reading and writing. The bottom line: We as teacher can and should facilitate the love of reading! More children will discover that world of literature and books, which will better equip them to be successful adults! Interactive Literature Notebook Bundle Enjoy these literature interactive notebooks!

Interactive Literature Bundle

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Special Needs Behavior Management

Here is an exerpt from my special education manual,
How To Be a Resource Specialist. 
It's featured in Rachel Lynette's Blog!
Special Needs Behavior Management
Behavior management is tricky, and special needs behavior management is even trickier! Consider all types of special education eligibility areas- Autism, Speech and Language, Emotional Disturbance, Other Health Impaired(which could include ADHD)- to name a few, and all the behaviors that could come with them! Special needs behaviors can also be observed in children without IEP's: the child with undiagnosed ADHD, or oppositional characteristics.  Take into account the fact that these students have had behavior issues throughout their school history, and many negative experiences probably exist in their young memories.
  As a veteran special education teacher, I am still trying to fine-tune my own behavior management skills, but I do think there are some important factors to consider. We can have a specific mindset when facilitating great behavior, and it should include a few things: empathy, kindness, openness, firmness, and honesty. No kid wants to be in trouble all the time! No child wants to be without friends! Our students crave boundaries and consistency. You really have to try to get into each child's head, whether the are initially likeable or not. They are kids!
  I have a few tricks and tools that I use in my own resource classroom, and in other classrooms. My informal behavior systems tend to be no-frills. For my primary special education students, I use a simple point system and a treasure box. It really depends on how you deliver that system, and training other staff to do the same. When I re-stock my school treasure box, I gather the little ones on the rug, and ooh and ah over each Hotwheels car, or Wonder Woman coloring book! When they earn a point, I use specific praise: "Great job getting ready to read independently," for the child who isn't quite sitting and reading, but I know will be there soon! It is critical that paras are using the same enthusiasm and consistency. For my intermediate students, who have often known me for 3-4 years, I am strict but fun; random rewards, and a handful of goldfish crackers go a long way.
  I communicate frequently with parents, and I meet them where they are most comfortable. This may be at pick-up time, by email, phone, or sometimes at their home. Some children need that daily communication, and I find that a simple chart in a journal going back and forth each day, can increase positive behaviors.
  Many students need to take breaks. With students who have autism, ADHD, and mental health issues, learning to take a non-punitive break works wonders. Classroom teachers and parents need to be involved with the plan. A quiet break space can be made in the classroom with pillows, books, and fidgets. Teach and practice taking breaks with the student.
  In my manual, How To Be a Resource Specialist, I have a section on essential behavior strategies, which I feel are important. You will find many solid behavior systems in the teaching world and through inservice trainings, but these are skills that will help drive the specific system you choose. Here is an excerpt from my 35 years-plus of learning how to manage special needs behavior!

Managing Special Needs Behavior
  As special educators, our behavior management techniques are a little different from managing a whole-group general ed. classroom. I would say that80% of my students have behavioral issues, although not all of them are dis-ruptive and aggressive. Imagine the quirky, socially awkward child with attention issues, or the child who quietly shuts down and fades into the back-
ground. Of course, much of our expertise is focused on the child with aggression, and/or hyperactivity who disrupts theirs and other students’ learning. Following are some essential areas to focus on when managing smallgroups and individuals with special needs.

As the special education teacher, we have to make a concentrated effort to connect with each child. Find out each child’s interests, talents, favorite sport or pastime. Spend a few minutes of one-on- one time with each child weekly. Meet their parents, hang out with them on the playground, and watch them in PE class.

Everybody is good at something. Find out what it is in every child that you work with, and capitalize on it. If soccer is a passion and strength for a child with a reading disability, check out soccer books. If your student with autism loves to do crafts, buy some craft supplies, keep them in a box, and let her invite a friend for Lunch Bunch.

Create an environment in your resource room which is structured, soothing, and promotes positive social interaction. Furnish the room with bean bag chairs and big pillows, as well as comfy little chairs, and break areas. Break the students into small groups as much as possible. Have fidgets available, and plants to water. Don't make the walls to cluttery.

Fun but Firm
It is easy for our students to misbehave, and each group is going to be different. Let the silly jokes and happiness flow, but be prepared to rein the group in the second it gets too loud, or hands are not kept to themselves. I prefer switching the lights off with a simple, “Eyes on me,” but you might like
using a chime, or clapping pattern.

Reward and Praise
Specific verbal praise is highly effective. “Shahid, you are such a fraction expert, or Monica, your body is so calm!” This verbal praise must be sincere, specific, and constant. Add your group and individual behavior systems.

It is not always easy, but try to ignore all negative behavior, while complimenting the great behavior that you want to see. If a student is avoiding a writing project by tapping their pencil, ripping paper, and whispering to table partners, compliment the people sitting around her, reinforce the kids who are working correctly, and catch that non-compliant child doing something right! “Asher, you are holding you pencil and you look like you are ready to work!”

Breaks and Space
We need to take frequent class breaks, by either changing stations, moving from desks to the rug, changing from computer work to manipulatives, or getting drinks. Individual children also need to take breaks. An anxious child may need to go for a walk with the paraeducator. A wiggly child may need jobs like emptying the recycle bin or watering the plants. An angry child may need
to sit in a bean bag and read a book or squeeze clay.

Listen and Talk
When the time is right, and the child has calmed down, don’t shame or punish, if at all possible. Yes, a logical consequence is necessary for the child who yells an expletive and hurts another child. But, as much as possible, talk to the child who throws a chair at you, and find out what will work next time they are feeling agitated. Enlist the support of the school counselor and other IEP team
members to create a plan for the child to learn and be supported. Remember that many misbehaving children are craving any kind of attention, including negative attention. Make a plan by collaborating with experts (this includes parents!) to find replacement behavior that works.


Bio: I have worked as a special educator on the central coast of California for more than 35 years, with K-12 experience, as a program specialist, and as a resource specialist at a small diverse school for the last 20 years. I adore working in my community and having had the chance to cheer at soccer games for my own 4 kids as well as my students. My husband is my biggest cheerleader, and encouraged my to start this TPT journey about 3 years ago when I was recovering from a gnarly bladder cancer/chemotherapy experience. At that time, creating TPT products was therapeutic, and helped me look forward to my glorious future as an educator!

Photo: High School graduation last June with my two youngest(adopted from Kazakhstan, and my first grandchild). My older children are teachers, and daughter-in-law is a speech pathologist. She and my son have the TPT store Joe and Allie Teach.