Saturday, November 5, 2016

Sunday Comics and the BFG- Resource Students are Learning to Love Reading!

Poverty, learning disabilities, second-language barriers. This is what we are looking at in our resource class. Oh yeah, homelessness too.
We work on Common Core, do word work, guided reading, and our main focus is what is most important: the love of reading and finding the right book.
I have the honor of teaching special education resource kids at a diverse school. I teach children from college-educated families, and some who live in a home with 20+ family members paying the rent. Some of my students' parents work two jobs, and others work nights packaging fruit because they are undocumented. Some spend their nights at the overflow homeless shelter, and some are tucked in at night by two dads. What a gift to teach these children! 
I have learned many lessons on how to be the best teacher I can (and some days I'm not!), in my 35 years of special education. I have learned from teachers, parents, students, experts, librarians, and colleagues. 
They have got to find a book they love. They have got to discover that reading is more fun than gaming. They have got to realize that they are readers! I believe I have some teaching-reading skills at this point in my career, and one of them is facilitating finding joy in reading. I bring in the Sunday comics, write units for fine literature at their grade level, stock my classroom library with accessible books, and give them time to read. 
The good news is, that it is happening- they run into the room, grab a book, read with a volunteer, gobble a handful of goldfish crackers, and- they are reading!
Lucky teacher.

The BFG by Roald Dahl is a fabulous book for 4-6th graders! There are many opportunities for learning inference skills, word-chunking the BFG's great language, his wonderful grammar, and learning empathy and humor! 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Growth Mindset~Our Most Magnificent Things

I love this book, The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Squires! In our special education resource room, we read the book, and summarized it with this activity: 

Growth Mindset Reading and Writng - The Most Magnificent Thing

These students are in 4th-6th grade. They completed the summary frame in their own words and illustrated it. Then they drew their own Magnificent Things! At the bottom of our bulletin board are pages from several different students' journals which I put together to tell the story. So proud of these learners!

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!