A Quick & Easy 8 Step Formula
Special Education Teachers love their jobs, right?
Sure! We love working with students with disabilities, getting to teach them and watch them grow and achieve from our instruction. That is the best part of the job.
Buuut… we don’t always love the paperwork.
Do you do everything you can to avoid writing IEP goals? Copy papers… Offer to cover someone’s recess duty… Actually take that bathroom break…
Special Education Teachers will do anything we can to avoid the paperwork part.
And we all dread it. Special education teachers groan and mumble that they have to go do it as they procrastinate by chatting with a fellow educator. Writing an IEP can feel downright overwhelming.
But this does not have to be the way!
IEP goal writing does not have to be stressful! It’s actually quite simple once you get the hang of it - oh, and you obviously have the ever-important, all-knowing data!
But that’s easy for me to say as I sit here writing this blog and not an IEP.
Confession time - I don’t actually ever dread writing an IEP, and that is because I use my super simple SMART IEP Goal Formula.
Today, I am going to share with you this simple formula that will forever change the way you feel about writing IEP goals and objectives. After reading these steps and applying this formula to your own goal writing, I can promise that you will start saying how easy goal writing is.
And when other Special Educators are jealous of you, send them my way!
Students qualify for extended school year services in 3 general areas…
When few, if any, gains are made during the typical school year and a critical skill is in the process of emerging. A team would determine a need for this when they think ESY could help the student make reasonable gains.
When a student is expected to significantly regressed (based upon data taken from before and after extended school breaks) to such an extent and the amount of time required to re-learn skills or behaviors would impact the student’s ability to benefit from their Special Education program.
When the acquisition of critical life skills that assist in the student’s ability to function as independently as possible, are expected to negatively impact the student’s ability to benefit from their Special Education program.
Grab THIS resource to help you make decisions!
By: Miss Rae
12/12/2020 0 Comments
Do all students diagnosed with an Emotional Disability (ED) qualify for an IEP?
Well, let’s think about this. If a student has a disorder of anxiety, bipolar, conduct, eating, obsessive-compulsive or psychotic, are they able to make progress in the general education curriculum without Special Education services?
First, let’s start by answering the question - what qualifies as an emotional disability?
What qualifies as an emotional disability?
An emotional disturbance is one of the 13 disability categories of IDEA, under which 3- through 21-year-olds may be eligible for Special Education services. This means that a student with an emotional disturbance MAY be eligible for special education and related services in public school. But the keyword here is MAY.
IDEA defines emotional disturbance as follows:
“…a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child’s educational performance:
(A) An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.
(B) An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.
(C) Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.
(D) A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.
(E) A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.”
Hmmm…that’s a broad definition with some vague language so let’s do a little deep diving!
How do we define a "long period of time"?
Under this standard, IDEA does not state how long a “long period” of time is, but the Office of Special Education Programs indicates that it is between two to nine months (Letter to Anonymous, 213 IDELR 247, OSEP 1989).
And what does "to a marked degree" mean?
This term "generally refers to the frequency, duration, or intensity of a student's emotionally disturbed behavior in comparison to the behavior of peers, and can be indicative of either degree or acuity or pervasiveness (Letter to Anonymous, 213 IDELR 247, OSEP 1989).
As defined by IDEA, ED includes disorders of anxiety, bipolar, conduct, eating, obsessive-compulsive or psychotic such as schizophrenia. However, IDEA specifically states that ED does NOT apply to students that are “socially maladjusted,” unless it is determined that they also have an emotional disturbance. And how is that determination made? Well, Special Education teams should…
Review the eligibility criteria definition under IDEA.
Ask - Does the student exhibit at least 1 of the 5 criteria to a marked degree? AND Has the student exhibit at least 1 of the 5 criteria over a long period of time?
If NO - The student does not appear to have an Emotional Disability.
If YES - Eliminate EXCLUSIONARY FACTORS:
Is the student…
-maladjusted (i.e. stealing, skipping school or class, or drug use)
-having emotional problems at home or out of school and NOT at
-exhibiting mood, behavior, or academic problems related solely to
If none of the exclusionary factors apply, the student appears to have an Emotional Disability BUT if any of the exclusionary factors apply, the student does not appear to have an Emotional Disability.
You can grab the Emotional Disability Determination Flowchart HERE.
It is important to have data when exploring eligibility under any disability category, and this data can be obtained through interventions!
Three Best Practice Interventions for Students with Emotional Disabilities:
A student who responds to the intervention, most likely does not have an emotional disturbance. This is similar to when we look at the Response to Intervention model for eligibility in Special Education.
If a student does not respond to the interventions AND qualified for ED after going through the flowchart, the student needs individualized programming!
Find more best practice interventions for students with ED at...
Intervention Central -
Grab some Social Emotional IEP goals and objectives HERE!
Learn more about Emotional Disturbance in the Classroom!
Do you know what it feels like to be a student who has a learning disability in reading?
Do you want to know what it feels like to be a student who has a learning disability in reading?
Let me give you a chance to feel what it feels like!
Let's pause for a moment of reflection!
How did you do?
How did you feel as you were reading?
After we ask students to read a passage, we ask them comprehension questions to assess their understanding of the text, right?
Do you think you can answer some comprehension questions about what you just read?
So what does it feel like to be a student who has a learning disability in reading?
By: Miss Rae
Learn more about Dyslexia!
Work smarter, not harder!
This is a great piece of advice to give to any teacher you know. I know we have all heard the jokes about teachers having weekends and summers off, and while I do hope that teachers take time for themselves during their breaks, I know that their work lives never end! And when the pandemic hit and we had to move our classrooms into our homes, teachers worked even longer hours.
So here are some ways to work smarter and not harder during remote learning.
Here are some tips for making our remote reading workshops smarter!
Start by sending students recorded mini-lessons. These can be viewed repeatedly if needed. A support of some sort (i.e. graphic organizer, mnemonic reminder, visual reminder, strategy anchor chart, etc.) should accompany the video recording to support the student's access of the general education curriculum. Small guided reading groups can be scheduled with students using an online platform like Google Meet. Additionally, a weekly one on one check-in for all students can include progress monitoring assessments and/or meeting with the teacher for direct instruction. Progress monitoring assessments can determine the frequency and need for the check-ins. Such data can guide the goal of the check-in (i.e. instructional-based, emotional support needed, clarification of academic misunderstandings, etc.).
Learn more about Teaching Strategies for Remote Learning!
Writer’s Workshop is a student-centered framework for teaching writing, based on the idea that when students write often, for extended periods of time on topics of their choosing, they learn to write best. We have mastered this in the traditional classroom
Now, we have to master Writer’s Workshop in our virtual classrooms!
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, remote learning will now forever be a reality in our lives. And because of this, it is important that we learn to translate our best practices into remote learning best practices!
Most of the workshop model can be implemented rather successfully through distance learning. Mini-lessons can still occur. These can be recorded lessons for students to watch and re-watch if needed! And they still can be developed based upon students' writing.
Independent writing can obviously still happen too! That one should be a no brainer!
To support independent writing in the classroom, we have charts and visuals around our traditional classrooms. Think about which of these need to also be provided to students at home. Perhaps students can have access to online writing reference and pictures of visual supports from the classroom.
During a typical mini-lesson, we often record our major points points you want students to be able to reference or have access to on an anchor chart. Give students access to a digital anchor chart either through a picture of one or a chart on Google Slides or Docs.
Offering feedback through comments on shared documents is great. But I would still suggest personalizing student feedback.
Personalizing feedback helps to build relationships with students. Research has shown that relationships are beneficial for student success for a number of reasons, but in particular, they help to protect against the effects of negative stress. About 45 percent of adults in the United States reported that their mental health had been affected from worry and stress during the pandemic (KFF, 2020). Children feel this stress too.
So how can you personalize feedback? Apps such as Mote (a Google Extension) allow educators to leave friendly comments on G Suite apps. Educators can leave messages about student writing to promote encouragement for further development of ideas and skills.
You can also still conference with your students! This can be done individually or in small groups. When looking at your students’ writing, if you see a small group of students who all need to conference about a similar issue in their writing, you can pull them for a small group instructional conference.
You can also create homogeneous groups of writers. This group can meet weekly to small group share and edit. They could meet as partners for peer share and edits. They can also contact each other for help as they would in the traditional classrooms.
I would suggest setting aside one day each week during your writing block for student-teacher conferences. Teachers could schedule a 5 to 10 minute virtual conference with students. Teachers should plan to conference with all students within a two week time period. If all student writing is being housed electronically, the writing can be pulled up on the screen during the virtual conference for a richer learning experience.
Make sure to support ALL students during this time. Students with learning disabilities might need to meet with you weekly for support. Students who just need that extra time may also need to meet with you weekly.
We can still support our students - even if we are not in the classroom with them!
By: Miss Rae
Reference: KFF poll
Teaching our students with learning disabilities requires specialized instruction from a specialized instructor. Special Education teachers are able to masterfully design lessons that include an abundance of multi-sensory tools because as we know - this is how our students with learning disabilities learn best. But now all teachers are being asked to instruct from their computer screens, and multi-sensory instruction seems virtually impossible - pun intended!
I’m sure this won’t surprise you, but - teachers are amazing! They have been able to transition to distance learning virtually (pun intended) without any professional development and little to no distance learning resources.
But what we do continue to have are goals for our students.
We will be able to …
-keep our students’ skills fresh
-prevent regression and
Even virtual relationships are important!
And here are 5+ Ideas for achieving those goals for Distance Learning with Learning Disabilities:
1. Phonemic Awareness
Related Phonemic Awareness Resources:
Related Decoding Resources:
Related Spelling & Decoding Resources:
Related Comprehension Resources:
Related Decoding Spelling & Comprehension Resources:
6. Social Emotional Learning
And make sure you are checking in on your students every day. Ask them how they are feeling. Let them know that it's okay to feel how they are feeling.
Happy & Healthy Teaching!
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Don't forget about students with disabilities when COVID-19 closes our schools.
Teachers all over are scrambling to transition from delivering instruction in their classroom to delivering it online. But is this equitable for ALL students?
The U.S. Department of Education gave some guidance to K-12 districts about closing for COVID-19. They told districts that if they close due to COVID-19 AND continue to offer instruction remotely, they MUST make that learning accessible to ALL students. This includes students with disabilities. And for students with disabilities, this means that services outlined in IEPs must be offered “to the greatest extent possible.” When schools re-open, Special Education teams will need to meet to determine if students with disabilities who missed services are entitled to make them up.
Are schools ready for this? Are us teachers ready for this? Are our students with disabilities ready for this? And more importantly, is remote learning beneficial for our students with disabilities?
If we cancel school and implement distance learning that can be accessed by some, but not all, of our students, it's unethical.
On the other hand, if schools close and do not move to distance learning, the federal education department stated that schools are then NOT required to provide services to students with disabilities during that time.
I know what you are all thinking... 'We have to continue teaching. Students have to keep learning. What about the regression they will show when schools re-open?'
We can offer suggested activities for ALL students.
These activities should not be graded or required!
We can offer summer school for our students. We can extend our learning time when we return. We can offer extra instruction or after school tutoring.
We are stressed right now. And our students are smart. They can read us. They can read the world. They are feeling the stress of the world too - no matter how much we protect them. It's most important for our students to stay healthy and safe.
By Miss Rae
So what really is the difference between an ACCOMMODATION and a MODIFICATION? Aren't they the same thing?
No. Accommodations and modifications are different from each other!
An accommodation is a way to help students learn the same material or take the same test in a different way.
A modification is a change to what the student is expected to learn.
By: Miss Rae
When we start to think about Specially Designed Reading Instruction, I think it is helpful to start by viewing it in light of the continuum of instruction...or the RTI triangle!
Let's look at each Tier a little more closely...
IDEA tends to be our course textbook in Special Education - if you will. So what does IDEA say about Specially Designed Instruction?
Using a student's evaluations, determine the areas of reading in which the student demonstrates lagging skills and/or a disability. Incorporate those targeted areas into a student's IEP goals, and then, instruction. Now, we can check off the first component of some pricey packaged curriculum!
The next step in designing Specially Designed Reading Instruction is to be explicit in your instruction. Click the slideshow below for Explicit teaching tips!
To be systematic, you should follow a scope and sequence for your instruction. This should be a logical sequence to get a student closer to a grade level standard.
So let's say the student's grade level standard is to read CVCe words. The following would be a logical progression to mastery of that standard:
1. advanced phonemic awareness skills
2. letter identification
3. letter/sound identification
4. VC words (decoding and encoding)
5. CVC words (decoding and encoding)
6. CVCe words (decoding and encoding)
Below is another example of a scope and sequence...
In order to help students achieve these steps to mastery (and oh, you know, try to do it while simultaneously learning other new curriculum like their general education peers), employ multi-sensory learning! Make sure to always include a spiraling review of previously learned skills for reinforcement, and most importantly, teach all components of reading, just focus more time and intensity on a students lagging skill areas AND do it all through multi-sensory learning!
It is essential that this instruction be applied in the classroom to generalize the skill. When Specially Designed Reading Instruction is paired with reading time in the classroom with a general education teacher, a student will make faster progress!
Lastly, I know I probably don't have to say this, but I wouldn't feel right not saying it - as with all Special Education students, the most important step in designing Specially Designed Reading Instruction is to Adapt & Modify for individual student needs!
Also, don't forget that a student eligible for Special Education services may not require distinctly different methodologies or interventions, but rather increased intensity. Or a student may require both! But ultimately, we should be giving a student what they need, not just because we can offer it. Our goal for Special Education should be to teach independent application of skills and strategies.
By Miss Rae
Grab this FREEBIE to help you plan Specially Designed Instruction!
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