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
The end of the school year does not mean an end to our learning. But don't fight your students' needs at this time of year - embrace them. The end of the school year naturally lends itself to certain innate social emotional skills. So as educators, we can use these natural learning moments to teach skills.
Student reflection transforms academic experiences into genuine, lifelong learning. Reflections helps students to focus on individual values and goals, develop higher order thinking skills, and make connections to and problem solve larger social issues. Reflective learning supports students in stepping back from their learning experiences and use developed critical thinking skills to improve on future performance through analysis of what has been learned and how far the student has come in pursuit of goals.
By helping Special Education students reflect upon their school year, we support their understanding of a correlation between effort and achievement. Our students with learning disabilities are constantly bombarded with their struggles, reflection helps them to focus on their achievements. It also lets them see the outcomes of their hard work and praise themselves for this effort. This reflection allows learners to further develop their understanding of themselves as a learner as well. Through this analysis, students strengthen their problem solving skills through analysis of achievements and a plan to get to the next level of their goals.
Use the Rose, Bud, Thorn activity to prompt student reflection. Here’s how it works! Ask students to reflect on this past school year. What would be their Rose, Bud, Thorn?
Rose - What is the best thing that happened to you this school year?
Bud - What is something that happened this year that you are looking forward to happening again next year?
Thorn - What is the worst thing that happened to you this year that causes you to set a goal for next year?
This reflection challenges students to become aware of their own thinking processes, learn about themselves and how they learn. The next step in reflection is to take what you have learned and improve upon learners’ academic and emotional skills! Students do this by setting goals.
Reflection enables educators to assess the "why" and "how" of the learning. What needs to be done as a result.
Research shows that general growth mindset interventions have been found to have a weak relationship between mindset and academic achievement (Sisk, et. al, 2018). However, they are most effective when paired with oral and written reflection. So after students write about their reflections of the school year, further reshape student mindset by asking students to set goals based upon their reflections.
Ask students to ask themselves, “What is my goal for next year?”
Check out my end of year goal setting project:
In this resource, students set a bucket list of goals! First, students will SET goals for themselves by generating a bucket list. They will then RESEARCH their goals. Finally, they will WRITE about how to achieve these goals using informational text structures.
End of Year Learning Projects!
Like I said, learning does not have to stop at the end of the school year. In fact, it should NOT stop. Students should continue learning. By maintaining the learning focused environment that students have felt safe in all school year, educators will see less acting out behaviors. Now, with that said, you can still instill some fun into the learning! Here are some end of year learning activities:
-Teacher for a Day!
-Become a Children’s Author
-Talk Show “Expert” Panel
-Classroom Book Clubs
-Book Hall of Fame
-Classroom People of the Year
-Round Robin Writing Fun
-End of Year Math Idea
-Good Old Stand-By’s
-Mentor Tips Activity
Grab these projects here:
~By Miss Rae
Do You Know What the U.S. Government is Doing for Students with Learning Disabilities During the Pandemic?
The bulk of this story hasn't even been written yet.
The schools we walk back into are going to be different. Our students are going to be different. And that is going to be the story that we tell.
Our students with disabilities are still protected under IDEA during the pandemic. But recently, the United States signed into law a new act - the CARES Act.
The CARES Act is a US law targeting the economic fallout of the pandemic, and this includes our schools.
And one specific move that it makes is to allow waivers that free local educational agencies (or LEAs) from the legally binding evaluation timelines for students with disabilities. Essentially, this means that states can ask to have evaluation timelines waived for 30 to 45 days upon our return to schools. This would give schools time to provide instruction prior to evaluating students.
I think this will allow us all some time to come back and breathe. Most of us aren't going back until next year, and by then, a student will have a new class and a new teacher! That's shocking when you haven't prepared for it.
And I can’t stop thinking about the questions that IEP teams wrestle with when they are determining eligibility. How can we know if underachievement is not due to a lack of instruction unless we give our students some time?
But then I see the other side too…
Teachers and families alike get frustrated by how long the referral process can take.. And now imagine adding another 30 to 45 days to this timeline?!
And now think about those families who have hoped for that gap to be closed for years - they don't have time to wait.
What do you think about this?
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!
Related blog posts...
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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Yes, a student can have a 504 plan and an IEP.
For example, a student with an IEP comes to school needing a temporary medical plan, should receive a 504 plan. This would be a short term 504 plan for short term accommodations. A broken hand would require a student to have the accommodation of a scribe (someone to write for the student).
These instances are few and far, though.
In general, everything that is included in a 504 plan can be included in an IEP so there is not typically a need for both.
Identify The Problem!
*Understand that interests may conflict. In the end, decisions should be made based upon the needs to be about the student
*Identify the conflict or problem that is causing disagreement Ask ‘Why?” and “Why not?” to look for a cause and for a purpose to move forward.
*Discover how the conflicts have developed...sometimes things have happened in the past, and these experiences are shaping the parent’s presentation and beliefs. Beliefs can be misinterpretations and misrepresentations as well. So make sure the facts of the dispute are accurate.
*Know that parents might be fearful! They want to feel confident that their child is getting the best.
*Ask questions and pause to actively listen to the answers
*Establish objective criteria - all meetings should use fair standards and fair procedures (AKA federal and state laws) when designing the IEP. Some of what may be causing the issue is beyond the school’s level of control.
*Actively listen-listen to the other side too, instead of trying to be one step ahead
*Allow time for venting - to be heard. This may help you identify the true cause for conflict.
*Don't lose control by reacting to outbursts; instead, actively listen to what is being said. This may also help you identify the true cause for conflict.
*Make emotions explicit and acknowledge them as legitimate. Say “I understand that you are feeling hurt (angry, etc.), and I feel terrible that you feel that way.”
*Remember that an apology can diffuse emotions
*Every team member is of equal and utmost importance. Each team member’s voice is equal.
*Interests can help to define the problem. If we look for a parent’s interests, we can help to solve the conflict by coming up with compromises. Say “We are all invested in the best interest of (student’s name).” Sometimes behind conflict lies the shared and compatible interests.
*Be hard on the problem, but soft on the people. If you know this student should receive specially designed curriculum, but the parent does not want the student to, try to understand where the parent is coming from, but stick to what the student needs. You want to solve the problem, but not attack the parent and/or break the working relationship.
*Teaching students is an integrated experience (one’s behavior impacts the behavior of the others and vice versa). Due to this, it is important to have a positive working relationship with a student’s family.
*Remember - unlike your students, you may not be able to “solve” the parent so - don't try to solve the people, but rather the problem.
*Put yourself in the parent’s shoes. When conflict arises, separate the conflict from the parent. Typically, conflict is rooted in people's thinking and/or perception. Openly discuss other's perceptions and then...
*Use a surprise attack! Look for chances to act inconsistently with their perceptions. Show data, when they have said you don’t know their child.
*Make your proposals consistent with their values. For example, if their goal for the child is academics, propose the programming you are recommending by discussing how it will support the student’s academics.
*Draft the IEP together! Agreement is easier when both all parties feel ownership in the idea.
*Sit side-by-side and work as partners.
-Do not be confrontational!
*Don’t defend your ideas with belief, but rather, with data.
*Document the data together.
*Reason and be open to reason. Ask parents to state their reasonings and suggest applicable objective criteria. Say “I’m suggesting that Special Education services be received in the classroom, and you want the services to be delivered outside of the general education classroom. Let’s look at what the law says about the least restrictive environment decisions.”
*Be open to criticism and advice.
*Know that understanding is not agreeing.
*Speak to be understood.
*Speak for purpose.
*Use “I” statements.
*Understand the power of emotion! Do not personalize anything that happens or gets said in the meeting. Always remember that all members of the team are here for the student!
The data of the disability’s impact
on academic performance and
related service needs should drive
the IEP decisions!
Plan the Purpose!
*The teacher and the parent want the same thing!
*Ask for parent preferences. Ask “What is it that you are looking for?”
-Look for mutual gains and shared interests. Say “We both want the same thing for your child. The reason I am suggesting XXX is because the data shows XXX and research supports XXX.”
*Invent different options for the meeting: * separate judgment from options * create a wide range of option choices * search for mutual gains (put yourself in their shoes and see how the “problem” looks from their perspective) * generate options to their “problem” * generate consequences to each option (some can be negative, but don’t threaten) * invent ways to make their decision easy
*Agreement is often based on disagreement. Be inventive about ways to join differences. Say “I’m suggesting that Special Education services be received in the classroom, and you want the services to be delivered outside of the general education classroom. The law says that students who receive special education should learn in the least restrictive environment. However, I understand your reasoning so let’s have the student receive services in the classroom 4 days per week, and one day per week, I will teach the student outside of the general education classroom, focusing on lagging skills.”
The purpose of every meeting should be...
*Build a working relationship - independent of agreement or disagreement - with parents before the meeting. In this way, you deal with the “people problem” before it becomes a “people problem”.
*Remember perceptions should not drive the IEP decisions. The data of the disability’s impact on academic performance and related service needs should drive the IEP decisions!
By Miss Rae
Click HERE to learn how to tackle this list!