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
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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!
"Without data, you're just another person with an opinion."
Being a Special Education Teacher is a rewarding, and an albeit exhausting, job. However, the rewards far outweigh the exhaustion!
As Special Education teachers, we work with the highest needs student population. These fragile students require loving and learning, and when you give this to them, they will return it threefold with the greatest rewards. Our Special Education students can make the greatest gains and be the proudest of them! We became Special Education Teachers to give our students the tools to manifest their ability over their disability. We challenge our students to achieve beyond their wildest dreams, and in turn, they will challenge us to do the same!
The Special Education Teacher wears many hats. This is honestly why I love being a Special Education Teacher! You will NEVER be bored!
However, despite all of the roles that you will play on a daily basis from hallway monitor to team member to recess duty teacher, there are a few roles that are actually in your job description.
Apply for open positions on Indeed, SchoolSpring, your local school districts’ sites, and your state’s Department of Education. Then, follow-up with a personalized email, selling yourself as the BEST Special Education Teacher that anyone has ever met. Visit schools in person to drop off your resume and shake hands with the principal.
Do this in the interview, and then, be prepared to answer some interview questions!
Common Special Education Teacher Interview Questions:
Tell us more about yourself.
What is your teaching philosophy?
What is your teaching experience?
Do you have any experience or certifications with specialized curriculum (i.e. Wilson Reading, Orton Gillingham, LiPS)?
What is one of your biggest strengths? Weaknesses?
What makes you the best fit for this position?
Why do you want to work for this district/school?
Why did you want to become a special education teacher?
What is your experience with the IEP process? Writing an IEP?
What is your experience with evaluating students as part of the Special Education process? What tests are you familiar with?
How do you implement inclusive practices?
What is your classroom management style?
How do you foster positive behavior in your classroom?
What has been your most difficult moment or day teaching so far?
Describe your lesson planning process.
How do you incorporate technology in your lessons? In the classroom?
Describe one of your best lessons.
Describe a lesson that you thought was going to be great, but failed. How did you handle it?
What is your experience with co-teaching? What is your opinion of co-teaching?
How do you engage students in their learning?
How would you handle a student who refuses to complete work? Follow directions?
Explain how you differentiate for your students.
How do you modify lessons to allow your students to access grade level content? Meet state standards?
How do you foster communication with parents? How do you foster positive relationships with parents?
How would you handle a parent who disagrees with you at an IEP meeting?
How would you handle a parent who calls or emails you upset about a situation?
What will you bring to the Special Education team?
How will you communicate with services (OT, PT, Speech, etc.)?
How do you monitor students’ progress?
How do you use data to drive instruction? For IEPs?
How do you work with support staff (paraprofessionals)?
How do you handle a disagreement with support staff (paraprofessionals)?
How would you de-escalate a situation? How you would de-escalate a crisis situation?
Do you have any experience with writing a Manifestation Determination or a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)?
What is the last professional development book you read or are currently reading? What conference or course have you recently taken?
Questions for a Special Education Teacher to Ask the Interviewer or Team:
What is the philosophy of the district’s Special Education department?
What is the philosophy on Special Education in the school?
What is the school culture like, and how is it fostered?
What technology does the school have?
Does the district provide any type of mentor program?
What professional development opportunities are available for teacher growth?
How does administration support the teachers?
What is the typical caseload of a Special Education Teacher?
Who is responsible for scheduling and chairing the IEP meetings?
Take your time in responding to these questions. Be positive in your answers and support each answer with a story that demonstrates this answer’s reality in your classroom!
Practice interviewing with your friends, family, and fellow teachers. Reflect upon their feedback to hone your interview skills!
And most importantly, believe in yourself! You are a great teacher who will change the lives of each of your students!
By: Miss Rae
So now that you know the secret, don’t tell the kiddos! Let them continue to think you have eyes in the back of your head and all of those other superhuman powers you possess.
But read on to gain a few more powers to support your DiVerSe learners!
Special Education Policies and Laws
A wealth of accurate, reliable information about special education law, education law, and advocacy for children with disabilities.
This site is full of information on the different disabilities from 15 different nonprofit organizations. It offers resources and research-based practical strategies!
Special Education Lesson Plan Ideas
This is one of my favorite sites! Resources to help struggling readers build phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension skills. Plus +++ research on all things reading!
Find resources, research AND lesson plans! This site provides educators and students access to the highest quality practices and resources in reading and language arts instruction.
I would be the president of the Teaching Channel fan club if one existed! Launched in 2011, the Teaching Channel site is a multi-platform service delivering professional development videos for teachers, showcasing inspiring teachers, ideas, best practices and instructional resources to enhance our teaching knowledge.
Special Education Interventions and Assessments
The Lite version is a free, simple way to progress monitor student achievement in reading and math.
PBISWorld.com is a comprehensive and easy to use tier 1 through tier 3 PBIS (positive interventions and supports) tool and resource that includes data tracking on almost every behavior that exists in the classroom.
Intervention Central is a leading resource for Response to Intervention (RTI) tools and resources, including academic and behavior interventions for classroom plus progress monitoring tools.
Special Education Student Learning Tools
This webiste is an online resource of reading passages and lesson plans for students of all levels K-12. Texts include pre-made worksheets, quizzes, and other printable materials to enhance the lesson. Students can highlight, annotate, and complete assignments online. ReadWorks is free for teachers to use. Find differentiated texts for your special ed students, and some have a text to speech option!
Newsela is a data base of current events stories tailor-made for classroom use. Indexed by broad theme (e.g. War and Peace, Arts, Science, Health, Law, Money), stories are both student-friendly and can be accessed in different formats by reading level. Use Newsela to differentiate nonfiction reading.
CommonLit is a free collection of fiction and nonfiction for 3rd-12th grade classrooms, organized by lexile levels. Passages have a text to speech option PLUS comprehension checks and discussion questions!
A free website filled with courses, lessons, and practice on a variety of topics from the 1st grade level to the AP level. The site offers short lessons in the form of videos and includes supplementary practice exercises and materials for educators.
Ted Ed andTed Talks
Discover hundreds of animated lessons, create customized lessons, and share your big ideas with other educators. The site is an excellent tool for visual learners Ted Talks also offers many videos on SEL topics for middle and high schoolers!
My students were obsessed with this site! Teachers are able to make their own trivia games (AKA quizzes for students) to play in the classroom. Your students will love to learn and play at the same time. And the best part is that you can download results into a spreadsheet at the end of the game for progress monitoring!
Find engaging math games and more on problem solving, logic, number sense, and the list goes on!
This site specializes in reading, phonics & math, offering educational games, movies, books, songs, and more for children k-3/beginning readers! This is also a great tool for ESL students and families as the stories and be read aloud!
Special Education Teacher Blogs
Miss Rae’s Room
Okay, so this is a shameless plug, but…. check out my blog to improve your teaching knowledge and gain some resources and strategies for your DiVerSe learner population
Mrs. D’s Corner
Check out this blog for life skills ideas for your kiddos and a TON of resources!
Pathway 2 Success
A blog on strategies and ideas for social emotional learning.
Special Education Teacher Professional Development Courses
The Learning Tree Professional Development Network, LLC
An online professional development network created by teachers, for teachers. TLTPDN offers provide high quality, responsive courses for educators!
Do you have a favorite website? Share below so we can empower our teaching community!
By Miss Rae
Help! How do I write IEP goals for a student using Wilson Reading?
I see students in a one-to-one and small group setting for reading. I use the Wilson Reading System with all of my students, but I struggle to write IEP goals because I ONLY use this program with them. How do I write IEP goals for a student using Wilson Reading?
Goal-Less Wilson Reading Teacher
Wilson Reading, Orton Gillingham, Spire, Project Read, and others are examples of specialized instruction. Such programs work for students with learning disabilities in reading because they provide direct and explicit structured, sequential multisensory teaching of the basic elements of language for improved decoding and encoding!
All levels of language, including sounds (phonemes), symbols (graphemes), meaningful word parts (morphemes), word and phrase meanings (semantics), sentences (syntax), longer passages (discourse), and the social uses of language (pragmatics) are taught in conjunction with each other. This can make it difficult to write a targeted IEP goal.
Here are some IEP goals and objectives to choose from:
Given specialized instruction using a multisensory systematic phonics-based program, XXX will increase his/her reading levels for comprehension, decoding, and fluency to an end of first grade reading level by the end of the IEP period as measured by XXX (i.e. NWEA MAP).
Given a multisensory language based explicit instruction in developmental skills which lead to decoding and word recognition, XXX will increase his/her reading skills for comprehension, decoding, encoding, phonics, word recognition and vocabulary development, to at least one grade level above his/her current instructional text level (XXX) with at least 97% accuracy by the end of the IEP period as measured by XXX (i.e. NWEA MAP).
When given a list of 20 nonsense words XXX will be able to accurately decode multisyllabic words that contain closed, open, vowel teams and vowel-consonant-e (beside, statement, remain) syllable types with 90% accuracy as measured by XXX (i.e. Wilson charting records).
Given direct instruction using a systematic and scientifically based reading instruction program, XXX will demonstrate accurate knowledge of reading skills showing one year's growth as measured by XXX (i.e. NWEA MAP) with 95% accuracy.
Given direct instruction using a systematic and scientifically based reading instruction program, XXX will increase his/her reading levels for comprehension, decoding, encoding, and fluency from his/her current level of being able to use 1 syllable type (closed) to being able to use all 6 syllable types as measured by the end of the IEP period as measured by XXX (i.e. Wilson charting records).
Decoding: Given 15 words in isolation at his/her instructional level, XXX will correctly and independently decode 80 percent of the words accurately.
Decoding: Given 15 non-contextualized CVC, CCVC, CVCC, and/or CVCe words at XXX's instructional level, XXX will correctly decode 80 percent based on teacher notes and charting.
Decoding: Given 15 words in isolation at his/her instructional level including words containing all 6 syllable types and learned prefixes and suffixes, XXX will independently and accurately decode 85 percent of the words.
Fluency: Given text and passages using controlled text at his/her independent reading level, XXX will be able to read 3-4 words together at a rate of 90 wpm based on charts, DIBELS and teacher notes.
Fluency: When given text or reading passage at his/her independent reading level, XXX will use knowledge of decoding skills and word recognition to increase his/her fluency reading orally with appropriate rate, and expression at 90 words per minute with 90% accuracy.
Encoding (Spelling): Given dictation for spelling and grammar, XXX will correctly spell 75 percent of the words at his/her current instructional level based on student samples and teacher record.
Comprehension: Given sentences, paragraphs and reading passages at his/her instructional reading level (controlled-text), XXX will be able to independently use visualization and retell the facts/events with 90 percent accuracy based on teacher notes and benchmark assessments.
Comprehension: XXX will use learned reading strategies of summarizing, questioning, inferencing, making connections and predicting to answer right there and higher order thinking questions from text at his/her instructional level in 4 out of 5 opportunities with up to 2 cues.
Vocabulary: XXX will utilize decoding and context clue strategies to understand unfamiliar words when reading (orally and/or silently) content area texts with decreasing adult assistance in 4 out of 5 observations with 80 percent accuracy.
By: Miss Rae
Learn more by taking a course with me...
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700,000 English-Language Learners are identified with a learning disability, representing 14.7 percent of the total ELL population enrolled in U.S. public elementary and secondary schools in 2015. This needs to be addressed!
I don't know about you, but this is the big question across my state.
FIRST - let's take a moment to have some real talk - ALL English language learners need to be given time - time to learn the language.
Understanding the typical trajectory of second language acquisition is important for so many reasons. An understanding of learning the language is important so that we do not mis-identify our EL population as learning disabled.
We always start with dominance testing to establish a student’s dominant language for evaluations. Dominance testing establishes a student's level of proficiency in both languages (native and English).
This is because we should ALWAYS test in a student's dominant language.
Unlike their native English speaking peers, English Language students have to process the language of tests. They are also expected to comprehend cultural expectations embedded within standardized assessments.
What does this mean for educators?
Well, it means that for ELs, every evaluation, not given in their dominant language, becomes a test, to some degree, of language proficiency, rather than an evaluation of intellectual capacity and/or academic ability.
Hence why we test in a student’s dominant language.
If an EL student tested in their native language (because this was determined to be his/her dominant language) has a learning disability as indicated by the discrepancy model of standardized score comparisons, then, the student has a learning disability.
A learning disability in the native language is a learning disability.
But what happens when a student’s dominant language is English? How do we know this is a learning disability and not just the typical path of a second language learner?
Well, we use our knowledge of the typical trajectory of second language acquisition during the evaluatory stage too!
By using a simple retelling (or comprehension conversation after reading), an educator can compare this outcome (results of the comprehension conversation) with a student's expected second language acquisition trajectory. If these two match, then, this is typically indicative that the student is where he or she should be in terms of literacy.
On the other hand, if these two do not correspond, a learning disability should be considered.
One such assessment is called the ACCESS test. This assessment is employed annually to evaluate a student’s progress with learning English as a second language. Students receive composite scores in Oral Language, Literacy, Comprehension, and an Overall score along with four domain scores in Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.
These scores determine placement and drive instruction for the next school year.
Here is how students may be placed based upon ACCESS scores:
WIDA Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3, (ACCESS 2.0 Overall Scores 1.0-2.4) - At least two to three periods (a period is not less than 45 minutes) per day of direct ESL instruction delivered by a licensed ESL teacher
WIDA Level 3, Level 4, Level 5 & Level 6 (ACCESS 2.0 Overall Scores 2.5 and higher) - At least one period (a period is not less than 45 minutes) per day of direct ESL instruction delivered by a licensed ESL teacher
Most research suggests that oral proficiency takes 3 to 5 years to develop, and academic English proficiency can take 4 to 7 years. Therefore, many of our students receive ELL services while they are in school aged. So they need time, and we need to understand the trajectory of learning a second language.
This trajectory along with ACCESS scores help us to determine if there is a learning disability. Ofcourse all students would benefit from additional time with a teacher, we should not mislabel or over-identify our students. This is why we use these resources.
Developing a first language is automatic. Typically, children do not require explicit instruction to develop a first language. This is also true for bilingual or multilingual children who learn more than one language from birth.
On the other hand, explicit teaching of a second language is required if a student is sequential bilingual, which is the definition for a student becoming bilingual by first learning one language and then another. In essence, this is considered to be a process called language learning.
Unfortunately, explicit teaching of grammatical rules does not necessarily mean that a second language learner, or sequential bilingual student, will be able to speak and write with ease. Time, practice and real social experiences are needed to support the language learning process.
However, listening and speaking should be simultaneous, relatively speaking, when learning a second language. This is because students are listening to the words, learning new vocabulary, and should be practicing it by speaking it.
In this ﬁrst stage of second language acquisition, the silent or receptive phase, second language learners dedicate time to learning vocabulary of the new language. They may also practice saying new terms.
A second language learner does not produce their new language with functional ﬂuency or comprehension (so they are not necessarily "silent" despite the name), but they are attempting speech of their new language.
Early production is the second phase, and this is where students begin to build a vocabulary. Students may begin to use some terms and/or short phrases of early word combinations in their speech. This process continues through the acquisition trajectory and eventually, includes writing as well.
Therefore, two scores -speaking and listening- should be relatively consistent on the ACCESS test. (Keep in mind, we are not talking about academic language. We are talking about social language. Academic language skills develop later.)
However, if there is a large discrepancy between listening and speaking, there is a possibility that the child may have an expressive or receptive problem. The norm is that listening is higher that speaking - otherwise we can suspect a receptive language issues if speaking is higher than listening. If there is a language disorder in the first language, there will be a language disorder in the second language.
There are of course exceptions to the rule, but essentially, high listening, low speaking with a very large discrepancy is cause for concern.
We all have strengths and weaknesses within our profile. There is a typical trajectory for learning English as a second language, but there are also other factors… home life, organizational issues, attentional obstacles… these factors impact typical trajectory. But they do not indicate a learning disability.
Research has suggested that the following questions should be used to determine if an ELL student’s academic struggles are the result of a learning disability or second language learning:
* Is the student receiving sufficient instruction to enable him/her to make effective academic progress?
*How does the student’s progress in listening, speaking, reading, and writing English
as a second language compare to the expected rate of progress for his or her age
and initial level of English proficiency? (Think! expected/typical second language learning trajectory)
* To what extent are behaviors that might otherwise indicate a learning disability
considered to be normal for the child’s cultural background or to be part of the
process of U.S. acculturation?
* How might additional factors—including socioeconomic status, previous educa-
tion experience, fluency in his or her first language, attitude toward school, atti-
tude toward learning English, and personality attributes—impact the student’s academic progress?
My advice - take all factors into consideration and assess, using culturally responsive assessments that assist in fully determining a student’s needs, when determining an English Language student’s eligibility for Special Education.
Our students’ futures are our responsibility.
By Miss Rae
Reference: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). The Condition of Education 2018 (2018-144), English Language Learners in Public Schools.
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