Being a Special Educator is similar to choreographing a three-ring circus! The art of juggling should be a required course in Special Education educator prep programs.
From IEP writing to teaching to presenting at IEP meetings to many, many more important tasks, Special Educators must be skilled at varying and many areas of expertise; however, one aspect can be the most difficult to manage: PROGRESS MONITORING
The data is one of the single most paramount competencies of the field of Special Education; thus, data collection is one of the most critical skills a Special Education teacher can possess.
Without evidence, we just have beliefs, and beliefs do not hold up in court (remember IEPs are legal documents).
Data collection, on the other hand, can be annoying and cumbersome. Who wants to interrupt teaching to assess? And don’t we assess these poor kids enough?
As a result, then, assessment should be seamlessly integrated into teaching (and/or daily routines); but how do you do this when your “small groups” have varying IEP goals and objectives?
However, even if I have 10 students with 3 working on comprehension, 3 working on phonics, 2 working on vocabulary, and 2 working on fluency, they are at least all working on the subject area of reading.
So no problem!
There are five facets of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, and word study, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.
As a result, all of the students in your reading groups will have IEP goals that fall within one of the subcategories of reading.
The first step, then, is to identify one assessment tool that can evaluate ALL students in ALL areas of reading.
The solution to all of these issues is employing what I call Reading Rubrics!
You can check them out HERE!
Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, and Word Study
Reading Rubrics expand on the tool of a running record.
As students are reading aloud, collect data on the section they read.
Write down the student’s errors AND mark the section the student read. But, first, record the text level of the passage being read aloud.
This will not interrupt the flow of the lesson or the teaching AND it can be done for each student in the reading group without pause.
Later, convert the number of words a student read correctly into a percentage for word reading accuracy. For example, if you wrote down 10 words that were read incorrectly and 30 words were read in total, subtract the total number of words read incorrectly (errors) from the number of running words in the text. So, 30 - 10 = 20. Then, divide the answer (words read correctly) by the total number of running words or words read. So, 20 divided by 30 equals 67 percent.
Word accuracy can help determine a student’s reading level:
Easy Text: 96-100% accuracy
Instructional Text: 90-95% accuracy
Hard Text: below 90% accuracy
Running records, not only provide educators with word reading accuracy, they are also a tool for identifying error patterns. Therefore, take time to analyze the errors a student made when reading words. For example, did a student read the words with /ed/ endings incorrectly?
Analyze a student’s reading thoughts on what sources s/he is utilizing for word reading accuracy.
Is the reader using meaning cues, structural cues, or visual cues?
While a student is reading, use a timer to gain a fluency score for a student. How many words does the student read accurately in one minute?
The Hasbrouck-Tindal oral reading fluency chart is a good tool for grade level fluency standards. The chart correlates oral reading fluency rates of students in grades 1 through 8, as determined by data collected by Jan Hasbrouck and Gerald Tindal to grade level expectations.
Vocabulary and Comprehension
When a student has finished reading a text aloud, quickly assess his/her oral reading comprehension.
Tell me about what you read. What was the setting? Who are the characters? What does this word mean in the text? What is the problem? Why was this a problem for the character? Did the characters try to solve the problem? How?
Note the level of prompting that the teacher provided.
Record the students level of comprehension on both literal and inferential questions.
The answers will enable the teacher to subjectively assess a student’s general understanding of the text.
Here's a quick video on how I use RUNNING RECORDS with my students!
While all of this data will not provide enough for evaluation purposes, Reading Rubrics will act as instructional tools AND data collection tools for progress reporting toward IEP goals!
~ By Miss Rae
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Special Education teachers have been entrusted with two goals for their instruction:
#1 Special Education teachers will target students’ lagging skills to close the achievement gap.
#2 Special Education teachers will provide intervention to facilitate access to grade level skills.
I don’t know about you, but my diploma had my name on it; not Harry Houdini’s! We are not magicians!
So how do we achieve our educator goals while helping our students achieve their learning goals?
Special Education students are considered to be Tier 3 students on the Response to Intervention (RTI) model. Tier 3 is the most intense level. Students with disabilities should receive individualized, intensive intervention in the area of the identified disability in order to accelerate progress toward an ability to independently access grade level standards.
When a student is receiving special education supports, he/she should be receiving explicit direct targeted instruction of lagging skills as well as strategies to help them access the general education curriculum in order to close the achievement gap AND enable Special Education students to gain independence with their learning disability.
So how do we lesson plan for our special education students?
All Special Education instruction should include targeted skill instruction, strategy instruction, and applied practice.
Targeted Skill Instruction
Targeted Skill Instruction means direct and explicit teaching of a student’s lagging skills. This instruction incorporates a variety of research-based strategies and varying teacher to student-centered instruction.
Special Education teachers must directly and explicitly teach the skills that are required for a student to move to the next level of learning. There is a hierarchy to our learning standards. Special Education students’ foundational competencies are often areas of deficit.
For example, if a student is a struggling reader, this portion of the lesson may teach phonics skills for decoding. There may be time spent on decoding words in isolation.
Typically, skill instruction is supported with scientifically-based systematic, multisensory instructional programs for Special Education students.
Special Education students, specifically those diagnosed with a learning disability, learn best with strategies.
Think of strategies as scaffolded supports. You are teaching a trick to a student. This trick enables him/her to access the general education curriculum independently!
Scaffolded supports should enable students to gain greater independence in their learning.
For example, when instructing my students on how to respond to a text-based question, I teach them the RACE strategy. This response strategy helps them articulate their ideas into written form. It also enables them to connect their thinking to the text.
RACE = Restate, Answer, Cite the evidence, Explain the evidence
Students begin by Restating (Race) the question. For this, they learn TTQA (Turn That Question Around). This is another strategy.
Next, students Answer the question (rAce).
After answering the question, students Cite textual evidence that supports their answer (raCe).
Finally, they Explain how this evidence supports their answer (racE).
Strategies like TTQA and RACE provide students with tools for independently accessing academic content.
Begin with the skill, teach the strategy, and then, allow student multiple variations of practice and application of the skill, using the strategy until mastery is achieved.
Decades of research has shown the benefits of inclusion on the educational progress of special education students. There is no denying this!
After direct instruction of a strategy, Special Education students should be allowed independent practice with the strategy within the Special Education setting and/or small group setting. Students should also be provided the opportunity to practice the skill in the general education setting. This should lead toward independent and generalized application of the skill!
And once a Special Education student can independently apply strategies to access the general education curriculum, we have achieved our goal as teachers!
Special education students have to work that much harder than the norm. So as special education teachers, we also have to work that much harder. We not only have to teach our students learning strategies for long-term, independent success, but we also have to simultaneously teach grade level standards and remediate lagging skills to close the gap!
I tell my students they have to work that much harder. And it’s not an excuse. It’s just what it is. You have to work harder to achieve. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It just proves you’re that much stronger. That much braver. And it means that much more when you achieve!
~By Miss Rae
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Motivate your students with these FREE WORK HARD! PLAY HARD! LEARN HARD! posters AND use them as conversation starters.
Hi! I'm Miss Rae! I'm a Special Education Coordinator with a passion for creating research-based resources for DiVeRSe learners and helping teachers make their lives easier! #teacherrealtalk #missraesroom