"I Can’t Remember or Understand What I Just Read!"
Here’s a teaching strategy to improve recall and overall comprehension of a text:
Begin by asking the students to visualize (imagine, picture) what they read in their heads as they read, stopping periodically to first, model what you are visualizing (“I’m picturing her face looking angry. It’s red and her fists are clenched…”). Ask the students what they are picturing. Stop after each part of the story (beginning, middle, end). At each stopping point, ask the students to verbalize the part (beg., mid., end) as they visualize it. Then, have them draw what they visualized. After reading the whole text, ask students to use their drawings to retell the story’s beginning, middle, and end. Lastly, write a sentence or two next to each picture in order to produce a complete retelling. (Tip: For added support, give students sentence frames… i.e. In the beginning, ___.)
The text can be read round robin style of reading with a small group or as a mini-lesson with the whole class.
Scaffold the approach by gradually releasing responsibility (i.e. allow the student to identify the beginning, middle and end, instead of explicitly stating it and determining it for students).
You can also use this approach with non-fiction. Vary the strategy by stopping after reading each section, and model what you visualized (i.e. “I pictured the frog in my head changing from an egg to a…”). Ask the students what they pictured. Then, have them draw what they visualized. After reading the whole text, ask students to use their drawings to retell the main idea and supporting details. Lastly, write a sentence or two next to each picture in order to produce a complete retelling. (Tip: For added support, give students sentence frames… i.e. Frogs change from ___.)
Check out my "See & Say" Reading Comprehension Strategy:
AND compatible graphic organizer for retellings...
Tip: I have my students complete retelling sheets after each book we read ...BUT... since paper is a hot commodity along with a teacher's time which can be saved from copying, I place my retelling sheets inside these pockets so I can have them for the ENTIRE school year... yes, you read that correctly!
Some of our students are reading over two years below grade level! This is not only shocking, but can also seem like a daunting task!
So how do we ever get these students to grade level?
We have to create comprehensive guided reading lesson plans.
First, assess your students. Determine their lagging skills.
Students usually fall into two categories for what is holding them back in reading.
The first group are those that struggle with decoding (sounding words out). The second are the students who are unable to summarize, retell, or answer questions about a text. This is the comprehension group.
If your students are struggling with decoding, use a phonics skill lesson plan for short targeted practice. If your students are struggling with comprehension, use a comprehension skill and strategy lesson alongside your guided reading lesson. If students are lagging in both areas, use a daily or weekly integrated plan to target both areas simultaneously.
Students who are typically reading significantly below grade level require an integrated approach to reading, targeting both areas: phonics and comprehension.
Comprehensive guided reading lesson plans should incorporate:
-extensive teacher-student interaction,
-multisensory learning methods,
-all components of reading: decoding (single word accuracy/automaticity), comprehension, vocabulary, sight word, fluency, plus + encoding,
-special emphasis upon mastery of foundational reading skills and...
-independent application of comprehension strategies to help ALL students access the general education curriculum!
Check out some Comprehensive guided reading lesson plans!
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Mentors serve as good examples of skills for our students. Teachers are mentors. Parents are mentors. Books are mentors. No, you did not read that incorrectly!
For centuries, we have been reading aloud to kids. These books serve as mentors for all types of skills.
Mentor texts entered educational lingo as a way to refer to the books that we read aloud to students as models for good writing. Today, we are learning to write non-fiction pieces. First, we will begin by looking at the way good non-fiction writers write by reading one of Gail Gibbons’ science texts! Later, we will practice writing as non-fiction writers. We will share and discuss our trials as we draft!
A few years ago mentor texts reinvigorated as a way to teach students reading skills too. Today, we will be learning about summarizing. We will begin by reading the text Where The Wild Things Are aloud. We will then summarize the story using a graphic organizer. We will do this as a whole group, and then, you will practice the skill using your independent reading books. After that, we will gather together as a group and summarize (no pun intended) what we learned while practicing our skill.
This sounds like an ideal lesson, right?! If I were looking to get observed, this may be the lesson plan I use, right?! Hmmm...but what about Tommy? There is no way he will sit for that long and only have 2 possible movement breaks! And what about Janey? She hates when I read aloud because she can’t sit still and always asks to use the bathroom during read alouds. And now that I think about it, there are always 3 of them that ask for a bathroom break whenever I read. Plus, these days I can only seem to hold their attention for less than five minutes?
Sound like every teacher in the world?
There are always those classes that cause you to let out an audible sigh at the end of every day as you flop your tired body and mind into your chair, only to become quickly overwhelmed by the stacks of to-do’s on your desk!
Today’s learners require a circus act to hold their attention. They have grown up with technology at their fingertips; a world that moves faster than any superhero they have ever known!
Visual mentor texts are a great tool for these learners! They provide a concise context for targeting literacy skills in the form of a visual mentor text which means they hold our students ATTENTION!
Visual Mentor Texts in READING…
You can teach all reading skills from inferencing to theme using Pixar short films.
For example, the Pixar Short Films For the Birds (2000) is a great visual mentor text to teach theme.
A large dopey bird who wants to join in with a group of smaller birds. When he sits on their wire, the smaller birds become angry, pecking the larger bird’s feet. He drops, causing the wire to slingshot. The large bird falls to the ground intact while the smaller birds land minus some feathers! What is the message (Trick: THE MEssage) or theme?
Want to teach the skill of inferencing? One Man Band (2005) is a Pixar Short Films that can be used to teach inferencing AND has the most adorable little girl!
Visual Mentor Texts in WRITING…
Commercials can be another form of visual texts. Watch "Unsung Hero" (Official HD) TVC Thai Life Insurance 2014. The commercial profiles a seemingly poor man who fills his life with good deeds, changing the lives of others and making him rich with happiness! Tell the unsung hero’s story!
AND use visual WORDLESS mentor texts in writing as prompts!
Use visual mentor texts in writing that are lacking a conclusion and write one!
Visual Mentor Texts in SCIENCE…
Use these animations in science! Watch a short and ask: how many simple machines did you notice? What would be impossible in real life?
Watch a portion of the movie Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009) to prompt a discussion about scientists or hypothesis!
Visual Mentor Texts in HISTORY…
Use visual mentor texts in history class. Relate the stories to concepts and people of our past to help make connections.
The Pixar Short Films La Luna (2011) tells the story of a young boy who reaches for the moon. He is unsure of the lead to follow - his father’s or his grandfather’s. The film demonstrates the theme of finding one’s own path and can be related to many great historical leaders (MLK, Amelia Earhart…) and movements (the Underground Railroad, colonization).
Visual Mentor Texts in SEL…
Social Emotional Learning has become a core curriculum for today’s classrooms. As a result, SEL needs to be explicitly taught in isolation AND infused across the curriculum.
Many of the Pixar Short Films examples I have shared have an SEL component.
For the Birds prompts a discussion around bullying, differences, following the crowd, and the list goes on.
One Man Band can incite a discussion around competition.
The perseverance of the main character in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs demonstrates grit!
La Luna is a great example of learning from the past.
Warning! This does NOT mean I want you to throw out your picture books! One of my favorite moments is watching a middle schooler melt into a pile of sweet innocence as a teacher reads aloud one of their childhood favorites!
However, there are those times, when you need a stronger strategy! Because unlike technology, teachers DO have superpowers!
By Miss Rae
There’s at least one student each year who reverses his/her b’s and d’s or just writes uppercase B’s and D’s (well, because that was an easier strategy to learn).
Should teachers be concerned?
Are reversals a sign of dyslexia?
Reversing letters is common until around age 7.
Here are some tricks to reverse reversals…
1. Have students fist pump themselves with their palms facing towards them. Stick their thumbs up and you have a b/d (this is a great indiscreet trick for older students too)
2. Draw a bed with the letters b and d - bd - draw a stick finger person laying down whose head lays down on the b
3. Draw a bat and ball to create a b and a drum with a drum stick for a d
4. Make an uppercase B and then, erase it's top b
5. Practice visual tracking with activities like the one in the image
Practice, practice, practice! But if there is no progress after all of that practice, then, a teacher should be concerned.
If dyslexia is the reason for the letter reversals, teachers may also note that students struggle with letter and number sequencing.
And a word of caution... there is no evidence to suggest letter reversals are more common among dyslexic children, compared to same-aged peers learning how to read and write; however, it is more so that most children grow out of letter reversals, whereas students with dyslexia may be slower to. AND don't forget to rule out a visual processing disorder.
By Miss Rae
The overarching goal of 21st century education is to equip today’s students with the ability to analyze, evaluate, and create; all of which are the highest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Our states’ standardized testing assesses our students’ capabilities on Bloom’s high-ranking skills of analysis, evaluation, and creation through text-based constructed responses to open ended questions. For example, a student may be asked to explain the relationship between two characters in a text. Directions to this response will include citing evidence from the text to support the student’s answer.
First, a student needs to read and comprehend the text. These are the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Next, the student must analyze the text in relationship to the question and make an evaluation to answer the question. Finally, the student must create a written response that supports his/her claim.
In order to begin building our learners toward mastery of high level educational learning objectives, we must support our students with appropriate and supportive instruction and environments. Think scaffolded supports!
Learners do not just enter our schoolroom doors, equipped with these learning superpowers. Instead, we must teach our students to mastery.
One strategy I keep in my toolkit is teaching students how to explain their reasoning, and here is one way I do that!
First, I prep! I put quotes from our texts on chart paper.
To incorporate some movement for my kinesthetic learners, I hang the quotes around the classroom.
Students are partnered or grouped. They are then given 7 minutes at each quote. They must use this time to...
-read the quote
-discuss its meaning
-narrow the meaning down to one sentence
-write the meaning down, and finally…
-support your answer with textual evidence.
This activity allows my students to master the learning process with the support of their fellow learners, wrestle and engage with the curriculum, learn to work in a cooperative learning group, and own and guide their own learning, AND I get to use my doorbell for transition times!
What are some ways that you teach students how to analyze and explain their learning?
~By Miss Rae
Remember being a little kid with visions of your future classroom dancing in your head Your nameplate sits atop your desk facing your happy little students, while the sun, beaming through the massive windows, brilliantly lights the shiny red apple sitting in the center of your large desk calendar, as the centerpiece to your brightly colored classroom!
And then, you grow up!
So maybe your dream hasn’t changed. You still want your classroom to be Pinterest-Perfect Ready, but you also have bills to pay (oh, and something called a life outside of work!).
Get your Pinterest-Perfect Classroom for Pennies with these tips!
ONE: Painted Jars
Add some color to your classroom with some painted Mason Jars.
Re-use sauce jars or buy some Mason Jars. Buy some craft paint, pour a some paint in the jar, cap the jar, and shake!
Use them as desk decor for scissors, pens, pencils, and more OR as vases!
Posters are a quick way to decorate! Use them to motivate your students or share positive messages!
Make your own:
Download free posters from the Internet or Etsy.
Mount the posters onto scrapbook paper or construction paper for some added color OR frame them with Dollar Store frames!
THREE: Get Your Craft On!
Make your own Welcome Sign:
Decorate with scrapbook flowers:
And many of the chain craft stores offer teacher discounts when you show your teacher ID too!
FOUR: Fake Flowers
A cheap and easy way to add color ALL year long is to bring in some fake flowers! And as an added bonus, they don’t require any care!
Use the painted jars as vases!
FIVE: Decorate Like It’s a Holiday All Year Long
Get window clings during every holiday at your local Dollar Store, and wahlah! You are decorated all year!
Light up your room!
Use a doorbell to get your students’ attention, but spice it up by changing up the tunes!
Classroom Transformations have taken over social media! And some of them are amazing! But at the end of the day, you remember how someone makes you feel!
By: Miss Rae
There are a few tools that EVERY Special Education teacher should have on hand… a candy bar for tough days, a few dollars in your drawer for all of those EXTRA donations, some mints to pop before a meeting, a trusted colleague whose on hand for venting without judgment, and the list goes on…
But there are only TWO Must Have Special Education Teacher Tools for Teaching Reading!
ONE: A Drawer Full of Tools!
Every guided reading table needs to have a drawer full of tools on hand!
Fill your drawer with the best supports for your students’ needs.
Special Education teaching tools should allow Special Education students to easily access the general education curriculum!
Here are the TOOLS my DRAWER is stocked with:
-Guided Reading Strips
-Creepy Witch Fingers or any gimmicky tool for tracking
to strengthen visual tracking for fluency and decoding!
-Strategy cards (decoding and comprehension)
to reinforce and support learned strategies!
-Comprehension discussion cards or sticks
to increase oral discussion and promote text comprehension!
Sight Word flashcards
to learn and practice decoding and word reading for fluency!
-Paper graphic organizers
-Pencils, notebooks or paper, and BIG erasers
to support varying instructional activities from practice to assessment!
to support encoding (spelling) through a multisensory activity!
because what isn’t more engaging than writing your sight words in shaving cream?!
I also keep cookie sheets with magnet letters to practice encoding (spelling) on top of my drawer along with any assistive tech devices!
TWO: A Guided Reading Binder
A Guided Reading Tool Binder allows a teacher to easily plan for varied multi-sensory activities without copying, reinventing the wheel, or spending more time creating or buying on learning games.
A Guided Reading Tool Binder can also keep differentiated tools on hand for each learner’s needs.
A Guided Reading Tool Binder should include...
-Lesson plan formats for specialized programs
-Scope and sequence charts for specialized programs
to support a teacher’s own learning - and remembering!
-Checklist of reading behaviors
to notice, teach, and support at each reading level for instructional planning and progress monitoring!
Make 5-6 copies (enough for each student in a small group to have his/her own) and place the following in top loading sheet protectors. Students can write on these with dry erase markers and erase for re-use.
to practice encoding using word chains for spelling...
(at - cat - scat)
or to increase vocabulary!
(write the word at - add one letter to at to spell a word for an animal that purrs - add a letter to cat to create a word that means to run away)
to sort dictated words by spelling patterns to support phonics skills!
-Elkonin sound boxes
to build phonological awareness!
-Word Sort Mats
to increase phonics skills!
-Word detective charts
where students hunt and locate specific words or word patterns in texts to reinforce learned phonics skills! Words are recorded along with the page number of their location.
-Graphic organizers that can be used for all texts
to promote comprehension!
Pull out any of your drawer or binder tools as instructional supports within your lesson plan, to increase engagement, AND as time fillers - if you are ever lucky enough to get through everything you planned AND have extra time!
(Disclaimer: If you are one of the lucky few who is a traveling teacher, carry your tools in a supply caddy or a bag that can be easily organizer.)
~By Miss Rae
The most important component of special education - next to the students - is the data!
Data is a special educator's lifeline.
We employ data for eligibility determinations. We use it to monitor progress toward a student's IEP goals. We use it to set goals for students, determine extended year programming, report at meetings, and qualify our statements in meetings and on special education documents. We need the data to justify the TEAM's decision about a student's plan.
We know the importance of data.
The hard part is tracking it!
Here's how I do it?
I review at my students’ IEP goals and objectives. During this process, I pair each objective with an assessment. For example, if a student has a sight word reading goal using the Fry Word List, I pull out the Fry Word List.
When I’m finished pairing assessments, I set a schedule for each probe. I typically begin the year with a full battery of assessments to obtain a baseline for a student’s goals and objectives. Some objectives are then tested weekly. For example, I will complete a weekly running record on a student’s reading. Other objectives I may assess monthly. This may be a student’s writing objective regarding a narrative piece of writing. As a result, I will plan to have a completed narrative writing piece once per month. I put this schedule into my Google Calendar and check this step off of my To Do List!
I organize my students’ goals and objectives along with the assessments I have chosen for each on tracking forms. All forms contain a student’s name, goal(s), and objectives. The forms, then, vary by the assessment schedule. For example, some goals and/or objectives may need a spot for weekly tracking while others may need a monthly.
When a student is assessed, I record the score (AKA the data) directly onto the form along with the date. This keeps my data all on one form that I can pull out on the spot when it is needed.
So, if a parent states “Ben says he completes all of his work, but you lose it,” you can pull out your trusty form with evidence that Ben has completed 30 percent of his assignments in the last month.
Or when it’s time to write Special Education progress reports, you don’t have to dread it. The data is at your fingertips.
The tool I use for this is my IEP Data Collection Progress Monitoring Forms and Cards for this.
You can grab my IEP Data Collection Progress Monitoring Forms and Cards from Miss Rae’s Room Teachers Pay Teachers Store HERE!
If you need to track behavioral data, check out my BEHAVIOR Data Tracking Forms & Points Sheets!
I break out the three-hole punch and get wild! I keep all of my tracking forms in a binder (because I grew up in the 80s, okay?!).
When my caseload is on the small side, it makes my life easier to organize my binder sections by student. In this way, when I need my data for a particular student, I can quickly find it, and I don’t have to flip from section to section when I am writing reports.
However, as caseloads sometimes grow over the years, it has become more efficient to have the sections organized by assessments. So when my Google Calendar alerts me that I need to test math fact fluency, I can quickly flip to the section containing the sight word assessments and tracking forms for that probe.
I also keep reference sheets in my binder for easy access. For example, I always keep a reference page that correlates reading levels from Fountas and Pinnell to Reading A-Z to lexile levels.
Some data needs to be tracked more frequently. For example, lagging skills in executive functioning, behavior, attention, and social emotional capacities often needs to be tracked within a 30 minute time period or during one subject area.
The binder can become too cumbersome when to employ for frequent data tracking. Often times, I clip my forms to clipboards for easy access. The forms I use can be copied onto cardstock and cut smaller to be placed on a key rings for easy access as well.
If I have access to an iPad or tablet, I use Google Forms. You can make a simple form that enables you to just hit a button each time the data needs to be recorded. Google Forms will save the data, and when needed, Google Forms will compile the data into one spreadsheet for analysis when it’s needed.
And there you have it!
Your data is tracked! Now, you can continue on with just being a teaching rockstar! ;)
~By Miss Rae
Check out The BEST Special Education Teacher Binder with FREE updates for life to get ALL things Special Education including DATA TRACKING form options!
What are some other ways to track data?
The bell rings, and in walk the students.
Chris and Jordy are already arguing, completely ignoring your instructions.
"I didn't do my homework. Did my mom email you? She said she doesn't like the homework and I don't have to do it," Sam asserts upon entrance.
Kiana is tugging on your sleeve, "Miss, I need to talk to you NOW!" She gives you the eyes!
"Phone is ringing," Eric yells as he walks into the room.
A chair crashes to the floor from an angry Kim who has slammed her fists onto the desk, and then, walks out before class has begun.
You get to the phone just in time for it to stop ringing.
So you try...
“Boys and girls?”
“Okay, let’s focus.”
This phrase drives me crazy! First, you are the adult. You shouldn’t have to wait! Second, what kid doesn’t want you to wait while they finish having fun?
This is a terrible strategy!
The scenario above is going to happen! We all these moments, days, and days of these moments! And it's okay to have one of these "days", but they do not need to be the definition of your classroom!
Classroom routines and procedures should be established and practiced at the beginning of the school year! Expectations around procedures should also be established at the beginning of the school year AND reviewed periodically throughout the year!
As long as we are consistent, our classrooms should be well oiled machines, right?!
While I do like to think of myself as the QUEEN of my classroom, I just honestly don’t have that kind of power.
Things are going to happen that are beyond our control. That’s teaching!
But we can’t just WAIT to get students’ attention! I’m sure they would love for us to wait!
Once we have things back under control, we have to regain our students’ focus immediately.
So, how do we do that? Here are some tips and tricks that I use!
#1 Ding, Dong!
My doorbell has to be my Number One because it is foolproof!
It is my best trick for gaining my students’ attention, AND it is also engaging, versatile, and CHEAP! (What more can a teacher ask for?!)
I purchased the doorbell online! I keep the buzzer in my pocket or just lying on my desk, and I press it when I want the kids' attention.
It totally works!
I also had some fun with it when I first got it! Much like a game of ‘Where’s Waldo?’, my students searched for weeks to answer “Where is that noise coming from?!” A few of them found the doorbell’s hiding spot (a plug behind a bookcase), but they continued to let the other students’ play detective!
My doorbell also doubles as a signal to transition! For example, when we are rotating through editing stations or centers, I use press my buzzer. The first time the doorbell rings, I alert them to an upcoming transition: “One more minute.” The second time the students hear it, they move to their next location.
#2 Wordly Whispers
Improve your students’ vocabulary AND keep them on their toes!
Teach your students a word. Practice saying the word. Define the word. Use the word in sentences. Then, use the word as your attention getting signal.
My students have a set of vocabulary words that they dissect, manipulate, and employ each week. Daily, I choose one of these words to be my Word of the Day. When students hear me say the Word of the Day, they know to freeze in place, turn their voices off, and put their eyes on me.
First, we use the Word of the Day in a sentence. Typically, I will model the word’s usage in a sentence for the first time we use a word. Students, then, generate sentences each time thereafter that I say the word.
After using the Word of the Day in a sentence, I will proceed with the instructions or transition, depending on the reason that I had asked for the students’ attention.
Students will be listening and waiting to hear the word! As a result, they will tune into the sound of your voice each time you address them.
#3 Let Me Get a Chant!
Chants are fun and can help improve oral language! Plus, it gets the entire class involved, and a little team building can go a long way!
Call-and-response strategies are utilized by the military to churches, and for our purposes, classrooms! This is when students respond verbally in unison with an identical saying to a teacher’s ‘call’.
Here are a few examples!
Teacher: Zip, zip, zap!
Students: We’re all that!
Teacher: Everyone in the house
Students: is quiet as a mouse.
Teacher: 1, 2, 3, eyes on me.
Students: 1, 2, eyes on you.
Teacher: 1, 2
Students: eyes on you.
Teacher: 1, 2
Students: eyes on you.
Teacher: 3, 4
Students: talk no more.
Teacher: L - I - S
Students: T - E - N
Whichever chant you choose, I would suggest having it as a written visual for your students as well. The visual will serve as a reminder of the expectation AND act as a literacy resource within your room!
If your kiddos do not have oral language, use claps! Make pattern calls and pattern responses!
These are a few tips for getting your students attention, but there are millions of attention-getting tricks!
~By Miss Rae
What are some other ways to get our kiddos’ attention?
Hi! I'm Miss Rae! I'm a Special Education Coordinator with a passion for creating research-based resources for DiVeRSe learners.