Monthly Archives: August 2013

Clearing the Air

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teacher

I spent this last week speaking to educators about accommodations and modifications. I gave the same presentations EIGHT times, but every time it was a little different. Even though every group was a little different, there were a few common questions that kept coming up. They were so common that it made me realize this is information that may not be clear for many people, so I’d like to clear a few things up.

First, please remember an accommodation is meant to level the playing field. Accommodations are designed to reduce or even eliminate the effects of a disability. A modification changes the field you’re playing on. This is a fundamental change in the curriculum, or here in Texas, this means you are changing or not expecting mastery of all the TEKS.

A student DOES NOT have to be in Special Education to receive accommodations. Glasses are an accommodation; however glasses do not qualify you for Special Ed. A student may be successful with mild accommodations without the need for Special Ed services. With that being said, most of our Special Ed students DO receive accommodations. So while needing an accommodation does not make you a Special Ed student, if you are a Special Ed student you likely need accommodations. Find out what those are EARLY so you can be prepared to design lessons that meet the needs of ALL the students in your class. You should be getting IEPs (Individual Education Plans) for all your Special Ed students. IF you aren’t find your Special Ed teacher and ask for them!

Paraprofessionals do NOT need to be the ones making the accommodations or modifications. Paraprofessionals are extremely valuable to students, teachers and class environments; however there are limitations to what they should do. As the teacher you should be thinking about the needs of your students while you design lessons and activities and make those accommodations/ modifications ahead of time. It’s all about “frontloading”. For more information about how to most effectively utilize your paraprofessionals look at this TEA approved document: Paraprofessional_2013

When thinking about the classroom setting for your Special Ed students please remember that the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) is, according to Texas guidance, the General Ed classroom. Please see the LRE guidance document. LRE-QA
Least Restrictive Environment is referring to the environment that restricts the student from the General Ed population in the smallest way. That is why the genera Ed classroom is the LRE and anytime you pull from there you are “restricting” the child’s environment. This does NOT mean that ALL students should be in the General Ed classroom all the time. In Fact the guidance document goes on to discuss the continuum of services that is required. But, according to TEA guidance, when you pull from the General Ed classroom you are moving into a more “restrictive” environment even if it is the most appropriate. LRE does NOT refer to the environment in which they are free to move about the room or be louder.

Special Ed students still need to be challenged. So when looking at accommodations, make sure you are still setting limits and pushing your students; EX: extended time does not mean until the END of time. Make sure they know the boundaries. Special Ed students CAN FAIL a class. They have to work just like everyone else. They may need a different approach, change in content or material, but there still has to be a standard. If you have questions about grading for a Special Ed student talk with your administrator, your district should have grading policies. For the most part, those will also apply to your Special Ed students. There may be rare instances when they are adjusted, but that should be discussed on a case by case base.

Bottom line, know your students. As educators we are here to help ALL kids be successful in academics, but also in life. That’s a big job, so take it one kid and one day at a time. Have a great school year.

Here’s to a Fresh Start!

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appleSummer is almost over. Some are anxious to get back to school, back to the routine that they so comfortably fall into. Teachers ready to teacher, parents ready for kids to learn and yes some kids are even ready to get back to the pace of the school day. But some, teachers/parents/kids, don’t look at the school year with great expectations. There are many barriers that could kill a successful school year before it even starts.

1. Transition: Not everyone transitions smoothly into the school year. I’m not just talking about student either. Let’s start with teachers. Some teachers don’t even look at their classroom until the first day of in service. While others are up there weeks in advance preparing their rooms. It all depends on what makes them most comfortable. Parents, consider transition with your students. Some students may need to go visit the school a few times before the first day. Have a calendar on the frig counting down the days. Also, consider starting the routine of getting up earlier a few days before the BIG FIRST DAY. Then sometimes the transition issues are all with the parent. A good example of this is my sister who is sending her son to preschool for the first time. This is causing her some anxiety. The same transition strategies can be effect for adults. Put the big day on a calendar and count down, go see the classroom or school ahead of time and talk to the teachers, practice the change in routine.

2. Teachers: Get to know your students ASAP. (I mean before they even set foot in your room!) Find out who is in Special Ed, 504, RTI, GT, ELL, etc… so you can start a plan for your classroom. Talk to the teachers from last year, pull their permanent file, do some digging. Remember, when thinking about accommodations and modifications, accommodations are meant to level the playing field and modifications change the game. Accommodations do NOT change content, only make it more accessible. Modifications DO change content and MUST be aligned with IEPs. The IEP team or ARD committee make these decisions.

3. Parents: Get to know your child’s teacher. Keep up with what’s going on in class. Make sure your child is doing their homework and getting the help they need. Be friendly to the teacher. Remember they have a WHOLE class of kids. If you have an issue, start by discussing it with the teacher first.

A new school year is a time for new beginnings. Start fresh, with a fresh outlook and a fresh attitude. Good luck and have a great year!

Teacher Trainings

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While students enjoyed the summer vacation many teachers spend days building their teaching skills. Summer is a time for professional development and growth for those of us in education. This is one reason why it is so frustrating to hear, “Teaching is easy, you get all summer off”. Teachers really don’t get ALL summer off.
But professional growth doesn’t stop when the kids enter the classroom. No, that’s when it just begins. Teachers get a new set of students every year and every group brings its own trials and rewards. So this year during the first week while kids are adjusting to teachers and schedules, teachers are also adjusting to kids. On day one teachers start to calculate and make an ever growing list of what they need to educate this diverse population of students. So as you embark on a new school year, let me say Good Luck! You do this for a reason and YOU make the difference.

Now, to offer what I can to help prepare for this new world of new students, here’s a list of some upcoming workshops offered through Region 15 Education Service Center that may help you grow, learn and teach.

9/20- For the new Special Ed teacher’s out there, this is a basic overview of PLAAFPs and IEPs. It is an introduction course designed to give you the knowledge needed to feel comfortable writing PLAAFPs and IEPs, but also to prepare you for the two day more intense workshop offered later in the semester.

9/25- MAKE AND TAKE!! All students need social skills not only to be successful in school, but to be successful in life. But with everything you are required to teach, how do you fit in social skills as well? This workshop will look at easy and effective ways to address social skills on a daily bases as well as specific strategies for your students with more challenging behaviors. You will get a chance to make and take everything needed to implement these strategies the very next day!
You will walk away with a cool down kit, visual timer, brain break games, reward cards, supplies for visual schedules, check in cards, social skills lesson plans and materials to teach the lessons.

10/21 Reading Accommodation Assessment: The PAR or Protocol for Accommodations in Reading is a FREE tool that helps assess the need for reading accommodations. Do students need accommodations? Do they need a text reader or an adult reader? How do I show students what they need? This FREE tool can help with all these questions. ANYONE can give this!! YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE A DIAG OR READING SPECIALIST! This workshop will show you how to use this tool and provide an opportunity to practice.
You will get a bound copy of the PAR assessment that you can use to test with IMMEDIATELY!

11/19 20 Strategies for ANY student!! Teaching is no longer one size fits all. As more students are moved into inclusive settings, teachers face new challenges with how to address the needs of GT, Special Ed, ESL, ELL, slow learners and average performing students all at the same time! This workshop will look at 20 strategies that are effective for engaging and teaching ALL students in ANY classrooms. We will also look at how to imbed these strategies into your differentiated instruction.
You will walk away with Marcia Tate’s book, “Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites,” and the confidence to implement a new engaging strategy the VERY NEXT DAY!

To register or for more information click Region 15 ESC.
Have a Great Year!