Homework System

Last week Quarter 1 ended and we had our first “Homework Party.” This is something I have not done in the past but decided that rather than punish incomplete homework with missed recess or another unrelated consequence, I would reward complete homework. It made is so much less stressful for me because the focus changed from who did not do their homework to who did their homework and believe it or not, all students did their homework!

I believe fully in positive behavior reinforcement and have given professional development presentations to many teachers about why this is the best approach. People may argue that kids need the intrinsic motivation to do well in school, but guess what, even we as adults are rewarded for our work, it is called a paycheck. And while my job is not just a paycheck, not at all, it is the basic idea of a “reward” for work done. In addition, working towards a “Homework Party” is similar to many end of project celebrations or “wrap parties” that many professions have. Here are some links to articles about rewards and motivation.

At the start of the year I decided on a reasonable expectation for homework completion, 90% of work completed (I was not going to require 100% because unexpected things happen.) Believe it or not, I had many 100% complete students throughout the term. I shared with the kids the system and they were excited. I gave them a choice of rewards and an ice cream party was decided on. Not only was the intervention effective, it was fun. I would also be interested to see if this system had any influence on the homework routine at home. Maybe I will survey the parents. 

Although I was sick that day, I have photo proof that the kids had fun and celebrated work well done! More photos here.


Teaching Strategy: Vocabulary Building

I read the article “Four Practical Principles for Enhancing Vocabulary Instruction” from The Reading Teacher to help find strategies to strengthen the vocabulary of my students learning English. The article states that many children face a large vocabulary deficit when coming in to school and that schools have had difficulty bridging that gap.

Photo Credit: http://goo.gl/8DDWiq

Photo Credit: http://goo.gl/8DDWiq

The article gave some concrete strategies for explicitly teaching words using a multifaceted approach. First, students need to be taught words, word finding strategies and word consciousness. Second, the instruction for teaching words should vary depending on the nature of the words. For example, some words, primarily nouns, are easily understood using visual representations while other words need a large foundation of knowledge building to understand and your teaching method should match. Third, vocabulary instruction should move away from using dictionary based definitions and instead be focused on putting words in context, using multiple examples and helping students develop their understanding.

As a result of the article I have incorporated a routine into my class once per week that teaches 4-6 words explicitly. I use my promethian board and create slideshows each week depending on the words that students have put on the whiteboard into the “Words to Know” box. Then I create a presentation using the following pattern: slide 1- words in a sentence the students can understand, slide 2- part of speech and definition in kid friendly language, slide 3- picture that represents the word. The students the write one sentence to show that they understand the word.

It is going well and the kids really enjoy it. In fact, the even clapped after the second lesson and love doing it. The key is that you make it a routine and don’t spend too much time on it. I am taking about 10 minutes to teach specific vocabulary each week and so far, it is working really well.

2014-2015 SMART Goals

  • I will seek out a way to get official IB training in Exhibition and attend. I will take the knowledge and apply it this year. As a new fifth grade teacher I feel this is my most pressing goal.
  • I will read one strategy/chapter in a professional development book of from a professional development periodical every two weeks and take notes in my professional journal. After reading a strategy I will implement the strategy in my class at least twice in two weeks.
  • As a new teacher at the school I will read the SIOP manual and implement strategies in my teaching once a week.
  • I will partner teach with Skye and we will plan activities at least once per week together where our classes meet and we co-teach.
  • I will develop my skills as a behavior coach and offer my skills to the school and my colleagues. I will work with others who have behavior management as their SMART goal as well.

Teachers Ask, Teachers Tell

I was informed about this great little sight Teachers Ask, Teachers Tell and wanted to support it and pass it along. The idea is that it is a forum for teachers to ask questions on the blog and then get answers from fellow teachers. The author, Katie, is a huge fan of blogs, like me, and thought of this great idea. I thought it would be not only cool but important to pass along, because the more people using it, the better it will be.

I will definitely be using it and chiming in from Tanzania, especially since this is my first official year back in general ed. Just perfect….thanks Katie!


Strategies for Supporting English Language Learners with Grade Level Curriculum

As I prepare for my journey to Tanzania, I am faced with the reality that many of the students in my classroom will be children who are emerging English language learners and yet, will be expected to learn content at grade level. There are many strategies to support those students with the acquisition of the core curriculum without watering down the concepts. students_&_teacher_4

Below are some suggestions that teachers can use to support these learners.

  • Elaborated Speech: Use a slower speech rate, clearer enunciation, controlled vocabulary and limited idiomatic speech. Pre-teach vocabulary and define words that have more than one meaning. Face the targeted students when speaking, use animated facial expressions to emphasize ideas and offer wait time before requesting an answer to a question.
  • Bridging: Connect the new concept to something the student is familiar with. It is good to use an example from the students native culture. Examines what the students already know about the topic and what they would like to learn. This helps to focus the instruction based on specific student need and engage them in the topic.
  • Modeling: Give clear expectations and an example of performance during a brief demonstration. Use scaffolding to introduce and elaborate on new topics.
  • Contextualizing: Use many different methods to help students explore the content area, engage them in collaborative activities, and provide real life references from many outlets such as media, posters, photos, ect.
  • Multisensory Teaching: Use manipulatives, props, hands-on activities and different media sources to engage all students.
  • Various Input: Present a framework to build new information using a variety of graphic organizers and advanced organizers for direct teaching. Use word banks with visual representations of the words, maps, bulletin boards and many different examples and analogies.
  • Reframing: Revisit material with a meaningful activity and teach concepts across different contexts and subject areas.
  • Checking for Comprehension: Use many different methods such as thumbs up/down, whiteboards, hand signals and group responding to check for comprehension throughout the lesson. Use confirmation checks, clarification requests, repetition and a variety of questioning methods including open-ended questions that may have more than one response.
  • Monitoring and Assessing: Use on-going assessment and collects products using a variety of modalities. Review the main vocabulary and concepts often. Use error correction strategies in the moment through modeling to correct responses immediately.
  • Gain Feedback: Seek out feedback on your teaching methods from students, families, peers and supervisors to help you determine what is working well and to gain any suggestions to make your teaching better. Remember, you can always grow as a teacher and there are numerous opportunities for growth.

Adapted from “Sheltered Lesson Observation Checklist” by Constance O. Williams and “Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English (SDAIE) For Language Minority Students” by Michael Genzuk


Free Apps in Honor of Autism Awareness Month

For the entire month of April, in honor of Autism Awareness Month, kindergarten.com is giving away 24 free apps on iTunes. The apps are ABA flashcards and follow the verbal behavior model. The pictures on the flashcards are true photos and real to life. There are many different things you can do with these when working with your child or student. I have downloaded all of them and wish that today was not my last day at TLC; I really could have used these with my students.

Please pass this along to anyone who might be interested.

Cheers and happy flashcarding!


Flying with Children with Autism

While having dinner tonight with a family from Cody’s classroom I thought of my next blog post to help families of children with disabilities. Miss J. talked about her upcoming flight with E. and I thought I would compile some advice for all of those parents out there looking anxiously toward their first flight with their child.

indexAs a teacher of students with disabilities, I know how important preparation and planning is. If you plan ahead and anticipate some of the challenges, you will be better off in the long run. Here is some advice about how to make your travel experience a better one for both you and your child.

  • Think about the challenges your child has in everyday life out in the community aside from the challenges airport and airplanes bring. Write them down and try to target a few of those areas before your trip. For example, does your child cover their ears around loud noises, shy away from bright lights, have trouble waiting or have trouble with unfamiliar people next to them. Think of some solutions and try them out ahead of time. You could have ear plugs or sunglasses ready, prepare preferred activities for the child to do while waiting, or make a plan with your family about who will be on the left and right of your child so that they are not surrounded by unfamiliar strangers.
  • Do some trial runs. If you are going to be taking taxi’s or public transportation to or from the airport, take some similar trips in your hometown to see how your child does and plan for any problems that may come up. Go to the airport and spend some time sitting and waiting with them to see how they do. Walk around the airport so it becomes a familiar place.
  • Practice having your child sit in the same place for long periods of time and try to keep them engaged in an activity. Each day, try to extend the time they are expected to sit by a little bit and gradually build up to the time they will be required to sit on the plane.
  • Prepare materials for your child that will help them during the trip and make their day as close to their normal routine as possible. Make a social story about plane travel or bring along any materials that they use in their daily life and use these items on the trip to ensure consistency. For example, does your child use a picture schedule? Make one specific to the trip addressing each step of the flight process. Does your child use a token board? Bring it along and use it in the airport or on the flight.
  • Create an information card about your child and autism in case you have any intruding strangers. Include what autism is, what they can do to help, ect. You can download and use the card found at the bottom of this website.
  • Make sure that your child carries identification and contact information with them at all times and carry with you a current photo of your child in the unfortunate event that anything happens.
  • Bring some highly preferred items and only use them only if you have too. Have a few surprises up your sleeve.
  • Take along many favorite activities for your child to do while waiting and sitting on the plane. Bring books, snacks, games, toys, pictures, ect.
  • Choose the most comfortable clothes for your child and bring along a favorite blanket or pillow. Bring an extra change of clothes just in case.
  • For their first flight, go somewhere close by to ensure a short trip. Make the visit to somewhere familiar to the student so there are not too many changes at once.
  • Call your airline ahead of the flight and seek support from the airline staff. Inform them of your child’s needs and request ways that they may be able to assist you. Explain to them some challenging behaviors they may see so that they are not surprised and more willing to help should anything happen.
  • Request that you get on the plane first to ensure that you have plenty of time to get settled.
  • Relax, have fun, take lots of pictures and remember, you are on vacation!

More information can be found here:

Preparing for a Successful Parent-Teacher Conference

imagesIt is that time again, the dreaded parent-teacher conference, or as I like to call them (especially after working in a low socioeconomic-status area in the US) care provider-teacher conferences. While at the University, we had many classes that covered this topic…. creating successful meetings between you as a teacher and the care providers of the children you teach. I am happy to state (with my mouth agape) that, while in Malaysia, all of my meetings have gone extremely well. In my opinion, at least.

I have asked myself, especially with such a positive experience in Malaysia, why can things go so bad? In the US, boy did I have some rough meetings. The circumstances creating all of these difficult meetings is a post for another time, and hopefully I will provide some insight into the differences between being a teacher in the US and in Malaysia at some later date.

With that said, I want to give some advice for teachers to help facilitate a successful care provider-teacher meeting. As an administrator for 4 years in the US, I not only had to chair pleasant meetings, but challenging meetings too. Often these were IEP meetings had anywhere from 5-15 people present. Over the years, I have learned some great strategies for facilitating a positive meeting with care providers.

Prior to the meeting, teachers should:

  • Seek care provider input when scheduling meetings. Be flexible and prepared to meet before or after school hours to accommodate care provider schedules.
  • Send home an agenda and any reports that will be reviewed.
  • Ask care providers to email or write a note to you about any specific questions they want to cover during the meeting.
  • Mention any specific things you want to cover that may be sensitive topics or challenges, prior to the meeting so care providers are not taken by surprise when you bring it up. For example, “Miss Rorey, I want to let you know that at the meeting we will be discussing the sensitive topic of Cody’s aggressive behavior. At the meeting I want to take some time to provide you information about what is happening in class and brainstorming some strategies with you for school and home. I just wanted to inform you ahead of time so that you are  prepared.”)
  • Call or send a message about two days early reminding care providers of the meeting.
  • Decide if the student will be present for the meeting. If the student is older and it is an IEP meeting, I encourage you to include them, even if for just a short part of the meeting.
  • Set-up the room so that the caregivers are seated on equal level as the teacher and in comfortable, normal size chairs (if possible.)
  • Have reports proofread, copied and ready to hand out. If you are unsure of how many people are coming, make a few extra copies.
  • Prepare student work samples to show care providers the work that is done in class. Use a variety of activity samples and include average work, not only the best work.
  • Be prepared. Know your stuff. Practice if needed. Review and discuss difficult topics with colleagues. Get an outsiders opinion on something that you are unsure about before sharing it with care providers.

During the meeting teachers should:

  • Relax. If you follow the above suggestions, there will be less stress on the day of the meeting and this will put both you and the meeting team at ease.
  • Welcome care providers with smiles, ask them to be seated and conduct introductions of everyone present.
  • Take notes. Write down agreements, assignments and time lines.
  • Start with the meeting by mentioning positive, unique things that the child brings to the classroom. Mention improvements you have seen over time.
  • Show examples of student work that corresponds with what is being reviewed and discussed.
  • Summarize reports and show the data to back up what you are reporting. Do not read the report.
  • Provide descriptions of student behavior and performance objectively without bias.
  • Before moving to another topic, ask care providers for input or ask if they have any questions.
  • Refrain from using educational jargon and acronyms. Explain everything in detail, but do not talk down to care providers. They are not only adults, but the ultimate expert when it comes to their child.
  • Do not point fingers or blame parents. Instead, state a challenge, discuss what you have tried already and brainstorm additional ideas to try together.
  • End on a positive note.
  • As the meeting comes to a close, review the notes. Be sure to review any assignments, tasks or agreements and expected time frames.
  • Schedule a follow-up meeting if necessary.
  • Make copies of the notes and pass them out.

After the meeting, teachers should:

  • Follow up with assigned tasks and check in with others who had assigned tasks too. If necessary, once a task is completed, notify the team of the outcome.
  • After about 3-4 weeks, provide information to the care provider about any new strategies implemented and how the student is progressing.
  • Take data so that when you have to write the next report, the data is there and just needs to be analyzed and summarized.

Happy World Autism Awareness Day, April 2, 2011

Logo_WAADThis morning Cody and I woke up bright and early for the NASOM Walk for Autism. It was a great event and we saw many supporters participating in the activity. We even met up with a student and their family for the walk.

Today’s World Autism Awareness Day is the fourth annual and there were many events worldwide that helped raise awareness and money for organizations supporting people with autism and their families. The best thing you can do to help is educate yourself about autism. You can learn more information here or join up with an organization supporting individuals with autism at Autism Speaks and the Interactive Autism Network Exchange. There are also many local groups throughout many countries all over the world and you can find a list here.

Teaching Paperless

imagesHave you ever left your classroom looking like this at the end of the day? Have you ever considered bringing in a rescue dog? Well, I am a rather neat teacher and yet, sometimes the piles of paper on my desk get a little too big.

There are numerous resources for “teaching paperless” on my RSS feed almost every day.  This concept intrigues me. In preparing for my job at IST, I have been doing as much work ahead of time as possible without knowing just was grade I will be teaching. As I find myself doing this, I am toying with the idea of running a “closer to paperless” classroom.

Some of the benefits of a paperless classroom include:

  • using technology to stay current, relevant and organized
  • helping to save paper and support the environmental movement
  • saving district, school and classroom budgets by cutting back on paper and copying costs
  • saving time needed to copy and distribute papers to students and families
  • share ideas and lessons digitally not only with my classroom, but with collaborators on the web

Some of the challenges:

  • making sure students and families have access to the internet
  • planning for what to do if students and families do not have the internet
  • ensuring that all families and students get the information
  • keeping up with current technology

Although I know that my first year of teaching general education is going to be extremely challenging and I do not feel that I will be able to run a fully paperless classroom (can anyone?) I am going to try my best to incorporate as many paperless resources and ideas as possible.

As I continue to prepare and find resources, I will use this blog to share some great tools that I find with all of you. If you have any great resources to pass along to me, please feel free to help and support this goal I have set for myself.

Links to ideas for moving closer to a “paperless classroom.”