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So you're a special education teacher! You have your elementary class and now you have all these students to teach to read.
 Now it comes to deciding and choosing what reading materials you will use with your kids.
How do you pick what to use for your kiddos?

Here are 5 things to consider when choosing reading instructional materials.

  1. Look at your kids' needs. What type of learners are they? Know your students! 
What type of disabilities and skills do your students have?
  •  Are they good at memorization? 
  • Do they lack phonetic skills? 
  • Are they strong in vocabulary? 
  • Can they read words fluently? 
  • Do they grasp the meaning of the content they read? 
  • Do they require extensive repetition to grasp concepts? 
  • Are your students good at word calling(i.e, reading the word but not knowing the meaning)?
Keep these answers in mind when you select your materials.

2.  Assess your students if you don't know the answers to these questions. This assessment could be formal or informal. I usually started by administering a sight word test. 
This can be as easy as a checklist of the sight vocabulary your students need to learn. I frequently used Dolch or Fry, but sometimes I was required to use our districts word lists. Completing an assessment such as this can give a great picture not only about what words they know but how they approach decoding words.
3.   Look for the reading components that match your student needs. What do you need the materials to include and focus on? 
4.  Consider that fluency, comprehension, vocabulary, phonics and phonemic awareness are crucial components of any reading program. They all play an important role in a good reading course.
5.  Look at each student and determine what area(s) they need to focus on the most. Decide which series, programs will answer each students needs the most.
Let's look at just a few of the more common reading programs available that you could consider using.

EDMARK

Great for kids with good memorization skills.
This is an excellent program for students with special needs as it provides repetitive lessons that can be a valuable teaching strategy when working with kids with special needs. In my experience, Edmark works well with kids that learn whole words better than phonics.
I love the direction cards, the repitition and hand on materials in this program. They have take home materials and extra practice worksheets. Edmark also includes a technology portion of the program which can be helpful for kids needing reinforcement. The Edmark materials includes easy to use data sheets that work well to keep track of what lesson the student is on but also words missed in each lesson. These also serve as a great way to record data. Edmark is great for kids needing an instant gratification that they CAN READ.

PCI READING

PCI Reading Program is a superb choice for kids needing to work on transition from individual words to sentences and comp. This research-based program focuses on teaching sight words not only from the more common Fry and Dolch lists but it also incorporates real world words. Integrated in these materials are sight word lessons presented through repitition followed by hands on practice. By the time the students complete just level 1, they have mastered 140 sight words.
One of the great things about this program is the way they introduce 5 sight words which are quickly followed by  stories that enable the kids to practice the previous 5 words plus others they have learned before.
This is another great program that includes excellent worksheets and data recording sheets

SRA CORRECTIVE READING

This is a wonderful methodical program that focuses on decoding and comprehension. It is geared to start at 3rd grade.
This program has a great comprehension strand. It focuses on writing it thinking it and speaking it. The decoding sportion emphasizes vocabulary and structure of language.
This another great product with detailed progress and data tracking all built into it.

SRA READING MASTERY

Reading Mastery is another program that has been around for quite awhile and for good reason. It combines fluency, phonics, phonetic awareness, word decoding and comprehension into a package that works. The materials in this program are comprehensive and take a bit of organization, but once you settle on your organizational plan for it, you are set.   The data tracking and progress monitoring includes detailed
This program encompasses not only reading but writing, language and spelling as well.
The presentation of this program is highly scripted and some people have experienced difficulty with it, but I found it highly functional as the student could predict the questions.

SPELL READ

Spell Read focuses on phonological fluency and reading fluency. It is a 1-year program for students that are 2 or more years behind in reading level. This program is a highly structured sequenced program that helps students learn sound knowledge, how to analyze sounds and how to blend them.

The questioning technique of what is read in the program helps ensure the students are comprehending what is read. The written responses to what is read augment the synthesization of decoding and comprehension in this great program.


There are many restrictions we experience in the selection of materials to use with our kids. Sometimes our school boards dictate what we must use. We sometimes must heed the direction of our building administration or Special Education department. I have often found in my experience of material selection that if I have the research to back it up, they are often open to listening and considering of new materials.

What programs do YOU use in your classrooms? Share your favorites. 


As a Special Ed teacher, I often felt I lacked materials for my kiddos on their levels in Social Studies. Sometimes I was just plain lacking a good curriculum that could be presented to them in a way they could comprehend. At other times I felt what I was missing were the extra materials I needed to supplement the curriculum and reinforce the concepts.

I always wanted to expose my students to things around the world. I wanted to share with you this great group of materials for Social Studies concepts. They work exceptionally well for students on a variety of levels. We used this packet for introduction and reinforcement of information about countries around the world.

Each book  has 10 basic facts about each country with a picture interactive component for each page. With one fact on each page, the students can read each country fact then match the picture card to the correct page.
Here is a look at the book for United States. Click on the picture and YOU can have it for FREE as a sample.

With each country you get 2 sizes of the book. One is full letter page size for small groups and the other is a mini-book just perfect for little hands. 
Two worksheets are included with each country. The first is for the primary lev
el reader and those with limited writing skills. The response types focus on coloring a picture of the answer to 4 questions from the content of the books. The 2nd has a reading level of about 2nd grade and the answers can be selected by coloring, placing X's on, or circling the correct choice.
Also included are colored and black/white versions of maps relating to the book contents. You will find a continental map so students can locate the country on a world map, plus you will find a map isolating just the country of that book.
Content in the books revolves around basic fact about the country such as common food, famous landmark of the country, sports the country is known for and important holidays for the country.

Currently there are 11 of these cute country book sets. You can purchase them separately or in a money saving bundle which is located here. The countries include USA, Mexico, Canada, Italy, England, France, Japan, China, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, and Australia.


Plans are to continue adding books to this bundle until there are 20 countries in all. Get yours now at the current price and you will be notified when new countries are added and you will be able to download them for FREE.


AUGUST 1ST ! 
I know, I know. It's hard to believe it's already here; the beginning of another school year.  As great educators, we press onward for the sake of our students to make the coming year another fantastic one.
With the first of August here- don't be like this guy and stick your head in the sand. Start now, be prepared and make this YOUR best year ever!

Teachers Pay Teachers is having their Back to School sale today and tomorrow, August 1st and 2nd and my entire store is on sale. Catch these and other great items at my store:


Establishing rules and setting guidelines is one of the first things you need to work on at the beginning of the year. Posting the rules and expectations is such an important thing to do. Always have the rules posted. As I was working in special education classrooms, I added visuals to the rules to aid in the comprehension of what the poster was conveying. Take a look at these rules posters.



Another key component of activities that need to be done at the beginning of the school is pre-testing. You want to know what the new kids know and test how much your returning kiddos have retained, so make sure you have all your assessment resources ready to go. Check out this letter and letter sound assessment. It contains several assessments including identifying letters from groups of 2, 3, or 4 letters plus recording sheets for results. Easy to fill out recording sheets make it super simple to perform these assessments, record the results then drop the data sheet in the student's folder or portfolio.  Take a peek!
Letter Assessments

Another important part to me of getting a year off to a great start is working with social skills and social skills stories are a big part of that. Whether it's working on expectations of how to behave during arrival at school, what to do during a fire drill or how to make friends, social skills stories are a great way to start a discussion on what behavior is expected in these situations or even to review with kids you have had for awhile. Check them out here!


Another MUST HAVE especially for the beginning of the year are visuals and schedules. I like to have visuals for just about everything that happens during the school day. Visuals for going to PE, eating lunch,  calming down. and even visuals for choice time or free time. Check out this great group of visuals. And of course, don't forget a reinforcer inventory to get an idea of what motivates your kids this year.

Thanks for joining me for a quick update on vital items to get you started on a super school year!
Catch you next time!





In last week's  post, we were talking about Morning Meeting and the FINISH THAT portion of this wonderful teaching tool in which we talked about poems, songs, and patterns.  If you missed last week's post, be sure and check it out here.




Today I would like to share about the calendar section of Morning Meetings. This can be one of the most fun sections to implement because there are so many different ways to do it.  Today we will focus on just a couple of them and ways to differentiate them and some ideas for keeping everyone engaged no matter what their levels.
A very common way to conduct calendar time is to have a calendar area on the wall and have different students take turns moving or changing the items on the calendar wall each day. Parts of this section usually includes the date, days of the week such as yesterday, today and tomorrow. weather, counting, shapes, appropriate apparel. and patterns.

The problem I found with this method for some of my classes was that it provided time for one or perhaps two students to interact with the calendar at a time, leaving the others sitting and waiting. For many students in self-contained classrooms, there is a wide range of skill levels. Using one calendar and one skill focus for the activity for the entire group of students is not the best way many times for them to be working on appropriate skills.

Another factor I consider is that kids with special needs, often need more activities that keep them motivated. It can be challenging to keep them still and attending while one student at a time goes to the calendar wall to manipulate pieces.

Don't get me wrong if you have a class that can handle this type of calendar, that is great! I have done calendar walls and bulletins boards many times and adore them, but today I want to address calendar time in a class with kids that may have a variety of disabilities with many different skill levels.
 How do we keep each child in this type of classroom on task for calendar and engaged on a level where they can function successfully.

Let's take a look at some ideas for Calendar Time in morning meetings and some ways to differentiate while keeping all students engaged.

I took the ideas from the wall calendar and personalized them into a mini-calendar for each child.
Instead of putting the calendar section on a wall or bulletin board, try one of these ideas.


  1. Interactive calendar notebook.
  2. Calendar desk mat
  3. Personalized calendar task card
  4. Individualizedcalendar wipe off board




Here is an example of a wipe off calendar where the student only has to circle the date it is. This could be varied with calendars the student needs to write in the month and the date or circle the month and the date. 
Another way to do it is to put each component you want a student to work on its own page and combine them into a morning meeting notebook for each child.
The advantage I found with this method was it gives me the ability to select the skill pages I wanted in each child's notebook and the skills can be modified up or down as needed for the child's skill level.


What I try to do is to have several skill levels available for the notebooks. For instance, for Today's Date, I might incorporate 3 different levels; 3 ways of responding. 
  1. One might be using words to designate the date where the student must read the words and select the correct cards for the month, the numeral date and the year.
  2. Another option I  use is a calendar for the specific month and all the student needs to do is circle the correct day or point to it. If the child uses TouchMath then I incorporate the points on the numbers to make it easier for the student to read and use the numbers. 
  3. Another alternative could use word bank of months of the year, dates and year. The students then would write in the information required.
Here is an example of a desk mat that has a rectangle place holder for the month of the year, a circle placeholder for the date and a smaller placeholder for the year.  Use one desk mat like this and then another blank one opposite to this with the date pieces the student can pick from. 
The teacher can control the number date pieces the student has, whether the pieces have words on them or pictures or a combination of both. It can also have pictorial representations of sign language if you need that. 



These are just a few springboard ideas for ways to adapt calendar time to meet the needs of your students. 

Join me next time for more ideas on Morning Meeting and how to introduce it to your class and get it up and running.



In last week's  post, we were talking about Morning Meeting and the Greetings portion of this wonderful teaching tool.  If you missed last week's post, be sure and check it out here.

Morning Meeting definitely is  powerful teaching tool. It is extremely versatile. It can be adapted for our student with special needs. It works great to review skills, use social skills, practice concepts, and use verbal skills. For the teacher and other staff, it is an optimal opportunity to  observe students interactions.  If you don't already use it, consider implementing it in your classroom.

During the design phase of my Morning Meetings each school year, I start off  with  4 basic parts depending on the students in my class. I used this foundation to begin the year. As the students gain skills, I frequently modify the structure, number of activities, the skill level of the components that are included in Morning Meeting. This is one way it grows with the students needs and it keeps it fresh and new for the students; and me too.

The 4 basic components I start with are:
GREETINGS
FINISH THAT PATTERNS
CALENDAR
SHARING

No matter what portion of Morning Meeting I am developing or revising, I keep in mind the goals and objectives of Morning Meeting and also of the students that will be a part of my class. Here are some of the goals I commonly use.

1. Build community in the classroom
I want the students interacting with each other and  every student  involved in each activity.
2. Set a positive atmosphere for the day of learning ahead.
Everyone needs to be successful, so I remember to make sure the skills are ones already covered.
3. Provide an opportunity for academic and social skill learning to come together.
4. Reinforce skills
Morning Meeting provides another niche in the school day to more practice in.
5. Engage all students at their functioning level.
No matter what the students disabilities, I want to make sure I have all the materials necessary
for each child to participate at their level.

FINISH THAT

Today I wanted to share about the piece of Morning Meetings I call FINISH THAT. This section is  about category that can included many different things such as completing patterns, sequencing, verbal speaking, rhyming.
At the beginning of the year I start with something very simple. Depending on the age of students in the class and their ability levels, I sometimes begin with nursery rhymes or easy poems.

POEMS, SONGS and RHYMES

Poems, songs and rhymes make great vehicles to reinforce many skills. You can work on memory
Row, Row Your Boat
Most students know this old favorite, but if they don't the be sure to teach it first prior to using it in this activity.
After singing the entire song through at least once, continue singing the song omitting one word each time through the song, until there are no words left. You can substitute a clap in place of the missing word.
One variation I used with songs like these would be to have one section of the class sing the song and the other remaining students provide the missing pieces.

Row, Row Row Your Boat
Gently Down the Stream
Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily
Life it But a Dream

I like to have a song that we start with each day. One of my favorites to start off with was Are You Ready to the tune of "Frere Jacques".

Are you ready,
Are you ready,
to start our day?
to start our day?
We are ready to learn.
We are ready to learn.
Let's have a good day.
Let's have a good day. 


Finish the Pattern

Give each student a card with the designated pattern you wish to work on.
FINISH THAT IDEA..WHAT IF
Use crazy questions or statements to illicit verbal speaking.
Here are some ideas you could ask

1. What if cows gave orange juice instead of milk?
2. What would happen if all the streets were rivers?
3. What would happen if it really rained cats and dogs?
4. What would you do if you found a million dollars in your backyard?
5. What would happen if your cat/dog could talk?
6. What if you found a magic wand?
7. What if you woke up one day and your skin was purple?
8. What if you were going around the world and you could only take 3 people. Who would they be?
9. What is one thing you would do if you were the ruler of the whole world?
10. What would happen if you could fly?

Date Repeat
Incorporate the date into a short game and repetition activity. As the year progresses it is easy to ramp this up to match skills.
Teacher or activity leader:
Today is  Monday
Students repeat:
Today is Monday  or
they can reply back with a rearranged sentence. Monday is today
Teacher or activity
August 24
Students repeat:
August 24
Teacher or activity leader:
All day long
Students repeat:
All day long

RHYMING
 Students can stand in a circle for this one. Designated a student leader or the teacher begins by saying:
I am thinking of a word that rhymes with CAT.
Everyone repeats the word 2 times CAT, CAT
On the next chant, the next student in the circle chants, CAT and a word that rhymes with CAT
This could  be RAT
So it would go like this:
Student leader or teacher: 
I'm thinking of a word that rhymes with CAT.
Whole Group: CAT, CAT
Next student: CAT, RAT

Skip Counting

Whether you are working on counting by 1's, 2's 5's or 10's they can always be fun to incorporate into Morning Meeting. Its also a wonderful way to get some Math into Morning Meeting and reinforce those skills already taught.
Whether you have your students sit in chairs, rug mats or bean bags for Morning Meeting this can be an easy game to implement.
Each student gets a pack of cards from the Skip Counting packet. You can pick up the Skip Counting packet from my TpT store here. Each packet has a set of 5 cards.

 SKIP COUNT FREEBIE
Prior to Morning Meeting the teacher removes 2 of the cards from each pack. I usually did this at the end of the activity the day before by just swapping out the cards as the students handed them in.

1. Give each student a pack of skip counting cards minus, each missing 2 card.
2. The missing cards are gathered in a group face up such as a blackboard marker tray or on a table.
3. Students lay out their cards from their group.
4. Students go to the group of missing cards and find the cards they need to complete their set.



Sort That

Sorting activities are great activities to include in Morning Meeting. They can be very simple or more complex depending on your students. You can use all types of things for the sorting objects. This works really well to use pictures of real objects, or real object themselves to begin teaching sorting or for those kids that work better with real objects than pictures on cards. 
Basic sorting activities can be done very nicely using the students themselves. I love doing this type of activity as one of my main emphasis is morning meeting is keeping all the student involved. I put 
Basic Sorts using students.
Sorting activities are also very flexible as they can be done on the floor, on a table or desk, in a pocket chart, at a morning meeting bulletin board. 
If you are making cards for sorting activities; you can use clip art, magazine pictures, or even photos.
1. Designate the areas for the groups you want sorted. I use circles. Use tape and make 2 or 3 circles on the floor. I usually have these on the floor already as they are extremely useful for activities other than morning meeting. Another idea is to use different color hula hoops to designate the groups. 
2. Determine what you are going to sort by. I usually plan mine out in my lesson plans for the week.


Thanks for joining me today for some ideas on songs, patterns and rhyme activities in Morning Meeting.
Come back next week for another portion of Morning Meeting activities.


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