It's that time of year again! Time to assess the kids and see what progress has been made since the last progress monitoring.

Well- isn't it ALWAYS that time of year in the world of SPED?

Assessments are crucial to knowing where students are functioning, their strengths/weaknesses and the areas in which they have progressed since the last assessment.
Doing assessments in the beginning of the year was always easy for me; I wanted to get an idea of where to start each student.  I found keeping up with the assessment during the year a harder task for me when I was trying to intertwine assessment administration with ongoing instruction.

I found it best to assess frequently throughout the year. I usually assessed several types of assessments each grading period. This gave me a good basis for progress report parent conferences and reassessment of instructional skills for each grading period.
The assessments were short easy to administer tests. This made it easy to have my paraprofessionals run the the normal schedule helped as much of a regular schedule as possible since disruptions and deviations from the norm were often difficult to handle for some students.
I assessed one student at a time while the remainder of the class worked as normal a schedule as possible.

I usually gave a basic sight word assessment depending on what was being worked on. Sometimes it was a Dolch sight word test or  Fry words and phrases test. Other times it was a recognition test based on sight words from our county lists. Even when teaching SPED self contained classes, I tried to stay as close to what general education is doing as possible.
Keep in mind your student's abilities, however and as always make sure your your assessments match what you are teaching.
In Math I usually used basic skills test as benchmark assessments or post tests from the math curriculum. Key Math, an individual assessment tool, was a common test I used, but often I also used a self made math skills test.
Make sure the assessment fits the student, adheres to your school system's directives and that you use the same assessment  to accurately track beginning and ending data.

Keeping track of the data you get from your assessments is imperative. I use an easy Excel spreadsheet to track my results from the beginning of the school year to the end. Excel makes it easy to create graphs and charts to show strength and weaknesses to parents and colleagues

Keeping track of the data you get from the assessments can be an overwhelming task. I found if I got it organized from the first of the year, it helped me greatly.
I like to use binders, one for each child. In the binders, I kept a copy of the IEP, personal information about the child,  charts and graphs of assessment results and work samples. This system helped to have everything in one place when meetings such IEPs or parent conferences came up suddenly.

Spring is the perfect time to get those assessments organized if you haven't done so already. It's nearing the end of the year and those  year end meetings are close by.
Already have yours organized?

How do you keep your assessments organized? Share your organization ideas in the comments below.

One of the most fun things I like to do in my classroom throughout the year is journals. Journals are a great way to include writing into an every day activity.Journals are also a great way to to work on written expression with kids that don't like to write because they are short easy to complete assignments and they can be modified to let the students write about topics they choose.I used several types of  journals in my classroom, depending on the level of the student. My main goals  in journal writing were:1) Get the students expressing themselves. It didn't matter if they weren't writers yet because of of the journal types I used was actually drawing. I wanted them to know that I valued what they would tell me of "write" about.2) Adhere to the basic framework of the writing process. A. PlanB. WriteC. Edit3) Let them know that what they are expressing is valued.Here are a few examples of ways I worked with journals on several different levels. This type of blank journaling page can be used for kids that have not reached the writing stage yet. 
I usually let them draw a picture in the rectangle at the top, an individual conference with them and have them tell me about the picture. The sentence they tell me about the picture is then written on the line beneath it. I like to use the handwriting lines in order to give them an example of exactly how it should be written.
For students that have progressed into the writing stages. They can use this sheet and write a sentence or words about their picture. 

I also have seen much success in fostering writing when giving students picture prompts to jump start the writing process. On the journal pages below, the picture can stimulate a multitude of reactions from kids. We spend some time talking about the picture to get the juices flowing for ideas about what to say or write. On the left hand page, the sentence is already provided for the student. This is used for the student to trace the sentence after the discussion.
The page on the right hand side can be used for sentences to be written for the child or you can model their sentence given to you verbally and let the students trace it. 

One of the key ideas in using journals with pictures already provided was to spark the students' interests and get them talking and thinking about what is in the picture. I also ask them questions about if they have done the activity in the picture such as in the bubbles picture below.

 High interest pictures are the key. Candy is a great idea for picture cues. Almost all kids LOVE candy! Then enjoy talking about what candy they like, a time they got candy, what their favorite candy is or even a story about a time they got the best Halloween candy. The possibilities are endless.
 Once they have given me the ideas verbally then those ideas can be transferred onto the paper.  As the student perfects their thinking process and has the writing process modeled for them then I begin to has them to think about what they have said or written. Would they change anything to make it better. We have a little mini-writing conference to pull out more detail about what they have expressed.
In our mini writing conference, I always want to make sure the student feels valued for what they have expressed. When they believe they can write, have a purpose for writing and can feel safe, there is no end to what they can achieve.

Ever try to rev up up excitement for math just to have some groans come back at you? I was that kid when I was in school. Just didn't get math! Don't know why - just didn't; especially in elementary.
I used that dislike for math ever day when teaching. What can I do to get my kids psyched about math? How can I reinforce the skills they need without the attitudes?  Well, here are a few ideas you may want to try !
My kids LOVE games! If I can engage them in a game - I swear they don't even think they are learning!
For those kids needing practice in multiplication
Zoomtuba has 2 great math games  for division and multiplication you may want to check out.
ASTEROID DEFENSE Multiplication  lets kids answer multiplication questions and shoot down asteroids.

DIVIDE and CONQUER Monsters! lets kids answer division problems then prevent the monsters from filling the house.

Cool Math has many games at all different levels. There are way too many to list or even share. This one is for basic addition. Move the laser shooter left and right and press the space bar to shoot at the ship with the equation that matches the number on the laser.


This site has a multitude of grade levels and almost unlimited skill levels. You pick where you want to work and the site uses the students answers to adjust the level of the skill as they progress.


There are so many great sites and games out there to get our kids practicing their math skills. There's no limit to what we can do. Let's share our resources!
What do you use to get your kiddos practicing math?
Leave a comment below and I'll include it in a post update.

Teaching our students to be a good friend and be kind to one another is often something that gets lost in the fast paced world of education. We often tell our students to "be a good friend" or "be kind", but how often do we TEACH them how to do this? 

A group of 9 TpT sellers have collaborated to bring you 9 engaging and fun resources to help teach your students HOW to be kind to one another.

Here is is a  cute Bingo game for kindness activities. The boards have 12 squares each plus have a picture version and a text version for easy differentiation. 

Click the picture above to take you directly to the product. Download it from the store, then check out the "map" at the end of the file. It has all 9 TpT sellers mapped out. Click on their logos and check out their wonderful products and download them. You can also do a search on TpT for #KindnessRules to find all the products.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy the kindness activities!

Teaching reading to kids with special needs often requires pulling out all the tricks we have in our "bags" in order to see progress. I often find comprehension to be a particularly difficulty piece of teaching reading to get across to kids.

Today I wanted to share with you an idea  I have used that has worked with my kids over the years.

No matter what I used teaching reading skills, I always made sure I have the four main strategies included in my reading instruction.
Research has shown that these four techniques are effective especially for comprehension instruction. They are direct explanation, modeling, guided practice and application. Briefly these instruction steps are as follows:

Direct explanation

The teacher tells the students why the strategy being worked on will help comprehension. she/He also explains when to apply the strategy.


The teacher models how to apply the strategy while demonstrating using the text that is being used by the students.

Guided Practice

In guided practice the teacher guides and helps the students as they are working to know how and when to apply the strategy.


The students apply and practice what has been taught until they can do it independently.

One way to work on main idea is through the use of graphic organizers. One of my favorite organizers for main idea is an ice cream cone graphic.
Have the student read a story or read it to them.
Discuss the  story and explain and  model how you would take sentences and determine which ones contain main idea and which contain details. Think aloud as you make your decisions so the students can "see" how you come to the answers you use. On this graphic organizer, place the main idea in the cone and a detail in each scoop of ice cream.
In the next lesson, use the same organizer and read or read a different story to the students. Discuss the story and guide them as they make their decisions about main idea and details. Discuss everyone answers so everyone can correct their answers and understand the reasons for the correct answers.
Finally, use a third story on the same level and readability but this time let the students complete the graphic organizer themselves as they apply what they have learned in the previous lessons.

Here is an example of how the ice cream cone graphic organizer might look for the following paragraph.
Dogs need special care. 
You have to take dogs for walks everyday. 
You feed your dog so they stay happy and healthy. 
You play with the dog frequently. 

I have included a free downloadable of the file in my TpT store. Click my logo below to take you there. 

If you like the freebie  checkout my variety packet of Main Idea Graphic Organizers.

Thanks for stopping by! Have a great day!

A big part of special education is making sure the students are included with the general education students as much as possible.

As a resource teacher it was a big part of what I did with the students; getting them involved in the mainstream classroom. At times kids went to general education classes where they participated in their strongest subject with the other students and came to special education when the class was working on subjects they needed more help with.

Now many schools have inclusion classrooms and  many special education students are in the general education classrooms all day. Special Education teachers sometimes go from classroom to classroom working with the students  right in the classroom. At our school we had 6 inclusion special education teachers that divided the grades up between them and spent their days in the general education classroom. The special education teachers worked with the grade level teacher or assisted the teacher in presenting the materials in ways all the students could understand and master them.

As a self contained teacher, I was always working with teachers in multiple grades to include my students not only in academic areas they could manage successfully, but also social, recreational and non-academic activities. Many of the students attend physical education, music, art, assemblies, meals and field trips with a buddy class. They also attend parties and social activities with them.

Here are some  things I have found that need to be in place in order for  students to become an integral part of a general education environment.

The administration must be supportive.

Whether the setting is occasional inclusion or daily inclusion classes,  both the general
  education and special teachers need to believe that all students can succeed.


All personnel must be committed to collaborative support.


Teachers must have the knowledge of how to adapt curricula to meet the needs of the students.

Provide variety of instructional methods to meet the needs of all children. (this can include but is not limited to: team teaching, cross grade grouping, cooperative learning groups, and  peer tutoring.                                    

PAIR KIDS - At the beginning of each year, we pair up special education students with general ed classrooms.
Throughout the year they participate in activities such as parties, dances, field days with this class.  This helps the students form relationships from the beginning of the year and make friends.

PAIR CLASSES - Pair general ed classes or individual students with special needs classes or students. These classes visit together frequently, attend special functions together and pair up to do activities.
 such as buddy reading or practice flash cards together

As students develop relationships, let them spend more time with each other as
Our kids loved eating lunch with their gen. ed buddies.

What are some things you do to include your special education students in things in the mainstream? 

I hope your holidays were really special ones. I hope you had time to  enjoyed your family and friends and hopefully taken some time for yourself.

I love the start of a new year! New beginnings. Fresh starts!  Time to revamp, reorganize and rev up for more progress in the classroom. But...where do you start?  I start by looking at the framework of the classroom. Not the physical framework, but the rules, procedures, schedules, centers and routines.

Usually I have found the key to a smooth start after a break is......

First thing I do to get a fresh start is to revisit routines, procedures and classroom schedules.
Whether you are using the same routines and procedures from before the break or you are changing them to adjust to your students needs, spend some precious time that first day and even the first week back reteaching exactly what you expect from your class.

Here are a few things to consider when revisiting classroom procedures.

  • What wasn't working before?
  • Was your rotation of centers not working? Too confusing?
  • Perhaps an area was getting too crowded.
  • Are your classroom rules working? 

Look at what you want to change. Ask yourself if you have control to change it.  Some things can be changed. Others, you have no control over. Change and tweak what you can.

Now find some ways to present your students with what you want them to do. Present this to them in in as many different ways as possible so everyone understands and has an opportunity to practice what they should do.

Here are some ideas about how to do this.

Include the reteaching activities in morning meeting for several days that first week back. Depending on your students' levels and abilities, you can have a discussion about your expectations. Include songs,  rhymes, jingles and poems that include actions and sayings about what is expected of them. I found morning meeting to be an excellent time to include this review time for rules and expectations.

Use games to teach appropriate choices in procedures and routines. This works particularly well when teaching procedures for centers and and work areas. Choose a generic gameboard and make cards that are specific to your class rules. The kids LOVE playing games and probably won't even notice they are learning at the same time.  The game can be played throughout the year whenever your kids need a quick reminder of expectations and routines.

Use social skills stories to teach what you want them to do in specific situations such as arriving and leaving school, going to places in the school environment such as the lunchroom or the library. Read the social skills stories over and over with groups and individual students needing extra instruction in the particular areas.

My kids love to role play. Just like we would practice a play or performance, we practice what correct procedures are in the classroom for things like lining up, going to the library, coming to morning meeting. If we are acting out center time then some of the kids play students and  some play the teacher and or paraprofessionals. Then we switch roles so everyone gets an opportunity at all the roles in the situation.

Songs, music, jingles and rhymes have a way of making their way into our heads. This makes them excellent means of remembering information later.

There many songs and rhymes already written. I'm sure you know some. Here is a site that has a few - Songs for Teaching . If you want some that fit more precisely to your rules and directions, try making your own. Take a common tune that is in public domain, such as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Modify the words to fit an expectation you're      teaching.

What activities and lessons do you use for reestablishing classroom procedures? Please leave me a comment and let me know. What works for you can also help someone else.

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