5 Ways to Support Special Education Students One-on-One in Virtual Secondary English Classes

A few months ago, I did a post about Accommodating Special Education Students in the Virtual Classroom, but what can teacher’s do who work one-on-one with students?

While being a virtual English teacher and tutor, I also I currently work with special education students in an out of district placement school as a Reading Specialist. All of my students are reading below grade level and have very specific accommodations. I mainly pull students out (virtually) weekly for 45 minutes of one-on-one instruction.

My role is to support my students in their English courses, and sometimes in other content classes where reading comprehension assistance is required. For those of you looking for ideas and resources in the virtual classroom, below are some suggestions that I have used with my students.

  1. Ebooks. I absolutely LOVE sharing my screen in Zoom with students, and using ebooks has been the easiest way for me to do this. I have a Kindle Unlimited subscription that has come in quite handy, and I also spend my own money purchasing books I know I will use with multiple students. Currently, I’m reading The Witches and Fantastic Mr. Fox with two high school students. By sharing my screen, students can follow along while we read and they can use the pictures to help with reading comprehension (which is why I chose these texts). These books don’t come across as babyish for my teenaged students, and have pictures and manageable vocabulary so they don’t feel like they’re struggling.
  2. Videos. I have always been a believer about using videos and movies in the classroom, and the same carries into my virtual one. Sometimes it’s not realistic to show a whole movie, so I like to keep a stash of short film versions on hand. One of my junior’s needs lots of support with reading comprehension and vocabulary, so Shakespeare’s Macbeth is definitely not an easy text for her. Sparknotes is amazing to begin with for my kids, but they now have video summaries of the text! The almost ten minute video touches on theme, plot and characterization in a visual way that is perfect for classified students.
  3. Verbal answers. Have you ever watched kids try to type? It’s actually quite painful sometimes because kids take foreverrrr to type a sentence, let alone a paragraph. I try to eliminate as much frustration as I can for my kiddos, so I do a lot of verbal responses to assess reading comprehension skills. I also use this method for working on quizzes and tests, and I will email the teacher what score the student earned. Teachers normally give me the assessment so they know the questions asked.
  4. Pictures. Vocabulary always seems to be an area that my students struggle with, especially when dealing with high school level texts. While reading Beowulf with a junior, she was struggling with comprehension because she didn’t know what armor was. While we read a modified version of this challenging story, I stop every so often and show her pictures of important objects in the story (sword, bow and arrow). We work a lot on visualizing to help with her weak reading comprehension, so this strategy really works well for her.
  5. Making connections. Personally, I find that encouraging my special education kids makes a HUGE difference in not only their reading comprehension, but also their higher order thinking skills they use for theme. I try to do a lot of text to self and text- to text (media) connections because those are ones kids are most familiar with. I find this works as a great pre-reading and during reading strategy.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information click here.

Accommodating Special Education Students in the Virtual Classroom

As a virtual English teacher, I’ve worked with classified students in grades 6-12. Parents and brick and mortar teachers are often amazed that special education students choose to do virtual learning (before the pandemic).

Yes, there are special education students who attend online programs. Yes, they can be successful.

This week I co-hosted a professional development presentation for Edmentum’s EdOptions Academy (EOA) on Implementing Special Education Accommodations in a Virtual World. I was able to show other virtual teachers samples of assignments I used with my classified students and how I evaluated them.

Today, I would like to share some of my experiences and examples in the hopes of helping teachers outside of EOA. These ideas can be used in brick and mortar classrooms, blending learning and distance learning environments.

Preparing to Make Accommodations

  1. Be familiar with a student’s IEP. When I worked in a brick and mortar school, I would sometimes have 20 students with IEPs. It can be A LOT to remember the specific details for every student, so I would often take quick notes about the classification(s) and accommodations. The same concept applies to the virtual learning environment.
  2. Use your knowledge of the student. In the virtual world, this can be done in a number of ways. Call/text/Zoom/email with the student and get to know who the student really is. What’s their favorite sport? What hobbies do they like? Also, feel free to talk to the parents, school, Child Study Team and special education teachers about the student. The more knowledge you have about each student the more you can make appropriate accommodations.
  3. Be flexible with grading assignments. This is a biggie. Many teachers use specific rubrics to grade assignments, but when making accommodations these rubrics may not be relevant. In these cases, it’s important that we think outside the box and use our content knowledge to assess if the student fulfilled expectations. We may need to create another rubric specifically for that child, or only include certain parts of the original rubric, it really comes down to the teacher to decide. Regardless of what a teacher chooses to do, always make sure to include specific feedback.
  4. Be aware of reading levels. To be super honest, this is a really big component of online learning. Students are required to do A LOT of reading (assignments, comments, lectures, directions, etc.). If a student has a reading level of third grade and is taking a sixth grade English course, he or she is going to be reading texts at the sixth grade level. This can be quite a challenge for many students who aren’t at that reading level yet. Since students are required to read in all courses, even a math teacher should be aware of a student’s reading level.

Accommodations in the Virtual Classroom

  1. Offer extended time. This is a very simple and effective way to help classified students, especially in the virtual world. It’s also helpful to check-in with the student and remind him or her with how much extra time they have left. For instance, if there is an assignment due on Wednesday, maybe consider having it due for classified students on Friday. On Thursday check-in with students and give them suggestions online learning graphicabout what they need to finish for the assignment to be submitted on Friday.
  2. Reduce assignment length. Personally, I use this accommodation quite a bit with my special education students. If the original assignment for students is to write an essay, I may have them write a paragraph instead.
  3. Support public speaking. A curriculum typically has a speaking/presentation component that can be fulfilled in the virtual classroom. There are a few different ways students can present a speech: 1. video chat with the teacher one-on-one, 2. participate in a phone call with the teacher (if a student gets anxious about looking at an audience), 3. record a selfie video of the student reading the speech and then send it to the teacher or post it on Youtube and share the link. It’s also important to remember that students don’t have to memorize their speech. I usually tell my students to practice reading aloud their information a few times before presenting.
  4. Providing alternate texts. As I mentioned before, reading level plays a huge role in virtual learning. If a student can only read at a 5th grade level, but they are taking 8th grade English, this could be a challenge for him or her. Teachers can provide an alternate text that still focuses on the theme/topic of the original text, but is better aligned with the student’s reading level. For instance,  my 7th grade English students are expected to read Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum”, to focus on how history (The Inquisition) impacts literature. This original text is too complex for my classified students, so I have them read chapter one of Number the Stars by Lois Lowry because it is connected to the Holocaust. I keep the same historical focus as I would with the original text, but now students have access to a text that they can handle.
  5. Provide novel support. Students will read a few novels a year in their English/ELARead Aloud courses. Getting students to just read the book can sometimes be a challenge, let alone having them complete activities and assignments based on the reading. Teachers can supply students with an audio version, guided notes, reading comprehension questions, and chapter summaries. However, another spectacular option that I have done is to provide students with a read aloud (see Effective Read Alouds in the Virtual Classroom) where I would read a few chapters aloud and then discuss plot, characterization, theme and quote analysis. I would record these sessions in Zoom and keep track of the links on a document that I could send to any student who needed access to the text. Students can watch, rewind and fast forward the video as many times as they want.
  6. Include outlines and graphic organizers. Just as in brick and mortar classrooms, outlines and graphic organizers are fabulous resources to give to students. If students need to compare/contrast, provide a Venn Diagram in an editable document for students to use. For writing a lab report, give students an outline to complete before writing the report.
  7. Help guide research. Utilizing textual evidence and research take place across all content areas. It can be overwhelming for classified students to look at a Google search bar and start the research process, let alone tackle a database. Two of my favorite options for research are to give students a list of key words to use in their search, and provide a list of links for students to use to complete assignments.
  8. Provide structure with note-taking. Learning in the virtual environment requires students to be more independent with their learning, and oftentimes students will need to take notes on the content in their courses. This can be challenging because students may not know what to record or how to record the information. Some options for students are to include guided notes, fill in the blank PowerPoint slides, and give note-taking templates (Cornell Notes, etc.).

As with all accommodations, different options work for different students. At the end of the day, it is up to the teacher to decide how to best support students.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading and writing tutoring services for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.

Questions for Parents to Ask Their Readers in Grades 3-8

For some, getting kids to read is a battle. Last week I shared 5 Effective Tips to Help Kids Read More. But, once we start to get kids reading, what should parents do next?

One of the easiest and most effective ways to help readers of all ages understand and engage with a text is to talk about it with them. Depending on the child, this is easier said than done.

For those students who may need some prompting, asking questions is a great strategy for parents to use. “What did you learn?” ” What was your favorite part?” These are examples of great starter questions, but in order to engage in meaningful dialogue about the text, try to ask more specific questions.

Little Reading Coach has created a FREE resource with different types of fiction reading questions for readers in grades 3-8. The questions are broken into categories (general, reading comprehension, character, setting, conflict, and higher order thinking questions). Click here to access the free resource.

Parents can pick and choose which questions to ask their reading, depending on age, type of text being read, etc. They can just be discussed verbally, or students can write or type responses.

To check out more products from Little Reading Coach, click here

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading and writing tutoring services for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.

Nikeriff Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

With Molly in preschool, I’ve really been trying to boost her home library with alphabet books. She can sing the alphabet, but we’re still working on letter recognition. So when I came across a Facebook post from a mom who wrote an alphabet book I had to reach out.

Nikeriff, by Natasha Barber and illustrated by Rayah James, is a heartwarming and lovable alphabet picture  book that takes readers on an adventure.

First, I have to address the name Nikeriff. Barber starts off the story with a note to readers explaining that her autistic son came up with the name. Right away I thought this was a fabulous personal touch and made me feel connected to the author as a mom.

Readers are introduced to the little monster, Nikeriff, who is having a difficult time remembering the letters in the alphabet. He asks his mom and dad for help and they give him the supplies he needs for a scavenger hunt. Nikeriff spends the rest of the story with his trusty teddy bear going through the woods and collecting different elements from nature (animals, insects, plants) and practicing the letters of the alphabet.

What grabbed my attention right away was the more complex sentence structure. Usually when I read alphabet books the sentences are simple and short, with the letter bolded and enlarged, usually in a brighter color font. This picture book includes more complex sentences, which makes the story feel less babyish. The letters are bolded and enlarged, but don’t really distract the reader from the rest of the text or pictures. Personally, I LOVED this writing style because it means the book can be used with older kids who may need support with alphabet work. Since I work with lots of special education students, this is super exciting for me because finding texts like this is quite challenging.

Similar to the sentence structure, I also found the animals and insects added to the sac to be super creative. I love that it included critters such as the “Underwing moth” and “Queen Butterfly”. While there were some traditional ones included, like ants, this hint of creativity not only helped the flow of the story, but it was incredibly engaging.

I was also a huge fan of the idea of a scavenger hunt, especially that it took place in the woods. Many kids are fascinated by animals, bugs and the outdoors, so the setting of this story can really engage readers who gravitate towards those topics. This also allows the book to be utilized in schools as a cross curricular text for science, specifically in preschool and kindergarten.

Finally, the illustrations were absolutely spot on! I truly enjoyed looking at each picture and felt that they matched the feel of the text. I love that they look like they were drawn with crayon, especially after the author’s note in the beginning. It just made me feel like i was reading a book imagined by a child, which leaves me feeling all warm and fuzzy.

I highly recommend this book for kids ages 0-8, but it can be used with older students working on basic reading skills.

To purchase the book click here 

To follow Nikeriff on Facebook click here

Pandemic Academic Regression: What is it and how do we combat it?

When schools shut down in March no one knew how long it would be before students could go back to their classrooms. Teachers, in many cases, were given merely hours to prepare as many online activities and lessons as they could, not knowing how many were needed.

Each district and each school had their own expectations with e-learning. Some had a rigorous schedule that mirrors the typical school day, complete with daily live lessons. Others posted assignments on Monday and had them due on Friday. And, in some cases, teachers were still driving to school to make copies of assignments to send home packets to students.

The world of education was turned upside down literally overnight. Parents scrambled to keep their kids learning from home with distractions, technology issues, and living through a pandemic.

Now that the school year is over, or almost over, it’s time to take an honest look at where our students are academically.

Pandemic Regression is when students have not progressed positively with their academics due to the disruption of pre-pandemic instruction.

Many schools went to pass/fail for fourth marking period grades, did away with finals and other end of the year assessments. This is without a doubt what is best for students, however, it leaves families and educators not knowing where students are in their learning. This, coupled with pandemic regression, really leaves us in uncharted territory.

So, what can parents do to combat pandemic regression?

  1. Get as much information from teachers as possible. As previously stated, teachers don’t have final assessments to determine if a student has mastered skills over the last few months, so parents should reach out to individual teachers to get some feedback. It’s also important to note that you should request feedback from September to now so you have a better idea how the pandemic has impacted your student’s learning.
  2. Spend time working on material at home. Put time aside each day to focus on skills from this past school year. There are TONS of resources out there for parents right now from workbooks to online programs that can be used at home to help support learning. My personal favorite at home resources are Usborne Books & More. These books and activities are superior in quality and are super engaging for kids of all ages. (Click here to check them out)
  3. Read. Reading is always a fantastic and easy option for helping students grow academically. Don’t be afraid to have kids use reading apps and online programs, such as ABC Mouse and Reading Eggs. (Click here to read my review of ABC Mouse). Reading aloud to kids of all ages is another great summer activity (take the reading outside, to the beach, etc.).
  4. Work with a tutor. If you feel your child needs more support geared towards specific skills, hire a qualified tutor to come up with a plan of action. Tutors can provide incredible insight and customize instruction so that your student gets exactly what he or she needs. Many tutors offer online sessions, but as time goes on, some are starting to offer in-person sessions as well.

By using the summer months to catch up, kids can start the next school year feeling confident in their skills and ready to learn.

If you’re looking for a qualified virtual reading and writing tutor, Little Reading Coach can help your student catch up on skills. As a Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) with over ten years of experience, LRC provides the following services:

*assessments to determine reading level, comprehension and writing skills

*distance learning support (homework help, organization, etc.)

*essay writing

*reading comprehension

*additional reading and writing activities

*multi-sensory writing for grammar and sentence structure

Click here to learn more about LRC.

Reading Comprehension at Home: 5 Things Parents Can Do

Whenever I chat with parents, they always express concern with their child’s reading comprehension. They worry that their child struggles with reading because they don’t understand what they are reading. While every child learns differently, there are some general tips and tricks that parents can do to help their learners at home. Below are some of my favorite, easy to incorporate ideas that I share with my families:

  1. Background information. This is HUGE! The more background students have about a topic or idea before reading about it, the more their brain is prepared to learn new information. Take a look at the passage or book your learner is reading and provide them with some information about the topic. For instance, if your student is going to read Anne Frank, find a Youtube video about WWII. Videos and movies are a great resource for background information, especially since kids will be reading in the near future.
  2. Predictions. This strategy works really well with elementary students, who seem to really enjoy it. Stop periodically and ask your learner what they think will happen next, where will the character go, will the problem get worse? Always try to keep the questions opened-ended so kids can explain their answers fully using examples from the text. Feel free to ask follow up questions, such as why or how to get your student to expand on their prediction.
  3. Stop and check. Kids need to learn to check in with themselves while they’re reading. No one wants to sit and waste 20 minutes reading a short story to realize none of it makes sense. Help your child figure out when is an appropriate time for them to stop in their reading and do a quick reading comprehension self check. Maybe have younger students stop after every paragraph or page and see if they can summarize what they just read to you. For older students, maybe have them stop and give a summary or main idea every 10 pages or chapter. If your child got all the big ideas then keep reading. If he or she missed some big concepts go back and re-read.
  4. Re-read. This is by far the best reading comprehension strategy for kids to use, in my opinion. Once a student realizes they are lost or confused, re-reading can usually help them get back on track. We all zone out sometimes when we read, or get mixed up at a particular part, so re-reading is a great, quick way to clarify any confusion and continue reading. Sometimes just re-reading a sentence or two does the trick, but if a student needs to re-read a few paragraphs or a page let them.
  5. Visualizing. I knew I was a strong reader as a kid when I could read a novel with no pictures and have a movie playing in my head. Elementary students rely on pictures in books to help them visualize when they are learning to read, but as kids get older and the texts become more complex, usually there aren’t any pictures to help students. That is where visualizing comes in. Usually a novel will provide readers with a great description of a setting or character. Stop and have kids draw what the description is using colors. For those that don’t like to draw (like myself) show kids some pictures. For instance, in Divergent readers are introduced to the city of Chicago, so show students pictures of the city to help them visualize.

 

Does your learner in grades 3-12 need additional support with reading comprehension? Check out https://www.littlereadingcoachllc.com/ for details about online reading and writing tutoring.

Harry Potter Virtual Read Aloud

Read alouds have been a staple in my classrooms for years, brick and mortar and virtual (see Effective Read Alouds in the Virtual Classroom). I love being able to transport students to different worlds and time periods while reinforce reading skills and strategies.

With schools and libraries being closed, it’s important that we not only keep students Harry Potter Read Aloudlearning, but also provide them ways to escape reality for a little bit. As a certified Reading Specialist, I want to be able to provide this for students during these difficult times.

Read alouds are extremely beneficial for all students, especially those with an IEP.

*Read alouds allow students to enjoy a story without worrying about decoding (reading) words. This is super important for struggling readers who can get frustrated while reading.

*Read aloulds allow students to listen to a teacher model fluency and pronunciation. 

 

Starting Wednesday, April 1st, I will be posting a FREE recording of read aloud sessions of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with teacher notes in Google classroom. Students will have access to the classroom until June 30, 2020. I will go in depth with information about plot, characterization, making inferences, reading comprehension, theme, etc. A document of teacher notes will also be available for students to review after each read aloud. Students are more than welcome to follow along in their own copies of the text, or close their eyes and enjoy the story.

Click here to sign up