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.

6 Effective Nonfiction Note-Taking Tips

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A Christmas Cookie Exchange Book Review

One of my favorite parts about Christmas are the seasonal foods and Starbucks lattes. I have a pretty insane sweet tooth, so I take advantage of the cookies this time of year. As I mentioned last week, I’m diving into my list of 15 Best Children’s Books for Christmas.  I truly can’t think of a time when I’ve read a holiday book about cookies, which is what caught my attention with today’s book.

A Christmas Cookie Exchange, by Sheri Wall, is a delicious Christmas picture book that teaches readers not to compare themselves to others.

Right away I was drawn to the writing style of this text. There is end rhyme on each page that helps the flow of the story and makes it super fun to read aloud. The sophisticated language paired with classy pictures, makes readers feel like they are attending a fancy holiday party.

However, my absolute favorite part is the characterization of the different cookies. Our main cookie, Phil, is just a basic cookie and he compares himself to the flashy holiday cookies. Each cookie has a unique personality that relates to their flavor. I really enjoyed “the Man” (a gingerbread man) personality the most and actually laughed out loud while I read his pages. I was also very entertained when Phil imagined himself as each cookie. The illustrations truly capture the essence of the text.

As a teacher, there were two elements I really liked about this text. Through the use of repetition, readers are able to piece the different themes together. But, just in case some readers struggle to do this, the author was kind enough to list the different themes at the end of the book s lessons Phil learned. I also LOVED how Wall included a glossary at the end of the book for readers. Her writing is so rich, but it may be a little advanced for some of the younger readers.

I can see this book being used in an preschool through second grade classroom during the month of December. It’s a truly great text to discuss characterization and vocabulary.

To purchase this book click here.

For more information about the author and to purchase other books click here.

The Enchanted Hour Book Review

I have always believed in the power of read alouds at home and in the classroom, even if students can read on their own. I have butted heads with administrators because they felt my 10 minutes of reading at the beginning of each class was “a waste of learning time”.

Now, I can finally say, there’s a whole book about why it’s not :).

The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon is an incredible text about the power of reading aloud.

What I liked most about this book was the mix of researched information and first hand experiences. I feel like nowadays society demands to see numbers and statistics with every piece of evidence, so when it comes to crafting a text like this one every i must dotted and every t crossed. Boy, does the author do just that. She explains research, studies and interviews with a friendly tone that doesn’t make the reader feel as though he or she is reading a college textbook.

One of the biggest pieces of research that stuck out at me was the MRI study done when children are read to. The study’s results support the idea that reading picture books aloud allows a child’s brain to interact with the text on multiple levels. Personally, I see this first hand when I read with Molly. I’ll read the text and she’ll point at the pictures and draw her own conclusions based on what she sees.

As a parent, I really liked reading about the author’s personal experiences reading with her family. I always think it’s interesting to see what books are loved and read over and over again (Treasure Island is one of the family’s faves). Cox Gurdon also throws in a little parent reflection about her daughter’s experience with Johnny Tremain. If she could go back, she would read the text aloud to her child because the text may have been a little too complex for her at the time. I LOVE that not only does the author acknowledge things could have been done a different way, but also realizes why the text may not have been a good fit for her daughter.

As parents, we all want our children to be super stars, but it’s important to realize when something, such as reading, is just a little too challenging. The author does not get defensive, but rather wishes she could go back and give her child the little extra support she needed. As the author explains, reading aloud is not cheating. It’s just simply a way to get children to appreciate good literature because they aren’t so worried about reading the words.

The teacher in me agrees with every single aspect of this book. I teach secondary reading (6-12) and I truly believe in reading aloud to kids even at this level. As I mention in previous blog posts (click here) I do this in brick and mortar and the virtual environment. Why? Because reading aloud turns kids into readers. As this text explains beautifully, it helps with vocabulary skills at all ages, helps transport children all over this world (and out) during all periods of history, and allows children to appreciate and engage with a text.

My read alouds are without a doubt my favorite part of my teaching day. As the author points out, the reader and listeners bond and have a shared experience during that time. I engage in such in depth conversations with my students during read alouds that I often find myself feeling warm and fuzzy when the time is over. Students have also expressed similar feelings during our read aloud time, and we have such a stronger bond and connection.

The biggest take away from this book is that we need to read to kids. Yes, they can play on an Ipad to learn letter sounds, but nothing can replace someone reading to a child.

And of course the fabulous Sarah Mackenzie from Read Aloud Revival had Meghan Cox Gurdaon on her podcast in June to discuss the book. It’s honestly one of the best podcast episodes from RAR. Feel free to listen to it here.

I strongly recommend this text for parents, teachers and school administrators.