Small Group Routines: 7 Quick and Simple Things to Do Every Day

In special education, our time is precious. Routines help to accomplish many tasks on a daily or weekly basis to ensure that our students are getting well rounded instruction. I use these routines to accomplish practice basic skills in my small reading groups.

Blending Words

I lay out different letter cards on the table. What cards I have laid out depend on what group I have. In my lowest level group we work on CVC words where we have a vowel in the middle and we work on creating real and nonsense words that imitate CVC words. We work on stretching out the words. My students will give me a thumbs up if it is a real word and a thumbs down if it is a nonsense word. 

Manipulating Sounds

I build on manipulating sounds by having my students change on letter to spell a new word. Example of this would be change the word cat into fat. These words then become their spelling words for the week. I try to start with changing the beginning sounds then end with changing the end sound. 

Sight Word Hunt

When working on sight words I like to work on the students seeing them in their reading and tapping them (if you are familiar with Orton-Gillingham you know exactly what I am talking about). After using the tapping method multiple times we then look in our text for the sight word. Once we find our words we use highlighters to highlight the words. We also highlight our decode-able words. 

Echo Reading

After our sight word hunt we begin reading our level reader that we use. Most days we read our text three times. The first time reading is an echo reading. I read one sentence then the student’s echo me. We continue this until we finish the story. This helps the students hear the story being read fluently and see the words in the story from the very beginning. 

Cloze Reading

The scond time reading the story we do a cloze reading. With this type of reading I read a majority of the sentence then I pause and I need the students to help me fill in the next word. This makes the students work on tracking, makes them focus more attention on the text, and gives them a purpose by helping me read. It also helps reinforce decode-able words, sight words, and words we have worked on in the previous weeks. These are the words that I usually stop on and ask for their help.

Fluency Passages

Reading fluency is something I just started implementing this year. We want our students to be good readers! One way to help make our students into good confident readers is by doing reading fluency. I started this in my groups by having my students read the first two passages at the beginning of the week and then reread those same two passages at the end of the week as reading fluency passages. We work together to read the passages three times to a timer (they start reading when the timer starts). I do sit and monitor the students one on one, but most of the time they are reading by themselves. This will help your students become better, faster readers, and build more stamina. 

Rhyming Words

Rhyming words is something that is hard for our kids. To help my kids become more successful with rhyming words I bought a cheap set of rhyming word flashcards that way I would know all the words had something that would rhyme with them. I put these cards in one of my baskets and I pull them out when we have time. I show the students the card and I ask them if they can come up with a word that for example rhymes with man. We take turns listing the words because many words can rhyme with the word man. This gives everyone an opportunity to come up with a rhyming word. This is an easy activity to pull out when you only have a few minutes left of group, while you are waiting to transition, or when you are in the hallways walking them to or from class. 
Did you notice that I referred to that leveled reader several times? Well, they’ve been a lifesaver for me. It helps me ensure that I’m doing all that I can for my students. It also saves me time when it comes to planning each week. 
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Special Education Teachers: What supplies do I need most?

Image of school supplies with text Special Education Teachers: The Ultimate List of Back to School Supplies

It’s almost that time! Depending on where you live, you will soon be seeing sales for school supplies. For us teachers seeing those school supplies can put us into two moods. First mood is give me all the school supplies I can get because who doesn’t love new school supplies? The another mood is summer is not over so do not even think about getting out those school supplies! I am one where I get excited about new school supplies and a new year!  As a special education teacher in a resource room, what school supplies do I need most?!

We often don’t have students who are bringing in backpacks full of pencils, notebooks, and folders. It’s up to us to stock up for those particular students. I secretly love this! Below, you’ll find my supplies for the resource room that I find most valuable for students to use as well as what I need to keep myself organized and prep activities. 

Supplies You’ll Need Most f Student Use

  1. Notebooks
  2. Folders
  3. Pencils (a LOT of pencils!)
  4. Erasers
  5. Crayons
  6. Scissors
  7. Glue Sticks
  8. Markers
  9. Scented Markers
  10. Colored Pens
  11. Highlighters
  12. Post-It Notes
  13. Privacy Folders
  14. Math Manipulatives
  15. Hundreds Charts
  16. Multiplication Charts
  17. Spinners
  18. Dice
  19. Clipboards

Supplies You’ll Need to Stay Organized

  1. File Folders for Each Student (I like hanging file folders!)
  2. Binders
  3. Binder Tabs
  4. Post-It Notes
  5. Your Favorite Pens
  6. Calendar
  7. Highlighters
  8. Clipboards

Supplies You’ll Need to Prep Lessons & Activities

  1. Laminator
  2. Laminating Sheets
  3. Velcro
  4. Colored Printer Paper
  5. Cardstock
  6. Spring Loaded Scissors
  7. Paper Cutter
  8. Ziplock Bags
  9. Sharpies
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How to Use Graphs to Make Progress Monitoring EASY

Picture of two reading goal graphs with text Using Graphs to Simplify Progress Monitoring

Progress monitoring is overwhelming. Trust me. I know. It is one of the hardest things about being a special education teacher. It’s also the most essential.

So, how can we make progress monitoring easier and save time? I think that using goal graphs make progress monitoring easy and can make our lives as special education teachers EASIER!


How to Use Graphs to Make Progress Monitoring EASY:

Option 1: The Progress Monitoring Binder

Inside my progress monitoring binder, I have tab for each student. I also have a graph for each goal that my students have. Because I’m a bit of a control freak, I add the data myself and do all of the coloring. 
I love to take these graphs to IEP meetings, parent teacher conferences, or use to show students a visual of their own progress. 

Option 2: Student Data Folders

This year, I promised myself that I would do something different. Instead of being the keeper of all the data, I would try to let go and allow my kids to keep their own data folders. I decided to start with my third graders. 
After assessing them, I take a marker and draw a line to reflect their score. When we have time, the kids will color in their bar in order to build their graph. 

How to Make a Goal Graph

Print Graphs

I print out the graphs that I need. I usually try to think of the goals that I’ll be tracking throughout the year. Will I need the vertical axis to have percentages, numbers 0-10, or something else? 
Graphs for progress monitoring

Copy Graphs with Dates

After I print the graphs, I add dates for when I plan to progress monitor. Then, I take these graphs to the copier and I make a lot of copies! I might make 50-100 copies, depending on the subject and the way the goal is measured! 
Reading Goal Graph with a Goal Line, Ruler, and Marker

Set Goal & Draw Goal Line

Grab your ruler and a marker for this step! Add dots to reflect the starting point and ending points of your goal. The second data point that I add to the graph should reflect when their annual case conference is due. This lets me see where the student should be by a certain date. By looking at the goal line, I can see if my students are on track to meet their goal. I can also see if they are not making adequate progress or if they are ahead and might need an IEP revision.
Reading Goal Graph with Data Points Added

Add Data Points

Once you begin collecting data, add them to your graph throughout the year. Many of our learners are visual. These graphs show a student (as well as their classroom teachers and their parents) how they are doing on their goals.
Extra Copies of Reading Goal Graphs

Keep Extras

I keep extras in the back of my binder. This helps me to be ready if a student completes a goal, a new student is added to my caseload, or as goals are changed throughout the school year.
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Special Education Teachers: Here’s How to Get It All Done

Image of keyboard and to do list with text Sped Teachers Here's How I Tackle My To Do List

As a resource room teacher, I have SO many things that I need to get done. There are days where behaviors are crazy. Some days, I sit in meetings all afternoon and get next to nothing done.

However, I do have a few routines that I implement that I feel really help me “Get It All Done“…if that’s even possible!

Quiet Tasks vs Busy Tasks

In special education, many of us share a room with other adults. For me, I share my room with another special education teacher and three assistants. My prep is also during the lunch breaks of several of our assistants and others in our hallway. There are always people around once the school day begins. This makes it difficult to “get it all done“.

I like to think of tasks as either quiet tasks or busy tasks. My busy tasks are things I can get done with other people in the room. My quiet tasks, on the other hand, are the tasks when I need peace and quiet. I usually come to school early and have the room to myself. I like to use this time to do things that require full focus and concentration. I struggle to read and understand when there are other people in the room. It’s also hard for me to type reports when there are conversations that I want to be a part of. I know, I’m nosey!

I try to get one quiet task done every day. Maybe that’s writing a report or reading several of the weekly reading stories. Either way, it is something I can accomplish while the room is silent. 

Pick a Day to Stay Late

I like go to to school early, so I can get one quiet task completed for the day. I also have one day each week where I stay after school. I stay after school until everything (within reason) is accomplished. Usually, these tasks are the same from week to week.

On Fridays, I do not leave until all of my reading and spelling tests are graded. I lay out all of my homework for the upcoming week and make sure that my intervention booklets are in my folders for the next week.

My family knows that this is my routine. They know I’m going to stay late. Every other day, I try to leave school right when contract time ends or soon after. For me, that feels like balance! 

Image of shelf with multiple papers organized in folders

Batch Tasks

Batching tasks is my biggest time saving tip! Whenever possible, I don’t make just ONE week of copies. I make 6-10 weeks worth of copies. If I’m going to assess one student, I try to assess several. Here’s what I mean:

Readings Tests

I like to sit down and do all of my accommodations for a whole unit of reading tests. When I’m done with a unit, I add them to a binder that I keep for each grade level. 

After I get done with each grade level, I take the binders to the copier and and make whole units worth of test copies. This allows me to be ready for the next six weeks of reading tests! I store them in order in the magazine files shown in the picture above.
Image of reading series batch printed

Interventions

I use several interventions in my small groups. I love these because I can copy a booklet and it gets us through the entire week. When I copy these, I usually do 5-10 weeks at a time. It takes a while to make each of these copies, but then they are DONE! 

Homework

Homework is something that many grade level teachers like me to give my students. I have a product from TpT that allows me type all my spelling words to generate homework right away. I can print homework for weeks at a time in minutes.

Classroom Observations

In my school, I handle the paperwork for our evaluations. Part of that includes completing classroom observations. I like to pick an odd day, like right before break, to do my observations. My goal is to try to get as many done in one day as humanly possible. Then, I work to type those reports the following week. 

Assess Students on Present Levels of Performance

With evaluations, I also have to assess each the students prior to holding their meeting. My goal during my prep for one week is to get all those assessments done. Depending on how many students there are this could be quick and easy. Other times, this is quite a large list. 

IEP Writing

After assessing students, I add writing IEPs to my to do list. I use the assessments to write their IEPs. After a good assessment, this part is easy! 

Lesson Plans

I use a template for my lesson plans. I usually print 6-10 weeks of the template and begin planning. I have a bucket for each group. I add any materials that I’ll need to the bucket, and I’m done! 

Grace

SPED Teachers, give yourself some GRACE!

No one really gets it all done. No matter how hard we try, we’ll still find ourselves with a crazy day or a week that just gets away from us. But when things get crazy, you’ll know that you have the basics covered! If you can get a good system into place everything else will work itself out.

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How to Accommodate Students in the General Education Classroom {Reading}

As a resource room teacher, I only get 30-45 minutes with some of my students. They spend a whole lot of time in the general education classroom. Meaning, they need accommodations! Accommodations can help them to be successful with grade level material.

Below, you’ll find reading accommodations that can be used in the general education classroom or in your resource room.

Graphic Organizers 

Graphic Organizers are a perfect tool for differentiation and accommodation in the general education classroom. Students who are well trained in knowing what to do with a graphic organizer can often apply it to a passage at their independent reading level. I have found that my kids aren’t always writing in complete sentences, but they are able to get ideas on paper! 

Use a Screen Reader

It’s 2020, people! It would be fabulous if all of our kids could read each and every thing in front of them. But let’s be honest, that isn’t realistic. If you are sharing a document or website with your students, use a screen reader. You can download them for free as a Chrome Extension! 

Read Questions Orally

I like to read questions aloud to my kids before we get started reading. It helps give them a purpose for reading and it helps them find a few key ideas or words to pay attention to. Reading the questions aloud won’t solve all of a student’s reading difficulties, but it will help them focus as they read.

I like this accommodation for two reasons. First, it is easy to transition from YOU previewing the questions to THEM previewing the questions. It also helps them get in the habit of practicing a test tasking strategy that many teachers preach to our students to try! 

Number Paragraphs and Questions

In today’s test-taking world of education, numbering paragraphs is often something that we see done on high stakes tests. I like to follow suit and help my students by writing the paragraph number under the question.

It helps my kids in two ways.

#1 They can easily chunk the test by reading a paragraph or two and stop to answer the question(s).
#2 They aren’t hunting and sorting all over the passage for the answers.

We know reading and testing is difficult for some of our kids, let’s set them up for a little bit of success! 

Rephrase the Question

Guys, we talk a lot. People writing test questions talk a lot. Everything handed to our kids is text heavy. Help them by rephrasing the question. See if you can make it simpler. Try to slllloooooow it down. See if that helps them to understand WHAT they are supposed to be doing. 

Let Them Draw

Reading is tough. Many of our students don’t visualize or know what to do inside their head as we read aloud, much less when we complicate it more by having them do the reading.

I like to have my kids draw what is happening in our reading stories each week. Some texts lend themselves to a picture better than others, but it’s a good practice to help them visualize and make the reading come to life.

Provide Sentence Stems

I like to have my students use sentence stems to help them get their answers started. Most of my kids are able to answer open-ended questions independently, but only if they have a sentence stem. We use this cheat sheet all year long. I shared more about these sentence stems in this blog post! 

Preteach Vocabulary Words

Many students with disabilities have difficulty with vocabulary. Between low verbal comprehension scores or lack of complex vocabulary at home, they need help understanding key vocabulary words.

I like to help my kids better understand vocabulary with pictures, examples, stories, or synonyms. Even the words hidden inside questions can make it difficult for students to answer. Break it down and try to help them understand what they’re reading or being asked to do.

What accommodations do you find to be the most helpful?

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