Professional Development Books for Special Education

I love to read. I’m also a total nerd when it comes to professional development books for special education and learning new things. I literally have bookshelves full of books. Some I’ve read. Others are on my “To Be Read” list.

I feel like there is always something to learn in special education: a new strategy, developing research, a mindset shift. We can never learn or know enough. I hope that you will take a minute to browse these professional development books for special education and see if any of these areas are a good fit for you to read this summer.
Image of The Primary Gal Holding a Book with the Title "Pre-Referral Intervention Manual" as one of her Professional Development Books for Special Education

Pre-Referral Intervention Manual

This book is literally in every single school that I’ve ever worked in. That’s how important it is. I have also rarely seen it utilized to it’s fullest potential. In this book, you’ll find THOUSANDS of researched based strategies for so many learning and behavioral difficulties.
When you are asked what researched based strategies you are using for your students or students in the referral process, this is your go to. What I love most, you are already doing so many researched based strategies without even knowing it. This book is extremely valuable and easy to use!
Image of The Primary Gal Holding a Book Titled "Phonological Awareness: Assessment Tools & Strategies" as her Second Choice for Professional Development Books for Special Education

Phonological Awareness Assessment Tools & Strategies

If you read ANYTHING about Dyslexia, you’ll quickly realize the important of phonological awareness. For me, I was asking myself what I could do to help my kids improve in this area.
I received this book when I attended an Orton-Gillingham training last year. The activities inside are GOLD. They are simple, easy, and fun for the students to do. In many cases, they don’t require any materials OR they can be done with things you already have around your home or classroom. It also breaks down strategies for things that you would do in Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3.
Image of a Book Titled "The Complete Learning Disabilities" Laying in the Grass with a Pen on Top of the Book as the Third Professional Development Books for Special Education

The Complete Learning Disabilities Handbook

I’ll be honest. This one isn’t a fun read. This was actually a book that I had to buy when I was working on my masters. It is big and really thing, but it is LOADED with strategies for you to use with your students. When I am working on a new product line or struggling with a student who isn’t making progress, I reference this book.
Image of a Desk with a Kleenex Box, Glasses, Chapstick, and a Book with the Title "Take Control of Dyslexia & Other Reading Difficulties"

Take Control of Dyslexia & Other Reading Difficulties

I LOVE this book. It is actually designed for students and adults with dyslexia to read themselves. However, I don’t believe that it’s just for people WITH dyslexia. I think it’s also for people who will be HELPING people with dyslexia grow and learn.
In this book, it discusses strategies for becoming a better reader, as well as explaining what dyslexia is and how we need to get to know our own learning style. It is a quick, easy read that is very helpful for teachers and parents. I plan to keep a few copies of this on my bookshelf at school to loan to general education teachers and parents.
Image of Glasses and a Book Titled "Differentiation and the Brain"

Differentiation and the Brain

This book is very heavy, like in research not weight! It dives deep into the neuroscience behind differentiation to allow us to help our students. It is a unique book that offers a great understanding of WHY we need to differentiate for our students and HOW we can make that happen.
Special education teachers, I have something just for YOU! I have a free week of reading intervention that helps me tackle all sorts of challenging areas for my students. You can download it by clicking this link or the image above. 
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Small Group Routines: 7 Quick and Simple Things to Do Every Day

Image of Primary Gal Sitting at A table with Laptop and Pad of Paper with the Text "Small Group Routines: 7 Quick & Simple Things to do Every Day"

In special education, our time is precious. Small group 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 small group routines to accomplish and practice basic skills in my small reading groups.

Image of a Desk with Three Cards that Spell out the Word Slap with a Finger Pointing to the SL of Slap

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.
Image of a Desk with the Word Slap on Three Cards with Letter Tiles Underneath

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.
Image of a Desk with The Primary Gal's Resource Room Reading Series Red Booklet Week 11 with a Green and Blue Highlighter

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.
Image of a Desk with The Primary Gal's Resource Room Reading Series Booklet with a Hand Holding a Colored Pencil Coloring in a Smiley Face

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.
Image of a Desk with The Primary Gal's Resource Room Reading Series Booklet with a Hand Pointing to Highlighted Words

Cloze Reading

The second 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.
Image of a Desk with The Primary Gal's Resource Room Reading Series Booklet with a Pencil

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.
Image of Primary Gal Using Word Family Flash Cards for her Small Group Routines

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 and is a big part of my small group routines.
If you want to give it a shot, I have a free week! You can download it by clicking here.
If you’ve already gotten the free week, you might be wondering where you can get MORE! If you’d like to check them out, click here to see them on TpT. 
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Special Education Teachers: What school 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 supplies for school? The another mood is summer is not over so do not even think about getting out those supplies! I am one where I get excited about new 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.

School Supplies You’ll Need Most for 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
Image of reading intervention with text Free download
I’ve also been loving this reading intervention. I have a free week for you to try! Click this link or the image above to snag it for free. 
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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!
Progress Monitoring 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.
Click here for your Editable Goal Graphs on TpT
Could these graphs help make progress monitoring easy for you? 
Grab them on TpT by clicking the image above!
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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.

Image of reading intervention worksheets with text Free Download from The Primary Gal
I think this reading intervention could really help save you time and get it all done! Would you like to try a free week? You can download them by clicking here or the image above
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