Friday, February 26, 2016

Accommodations-Tricks for Any Teacher

Sometimes all a student needs to be successful are a few accommodations to make the assignment/requirements more accessible for them. I have compiled a few accommodations I do in my classroom as well as things I share with the general education teachers I work with to support our students. There are so many things you could do but I wanted to share some of my favorite!

(Some pictures shown contain resources I have found from other TPT sellers as well as ones I have created. Please click the pictures for the links :))

*Highlighters are my best friend!!- Using a highlighter is probably one of the simplest accommodations I do. It is so easy to stock your paras, volunteers and general education teachers with this tool. I use highlighters in all subjects for a variety of things. Check some out here:

I used a highlighter to point out where the student could find the information in the text. The student was still required to find the matching picture, cut it out and glue it. The highlighter just allowed them to visually see how a passage is sequenced.

Here I had a student use a highlighter to find the answers in the text. This student is fully capable of finding the answers independently they just struggle to write in the small spaces the worksheet had. The student is still reading the passage/questions and answering the questions independently. 

This particular book we read from Unique Learning Systems had a lot of different names. To allow the student to complete the comprehension sheet independently I simply highlighted the name in each question. That way they knew the answer for that question was on the page that mentioned the highlighted name. 

This is a great example of how I use highlighters during math. I colored the hour hand on all of the clocks orange and the minute hand blue. I then used those same colors on the answer line. This way the student could see that the hour is written first and the minutes are written second. 

Like one of the early assignments, this student used highlighter to find the answers in the text. The difference between this assignment and the one listed earlier is that this particular student needed a lot of support to answer the questions and struggles to write. I highlighted each question and then helped the student find the the answers in the text. They highlighted the answer independently. 

*Tricks I do to help my students with writing:

Adding colored lines to standard notebooks allows students to feel just like the rest of the kids. Clearly this particular student has very large print and is writing very simple sentences compared to her 5th grade classmates but this simple accommodation allows her to be just like her friends. She is very proud of her notebook :)

Write a story with your student on sentence strips and have them put it in order (you could fade out the sentence starters over time). To extend this activity you could then have your student write it/ type it and draw a picture to match.

Print out mini word walls to go with each writing assignment to help kids with independence. The kids are much more likely to look at a list that is filled with words that they can use in their current stories than pick up a dictionary that is filled with words they probably cannot read.....not to mention the dictionary is hard to find words if you cannot spell!! 

USE STAMPS!!! I use stamps all of the time with my emergent literacy students. It is so much fun and it allows them to write!!! Not to mention stamping works on spelling and fine motor skills.

Use visuals to help students sequence stories. This simple format allows my students to write stories independently. For your higher level students you could extend this activity and have them tell you what happened before or after the pictures given.

The following pictures are my all time favorite activity!! Use sentence strips as models for sentence building. Each part of the sentence I want the student to fill has color coded choices. In the examples shown the "who" is in blue, "what" is in purple and "where" is in green. The first picture has errorless choices (if your student knows their colors). Put the sentence in order and then have them write it out. If your students struggle to write have them take a picture of their work with the iPad (make sure to have a piece of paper with their name on it so they can add that to the picture :))

For this sentence building model students still have to match the colors but it is more difficult because they have to make choices that make sense. For example they could select "Liam" is "running" on the "track". 

You could eventually take away the color cues from the sentence strip. You could still allow the students to use choices to build their sentence or have them come up with their own. Having this simple sentence model allows the students something to look at when trying to write.

*Reading! There are so many things you could do for reading but here are a few things I like to addition to my favorite highlighting tool :)

Adapted Books are a great way to get your kids engaged in reading. My adapted books with "wh" questions also allows students to answer questions on the same page instead of having to go back at the end of the story. 

You can also accommodate your own books by using picture supports. But check out the website where I got this book (click the picture). The book in the picture is Jumanji!

Make your own communication boards to go along with your weekly stories. I use these for my emergent literacy group. As you can see each board is different. You can also use the boards to have the students retell the story!! (Also check out how I use Ziploc bags as page protectors :)).

*Physical Space/Seating

Allow for your students to sit on a variety of furniture. My kids love sitting on yoga balls, bean bags, tables, the floor etc. I even have students who like to stand. Allow your student to work in a position/seat/area that works for them. Heck I have a student who completes every assignment in a tent!

Flip your desks around so students aren't fidgeting with the materials inside of them. It can also serve as a movement break for some of your kiddos. If they need to get something out of the desk they have to get up and come back to their seat.

Use tape for a visual divide on tables. This way students can see what their personal space looks like.

Just like the tape on the tables, I use tape on the carpet so one of my students has a visual barrier for "Carpet time". Before this square the student was constantly crawling all over the floor and getting into other students personal space. This simple box that took me 1 minute to make has completely stopped that behavior. However, it works both ways, the student cannot leave the space but others cannot enter it.

Place tasks into numbered bins! This is based off of the T.E.A.C.C.H model but I use this with my higher level students as they do not need as much structure. Having bins allows students to know exactly how much they have to do before the task is complete and they can start a new one. 

*Here are a few more things I do...

Voting is VERY difficult for my students. Instead of writing out what we are voting for or saying it over and over I place the objects on the table and have them vote using a dry erase marker. Doing this takes most of the language processing component out of voting! Plus who doesn't like to write on tables :)

Add Touch Dots to any math sheet. Also add check marks after the student completes the problems (if they are correct). It is a simple way to let them know they are doing it right. 

Use mini schedules so students know what to expect during each activity. Sometimes seeing "Reading" on their daily schedule isn't enough.

Use adapted scissors for students who struggle with fine motor skills. I have taken it a step further here and turned these adapted scissors into table scissors. This allows the student to just hit the scissors (if they cannot hold them). You can purchase real tabletop scissors but this is what I came up with on the fly :).

If you have something you do daily, print 2 colored copies. Laminate both and cut up and velcro one. This allows the student to physically do the worksheet before having to write it. 

There are SOOO many accommodations out there. Here are a few Pinterest Boards I follow, hopefully you can get some more ideas from here:

What accommodations do you use in your classroom?

post signature Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Research Writing for Students with Special Needs Part 1/3

Let's face it, research writing sucks! Don't get me wrong I absolutely love my job, my students and accommodating materials to meet my students needs but research writing is challenging. You have to be able to tie all of your core academic knowledge into one assignment....writing, reading, understanding the content and more!!!

Every year when it comes to research writing I usually use a shared writing approach. The students are still exposed to researching, taking notes and writing but we do it together. This year I really wanted to challenge my students and give them a lot of independence with this assignment. When reading this, know that I did this with 5 of my 5th graders who are cognitively at a K-1st grade level. The students had the support of myself and one additional para professional during this unit.

For this entire series I will be referring to my Arctic Animal Research Writing Unit but you could do this with any research assignment if you wish. Here is what we will be covering during this series. The different colors are the different posts I will be doing.

For Part 1 we will be focusing on Picking a Topic, Finding Sources, Brainstorming/Taking Notes. Before I even started this unit I had to pump my kids up. We did a mini researching activity (which took 1 week) about the Arctic itself. Together we filled out a KWL chart, watched videos, read articles and took notes. This was a great way to teach the students the components of researching while still being there for them every step of the way. After that I told them it was their turn to become Arctic Animal Experts. So...the fun begins.


I gave the kids a "possible topics" page and they had to write down arctic animals they may be interested in researching. This was fairly easy for them because we had generated a list of arctic animals during our shared researching project about the Arctic. 

Once they filled out their graphic organizer they had to select 2-3 animals to look up a few facts about. After that it was time to pick their animal. I was only allowing 1 student per animal so as the kids finished up their topic searching I put their names in a hat. I then pulled them in the order they would be able to pick their animal. This went pretty smoothly but I did have some kids who had to pick their 2nd or 3rd choice. As long as you make every animal seem super cool they should be fine switching. The way I see it, making a choice and sometimes not getting exactly what you want is a life lesson. Since I teach life skills this was perfect :)

Once all of the kids had the animal they were going to become experts on, I handed out their packets. Each packet had all of the mini-lessons, graphic organizers and sources they would need for their selected animal. 

FINDING SOURCES/TAKING NOTES: This is the super challenging part of research writing for my students. Having to go out and find all of the sources is so over their head. With my Arctic Animal Research Writing Unit the kids were able to do this almost independently!!!

I had 2 levels of articles that allowed for differentiation. Each level has the exact same information and QR codes but L2 is broken down into sections (habitat, anatomy and diet) while L1 is written in standard paragraph format and has a section for note taking on the right. I set them up like this because I have students who really struggle with the actual task of writing. Splitting the paragraphs up into grouped sections allows them to remove the writing part of taking notes.

I sent the kids off to read their article 3 times. Once they read it 3 times they had to come back to me and tell me 1 thing they learned. Now, not all of my students can read independently but they enjoy reading. So I sent them off like everyone else and then when they came back instead of asking them what they read about I read the passage with them.

Now they are ready to take notes. The kids will start by pulling out key information from their article. I wanted the kids to focus on 3 main things. The animals habitat, anatomy and diet. The students who had Level 1 went through and found the information in their article, with my help. They highlighted each section with a different color and then wrote the information on the right.

Kids with Level 2 just highlighted the information. This is where level 2 becomes easier. Since the information is already separated into sections the kids just have to highlight the part they want/ the most important.

Now that the kids have done all they can with their article they are ready to start scanning the QR codes. These were a LIFE SAVER!!! Having all of the sources in one place made this not only easier for the students but for me as well. In the past I was constantly typing in sites, searching through Google with the kids and wasting so much time!!!! With the QR codes the kids simply scan and BAM! they are ready to read a new article. As the kids were reading their new articles I told them they had to jot down at least 2 facts from each article and write them on their graphic organizer. In their packet they have a Habitat, Anatomy and Diet organizer that is specific to their animal.

The kids absolutely LOVED doing this. The thing that was so amazing was the amount of independence they had. I did have to help them with some reading but they loved being able to scan and take notes all by themselves!!! 

Do you think the QR Codes and simplified article would be helpful for your students?

Make sure to come back tomorrow for Part 2- Making an Outline, Introductions, Body and Conclusions.