Blog Design by Miss Lulu. Graphics by A Little Peace of Africa.. Powered by Blogger.

Writing With An Alternative Pencil

Let's talk about writing. Students learn about writing by writing. That means we have to let them write. If they can't hold a pencil to write, then we provide them an alternative tool, or an alternative pencil.

You may have seen the alternative pencil flip charts. You can get one for free here. But an alternative pencil can be anything that allows a student to write. I want to share how I use alternative pencils in my classroom for whole class writing prompts. Each day, I introduce a writing topic. As a class, we brainstorm words that are related to the topic that we could use to write. Then, my paras and I assist my students in writing about the topic, using alternative pencils. I have one student who uses a flip chart, one student who uses a keyboard, and one student who uses letter flash cards and yes/no icons. The rest of my students use typical pencils.


Here are some tips to help your students who are learning to write with alternative pencils! 
1. Choose topics of interest. Write about experiences the students have had, or events that are coming up. Make it meaningful and concrete.

 2. Use videos or pictures to introduce the topic. I love using pictures or videos of my students to introduce a topic. If we are writing about a field trip that we went on, I use pictures of the student on the field trip. Or if we are writing about a holiday, I use a short video clip to get students engaged. For my students who love music, I like to use songs about the topic. Whatever it takes to get them engaged!
For our Thanksgiving writing prompt, we watched a clip from "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving."

For this writing prompt, we will watch a video about how to make a paper snowflake. Then, we will make our own snowflakes before we write. This will give the students a more concrete experience to write about.

3. Model. Use the student's alternative pencil to model what writing can look like. Show them how to create new words using spaces.  Show them how to find letters.  Make sure you think aloud during the process.

4. Give meaning to the students writing. One of my favorite parts of using alternative pencils is the "borrowing letters" strategy. After students have completed their writing, you can "borrow" the letters they wrote to create words. 

5. Allow students opportunities to share. I love the idea of an author's chair in the classroom. Students can come sit in the author's chair and share their writing. For my non-verbal students, I love to help them program their AAC device to match their writing or use a step by step switch to record what they wrote.


Learning to write starts with the opportunity to write. Let's make sure all students are given that opportunity!

Story Based Literacy: Literacy Instruction in Special Education


Story Based Literacy is one of my favorite things to teach! What is it? It’s exactly what it sounds like- using grade level texts to teach literacy. Students without disabilities need to be able to access age appropriate literature. This increases reading interest, reading skills, and the understanding of literacy components that are required by the state standards. Students with disabilities do not have the same opportunities to access literature because their reading level is well below their peers. SBL provides access to age appropriate literature, in turn building on the all of the above skills.



Here are just a few of the skills you can teach through Story Based Literacy-
  • Demonstrate print concepts (title, author, turning page, following along, etc.)
  • Answer WH questions
  • Identify characters, setting and events (plot)
  • Identify main idea of the chapter or text
  • Summarize the chapter or text
  • Compare print to video/ understand similarities and differences
There are many components to literacy instruction. This is what it looks like in my classroom.

Day 1
Introduce vocabulary and story elements, add story elements and vocab to interactive notebook or story board
Day 2
Review vocabulary, read chapter, test vocabulary
Day 3
Read chapter, ask comprehension & story element questions
Day 4
Complete interactive notebook summary, test vocabulary
Day 5
Assessment and activity



I focus on the following components.
Vocabulary- I choose 2-3 words per chapter. The words that I focus on are words that my students will hear and come across on a regular basis. I like to choose words that repeat themselves throughout the chapter or book.  I explicitly teach the vocabulary, and then my students complete a vocab activity on their level.  Every 3-5 chapters, we do a vocabulary review, like BINGO.

  

Comprehension- Because we read the chapter several times throughout the week, I can really focus on student comprehension.  I set a monthly comprehension focus for each student based on their instructional level. Some students work on yes/no questions while others may be working on main idea questions.  I create a chapter communication board with characters, settings, vocabulary and answers to possible comprehension questions.  For my students who need limited choices or use eye gaze, I create flash cards with the same pictures that are on the communication board.  I record comprehension data once weekly for each student.

  

Repeated Line- A repeated line essentially tells the main idea of the chapter. It’s a way to get all of my students involved in the reading. I use recordable buzzers (affiliate link) for my non-verbal students and a visual for my verbal students.  As we read, I signal to the students and they say the repeated line.


Writing- Another important component of literacy instruction is writing.  It’s easy to implement a weekly writing prompt related to the chapter.  I’ve also done interactive notebooks in the past, and each week students write a sentence, or paragraph, that summarizes the chapter.  For my students who are unable to write, I use cut and paste sentences, or alternative pencils.

Activity- My favorite part of SBL is being able to integrate other subject areas through weekly activities.  Each week, I find a cooking, science, or social studies activity that ties into the chapter. 

  

And finally, freebies! Click here to grab my weekly outline template and communication board template. Questions about Story Based Literacy? Leave them below or shoot me an email! I’d love to chat more about how you can incorporate this into your classroom



Top Tips for Community Based Instruction

I will admit, when I first started teaching, taking my students into the community made me so nervous! Now, we go out all the time and community based instruction is one of my favorite things about my job. A while back, I wrote about the benefits of CBI (with a freebie!) here. Today, I want to share my top tips for making community based instruction a successful experience for everyone involved.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1: Favorite Apps for the SPED Classroom

Let's talk apps! I love using the iPads and tablets in my classroom for education purposes, not just for reinforcement. I want to share my favorite apps with you and give you a change to win a $20 iTunes gift card so you can try out some new apps in your classroom! Keep reading to see how to enter.

{Tips for Special Educators} Data Collection

It's #SPEDchatSaturday and I want to talk to you about data collection. I love data. It's one of my favorite things about being a special educator. I love being able to see exactly where my students are at, the progress they have made, and what I need to change to help them learn. Not only is data a requirement for any teacher, I take data on pretty much every program that is run in my classroom, regardless of whether it aligns to an IEP goal. One of the main reasons I do this is because I am not the only person teaching in my classroom. My paraprofessionals and my peer tutors provide instruction. However, I am still the teacher, so I am responsible for each program and each student's learning. Without data, I don't know how my students are doing. There are tons of ways to take data and to streamline your data collection. Here are a few tips & tricks!


Mail Delivery Program

A mail delivery program is a perfect way to practice and generalize social skills, pre-vocational skills and even sorting! My students LOVE delivering mail, and it provides the opportunity for our faculty to get to know them better.

Organizing Materials by Level for Easy Access

Hi friends! I'm here to share a super easy trick for organizing your classroom materials. Most often, our special education classrooms are full of students whose instructional levels vary greatly. I like to have materials and activities that are easy for students to access independently and for my paras to assist with, but I want my students completing tasks that are at their level.
Back to Top