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Updated: Feb 25, 2023

I love hearing what curricula other teachers use in their special education classrooms. There are a lot of options out there. Some are great for special education and some require tons of modifications. What I'd really love is to spend a professional development day visiting other classrooms and looking at the curricula they use, so here's a little peek at what's being used in my classroom. Disclaimer: These are my personal opinions and experiences with the curriculum and programs.

special education curriculum

Math Curriculum

I use both Go Math and Equals in my classroom. They are both great for teaching students the why behind the math skill. I think that this is what ultimately makes a student successful in math- do they understand when and why we use a certain skill? This is what will make it functional as well.

What I love: There's a lot about Go Math that I like, but I especially like that it's a complete curriculum with a solid scope and sequence. It's easy to modify and teach. I like that it includes an interactive, digital component as well. Unfortunately, this is not a SPED specific program. It was not designed for students with severe disabilities. My students require much more practice than is provided in the program. You will probably find that you have to find additional independent practice for students to really master each skill. You can read more about how I modify Go Math to use with my students here.

Go Math

I love that Equals teaches concepts in a concrete-representational-abstract sequence. Equals is also designed for students with severe disabilities, which means it requires a lot less modification. There's a lot of hands-on practice included. Equals comes differentiated in 3 different levels which is great for a self-contained classroom. Equals was recently purchased by N2Y and I believe it's now part of Unique Learning Systems. I have not used the latest update.


Touch Math provides a multi-sensory to teaching math. It's hands-on and concrete. It's great for teaching basic concepts to students or supplementing another program with.

Connecting Math Concepts

Connecting Math is a direct instruction program that works well for students with mild to moderate disabilities. Lessons are fully scripted and build on each other. We use this program for students that really struggle with Go Math.

Reading Curriculum

Reading Mastery

Reading Mastery is a direct instruction, comprehensive reading curriculum. Some of our students do really well in this program, and others have not made a lot of progress. However, it's a great starting point in elementary school and I love that it covers all areas of reading.

Early Reading Intervention

ERI is a Tier 1 program that is used in our district's Kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms, and we also use it in our elementary self-contained classrooms. It has been incredibly successful for our students who are learning to read. Unfortunately, it's now out of print, but you can sometimes find it on Ebay.

Heggerty Phonemic Awareness

Many of our students who have been in a special class placement since they started school have large gaps in their phonological and phonemic awareness skills. Heggerty is a great program that addresses phonemic awareness in a fun and engaging way. I love that it only takes a few minutes so it's easy to add into your reading instruction.

Reading A to Z

I really like how easy Reading A to Z is to use and the wide variety of books that they provide access to. This is a great option for students who need support with comprehension, but not the best option for younger students who are still at an emergent decoding level. The lesson plans are simple and easy to follow and I love that most books include supplemental skill worksheets and a comprehension quiz.

Corrective Reading: Decoding

I've found that Corrective Reading: Decoding is much more age-appropriate than the other DI reading programs out there, so I used it often in my middle school classroom. It's fully scripted and easy to use. Our students need explicit, direct instruction and this is a great, comprehensive option.

Corrective Reading: Comprehension

This program is fast-paced and gets students thinking outside of the box. I think it's a great way to supplement your reading instruction.

Spelling Curriculum

Signs for Sounds by Read Naturally

This is my favorite spelling program. It teaches spelling systematically and builds in high-frequency words. It is phonics-based, easy to run, and very inexpensive. Our self-contained teachers use this from elementary through high school, and I highly recommended it for any age!

Writing Curriculum

Every Child a Writer

This is a program that we have been using in our self-contained classrooms for the past few years, and so far, our special education teachers are loving it. It starts with writing a single word and goes all the way through different writing genres. It's very easy to modify and I've seen it used with a wide variety of students.

Writing A to Z by Learning A to Z

I've found Writing A to Z to be super useful in my classroom. There are easy-to-follow lesson plans and practice activities included. My students require lots of practice on each type of writing so we practice the process of writing all year but it's nice to have the lessons to provide explicit instruction.

This is a program I've created to help teach my students about writing a basic paragraph back when I didn't have anything else. I usually had students who could write some great sentences but really struggle to put them together in a paragraph. This program teaches students to brainstorm, write, revise, and publish.

Functional Skills Curriculum

This Attainment program was a great addition to my classroom and has really helped teach the skills that students need for success in the community. We do a monthly Community Based Instruction trip and this has been a great resource for pre-teaching skills in the classroom

This is a great way to teach students to read and comprehend functional sight words. There are a lot of activities and practice included in each unit. My students have responded really well to this program and it's fun to teach! I use this as part of our Community Based Instruction lessons.

I love Edmark's Functional Sight Words Series for high school age students. It's repetitive and fast-paced and students enjoy it. I find that sometimes functional words are not always the most appropriate for middle school or younger students, so I recommend this for high school or post-high teachers.

Social Skills Curriculum

Explore Social Skills by Attainment

This is another Attainment program that I really liked. I especially like that it provides visual step-by-step cards and videos with real people for each skill.

Zones of Regulation

I love that Zones of Regulation pairs emotions with an easy to understand color-coded system. My students have responded very well to this emotional regulation program.

I have loved using this Social Skills Journal from Pathway 2 Success. It's been easy to fit in and my students have responded well to it!

I hope it was helpful to take a peek inside my curriculum cupboards. What programs are must-haves in your classroom?




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