Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Extra Support for Your Edmark Users

I have found over the years that there is a love/hate relationship with Edmark for some people. Edmark is a direct instruction approach to sight word acquisition. I get it, it's not using authentic literature to teach sight words... it needs the commitment of one staff member teaching one student, so it can be time consuming.... and I'm sure others have heard many other reasons (or may even be passionate about why you don't like it!) as to why it should not be used in the classroom. I'm a reading specialist and Edmark was NOT even mentioned in my program. But, I just can't deny success! I have seen amazing results with students who are still struggling with mastering 5 out of 26 uppercase letters, yet they are consistently reading the words learned through Edmark lessons during weekly probes. I am a huge proponent of Edmark, specifically in younger elementary special education classrooms.

I have tried to approach letter/number identification in the same visual layout as Edmark, with some success, but I kind of have to do my own version.

For years, I had used the old (copyrighted 1987, possibly?) outdated Edmark. About two years ago, I was able to get a new version of the kit. It is amazing. No more of the nondescript, yellow labrador dog....there is an Airdale Terrier, a Great Dane, a Bulldog! Little kiddos in my class would struggle with generalizing dog into that one yellow dog, now the kit provides 8-10 different images of a dog! A few of the different images that are seen in the kit include: cars, horses, balls, boats, and much more.

I have been able to use Edmark with kiddos with typical language development, kiddos with articulation issues, kiddos who sign and even AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) users!

I use the comprehension sheets that go along with the updated version as well. They are proving to be  perfect for ESY (Extended School Year) support this summer. It provides students with the possibility to complete worksheets successfully that included WORDS.THEY.KNOW. Perfection!

I found that I needed additional activities to supplement their sight word acquisition. I created worksheets that students can find and color the sight word, perfect for kiddos with fine motor needs! I'm hoping to create more activities that include the words that my kiddos are mastering through Edmark. Keep an eye out!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

5 Tips for a Successful Read Aloud in a Special Edu Class

Earlier this week I gathered my students at our kidney shaped, "blue table" for a read aloud of Tops and Bottoms.

The supporting activities from Deanna Jump and Deedee Wills April Guiding Readers are a wonderful resource for this book. When we were done, I immediately reflected and chatted with my ParaEducator about how well it went. Then I thought about why it went well.....

1. Start with a finger play song
Right now "Little Arabella Miller" is a big hit with my kiddos. We also love one that my student teacher from last year shared:
Two hands up. (Up in the air)
Two hands down. (Down on the table)
Pat the table/carpet slowly. (Pat the table/carpet slow)
Pat the table fast. (Pat the table/carpet fast)

They get their wiggles out. Hands were moving, now they're not.

2. Sign Language/Gestures
In my classroom, it is normal to see my signing. I am often asked if students have an hearing impairment. They don't. I just believe that signing to them gives them another modality of input and hits another brain pathway. This article provides more information about why using sign language in literacy gets all children more engaged in what they are reading, hearing or doing.

I'm not saying you have to take sign language to incorporate this, I am a basic signer. I'm versed in the most important ones to my students; colors, emotions, food, toys, verbs. Even if you are not comfortable bringing in some sign language, try and incorporate gestures (think Whole Brain Teaching) that relate to the story. We acted like Bear with one eye open, we yawned and grunted, we weeded on the table like Hare and his family. My students were so engaged. A good rule of them is one sign/gesture per page. Exaggerate, go for the Oscar, be dramatic. They will love it, they will imitate you, and they will be more engaged with you and the text.

You can also search on Lifeprint for a specific sign. The site includes a picture and often a video of someone modeling the sign.

3. Use visual supports for any retelling of a story
My favorite commercial retelling product are the Big Books from the Journeys Kindergarten kit. There are 4 cards with specific illustrations from the text on the front with your talking points on the back. When you model retelling the story, you can read the back as students see the picture. Sounds simple, but having the talking points on the back really helps. I have also made retelling sticks with paint stirrers and velcro. I find that giving each student one helps with kiddos that need to be busy. They can be busy while holding pictures that relate to the text!

4. Find any opportunity for students to participate in repeated text
This is always easier in books that have an obvious repeated text. My kiddos loved chiming in with me for "Wake up Bear!" and "It's a done deal!"

It is also beneficial to give them an initial sound prompt of what they should repeat if they don't chime in after an appropriate amount of wait time.

5. Explicitly tell students how to respond
My kiddos struggle with calling out, chorally responding and bumping my turn to talk. If I don't give them an advance prompt that they will be calling out (and a signal of my hand pointing at them), I will say "Call it out" when I am done my question. You will have to decide what you want your students to focus on and know that it is helpful to repeat it often. Early on in a story that I expect them to call out or chime in with me, I explicitly tell them then fade to a gesture of putting my hand out in anticipation as if I am waiting for them to respond.

Hope you find these tips useful for your class. Happy reading!