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 outdated Edmark.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!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What time do we go home?

When is lunch? When do we have PE? Even though I have visual supports with their personal picture schedules, it's just natural for kids to ask those questions. I use (Dollar Store) foam clocks and list the events with the clock set to the appropriate time. It gives kids another visual support and it also helps to have it posted for anyone else who needs to know:)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Fun!

We got to use mirrors yesterday to read sight words (flipped text) and the kids LOVED it! I bought Dollar Store mirrors that had bendable stands. I reviewed expectations on safety and how we can use them with the kids before I gave them out. I differentiated the sheets, some kiddos could Smart Copy the word from the mirror, others needed to color the word (already written on worksheet) to match. A few of the kids figured out on their own that they could see the word (with the text unflipped) on the back side of the paper. This helped if they couldn't Smart Copy and look at the mirror at the same time. One kiddo had a blast just looking at himself as he stuck his tongue out in between words! This can actually an appropriate Speech strengthening activity, I was okay with it and he was on-task as soon as he got a new word:)
Click on one of the pictures below to link to the activity pack these came from.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Staying On Topic: Social Skills

We had an amazing group discussion about staying on topic in a conversation in the first grade class that we are included with. I started by reading the social story I wrote for staying on topic you can find it here.

I had written up comments that were on topic and off topic for high interest topics in our class. The teacher that I work with loves Hello Kitty and the kiddos love to wear Hello Kitty, too:) Soccer, Star Wars, My Little Pony and Angry Birds were the others I chose. Some other suggestions for the younger grades would be MineCraft, Pete the Cat and Lego Movie.

It will work best if you allow students to go to the topic of their choice. You want them to be excited about it and know some things to generate conversation. I am lucky enough to be in there to support inclusion with my Para Educators so we had enough adults to monitor and shape the conversation. You could do it in small groups, one topic at a time if it is only you.

Although my students have specific needs, this is really helpful with any student and for classroom management as well!

We love finger flashlights!

During BEAR (Be Excited About Reading) time today, I brought out the finger flashlights for the kids to use. Since it was a new activity during that time (tends to be distracting), I had them read their Edmark words so they could play a little bit. We turned out the lights and the kids had a blast! If you watch this little guy, he draws a C in the air with his flashlight, I think it helps him remember the word see:)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Number Words

This has been a fun center for my kiddos lately. To practice spelling number words, I have them use letter beads. I got plastic pencil boxes (the ones that open up like a drawer) at the Dollar Store and put a foam number on the front. I placed the beads they would need inside with a pipe cleaner. A few kids have needed a sheet with the number and the word written to check their spelling. I could even differentiate it further by just having the foam letter stickers spell out the number on the front and they can match letters. I think I might make some more with the first 20 Edmark words, too!