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So Long, Farewell!

Today has been a very bittersweet day… I work with the drama teacher at school, and our students’ final performance of The Sound of Music took place tonight.  With only six days left in the school year, I HAD to bite the bullet and start breaking my classroom down for summer storage.  Plus, this will be my last blog post as your special education blogger!  I will really miss having the opportunity to dialogue with the special education community online.  As I leave, I want to share a few final thoughts on the end of the school year with my students, as a blogger this year, and where I am headed next!

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Clearing Up Decertification Uncertainties

Wow, I can’t believe we only have twelve days left in the school year!  It seems like the time has flown so fast and that the time we have left is slipping away before me.  One thing I am definitely taking time to do in my classroom, however, is make sure that the four children who we are decertifying from our CTT class are prepared for their transition to middle school.  The decertification process itself is not complicated, but the decision TO decertify a student from special services and transitioning that student to full-time general education is more complex.  I’m going to share with you the “5 Ws + How” it works in my classroom and some thoughts on meeting your own students’ needs when special services are no longer necessary or appropriate.

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End-of-year Goal-Setting

Today was a professional development day in the New York City public schools.  My school staff made the long trek up to White Plains for a day of team building and focus on a new curriculum we will use for reading comprehension next year.  Our last rotation for the day focused on goal-setting with our students and how we will try next year to implement a monthly goal-setting routine with our students where we work with them to identify their strengths, weaknesses, and next steps.  

I’m sure this is something we all use at the beginning of the year, and many of us continue to set goals for and with our students along the way.  I feel like I have overlooked in the past the value of setting goals at the end of the year, and I know that I will definitely be spending some time over the next three weeks setting goals and establishing frameworks with my current students for how to stay focused during the summer and into middle school, and how these goals connect to their longer-term hopes and dreams.  

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Idle Hands? Not In Our Class!

While the school year draws to a close in some parts of the country, we here in New York City still have about another month to go!  I’m starting to think about our end of the year, and as we plan our fifth graders’ senior trip (a camping experience in upstate New York), ‘prom,’ and graduation ceremony, I am finding myself both happy the end of the year is nearing and full of urgency to cram in that last bit of learning! Today, I want to give you a look inside my classroom right now in terms of our last few academic activities as well as offer some suggestions for sustaining energy for learning when the weather gets warmer and summer vacation fever approaches.

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Talking to Kids about Test Scores

Regardless of how we as educators try to make assessment as authentic as possible, the fact remains that state and national standardized tests are the ruler by which our teaching skills and our students’ successes are measured.  New York test scores have been trickling in during the past few weeks, and with scores themselves inevitably come many triumphs and some disappointments.  For these high-stakes tests, the results are obviously much-anticipated, but what do we do with the information when it finally arrives?  While it’s easy to excitedly share the good news when students have done well and met their goals, it can be more challenging to inform students when they did not meet their goals.  

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Sharing and Celebrating (Shy) Students' Writing

Writer's Workshop 016 Many of my special-needs students have speaking goals on their IEPs both for social reasons and due to their disability classifications as speech and language-impaired.  For this reason, it is really important that I have structures in place in my class which help my students engage in various speaking-related activities.  One way I do this is with the read-arounds I mentioned in my last post, and I realized that this structure is something I want to share with you as well!  I hope it will be as successful in your classrooms as it is in mine.

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Differentiation Squared: Writer's Workshop in a CTT Classroom

Writer's Workshop 022  We use a writer’s workshop model at my school that is similar to Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study.  In this model, a writer’s workshop (which is supposed to occur daily) should consist of a brief mini-lesson, time for guided or interactive writing, independent work time in which you conference and students work with a peer or by themselves on a project, and a sharing time for students to present their work and receive feedback from their peers.  Ideally, each completed writer’s workshop project should include five phases: brainstorming/pre-writing, rough drafting, revision, editing, and publishing. Our bulletin board projects sometimes fall off the board because they are so heavy from including the different drafts!

This model is theoretically ideal for differentiated instruction because it provides lots of time to work individually (and thus in small groups).  In the co-teaching setting, writer’s workshop is a great time to try out a different model of co-teaching or practice using the ones you already employ in a new way!  Check out one of my earlier posts for some background information on the six models of co-teaching.  Let’s take a picture walk through some student work to examine how collaborative teaching can help reach all learners during writer’s workshop.

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One Teacher Appreciates Another (Two): Why My Co-Teachers are Awesome

I thought I would depart from my students a little bit this week and share with you another aspect of my daily classroom life: my co-teachers.  I co-teach a section of literacy every day with one of my partners, Mr. K.  While I teach with him, Mr. G goes into my home classroom to teach math.  This departmental structure has been difficult for me to adjust to, and I know I could never do so without their patience, support, and more-than-occasional cheerleading.  In the spirit of teacher appreciation week, I would like to share with you just a few of the amazing things I appreciate about my co-teachers.

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Now I Know My ABCs: (A)necdotals can (B)e (C)ritical!

Although we try our hardest to set up behavior management systems that anticipate, pre-empt, or prevent conflicts, outbursts, or undesirable actions; unfortunately, every teacher knows that 100% prevention is a complete impossibility.  How we choose to handle behavior problems will vary depending on the specific child and classroom context, but regardless of how a situation gets handled, it is important to keep clear, concise, and objective records, or ‘anecdotal records,’ of behavior incidents.  There are several good reasons for this and several different ways to keep these records… don’t feel locked in, but it is important to try to find a method that works for you and be consistent with it.  Click here to download the tool I use, and feel free to alter or reproduce it to meet your needs! Download Anecdotal record sheet

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Five Tips for Successful Field Trips

For special needs students, who often thrive on routine and consistency, field trips can be daunting.  However, they also represent an opportunity for engaging, motivating, authentic, and highly relevant learning experiences.  Students with special needs are definitely entitled to be exposed to the unique opportunities field trips provide, and teachers can take some preparatory steps for their students to ensure that these trips are productive and meet their students’ needs.

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