Showing posts from 2012

Happy New Year!

I'm excited to start filling all the blank pages!  I feel like a lot of things are going to come in to alignment as we move forward.  Happy New Year! 

Literacy Assessment for Students with Complex Needs

As our approach to literacy learning shifts around the students that I have on my caseload I am finding a need to take a different approach to literacy assessment.  Gone are the days where I can just say where they are in the Edmark Reading program or write general statements in regards to how they have engaged in literacy experiences.  When you make the end goal letter by letter generative reading and writing it changes things.  This is a work in progress and I'm trying to develop a system where literacy skills are assessed at the beginning of the year and each of the three reporting periods.  Each of these assessments would then be used to guide our literacy programming for that student for the upcoming term.  Emergent-Transitional-Conventional Reading Rubric Kathy Strauler Literacy Rubric (2007) This rubric allows for getting baseline information as to where students are at on the emergent to conventional reading skills continuum.  The process involves you engaging the studen…

Using the Nonverbal Approach to Promote Literacy

Link: I came across this Power Point presentation a few weeks back and have since found a couple of research studies on the "Nonverbal Approach to Reading (NRA)".  When I attended the "Literacy and AAC" course put on by Karen Erickson and David Koppenhaver in May, they spoke of the goal of reading instruction being that of "reading silently (in your head) with comprehension".  Seems logical but for students who do not talk what does this mean?  From everything that I've read what it means is that we need to be explicit about teaching them to read silently in there head.  We need to actually talk to them in the teaching process about what they are hearing in their heads while reading.   I'm excited to begin trying this NRA method with a few of my students after Christmas.  I am using a modified approach to Patricia Cunningham's "Systematic Sequential Phonics They Use: For Beginning Rea…

A Unique Teacher Imparts Real Life Lessons

"Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all." (Aristotle)

Interactive to Independent Literacy: A Model for Designing Literacy Goals for Children with Atypical Communication

Article Link: I knew immediately that this article was to like this article when I read the quote that it opened with: "Researchers and professionals need to work actively to reverse the forces at work in our culture that lead to the ostracism of children who are different."  Over the past year and a half, my views about literacy instruction for the students that I have on my caseload have changed quite a bit.  I have been fortunate enough to take workshops and/or courses form Linda Burkhart (PODD Communication), Karen Erickson and David Koppenhaver (Literacy in AAC Course) and Caroline Musslewhite (Literacy Workshop and Communication Circle Workshop).  I have also participated, along with two different teachers from the school I work at, in the Literacy for All project last year and this year. It is not that I didn't believe in literacy instruction for "my" students so much as I was thinking of liter…

Shifting Gears

I'm not going to lie.  Trying to navigate having "my" students in three different schools in the first months of this year has been tough.  There have been times where I've wanted to throw up my hands and move them all back in to the self-contained world we used to have that was so much easier to manage.  Although I believe in this in theory, there have been times when I've questioned if we can actually make it work in practice. Those are two different things.

But those are just fleeting moments as most of the time I can see the advantage and/or potential to each of them to the programming they have now in comparison to the programming we had before.  Ultimately, this is moving towards truly personalized programming for these students. 

Which brings me to my thought on shifting gears.  For a while now a lot of the focus of this blog has been on the concept of inclusion and some of the philosophies that sit behind it.  As Simon Sinek says "people don't …

The Crazy Ones


2012-13: A Brand New Year

We are in the middle of transitioning the way that we serve the students that I have had on my caseload for several years now.  The last couple of years I have kind of lived between two worlds while we have done some testing of the waters.  This year I feeling like what I'm doing is a bit more focused.  There will still be lots of change and growth but the difference now is that I can focus on facilitating inclusion by offering both direct and indirect supports rather than coordinating a self-contained program.  My students have been dispersed to their age-appropriate schools and this means that I will be traveling between schools to oversee their programs.  It is not "perfect" inclusion but rather an exploration of how we can increase routine, social and academic participation in general education classes and settings for these students.  We are looking to find and grow the things that work.  As we begin to understand what works we will be able to apply it across other …

The Life Skills That Matter...


Favorite Reads of the Summer

As summer winds down, I thought I would share my favorite reads of the summer.  I am leaving out the books "The Daily 5" and "CAFE" as I feel they warrant a completely separate post because of everything that is in them that encourages student agency and because we will be working with them through the Literacy for All project this year and so I will be writing about them as we learn more.

Seeing the Charade: What We Need to Do and Undo To Make Friendship Happen by Carol Tashie, Susan Shapiro-Barnard and Zach Rossetti

This book takes a hard look at how the special education system as it is designed right now plays a role in the social isolation of students with disabilities.  It works through the barriers to friendship for students with disabilities and give some suggestions related to how to overcome these barriers and support the development of meaningful, authentic relationships for students with disabilities.  I thought it was a great book but it is a book of ch…

Find Joy in the Journey

Skrtic proposes that schools evolve into problem-solving organizations where the fundamental structure of the classroom is replaced with more flexible structures that are more adhocratic in nature or focused on problem solving – organizations in which educators customize programs for individual students.For Skrtic, in a problem solving school, disability becomes an opportunity to innovate and improve.“Regardless of its causes and its extent, student disability is not a liability in a problem-solving organization; it is an asset, an enduring uncertainty, and thus the driving force behind innovation, growth and knowledge.” (Effective Inclusive Schools, 2012, Thomas Hehir and Lauren Katzman) Summer is quickly coming to an end and it is time to start thinking about another school year.  My job is different this year as the students who are on my case load will begin at their age-appropriate schools this fall.  Rather than being in one classroom in one school, they are going to be in sever…

Contribution of Being

We know the research is out there to show that other students do not miss out when students with disabilities are included but what matters more is what others gain when students with disabilities are included.  The Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network website ( outlines that there are two ways for people to contribute.  The first is one that we are all well aware of and one that many "life skills" programs are built on and that is the contribution of doing.  We give students "jobs" around the school or classroom so that they are contributing.  This is a tough one because this approach can be taken to the point where we are actually defining the social status of a student by the jobs that we assign them.  It also doesn't get to the heart of contribution as it is often action without the affective component that is so vital to contribution.

PLAN also talks about the contribution of being and defines it as
These are contri…

How about calling it community building instead of classroom management?

This was a great statement made by @AmyRass on twitter today.  It reminded me of this video about empowering people and how important the way we frame things is.

I am remembering back to when I first started to wrap my head around what "inclusion" actually means.  So often we go to the idea that inclusion means belonging but in the end belonging happens on a spectrum and it seems to be that at times this definition can actually work against the development of meaningful relationships for people with disabilities.  So I go back to my original idea of inclusion meaning being part of a community.  I think the extra that comes with being part of a community is that when you are part of a community you don't just take from it, you also give to it.

So back to that twitter question.  What if we authentically looked at community building instead of classroom management?  Would people then see the students that I serve as assets rather than liabilities in this kind of classroom?

Creating Resource Lists by Using Pinterest

I have been on pinterest for some time but have really not been motivated to use it.  This past week, my son ended up in the hospital with a terrible intestinal bug and I ended up with a lot of time on my hands while he slept, rehydrated and got back to being the healthy, happy little boy that he is.  So - I explored pinterest on my iPad a lot and came up with an idea.

What I'm looking to do is create "Boards" that link to each of the grade level units that the students on my caseload will be a part of in inclusive classes.  The ideas can be used either with the whole class if the teacher chooses or they can be used as a modification so that my students can actively engage in the curriculum objectives.  I'm including mostly hands on, non-writing activities as these are the ones that the students on my caseload need (and I believe there are many others who also need these types of activities but we don't always have time as teachers to find them and set them and l…

Steve Barkley Videos - Types of Coaching


Playing to Your Strengths

Just wanted to post this because I am feeling pretty blessed to have a job that connects so closely to who I am :).

Love this: "A strength is an activity that makes you feel strong!"

Great Inclusion Graphic!


Great Website: Open Books Open Doors: Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome


Supports for Overcoming Barriers to Learning - Assissitve Technology

"In order to make the Four-Blocks Framework accessible to children with disabilities, we consider six general areas where children with disabilities often differ insignificant ways from their classmates. These differences are significant because they impact the relative success or difficulty that children experience while participating in literacy activities.  The six areas include communication, cognition, physical abilities, senses (primarily vision and hearing), affect and attention.  As educators, we find that these areas of potential differences are more informative to instructional planning than the label assigned to characterize a student's type of disability (health impairment, learning disability...etc.).
Once we have identified one or more significant difference, our problem-solving efforts focus on identifying or developing adaptations that neither change the fundamental nature of an activity or make it more difficult or less desirable for children to achieve than t…

Masters Program - One Year In

Next week I move back to Lethbridge for our second of three summer class sessions.  We officially have one full year of our program behind us with two years still ahead.  It seems like just yesterday we were starting this program but it is also hard to imagine a time when I wasn't balancing masters courses on top of everything else.

When I started this program I was expecting to get something very different out of it from what I feel I'm getting out of it.  I took the program to grow my knowledge related to inclusive education.  I was hoping they would hand me some magic approach or formula or list of things to do that would make inclusion 'work'.

This program has impacted me - personally and professionally.   There have been many other things going on at the same time as this program and I can't really put my finger on which individual thing has had the most impact because I think it is is the interplay between all these factors that creates the impact.  Take one …

Paper Airplane Video: Michael McMillan - Creativity, Innovation


Daily Five Book Study - Chapter 3

1. Why is a gathering place important?

Many of the younger students on my caseload have fairly significant sensory challenges.  The idea of a gathering place on the floor even through intermediate years holds a lot of appeal in regards to fitting sensory breaks right into the learning that goes on in the classroom.  The gathering place also eliminates other distractions that would come with sitting spread out in desks.  I have seldom seen gathering spaces for students beyond first grade so really liked the explanation in regards to this space being an indicator of changes in routines, a space that allows for more focus and a way to ensure that students are getting up and moving on a regular basis.

I do not have my own classroom so am unable to set up a gathering space but I can see how this approach would lend itself nicely to the visual schedule and choice board work that I do with several of my students in their classrooms. 

2. How did your students progress with picking appropriate…

Chris Hedges on Education...


Inclusion Through "Mommy Eyes"

Just sharing some pictures of my son who has Down syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder and is included in a grade 6 classroom.  This is the first year in several years that he has been included as he spent the four years before that in a self-contained classroom.  He was integrated for a fair number of non-core courses when he was in a self-contained classroom and the students in the general education classrooms that he was in were always kind and accepting of him but we never real saw interactions beyond the surface level being nice to a child with a disability.  He has come a long way in regards to social interactions and independence this year as a result of being constantly exposed to and interacting with peers in the general education setting.  I'm including some pictures of him with his classmates on the camping trip they went on this past week.  The first set of pictures have Mikey (my son) chasing a squirrel around camp.  He quickly engaged other boys in ass…

Daily Five Book Study - Chapter 2

Chapter 2 speaks to my heart.  I believe very strongly in truly inclusive learning and this chapter does a great job of explaining a lot of what I believe inclusive learning to be about.  It speaks to setting priorities related to developing community and student agency.  It speaks to setting up learning environments that ensure that all students are engaged and learning.  It speaks to scaffolding and supporting students to become independent, focused learners.  I see so much potential in creating inclusive classrooms that are responsive to each student's learning needs based on what is written in this chapter. 

Because my role is not that of a classroom teacher I am answering the questions for this book study from a bit different angle. My role is support the learning and inclusion of the students on my caseload.  All of those students have multiple complex needs and most of them have complex communication needs.  Programming for these students in general education settings req…

Don't you dare...


Great Website: Jane Farrall Consulting

Some great resources and related to literacy, AAC and AT on this website.  Excited for the learning that will come from following this blog :).


The Daily Five Book Study - Chapter 1

I have been part of the Alberta Education "Literacy for All" pilot project this year.   This project included being a part of province-wide community of practice of educators who were exploring literacy instruction for students with significant disabilities. We were told at our wrap up that the project will now become "Literacy for All: Going Deeper" and continue in to a second year.  The focus of the second year will be linked the books "The Daily 5" and "The Cafe Book" by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.  I'm excited and I immediately started re-reading "The Daily 5" book I have and ordered "The Cafe Book".  Imagine my surprise when I came across this book study on the blog Special Education Strategies and More.  I figured because I'm reading the book anyway it might be fun to join in to this online book study.  I look forward to reading and learning other people's posts about this book.  
I am not a grade 1-3 teac…