As I’m wrapping up this school year, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on what went well and what I could have done better in my intervention groups. One thing that I would have liked to have done better was to send more frequent and detailed newsletters to parents. Last year I was amazing at that, but unfortunately this year, the newsletters were few and far between. That is definitely something I will work on for next year.
Rubrics have been essential for my resource program this year. Rubrics are efficient tools to assess authentic student learning and growth. Instead of measuring a skill as correct/incorrect or simply generating a percentage score, rubrics allow us to assess holistically and offer a chance to incorporate quantitative and qualitative data.
Here are the top 5 benefits to using rubrics:
Evaluate performance: Rubrics are used to evaluate student work by measuring it against set scoring criteria. Using the scoring criteria allows teachers to objectively complete an error analysis, look for skill gaps, and determine the level of support or cues needed to complete a task or assignment. I use rubrics to assess progress towards IEP goals throughout the quarter. In addition, I use rubrics to analyze work samples as part of initial evaluations and 3 year reevaluations to supplement the standardized testing data and generate baseline data for IEP goals.
Provide hierarchy of skill development: Rubrics include a task analysis and standards-aligned progression of skills required for mastery. This is helpful not only in showing student growth, but also helpful in designing instruction to address the specific skill gaps students may have.
Communicate with parents: Using the actual rubric itself or language from the rubric indicators on progress updates, provides parents with detailed information about how their child is progressing. It communicates specific information about skills and growth rather than just a score on an assessment. This year I added the criteria category of “Level of Support” with the indicators of “Independent,” “Minimal Support,” “Moderate Support,” and “Did not attempt.” This has been extremely helpful when communicating progress.
Define performance expectations: Teachers can use rubrics to set expectations for performance with students prior to starting an assignment. I use the rubric to assess work completed during the modeling phase of instruction with the class. For example, after I model how to create a written response to text, I have the students check my work using the rubric to see if I included the essential components. Students can also use the rubrics to self-assess and self-correct their work before turning in assignments.
Measure progress across time and settings: Rubrics can be used with specifically designed tasks or assignments for progress monitoring, or with authentic curriculum-based work samples. I attach the scoring rubrics to student work samples and save them in individualized portfolio binders. Students are able to see their growth throughout the school year, reflect on the progress, and set specific goals for improvement.
Rubrics could be using in general education, special education, for all subject areas, as well as for behavioral and social goals. Click on the links below to see sample rubrics I’ve individualized for students in my resource program. The rubrics should be modified and customized to meet the needs of students in your classroom based on grade level standards, IEP goals and specific learning needs.
Download our fully editable rubrics here! The following rubrics for IEP goal progress monitoring are included:
Foundational Reading Skills
Reading Comprehension: Informational Text
Reading Comprehension: Narrative
Written Response to Text
Math Problem Solving
Behavior and Social Skills
Considerations for IEP Goals: When developing new IEP goals, write goals measured by the rubric’s criteria where appropriate. For example, “Given a writing prompt based on a reading passage, the student will generate a written response to text using textual evidence, elaboration and correct conventions as measured by a score of at least #% on writing samples scored with a ‘Written Response to Text Rubric’ at least 3 times per quarter.” When updating progress on goals at the end of each quarter, I report the overall percentage on the scored rubric, along with details in the comment section to elaborate on the student’s progress. Using indicators directly from the rubric helps to make the comments specific and informative. Furthermore, it is useful to attach the rubric to a student’s IEP. This helps parents understand how you will be measuring the skill and stays with the student if the student moves to another school.
Overall, I have found that rubrics have strengthened my ability to provide consistent, accurate progress data for students in an efficient manner. Rubrics can easily show growth over time and illustrate clear information about specific skills and progress towards standards. For more special education tips and tools, check out this blog.
I’m excited to bring the Animals, Books and Children (ABC) program to our resource program this year! Currently, I am piloting the program with 1st grade students and hope to expand to additional grade levels in the future.
The ABC program will utilize Gabriel’s Angels therapy teams to help children improve their reading abilities, while also developing the core social behaviors of attachment, confidence, empathy and respect. The designated ABC therapy team (one handler & dog) read with the same three (3) children each week so that a trusting, secure relationship evolves. During a 20-minute time session, the individual child will have time to feel comfortable, work directly on reading skills, and conclude by engaging in an emotional and/or behavior development activity. A celebration ceremony will conclude each semester program duration.
This program takes place once a week in the resource room during the students’ regularly scheduled time. This is something that the students really look forward to and enjoy! Students rotate through 20 minute centers for differentiated, individualized instruction targeting their IEP goals. The 3 centers include:
1. Fluency– Students will work the dog therapy team to practice rereading previously read books to build fluency. When finished reading the book, the students will practice their sight words in a variety of hands-on activities. Each book and sight word list is customized based on student data. Students love the hands-on sight word activities from our Sight Word Intervention Bundle.
2. Phonics – Students will work with me to practice phonics skills as part of the Wilson Language System. This 1:1 time is a perfect time for progress monitoring, addressing learning gaps, and reteaching skills that the students may have struggled with throughout the week. To supplement Wilson, I use activities from our Reading Intervention Essentials Bundle.
As a resource teacher, I use specialized instruction in my intervention groups to help my students meet their IEP goals as well as make progress towards grade level standards. While implementing the district prescribed intervention curriculum, Wilson Reading System, I discovered a few key things about the way students learn:
1.Systematic, direct and explicit phonics instruction is essential in helping students with learning disabilities master the alphabetic code-breaking skills needed for foundational reading proficiency.
2.Students need a thorough understanding of a range of effective strategies, as well as knowing when and why to apply them within a variety of texts (e.g., controlled decodable text, authentic literature, meaningful non-fiction texts).
3.Motivation and engagement during reading instruction is a critical ingredient to student success.
Integrating all 3 components can be a challenge at times, but I’ve found great success with supplementing Wilson with our Astute Hoot reading strategy animals. Not only do my students consistently meet their IEP goals and make significant progress on district reading assessments, they LOVE coming to reading intervention and they are engaged throughout the entire lesson! (Let’s face it…sometimes direct instruction phonics programs can get boring for students and teachers).
Our strategy animals and accompanying resources have also been used to supplement and enhance other reading programs such as Fundations, Harcourt, Journeys, Spalding, Sonday and Reading A-Z. In addition, they are perfect for book studies and units using authentic literature and expository text. Each lesson incorporates the following; Hands-on tools to make the strategies concrete and memorable; Animal strategy friends to motivate and engage students; A variety of texts to promote transfer and application of skills.
Here’s how I teach reading in my K-4 resource room:
At the start of the year, I introduce the reading strategy animals to the students by reading Hazel Meets the Reading Strategy Animals and showing students our introductory video below to get them excited. Hazel Hoot, an adorable green screech owl, is a struggling learner as she lacks the strategies needed to help her succeed. In our charming book, Hazel stumbles upon a magical tree in the forest. Out of the tree appear 10 colorful woodland animals that each introduce a research-based, standards-aligned reading strategy. These animals guide Hazel to become a proficient reader.
I break down the 10 step Wilson Lesson by practicing the procedures and routines for one block at a time per session. I use the reading strategy animals to help teach each part. Once students students understand the routine for each block, we combine multiple blocks in our lessons.
Authentic text is selected to incorporate into our weekly lessons to provide students the opportunity to apply their strategies in meaningful and relevant ways. Currently, I’m using a variety of books from National Geographic Kids to boost their skills in reading informational text.
Check out our reading strategy animals in action!
I laminated our Sally Sounding-Out Snake and Charlie Chunking Chipmunk graphic organizers and use them as part of Warm-Up Work at the start of each session. I just post 3 words on the board and students segment (one-syllable words) or syllabicate (multi-syllable words) and mark them as appropriate. I love that this is pretty much NO PREP and it is a perfect time to review concepts with which students struggled in the previous lesson or preview concepts for the upcoming lesson.
Students love using Paco the Pointing Porcupine for Quick Drill and Quick Drill in Reverse to name letters and sounds! The hands-on tools keeps them focused and on task. Paco also helps students with keeping their place during wordlist reading in the Wilson Student Readers.
Using the Sally Sounding-Out Snake and Charlie Chunking Chipmunk Slates on the magnet letter boards provides a great visual support to help students with segmenting and syllabication. They always want to make Sally and Charlie proud of their awesome reading skills!
Ramona the Re-Reading Raccoon keeps students motivated when reading students to build fluency and accuracy.
Sharon the Summarizing Squirrel is a student favorite! Students use her “Tell the Tale” tool to touch each story element when we retell the story verbally. A non-fiction version which includes main idea and details is also available.
Vern the Visualizing Vulture helps students master key vocabulary words by prompting students to visualize the meaning of the word and drawing a picture of of their visualizations.
Lastly, I posted the strategy posters and “I Can” statements on a bulletin board for easy reference for students. Our “I Can” statements are aligned to IEP goals and state standards, as well as to a specific reading strategy.
Read more about our strategy animals here! Astute Hoot’s unique cast of strategy animals make learning safe and fun while teaching critical strategies in a child-friendly way. Students make an immediate connection to the animals and relate to Hazel’s struggles. These delightful animals and rhymed text motivate the most reluctant readers. Our books, posters and hands-on tools are available for purchase here via digital download including printable do-it-yourself options of our tools. Ready made tools and posters are available as intervention kits here.
I’d love to hear how you make phonics fun and engaging! Check out some other special education blogs here: