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    Wednesday, July 17, 2024

    Predictable Chart Writing in the Special Education Classroom

    Comprehensive Literacy Instruction is essential in today's classrooms, including self-contained classrooms and cross-categorical resource rooms. In many cases, reading and writing instruction has fallen by the wayside for our most complex learners however the push toward implementing the Science of Reading in all classrooms emphasizes the need for a shift. 

    Shared Writing is one component of Comprehensive Literacy Instruction and a highly effective strategy for engaging students with complex needs in shared writing instruction is Predictable Chart Writing (PCW). PCW provides predictability, offers seamless integration of communication, and can be utilized as an activity for the entire classroom, small groups, or even individual sessions. 

    Each step in the Predictable Chart Writing Routine takes place during a new session. Typically, this is done during daily writing instruction over the course of a school week. 

    Step 1: Write the Chart (Monday)

    • Choose a sentence stem. Possible topics could include the current classroom theme, responding to a recent reading passage, or incorporating the use of core words. 
    • The students provide a personalized response to the sentence stem. 
      • Provide response options using picture-supported icons or AAC devices for students who struggle with word retrieval or expressive communication. 

    • Then, the teacher scribes the response on the chart while saying each part aloud. A pocket chart can be a great alternative! 

    • Finally, the group will choral read each sentence when done. 
      • For non-speaking students, utilize AAC such as a big mack switch, communication board, or communication device to facilitate participation. See the example video below: 

    Step 2: Reread the Chart (Tuesday)

    • First, the group will reread the entire chart chorally as the teacher points to each word.

    • Then, provide opportunities for individual students to find words such as a targeted core word or content vocabulary. 

    • Next, focus on a specific element (letter, word, convention) when done.

    • Finally, reread a final time.

    Step 3: Work with Sentence Strips (Wednesday)

    • First, the group will reread the entire chart chorally as the teacher points to each word.

    • Next, pass out each student’s contribution to them on sentence strips. 
      • You can either prepare these sentence strips ahead of time or use this activity as an opportunity to model.

    • Then, demonstrate how to cut the sentence apart into words (after each cut, reread) and reorder.

    • Eventually, start reordering incorrectly to help students see if the sentence makes sense.
      • Allow students to make mistakes! These are opportunities to recheck work/check for what makes sense.
    • After developing an understanding, students will cut apart their own sentences.

    Step 4: Be the Sentence (Thursday)

    • First, the group will reread the entire chart chorally as the teacher points to each word.

    • Then, choose a sentence and give each student a word from the sentence. 

    • Next, have them physically arrange themselves to reorder the sentence
      • Repeat for 3-4 sentences.

    • Finally, end with a final choral reading of sentences

    Step 5: Make and Publish the Book (Friday)

    • First, the group will reread the entire chart chorally as the teacher points to each word.

    • Then, pass out individual sentences typed/written for book.
      • You can either prepare these sentence strips ahead of time or use this activity as an opportunity to model.

    • Next, they will glue their ordered sentence onto their paper. 

    • Then, students will add illustrations
      • They can use their own drawings or find pictures on Google images.

    • Finally, students will share their book page before adding it to the finished class book for the classroom library.
      • You can also publish the class book to Tarheel Reader or Bookcreator.com for independent reading with technology or at home.

    To see Predictable Chart Writing in action with a group of learners at a variety of instructional levels, check out this video: 

    Stay tuned for my upcoming Predictable Chart Writing Lesson Plans and Materials which features 30 different sentence stems including general and seasonal themes. 

      Monday, May 13, 2024

      Implementing Function-Based Behavior Interventions in the Special Education Classroom

      In my classroom and in my role as an autism & low-incidence disability coach, few days go by when I am not trying to decipher student behavior. After working with hundreds of students and thousands of educational professionals, I have developed a 5-step system for behavioral intervention that has worked really well. In today's post, I will walk you through each step to help you with solving problem behaviors that may be impacting student success in your classroom. 

      Step 1: Determine the Function of the Behavior

      It is essential to know what motivates a student’s behavior in order to implement function-based interventions to address the same function. If the intervention doesn’t meet the same need as the function, then it will not be effective.

      There are 4 main functions of behavior. 

      1. Sensory: Sensory-motivated behavior does not depend on others and may occur when the student is alone and without any demands being placed on them. Some examples could be humming, chair tipping, or hand flapping. Sensory-motivated behaviors are sometimes referred to as "automatically-motivated" behaviors because the reinforcement is automatic and doesn't rely on others. 
      2. Escape: Escape-motivated behavior results in avoiding or postponing aversive or unpreferred activities. A student may elope to escape a sensory overwhelming environment or they may start throwing lesson materials in an attempt to get staff to terminate task demands. 
      3. Attention: Attention-motivated behavior results in immediate attention from others such as a peer laughing when a student makes funny noises or a paraprofessional giving a big emotional reaction when pushed. 
      4. Tangible: Tangibly-motivated behaviors result in access to preferred items or activities. For example, a student may climb shelving to gain access to a favorite musical toy or they may steal food from a classmate who still has some of their snack left. Tangibly-motivated behavior is sometimes referred to as "access-motivated" behavior because it allows the student access to what they want. 
      When determining the behavioral function, if 3 or more functions are within 1-3 points of each other or all of the scores are relatively high, then the function of the behavior is determined to be communication because the student is using the behavior to communicate a variety of functions or needs. 

      These scores can be determined using a behavioral assessment. I have several favorites that are all FREE! After reading about each option below, click on the links to be directed to options for each tool. 

      • Motivation Assessment Scale (MAS): this is a quick 16-question survey that is user-friendly and focuses on a single behavior. It is my "go-to" because it is so easy to use and can be done quickly during a team meeting or I can give it to various members of the team and average the scores to get multiple perspectives on the same behavior. 
      • Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA): this is the most comprehensive option when done well. I emphasize done well because too often I see FBAs completed just to fulfill a paperwork requirement, completed by an outside agency that truly doesn't know the student, or completed and never visited again. What a waste! A good FBA requires a team effort and lots of mindful data collection and analysis. For this reason it can be pretty time-consuming which can make it more challenging to get done. 
      Once the assessment is completed, the function with the highest total score (relative ranking of 1) is the primary function of the behavior. If there is a tie or if there is another function within 1-3 points of the primary function, then this is considered the secondary function.

      Step 2: Choose a function-based behavioral intervention

      Once the function has been determined, select an intervention that will meet the same motivation. Interventions may change the way staff responds to the behavior and/or may teach the individual more appropriate ways of getting their needs met. Function-based interventions should be implemented with fidelity across all staff members and environments. Plan to implement this intervention for a minimum of 4 weeks. 

      A foundation of my Function-Based Behavior Intervention Cheat Sheets and Implementation Plan is the cheat sheets themselves which take 25 different behaviors and provides behavior intervention ideas for each of the functions of behavior for quick reference.

      Step 3: Design the Behavior Plan
      What do you want the student to do instead of engaging in the problem behavior that will meet the same function? It is important to determine a replacement behavior that says what the student will do NOT doing something or refraining from the problem behavior is not a replacement behavior. The replacement behavior needs to be functionally-equivalent to the problem behavior in order for it to be effective.

      Once you choose a replacement behavior, there are 5 steps you can follow to effectively teach the behavior. This framework can be used when developing a student's Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP).

      1. Direct Instruction: The replacement behavior needs to be explicitly taught to the student so that they understand the expectation and begin to see the benefit or how the behavior may be equally or more effective in meeting the desired function.

      2. Practice: In a structured setting, set up opportunities for the student to practice the skill. Then, as appropriate, proactively schedule opportunities for the student to practice the skill in the context of their typical daily routine to promote generalization.

      3. Priming: Prime the student to remind them of the replacement behavior especially before times or events that have been previously challenging. Determine consistent verbal and/or visual cues that can be used across all team members.

      4. Prompting: In the moment when the student is engaging in problem behaviors and/or needs a reminder, prompt the student to use the replacement behavior. Determine consistent verbal and/or visual cues that can be used across all team members.

      5. Reinforce: The replacement behavior itself should be highly reinforcing because it should meet the same function of the problem behavior. It is critical for all team members to immediately acknowledge and honor the use of the replacement behavior so that the student knows it is equally or more effective than the behavior. Additional praise or reinforcement for using the replacement behavior can also be beneficial.

      Step 4: Collect Behavior Data
      It is important to monitor the student’s behavior to determine the effectiveness of the function-based intervention so that you can make data-driven decisions about continuing or adjusting the intervention. My Function-Based Behavior Intervention Cheat Sheets and Implementation Plan includes 4 different data collection sheet options to ensure all team members are using the same data collection method for increased fidelity.

      1. Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence (A-B-C) Checklist: Records antecedent/events (A) that immediately precede the target behavior (B), and the consequences/ events (C) that happen immediately following the behavior. I love this checklist version because it is MUCH more time-effective than anecdotal notes. 

      2. Scatterplot: Records when a behavior occurs at ant time within an interval of time (typically 10-15 minutes)

      3. Frequency Data: Records the number of occurrences of the target behavior

      4. Duration Data: Records the amount of time in which a behavior occurs

      Take data for a minimum of 4 weeks once the function-based intervention is introduced to have enough data to analyze for effectiveness. 

      Step 5: Analyze Behavior Data
      Review the collected data to determine the level of progress based on the data patterns. Below are some general guidelines:
      • Mastery
        • The target behavior(s) have been extinguished
        • The target behavior(s) have been greatly reduced to a level that is no longer significant
      • Adequate Progress
        • The target behavior data is steadily decreasing
        • The replacement behavior data is steadily increasing
      • Slow Progress
        • The target behavior data is decreasing but the rate is slow
        • The target behavior data has plateaued
        • The replacement behavior data is increasing slowly
      • Inconsistent Progress
        • The target behavior data is not consistently decreasing
        • The replacement behavior data is not consistently increasing
      • No Progress
        • The data trend has remained consistent with initial tracking for either the target behavior (remains high) or the replacement behavior (remains low)
        • The target behavior data is increasing

      Make data-driven decisions about the effectiveness of the function-based intervention using the available data.

      For easy reference, more in-depth explanations, and the cheat sheets mentioned above. Head over to my TPT store to grab my Function-Based Behavior Intervention Cheat Sheets and Implementation Plan.

      Friday, February 16, 2024

      Teaching About Feelings in the Special Education Classroom

      After all the talk about what students love during Valentine's Day activities, I always found a natural next step in my thematic units was to focus on feelings and emotions. 

      Check out some of my favorite Emotions activities:

      ELA Ideas

      • I first introduce feelings vocabulary. We use a variety of visuals including photos, icons, and even emojis. 
      • Next, we practice sorting emotions based on the vocabulary we've learned. These cut and paste worksheets are also included in my Feelings Thematic Unit

      • Then, we read stories to discuss each emotion in context. I love The Way I Feel by Janan Cain because it covers so many robust feeling words. I use the communication board from my Feelings Thematic Unit for students to participate.

      • Another favorite feelings story is When Sophie Gets Angry-- Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang. I love this story for introducing the concept of coping strategies to my students. 

      I love this story so much that I created an entire Picture Book Communication and Comprehension Supports resource which you can check out in my TPT store. It includes vocabulary, sentence building boards, AAC, comprehension questions, sequencing, and fill-in-the blank activities. Plus IEP goal ideas and progress monitoring sheets!


      Social Group Ideas

      • We practice our feelings vocabulary words by playing a game of charades where each student makes a silly emoji face and sees if their friends can guess them ๐Ÿ˜œ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜‹๐Ÿคจ๐Ÿ˜ฑ



      • We also practice our vocabulary with a variety of games including BINGO and this great board game board. 

      I use this universal game board from my Feeling Thematic Unit to practice a variety of skills depending on the needs of my students including: number, letter, or sound ID, reading sight words, answering math facts, or practicing other IEP goal skills in addition to our emotions vocabulary!


      • We also follow up our unit on When Sophie Gets Angry by talking about our own emotions, what causes them, and coping strategies for what we call BIG emotions. I created a book template for my students to use as a resource when they are having big feelings. It aligns loosely with The Zones of Regulation. This template is included as one of the 12 cross-curricular activities in my Feelings Thematic Unit.

      • This is also a good time to introduce our classroom Big Feelings Tools. I use the A Little Peaceful Spot book from the A Little Spot of Emotion by Diane Alber. After reading the story, I use a slide deck to introduce our Big Feeling Tools and model each tool and we discuss the expectations. 

      Our big feelings tools for moving our bodies include a Color Match Station which is a velcro board poster where students get vestibular input from bending down to get an Ellison cutout and then match it to the poster and a Heavy Work Station in which students match covered textbooks to corresponding colored Xs in the hallway.

      Our big feelings tools for resting our bodies include a Picture Reading Poster from S'cool Moves, a Calming Kit with small fidgets, and my Special Interest Deep Breathing Posters.

      Math Ideas

      • With so many different emotion icons, it can be a great opportunity to practice graphing. I have done this in a variety of ways. When we have more time, I have students sort and graph emoji erasers like these from Amazon:


      One year, my OT pushed in for a group and we actually had students make a collage with emoji stickers and then count and graph each emoji they used. These stickers were another great Amazon find. 

      For both the erasers and stickers, Amazon has a TON of options so you can certainly choose what variety works best for your students. 

      Admittedly, there have been years where I have needed to simplify the assignment so I pre-made a worksheet with various emotions for students to create. Of course you can find this in my Feelings Thematic Unit ๐Ÿ˜‰!

      • These erasers and stickers are also a great way to practice basic counting for students who aren't quite ready for graphing yet. I also made a fun emoji counting worksheet.

      Cooking Ideas

      • During our cooking time, my students loved making cooking activities with different faces such as waffles, rice cakes, or english muffin pizzas. 

      Interested in these activities and more? Why not bundle and save! 

      What is your favorite activity to teach feelings in your classroom? Which of these activities are you excited to try?