THE MATH GAME: BUILDING
TEAMWORK AND MATH
I created this game in
my classroom the year that I had several students with emotional
disabilities that had a lot of behavior issues. I was desperately
looking for a way improve problem solving skills and to create
a spirit of teamwork. A simple idea that the kids LOVED!
- one number cube
- paper and pencil for each team member
- several math story problems
- Divide students into 2 teams. Split
ability levels so that the teams are evenly balanced.
- Roll the cube to see which team
- The first team
rolls the cube to see how many points the first question
is worth. Teacher reads the first question aloud. First
team works out the problem individually on their own
paper, THEN confers with their team members - very
quietly - to agree on their answer. They MUST reach
an agreement as a TEAM or they get zero points. (Depending
on the level of the students, I may tell them what
the correct operation is, or they may have to decide
for themselves based on the "clues" in the
- When they agree they tell the teacher
the answer. If it is correct, they get the number of
points on the cube. If they are incorrect the other team
may answer and earn one bonus point.
- By allowing the other team to answer
when the first team misses, ALL students are working
out every problem at the same time.
- Game continues as time allows.
- The winner is the team with the
- To encourage good sportsmanship
and ease competitive tempers, ALL team members from both
teams are rewarded with a small piece of candy or a pencil
IF they have shown good sportsmanship throughout the
My students LOVE this simple
game! We play it every Wednesday and they remind me if I
forget. They are getting constant practice in problem solving,
teamwork and sportsmanship.
LODGE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
WACKY WACKY WEATHER
This is not an original
idea, but it's well worth repeating for those of you who
may not have come across it. It can be modified for many
grade and/or ability levels. I am currently using this
activity with my Resource Room students.
- book: Cloudy
with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
- chart paper & marker(s)
- weather forecasts from newspaper
- weather related books/kid's magazines
at a variety of reading levels
- food forecast planner
- writing paper with a food border
for final copies
- crayons/colored pencils
- As a journal topic, have students
brainstorm as many weather words as they can in 10-15
minutes. You may want to make the following available:
weather reports from the newspaper and/or the Internet;
weather books (I had several from the Step Into Reading
- Have students share their weather
words in a whole group. Write the words on chart paper.
You may want to categorize by labeling three pieces
of chart paper as follows: Wind Words, Rain and Snow
Words, Other Weather Words.
- Read the book Cloudy With a Chance
of Meatballs by Judi Barrett to the students.
- Explain to the students that
they will now be planning and writing their own weather
forecasts for the town of Chewandswallow. I also shared
examples that former students had written (planners
and the written forecasts). We talked about what was
good in each piece and what could be improved upon.
- Hand out the Food Forecast Planner.
It should have two columns, one for a school day and
one for a weekend day. In each column should be lines
for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack. The students
should list food for each meal/snack along with weather
words. I review the writing process at this point and
explain that complete sentences are not necessary at
this point. Encourage the use of the weather word charts
for reference. Variation: If you have many students
with limited writing skills, you may want to take the
time to brainstorm some food words as well. I did this
in a small group while the other students got started.
- After the planner is finished,
students should do a draft of their forecast, then
revise, edit and complete a final copy on the food-border
- Naturally, most students will
want an opportunity to share their forecasts.
- Fillers: Because
students work at different paces, it is necessary
to have some "filler
work" for those students who finish quickly or
who are waiting to have a writing conference with the
teacher. Some suggestions follow:
- Make a compound word matching
puzzle. Cut meatball shapes out of brown construction
paper, cut each meatball in half, and write one half
of each compound word on the meatball halves. The book
Cloudy... Meatballs has lots of compound words (meatballs,
northeast, overcooked...) The kids could put the meatball
halves together to form compound words, then write
the compound words on paper (built in accountability).
- Have the students list in their
journals all the problems that could occur if food
really did fall from the sky.
- Have the students scan the text
of Cloudy...Meatballs for all the words following a
specific pattern or rule. For example, they could search
for compound words, words with -ing, words with consonant
blends, etc. etc. The words they find should be listed
- Read or listen to (on cassette)
weather related books or poems. They could fill out
a short form telling what they thought of the book
FARM HILL SCHOOL
OPENING A SPECIAL ED CLASS
The following are some important tips
for a special ed teacher who is starting a new school year.
These are primarily geared towards multi-grade Learning Handicapped,
or Severely Emotionally Disturbed classrooms:
1. PHYSICAL CLASSROOM ARRANGEMENT
- Desks should be arranged in a manner
where each student has his/her own personal desk...no sharing
or grouping, as this leads to major distractions for the
special ed child.
- Centers should be arranged in various
parts of the room where students can go when they are done
with their individual work, so they do not disturb others.
These centers can be filled with fun and educational things
such as puzzles, easy reading with pictures, GeoSafari©,
and other hands-on material.
- The teacher's and aide's desks should
be placed at opposite ends of the classroom, front and
back, for supervision purposes.
2. BULLETIN BOARDS
As in regular ed classrooms, some bulletin
boards should be reserved for the students' work, while others
should cover topics that are also being covered in the curricula
at that time. For example: when I work on my Ocean Unit,
I put up a bulletin board with a blue backing, different
sea life taped onto it, and I drape an old fishing net over
it, complete with small sea shells caught inside the net.
Next to this board, I have a center with many shells, complete
with two books all about shells and the ocean floor.
3. CLASSROOM INTRODUCTIONS
On the first day, plan on reviewing
your CLASSROOM RESPONSIBILITIES, (not RULES--the
kids become immediately resistant), SCHOOL STANDARDS, and
your PERSONAL EXPECTATIONS.
This last part is extremely important.
Most of these students have gotten used to low expectations
from their previous teachers...and as a result, have tried
little, academically and behaviorally. If your personal
expectations are high (but realistic) they will raise themselves
to your expectations!
Depending on the age of the students,
you may want to include your expectations for the overall
year. However, for special ed students, you must be clear
about choices they make, and positive and negative consequences
of those choices.
4. THE FIRST COUPLE OF DAYS
- Placement tests: Begin the first
day giving at least one placement test and try to have
all tests completed by the third day. The sooner you have
the students in a routine, the better.
- Fun activities: Plan some fun activities
for the first day. Let them have a period of time to interact
together. They may play games, work on a fun assignment
together, or whatever you decide.
- In an elementary school, start organized
P.E. from the very beginning. Tremendous social skills,
along with physical skills, classroom cohesion and organizational
skills are developed on the playground--especially with
the special ed student.
5. THE TOP FOUR SURVIVAL TIPS
- ALWAYS PLAN MUCH MORE THAN YOU'LL
GET THROUGH IN A DAY. Sometimes, some of your ideas won't
work out with these particular kids on that particular
day, and you'll have to switch. Also, with high expectations...your
students may do better than you expected, and finish sooner
- Be prepared to THINK ON YOUR FEET.
These students are often extremely intelligent and expect
you to take them to areas you may not have anticipated.
On the reverse side, a discipline, or learning problem,
that unexpectedly shows up and is not dealt with immediately
and appropriately, can destroy a lesson for the entire
- Be FLEXIBLE. Some days, even the
first week, you end up having to forget about your plans
and do something unplanned. That's okay and part of being
a special ed teacher!
- Finally, and probably most important,
ENJOY YOU R KIDS. These are usually sweet, fun kids, and
a good special ed teacher can have a greater effect on
their future than anyone else.
LORNE STREET SCHOOL
LOS ANGELES, CA
MODIFYING THE ELEMENTARY
SCHOOL CURRICULUM FOR STUDENTS OF SPECIAL NEEDS: A LIST OF
There are many simple modifications
which can be made to assist students with disabilities in
the regular classroom. Many of them are not that time consuming
and can make a world of difference. The list below includes
a few of the ideas that have helped the students I work with.
1. When independent work is presented,
try to give it to the student in small "segments".
For example, a test or worksheet could be folded in half.
The student could be asked to do the first half and then
come up for further directions. This prevents the student
from feeling rushed or overwhelmed with the amount of work
2. Allow extra time (within reasonable
limits) for students who have difficulty. Also, reducing
the length of an assignment is sometimes a good idea.
3. In your lesson plans, note in italics
(or mark with a highlighter) the objective you want the student
to master. His or her objectives do not need to always be
the same as the rest of the class. Look at the students IEP
(Individualized Education Plan) so that you know what objectives
need to be covered. For example: The whole class might be
expected to write a paragraph about something they learned.
A student with mild mental retardation in your class might
be expected to write 3 facts she/he learned. A student with
fine motor problems could write some; you or a peer helper
could take dictation on the rest.
4. Present information visually (overhead
projector, posters, pocket charts, chalkboard) and auditorally.
Whenever possible, tie in a hands on component as well. I
had a teacher who threw a koosh ball to a student if he wanted
them to answer a question. It helps to keep everyone focused!
Doing this will help all the students in your class; they
each have their own unique learning style after all.
5. Have students do simple exercises
before writing (pushing palms of hands together, pushing
down hard on a desktop, squeezing and relaxing fists).
6. If a student cannot do what everyone
else in the class is doing, modify worksheets. For example,
imagine most students are doing subtraction with regrouping
in class. Cut the problems out of the worksheet and use the
rest of the original as a "frame". Create some
problems appropriate to the students level (double digit
subtraction with NO regrouping, subtraction facts to 18)
and paste them onto the modified original. After you copy
it, the student has a worksheet that looks like everyone
else's; but he or she can do work at their own level.
7. Have a large variety of multi-level
reading books in your classroom. A listening center is also
a "must have". Have parent, high school and other
volunteers put some of your textbooks (relevant chapters)
on tape so that students with disabilities may have these
cassettes as a tool.
8. Use story maps and other graphic
organizers to assist students with writing tasks. Advance
organizers (outlines) can help students search for meaning
when they read. Make up a chapter outline and give it to
all the students. It teaches them to attend to the important
points in a chapter.
9. Use color coded index cards in a
file box to keep track of your students' objectives and modifications.
The students names should not be on these cards!!! By color
coding, you have the information handy without violating
confidentiality. If you need to, ask the special education
teacher to help you find this information in the students'
IEP's and PPT minutes.
FARM HILL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
As we all know, a special education
class needs a variety of behavioral systems. Here are some
quick strategies/systems which work for me:
Each student has a chart given to him/her
at the end of the day with points earned throughout the day:
reading, math, behavior, homework, etc. The student must
have the chart signed by his/her parent and returned daily.
I write notes to the parents on the charts, so as to be in
constant contact with them.
Once a month, the students take their
points and go "shopping" in my classroom "store",
which is full of school supplies, and little knick-knacks
that the students enjoy.
Sometimes our students think that our
assistants have less authority than we do as teachers. An
easy remedy is for the students to earn "tickets" for
good behavior at recess and lunch. My assistant hands out
the tickets which reinforces the fact that they must listen
to her. At the end of each week, we hold a drawing for a
I tell my students that they never know
when I'm going to catch them being "good" (on task,
good citizen, etc.). If I do, they may get a compliment,
a sticker, "free time", or something else special.
Although these strategies may seem like
a lot of work, I've seen my classes go from having the "store" once
a month to only having it once in a semester. As long as
you taper off the frequency, it works great! They begin to
do their work, not only for the reward, but because it's
important to them.
LORNE STREET SCHOOL
LOS ANGELES, CA
ED STUDENTS INTO EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
Our students with special needs often
excel, or just feel good about participating, in all of the "extras" at
their school. Music, drama, art, student council, sports,
drill team, etc., are only a few examples of activities which
may be valuable for our special education students. In addition,
everyone benefits through greater understanding of each other
as a result of this extra-curricular contact.
However, a couple of steps need to be
taken in order to ensure that the special ed. student has
a valuable, rewarding and successful time while under the
direction of a regular education teacher in an extra-curricular
- In order for these students to participate,
everyone, including the students themselves, must be comfortable
with the situation and behavior expectations. It is up
to the special education teacher to prepare the student
properly--especially with behavior expectations!
- It is also up to the special education
teacher to assure the regular ed. teachers the appropriateness
of placing the student into the activity.
- The students need to know that they
are responsible for the requirements of the activity: practice,
memorizing, asking questions, taking notes, etc. If they
have trouble with any portion of this, they need to find
a solution: practice with a friend, ask for help from their
special ed. teacher, etc.
An example: A friend of mine directs
the Musical Theatre production group at a magnet school
for the performing arts. Although the members of the group
are almost always exclusively taken by audition from the
magnet population, he also allowed two home school, special
education day class students to audition. They both passed,
and were let in as full performing members of the group.
The only adaptation that the teacher had to make (and was
fully willing), was to allow the two students extra time
to memorize words of songs, (since their disability involved
language processing). However, this adaptation was not
a hindrance to the group, nor a burden to the teacher.
An end result was one of these special ed. students had
a singing solo at the major show of the year!
If all parties accept the expectations
of the students, the teachers, and the program itself, success
is almost always assured. These students in the special ed.
program are there for specific needs...much, if not most,
of their talents and personalities are the same as students
in the regular education program. Therefore, why shouldn't
they participate fully whenever appropriate?
LORNE STREET SCHOOL
LOS ANGELES, CA
FULL INCLUSION MAINSTREAMING
Today's popular catch phrase for special
education students is "full inclusion." What no
one seems to address is that some students are ready to attend
regular education classes and some students need more individual
attention to prepare them for entry, or reentry to the regular
"Full inclusion" assumes that
with minimal assistance, a special education student will
be successful in a regular classroom. This is true for SOME
students, but certainly not all!
When thinking about moving a student
back to the regular program, many issues must be considered
when determining the most appropriate placement:
- Is the student on grade level,
or near grade level, for everything? If so, and the
student's behavior is appropriate, full inclusion could
be the best answer.
- Is the student on grade level
for one or two subjects? If so, mainstreaming for
only those subjects would be most appropriate, is the
student's behavior is not an issue.
- Is the student below grade level
but able to help much younger children? If so, allowing
the student to be a peer tutor will not only raise his/her
self-esteem, it will also reinforce the basics for the
- Is the child so far below grade
level that he/she can not tutor, however, the student's
behavior is good? If this is the case, this student
can be mainstreamed for recess/nutrition, lunch, art,
music and PE.
- Is the student's behavior such
a problem that it is extremely disruptive to others? If
so, then this student may not be ready to mainstream,
or may need to "earn" mainstream situations
in his/her favorite area.
Whatever you choose to do with your
students, be sure that you choose whatever is appropriate
for each individual--DO NOT simply choose a system because
it is the current "thing" to do! The 1970's law,
PL-91-142 has a statement about "least restrictive environment
as appropriate to the student." We must remember this
when making decisions to help our students.
LORNE STREET SCHOOL
LOS ANGELES, CA
WORKING WITH PARAEDUCATORS
- I use many of these strategies to
help my paraeducators in the classroom. Frequently, it
is difficult to keep them up to speed, since they are usually
only there from start to finish of school (if we are lucky).
Here are some things that I do to keep them up!
- 1. Weekly Meetings. We meet
every week for 20-30 minutes to discuss new information,
things teachers need, changes in schedules, etc. I also
use this time to brainstorm on any problems that we or
any students are having, to disseminate information to
them in the way of articles or handouts, and plan modifications
for certain activities.
- 2. Sit down with each para at
least once a week, usually at lunch or right after school. This
is very informal, and gives the para a chance to express
any concerns or issues.
- 3. Model for paras. At least
once, and for new paras, it is important to not only tell
them, or explain things to them, but to be able to show
them. This may mean asking your principal for release time,
or using your own. I go into the classrooms and have the
para watch and critique how I work with the students. It
would also be a good idea to video them so that they may
watch and critique themselves.
no school listed
FT. COLLINS, CO
RECORD KEEPING TIPS
- In addition to teaching, Special
Education teachers have to keep records on everything.
This can be very time consuming. Below, are ways I have
tried to make this overload of paperwork more manageable.
- 1. IEP's - I keep copies of
all my student's IEP's in a binder. I keep the binder at
my desk so whenever I work with a student one-on-one, I
can quickly find the IEP and focus on the skills that are
specified. Then, I can record the information directly
on the IEP.
- 2. Student Papers - I give
each student a folder that is to stay in the classroom.
Visually impaired students have yellow folders and my Autistic
student has the only purple folder. Therefore, they can
easily find it and retrieve papers.
- 3. Turning in Work - We
have all heard
"But I turned it in. I put it on your desk." To
stop this problem, I made a Turn In Box. It is labeled
by grade. Students put all completed work in that box.
They know not to put it on my desk. It has worked great!
- 4. Returning Papers - I
use the Turn In Box described above. One side of the
box is labeled "Return"
and is labeled by grade. Volunteers hand out any papers
they find in the box. I never have to hand back papers
or clutter up my desk with them.
- 5. Behavior Logs - I have
several students who are labeled as Behavior Disordered.
I created forms to record their behavior. Then once I quickly
write down the behavior, I can easily file it in their
student folder (that I keep in a desk drawer w/ work examples,
notes from home, etc.) Then, when the principal needs documentation
of behaviors, I have neat, organized forms that I can quickly
retrieve and copy.
- 6. Inclusion Support - My
students have Related Arts classes (music, art, computers,
physical education, etc.) in a regular education setting.
Therefore, to help them succeed, I must track their progress
and help them with any assignments they are having trouble
completing. To do this, I made a form. On the form, I have
a column for: Student Name, Passing?, Make Up Work. The
teacher can easily complete the form, put it in my mailbox.
I have the information on how to help them and written
proof that the student is receiving help.
- submitted by
- ROCHELLE CHENOWETH
ELKINS MIDDLE SCHOOL
SETTING UP A LANGUAGE
ARTS PROGRAM FOR SPECIAL ED STUDENTS
When putting together an academic program
for Special Education students, the first thing one must
keep in mind is to follow the IEP (individualized education
program) for each student. Although teachers often feel pressure
to follow the Course of Study for their particular school
district, following the IEP is extremely important. Most
learning disabled students need strong Language Arts and
Math programs. On the IEPs, goals will usually be listed
in these areas. Therefore, the major concern of a teacher
setting up a program of this type the first time should be
in establishing a strong Language Arts program.
Here are some basic ideas to keep in
mind when establishing a Language Arts program for Special
The best thing one can do with special
ed students in Language Arts is to establish a phonics program.
As old as the idea may seem, teaching phonics to our students
is valuable to the majority (but take care...it is NOT appropriate
for all). I use Hooked on Phonics, but the Renee Herman is
also good, especially for younger children.
If you use Hooked on Phonics, be sure
that an adult works one on one with students. It's much more
effective in the classroom than having the students work
independently with the tapes!
SIGHT WORD VOCABULARY
A sight word approach is especially
important for those students who do not appear to respond
well to the phonics approach. This method may easily be worked
into spelling, history, math, science, and of course, literature.
READ GRADE LEVEL BOOKS
One should read grade level books to
the students--even if they do not have the decoding skills
necessary to read them independently. By reading to them,
the students can still enjoy, comprehend, compare and contrast
these books! Special Education students have a right to be
exposed to literature that those without special needs are
LORNE STREET SCHOOL
LOS ANGELES, CA
TIME IN THE RESOURCE ROOM
- Because the needs of students who
come to the Resource Room are so diverse, it can be challenging
to structure the learning environment. I have begun managing
my Resource Room in the following manner:
Setting Up/Getting Prepared
- I created a chart with three columns.
Each column has an arrow pointing downward (one orange,
one blue and one green). I laminated the chart so that
I could write on it with wipe-off crayons.
- Each day, I decide how I want to
group students. Generally, grouping by ability level or
IEP objectives works best. I end up with an orange group,
a blue group and a green group. Then, assigning one column
on the chart per group, I write student names in the columns.
- I then assign certain tables as work
spaces by placing an orange marker on one table, and so
on. My markers are simply folded pieces of manila that
stand up. Using this system allows me to set up everything
the night before. Students can come in, look for their
names on the chart, and group themselves according to color.
They usually look over the materials I have already set
out. So far, this seems to increase their enthusiasm.
- I have 1 or 2 paraprofessionals in
my room most of the morning. I write brief instructions
on sticky notes (the larger ruled brand) and stick the
notes on the materials. This usually is sufficient explanation.
- I provide direct instruction (mini-lessons
on a skill or strategy; reading from a Linguistic Reader,
etc.) to the first group of students while the other 2
groups work with paras. The paras do a lot of skills games,
review and reinforcement/practice activities. When I finish
my mini-lesson, the groups rotate.
- Then, we rotate again! Simple! Sometimes
I teach the same mini-lesson to 3 groups. Sometimes my
instruction is more individualized. Likewise, paras may
do different activities with different groups. It all depends
on what the students need on a particular day.
- One group could do independent work
or simple games (SIGHT Word Bingo, for example) if sufficient
paraprofessional help is not available.
- submitted by
- JAN DEMONTIGNY
FARM HILL SCHOOL