A Few Tips for Teaching Learners with Special Needs

A few months back during an in-service, we had a workshop on working with students with special needs in an inclusive setting. Often times, tips like these can help a majority of your students.

  • Use chunking with assignments – break down projects and other big assessments into smaller “chunks”. Even adapting project guidelines into smaller sections with more instructions can help students who have difficulty with anything from short to long-term memory transfer, to ADHD, to students with organizational difficulties.
  • Visuals – accompany everything with more visuals than you might think necessary. If you have a project, give an example, and create visual reminders in the classroom (from a display of exemplary past work, to a date-board reminder, to a calendar with upcoming work due. This may seem obvious, and I think that foreign language teachers tend to use more visuals than other teachers, but I may be wrong. Smartboard and other technologies have helped make it easy (and help save time for the teacher) when preparing these visuals.
  • Put the schedule on the board – this goes along with having visuals, but putting up a daily schedule at the front of the room, or if you have a pretty routine schedule, make sure that’s posted somewhere readily visible. Letting students know what to expect for class that day can help alleviate confusion, anxiety, create a sense of familiarity, and save time in helping create transitional habits. You may also want to list the OBJECTIVES for the day, or week, or unit, in addition.
  • Use clear, concise language (and be explicit) – I’m still surprised now and again that I hadn’t thought something through well enough (though I guess after 2-3 decades of teaching as opposed to 2-3 years of teaching you would hone in on this skill). Think through every detail when giving a project or study guide to best aid your students (and save yourself trouble later). Be very specific when creating projects, and remember to create and do the same with grading rubrics. (You see how these tips would be useful for any type of student- think of your concrete sequential learners!)

As I’m reading and writing this, I think it seems like the above would all be good tips for any student. The second part of this section of in-service also brought up good ideas for using appropriate language. Below are some words to use in discussing behavior, and other aspects of the classroom environment.

More PC/friendly “verbage” to use in the classroom, or in discussions about students (with colleagues and especially with parents)

expected vs. unexpected

appropriate vs. inappropriate

“weird” thoughts instead of “bad” thoughts

You see what I’m getting at? It reminds me of the first class I had on “exceptional learners”. I had a great teacher. One of the first word-choice things I learned, which has stuck with me, was to say “a child with autism” instead of “an autistic child”. It makes sense and can help lessen labeling, isolation, negative connotations, etc…

Boy, do I need to get more posts up! 🙂 It’s the weekend, yahoo!!!

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Obama to makeover “No Child Left Behind”?!

I read this article from the New York Times today: “Obama calls for remaking of No Child Left Behind“, which shows a picture of our president in a classroom with some students, in front of a Smartboard with a picture of Duke Ellington on it, with some writing (hard to make out) and his signature. Looks nice, but a lot of things look nice on the outside…

The article is full of inspiration and political jargon-isms, like Obama encouraging “lawmakers to ‘seize this education moment’.” It’s not only a great thing that Obama wants children to know they’re a priority, it’s more needed than ever. In this touch economy, high school students feel more pressure to do more (and do it better) in school, to get into a good school with scholarships. And even if they get a college degree, there’s no guarantee for jobs. I’ve talked previously “kids these days”. Education these days is bad off. Linking teacher pay to student test performance is a bad idea. I read another article earlier where someone said teaching is the only profession where there aren’t pay raises based on performance (something like that). Well, how are we to be held responsible for a lack of parenting, or, previous teachers who haven’t upheld the high bar of standards.

The article addresses this new concern by saying that Obama wants to give more power to state and local government in education, hoping to “improve the quality of testing, demand increased standards and increase accountability by principals.” I quoted that because all of those things sound like empty political platforms. Nice ideas, but I’d like to see his specific ideas for increasing principal accountability or an explanation of which standards we need to be increasing. Standards like standardized testing that can’t possibly accommodate all the diverse types of learners there are in the student population today? I have so many problems with testing, I wouldn’t know where to begin, but, teachers probably have a lot better perspective than the people who will end up making these important decisions.

It’s really unfortunate. Here’s that article I read about an algorithm developed to measure teacher quality, which glaringly showed wrong outcomes right off the bat (yuck, yuck, yuck).

Obama rounds out his inspiring speech by saying something about how a budget that stiffs education would wrong the youth of today, adults of tomorrow. Again, it sounds nice, but, I won’t keep my fingers crossed. There are still wars being funded and corrupt institutions being bailed out. I guess I do have some strong opinions. And, once again, I don’t know exactly how I’d do it better, but I guess my main point is that this article seemed to be full of empty promises. Is there another election or a poll coming up or something?

No Child Left Behind definitely needs to be improved, as it was a complete failure, and I believe in Obama more than I would have Bush, but, it’s the government. I’ll be interested to see the follow-through with this.

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New Job Best Yet!

Well, I read recently about a teacher who blogged about her students and the comments she wish they had on report cards instead of the suggested ones, and while I saw the humor, I also saw a big line being crossed, especially using swearwords and getting somewhat specific. She lost her job.

Not like I’ve said, or would say anything too bad about teaching, but I have complained a bit in the past. However, now, I feel very fortunate to have my job. But, I can’t get into specifics too much. I will say that it’s at the middle school level, as opposed to the high school, and I really have enjoyed the break. By that I mean, it’s nice to have kids who are excited about learning foreign languages, and who misbehave in more innocent ways. Sure, I have some classroom management issues, and it’s still a  lot of work (as any teaching job for which you put in the time needed to even just get by), but it’s nice, new, and different.

And having students who care inspire me to do more than just “getting by”, I’ve rediscovered my passion for teaching French, and it is a mutually beneficial thing. Before, I was somewhat depressed because of the overwhelming apathy of a lot of the students no matter what I did. It was a real challenge. As with everything in life, there’s a yin and yang, and each school will have its pros and cons.

I feel very fortunate to have gotten a job in such a great school district, even if it is another sub assignment. It’s a good foot in the door.

I need to go do work, but I also need to add a lot more to this blog. I have oh-so-many things to say, wisdom to share, and, most importantly, DOCUMENTS, LESSON PLANS, HANDOUTS, POWERPOINTS, RESOURCES, and MORE!

To leave new teachers with a thought from my experience:

“If you’re like me and take lots home because you think you’re gonna get it all done over the weekend, you’re wrong. And you’ll be wrong weekend after weekend. There might be a few weekends where you do accomplish a whole lot, but, you still didn’t need to bring home 30% of your classroom.”

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GER/CER verb exception handout/worksheet

This 2-page French class handout goes over the -ger/-cer verb exceptions to regular -er verbs. The first page explains what happens to each type of verb and has an example of conjugations of each. The second page has a little practice.

GER/CER verb exception handout/worksheet.odt

(It’s a word document, not a PDF- I’m going to be diversifying the documents I put up on my site in the coming weeks, er, months).

This worksheet would be good for French 1, middle school or high school, review, or extra grammar help.

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Another Example/Preview of What’s to Come…

I just posted about how I’m going to start uploading PDFs of useful resources, anything from lesson plans to handouts, to educational research and methodology information.

Since I am a French teacher, I plan on starting to upload some hand-made resources, like the following:

French Numbers 0-20 worksheet

This worksheet can be used in French 1, at the middle school or high school level, for an exploratory course, or for review or tutoring.

I only wish I could do this all day, or, at least, a few hours a day.

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My (and Your) Dreams Are Coming True!

As I’m working at my new maternity leave job, trying to figure out what to do with some of the worksheets left to me, without hard copies, I realized I have had a tool at my house all along that I could be using to easily scan documents, and then upload and create PDFs. This site’s tagline is “My Teaching Experience from Student to Professional with Lesson Plans“, after all, isn’t it?! I’ve put up a fair amount of information, but the lesson plans and resources at your disposal are lacking.

Well, now everything’s changed (or it’s about to!) One of my most frequented posts on Bloom’s Taxonomy recently received a comment saying they wished there were a PDF. And voilà! (I just added it, hopefully my reader checks back)

Update: here is a downloadable PDF of this Bloom’s Taxonomy sheet!

Bloom’s taxonomy word list

I imagine plenty of people will enjoy that, and, as time permits, the other PDFs I’ll be uploading. I must admit, I had to trace over the letters so it’s not as beautiful as a concrete sequential perfectionist might like, but it’ll do for now considering I’m only making money day-to-day teaching, and not even getting benefits anymore 🙁

But, in a dream I have, I have a half-time job, and the other half of my job and income are from writing, blogging, sharing, etc…making catchy educational French songs.

A woman can dream.

My plan is to create categories- French worksheets, Educational information, and Lesson Plans. Then, when this blog does become a hobby I have much time for, I’ll create spectacular powerpoints and other fun resources and activities. A dream I truly have is to one day be able to put up a ton of stuff, and either offer it for free (if I got enough traffic or won the lottery and didn’t direly need more income), or, for an affordable price (as a teacher I know sometimes I really want these resources people have, but don’t have ANY extra money to shell out), or, for a donation…we’ll see. For now, I’m going to start adding some freebies!

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Got a New Job

New school, new maternity leave, shorter stint. Gotta write about it. When will I ever not be MAD busy. Maybe when I learn to organize my time better? Probably not. I don’t know how people have kids and come back right away. I think it’s cuz they’re concrete sequential and I’m abstract random. Sometimes I wish I could just blog about teaching and languages and life for a living 😉 maybe I can turn that wish into a reality. The job is only from end of January to after first week of March, or so the pregnant woman says…. :p

More on all this later. Probably. Definitely need to talk about the interview(s) for this one!

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Wisdom from the Wise

“Teacher is more than just a full-time job, it’s a whole-time job” ~Myself

I need to incorporate more quotes into this blog. Just as with all things in life, it’s about achieving a balance. A yin and yang. And, from a lot of things I’ve read, not just that statistic about teacher dropout, but also on forums, from googling, and from this one website I’ve got to reference (I think it’s something like ‘so you want to be a teacher, huh? really?!’), it can be uber-stressful.

Sure, being a CEO of a high profile company could be very stressful too. But being in charge of the education, wellbeing, and essentially the future of so many kids, and all the other jazz, is a huge load. It can be both a blessing and a curse. Or rather, it is a uniquely amazing opportunity to really be able to make a change in so many people’s lives. Because, it’s not just the students you may be inspiring, but it goes forward into their future, and all the people they affect and the things they do.

So of course it takes a lot of work and has a high potential for getting very tough.

But with great burden comes great responsibility. Or something similar. Teachers are a powerful force. I just wish they got paid more. Maybe I should find an area where they pay more for higher-quality teachers 😉

When I recently saw some former students and they expressed that classic “I didn’t know how awesome you were at the time, but now I miss and love you and blablabl…” (if you’re a good teacher, you know what I’m saying!). It is so touching. And it means so much.

Just like that beautiful plaque my Dad got me, the quote on it is true: “TEACHING OPENS THE HEART…THE MIND…THE WORLD”.

Wow, I just inspired myself heavily!

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Interview for an interesting teaching position

The timing is a little odd, it’s such a short maternity leave stint. And, it would start almost overlapping my other job 🙁

It’s very short. Her due date is the day she’s leaving, and she’s planning on coming back about 6 weeks later. So I guess it could likely be extended. And I don’t have much else right now.

It was the same situation as last time, a quick 2-part-combined-into-1 interview, where I taught part of a lesson and then did the interview.

I was probably the most relaxed I’ve ever been going into it, because, honestly, a lot of me was saying…”Hmm, I don’t know if I even want this job, or to even teach anymore!!!” 🙂

But it’s a GREAT school district, school, and the classes sound pretty good. I think the interview went well.

More on this later, I have to do so much, as the end of my semester is coming at the current school I teach at, and I need to clean up and clean out some of my stuff from the classroom, not to mention I’m behind in getting through the required material.

A day in the life of a teacher!

I’ll try to flesh this post out later with more details and some new thoughts I had from that interview!

🙂

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Why is it that planning for a sub takes like 3 times as long as planning for teaching your own lesson?!

Well, I guess it’d help if you’d planned the lesson out very well, and very much in advance.

And, I guess it’d get easier if I had a more thorough go to basic overview.

And, it would definitely be easier if I were in my own, long-term classroom.

Maybe I shouldn’t give up on teaching just yet, but, man, it is so much harder to plan for a sub- it almost makes it so you can’t enjoy having the time off. And if it’s due to sickness, that’s even worse. Being home sick and not enjoying yourself is the worse, and then coming back to more work.

But seriously, planning for a sub can take MASSIVE amounts of your time. Here are some tips to help make it a lot easier for yourself:

-Have a student info quick overview

-Have a basic information page

-If your school doesn’t have you make an individualized sub folder with all the goodies (schedule, info sheets, etc…), make one!

-More to come later, I’m still recovering from my 12+ hour AT THE SCHOOL day (I’ve been having a lot of those!!!)

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