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Reading Rockets – Launching Students into Better Readers!

Reading Rockets provides online reading resources for teachers, parents, librarians, and other school professionals.  This site is sponsored by PBS.   The homepage of this site provides links for all types of users to find information about teaching students how to read.  This includes a FAQs section that features a new reading-related question every day, links to blogs on best practices in teaching reading and top literature picks for kids.  There is also general information including book lists, reading strategies, and research-based guides.  I particularly liked the Video and Podcasts section which included informational videos about various hot-topics in reading education such as how to get students engaged in reading in this digital era.  There were also video interviews with some of the most popular authors today.

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For Parents Page

The For Parents Page provides specific information about reading strategies that parents can implement with their children.  There are ideas for working with younger children who are learning to begin to read along with school-aged children who can read together with family or friends at home.  There are great links and ideas provided for seasonal reading like winter fun reading or how to help improve reading over the summer.  Another section on this page provides parents with tips on how to communicate with the teacher about reading and academic progress in the classroom.  There are also gift ideas for books to buy children of various ages, reading levels, and interests.  One of the most useful sections on this page provided information for parents to determine weak areas and help their struggling reader.  One of these links is a great television show to encourage these struggling readers from ages 7-12 through music, animation, and fun kid-related concepts on PBS also called Reading Rockets.

Teachers Page

The For Teachers Page offers reading strategies and lessons for the classroom.  Some of the information is the same for both teachers and parents including information on how to help struggling readers, access to the Reading Rockets blogs on children’s literature and best practices on reading.  It also has the flip-side of information about how teachers can communicate and build meaningful relationships with parents.

One of the differences in the teacher page is that there is information about professional development opportunities that can be used to further your educational reading knowledge.  Much of this information is presented through webcasts on various reading topics like tutoring programs, ELLs, summer reading, teaching writing, and students with disabilities.  One of the video professional development links is available online and is also aired on PBS called Launching Young Reader.  This series is hosted by famous actors and actresses and covers top authors, illustrators, and books for children along with reading strategies and family activities to encourage reading based on the latest research.

One of the most useful pages under the teacher’s page is the classroom strategies page.  They provide an annotated list of all of the reading strategies broken down into the main reading categories.  You can quickly see when the skill should be used before, during, or after reading.  When you select the strand you are teaching about, it provides you with an explanation of what the skill is, examples of how you can incorporate it into your classroom, books that you can use to teach this skill, differentiated instruction options, and the research data that backs the strategy.  I would recommend this page to all teachers no matter what subject or grade level they teach now.

This is a great website to learn about reading instruction and how you can implement strategies to help children both at school and at home to become lifelong lovers of reading.

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Understanding the Plays – Interpreters for Students who are Deaf

A California high school is bringing a new aspect into their sports department.

taft high school

At Taft High School, in Woodlands Hills, sign language interpreters are being provided for the students who are deaf and are participating in football, basketball, cross country and track for the school.

For the students who are deaf, these interpreters have made being part of a team even more special. These interpreters make it easier for the athletes to participate in team sports, communicate with both their coaches and teammates and be more included as a member of the team. The students at the school have been very welcoming for those who are deaf. Some have even picked up on some of the sign language and have started to use it to help communicate with the other team members.

Out of the eight sign language interpreters at the school, three have agreed to work alongside of the student athletes. They stay by the students’ sides during team games, practices and meets. Some students, who are a part of the school’s varsity teams, are a huge addition to the school’s athletics. Their differences are not an obstacle in any way. Being a part of the team shows how dedicated and hard-working they are.

These students have the opportunity to show to all the other students that just because they have a disability, does not mean they can’t do the same things the other students do. They are leaders in the deaf community and truly shine out as star players.

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Working in the Field – Special Education Work Program

Preparing for the working world can be a challenge for any student. At Bob Jones High School in Madison, Alabama, there is an emphasis on this area.

bob jones high school

For special needs students at this school, employees from local businesses and communities visited the school to help them learn about different careers. Since many of these students attend school for a longer period of time than most, programs like this allow them to learn and work at the same time.

One company, HudsonAlpha, allows some students to help prepare and package DNA kits. This is just one example of the companies that help prepare students for the work force through the six week long program.

By letting students be involved in these businesses, they are gaining the experience that they may need when they graduate. It allows both the students and the community know that they are just as hard-working and dedicated to their jobs as other students and community members.

The variety of businesses, from restaurants to hotels and gardens, allow students to work on a job skill of their choice. These businesses train the dedicated students to be productive in their field of work. Employees of these companies have stated how dedicated and willing to learn these students are. Along with work skills, students also pick up on etiquette skills and how to interact in a work environment.

The students in this program prove that with hard work and dedication, they can easily adapt into a working environment and accomplish their goals.

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After Hours SPED School | School of the Future?

I recently came across a blog post in Edutopia by Dr. Katie Klinger about a project in Hawaii that will possibly change the future of secondary schools in that state. A group of people got their thinking-hats on and created a plan that will meet a gap in their secondary school system, which was not being addressed. Special Ed students were unable to attend the regular school hours due to different reasons that discourage them from attending the programs offered at the charter schools.

The project was launched earlier this year because Hawaii was not offering online/virtual Advance Placement courses to these groups of students. Dr. Klinger, an authority on Educational Technology, expert on virtual education, and creator of the National University Virtual High School, is collaborating with the Liahona Youth Empowerment team that is leading the project. Other experts involved in this project include Dr. Bonnie Bracey Sutton from ISTE and Emaginos.

The main objective is to design a strategy for charters schools in the state that will strengthen and improve student interest and parent participation and commitment. The charter school will implement a different approach to diagnose students and create the plan for virtual and on-site programs that will be offered to low income neighborhoods in two sides of the island. The new charter school plan includes AP courses, exercise and wellness, performing and art programs. The program will be offered to students on nights and weekends, as well as in person support to ensure students have access to all the AP courses offered.

Technology implementation to deliver a program to high school students with special needs is not only inspiring to other educators around the country looking to fill in gaps, but also demonstrate that the initiative and execution of a plan can start from anyone in the community not just the educational system. To read the blog post from Dr. Klinger, visit Edutopia’s blogs.

 

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Back to School Technology Mashup

Now that Labor Day has come and gone, almost all of the schools around the country are open for learning!  Enjoy these technology sites and ideas for incorporation into all levels of classrooms this fall.

computers

Blabberize

Blabberize is a free web 2.0 tool where students, or the teacher, can upload  a person or animal photo, add audio, and animate the mouth so that the person or animal is speaking the audio you uploaded.   Implementing a project using this site would be a great activity for students to complete when learning about the history of famous individuals, or when learning facts about animals. Teachers can also search for already created blabberized photographs to share in class as a fun activity or opening activity for a chapter or lesson.

Thinkfinity

Thinkfinity is a website that provides a wide variety of free online resources that are frequently updated by various organizations including Verizon Foundation.  They have lesson plans for grades K-12 for many different subject areas including the core subjects along with economics, literature, geography, and art.  They also have an interactive games and tools section where students can go on the computer and develop creative projects including interactive dictionaries, post cards, maps, and graphs.  These activities provide great guidelines on how to implement them into your classroom along with the information for appropriate grade levels.  Another great feature on this site is the “Today in History” section.  This would be great to start off a history lesson in class every day with the fact and a critical question relating to the fact of the day.  Teachers of all subjects, grade levels, and ability levels should definitely check this site out.

Exploreatree

Exploreatree is another free web 2.0 resource.  On this site, students can create, save, and print, a wide selection of graphic organizers.  This site has very simple and very complex graphic organizers appropriate for many different classes and levels including math, science, and language arts for all grade levels.  Students, or teachers, can even start with a blank template and create their own graphic organizer for a specific lesson.  After creating a graphic organizer, you can even upload it to their database of graphic organizers and share it with other users.

PSB Kids Design Squad – Designit Buildit Fidgit

Design Squad is a science, math, technology, and engineering television show where teens compete in making machines to try to win a college scholarship on PBS Kids.   They have a companion website for the television show.  Designit Buildit Fidgit is an online logic game that student can play on a computer during technology centers or as an activity for when they complete assignments early.  The goal of the game is for the students to solve various puzzles including shapes that can be rotated for flipped to save the ‘fidgits’ by getting them back into their box.   Students can play levels that other students have created and once familiar with the game, they can actually create their own level to challenge other students.  There are also several other games related to the Design Squad show that can also be accessed via the Fidgit site.

These are great free online resources for creative projects and lessons in your classroom for the beginning of the school year.  If you have any ideas of other great free sites, please feel free to leave a comment!

– Article By Laura Ketcham

– Picture By San Jose Library

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Labor Day Activities for Students

Today, many schools are already in session before the Labor Day Holiday.  Students look forward to Labor Day as their first long weekend of the year, an official ending of summer, or even as the beginning of the football season.  This signifies the end of breaks and that school is back in session for a long stretch, without breaks.  However, many students don’t know the origin or meaning of Labor Day.  This week, it would be great to include a lesson on Labor Day, sharing the history and original meaning of the holiday.  There are many craft ideas, projects, and historical lessons explaining and importance of Labor Day.

labor day

Adaptations for the activities below for special need students would include providing reading material at the student’s lexile level, providing assistance for project activities like cutting, pasting, drawing, or providing direct instruction or easy to follow instructions.  For inclusion classrooms, pairing a helpful student with the student with special needs can help both students to be more successful with the activity.

Reading Passages & Articles about Labor Day

Education World has created an annotated list of educational Labor Day resources.  The site also contains a short explanation of the history behind Labor Day.  The first link they provide has a short article about unions, teamsters, the government involvement in labor legislation, and the American workers.  This article can be printed out and used for a guided reading activity in class.  The article is written for children, which makes it easier to understand than some sites written for adults, like Wikipedia.  The fourth resource provided on the list is more for high school students.  It provides a series of lessons about freedom, political struggles, strikes, legal rights of laborers, unions, and women entering into the workforce.  The 6th resource provides information and photographs about child labor.  This would be a resource where each child could receive one picture and write a story behind the photo.

Activities & Projects about Labor Day

The Labor Day activities on the Apples 4 the Teacher site include reading and writing lessons, but also fun hands on activities to learn more about Labor Day.  This includes coloring sheets, word searches, worksheets, and other printables.

Enchanted Learning has a page full of fun-filled Labor Day activities.  Crafts include a labor collage, building a town out of recycled materials including paper towel rolls and tissue boxes, printable activity books, puzzles, vocabulary worksheets, alphabet games, and coloring pages.

Incorporating Technology with Labor Day Activities

Other activities that students could complete about Labor Day while infusing technology into your classroom include:

  1. Watch a YouTube clip from the History Chanel about Labor Day and having students write a blog post or short response using a word processing program.  You could then upload their papers to Wordle and visually see the important facts and main ideas in a visual representation.
  2. Have the students use Art Pad to create a before and after drawings of what they through Labor Day was before they read the page on Wikipedia on Labor Day and then again after.
  3. Create short video clips about Labor Day using Flip Cameras, edit them on Movie Maker (comes free with Windows), and then upload their videos to Teacher Tube to share will other classrooms.
  4. Have the students play one of the popular online games that involve labor related activities, like Diner Dash, Lemonade Stand, Nanny Mania, or Fish Tycoon.  After they play, and advance to more difficult levels, you can discuss multi-tasking, taking breaks, and how challenging that job may be in real life – and how all workers deserve a day of rest.  Link to Games

Article By: Laura Ketcham

Picture By: Robert Couse-Baker

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Buddies for Life – Special Needs Student Bonds

Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships with volunteers and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Over the past 21 years that they have been in existent, Best Buddies has grown to more than 1,500 chapters all around the world.

best buddies

One particular chapter, Best Buddies Australia, is made up of 150 volunteers who pair up with members who are intellectually disabled people and spend time together, playing sports, shopping, video games and other everyday activities that are involved with any friendship.

The organization is so simple because it does not require training or mentoring services. It is based on true simple friendships. Participating in everyday activities allows both participants to form a bond that may be stronger than others they have in school and with the peers they see at school.

In the schools that participate in Best Buddies Australia, there are up to 15,000 students with disabilities and 50,000 students with learning needs. As schools and organizations like Best Buddies integrate special needs students into mainstream schools, they are allowing for these students to have the same experiences as the other students.

Many schools provide special classes or opportunities for student with disabilities, but not many of them let students integrate and really be in an environment where the rest of the students are. Best Buddies is an organization that really lets those students form friendships and bonds that happen everyday. These one-on-one friendships are only the start of helping those with disabilities immerse themselves into the world.

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A Perfect Fit – School for Special Needs Students

Most public schools do a great job of incorporating special needs education into their school curriculum. A Texas school, Green Oaks is a school catered towards students with special needs, mainly Down syndrome.

green oaks
For many of the Texas families, it was difficult to find a school where their student’s needs were being met. To make sure that their students were receiving all the help and instruction they needed, they decided to start a school with a curriculum that is focused on basic skills, such as reading and writing. Students can get one-on-one lessons that are specific to their abilities.

Special techniques are used to ensure that the students get the most out of their time at school. Since many Down syndrome students have trouble or difficulties with individual letters, teachers emphasize on those letters, using very large print and materials to teach reading.

As the students’ education continues to grow, so has the school itself. More and more students are attending Green Oaks each year. This also allows for more social interaction with students that are alike in many ways. Social interaction is a great way for students to interact with peers and practice real life social skills in a public environment. Students should not only be about learning from books, but learning from others, too.

With students from ages 6 to 24, there is a wide variety of learning in their education and school system. Specialized schools like this one are making learning and education more efficient to all students.

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A Safe Approach to Learning – Special Needs Education

Basic safety precautions are something most students learn at a very young age. For those students with special needs, they may be learned later on in life, but these regulations remain just as important.

Wayne Public Schools in New Jersey has started a “Safety Town” summer program in which disabled or special needs students will learn how to react and behave in typical safety situations. From crossing the street to confrontations with strangers, this weeklong program will teach them appropriate solutions. With advice and safety tips from real police officers and firefighters in the community, students get a hands-on experience.

Safety Town has been offered to beginning kindergarten students for nearly 20 years, but this is the first time the older students can benefit from the program, too. Parents and advocates pushed to have it offered to the special needs children. In addition, a Junior Police Academy, a special needs sports clinic and a bicycle riding program for disabled children will all be in effect.

Including these students into the programs that are offered to the general education students helps both the students and parents feel like they are a bigger part of the community and more involved. These students will eventually become adults, just like all the other students at the schools and need to have reliable sources of information that will help them become productive members of society.

By giving all students the chance to participate and learn about the same things lets everyone know that we are all equal, despite our differences.

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Summer Guidance for Students

Children with special needs or other learning disabilities usually need extra help in the classroom, but they oftentimes need help outside the classroom in social situations and other interactions with people.

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Teaneck’s Extended School Year is a six-week summer program that is offered to the special education students in New Jersey school districts. The programs focus on behaviors like nonverbal communication, problem solving and appropriate social behavior.

With students ranging in differences from all over the autism spectrum, there are many different needs and behaviors that have to be addressed. One thing in common is that all of these students need help in socializing with one another. With the help of this program, six different social skills modules will be covered.

Because social skills are such an integral part of education for autistic students, the summer program is also used to help them keep up with these behaviors through the summer months. Some students may have trouble communicating with others while some may have a harder time socializing.

A main focus is on nonverbal communication, which can alter relationships with teachers and students in the classroom if misunderstood. Combined with help from the West Bergen Mental Health Center, parents are also offered classes and guidance in supporting their children.

By combining education and health, the friendly and knowledgeable staff hopes to offer helpful and effective help to help children with special needs lead more efficient lives. Keeping up in the summer months is a crucial step in bettering social and behavioral interactions during the school year.

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