Tag Archives | special education

Increasing School Year Academic Gains During the Summer

Research has shown and many educational articles support the fact that students can lose up to three months grade-level equivalency during the summer months off from school.  It will be the parents, camp counselors, or possibly the summer school teachers’ responsibility to help the students, especially students with learning or physical disabilities to not lose the gains that they have strived hard to learn over the past school year.

Summer Reading

Many schools, libraries, community organizations, and summer camps urge students to continue reading through various reading reward programs, summer reading & book reports, and other ‘free-choice’ reading activities.  This leads students to the possibility of making gains in reading during the summer months.  The same attention should be paid to science, math, and social studies.  One way to encourage learning in these areas is by providing high-quality fiction and non-fiction reading choices to students with a focus on science or history.  A few books that I recommend for upper elementary are Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, and Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko. To encourage those students who may not like reading, you can suggestthe option of reading with the aid of an audiobook version along with the written book.

Stop the Summer Brain Drain!

Another way to build gains in science and math would be to attend local area camps that have a focus on nature, science, robotics, and mathematics.   Many local area day camps have these options included with other summer fun activities like arts & crafts, sports, theater, or computers.

Parents can encourage upper elementary and middle school students to continue to learn math is by having them calculate math problems in their everyday lives.  Finding out how much a certain amount of fruits or vegetables would cost at the grocery store, figuring out tax and tips at a restaurant, or calculating out how much it would cost to fill up the gas tank at the current price of gasoline.  Depending on the students’ level, then you can increase the challenge by dividing (how much would half a tank of gas cost) or multiplication (how much would 2x as many peppers cost).  These would be easy (cost-free) ways to get your kids active in learning math over the summer.

One tip that the Family Education article on Stop the Summer Brain Drain! includes is ideas to think about when planning or taking family vacations.  Depending on the location, there will be various possibilities to plan extra excursions where students can ‘see’ history, science and math in real life by going to museums, parks, or historical sites.

Tips for Teachers

One more pro-active way for a teacher to keep students learning over the summer is by providing the up and coming students with a glance of what they will be learning in the coming year.  As a teacher, I myself like to set up the expectations.  I do this informally when I see my future students around the school.  Many students will actually start to ask me (and my current students) what they will be learning in my class.  This could be more formalized where you could send a letter home to your future students and their families about what different topics they will be covering next year in school and what they could do over the summer to prepare.

Online Learning Resources for Parents and Kids

Lastly, here are some kid-friendly and parent-friendly online resources for students to learn (and have fun) over the summer months so they come back to school prepared and ready to start on or above grade level.  Feel free to comment and share other summer learning resources for students and parents!

1.       Fun Brain

2.       Teaching preK-8:  How to Making Summer Learning Fun

3.       Internet4Classrooms Summer Activities Signup

4.       Discovery Kids

5.       Gamequarium

6.       Learning Today Free Reading and Math Games


-Article by Laura Ketcham

-Picture by Apenas Imagens

Learning Games and Online Summer Learning Programs by Mangomon


Cyber-Safety for Special Needs Students

Over the summer, many students will be spending more time, possibly unsupervised, on the Internet.  With the popularity of social networking, blogging, wikis, YouTube, and ‘Googling’, many children may be exposed to inappropriate material for their age.  Online safety should be a priority for teachers and parents to stress during this time.  A good time to cover a lesson on Internet safety would be the last few days of school, while other assignments, activities, and lessons are winding down.  Here you will find a variety of resources you can use in your classroom or pass along to parents to teach and inform about online safety.

Kids Online Resources

The Kids Online Resources provides links of relative information for safe surfing, blocking software, and filtered search engines.  The safe surfing links include resources from police departments, government agencies, and non-profit organizations about guidelines for use of the Internet by children.  It also has game links for students to play to actively learn about online safety.  The blocking software includes applications that can be installed on the computer to block and monitor child use of computers.  The filtered search engines include child-friendly search engines for finding research information and school-related materials.  Ask Jeeves for Kids, Yahooligans, and Animal Search are great resources for children to use in lieu of Google or Bing.  Google and Bing do not filter results for children.

The Teacher’s Guide

The Teacher’s Guide has a page devoted to Internet Safety.  This site provides information for parents and teachers about email, browsing the web, chatting online, parental control tools, and other online resources for further information.  Each of the sections of this site provide tips for why these technology tools are important and provide positive benefits for children along with their risks, tips for parents, and ways to be actively involved.  This site also includes general technology links about virtual field trips, interactive sites, online reference tools, software, and SMART boards.

Life Skills Activities for Secondary Students with Special Needs

Life Skills Activities for Secondary Students with Special Needs is a textbook that I found available through Google Books.  I found a very informative and fun lesson for middle and high school students to teach about social networking.  It includes brainstorming activities that correspond to a worksheet, discussion and extension activities, along with an evaluation tool.  The lesson encourages the teacher to lead a discussion with the students about the typical use of the social networking sites, the differences between the sites (what is appropriate where), along with site safety.  This textbook is a great resource for 6-12 students with special needs to learn skills for independence and life success.

Safe Kids

The Safe Kids website has a link for an online safety quiz.  This quiz is best suited for elementary students who are able to read.  The quiz asks approximately 10 questions about what are appropriate and inappropriate activities while on the net.  When the students finish, they are returned to the main page for the Safe Kids website.  This site contains comprehensive information about safety for children with various types of technology including computer, the Internet, cell phones, and social networking.

Online safety is an important lesson to include at all grade and ability levels.  Students should be actively involved in the learning about online safety as well as parents being informed of tips, sites, and other information about online safety.

-Article by Laura Ketcham

-Picture by iwannt

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon


A Challenge to Look Forward To – Special Needs Event

For students with special needs, it is important that they get the same chance any other student would get. At James E. Duckworth School in Beltsville, Maryland, these students get that chance. This school serves students with moderate to severe disabilities from ages 5 through 21. There are 90 students at the school who all have some sort of disability, including anything from cerebral palsy to autism. Students participate in a mentoring program all year long, which offers regular visits from students in nearby schools and allows them to participate together in activities such as arts and crafts and games.

field day

Each year since 1994, the school hosts an annual Challenge Day, where students participate in a whole day dedicated to athletic events and activities. The main focus of this event is to give students who cannot compete in the Special Olympics a chance to shine. This day is made possible with funds from volunteers and many organizations.

Months of practicing motor skills, basketball, javelin, biking and many more went into preparing for this day. The theme of the day was “Dream it; believe it; achieve it”. By wanting to achieve success, the students demonstrate the importance of this theme.

By allowing them to showcase their skills and hard work, these students can show to the community, and the world, that they are capable of anything the any other student is. With community members and school alumni, the event had over 200 spectators this year. The more attention events like this gain, the more awareness we can raise on equality for all students.

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon

Picture By: szlea


Online Summer Reading Sites for Students with Special Needs

Schools urge that students continue to read over the summer to help to maintain and build their reading skills in preparation for the next school year.  Many districts also provide online reading applications, like MangoMon or Learning Today, along with reading lists with high-quality novels for summer projects and book reports.  Below is a list of websites with online reading games and activities and booklists that you can pass along to parents for summer reading for students, including students with special needs.

Education World Links for Summer Reading

Education World has a page devoted to summer reading lists.  They have compiled lists of recommended reading for K-12 students from various schools around the United States along with the International Reading Association.  They also have a site link for students to upload their book reviews for the books they read over the summer.

Sunshine State Young Readers Award Site

The Sunshine State Young Readers Award website has an updated annotated list of the top books for young readers and grades 3-5.  This list provides the titles, authors, a photograph of the book coves, and a short synopsis of the novels.  The annotated list is of books that have come out in the past few years.  They also have archived lists of previous year’s top awarded books, which would also be great for summer reading.

Emerging Reading Activities with Starfall

Starfall is a great online program for younger students who are learning to read.  This site provides interactive fun games and reading passages with promotion of basic reading skills including letters, phonics, and phonemic awareness.  This site is easy to use even for the youngest of learners and special needs students.

Kaboose Reading Games

Kaboose has a page on their site devoted to reading games.  There are games for K-5 learners.  The games include word puzzles, anagrams, spelling, reading comprehension, word searches, parts of speech, nouns, vocabulary, and even practices for foreign languages and Lexile levels.

Reading Rockets Tips for Parents

Reading Rockets is a PBS site devoted to building reading skills for children.  The have an article with great tips for parents to encourage summer reading.  They include traditional ideas like reading aloud to your child and encouraging them to read novels, but also think outside the box by including reading into your everyday activities like reading road signs or reading the signs at the grocery store.  They also encourage allowing children to read the ‘popular’ books along with books on tape as other methods to encourage struggling or uninterested readers.  They also have a Summer Reading section on their site with information for teachers, parents, videos, articles, blogs, activities, and downloadable materials.

All teachers should provide interesting reading activities, options, novels, and resources as part of a going-home package before the end of the school year.  This can help many students to maintain the skills they have learned throughout the school year and even give them a head start for the next grade!

-Article by Laura Ketcham

-Picture by Wesley Fryer

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon


Online Memorial Day Activities for the Classroom

With Memorial Day being the last major holiday before the end of the school year, I thought it would be fun to provide you with a few enjoyable online activities for your students with special needs.  These activities range from printable ideas and lessons to online interactive activities that your students can complete on the computer.  I have ensured the sites and activities that I have selected will meet a wide variety of learners including students with special needs.  Some activities will need more teacher direction or assistance in order to be completed depending upon the students needs.

Apples 4 the Teacher

Apples 4 the Teacher provides a variety of interactive online coloring Memorial Day pages including soldiers and flags.  The students can color them on the computer (no mess) and then they are able to print them out.  They print out as a full page.  Apples 4 the Teacher also includes literacy ideas that correspond to the pictures to engage the students in a language arts lesson while coloring.  They also have many other Memorial Day activities available including word searches, puzzles, poems, stories, and printables.

US Memorial Day Holiday Site

The US Memorial Day Holiday website has many links that would be useful for teachers and students to learn about Memorial Day.  This site has information on the history and causalities, along with the ability to create and read e-cards and poems.  They also have links to other sites.  The online activities page includes puzzles, quizzes, and other sites with activities.  This is a great one-stop resource to put together a lesson or short unit about Memorial Day.

Enchanted Learning Memorial Day Crafts, Projects, & Worksheets

The Enchanted Learning site, a great online educational resource, has a whole page devoted to Memorial Day.  On this page teachers will find craft ideas, projects, and worksheets for students to use to learn about Memorial Day.  They also provide a brief background about Memorial Day.  Some of the activities include poems, coloring, stories, vocabulary, and spelling.  My favorite craft from the site was to create a patriotic pinwheel.

Education World

For High School students, learning about Memorial Day should be focused on the significance and history.  Education World provides high school teachers with five different activities for students to learn about Memorial Day.  The lessons include creating a timeline, map, graphing, reading, and writing.  Many of these lessons can also be adapted for younger learners.

Article by Laura Ketcham

Picture by Dick Howe Jr

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon


Creative Teaching Strategies in the Special Needs Classrooms

I was browsing through YouTube last evening, searching for videos to show my students about new and emerging technology.  I was quickly side- tracked by looking to see if there were any good videos made by teachers about how they use technology in their special education classroom.  I was quite surprised to see the number of results , in-depth explanations, about variety of assistive technologies being used, and how many teachers are going to YouTube to share their creative teaching strategies.  Below is a synopsis of links to great videos with great ideas!

Great Videos!

Lace Cook, a vocational program teacher from Campbell Collegiate, posted a video on YouTube about how she uses technology in her special education classroom with students who are nonverbal or have physical and cognitive limitations.  She believes that technology helps the students to participate in class.  She demonstrates the ways that the students had to complete class assignments before and after the implementation of the new technology.  Students use laptops for communication and to magnify text and iPods with audio books for students to use during silent reading time.  It is very apparent from the videos that the students are far more engaged in learning when using the technology!

Lance Huebner, a Special Services Teacher from South Valley Junior High, posted a presentation on YouTube about Technology and Special Education.  His presentation includes information about how he uses Blogs, Blackboard, Interwrite Pads, MP3 Players, Audacity, United Streaming, Extranormal, and Photo Story 3 to engage his special needs students in learning.

A student from Towson University taking a Special Education Courses created a video about Assistive Technology.  It includes a definition of assistive technology and provides examples, definitions, and photos of different technology tools.

Kathy is a Special Education Teacher at the Holland School.  In her video she shows different assistive technology devices in her classroom.  She demonstrates and explains the different technology she and her students use including TextSpeak, Sign Language Videos, Partner 4 (for making choices), 7 Level Communicator (interchangeable choices for retelling for stories), step-by-step communicator (helps children participate in class), and switches.

Another interesting view I found was from the news channel WTNH who posted a video on YouTube with a special news segment on assistive technologies that make life more independent for individuals with disabilities.

There are many more great special education videos on YouTube on a variety of topics including assistive technology.  If you find any other great videos to share, feel free to leave on comment on this post!

Article by Laura Ketcham

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon


Win $2000 in the Sketch-A-Space Competition for Students with Autism

Easter Seals and Google SketchUp are teaming together to help make spaces more accessible to students with autism in the Easter Seals’ Sketch-A-Space Competition. $2000 to design your ideal, dream space is up for grabs for students with autism, students interested in learning more about autism, or students who have someone in their life that lives with autism (aged 13 and older). The Sketch-A-Space Competition aims to raise awareness about autism while helping students express their creativity. Google SketchUp has become very popular for students with autism since many autistic students are visually and spatially gifted and are well-crafted in creating 3-D models.

How to Win $2000 for Your Dream Space

To enter, students must use Google SketchUp’s free 3-D modeling software to design their dream space.

Step 1: Browse the competition rules. If the student is under the age of 18, parent or guardian approval must be granted. Note, there are four categories of competition.

  1. Youth with Autism: individuals with autism age 13-17.
  2. Adult with Autism: individuals with autism age 18 and over.
  3. Youth: individuals without autism age 13-17.
  4. Adult: individuals without autism age 18 and over.

Step 2: Create your dream space in the Google Site Template. Don’t forget to name and save the entry page. Be creative if you are in it to win it!

When designing your space, keep in mind the unique needs of students with autism. Here are some interior design resources for students with autism provided by Easter Seals.

  1. Advancing Full Spectrum Housing:  Designing for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders (PDF).
  2. Opening Doors:  A Discussion of Residential Options for Adults Living with Autism and related Disorders (PDF) (Chapter Six specifically addresses design needs)
  3. Design + Autism.
  4. Classroom Design for Living and Learning with Autism.
  5. Individuals with autism may present with a variety of sensory needs.  The following site has information about how these needs may present in individuals with autism and how they might be addressed.

Step 3: Submit the Sketch-A-Space competition entry by July 16, 2010, at 8:00 p.m. EDT.

Step 4: Await the results. Winners will be notified no later than September 1, 2010. Entries will be judged on a variety of categories including how innovative the design, how the design addresses the unique needs of students with autism, thoughtful use of materials, and the quality of the SketchUp model.

Step 5: Accept your prize! 3 of the four finalists will receive $1000 to a home design/home improvement store. One grand prize winner will receive $2000 to a home design/home improvement store.

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon


There’s an App for that! | Special Education Apps

The iPod Touch®, iPhone®, and iPad®, are a great innovative technology tools for educators and students to use in the classroom.  These devices all have access to the App Store, which now contains a wide array of easy to use, fun and functional applications for education.  Access to the App Store is readily available through iTunes or over wireless and 3G connections on the various ‘i-devices’.  Since the release of the iPad, there has been an increase in creation of educational apps.  While not all students may have access to Apple’s portable devices, it may be time to put in wish-list requests to administration for tools like these to be included in the budget for your classroom next year.

Where to find Apps for Special Education

Scribd is a social publishing and reading site.  On this site I found a Scribd page devoted to special education apps.  The interactive list contains 24 mini-pages of useful apps for special education students including descriptions and links for download.  The apps are organized by topics and include communication, organization, reading, writing, math, music, art, accessibility, and games.  Most of the Apps that are in the list are free or low cost, typically not costing more than $5.00 per App.  When you select on an App, the link will take you into iTunes where there is a full description and screen shots of the App along with user feedback is available.  The App can then be purchased and downloaded the portable Apple device you own.

Beth Kintle is a K-12 Technology Integration Specialist who maintains a blog about various educational happenings.  One of her posts from March included a new open-access Google Docs document for individuals to add information about iPod apps that they have used in their classrooms.  The list contains the title of the App, a link, description, subject, level, comments, and user feedback.  Users with a Google account can add their favorite Apps to the lists.  This is a great way for the special education community to join together in building the best apps that will help special needs students.

One app that I really liked was the My Homework App.  Using this app on an ‘i-device’ allows the student to create a list of their classes and add specific details about projects and assignments.  They can be viewed by all classes for individual days, for a week, or a month-at-a-glance.  Text can easily be added, deleted, and modified into the program.  There is also a feature to then send their updates to their email account.

One last location to find Apps for special education is to directly search using iTunes either on a laptop or your ‘i-device’.  If you go to the iTunes store and search ‘special education’ and then select App store from the left-hand menu, you will get a comprehensive list of Apps currently denoted as being specifically developed for special education.  When you select on the App you can learn more about the App through a description, screen shots, and user feedback.

Upon my searching I found many flash card systems that teach functional skills that can be integrated with the iPhone.  Since the device is portable, it can lead to students living more independent lives.  Another cool set of Apps I found was the Jammit games where students can learn to play drums and guitar and then make a mix based on actual artists’ recordings.  Fun and learning all wrapped into one!

I can really see this type of technology being the future of education for special needs students!

Article by Laura Ketcham

Photo from myHomework

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon


Links for Teachers on Teaching Children with Special Needs

I had an enlightening discussion today with a colleague about special needs students, their accommodations in the classroom, and classroom strategies.  The teacher is a core-curriculum middle school teacher and has several inclusion ESE students in her daily classes.  Every teacher at our school is provided with the appropriate paperwork (called an Individual Education Plan, IEP or 504 Plan) and documentation about the students’ type of disability and accommodations.  The colleague I was talking with was curious to know more in depth about her students’ actual disabilities to have a better understanding of how to better serve the educational, developmental, and social aspects for the special needs students.

Below you will find a list of links that can assist teachers to learn about specific disabilities, development and academic abilities, classroom management techniques, appropriate ways to build social skills, and other facts to increase student learning outcomes and independence for special needs students.

Teacher Vision

Teacher Vision has a section of their website devoted to students with special needs.  They have tips and advice, modifications for reading, math, and ESOL students, curriculum suggestions, and IEP accommodation information, among many other resources.  The pages that had the best information to help my colleague were under the Tips & Advice section.

There is a link about Students with Exceptionalities.  This link provides teachers with terms and definitions that are associated with special needs education.  It also provides specific teaching strategies to increase learning outcomes for students with different disabilities and ability levels.

Another link in this section is called Teaching Students with Special Needs.  This link provides information for teachers on indicators for students with learning disabilities.  They provide and extensive list of behaviors and struggles that a students with learning disabilities may have and how to make learning more accessible for them.  They also cover the opposite end of the spectrum by discussing indicators of gifted students, their learning struggles (ie. not being challenged), and how to adapt your teaching and lessons to challenge gifted students.  Overall, this is a great site for teachers to learn more about better educating students with special needs.

New Horizons

The New Horizons website offers information for teachers and parents about inclusion, ADD/ADHD, Autism, Gifted Learners, and English Language Learners.  They provide definitions and examples for the disabilities and learners along with providing links for best practices and research-based strategies.  This is also a good resource for finding information about federal laws about the education of students with special needs like IDEA and 504 plans.

Children with Special Needs

The Children with Special Needs site has a section of information devoted to informing teachers and parents about special needs.  This site has a link list of 13 disabilities along with information on general disabilities.  It provides information about the disability and common symptoms or behaviors of the disability.  They then provide a great links section with more information on classroom strategies, laws, advocacy groups, or social skill strategies when teaching students with those specific disabilities.  This is a great starting point for learning more about special needs students.

Article by Laura Ketcham

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon


How does Technology Help People with Special Needs?

Next week, my 7th grade Computer Applications classes will be learning about how technology can help people with special needs. Year after year, this has become one of the most interesting and intriguing lessons for my students. They learn about the ADA, hearing impairments, sight impairments, mobility challenges, and learning disabilities. This lesson opens their eyes to the struggles of individuals with special needs and how they overcome their disabilities with the advancement and use of technology.

This lesson is based around the famous scientist Stephen Hawking. He has ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. He was diagnosed with ALS at age 21 and as he has aged, he lost movement of his muscles and is now almost completed paralyzed, including his vocal cords. Stephen Hawking uses technology to help him communicate, for mobility, and for him to complete day-to-day tasks. Over his life time, the technology advances have helped him to maintain a level of independence that he might not otherwise have. I believe that a lot of the advances in technology for individuals with special needs stems from his involvement and persistence with technology companies to come up with the next best tech tool.

One technology device that Stephen Hawking uses is an electronic voice synthesizer. He uses this to communicate. This system works through his wheel chair which has an infra-red ‘blink switch’ connected into his glasses. By scrunching his right cheek up, it actives the ‘blink switch’
and he is able to talk, compose speeches and research papers, browse the Internet, and write e-mails.

His wheel chair houses all of the technology tools need to run his communication system along with assisting him with mobility. His current computer, a laptop, can run up to 7 hours or longer if switch to run off of his wheel chairs battery. There are also various external peripherals, a touchscreen LCD, and speakers which project his hardware-synthesized voice. The computer also has wireless Internet access that connects through cell phone towers. Through this system he can also make and receive phone calls. Lastly, he has a radio transmitter that opens doors from him in his home and office increasing his ease of movement around home and work.

All of the information that the students learn about Stephen Hawking is then connected into other disabilities and how those technologies that he uses could be adapted for students their age to help them communicate, learn, and be independent. At the end of the informative section of the lesson, which includes a reading passage from their textbook, an informal discussion & presentation, and a recent video interview with Stephen Hawking, the students are challenged to come up with their own futuristic technology that could help students their age to overcome their disabilities. Look back next week for their inventive ideas!

Article by Laura Ketcham

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon


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