Tag Archives | SPED

5 Sites for Creating Worksheets and Printables | Special Education

Not all of the technology and online resources that a teacher uses on a day-to-day basis are used for direct instruction or for students to directly complete on the computer.  Many online tools are used for classroom management or to create supplemental classroom materials.  Here is a list of great websites, especially for classroom instructors and special education educators.

Free education-related, modifiable certificates can be found and printed from  Certificate Street. Certificate Street has many different types of educationally relevant certificates to you download. The files are downloaded as an editable PDF. You can then add of modify the info on the certificate for the students and then print. Certificates range from graduation, appreciation, best artist, good listener, student of the week, and participation. There are almost 100 different templates to choose from.

Discovery Education’s Puzzle Maker is a free site where you can make word searches and crossword puzzles.

DLTK’s Growing Together is a site where teachers have free access to a wide variety of printables.  Some of the printables available are awards, chore charts, coupons, and writing paper.  The writing paper has primary lines and regular writing lines. You can add little graphics too, or keep it plain.

Spelling City is a free online program where teachers can create spelling worksheets, upload spelling words for online review games for students, or create spelling tests for students to take online.

Worksheet Works is a website where teachers will find free printable worksheets for math, language arts, geography, puzzles, and more.  These worksheets can be used for skills practice for in class or homework, or for an enrichment assignment.

I’m sure that you will find many of these tools useful in your classroom.  If you have any suggestions you would like to share, feel free to comment below this post!

Article by Laura Ketcham

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon


Online Graphic Organizers for Use With Special Education Students

Graphic organizers are a popular educational tool.  They help students to visually display, interpret, and understand complex topics.   They also assist in reading comprehension by allowing the students to track main ideas, facts, plot, setting, and characters.  The most popular graphic organizers are Venn Diagrams, Concept Maps, KWL Charts, checklists and story maps.  For special education students, these tools can help them to express and show an understanding of concepts that may be difficult for them to show with traditional written or essay assessments.

Finding, modifying, and printing graphic organizers is easily accessible via the Internet.  They can easily be adapted to assist all type of learners, topics, and desired learning outcomes.  Many sites now also allow students to create their own graphic organizers that they can edit, print and share via the Internet.

Printable Graphic Organizers

The Education World site offers a variety of free printable graphic organizers, including Venn Diagrams, Comparison Charts, Concept Maps, Fishbone Diagrams, Family Trees, KWL Charts, Life Cycle Charts, Spider Maps, Story Maps, and T-charts.  The files you load from this site are available in Word format.  When you select the style of graphic organizer that you would like to print, you have the ability to edit the titles, headings, subheadings or to add or delete information as needed. The files you create can also be saved for later use.

On the Project Based Learning Checklists for Teachers site, teachers can create their own project-based learning checklists.  These checklists can be used by the students as guidelines to teacher expectations and learning outcomes for their projects.  This site is really great because you can create checklists for writing, science, oral presentations, and multimedia for a variety of different grade levels.  To create a checklist, you include the teacher name, the title for the project, category selections, and then additional details.  The additional details can be added from a drop-down list or typed directly in.  When completed, you just have to print and photocopy the checklist for your students to follow.

Worksheet Works is a beta website that has free printable organizers, including  clocks, fishbones, t-charts, y-charts, YWLs, Venn Diagrams, pies, stars, cycles, PMIs, and decision-making charts.  When you select the type of chart you would like to print, you are taken to a page of options where you can add titles and headers that are appropriate for your lesson.  You can also choose the size of paper that you would like to print on.   You then create your worksheet and it is available to download, print and save print as a PDF file.

Online Graphic Organizers is a free online brainstorming application.  Students can create concept maps (webs) or flow charts using this program.  There are options available to save and to print your maps.  The program is kid friendly with fun colors and transitions.  The program allows students to create as many bubbles as they need to complete their project.  They can connect and move the bubbles in various ways.  Bubbles can be connected using either arrows or lines, and can be moved above, below, or at the same level as other bubbles in the maps.

Read Write Think has a section of their website that includes student “interactives.”  These are interactive online applications where students make and complete their own graphic organizers.  The teacher should provide the link for the interactive application the students should be using based on the lesson they are to complete.  Then the work is up to the student!  There are interactive activities including creating Venn Diagrams, writing aids, comparison and contrast tables, plot development charts, timelines, and story maps.  Many of their “interactives” involve either reading or writing and would be great for Language Arts and Social Studies courses.

While Class Tools does not have the fancy and easy-to-read format of some of the other sites I have mentioned, they have some of the most fun and interactive graphic organizers.  Along the right-hand column of the site you will find a list of the different organizers and activities.  Students can choose the graphic organizer style, add the required information for the assignment, and then either save the file, embed it into a webpage, or print.  There are also many other fun review games, activities, and classroom management tools on this site you should definitely check out.

Additional research-based data regarding the successful use of graphic organizers with special education students can be found here.

Article by Laura Ketcham

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon


Switch Games & Activities | Special Education

To increase user-friendliness of computer games and activities, software and hardware developers have worked together to create an easily accessible system for users with disabilities.  The hardware, called a Switch, is used as the selection device instead of a keyboard or a mouse.  Several Switches can be used together to complete more complex commands.  The use of the switch along with online and software-based games and activities makes them accessible for all users.

Help Kidz Learn

Help Kids Learn is a free website of games and activities that are all Switch accessible.  Their games are directed for Pre-K and elementary students to use along with an adult to help them to learn computer skills along with many functional and educational skills.  The topics of the games include brushing teeth, how to dress for different types of weather, how to do the laundry, cooking, making choices, day-to-day travel, and the different rooms of a house or school.  There is also a game called BSL (British Sign Language) Alphabet that teaches and quizzes the students on sign language.  Most of the activities can also be used with a standard keyboard and mouse.  When using these as the input instead of a Switch, they limit the number of buttons the students have to use in order to make it accessible to all students.

CBeebies Games from the BBC

CBeebies is a television channel for young learners broadcast by the BBC.  It provides both educational and entertainment shows.  To compliment their television shows, it also created a companion website.  The website has games, songs, coloring online, and story time all related to the various shows.  Users can also view the shows online.   The games section has fourteen online games that are specifically created for use with Switches for special needs learners.  The games vary from ‘educational’ to ‘just for fun.’  Topics range from matching games to learning sign language, transportation, noises (fire truck, fire alarm, bells, etc.), and animals.

CBBC Switch Games

CBBC Switch Games is a television channel for children also created by the BBC.  Its companion website has five Switch-enabled games.  These games are for older elementary and middle grade students and are purely for fun and entertainment.

Switch-Adapted Guitar Hero

I know Guitar Hero isn’t exactly the most educational game on the market; however, I feel this is a must for a blog about Switch games.  During my research about Switch games, I came across a site where you can buy a switch-adapted guitar hero controller.  How cool is that!  This allows students with motor impairments to play and jam out to Guitar Hero!

For more about Switch Games check out these sites:



Article by Laura Ketcham

Photo By:bvalium

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon


Learning Expression & Socialization Skills through Art

For special education students, learning how to appropriately socialize and show emotions may be incorporated into everyday classroom activities.  These skills help students to assimilate into society, jobs, and build relationships with their peers.  One creative way to teach these skills is through artistic activities.  Many FREE websites are available for teachers to create open-ended online art projects that foster socialization and promote emotional development.


ArtPad is an online site where students can digitally paint online.  Students use the different digital tools to change the colors, pen shape, text, paint bucket, size, and opacity to create their art.  There is also an undo feature available, just in case.  Each time they create a digital stroke, that information is recorded on the site.  When the students finish, they can select the replay button to see the steps they took to complete their masterpiece.  Their art can then be hung in the digital gallery or emailed to teachers, peers, or family members.  Different lessons could include painting about how they feel, or painting appropriate emotions for different circumstances as determined by the teacher.  Students could also work together alternating back and forth to build their painting.  This would encourage sharing, cooperation, and group work.  Many academic lessons could also be taught using this program like drawing and labeling the parts of a wave, drawing the phases of a butterfly, or illustrating a scene from a novel they are reading.

Doodle is Art

Doodle is Art is a website where young students (with adult supervision) can upload their drawings.  Drawings are uploaded from all around the world.  Students can create digital art or scan photographs of traditional artwork, upload it to the website, and then share their artwork with the world.  This creates an authentic environment for students to share their artistic work.  In my experiences when work is to be displayed for more than just the teacher and the student, the students tend to take more care and pride in their work, and in turn it makes learning more meaningful for the students.

Mr. PicassoHead

Mr. PicassoHead is an online site where students create their own Picasso drawing by selecting the different facial elements “Mr. Potato Head style.”  They first choose their face shape, then eyes, nose, lips, ears, eyebrows, hair, abstracts, and then they add their signature.  As they add the different elements, the students are able to change the color, scale, order, and direction to create their own artistic view of Mr. PicassoHead.  This would be a great activity for students to work together.  They can learn sharing and compromising skills to create a work that they will both be proud of.  Teachers could also use this site to teach students about emotions.  They can direct the student to an emotion that they should artistically create with their Mr. PicassoHead.  They can also learn about how colors relate to emotion.

Other Great Art Sites

The Art Zone



Article by Laura Ketcham

Photo by Dylanroscover

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon


Interactive eBooks with TumbleBooks | Exceptional Students

tumblebook ebooks


TumbleBooks, an interactive eBook website for students in grades K-12.  I stumbled upon this site while browsing the Miami-Dade Public Library website.  With a library card, residents of Miami-Dade County have access to this fee-based site for FREE.  Upon further research, I also learned that licenses are also available for schools and other libraries.  The rates for the service are very reasonable, especially for such a high-quality resource.  Trial subscriptions are also available and give you full-access to the site for 30 days.

TumbleBooks Features

The TumbleBook Library has a collection of animated eBooks and unabridged audiobooks.  The animation is simplistic, yet very appealing and the audio features of both types of books provide energetic readings with appropriate inflections.  They have many children’s books including those from the top children’s book publishers available in their eLibrary.  Students can even email their favorite stories to family and friends or even narrate and record their own TumbleBook.

The eBook can be read in two different ways.  In automatic mode, the eBook is read to student and the pages turn automatically.  In manual mode, the student reads at his or her own pace and turns pages on their own.  A pause button for students or teachers is available to pause the book.  This would be a great tool for whole class instruction.  This site is easy to navigate and easy to use, even for younger students.

In the Classroom

TumbleBooks can be used in a variety of different ways in the classroom.  It can be used for skill building with whole-class, small group, individual instruction, or as an enrichment activity.  Many of the books also correlate with cross-curriculum subjects.  The eBooks can then be integrated as one part of a larger unit.

If a school subscription is purchased, students at the school have unlimited access to TumbleBooks, including having accessibility at home. School subscriptions also include the ability to assign post-reading quizzes, which contain multiple choice questions about the eBooks the student just read.  Another great feature is that after reading a book, students have the ability to create book reports, right within TumbleBook.  They just fill out the book report online and then print!

ESL Features

TumbleBooks are available in three different languages: English, French, and Spanish.  The different eBooks can then be viewed in any of those languages.  Students can read the eBook in their primary language and then read the eBook again in English.  The student can then scaffold the words that they learned to understand the concepts and vocabulary from the story.

Special Education Features

TumbleBooks is a great learning resource for special education teachers and students.  One accessibility feature available in TumbleBooks is the ability to change the font size.  Students can make the font size larger or smaller depending on their sight impairment.  Another feature is that the books can be read aloud to the students.  As the book is being read aloud, the text is highlighted.  This makes is easier for students to follow along.   Even students with limited vision would find TumbleBooks engaging.  The stories are read with more expression than traditional audiobooks, which makes them appealing for students.  For students who are independent readers, they can set TumbleBooks to allow them to read the book at their own pace.  Books can also be replayed easily for further re-teaching or reviewing by the student or teacher.

TumbleBooks Teacher Guide & Features

TumbleBooks also provides a Teacher’s Guide.  This guide contains themes, activities, templates, creative classroom ideas for the different eBooks.  There are also lesson plans, worksheets, puzzles, and games to use in conjunction with the eBooks.  The guided activities and worksheets also have modifications for students of different reading levels: emerging, developing, and accomplished.

Another cool teacher feature is that the teacher can view usage of the site to see how long your students have been using the site.  Teachers can also pre-load books to their favorites area of the site so that story time can be more efficient.  The site also provides a very easy to use search options by title, author, language, or newly added.

TumbleBooks is definitely a reading resource you should look into for ALL of your different learners.

Article by Laura Ketcham

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon by MangoMon



Learning Functional Skills Through the Use of Technology

For high school students that are beginning the transition into adulthood, learning functional skills to encourage independent living is very important.  In a life skills unit topics can range from money management, hygiene, shopping for groceries, cooking, doing laundry, and skills or a vocation needed to maintain a job.  It is beneficial for these students to actually have experiences doing these different tasks in real-life scenarios.

One disadvantage to teaching these skills is that the students typically need to leave campus to experience these different daily activities.  Depending on funding or other school district constraints, this can be a difficult to arrange.  Luckily, there are technology programs that can teach these skills virtually using a variety of educational (and fun) software programs that are available.

PCI Education

PCI Education has many different programs for students to learn a variety of skills.  They have an entire section of their website devoted to different special education books, games, activities, and software for all of the academic subject areas, as well as study, life, communication, behavioral, community, and critical thinking skills.  Within the life skills section of the website, they offer over 80 different software-based learning programs.

A few of the programs I found interesting were the Banking Math, Where Does My Money Go, Survival Signs, and the Job Survival Software SeriesBanking Math is a program for middle and high school students to learn everyday math and banking skills.  Through role-playing, the students will conduct bank transactions, record transactions in a bank register, and perform everyday math problems like collecting a paycheck and paying to go to see a movie.

Where Does My Money Go is an interactive software program that teaches students about money handling, shopping skills, paying bills, and planning for unforeseen events (both good and bad).

Survival Signs is an intuitive program that teaches students about important signs in their communities and school.  For example, stop signs, bus stops, and bathrooms.

The Job Survival Software Series is a package of programs that guides students through lessons on skills needed for the workplace, including appearance, attitude, following directions, attendance, literacy, and expectations. After the lessons, the students are required to answer questions based on the lessons.

PCI Education offers many different tools for teaching and learning with special education students.  I would definitely suggest checking out their site!

Other Special Education Functional Skills Software Choices

Ed By Design is an Australian-based company that created functional skills software for special education.  They offer software programs where students can learn about people, places, and activities through flashcards, sentence completion activities, and selecting symbols.

Cactus Kids is a company that offers computer learning and arcade-style games for students with physical disabilities.  All of their activities use a system of switches, inputs similar to a mouse, but larger and with one function per switch, to make for easier input for students with physical disabilities.  One of the programs, In Sequence – Daily Living Skills, teaches students about activities and their order of completion.  Students have to select the images that break down the steps of completing everyday tasks like eating, brushing teeth, and locking a door, and then put the photos into the order in which the tasks should be completed.

Article by Laura Ketcham

Phot by Môsieur J. [version 3.0b]

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon


Hello Moto: Demystifying Assistive Technology

According to the United States government website on assistive technology, “It has been estimated that 54 million people or 20.6 percent of all Americans have some level of disability.”[1] Assistive technology is traditionally defined as any item created or customized to aid in the independent functioning of an individual with disabilities.[2] I believe that this definition is slightly limited in that assistive technology often benefits any user regardless of ability. As a special education teacher for over five years, I have witnessed that instruction provided for students with disabilities is, in my opinion, true quality instruction. Although many general education students do not require that material be presented using a multisensory approach in order to access the curriculum, I can not help to reflect that many of our students would possibly perform better and possibly retain vital information if they were taught in this fashion. Thanks to Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences[3] we have opened our minds to the concept that there are many different learning styles and preferences; and, therefore, it would stand to reason that a variety of tools to accommodate these differences, such as education specific assistive technology devices, can be used for everyone’s benefit.

Many educators shy away from incorporating assistive technology in their classrooms due to an assumption that all assistance must be high tech. Assistive technology can be as low tech as creating a “focus strip” for your learning disabled reader by using colored cellophane paper to focus on one line at a time; using a cane to walk, utilizing an adapted shower or restroom when experiencing a physical impairment or debilitating illness, or simply wearing eyeglasses for limited vision. There are higher technology devices such as text-to-speech computer programs, Braille embossers, and motorized wheelchairs, which are more expensive but integral to the lives of individuals with moderate to severe disabilities.

There are several assistive technology devices that we see everyday which have been highly marketed for the “abled” consumer. Touch screen computers and Bluetooth devices are examples of high tech assistive technology that add convenience and enrich the lives of individuals with and without disabilities. We often overlook the tools necessary to lead productive lives until we need them ourselves or they are needed by those we love. I implore you to explore the many tools at your disposal; knowledge is power and the more resources we have as instructors the better we can empower our students to lead more independent lives. For a resource list of assistive technology devices, please visit the University of Iowa’s website at

Article by Tai Collins

Photo by Digitaljournal


[2] “Assistive technology (AT) can be defined as any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.” (29 U.S.C. Sec 2202(2)).

[3] Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.


Electronic Spellers & Dictionaries for Special Education

When I was growing up in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, I remember having an electronic speller and dictionary.  This tool was very useful in assisting me to learn to spell.  It allowed me to spell a word, and then it would help to correct my spelling and provide me with definitions.

Today’s spellers and dictionaries are much more sophisticated than those early models.  They can speak, give handwriting directions, find rhymes, create vocabulary lists, play spelling games, and determine homonyms.  The spellers are reasonably priced, and a shared set for the classroom is affordable under today’s budget restraints.  This can be a great tool in your classroom for students who have difficulty pronouncing or spelling words.  It is more user-friendly than having the student use a paper dictionary because of its speed and can provide the proper spelling for the student even when they initially misspell it.  I am sure most of us have been frustrated when told to use the dictionary to find a word that we did not know how to spell and had to page through the book guessing at letters!

Electronic Spellers & Dyslexia

For a student with dyslexia, this tool can assist them to become more proficient in spelling, reading, and pronouncing words.  Typically, when a student is diagnosed with dyslexia, the student is given assistance on building their reading skills, and once the student can read, they are promoted out of the special education program.  Unfortunately, writing and spelling may not be addressed.  This is another area where students with dyslexia struggle.  Having an electronic speller can assist them in expressing their ideas on paper and to become more proficient with writing.

Leap Frog Turbo Twist & Spell

Leap Frog makes an electronic speller called Turbo Twist and Spell.  This educational toy raps songs to learn spelling rules and allows children to spell words to a musical beat.  Separate cartridges are sold for different grade levels and the programs adapt to the child’s ability and then challenges the student to increase their level.  There are also games to spell words or to find the missing letters and other downloadable games available from their website.  One of the best features of the Turbo Twist and Spell is that it gives the students hints, positive reinforcement, and encourages them to play and learn.

Electronic spellers and dictionaries can aid students in learning how to spell, learning meanings of words, and learning to express themselves through writing.

Article by Laura Ketcham

Photo from

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by Learning Today


iPads in Special Education Classrooms

Apple has added many features to the iPad to improve universal accessibility. The accessibility features include VoiceOver, MonoAudio, Zoom, Closed-caption, White on Black, and Triple-click Home.


The VoiceOver feature allows for individuals with visual impairments to touch the screen and then hear a description of what is being selected. The user can then use the commands to double-click, tap, drag, or flick to control iPad. This feature works with all of the applications built into iPad, and other software developers can also create applications that work with this feature. Another additional feature of VoiceOver is that it has the ability to accept some voice input. It also includes 21 languages and is compatible with iBooks that have the VoiceOver feature.


MonoAudio allows all channels of audio to be routed to one bud in the headphone. This feature is very useful for individuals who have lost hearing in just one ear. The Zoom feature allows the user to magnify the entire screen. This feature even works with all applications on the iPad, including applications downloaded from the App Store. Closed-Caption on the iPad displays subtitles for movies and podcasts. The White on Black feature allows for the iPad to be viewed at a higher contrast. This feature works with all applications on the iPad. The Triple-click Home feature is very useful. With the touch of one button, you can instantly turn feature of VoiceOver, White on Black, or Zoom on or off.

Post by Laura Ketcham

Photo by Curiouslee

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by Learning Today


Windows 7 Accessibility Features | Special Education

Windows 7 is the latest release of the Microsoft Operating System.  Compared to the last release, Windows Vista, there is much more positive feedback about the ease of use and lack of ‘bugs’ with this new operating system.  Windows 7 offers updated accessibility features for users with a variety of health and learning impairments.

All of the following accessibility features can be found and activated by selecting the Windows icon at the bottom left of your desktop, then Control Panel, and then the Ease of Access menu.

Speech Recognition

The speech recognition software with Windows 7 is updated to work seamlessly with more programs.  It allows the user to dictate commands or text to the computer.  This is used as an alternative to the keyboard.  In Windows 7, speech recognition is also able to learn speaking patterns better than ever before so that there are far less errors than in previous versions.


The magnifier in Windows 7 has two different options: full screen or lens mode.  In full screen mode, the user can choose to have everything magnified.  In lens mode, the user can choose which areas need to be magnified by using a movable small magnifier.  The magnifier option in Windows 7 allows users to interact with the desktop the same way they would in a normal screen setting.

On Screen Keyboard

The Windows 7 on screen keyboard allows the user to type without an actual keyboard.  There are three different input methods when using the on screen keyboard:  click, hover, or scan.  The user can use any of the three options to enter the text by actually selecting the character with their mouse, by moving the mouse over the characters they want to choose, or by scanning through the different characters.  There is also a word prediction dictionary which will complete the words as you type them.  The on screen keyboard can be used in conjunction with Windows Touch and is an appropriate touchscreen to be used in lieu of a keyboard.

Narrator & Visual Notifications

The narrator feature in Windows 7 can be used to read on-screen messages, including error messages or prompts.  It can also be used to read a variety of text from the computer, including that in a Word Document or from the Internet.  Audio descriptions for videos can also be used.  For users with sound/hearing impairments, visual notifications or cues can be used in lieu of sounds for error messages.

Windows 7 online resources include an informative guide called Guides by Impairments.  This guide provides users (or teachers) with the accessibility features that Windows 7 offers listed by the impairment of the individual.  This can help to make the program run more efficiently and ease accessibility for users with impairments.

Article by Laura Ketcham

Free Teacher Resources | Special Education by MangoMon


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