Friday, March 27, 2009

Undercover Reading!

On March 9, 2009 Winchell Elementary's Reading Super Hero was kidnapped from his home by an evil reading villain! A police investigation revealed 3 possible suspects however, they needed the help of Winchell students to figure out which suspect committed the crime! For every 1,000 AR points students read, a clue would be released.

Was it Cartoona who watches cartoons 24/7 and skips everywhere she walks, Electroman who is obsessed with electronics, or Bibliax who steals books from students' backpacks so they can't read at home???!!!

After 1 month of diligent reading, Winchell students discover...


On March 27, 2009 a Kalamazoo police officer arrived at Winchell Elementary School in Kalamazoo, Michigan to arrest Cartoona! Before the police officer got the chance to handcuff her, Cartoona apologized and cried that she just wanted to be a Winchell R.O.C.K.Star. It was at that moment that Winchell students taught Cartoona that all she had to do was read 20 minutes a day. She could even read cartoons or turned the closed captioning on while watching cartoons to increase her reading fluency. Cartoona was relieved and convinced the other reading villains to change their ways as well.

Bibliax decided to borrow books from the library rather than steal them. Electroman decided to use electronics to improve his reading by going to educational websites, listening to stories on his ipod, and making a podcast of him reading stories to children.

After each villain had decided the change their ways they rushed out the school gym to go help Cartoona free Super Rock. The crowd started cheering as Super Rock flew into the gym! Winchell students had done it- they had saved Super Rock!

The crowd started to dance with excitement and a party erupted in the gym.

Even though Super Rock is free we must never forget how Winchell students joined forces to read and defeat the evil reading villains! 20 minutes a day is the Winchell Way!!!

Photographs by Kathie Gibson

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Supporting Healthy Self Esteem and Kindness In the Classroom

This book is a great way to start of a new school year and set the standard for respect and kindness in the classroom. This book tells students that everyone has a bucket and when it's full they are happy; when it's empty they feel sad and lonely. Giving compliments and being a good friend to people helps fill their bucket and makes them happy. Being a bucket dipper will not help fill your bucket but will just hurt other people and make them sad. This book would be a great way to introduce a compliment graffiti wall, compliment mail system, or positive praise notes.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Music Education Can Help Children Improve Reading Skills

Music Education Can Help Children Improve Reading Skills
ScienceDaily (Mar. 16, 2009) — Children exposed to a multi-year programme of music tuition involving training in increasingly complex rhythmic, tonal, and practical skills display superior cognitive performance in reading skills compared with their non-musically trained peers, according to a study published in the journal Psychology of Music.
According to authors Joseph M Piro and Camilo Ortiz from Long Island University, USA, data from this study will help to clarify the role of music study on cognition and shed light on the question of the potential of music to enhance school performance in language and literacy.
Studying children the two US elementary schools, one of which routinely trained children in music and one that did not, Piro and Ortiz aimed to investigate the hypothesis that children who have received keyboard instruction as part of a music curriculum increasing in difficulty over successive years would demonstrate significantly better performance on measures of vocabulary and verbal sequencing than students who did not receive keyboard instruction.
Several studies have reported positive associations between music education and increased abilities in non-musical (eg, linguistic, mathematical, and spatial) domains in children. The authors say there are similarities in the way that individuals interpret music and language and “because neural response to music is a widely distributed system within the brain…. it would not be unreasonable to expect that some processing networks for music and language behaviors, namely reading, located in both hemispheres of the brain would overlap.”
The aim of this study was to look at two specific reading subskills – vocabulary and verbal sequencing – which, according to the authors, are “are cornerstone components in the continuum of literacy development and a window into the subsequent successful acquisition of proficient reading and language skills such as decoding and reading comprehension.”
Using a quasi-experimental design, the investigators selected second-grade children from two school sites located in the same geographic vicinity and with similar demographic characteristics, to ensure the two groups of children were as similar as possible apart from their music experience.
Children in the intervention school (n=46) studied piano formally for a period of three consecutive years as part of a comprehensive instructional intervention program. Children attending the control school (n=57) received no formal musical training on any musical instrument and had never taken music lessons as part of their general school curriculum or in private study. Both schools followed comprehensive balanced literacy programmes that integrate skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening.
All participants were individually tested to assess their reading skills at the start and close of a standard 10-month school year using the Structure of Intellect (SOI) measure.
Results analysed at the end of the year showed that the music-learning group had significantly better vocabulary and verbal sequencing scores than did the non-music-learning control group. This finding, conclude the authors, provides evidence to support the increasingly common practice of “educators incorporating a variety of approaches, including music, in their teaching practice in continuing efforts to improve reading achievement in children”.
However, further interpretation of the results revealed some complexity within the overall outcomes. An interesting observation was that when the study began, the music-learning group had already experienced two years of piano lessons yet their reading scores were nearly identical to the control group at the start of the experiment.
So, ask the authors, “If the children receiving piano instruction already had two years of music involvement, why did they not significantly outscore the musically na├»ve students on both measures at the outset?” Addressing previous findings showing that music instruction has been demonstrated to exert cortical changes in certain cognitive areas such as spatial-temporal performance fairly quickly, Piro and Ortiz propose three factors to explain the lack of evidence of early benefit for music in the present study.
First, children were tested for their baseline reading skills at the beginning of the school year, after an extended holiday period. Perhaps the absence of any music instruction during a lengthy summer recess may have reversed any earlier temporary cortical reorganization experienced by students in the music group, a finding reported in other related research. Another explanation could be that the duration of music study required to improve reading and associated skills is fairly long, so the initial two years were not sufficient.
A third explanation involves the specific developmental time period during which children were receiving the tuition. During the course of their third year of music lessons, the music-learning group was in second grade and approaching the age of seven. There is evidence that there are significant spurts of brain growth and gray matter distribution around this developmental period and, coupled with the increased complexity of the study matter in this year, brain changes that promote reading skills may have been more likely to accrue at this time than in the earlier two years.
“All of this adds a compelling layer of meaning to the experimental outcomes, perhaps signalling that decisions on ‘when’ to teach are at least as important as ‘what’ to teach when probing differential neural pathways and investigating their associative cognitive substrates,” note the authors.
“Study of how music may also assist cognitive development will help education practitioners go beyond the sometimes hazy and ill-defined ‘music makes you smarter’ claims and provide careful and credible instructional approaches that use the rich and complex conceptual structure of music and its transfer to other cognitive areas,” they conclude.

SAGE Publications/Psychology of Music (2009, March 16). Music Education Can Help Children Improve Reading Skills. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 21, 2009, from­ /releases/2009/03/090316075843.htm

Can it be? Technology Used for Good?!

Many people bash television, video games, ipods, and computers for creating lazy children who spend less time reading and using their imagination. Is this true? It's my viewpoint that reading will look different in the future than it does right now. Rather than giving up, educators need to use their imagination and think outside the box so that we are creating different readers rather than non-readers.

Children and young adults today (myself included), are digital natives. This means we entered into a world full of computers, video games, and television. Technology was simply part of our lives. Many teachers however are digital immigrants- they grew up in a world without computers, video games, and television and they were slowly introduced throughout the digital immigrant's lifetime. What does this mean? For digital immigrants need to understand that children today are very different today and might even think differently (I'd like to see a study on this, because I think it might be true). We need to create learning opportunities using technology rather than insisting that children learn the same way children have in the United States for hundreds of years.

There are so many ideas on how to use technology to create different readers rather than non readers. Here are some ideas.

Ipod- audiobooks listened to while a student follows along with a print text can increase reading fluency. There are also so many educational podcasts, videos, and songs that can be added to them to increase phonemic awareness, phonics, and vocabulary.

TV- turn on the closed captioning. Having the closed captioning on is research based to increase reading fluency.

Video Games- Video games finetune motor skills and there are many educational video games that can help students improve their reading or math skills.

Computer- I do not even know where to start. The computer/Internet has opened up the world for students. Please see Online Resources for Educators for some ideas. There is so much available though, this list could go on forever!

I hope you now see that we have to change the way we think about educating children and realize that they learn differently today. That does not mean they will be non-readers!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bibliotherapy: Integrating Academics and Social Skills Training

Bibliotherapy: Integrating Academics and Social Skills Training

One frequent concern teachers of children with Emotional or Behavior Disorders express is the lack of time able to allot to affective education (Forgan & Gonzalez-DeHass, 2004). “Classroom time is increasingly crowded by academic demands- particularly reading literacy- to the exclusion of needed social skills instruction (Cartledge & Kiarie, 2001). Bibliotherapy is defined as “sharing books or stories with the intent of helping an individual gain insight into personal problems” (Health, Sheen, Leavy, Young & Money, 2005, p. 564). This insight is attained by the students identifying with a literary character and spending time analyzing the conflicts the character is facing (Forgan, 2002). General behaviors are looked at in hopes that once taught, social skills will improve (Forgan & Gonzalez-DeHass, 2004). The term bibliotherapy was coined in 1916 by Samuel Crothers, who first suggested using books to help people understand their problems (Heath et al, 2005). The purpose of this paper is to give a brief overview of bibliotherapy, describe how bibliotherapy can be used in the classroom, and discuss the future impacts of using bibliotherapy in the field.

Bookclubs are increasingly popular in our society today (Cartledge & Kiarie, 2001). When one reads a book they enjoy, it is natural for them to wish to discuss it with others. Bibliotherapy addresses this natural wish to discuss literature as well as makes room for the teaching of social skills in our classrooms.

Social incompetence can lead to failure cycles in school and in life. Allocating the time to teach these social skills can be exceedingly problematic (Forgan & Gonzalez-DeHass, 2004; Cartledge & Kiarie, 2001). So much focus is on academics and specifically reading, due to high-stakes testing, that teaching other important skills is difficult to fit in. This problem is exacerbated by the lack of coordination of affective education with academic instruction (Forgan & Gonzalez-DeHass, 2004). The coordination is solved simply by using bibliotherapy as group counseling for the whole classroom or small groups (Stringer, Reynolds & Simpson, 2003) and infusing social skills into academic curriculum while focusing on reading (Forgan & Gonzalez-DeHass, 2004; Cartledge & Kiarie, 2001). Research shows that students actually receive more instruction time when social skills instruction is combined into academics rather than taught alone (Forgan & Gonzalez-DeHass, 2004). Students receive more instruction and when taught in a meaningful setting where behaviors occur, instruction may be more likely to transfer to other settings (Forgan & Gonzalez-DeHass, 2004). Research also shows poor reading skills can contribute to poor self esteem (Stringer et al, 2003). It makes sense that educators work on reading skills and emotions together gaining social and academic benefits from the use of bibliotherapy.

Benefits for all students
Teaching bibliotherapy in a group setting helps all students, not just those with special needs. There are not any children who have a problem-free life (Forgan, 2002). Research shows the numbers of children with problems like depression and panic attacks are on the rise (Zambo, 2007; National Research Council, 2000). Bibliotherapy may help prevent these problems as well as draw students out of their shells and help the class bond (Sridhar & Vaughn, 2000). Another benefit all students will gain from bibliotherapy include independent problem solving skills (Forgan, 2002). These are gained from identifying the main character’s problem and trying to think of possible solutions. Beyond social skills, bibliotherapy offers the same academic benefits for all students. Bibliotherapy helps improve reading skills (Heath et al, 2005; Zambo, 2007). Storytelling builds the “capacity of all children to academically succeed” (Craig; Hull; Haggart; & Crowder, 2001). Furthermore, when children discuss what is read, their reading skills improve significantly (Stringer et al, 2003; Routman, 1996). We also know that the more children read, the more their vocabulary increases (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998; Prater, Johnstun, Dyches & Johnstun, 2006). Finally, reading good literature students can relate to can open doors to appreciation of good literature (Prater et al, 2006). Hopefully, we can show children that reading is fun and an enjoyable pastime.

Bibliotherapy as direct instruction
In a paper on using bibliotherapy with suspended students, Schreur (2006) discusses how suspending students fails to address the cause of their misbehavior. Students need direct teaching to address the cause of their misbehavior (Forgan, 2002). Research shows us directly teaching skills can help those with E/BD help understand their feelings and develop friendships (Theodore, Bray, Kehle & Jensen, 2001; Zambo, 2007). Bibliotherapy is helpful in working with children who have emotional impairments because affective education is being directly taught and “the root cause of behaviors” is being addressed (Schreur, 2006) and furthermore we know that it is effective (Forgan Gonzalez-DeHass, 2004; Gresham, Sugai, & Horner, 2001; McIntosh, Vaughn, & Zaragoza, 1991).

Bibliotherapy as Prevention, Intervention, and Treatment
A positive attribute about bibliotherapy is that it can be used as prevention to problems, an intervention, or as a treatment (McWhirter et al, 2004; Prater et al, 2006). There are many problems for which bibliotherapy would be a wonderful intervention. Sridhar and Vaughn (2000) suggested the use of bibliotherapy to help raise the typically low self esteem of those with Emotional or Behavior Disorders. Heath et al (2005) stated that bibliotherapy can be used to help students understand appropriate behavior, assist with classroom behavior. Bibliotherapy could also be used as a prevention before all these same problems occur (McWhirter et al, 2004; Prater et al, 2006) as well as help students analyze their thoughts, express problems, and choose a solution from a number of options (Forgan, 2002; Prater et al, 2006) and help students recognize problem situations. Finally, bibliotherapy can be used as a treatment. We know that emotional regulation is challenging for all children (Diamond and Hobson, 1998; Zambo, D.M., 2007), but children with E/BD have extreme difficulty regulating how they feel. They are either overly emotional or not emotional enough. Kids with E/BD often display emotions “in the wrong manner, with the wrong intensity, and at the wrong time (Hardman et al; Zambo, 2007).” Difficulty with emotions can be pervasive causing difficulty sharing toys, making friends, and cooperating with adults (Zambo, 2007). Using picture books allows them to see and hear about the ways characters express themselves and students will often model these behaviors.

Bibliotherapy as Collaboration
Bibliotherapy and storytelling in general present a wonderful opportunity for general education teachers to collaborate with special education teachers (Craig et al, 2001). Literature is something that general education teachers are typically experts on and special educators can show them how to turn read-aloud time into bibliotherapy without much effort. One collaborative strategy to share with general educators is to let children hear your thoughts. Talk through problems the characters face in your literary selections so that students can hear the problem-solving process (Craig et al, 2001). Another suggestion mentioned by Craig et al (2001) was to have guests come in and read to the children. Nearly everyone has a book that impacted their life and these are almost always great books to use for bibliotherapy.

Benefits of Bibliotherapy

Bibliotherapy lets students identify with characters in literature (Zambo, 2007). Students then talk more freely about their feelings and discuss them in a constructive way. Bibliotherapy is non-threatening because the problems discussed belong to the characters in the literature, creating a safe distance for discussion (Corr, 2003-2004; Heath et al, 2005; Zambo, 2007). Books offer the reader “access to the inner thoughts, intentions, reasons, and emotions” that surround the behaviors of characters (Cartledge, 2001). Students first identify with the main characters and identify their frustrations and needs (Nicholson, J.L., Pearson, Q.M., 2003; Sridhar and Vaughn, 2000; Heath et al, 2005; Forgan, 2002). Next they experience a catharsis and finally they gain insight into their own problems. Another difficulty that affects children with E/BD is that they often have a hard time reading intemionality from faces. They are “likely to interpret behaviors as negative even when they are not” (National Research Council, 2000; Zambo, 2007). Picture books often help with this because teachers can guide children in observing how the characters feel and what in the picture gives clues on their feelings. As mentioned earlier, it can also create a love of reading (Prater et al, 2006) as well as allowing students to go along with students’ tendency to read a book in search of information (Forgan et al, 2004).

Classroom Perspective
The first step to implementing bibliotherapy in your classroom is to choose an appropriate book. Books chosen must address the needs of the student(s) you’re focusing on and the main character must have similar problems (Heath et al, 2005; Sridhar & Vaughn, 2000). It is also important to choose books where characters make good choices when solving their problems, students should not imitate a bad model (Heath et al, 2005). Books should be brief as often students with E/BD have short attention spans and working with a longer book requires a great deal of concentration (Cartledge, 2001). Once a book is chosen, one must decide the setting in which the bibliotherapy will take place; select if the book will be read by the whole class, a small group, or an individual.

There are four main steps in a bibliotherapy unit. Students should never feel as if they are being taught during any of these steps (Schreur, 2006). The teacher should act as a facilitator to direct questions and elicit student thought (Sridhar & Vaughn, 2006). These steps are “1) pre-reading, 2) guided reading, 3) post-reading discussion, 4) problem-solving/reinforcement activity” (Forgan, 2002, p. 76). Before reading the story selected, a teacher must activate background knowledge. This should be done creatively in a manner that introduces the theme and allows students to compare their experiences with those in the book as well as make predictions (Sridhar & Vaughn, 2000). Following pre-reading is guided reading and this typically involves an adult reading the story aloud to the student(s) (Forgan, 2002). After the story or a portion of it is completed teachers allow students to journal or reflect in some other way before discussion begins. Next, a post-reading discussion of the story. One model that I found very useful in discussing a story was the “I-SOLVE” model developed by J.W. Forgan. The steps include having students: 1) identify the problem, 2) find solutions to the problem, 3) look for obstacles that might get in the way of the possible solutions, 4) look at the solutions again and choose one, 5) very good, try the solution, and 6) evaluate the outcome. This model, while being used for characters, is being imprinted into the memory of the students who will hopefully use the model for insight into their problems. The final necessity of bibliotherapy in a classroom is a reinforcement activity. This should vary according to the interests of students and may involve skits, small group work, artwork, or anything else to reinforce the lesson of the story in an engaging manner (Sridhar & Vaughn, 2000).

Future perspectives

There are several challenges than can get in the way of an effective bibliotherapy unit. These include “lack of sustained training, measurement and research design issues, ineffective training packages, lack of coordination of social skills training with academic instruction, and the possibility that social skills deficits are highly resistant to intervention” (Forgan & Gonzalez-DeHass, 2004, p. 25). In the future these are all areas that need to be addressed specifically the research issues. Currently there is a fair amount of research published involving bibliotherapy being combined with other therapies but I am not aware of any dealing with bibliotherapy alone. Before a teacher implements a new teaching practice in their classroom, they want to know the research supporting it. In the case of bibliotherapy, there is none, which poses a slight drawback. If there is one thing that can be done in the future I would propose a study of bibliotherapy being used in a classroom setting with students who have emotional impairments.

To improve bibliotherapy in the future includes publishing more books. Teachers need to choose books that their students can relate to, that have similar problems as their students, and who solve their problems in appropriate ways. This can often be a challenge to find such a book. Many problems may face have countless books where characters deal with these problems but other problems are not dealt with too frequently in books. We need children’s authors willing to write about a variety of issues in a style that children can relate to and enjoy. It seems that each year, more and more books are coming out on various controversial issues. I can only hope that this trend continues in order for our teachers to use vivid stories to help children identify with characters, experience catharsis, and gain insight into their problems.

Cartledge, G., & Kiarie, M.W. (2001). Learning social skills through literature for children and adolescents. Teaching Exceptional Children, 34, 40-47.
Craig, S., Hull, K., Haggart, A.G., Crowder, E. (2001). Storytelling addressing the literacy needs of diverse learners. Teaching Exceptional Children, 33, 46-51.
Forgan, J. W. (2002). Using bibliotherapy to teach problem solving. Intervention in School and Clinic, 38, 75-82.
Forgan, J.W., & Gonzalez-DeHass, A. (2004). How to infuse social skills training into literacy instruction. Teaching Exceptional Children, 36, 24-30.
Heath, M.A., Sheen, D., Leavy, D., Young, E. & Money, K (2005). Biliotherapy: A resource to facilitate emotional healing and growth. School Psychology, 26, 563-580.
Nicholson, J. L & Pearson, Q.M. (2003). Helping children cope with fears: using children’s literature in classroom guidance. Professional School Counseling, 7, 15-19.
Prater, M.A., Johnstun, M.L., Dyches, T.T. & Johnstun, M.R (2006). Using children’s books as bibliotherapy for at-risk students: A guide for teachers. Preventing School Failure, 50, 5-13.
Schreur, G. (2006). Using bibliotherapy with suspended students. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 15, 106-111.
Stringer, S.J., Reynolds, G.P, & Simpson, F.M (2003). Collaboration between classroom teachers and a school counselor through literature circles: Building self-esteem. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 30, 69-76.
Sridhar, D., & Vaughn, S. (2000). Bibliotherapy for all: Enhancing reading comprehension, self-concept, and behavior. Teaching Exceptional Children, 33, 74-82.
Zambo, D. (2007). What can you learn from Bombaloo? Using picture books to help young students with special needs regulate their emotions. Teaching Exceptional Children, 39, 32-39.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Universal Design: Multiple Pathways for Student Learning

Universal Design: Multiple Pathways for Student Learning

Universal design is a way to present information and assess student learning which came from architecture (Pisha & Coyne, 2001). Congress passed PL 93-112 in 1973, the Rehabilitation Act, which guaranteed basic civil rights to people with disabilities (Smith, 2007). This meant, among other things, individuals with disabilities needed to have equal access to buildings. Equal access meant installing elevators, building ramps, and other improvements which were quite expensive. Due to the cost of implementing this law, it was ignored by many- until 1990. (The Americans With Disabilities Act, 1990) was signed into effect in 1990 which bared “discrimination in employment, transportation, public accommodations, and telecommunications”. It was a catalyst for creating buildings allowing “equal access” and remodeling ones not meeting current standards. Architect Ron Mace, in 1997, gave these accommodations in architecture a term, universal design (Pisha & Coyne, 2001). After the changes in architecture, teachers started to ask themselves how they can give all students “equal access” to the curriculum (Smith, 2007). The answer is through nonstandard means including, but not limited to, the use of assistive technology, differentiated instruction, modifications, and accommodations available to all students. Educators must create “multiple pathways” for student learning due to the diversity the students in our school. In doing this all students will benefit including those with special needs (Hitchcock, et. Al, 2002). The purpose of this paper is to a) present an overview of universal design, b) analyze critical points of universal design in special education, c) summarize the information, d) discuss my reaction to universal design.

Overview of Universal Design
Howard (2004) explains universal design as having a flexible curriculum that gives students many options and opportunities to learn the material as well as multiple ways to show what they learned. She gives us some advice on how to implement universal design in the classroom and shows us what a classroom using Universal Design ideas might look like. The author suggests teachers initiate their planning time by asking “what is it I want my students to learn and how can they show they learned it?” (Howard, 2004). Howard stated many teachers often give simpler texts to those who have trouble reading but these simple texts don’t contain the amount or the depth of information as the more difficult books and as a result, the students miss out on a lot of learning. To solve this problem, she chose 4 books for the students to read and had them look at each of the books to judge them according to their perceived difficulty. The students next ranked the books in the order they wanted to read them and each student was assigned either their first or second choice. This was beneficial because not only did students choose the book they were most interested in, but they grouped themselves into their perceived ability level and were allowed the opportunity to choose difficult text if they sought after a challenge.
Once the students had their book it was time to read! Reading is difficult for many students, especially at the first grade level so Howard worked hard to support student learning using Universal Design. She solved the problem stated by Pischa and Coyne in 2001 when they discussed how textbooks are inaccessible to many students due to their lack of reading skills. Some of Howard’s students choose to work independently, but to provide more support other students were placed in pairs so each student could read and learn together. If students required further support, audio books were available for them to listen and follow along in the text. For the children requiring the most support, an online book was created. Students could have it read aloud to them or read independently and highlight words on the computer to be read aloud when they needed assistance.

Critical Points
Hitchock, Meyer, Rose, and Jackson draw attention to the fact that there is no homogeneous group of learners (2002). Presenting lessons with Universal Design in mind not only helps students with special needs- it helps students without them as well. Beachman and Alty (2006) found using computer-based media improved learning outcomes of students with dyslexia as well as those without dyslexia. In Howard’s lesson, all students were able to complete the lesson successfully by being offered a variety of options and supports. This reduced the amount of attention drawn to those who learned differently and challenged those students in need of more difficult material (Howard, 2004). Hitchock and others describe in their 2002 article how engineers “designed the curb cut to better enable those in wheelchairs to negotiate curbs, but they also eased travel for people pushing strollers or riding skateboards, pedestrians with canes, and even the average walker. (p. 9)” This example gives us some idea of what would happen if we applied Universal Design to our classroom- everyone would benefit.
Pischa and Coyne stated in 2001 how textbooks are inaccessible to many students due to their lack of reading skills. Some individuals may fear that universal design will solve this problem by reducing the amount of reading students do. Ms. Howard showed it was possible to support those who need help with reading through technology and universally designed lesson while still use literature in the classroom (2004). Her creation of e-books for students who needed extra support in place was very time consuming however, she offered many suggestions on how to overcome this such as asking for volunteers. The benefits of universal design are well worth the extra thought and prep time it takes to create lessons.

The most important thing for teachers to remember is to offer lots of different ways for students to learn the information as well as choices on ways to show they learned the material. As Beachman and Alty noted in 2006, “Using a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to learning materials is more problematic than experts lead us to believe.” Hitchock and others stress the importance of being flexible and having flexible materials, methods, and ways to assess that meet the needs of all students (2002). The also reiterate how important it is to take advantage of the technology available by creating materials able to go back and forth between media and other ways to present content. Flexibility is key if you are to teach lessons that are universally designed.
This research has strengthened my support for use of Universal Design by bringing questions to mind and allowing me to work through them using the research. The most fascinating thing I learned was students with dyslexia tend to do better when presented with a text without pictures rather than one with lots of pictures (Beacham & Alty, 2006). I personally enjoy the visuals in textbooks so it seems we have an incompatible situation on our hands with those students who need pictures and those who do better without. A creative teacher focused on universal design could think of countless ideas to solve this problem. Knowing about this research, my solution would be to hand out copies of a reading assignments or other text in a form without pictures and display a meaningful picture on a screen off to the side for those who needed the visual. Teaching is all about balancing the needs of all students and offering everyone an opportunity to learn the way they like as frequently as possible. Universal Design can work in any classroom with any teacher as long as the teacher fully understand the concept of Universal Design and are committed to centering their lessons on its concepts. Only then can we educate all children!

Beacham, N.A. & Alty, J.L. (2006). An investigation into the effects that digital media can have on the learning outcomes of individuals who have dyslexia. Computers and Education, 47, 74-93
Hitchock, C., Meyer, A., Rose, D., & Jackson, R. (2002). Providing new access to the general curriculum. Teaching Exceptional Children, 35, 8-17.
Howard, K.L. (2004). Universal design for learning: Meeting the needs of all students. Learning and Leading with Technology, 31, 26-29
Pisha, B. & Coyne, P. (2001). Smart from the start. Remedial and Special Education, vol. 22,
P.L 94-142 (1975). Education for All Handicapped Children Act. Washington, D.C: U.S. Department of Education.
Smith, D.D. (2007). Introduction to special education. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Super Rock, Winchell Elementary's reading icon, has been kidnapped. Students must read, read, read to help find out who was behind this evil plot and help rescue Super Rock. For every 1,000 AR points students read a new piece of evidence will be posted. Suspect wanted posters are already displayed in the school as are sketches of what the villains look like. Be on the lookout Winchell R.O.C.K.Stars and READ! 20 minutes a day is the Winchell Way!!!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Spelling Practice

Teachers often want kids to practice spelling and hand out worksheet after worksheet. Here are some great, multiple modality activities kids can use to practice their weekly spelling words.

Research-Based Spelling Practice Procedure
1) Say the word
2) Write and say the word
3) Check your spelling
4) Trace the letters and say the word
5) Flip your spelling list over and visualize the word
6) Write the word without looking at your list.

Spelling Homework
During my 6th grade internship I created "Spelling Bingo" for an alternative to spelling worksheets. I created a 5x5 table and filled each square with a spelling activity such as the ones that follow as well as the practice procedure above. One activity was in each square and students were required to complete 5 activities before the end of the week to get 5 in a row, column, or diagonal!

Spelling Game- Sparkle
1. Have students sit on top of their desks.
2. Give them a word to spell and pass a ball to one student. Everyone repeats the whole word. Then the student with the ball says the first letter and passes the ball on to the person next to them who says the second letter. This goes on until the word is spelled.
3. When the word is spelled the next person repeats the word, the person after them says sparkle, and the person after them sits down.
4. If any letter is incorrect that student sits down, writes the word 20 times as quickly as possible and then sits back on their desk.

Spelling Games Online
Enter your spelling words and play games with them.

Other Fun Spelling Ideas (Adapted from Michele McCoy)
1. Paint with water- Dip a Q-tip in water and practice spelling the words on a chalkboard. The words will disappear like magic, leaving the chalkboard clean!
2. Shaving Cream Practice- An easy way to clean those dirty work tables clean is to let the children finger paint on the table tops. Have the students practice their spelling words in the shaving cream.
3. Scratch n' Sniff- Use a new sensation to teach the alphabet or spelling words. Write letters with glue on paper, then sprinkle with Jell-O. Makes a super scratch n' Sniff when tracing over the letters.
4. Fishing for Words- On 3" x 5" cards print letters. Place the cards in a plastic swimming pool. Using a toy fishing pole or a long stick, place a magnet on the string. The students go fishing for letters and must spell their spelling words.
5. Finger Paint Bags- Freezer strength zip lock bags and fingerprint make great writing slates. Place a dab of finger paint (tempera paint can work, although, not as well. Hey, look! A use for all that semi-dried up paint!) in the zip-lock bag, tape the bag closed for extra strength. The student then lays the bag flat on the table and writes the word on the bag with a finger. The word will disappear like magic.
6. Record a Word- Have students use a tape recorder to practice their spelling words.
7. Disappearing Act- Help your students perform a real disappearing act. Children write their spelling words with chalk on black construction paper. Then you can spray and watch their words disappear and return.
8. Flannel Board Practice- Students use a flannel board and flannel board letters to practice their spelling words.
9. Scrabble Spelling- Place the wooden letter squares from an old Scrabble game on the Scrabble rail. Students can use the squares to spell the weekly words or to write a sentence of words. Incorporate math practice by having them add the number values printed on the squares to find the week's "most valuable word."
10. Spelling Magic- Try a little magic to teach spelling words! Have students write words on white construction paper with white crayon. Then have them paint over the paper with watered down tempera paint or watercolors. Words appear like magic!
11. Partner Word Step- On large piece of butcher paper print the letters of the alphabet. Have two partners pair up together to play this game. Have one student read the word aloud. The other child must step on the letters to spell the word.
12. Egg Spellers- The teacher writes the weekly spelling words on small pieces of paper and places them inside plastic eggs. (Now you know what to do with all those plastic Easter eggs after your kids are bored with them. ) Students pick the eggs from an Easter basket. The students then must write that word.
13. Take the Pepsi Challenge- For a motivational technique, "Take the Pepsi Challenge!" Each student has a Pepsi cup. When Friday's spelling test is returned, he writes words he misses on a card and places it in his cup. When we have our review test, students are re-tested on the same words. Anyone who has a perfect score on all the unit tests and keeps his cup empty wins a Pepsi! Give a Pepsi also for perfect scores on review tests.
14. Spelling Puzzles- Write the spelling words on different colors of tag board. Cut the words apart in a variety of ways. The students then put the puzzle back together to form the spelling words.
15. Q-Tip Eraser- Write the spelling words on the chalkboard. The students then erase the words by tracing over them again and again with a Q-tip until the words are erased.
16. Spelling Bingo- The teacher gives a blank bingo card for a fun activity to take the place of your traditional pretest. As the teacher reads each word, students write it in a space of their choice. After giving all the words, I call words randomly until someone calls, "BINGO!" The winner must say and spell the words that gave him the win. I would play in partners or small groups so that students get more practice spelling.
17. Spelling Dice- The teacher writes the weekly spelling words on dice made from inverted milk cartons. The student rolls the dice and whatever the dice lands on they write 5 times.
18. Musical Words- A word skill game that is played like musical chairs. The teacher places the spelling words on small pieces of paper in a large box or bag. The children sit in a circle, and start passing the box around while music plays. Whoever has the container when the music stops must pick out the paper and hand it to the teacher. The teacher will read the word and the student must spell it. If he can't, he is out. Continue to play until there is only one person left.
19. Transparency Show Off- The teacher makes a transparency of regular lined paper. The students practice writing their spelling words on the transparency. The students then show off their work on the overhead projector for all to see.
20. Individual Chalkboards- Have the students practice writing their spelling words on small chalkboards. They love it!
21. Tissue Paper Tracing- The teacher writes the weekly spelling words on a large piece of paper. The students then place tissue paper over the words and trace over them with crayon.
22. Magnetic Cookie Sheet- The teacher arranges assorted magnet letters on a cookie sheet. Students use the letters to form the weekly spelling words.
23. Overhead Posters- The teacher makes a transparency of the weekly spelling words. The list is then shown on the wall. A piece of butcher paper is taped to the wall. The student then traces the spelling words onto the butcher paper.
24. Typewriter Fun- Have the students write their spelling words ten times each on the typewriter. (Or try it on your classroom computer. If you're brave you can use your graphics software! Kid Pix is perfect for this.). Then have them write a silly story using all the spelling words.
25. Paint Your Words- Have the students use small paint brushes to paint their words 5 times each.
26. Sand Box Spelling- The teacher pours sand in the lid of a box (approx. 1/4"). The student then practices the words in the sand.
27. Alpha-Bit Spelling- Students use cereal to reproduce their spelling words. Don't forget to have a snack with the words you make.
28. Pudding Practice- Try using instant pudding as finger paint to practice spelling words.
29. Pyramid Power- Give your students a weekly spelling assignment with a different twist. Have students write their words in order of difficulty. They write their easiest word once at the top of the paper near the middle, the next easiest twice, and so on. Students will have a pyramid shape when they are finished.
30. Portable Slates- Portable slates make a great spelling game. The teacher calls out a spelling word and the students write answers, hold up their slates to be checked, then wipe them off with tissue.
31. Sandy Words- Have students write their spelling words in glue, sprinkle sand over the glue. The students then trace over the words with their fingers for practice. They make terrific flash cards!
32. Rainbow Words- Have the students practice words with felt pens, alternate colors for a rainbow look.
33. Put It In Print- Have the students cut out the letters from a newspaper to spell the weekly spelling words.
34. Round About Flash cards- Have students decorate a paper pate. Cut a slice out of the paper plate so it looks like a slice of pie cut out of the plate. Brad around piece of paper to the back. Then write the weekly spelling words in the window. The students turn the wheel and practice saying the word.
35. Spelling Squares- Students practice their words on graphing paper. The students use 1 box for each letter. Have the students figure out which spelling word is in the shortest, longest, etc. . .
36. Rainbow chains- Rainbow chains are a great way of keeping track of the words a student knows. The student writes the words he successfully spelled on Friday's final test on a construction paper chain. The children love to see their chains grow! These can be displayed around the room and put together to form one long chain- so no one feels sad if they have a short chain. You could also make chain links for only the words that everyone spells correctly.
37. Pipe cleaners - Children use these to form their spelling words.
38. Toothpicks - Same as above.
39. Alphabet Stamps
40. Word collage - They design a collage using all of their words using markers, colored pencils etc.
41. Design a word - They pick one word and bubble letter it and design it.
42. Magazine letters - They find the letters in a magazine and glue them onto construction paper.
43. Play dough - I have cookie cutters that are letters of the alphabet. The kids also like to form the dough itself into letters.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Texting Can Help Reading Skills

Yes, teachers must instill a love (and hopefully an obsession) with reading in our students however, we must also meet children where they are and challenge them to embrace the reading in their everyday world. From closed captioning on televisions to websites, blogging, and text messaging literacy is everywhere!!!

Study: TMOT, Texting Can Help Reading Skills
By SLJ Staff -- School Library Journal, 3/1/2009 8:20:00 PM

The finding sounds 2G2BT, but British researchers say text messaging doesn’t harm literacy. In fact, those who regularly text have better reading skills, despite their frequent use of phonetic spellings, abbreviations, and omission of vowels.
A study published in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology looked at 88 U.K. kids ages 10 to12 to examine the impact of texting on their language skills and found that it could actually have a positive effect on the way kids interact with language.
“Children's use of textisms is not only positively associated with word reading ability, but it may be contributing to reading development," the report says.
Lead author Beverley Plester told theBBC that texting doesn’t negatively impact children's spelling ability, either. “What we think of as misspellings, don't really break the rules of language and children have a sophisticated understanding of the appropriate use of words.”
The kids involved in the study were asked to compose text messages for 10 different scenarios. The textisms were split into categories, including shortenings, contractions, acronyms, symbols and unconventional spellings, and analyzed for their use of language alongside more traditional schoolwork. Researchers found that the ratio of textisms to total words used was positively associated with word reading, vocabulary, and phonological awareness.
"When we look for examples of text speak in essays, we don't seem to find very many," says Plester, explaining that "The more exposure you have to the written word the more literate you become and we tend to get better at things that we do for fun."
A 2006 study from the University of Toronto had similar results. It found that teens have a strong comand of grammar in their text messaging.