Increasing Opportunities to Respond: Tools for Teachers and Administrators

Think back to your days as a student and visualize your favorite class or teacher.  What did the teacher do in that class?  What did the students do?  In all likelihood, you did not sit quietly for the entire class period while the teacher talked.  You probably focused more of your effort on creating new products or sharing ideas with your peers than on sitting still.  Unfortunately, for many students, including those with disabilities, the effort needed to sit quietly for long periods of time overrides any effort to learn.  Yet, active engagement is the strongest predictor of academic achievement (Dotterer & Lowe, 2011). [Read more…]

Giving Students the Tools to Grow: Lifelong Learners and Productive Members of a Global Society

How would educators reply if asked why they originally entered and remain in their professional positions? Most likely, their answer would be that they care deeply about the success, happiness, and safety of their students in school and in life. A word cloud, like the one pictured below, prominently displays those words in a group that occur with the highest frequency. This word cloud was created by pasting mission statements of school divisions from across the Commonwealth of Virginia into a word cloud creator. As one might expect, the word “students” appears as the most important focus in schools.

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I’m Determined Tools: Web Apps Now Available!

I’m Determined, a state directed project funded by the Virginia Department of Education, focuses on providing direct instruction, models, and opportunities for students to learn and practice skills associated with self-determined behavior. Many students have used the One Pager, Good Day Plan, and Goal Setting tools to support self-determined behaviors such as choice-making, self-awareness, and self-advocacy (Wehmeyer & Field, 2007). The IMD3 app has a dashboard that allows teachers to keep track of individual student progress on all three tools. [Read more…]

Developing Self-Determination Skills Through Student-Led IEPs

The purpose of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is “… to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living …” (IDEA, 2004, §601(d)(1)(A)). In order to prepare students for these future endeavors, IDEA requires the development of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) defined as a written statement for each child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in a meeting in accordance with 34 CFR 300.320 through 300.324, and that must include:

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Teacher Practices That Support Positive Academic and Behavioral Outcomes for Students

Teacher practices that increase students’ engagement in instruction are critical to improving their academic and behavioral performance (Harbour, Evanovich, Sweigart, & Hughes, 2015). Modeling, increasing opportunities to respond (OTR), and providing feedback are three simple, yet powerful, practices that teachers can incorporate into existing instructional routines (Harbour et al., 2015).  When applied consistently and effectively, these three techniques have been shown to strengthen teacher-student relationships, increase student participation in learning activities, and nurture student self-confidence and motivation to attempt and succeed at academic tasks (Harbour et al., 2015). [Read more…]

Laying the Foundation for Teaching and Learning

foundationGareis and Grant (2008) define teaching as an “intentional creation and enactment of activities and experiences by one person that lead to changes in the knowledge, skills, and/or dispositions of another person” (p. 1). Teachers work hard to ensure that their students learn by carefully planning lessons and activities that meet the needs of all students and by continuously developing their own skills and knowledge about the teaching and learning process. However, until students actually learn what the teacher has taught, the instructional process is incomplete (Gareis & Grant, 2008). [Read more…]

Cue Cards: Hints to Help Your Students Succeed

hintsgallery1Since the latest reauthorization of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004), Response to Intervention (RtI) has been widely implemented to identify and support students with learning and behavioral needs (Wisniewski, 2014).  More than 40 states have adopted and successfully applied some form of a three-tiered prevention by integrating both RtI and schoolwide positive behavioral supports (SWPBS) models (Kaloi, n.d.; Sugai &; Horner, 2009). Use of the systematic screening, research-based interventions, ongoing decision-making, and progress monitoring involved in these models have broad implications for closing both the opportunity and achievement gap for students with academic and behavioral challenges (Benner, Kutash, Nelson, & Fisher, 2013).  Moreover, SWPBS’s framework of overarching social expectations (e.g., respect, responsibility, and productivity), when translated into concrete behavioral terminology, including classroom procedures for task completion, provides opportunities for teachers to identify and explicitly teach prerequisite skills students need to perform learning tasks. [Read more…]