New Year, New District, New School

10 years ago I began my career as a special education teacher. My hiring principal at the time took a chance on a rookie teacher with no teaching experience. I spent the first nine years of my career at the high school level in a rapidly growing district in SW Minnesota.  It was a great place to be. There were things I experienced that I am I never imagined I’d be a part of. Never in a million years did I think I would close out the first decade of my teaching career not only switching districts and schools, but switching grade levels. An opportunity presented itself and I made the decision to go from the high school level to the elementary level. It’s scary and exciting all at the same time. Once again, my principal is taking a chance on me.

There are the obvious differences-such as height, the number of teachers I will work with and schedule. And then there appear to be no differences such as educational needs. Many people wonder how I am going to adjust to the switch. I saw about the only major difference is my new students will be shorter then me. In reality, there are few differences from my old students to my new students. I am still working on reading, writing and math. My goal to to work on organization such as using an assignment notebook and keeping track of assignments. I want my students to know they don’t have to go through school hating it, but rather finding what they enjoy about it.

My biggest advantage as I see it is I have the high school experience. I know where I would like to see my students and can help them start on the journey. I will be primarily working with 3rd and 4th graders which means I will be involved with my 4th graders transitioning to the middle school. It is my hope and goal to begin the discussion as 4th graders of what their hopes and dreams are. In doing this I am hoping to help students understand their disability and use  it to help them achieve their hopes and dreams.

I am also a firm believer in being in the right place. This is my Facebook post from August 28th-“The moment when you realize it is true-everything happens for a reason and you end up where you are supposed to be. It’s a great feeling.” It was the second day of teacher workshop in my new district. I have a wonderful opportunity to look at doing what is best for kids and if it means taking chances I know I will be supported.

It is the final night before we head back to school here in Minnesota. As usual I have the first day jitters, but there seems to be something more. It is similar to the feeling I had when I first started my teaching career. I am meeting new students and parents for the first time. We are a team and I want them to know that I want to do what is best for their student. It is with great excitement and anticipation I look forward to the 2015-2016 school year.

Here we go……


Assessment Design 1.0

As a special education teacher, creating assessments is a challenge because the  center of what I do is individualized instruction for students to meet IEP goals and objectives.  However, following discussion with my students have found there are goals they would like to work towards as a class, thus allowing me to assess if they are truly understanding what they are learning. I am a firm believer in that I may be individualizing instruction for students but there are ways to assess what students are learning in a way that I can truly drive my instruction.

As stated by William and Black(1998), formative assessments are essential to what is being taught in the classroom and in fact raise standards as well as student achievement. That has been at the heart of what I do since I began teaching in 2006. As technology has evolved, it has made conducting formative assessments easier. Technology can allow for students to receive feedback quicker than ever before.

The name of my assessment is Individualized Education Plan(IEP) and the purpose is to provide students with supports and individualized instruction to meet goals and objectives written according to needs identified on their evaluation report. At the heart of UbD is asking questions, I can apply this to a students IEP by asking Do they understanding their IEP? Do they know what they are working on? I am striving for my students to understand the big picture-why are they on an IEP? After they understand that, students can be asked what are your goals and objectives you are working on?

I hope to understand what my students know about their IEP and/or what they don’t know. If at the heart of my teaching is to have students be strong self advocates who are meeting their goals and objectives, everything needs to go back to do they understand how they learn and why they are in my class. The uniqueness of SPED is the unique needs each student brings to the classroom.

Here is to my first version of my Assessment 1.0

Annotated Assessment/Evaluation Exemplar

For my Electronic Portfolio class at Michigan State this week, I was asked to look at an assessment I use in my  classroom. As a special education teacher, it is always a challenge to find assessments that address what is addressed in my classroom, but is also a common assessment to be used for all students. I found one in what is called a Self Advocacy Rubric. All students I work with are working on increasing their self advocacy skills, this rubric provides documentation to show a students development towards those skills.

Here is the  Annotated Assessment/Evaluation Exemplar Paper Link.

Reflection on Assessment in Schools

There is a call to examine how students are being assessed in schools. The current education model is based on an outdated industrial model that meets the needs of a few students. Lorrie Shephard, author of The Role of Assessment in a Learning Culture, examines how the culture of learning in schools needs to change and argues it needs to be done through assessment. Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam, authors of Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards through Classroom Assessments, look at Formative Assessments and raising the standards for students in the classroom. Each author look at how the assessing of students has an impact on the student and the classroom.

Reflection Assessment in Schools

Lesson Plan Reflection

This post is a reflection of a lesson I presented to one of my classes. The goal was to teach the lesson and then reflect on how the lesson and what areas I feel I could improve on. The goal is to begin using Action Research to guide my lesson planning. 

Changes I made to the lesson plan that I had posted into Module 5 was I got more specific in what I was going to teach. In the lesson I have linked into this reflection, I honed in on specific transition standards the lesson is meeting. I also honed in on what I wanted students to learn. The biggest challenge of the lesson was the assessment piece. I reflect on this part of the assignment below.  Here is a copy of thelesson plan. The challenge in special education is meeting the Individualized Education Plan goals and objectives for each student as well as meeting their transition needs. The lesson plan met the following standards fromNational Alliance for Secondary Education and Transition.

The students whom I taught the lesson to were in a class called Strategies for Academic Success class. Students who are identified as being on an Individualized Education Plan are in the class. They receive elective credit for the class. Students work on their IEP goals and objectives in addition to working on their transition skills. There are 8 boys in the class. 7 were in attendance for the lesson. Their disabilities range from Other Health Disabilities, Learning Disabilities and Developmentally Cognitively Delayed.  The lesson, I felt went well. Information was presented to students on a power point and run through a projector. The goal was to work with students on knowing the differences between high school and college. For some students, they understood it, which led them to participating more in the lesson than others. The students knew more differences between high school and college than I had anticipated; they were naming differences that I had not thought of. The content of the lesson was age appropriate and content appropriate.

In looking back at the lesson there are things I would keep the same and look at changing. The biggest challenge is meeting students were they are at. Students are in different places and it is often a challenge to find something that all students haven’t done. There always seem to be those students who are ahead of their peers and find the lesson boring. We work to have those students understand that each student in in their own place. I equate this with a general education teacher who has different levels of students in their class and need to differentiate for the different levels. It is my goal to make sure each student is engaged at the level they are at. I need to look at adding a piece either into the lesson or at some point before I present the information to find out what students already know. In doing this I can find out what information needs to be covered and maybe look at what information can be briefly covered. This is something I feel I need to work on for future lessons. Another thing I need to look at is how students are being assessed. Right now the only way students are assessed is through whether or not they are filling out their bellwork sheet. The challenge this presents is I don’t think it is really assessing to see what students know. Also, another challenge is I don’t really go back later on to see if students understand what was taught previously. I need to look at working on a type of assessment that is completed at the end of each unit. This is another thing I need to look at, dividing content into units so it is more organized. Right now, information is divided into the following content areas: Math Mondays, Transition Tuesdays, Writing Wednesdays, Thinking Thursdays and Fact Fridays. I would like to look at content that can be placed into each of these categories and maybe organize the content into units so things are a little more cohesive and connect to each other.



What do People Know…

In this day of ever-changing technology and how information is collected, audio files are becoming easier to record and share. Gone are the days of a tape recorder and tapes. Using Audicity is a recording resource that allows users a way to record and edit recorders. It is a program that also allows the recording to be exported into a format that allows the users to post the recording

The task for my CEP 800, Learning in school and other settings, class was to conduct an interview or interviews to see what people know. The second part of the task was to record the interview using audcity. I decided to interview my boyfriend, Nick, to see what he knew about hockey, since it is his favorite sport. The questions were to measure the basic knowledge of the game of hockey and teams in the National  Hockey League. The interview was conducted before we ended up watching a hockey game-which he asked if he could redo the interview as he got some answers wrong.

Here is the link to the interview:

Hockey Interview

Not the end……merely the begining

My CEP 812 class, Applying Educational Technology to Practice, is coming to an end. But I see it as just the beginning. CEP 812 also marks the end of the Educational Technology Certificate for me. To say I have learned something would be the understatement of the year. Prior to starting the Ed Tech Certificate at MSU, I had a solid knowledge base in technology-or so I thought. The things I have learned have brought my knowledge to a new level. I have new and fresh ideas to bring not only to my classroom, but to my district as well. I can say that thanks to the Certificate program, I am now addicted to Twitter and my ever growing PLN. I was involved with an educational technology chat via twitter with Arne Duncan-when did that happen?  Passion and Curiosity are what drive me.  It is my passion for educational technology that brought me to MSU. It was my curiosity that kept me going. 21st century learners will need both as technology continues to advance. There are a lot of technology tools, curiosity will bring learners to the innovative and new tools. Passion will keep those innovative tools going and not fade. Check out my info graphic around the technology I currently use and what I hope to use in the very near future. It may be small, but I don’t want to lose my passion.

Passion and Curiosity in the Classroom