I know. You are so busy that your head is spinning. You have just handed in your final progress reports (maybe) and you have 3 field trips to go and I come knocking on your door or send you an email. Ugh. I am the LAST person you want to talk to.
Who am I? Your school Learning Support teacher or Resource Teacher or whatever your school district chooses to call the person who supports the students in your school who need that extra help. I am usually part of your school based team (SBT) and we have been busy too. One of our jobs is deciding where the best fit is for those students for next year.
.....and we picked you!!!!! You will have one or more students with IEPs in your classroom next year. This may be new to you or maybe you have done this many times but I just want to encourage you to start planning ahead for next year using a different approach.
Maybe you have heard of Shelley Moore? If not, you can google her while you are sitting on the beach. I just want to suggest that over the summer you consider using her approach; planning for those students with different learning needs FIRST and all else will follow. Kind of a mind-altering concept! Here are some suggestions to do that planning.
My first suggestion is to visit SETBC's online self-directed course called Curriculum for All. There are five modules that attempt to answer the following question, "How can we, as educators, strategically and collaboratively plan to provide an inclusive learning environment for all students, regardless of grade, content or cognitive ability?" The course was developed by Shelley and is full of great information and ideas for planning an inclusive learning environment. It will fill you in on the why's and the how's!
My second suggestion would be to go directly to Shelley's blog "Blogsomemoore - Teaching and Emplowering ALL Students". She has handouts, videos and other resources you can go through that will give you an overview of her ideas.
My third suggestion (if you already have an idea of how to do this and want to get right to work) would be to go to her Template page. Here you will find, free for your use, all the tools, templates and strategies to get going. For example, she has the Class Review template (Brownlie & King, 2000) which will help you get to know your students and the Unit Planning Pyramid to really be able to use our new BC Curriculum with your whole class.
My last suggestion would be to talk to this year's teachers before you leave for the summer and perhaps even arrange for a visit for your new students to your classroom if at all possible. Yes, things may change over the summer but the more you know about each other ahead of time, the easier the September start will be. You could even put together a short picture story telling your new student(s) about what the first days in your classroom will be like.
My role as a Learning Support/Resource Teacher is to help you every step of the way. Please ask me questions and invite me to come in. If I don't know an answer, I will find out. Together, we can make next year the best year ever for ALL your students.
Have a wonderful summer, I know you have earned it!
AVERsive childhood events (aces) - do you have students experiencing toxic stress in their lives
I have so fortunate to have a dream position with the New Westminster School District. I support and provide resources to students who are struggling in school. I also work with their teachers, parents and other support people, both school and community based. My position is called District Behaviour Support Teacher.
As I am both a certified teacher and a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA), I usually find it quite straightforward to help school-based teams determine the function of the behaviour (FBA) and write a Positive Behaviour Support plan to help the school teach the student new, more beneficial skills.
However, I have a few students that are not making progress despite everything the school, community, medical profession and home are trying to provide. I have gotten to know the children and their families well as we have now worked together for years. These are young children who have so many strengths and it is heartbreaking to see them in emotional and physical distress, day after day and not able to learn or interact with their peers.
I recently accompanied a young mom to visit her child's psychiatrist. The psychiatrist told her that she should be satisfied that her child is staying at school all day under the supervision of caring people. That's all she can expect. Really? He doesn't have a severe intellectual disability or autism. He is creative, kind and imaginative. He WANTS to learn. And yet, he is totally unable to take part in any type of learning or activity with his peers without shutting down or exploding. We've been through assessment programs and have a huge Case Management team. We're following their recommendations. What are we all doing wrong? Are we doing anything wrong?
Even more distressing is that this is not an isolated scenario in our school district.
Helping these children will mean a very steep learning curve for parents, school professionals and me. I'll attempt to share the information and resources that I have found helpful in this blog and on my website. Together, perhaps we can make some positive changes for these very vulnerable children.
Today I received a link to an excellent article which explains some of the brain science behind trauma, toxic stress and ACEs. www.acesconnection.com is a great source of current information.
The Developing Brain & Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
LISA FREDERIKSEN 4/26/188:51 AM
Thanks to an explosion in scientific research now possible with imaging technologies, such as fMRI and SPECT, experts can actually see how the brain develops. This helps explain why exposure to adverse childhood experiences can so deeply influence and change a child's brain and thus their physical and emotional health and quality of life across their lifetime.
Read the entire article at
Do you have students who have similar struggles? Let's share this journey together. Please comment below.
I am all about the power of providing students with the knowledge and tools they need to be able to regulate themselves throughout their days. I respect Dr. Stuart Shanker for the amazing work which he, the MEHRIT Centre and the Canadian Self-Regulation Initiative have done in this area. I am also in awe of Leah Kuyper, whose simple idea for a program called the Zones of Regulation has benefited so many students and teachers.
Here are my top ten strategies for encouraging self-regulation in the classroom. Top Ten Strategies
top ten strategies for calming, energizing and organizing your students!
"Pairing" is an ABA word for building trust and a relationship with another person. It is a fundamental prerequisite for teaching. Fortunately, most individuals want to build relationships with others. It is part of our basic makeup as social beings. In a school setting, it looks like eager, excited students arriving in the classroom each day, ready to interact with others, able to sit and listen to the teacher, willing to learn and complete work for the satisfaction that it brings to themselves and others. These students find building relationships motivating and rewarding. Their buckets are already usually pretty full. They can keep them full by filling others' buckets.
However, there are more and more students who, through no fault of their own, arrive at school either without the motivation or the skills (or neither one) to build and maintain relationships. These students with "holes" in their buckets or are without the means to fill their own buckets These students need our help! I just read a saying "The empty bucket makes the most noise!" How true this is.
For more on Bucketfilling in your classroom, start at http://www.bucketfillers101.com/.
If the student has autism or another developmental disability, we may need to build relationships with them through external reinforcement. This means identifying items and activities that they enjoy and then being the person to provide them with no strings attached at first (noncontingent positive reinforcement). Once the student identifies you as "the giver of all good things" you have taken the first steps towards establishing a relationship and building goodwill. Only then, can you start asking the student to complete tasks or activities that are easy for him and that he already knows how to do. Learning new skills and completing difficult tasks require a solid relationship where the student trusts that if they finish work, they will be rewarded with an activity that they enjoy, or in other words, is reinforcing. When we build this trusting relationship, interactions with us become reinforcing as well.
The best way to do this is by routinely finding out what the student likes (called a preference assessment) providing these activities and items on a consistent basis and slowly increasing the difficulty of the requests made of her..
However, it is not only students with autism who may need help building positive relationships with their teacher. Any student who finds learning or interacting with others challenging may need support. This could be a child with a learning disability, ADHD, ODD, trauma or frequent school moves. It could also be a child who finds life outside the classroom to be more rewarding, such as a talented athlete, video gamer or avid reader.
They may also need positive reinforcement more frequently than others. Learn Alberta lists Positive Relationships as the number 1 way to support effective, positive classroom management. www.learnalberta.ca/content/inspb2/html/1_positiverelationships.html
Another way of looking at this is described by Christopher Pugliese and Eran Magen in an article published February 2016 in ASCD Express, called "A Relational Bank Account That Pays Dividends".
When you ask a student to do something he or she would not naturally do (for example, asking a hesitant student to offer an answer, or asking a student who is inspired to sing in the middle of your lesson to work quietly), you are making a withdrawal from the relational account, because you are asking the student to do something that the student would prefer not to do. If your relational account balance is high, the student will cooperate willingly. If your relational account balance is low, the student may cooperate—reluctantly. If your relational account balance is insufficient, your request will be denied." (read more)
Relationship Deposits, Withdrawals and Overdraft
The article goes on to describe relational deposits and withdrawals and how to avoid overdraft. This is such a straightforward way to think about interacting positively with your students. Relationship deposits are made when you:
Relationship withdrawals happen when you ask a student to behave in any way which is different than they already do, which is the definition of learning! A relational bank account uses withdrawals to further strengthen trust between individuals. However excessive withdrawals happen when you repeatedly ask a student to complete tasks or activities which they feel are too difficult or not meaningful or act in a way towards them which they see as being mean or disrespectful. Another way to look at this is bucket dipping.
Relationship overdrafts will occur when you have made more withdrawals than deposits. When this happens a student may refuse to cooperate with a request even if it is reasonable and they are capable. If you try to force compliance by threatening, bullying or coercing, the results can be unpleasant. The student may learn to comply only when under pressure and require stronger and stronger consequences. They may develop negative associations with either the activity or yourself and power struggles are a definite possibility.
How to Strengthen Relationships in Your Classroom
1. DO NOT treat all students the same. Learn about individual strengths and challenges, interests and dislikes and use this knowledge.
2. Make relationship deposits whenever possible. A typical student requires at least a 4:1 ratio of deposits to withdrawals. A student with challenges consistently requires more. Think of a bucket with holes in it. The more holes the more deposits that are required while you work on plugging the holes.
3. Make your withdrawals purposeful and the smallest required to achieve your goal.
4. Find a way to replenish your deposit account as soon as possible after a withdrawal.
5. If you are dealing with an overdraft situation, consider asking for support from your School Based Team, especially if you have tried to fix the situation and it has not gotten better.
6. Look into strengthening relationships in your entire school by using the free resource from The Center for Supportive Relationships - available here at your next staff meeting or professional development day.
Consider applying this model to all your relationships - professional, volunteer and family. Making relationship deposits can become a positive habit. When withdrawals do occur, having a large balance results in more cooperative relationships, a willingness to support one another, less stress and greater respect and enjoyment. What a great way to keep everyone's bucket full!
What a great way to start the New Year!
For more information check out
Positive Attention Data Sheet - http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/modules-archive/module1/handouts/2.pdf
Starters for Giving Positive Feedback - http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/modules-archive/module1/handouts/3.pdf
Almost every classroom has one or two (or sometimes more) students who are very good at avoiding work and activities that they are unwilling or unable to do. They may engage in acting out behaviours that interfere with the learning of others and result in being removed from class or passively but defiantly sit and not complete the work. Either way, the work does not get done and learning does not take place.
There are many reasons why a student is not able to work at a particular moment. Having a classroom strategy in place to handle those times will be helpful.
Most teachers have at least heard about or used Time Out. Time Out can either mean that the student is removed from the class or that reinforcement is not available to the student for a period of time. In either situation, the teacher decides when a Time Out is needed and is considered punishment for inappropriate behaviour. During the most common, Time Out from the class, a student is placed in the hall, another teacher's classroom or sent to the office. Time Out from reinforcement occurs when a student is not allowed to participate in a classroom management system that rewards appropriate behaviour with points. Time Out occurs after inappropriate behaviour happens.
Time Away is different. Used as a preventative measure to support self-regulation, Time Away is an agreement between a student and a teacher that the student can decide a particular activity or learning task is too difficult or that he or she cannot complete it at that time. Rather than engaging in disruptive behaviour, the student has the option to leave the task or activity and move to a spot in the classroom which has been set up for such times. The student stays in that spot until they feel they are ready to start on the task, at which time they move back to their desk.
Time Away can also be called "cooling off", "calming down" or "taking a break". The specific place in your classroom can also have a name such as the "Peace Place", "Calm Zone" or Cool Down Corner.
Using the Time Away strategy should be discussed and taught in the similar manner as other classroom routines.
Once you have all the pieces in place, practice your own words. According to Diana Browning Wright (2008), teacher, psychologist and behaviour analyst, the conversation that you have with a student who needs some "Time Away" could sound like this,
"Sarah, I am really pleased that you came in from recess on time and sat down in your desk. However, I have noticed that you seem very upset and unable to get started on your math work, even though we talked about the problem at recess and I have helped you with a few questions. You know that when you aren't feeling like you can do school work you can always move to the Chill Zone. Take a minute and think about your two choices, 1) start your work or 2) chill out for a while. I'll be back in a minute to see what you have decided."
It is important to call the student by name and mention positive behaviours they have already displayed. Point out the problem behaviour and remind the student that you have already tried to work together. Give the student the power to pick between two acceptable choices and time to think. If the student chooses Time Away, be sure to provide a positive acknowledgement and assistance if required when they return to their desk.
You could have a sign in sheet for students who use the Time Away space or just keep track for yourself. If a student is spending a lot of time, a call home to discuss the behaviour is definitely in order. Review of the academic demands and support in place for the student may be necessary as well.
The Time Away strategy works best in a classroom with effective classroom management and a positive, respectful and trusting relationship between students and adults. There are many examples of Time Away on the internet which provide pictures and resources. Time Away can provide a safe and appropriate option for students who struggle with self-regulation without disrupting the learning taking place in your classroom.
Also available in the Fall 2016 MyPITA Newsletter
Wright, D. B. "Time-Away: A Procedure To Keep Task-Avoiding Students Under Instructional Control." Pent Forum (2008):29-33. Positive Environment Network of Trainers (PENT), California Department of Education Diagnostic Centre, Southern California, 2008. Web. 17 Mar. 2016. <http://www/pent.ca.gov/beh/rst/timeaway.pdf>
Time Away VS Time Out - The Classroom Safe Place
The Responsive Classroom Time Out
The Classroom Calming Corner
I am so excited to begin my new position with the New Westminster School District. Probably the biggest difference between my work as a behaviour analyst/teacher in Calgary is the size of the District. The Calgary Board of Education was huge - over 14,000 teachers, 100,000 students and 225 schools. New Westminster, by comparison, is tiny. We have 9 elementary schools, two middle schools and one secondary school. There are about 6000 students altogether. It is small in area as well (about 15 km squared), so it is an easy drive from one school to the next (except for trying to cross the Queensborough Bridge at rush hour!) The city is rapidly growing in size and a third middle school is being built.
My position will be to support students with significant behaviour challenges in regular classrooms and their teachers, support staff and parents. This is different from other school districts where I have worked. There are no separate programs for students with special needs. What I have seen already is the huge investment of time and energy that principals, teachers and other staff provide in planning and providing supports for these students rather than a single special education teacher. This is teamwork in action. A bonus is the availability of District Administrators to discuss issues and provide guidance.
My position is to help these school-based teams to access already available supports and work with outside agencies to be more effective and efficient and provide direct supports to students when needed.
I'm looking forward to the challenge!
I can't believe an entire school year has gone by. This is the first time that I have taught a primary class and it is amazing how much young children grow and change. I remain a strong believer in the importance of early intervention and intensive programming.
We held on to most of our routines and schedules right until the last day of school and it helped our classroom stay calm and in control even though we had lots of Buddies drop in to say goodbye and drop off gifts for their friends. On Thursday we invited our two Grade 3 friends, Tita and Trish to join us for a wrap-up party with McDonalds' lunches. We had a great time!
Thank you to all the parents, teachers and students who helped us throughout our first year at Monterey Park. A very special thanks to Shauna, Veronica and Mona for your hard work, dedication and understanding. You have been wonderful to work with.
We are so lucky to have music and drama specialists in our school. Once a week Mrs. Crisfield, the music specialist, brings her love and knowledge of music to share with our class. What fun they had on Friday. Enjoy it with us!
Evidence-based methods are very important to use when teaching children with ASD to read. Applied Behavior Analysis has lots of research behind it to show it is an effective way to teach new skills. You use the same principles and tools to teach reading. Step 1 is to assess where the student is at. Step 2 is to know where you are going. Then you use prompting, shaping, fading and reinforcement using discrete trial to teach letters, sounds and words. Or you can sign up for Headsprout and let the experts help you out (with onsite assistance from the teacher or EA of course).
Headsprout is based on ABA principles. It is an internet-based online program or computer-assisted instruction (CAI.) It was developed by two leading behaviourists and educators, Dr. Joe Layng and Dr. Kent Johnson from Morningside Academy in Seattle. Although small, there is evidence that it has potentially positive effects on oral language and print knowledge. (What Works Clearinghouse)
Headsprout was recently added to the Learning A-Z family of products which are used by typical students in classrooms throughout the world. Headsprout gives teachers another tool to reach learners who have either come into their classroom without basic reading skills or who are not making progress.
Although I am a believer in using Direct Instruction methods, I purchased a classroom license using my own funds to see if it was effective with my student who was a non-reader. I needed a program which would allow students to work individually with minimal support from a supervising adult. I found it! Headsprout targets the five components of evidence-based reading instruction - phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary and comprehension strategies. (Whalen, Otaiba, Delano, 2009)
In September, my student recognized a few letters but did not know any sounds attached to those letters. He was very motivated to use the computer and could use a mouse with ease. He could attend to the computer for 10 - 15 minutes although he could become quite frustrated. He required prompting and reinforcement to attend to vocal instructions from the program, say words out loud and not deliberately choose a wrong answer because he enjoyed the visual and vocal wrong answer prompts given by the computer (I so wish there was a way to turn those off!)
Avery now follows his schedule to start the program and completes an entire lesson at one time. We still work together because there are new skills presented each lesson and I use prompting and reinforcement to make sure that he is not making errors. He has progressed from being a non-reader to being able to read 21 simple readers and can sound out new words phonetically. I am so proud of him and would recommend this program to anyone whose child or student meets the following criteria -
1. Has or can learn mouse skills (which are also taught in the first lesson).
2. Can visually discriminate (or tell the difference) between letters.
3. Is somewhat motivated by visuals and music on a computer screen (although I also continue to use edibles and praise when needed).
Avery is verbal and willingly repeats back words and phrases that he hears. This is definitely an advantage but I don't know that it is a requirement. Although my experience may not be typical of other users, I found it to be very useful in my classroom for this student.
I would love to hear how others are doing with the program. Please feel free to contact me at janpalmer27atgmaildotcom with questions, concerns or to share!
This is my fourth year as a District Behaviour Support and Intervention teacher with the New Westminster School District. My focus is on students who are having serious challenges with self-regulation across many domains - biological, emotional, cognitive, social and prosocial - at school, at home and in the community. My role is to provide support to teachers and teams to create an environment for success for the student.