Half Full? or Half Empty? (or All About the Solutions!!!)

To quote Adrian Monk, “It’s a gift and a curse!”

Is the glass half full or is it half empty? It all depends on how you look at it. I’ve always had the ability to identify problems. This can be seen as a negative or a positive. In my life, it’s mostly been a negative. However, in the classroom, it’s definitely a positive. I can spend 5-10 minutes with a child and be able to tell you so much about them. People wonder how I’m able to do that! Well, it’s amazingly simple- Just listen! Children are amazingly self-aware. If you ask them, 9/10 times they will tell you what you want to know.

Since I’m tired, I will not write a long drawn out post. I will simply wind this up. Being able to identify problems is a good skill to have, but it’s only half the battle. Now, since I’m the Inclusion Specialist at my school, I’m the one responsible for finding solutions. Believe me when I say that I’ve been working overtime doing just that. I’m all about the solutions.

Now, in addition to finding problems, I’ve found that I also have the ability for finding solutions. It’s funny what you learn about yourself when you’re under pressure or you have to do what you have to do. One other problem I have the answer to is…Sleep! I’m on my way to bed! Goodnight!

Phonological Awareness vs. Phonemic Awareness

When I began my M.A./credential program I had trouble distinguishing between phonological awareness & phonemic awareness. I thought the two were interchangeable. This is not the case. Although they are related, they are not the same. Basically phonemic awareness is an understanding of how sounds function in words. It’s the ability to manipulate sounds by adding and deleting letters while phonological awareness is the ability to recognize that words are made up of a variety of sound units- the basis of phonics.

Here’s an article explaining the difference: http://www.k12reader.com/phonemic-awareness-vs-phonological-awareness/

Phonemic Awareness Links

Here are excellent links on Phonemic Awareness:

http://www.auburn.edu/~murraba/phon.html (Making Friends with Phonemes)



http://www.readingrockets.org/atoz/phonemic_awareness/ (Reading Rockets definition)

http://www.begintoread.com/articles/phonemic-awareness.html (What is Phonemic Awareness?)


Making Progress!!!

Yes, Dear Readers, I’m making progress. I was scared to begin because I was afraid I was going to fail. Well, yesterday I just jumped in with both feet. After school, once I had a chance to I pulled one of my 3rd graders after testing & worked with him. I simply pulled out his folder, looked over the skills he needed to learn, made copies and began working on his goals.

It wasn’t hard. I really hate when I drag my feet about starting something because once I get started I do a great job. I will continue to work with him & my other students. I’ll keep you posted!

Still Working On It…

Well, I thought I’d managed to nail down my schedule, but it looks like I still have work to do. The problem is that two of my students didn’t qualify for Title I services. But, the Title I teacher, being as resourceful as she is, found another program they may qualify through. So, I need to rearrange their schedule.

I also needed to add a student. She needs a little bit of extra help. But, it wasn’t so much a problem with the work, as it was a problem with behavior; you know, a Chicken or the Egg problem!

Are her behavior problems present because of the academic work or vice versa?

Questions that need to be answered, that’s for sure. So, I will continue to post on this. Hopefully I can get my schedule solidified by the end of the week. Here’s hoping!

How Far I’ve Come!

One of my favorite songs is, “Come This Far by Faith.” I’m not sure if that’s actually the name of the song, but that’s what I know it by. The words go:

We’ve come this far by faith,

Oooh, yeah, leaning on the Lord,

Trusting in his holy word,

He’s never failed me yet,

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, Can’t turn around. We’ve come this far by faith!

Let me tell you something, Dear Reader, I have come this far by faith. Even though I had to reach deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep, deep down, I did manage to Hold On For One More Day.

I’ve been reflecting on the past couple of years and cannot believe I made it through. Although there were more than enough times when I didn’t think that I would, I did! You know what, I embrace it all; all of the hard times, suicidal times, even the  times when I reached rock bottom. ALL of it!!!

Recently, I read something that sums it up perfectly. Like to hear it, here it goes:

Pain makes you STRONGER,

Tears make you BRAVER,

Heartbreak makes you WISER,

So, thank the past for a better future.

I could not agree more. During the time when I was going through some of the worst times of my life, I did not and could not  appreciate what this little poem is expressing. To me, life was just too hard and I was tired of living. Now that I’m “out of the fire” I see things differently. I can appreciate that Pain has made me stronger and that my Tears have made me braver, and that Heartbreak has made me wiser. I would like to take time to thank my past for the future I’ve been prepared for. I could not have imagined doing this even 6 months ago.

Yes, Dear Readers, I have come very far. I’m so proud of myself for having the wherewithal to reflect even when I felt like I simply could not take anymore; when I felt like I wanted to curse the day for waking up. I can’t lie, some days I did curse the day. However, once those days became fewer and farther in between, I knew I was at the end of my trial.

If you would like some encouragement, look back on my posts from October 2009 and you will see how far I’ve come. I was so at the end of my rope, I did NOT think I would make it. But, I did!!!

So, if at all possible, I would like to encourage you if you are at the end of your rope. Don’t let go. Hang on!! Even though it may not seem like it, things will get better. JUST HOLD ON!

In My New Position…

I’m conflicted, Dear Readers. It’s because in my new position, I feel free, but am scared of all the freedom. I am happy that my new principal trusts my professional judgment. It’s just that I’ve never had too much guidance. I know that’s a good thing. So, let me stop complaining. It’s so funny (not ha!ha! funny) how I will work out my problem or answer my own question as I am writing a post. Just as I was typing this, I realized that it’s such a good thing that I have not been stifled with someone who would micro-manage me. I’m also thankful for the chance to fully develop the ME I’ve become professionally.

In my new position, I have the freedom to be ME. I’m going to take total advantage of that. I’ll write more at a later date about this. Bye for now!

Six Signs Your Child May Have a Learning Disability

Your child is perfect, and don’t ever let anyone tell you any different. Your child, however, might also have a learning disability. Luckily, there are warning signs, preventative and coping measures, and lots of help available to parents of children who are learning disabled. Here are six tell-tale signs that your child may have a learning disability.

  1. Late Talker

    Children who are late talkers, or have issues with listening or speaking, are often those that later develop learning disabilities that can affect their performance in school. If your child has listening or speaking problems, check with a medical provider about possible courses of action.

  2. Reading DifficultiesRead More »

How to Build a Successful Community by Dr. Jessica Alvarado

I agree 100% with this article. I posted this because I could have written this myself. It’s great advice. Enjoy.

Three Key Components of a Healthy Classroom

My first year teaching was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through. I took more college classes than I could count and was determined to make myself a successful teacher, but what I discovered is that to be a successful teacher, I had to have a successful classroom. I have reflected upon my years of teaching and all of my education and have composed a short list of what a successful classroom looks like; a passionate and purpose-driven teacher, an active and collaborative classroom, and a sense of community. Pretty simple, right? Now that I reflect it seems so, but I have had a lot of trial and error along the way. Let me quickly discuss the three aspects of a successful classroom and include some ideas with you…

A Passionate and Purpose-Driven Teacher:

Being a passionate and purpose-driven teacher is the first key to making a classroom successful. I started my teaching career young and I initially wanted to get into teaching because I thought I was “good with kids” and I could picture myself teaching. What I found was that teaching was not for wimps! I found that it was not a seven-hour day filled with going from lesson to lesson. I realized that I had to have purpose in every activity and every step I took. I needed to be passionate about what I was teaching; otherwise my students would not be either. If I can share anything with you on this area is to be mindful of your attitude as a teacher. Do things on purpose and avoid giving students work to fill time. Be enthusiastic about teaching and learning. Share with students any personal struggles you had with learning a particular subject area, but also include how you overcame it. Encourage them, inspire them, and be consistent with them.

Active and Collaborative Classroom:

I cannot stress the impact that an active and collaborative classroom has on teaching and learning really has.  So many times (and I have been guilty myself) teachers get stuck in a routine or want to be a “Sage on the Stage” teacher. Many times we teach the way we were taught, but I can tell you from experience, it does not always work. While I agree lecture has a time and a place, it needs to be used in moderation. We really need to focus on our students and get them engaged in the learning so that the learning is meaningful.  Further, I have a personal preference to collaborative learning. In fact, this was the reason I wrote my dissertation on it. I watched time and time again how my students enjoyed collaborative learning and how they retained the information so much better.  From my experience, I would encourage you to have fun in your class. Play meaningful games, create activities that foster growth, and laugh. It does take time to do these, but I promise the payoff is great.

Sense of Community:

This term was drilled into me while I was in my doctoral program and I really adopted it because I found the true importance of it. Having a sense of community in the classroom takes out a lot of drama and biases and allows students and the teacher to be a team.  One thing I found that helps establish a community is to do some fun activities in the class so that everyone can get to know one another. These can be short ice-breaker type activities or just a rapid-fire activity where the teacher asks the students what they did over the weekend, their favorite piece of candy, thoughts on the last activity, etc. It is equally important for the teacher to participate. I know many teachers do this on the first day of class, but I recommend that these are done regularly. As your students get to know one another, they begin to build relationships. As those relationships grow, so does their comfort level. When students are comfortable, they can relax, ask questions, and learn without fear of embarrassment or any other possible insecurities.

Dr. Jessica Alvarado is an Assistant Professor at Ashford University where she is the program chair of the child development program. She has a true passion for education and hopes to continue to inspire her students in the years to come!

Taken directly from Special Education Advisor.

I Haven’t Encountered This Before!!!

Dear Readers,

Today as I was testing a 3rd grader on the CORE Phonics survey, I encountered something I’d never encountered before- a student who didn’t know all of the alphabet names & sounds, but who decoded fairly well. There were only about 8 alphabets that he didn’t know. Surprisingly, he was very good at decoding nonsense words.

I was kinda’ puzzled about his results. I almost stopped at the Letter Naming, Letter Sounds, & Nonsense Words and wasn’t going to test him on reading fluency or the word list since I didn’t think he would pass, but did it anyway. Boy am I glad I did! He really amazed me! He read 77 w.p.m. @ 2nd grade level & 82 w.p.m @ 3rd grade level. I was quite shocked because I didn’t expect him to be able to read, let alone at such an accurate rate.

I’m really puzzled. I’ve never encountered anything like this before. If the student didn’t know all of the alphabets, they weren’t too good at decoding. If I had tested him on reading fluency alone, I wouldn’t have understood what the problem was. Good thing I’m thorough with the testing. It easy to see how some students fall between the cracks. It’s not hard at all. That’s why my motto is, “Catch them before they fall!”

I will keep you updated on his progress. Bye for now!

I Always Do This!!!

Dear Readers,

Whenever I start something new, I get temporarily overwhelmed. That’s how I’m feeling now. I’m a bit overwhelmed. Although I knew starting an Inclusion Program would be a big undertaking, I totally underestimated the amount of time it would take for me to get up and running. So, I’m overwhelmed because of: 1) the underestimation part (2) the growing number of students & (3) starting anything from scratch is quite an undertaking.

I’m making progress though. I know that I am because I said in an earlier post that I kinda’ know what I want to do with the program. Well, that’s been upgraded to I know what I want to do with the program. I now have a plan. I want to roll the program out in waves. For the first wave, my plan is to assess all of the students with IEPs to see where they stand, make a mini-IEP with PLOPs and goals. The second wave entails assessing all of the at-risk students to catch them before they fall. The third wave is weekly or monthly progress monitoring and communication with the classroom teachers. Finally, the last wave is incorporating Positive Behavior Intervention Systems (PBIS). Although there aren’t any students with behavior problems this year, there were last year.

So, I want and need to put systems into place for future reference. I’m on my way to doing that. I just need to stay confident in my abilities and stay the course.

I am really tired because on Wednesdays, I leave immediately from work and drive straight to school. With that being said, I will sign-off and talk/write more about this later.

Bye for now!

So Excited…(But Should I Be???)

Dear Readers,

I am super excited! Why? Well, I’m glad you asked. During one of my pull-out sessions, the Pre-K teacher came to me regarding one of her students who has been biting. She wanted my opinion and my help regarding the situation. I feel so honored. So, I told her that I’d finish up my session & go down to Pre-K. I spoke with the child in question as he was waking up. He was a little obstinate. But I swayed him with good, old fashioned charming. I was very proud of myself.

The teacher, Liz, showed me her form that she uses to document the behavior. It was functional. The only suggestion I had was to note the time. It could be something about the time. Maybe he’s grouchy right before lunch, right after lunch, or upon waking. I suggested that she use an ABC form, in addition to the one she’s already using.

The next step is to conduct an ABC observation on him.

A= Antecedent or what happened just before the behavior.

B- Behavior- What is the behavior. Using objective, impersonal, unemotional language, describe what the behavior look like? For example, “Johnny used a stick to hit . Do not say, “Johnny keeps picking on Daniel.”

C- Consequence- What was the consequence for the behavior? Was the child sent to time-out? Was a desired activity taken away?

As I said earlier, I’m excited about this. I can now use my knowledge to help these children. Even though I don’t have all the answers (Who does?), I am really excited about trying to find solutions to these pressing problems.

I’ll write more about this later. Bye for now!

The Development of Phonological Skills by Reading Rockets

The Development of Phonological Skills

By: Louisa Moats and Carol Tolman

Basic listening skills and “word awareness” are critical precursors to phonological awareness. Learn the milestones for acquiring phonological skills.

Phonological skill develops in a predictable progression. This concept is important, as it provides the basis for sequencing teaching tasks from easy to more difficult. Table 1 outlines the relative difficulty of phonological awareness tasks. Table 2 is a more specific synthesis of several research reviews and summaries (Adams et al., 1998; Gillon, 2004; Goswami, 2000; Paulson, 2004; Rath, 2001) that ties specific ages to the typical accomplishment of those phonological awareness tasks.

Prerequisite to phonological awareness is basic listening skill; the acquisition of a several-thousand word vocabulary; the ability to imitate and produce basic sentence structures; and the use of language to express needs, react to others, comment on experience, and understand what others intend.

Table 1. Phonological skills, from most basic to advancedRead More »

Presented with Some Interesting Problems…

Dear Readers,

I will officially begin pulling students out on Monday. My first student (period) and of the day is Sito. He was referred by his teacher because he has a problem retaining information. It’s not just him though. Four other students are having similar problems, as well. From my research and personal experience, I can only think of a couple of things it could be. One possible problem is ADD- the student can’t focus long enough to assimilate the information into their store of knowledge and make connections to it.

Or it could be, according to a hand-out I received, dyslexia. With my mind set on conquering this problem, my interest was piqued. So I conducted further research and discovered that the two (ADD & dyslexia, just in case you weren’t paying attention) usually work hand in hand. Surprised? If you weren’t, I was. I know that further research is warranted because knowing the problem is only the first step. I am on the lookout for methods & strategies to help these students who’ve been struggling with this for years. I will post on my findings & ways to combat it. Stay tuned!

Bye for now!

Odd Dilemma Solved!

Well, it seems the problem of having too much time on my hands on Tuesdays & Thursdays has been solved. Two of my students from last year, who are now 6th graders, do not qualify for Title I services. So I simply put them into my schedule during the open times. Although I’m not happy that they don’t qualify for services, I’m happy that I get to work more with them. Since they were in my class for more than a year, I know their personalities, their learning styles, and their deficits. We made much progress last year. I know we’ll make even more this year. I’ll update you on their progress periodically.

Bye for now!

Too Much Time. What An Odd Dilemma!!!

Dear Readers,

I have an odd dilemma! I have way too much time on my hands at work. Doesn’t seem like a problem, you say? Well, it most definitely is a problem. Here’s the problem in a nutshell: Since my school is low-income, we qualify for Title II services, which is when a private consultant comes into a private school and helps to improve the test scores. Our Title I teacher pulls out on Tuesday & Thursday. So, this left me with the only other option of M, W, & F. I was going to push-in on Tuesdays & Thursdays since I couldn’t pull out, but it seems that’s not going to work. Our new P.E. coach only works on T, Th, & F. Basically it rearranged the P.E. schedule of the whole school and made us choose a 3 day schedule instead of 5. This leaves the teachers with precious little time for instruction. So, I have almost all of Thursday free. I don’t like not working. It makes the day go by much slower. I need help! I need a solution that will work for me and the rest of the teachers so I’m not left twiddling my thumb on Thursdays.

What to do? What to do?

Sunday Night Blues???

Dear Readers,

Last night I was so confused. Why??? It’s because last night I had Sunday night blues. You know how new teachers feel on Sunday night when they get that feeling in the pit of your stomach because you don’t know what to do and you’re so scared to go to work? Yeah, that feeling! Well, I had it last night.

“What the hell?,” I wondered in confusion. Why am I having these feelings? That’s when I realized it was because I didn’t want to go to work because I’m flying blind. I kinda’ knew where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do with the program, but I hadn’t nailed it down.

Well, I finally nailed it down today. I was making it all so complicated when it didn’t have to be. You see, my school receives Title I services from a Resource Specialist who pulls the students out from class. This was a problem because I need to pull them out and I didn’t want too much pulling out. So, what I was going to do was make a tentative schedule that worked for the teachers until the Title I teacher started. However, the schedule would have had to be changed once the Title I teacher started. Not a good plan. Why??? It would have thrown the teachers and the kids’ schedule off. Since that plan (Plan A) wouldn’t work for me, Plan B was to wait until I could speak with the Title I teacher. But she doesn’t start for at least another week. Was I supposed to just sit and twiddle my thumbs?

No! So, I sat, prayed about it and thought about it. That’s when I came up with my current schedule. The only problem was that I am going to be pulling out on Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays. What was I going to do with Tuesdays & Thursdays?
Easy! The answer- push in.

In order to satisfy the requirements of my program, I had to make the students with I.E.P.s a priority. Problem: There were still some teachers with pressing needs. The Kindergarten teacher needs help with classroom management & some immature students who need to learn to adjust. The 1st grade teacher has some students who don’t know any of the alphabets or their sounds, etc. So, the perfect medium is  pushing in. Now, my University supervisor can see me in both settings. Problem solved!

I’ll let you know how this works. Thanks for listening and bye for now!

Rethinking It All…

My plan= test the whole school to establish a baseline so I can catch them before they fall. Well, last week I was testing the Kindergarten & 1st grade and am only half-way through with each class. Testing is taking a little longer than I thought it would. I’m beginning to rethink the whole thing. I may have to use the classroom teacher’s baseline results. I really hate to do that, but I’m not sure if I can finish the testing for the whole school.

What I’m going to do is make testing of the I.E.P. students a priority. I will begin testing them tomorrow. Once I finish with them I will test the rest of the school. My goal is to be finished this week and begin coordinating with the Title I teacher on the pulling out and pushing in.

I need to send the Principal the lesson plan for the week. I’ll report more on this later. Bye for now!

Common Signs of Dyslexia by Reading Rockets


Here’s a great checklist for common warning signs of dyslexia. Again, it’s a bit of a read, but worth it.

Common Signs of Dyslexia

By: International Dyslexia Association

Dyslexia is a language-based disability that affects both oral and written language. With help, children with dyslexia can become successful readers. Find out the warning signs for dyslexia that preschool and elementary school children might display.

Facts about dyslexia

Startling facts about dyslexia and related language-based learning disabilities:

  • Fifteen to twenty percent of the population has a reading disability.
  • Of students with specific learning disabilities who receive special education services, seventy to eighty percent have deficits in reading. Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, writing and spelling difficulties.
  • If children who are dyslexic get effective phonological training in kindergarten and first grade, they will have significantly fewer problems in learning to read at grade level than do children who are not identified or helped until third grade.
  • Seventy four percent of the children who were poor readers in the third grade remained poor readers in the ninth grade. This means that they couldn’t read well when they became adults.
  • Individuals inherit the genetic links for dyslexia.
  • Dyslexia affects males and females nearly equally, and people from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds as well.

Common signs: PreschoolRead More »

Defeat Dyslexia by Catching It Early by Mindy Toran

Hello Dear Readers,

I found this great article on dyslexia. It’s a little bit of a read but worth it; especially if you suspect your child or someone you know has dyslexia. (Taken directly from: http://www.montgomerynews.com/articles/2012/08/24/parents_express/doc50355aeec2882548048182.txt?viewmode=fullstory 

“Awareness is the key to addressing dyslexia and other language-based learning differences,” says Julia Sadtler, president of the Pennsylvania Branch of the International Dyslexia Association. Recognizing a learning disability earlier rather than later is important.

According to the National Institutes of Health, it’s estimated that 15 to 20 percent of the population, or one out of every five students, has a language-based learning disability. The most common of these disabilities is dyslexia, a neurological disorder that results in difficulties with language skills such as reading, writing, spelling or word pronunciation.Read More »

Getting It Together, Part Whatever!!!

Dear Readers,

I am slowly but surely getting it together. As you may know, I got a promotion (with no bump in pay) to Inclusion Specialist at my school. Once I thought about the enormity of the situation, I, of course, became overwhelmed as I sometimes do. I then stopped and thought about it. I became The Little Engine That Could. I slowly went from I Think I Can Do This to I Can Do This to I Not Only Can do This, But I Can Do It Well!

I’m aware that I’m undertaking a huge task, but I am honestly up for it. My school is very small. I only have 8 students with I.E.P.s with one upcoming in November. There’s a student who I’m going to work with in 1st grade who I’m very concerned about. I’m not sure if the issue is language or comprehension, but I will watch him to see. I’m also going to work with a couple of the Kindergarten students on behavior and becoming more independent.
I met with the Inclusion Specialist at a local school and was able to secure some very useful information. I will post at a later date all of the information she gave me. I was very happy with how giving & open she was. I hope when I doing this job for a couple of years and someone comes to me for help and advice that I’m as helpful and giving as she was.

So, I’m researching some of the sites she gave me. One, in particular, is Susan Barton, a dyslexia expert based in Northern California. Just in case you’re interested, here’s the website: www.BrightSolutions.US & http://www.dys-add.com/

I’m about to watch the videos on the second site. I’ll let you know how I liked them.

Bye for now!