I’m back…

Not quite sure what happened… Other than, like winter, life sunk its hooks in like it was gasping for its last breath.

It feels good to be back in the saddle again. So good, in fact, I rolled out of bed at 2 a.m. Itching to share my next piece. Insane…I know but well worth it!

This has been a topic brewing for weeks now. Enjoy!

The Reading Specialist

I’ve collected these misconceptions from a plethora of people over the past ten years. Please note, I speak from my truth only and do not intend to imply these thoughts come from anyone in particular. I must start by clarifying some unspoken myths.

Myth #1
Reading Specialists don’t have a classroom full of kids all day. What exactly do they do?

Truth
I have 65-70 students a day. I have to know each of their strengths, deficits, and needs.

I may only have them for a short period during the day but that makes it even more crucial that I know what style of learner they are, what motivates them to learn; and for most of them, make sure they are are in an emotionally safe state so they can learn.

Myth # 2: Reading Specialists Don’t Have to Grade Papers?

Truth

This is correct. However…

We instruct, assess and reteach in the moment. That’s why small groups are critical. Reaching the needs of 1,2, and some times, 3, or 4 is doable. Much more then that is insane!

Because it happens so quickly we don’t always have time to write it all down so that nonexistent, 5 min. travel time, is spent reflecting and writing notes for tomorrow’s lesson.

Myth # 3: You don’t Plan? How Do You Teach My Students?

Truth

I can’t plan a weeks worth of lessons. I have to know my students well enough that I can have supplies and resources available in the moment. I have to be prepared to teach anything at any moment that would be appropriate for where they are at on the learning continuum.

Literacy is funny like that. While it is important that you teach literacy comprehensively there are skills that must be mastered before others can be mastered.

While those are my top three, I’m sure there are some more I could add to the list. So no, my job is not like the classroom teachers (thank goodness! I couldn’t do what they do! They have my highest respect) but it is important. In the end, we both want the same thing. That is, what is best for our students!

I hope you enjoyed! Have a fabulous day!

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Day 4: Respect for the Classroom Teacher

Day 4: Respect for the classroom teacher

How Many Hats

I see it everyday. Classroom teachers switching from teacher hat, to parent hat, to nurse hat, to counselor hat. Not to undermine any of those people’s job or responsibilities but because when their “kids” are in their care they automatically take on those responsibilities. Teachers, like magicians, can pull a hat out of their pocket as fast as you can blink an eye.

I’ve seen classroom teachers, proudly wearing that teacher hat, then poof, parent hat appears when they see a child struggling.

I’ve even seen teachers continue to wear teacher hat and play nurse without blinking an eye. I don’t think any of the kids even noticed!

It’s amazing to witness!! Thank you classroom teachers for taking on this huge responsibility.

Teacher Hat Duties

*Prepare lesson plans while keeping in mind each child’s individual needs so they can be accommodated.

*Preparing lessons for, any where from 2-4 different subjects.

*Making sure there are substitute lesson plans available at all times in case of an emergency.

*administering assessments (some teachers have to administer assessments individually)

*analyze assessments for instruction purposes.

*Grade assignments (this sometimes happens as students complete it so that the child and teacher can reflect)

*Manage a classroom full of children all day! Sure their kids go to specials or recess. (You should see what a teacher can accomplish in a 15-25 min break)

They can:
*plan
*grade/analyze assessments
*make phone calls to parents (not just bad ones they love to share with parents how well their children are doing)
*collaborate with colleagues
*deal with behavior issues
*and if they’re lucky they might get to go to the bathroom (but not until they completed this whole list first)

Parent Hat Duties
*show compassion
*discipline
*respond to emotional needs
*assist

Nurse Hat Duties
*put on band aids
*pull teeth
*wipe noses
*care for students who throw up

Counselor Hat Duties
*respond to students’ emotional needs
*talk with their kids
*seek help from counselors

Learning to Listen: days two & three

Yesterday & Today’s theme: Listening

I’ve written a lot about talking. Sometimes I think in the midst of all the talking we forget to listen. So I wanted to take a few days to really listen.

There are several ways to listen. You can listen with your ears (most obvious) but you can also listen with your eyes and with the way things feel, too.

I know when I’m teaching I get caught up in the talking. Talking about what I want my kids to learn. Talking about how I want them to behave. Talking to my colleagues about what I want changed, how I think education should look.

I gave myself a challenge. I was going to do very little talking and a whole lot of listening for two days. The reason I gave myself two days was because I needed the first day as an adjustment period.

I don’t think you understand how difficult it is to limit your talking and really listen. Not only does that little voice in your head keep screaming at you “…but I think…!” You also have to admit that you may not always know whats best. Sometimes somebody else has a better idea. And that’s okay!

I don’t know if you know this but humans instinctually seek out knowledge. It is a mechanism for survival. So every child will tell you what they need. You just have to be ready to listen with more then just your ears.

I’ll give you perfect example of a situation I experienced just this morning. I see a third grade student, who we will call Sid, first thing in the morning. I walk into his classroom to find him clenching his jaw, running his fingers through his hair and mumbling under his breathe.

I sit next him, calmly. Wait…Sid continues to grumble and run his fingers through his hair.

Me: Rough morning?
Sid: she treats us like we’re five…grrrrrr…umph!
Me: I understand.
Sid: grrr…umph!

All the while, he works to complete his math meeting sheet and daily oral language. When he hesitates on daily oral language I gently say synonyms are words that mean the same and antonyms are opposites. He completed the problem on his own.

He hesitates a second time and I restate the directions and read the words. Sid is an undiagnosed dyslexic. (You know what I’m talking about. Those kids that don’t formally receive a diagnosis but you know have a visual processing issue)

In fifteen minutes he completed; math meeting, daily oral language, a vocabulary sheet and math facts. All I had to do was listen. I heard his complaints. I saw his frustration. And I felt his anxiety caused from the unknown. I responded and in return he was able to be successful.

Have you had similar situations? Have you experienced listening actively in a work situation or even just in life? I challenge you to try for 1-2 days to do as little talking as you can and listen actively. Write down what you learned from you experience. It may really surprise you. Happy listening!

Back to the Grind; Just Keep Moving…

Well…snow days are over! I gotta say it’s kind of a bitter sweet notion! I miss my afternoon nap, wearing pjs all day and most especially, getting housework caught up!!

But being back is nice. The routine is good. I missed my kids. I think most of all I missed the challenges of being a “specials” teacher. Its not the same as being a classroom teacher. All of you educators out there know what I’m talking about.

I don’t have the same kids all day with very few breaks. I get to go pee when I need to (most of the time). I don’t have stacks of papers to grade and grades due by a certain time. I just get the luxury of teaching reading! (Riiiiiiht)

That being said, I would like to share my challenges. I decided for the next 30 days I’m going to do just that.

Please keep in mind this is not about me complaining or looking for sympathy. I love my job! I only want to share with you the life of a remedial reading teacher. My triumphs, my struggles, and the blessings of being a part of the next generation’s journey of becoming our future!

Today’s theme: Just keep moving!

I’m not the only one who feels this way today. I can see it on everyone’s face as we pass in the hall or slump down in the teachers workroom chairs for a quick breather.

Even the kids. They’re somewhat mechanical. They’re moving around in a tired frenzy to accomplish a task just to move to the next task so that the 3:14 bell will ring before they know it.

Which brings me around to what seems like the whole public education is about now days. Cram these 5,786,564 Common Core standards down so we can move on to the next thing. Gotta have it, it’s on the test! Most importantly, it’s gotta be done before this time, or they will fail the test.

Job Security

I guess I shouldn’t complain. This is part of my job security. WRONG… I despise any type of failure. When we don’t invest, we fail. When we don’t reach 100% of our students, we fail. I won’t be a part of a profession that fails our future and I don’t know a teacher out there who wants to either.

My Solution

I mentioned in a previous post, my boss doesn’t let me present a problem without having a solution. I guess I could go in there without a solution but I would just leave frustrated and trying to figure one out. So, like a rebellious teenager, I always go in prepared.

For this problem, I say, we just slow down. Take a deep breathe and remind ourselves why we choose this profession in the first place.

Again, I’m going to take you back to a previous post “Talking to Kids is Crucial.” Though this was geared more toward parents, as educators we need to remember to let our kids talk. Let them tell us what they know so that we can guide them to higher level thinking. Let them tell us what their confusions are. Let them guide the lesson. I’m not saying don’t do lesson plans. Having a rough guide is important.

As a reading specialist, I can’t create monthly, or even weekly lesson plans. I have to create plans daily. I know this sounds outrageous to a classroom teacher. You’re thinking I can’t create plans daily! I wouldn’t have resources. What would I do if…!

STOP…take a breath. Trust yourself. You know your kids. You know you have to stand by Johnny because he won’t stay focused if you don’t. You know that Susie has to stand to concentrate on the task in front of her.

Have your basic blueprint. But just like any contractor will tell you, “You’re not going to follow it to the ‘T’.” The owner may want this room moved over here or modified this way to better fit the family’s needs. Be that contractor, build what your students need, not what the blueprint says they need.

Talking to Kids is Crucial

Language Development Milestones

As a parent with a child who has language developmental delays, I believe this should be shared with every parent before they leave the hospital with their child. This survey is available from the American-Speech-Hearing Association.

Birth to 3 Months

Reacts to loud sounds YES NO
Calms down or smiles when spoken to YES NO
Recognizes your voice and calms down if crying YES NO
When feeding, starts or stops sucking in response to sound YES NO
Coos and makes pleasure sounds YES NO
Has a special way of crying for different needs YES NO
Smiles when he or she sees you YES NO

4 to 6 Months

Follows sounds with his or her eyes YES NO
Responds to changes in the tone of your voice YES NO
Notices toys that make sounds YES NO
Pays attention to music YES NO
Babbles in a speech-like way and uses many different sounds, including sounds that begin with p, b, and m YES NO
Laughs YES NO
Babbles when excited or unhappy YES NO
Makes gurgling sounds when alone or playing
with you YES NO

7 Months to 1 Year

Enjoys playing peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake YES NO
Turns and looks in the direction of sounds YES NO
Listens when spoken to YES NO
Understands words for common items such as “cup,” “shoe,” or “juice” YES NO
Responds to requests (“Come here” or “Want more?”) YES NO
Babbles using long and short groups of sounds (“tata, upup, bibibi”) YES NO
Babbles to get and keep attention YES NO
Communicates using gestures such as waving or holding up arms YES NO
Imitates different speech sounds YES NO
Has one or two words (“Hi,” “dog,” “Dada,” or “Mama”) by first birthday YES NO

1 to 2 Years

Knows a few parts of the body and can point to them when asked YES NO
Follows simple commands (“Roll the ball”) and understands simple questions (“Where’s your shoe?”) YES NO
Enjoys simple stories, songs, and rhymes YES NO
Points to pictures, when named, in books YES NO
Acquires new words on a regular basis YES NO
Uses some one- or two-word questions (“Where kitty?” or “Go bye-bye?”) YES NO
Puts two words together (“More cookie” or “No juice”) YES NO
Uses many different consonant sounds at the beginning of words YES NO

2 to 3 Years

Has a word for almost everything YES NO
Uses two- or three-word phrases to talk about and ask for things YES NO
Uses k, g, f, t, d, and n sounds YES NO
Speaks in a way that is understood by family members and friends YES NO
Names objects to ask for them or to direct attention to them YES NO

3 to 4 Years

Hears you when you call from another room YES NO
Hears the television or radio at the same sound level as other
family members YES NO
Answers simple “Who?” “What?” “Where?” and “Why?” questions YES NO
Talks about activities at daycare, preschool, or friends’ homes YES NO
Uses sentences with four or more words YES NO
Speaks easily without having to repeat syllables or words YES NO

Helpful Info if You Have Any Concerns

What research is being conducted on developmental speech and language problems?

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) sponsors a broad range of research to better understand the development of speech and language disorders, improve diagnostic capabilities, and fine-tune more effective treatments. An ongoing area of study is the search for better ways to diagnose and differentiate among the various types of speech delay. A large study following approximately 4,000 children is gathering data as the children grow to establish reliable signs and symptoms for specific speech disorders, which can then be used to develop accurate diagnostic tests. Additional genetic studies are looking for matches between different genetic variations and specific speech deficits.

Researchers sponsored by the NIDCD have discovered one genetic variant, in particular, that is linked to SLI, a disorder that delays children’s use of words and slows their mastery of language skills throughout their school years. The finding is the first to tie the presence of a distinct genetic mutation to any kind of inherited language impairment. Further research is exploring the role this genetic variant may also play in dyslexia, autism, and speech-sound disorders.

A long-term study looking at how deafness impacts the brain is exploring how the brain “rewires” itself to accommodate deafness. So far, the research has shown that adults who are deaf react faster and more accurately than hearing adults when they observe objects in motion. This ongoing research continues to explore the concept of “brain plasticity”—the ways in which the brain is influenced by health conditions or life experiences—and how it can be used to develop learning strategies that encourage healthy language and speech development in early childhood.

A recent workshop convened by the NIDCD drew together a group of experts to explore issues related to a subgroup of children with autism spectrum disorders who do not have functional verbal language by the age of 5. Because these children are so different from one another, with no set of defining characteristics or patterns of cognitive strengths or weaknesses, development of standard assessment tests or effective treatments has been difficult. The workshop featured a series of presentations to familiarize participants with the challenges facing these children and helped them to identify a number of research gaps and opportunities that could be addressed in future research studies.

Where can I get more information?
The NIDCD maintains a directory of organizations that provide information on the normal and disordered processes of hearing, balance, smell, taste. Please see the list of organizations at http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/directory.

Why is This Important To Literacy Learning?

Oral language is one of the first key steps to literacy learning. When a child has normal speech and language development, and naturally understands language, they are able to use and manipulate speech and language. Hearing and producing rhymes comes easy. They are able to manipulate sounds in words to make new words (if you change the /m/ in mat to /b/ you make bat). Literacy learning will come somewhat naturally.

When a child suffers from a developmental delay in speech and language they are unable to produce, hear, and manipulate sounds. Hearing and producing rhymes are difficult tasks. They don’t use complete sentences, therefore understanding stories being read to them may also be a challenge.

What You Can Do to Help Your Child

* Do lots of rhyming activities with your child
Resources:
Rhyming Games/PBS Kids

Rhyming Activities

Rhyming Activities

* Read to your child and talk about what you’re reading. It is crucial that you include talking while reading. Discuss the illustrations. Make predictions about what is going to happen next. Let your child make connections with the text.

Resources:
*Read Aloud

Read Aloud Tip

* With children 3 & up , write with your child everyday. In the beginning stages they will draw pictures. You can help the write the words.

Resources:

Encouraging Young Children to Write

Parenting Squad

I hope this gives you some insight to language development and literacy. Happy Reading with your child! Remember to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday today!!