Sunday, July 26, 2015

Book Review: Classroom Success for the LD and ADHD Child

   I just finished reading Classroom Success for the LD and ADHD Child by Suzanne Stevens.  While this book was published in 1997, any teacher or parent of students with LD/ADHD could greatly benefit from reading this book.  Stevens gives suggestions for teaching these students as well as examples of students to help better understand what it is like to live with LD/ADHD.  One of my favorite parts of the book is at the end when she is discussing how we can look at students with learning disabilities as "disabled" or as "right-brain thinkers."  She argues that schools expect these students to conform to left brain teaching and when they can not, we label them as disabled.  I took away many strategies and ideas that I hope will help me teach more to the right brain thinker than see these students as a child with a disability.

    Here are my major takeaways from Classroom Success for the LD and ADHD Child

-There are many ways to recognize the LD/ADHD such as noticing a poor concept of time, ability to observe their surrounding through a wide-angle lens and poor organization skills.

-LD/ADHD children often are unmotivated because teachers give up on ways to help them succeed.  Teaching the LD/ADHD can take a lot of planning and work to design a classroom that works for them but when modifying correctly these students will want to learn.

-Lecturing does no good.  These students have heard scolding from so many people around them that they will just learn to tune you out. The fewer words the better.

-When students see the teacher constantly scolding the LD/ADHD, they will start treating him the same way.  View these students as vital participants of your classroom and their peers will do the same.

-These students usually will struggle with writing throughout their lifetime. Don't have them copy everything from the board.  Provide alternates to writing assignments such as typing or saying their responses into a tape recorder.  Accept illustrations or demonstrations instead of content area essays.

-Get rid of the idea that all students should be treated equally.  LD/ADHD will not succeed if they are given the same expectations as all other students.  Accept alternate assignments for grading, give work with few problems than others, whatever it takes to set these students up for success.

-Homework for LD/ADHD should be limited to what you know they are able to work on independently.  Only assign around 10 minutes of homework per subject so that students do not become overly frustrated.

-Understand that LD/ADHD students are "right brain thinkers" and need plenty of opportunities to show their strengths in spatial skills.

Click the picture of the book below to take you to amazon where you can purchase it.  I would put this at the top of my list for PD books for working with students with special needs.

Classroom Management

     Classroom management for a self-contained class of students with various disabilities can be very tricky.  Around the middle of last year, I found a system that works well for me.  My system relies primarily on the constant giving of positive reinforcement. Students earn gems for everything.  Green gems have the lowest value and have to be traded into blue gems in order to be worth anything.  If a student is having a rough day, I can simply say "Have a seat in the blue chair" and then give them a green gem when they comply, then "Can you write your name on the paper?" and give another gem. Once they earn 5 green gems they get a blue gem which can be spent on a reward like 5 minutes of reading time or 5 minutes of coloring.  They can also save up blue gems in order to get an orange gem.  3 blue gems earns an orange gem which is good for 10 minutes of iPad time, prize box or 10 minutes of playing with magnetic blocks.  There is also a special gold gem that can only be earned when they have made a 90 or above on a quiz or test.  Students each have a door in my room they keep their gems on until they decide to spend them.  Then they put them in the treasure chest on their door for everyone to see how many gems they have earned. 

     I love this system because it's also easy for general education teachers to do with my students.  They give my students gems just like I would to reinforce behavior in their classroom. Then my students take the gems to my room to spend when it is time for them to come back to me. 

Questions I often get about my classroom management system:

Q:  Where are your consequences?
A:  Once students know how the system works and have had multiple opportunities to spend the gems they earn, they will quickly see that if they are not meeting expectations then they are not earning gems.  Not earning gems is enough of a consequence for them.  I do not take away gems. If a behavior is extreme, I do have a cool down spot in my room where students stand for two minutes if they need to regroup.  I also use point sheets and mark inappropriate behaviors on it.  It's important that the gem system remains as a positive thing though and doesn't become something that can be taken away from them.

Q:  How do you track student behavior data?
A: I primarily use point sheets to track behavior but next year I want to do a better job at collecting data with my reward system. I plan on having a graph where students will mark how many gems they have earned at the end of the week. It will also show if they have earned any special reward gems for grades or being extra helpful.

Q:  How many gems do you usually give out a day?
A:  It really varies depending on the student.  Some students need more constant reinforcement so I may be handing out a green gem to them every couple of minutes.  Other students may just need a motivation to complete independent work and they may earn a blue gem every 30 minutes.   It may seem like a lot of time handing out gems, but it really is an easy way to help shape behavior.

Q: What rewards do your students like to spend gems on?
A:  Most of my students spend their gems on iPad time or the prize box.  Occasionally, students will chose to read in our special bean bag area or to play with play dough.  We also added a special red gem toward the end of the year where students could save up for and be able to pick a snack from the vending machine in the teachers lounge. 

Q: What do you hand out gems for the most?
A: I try as often as I can catching students following our classroom expectations.   I will then say "Johnny, I love that you are sitting quietly and on-task, here is a green gem."  You will be amazed at how quickly everyone else will start following that same expectation so they too can earn a gem. 

Q: How can parents be involved in this reward system?
A:  Last year I actually gave some of my parents a bag of gems that they could use however they chose at home.  One parent decided to use them to reinforce doing chores and homework and then she had a prize box of her own. 

Q: When can students spend their gems?
A:  Whenever they want! This is so important to this system working in my classroom.  There is not a reward time in my daily schedule. Students are more motivated to following directions and get work done when they know, whenever they have earned enough they can then spend their gems.  Some students may decide to spend a blue gem, once an hour.  With blue gems, they only have 5 minutes of free time doing a less preferred activity.  Most students choose to save till they can get an orange gem to spend on 10 minutes of iPad time or playing with an item from the prize box.  Students that like spending orange gems, usually have 2 free times during the school day.

Here is a picture of how students keep up with their gems. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Another blog move

Thanks for visiting my new blog! My old blog posts can still be found at:

I decided to take some extra time this summer to work on creating a bigger PLN.  Last year was my first year as a behavior support teacher and most of the year was filled with me trying to learn what my job was all about.   My goal with this new blog is for people to be able to find me easier and for me to have a place to talk more specifically about my job as a BED teacher.  So if you have found me from my old blog, or anywhere else and aren't sure what behavior support means, I'll give you my run down of what it means to me.

What being a behavior support teacher means to me: 

 -Having a caseload of K-5 students with learning disabilities, adhd, autism and emotional disabilities.

-Teaching some students for the whole day, and seeing some just for 15 minutes a day

-Having a classroom where students can come to when they need some quiet time away from what they may see as chaos in the general education classroom

-Supporting students who struggle being successful in the general education

-Modifying/teaching the curriculum in a way where my students can still learn but limits inappropriate behaviors due to constant frustrations

-Constantly collecting data, researching and trying new things to better understand my students

What being a behavior support teacher is NOT:

-Handing out negative consequences at every inappropriate behavior

-the teacher who should have perfectly acting students since they are being taught by "the behavior teacher"

-the teacher in the building who should automatically know how to correct every child's behavior in the school

-the teacher who only corrects behavior and doesn't really teach content

I'm sure I could add many more things to those two lists but those are the things that stick out to me the most.  Since there aren't many behavior support teachers, many people have a misconception about what their job is.  I hope this blog will help shed some light on what kinds of things behavior support teachers do, while I also learn from other educators blogs.  Please leave comments and share your blog link if you have one. I love connecting to others! You can also find me on my new twitter account: @thebehaviorroom