Reading Logs

Ah, the dreaded question…how do we keep students accountable for independent reading? Do we record number of pages read, amount of time spent reading, types of genres explored? Do we require students to summarize reading, have parents sign off, or answer generic questions about their reading? We all know how important daily reading is for students to develop good language, vocabulary, reading comprehension, decoding, and writing skills. Daily reading improves all areas of learning by expanding background knowledge, vocabulary, exposure to sentences structures and imagination (a.k.a. critical thinking). reading english

My school’s policy is for students to read 20 minutes every day a minimum of 5 days a week. However, there are only 2 teachers I know of who actually monitor this required reading. Last year, I attempted to institute a reading log to monitor students reading in my own classroom. I decided to go with an evidence of comprehension model as opposed to a time or pages record. I was sorely disappointed with the results.

My goal was to get students to think beyond just telling the events that happened in their 20 minutes of reading. I wanted them to think about what they had read and the process of reading itself. Despite repeated modeling, whole-class and small-group correcting, and explicit sentence stems and group reading log writing sessions, I was never able to get my students beyond the point of summarizing what they read, if they even understood what they were reading well enough to be able to summarize what happened in the first place.

Here is what I gave them to glue into their composition bound reading log as reference: read_log_and_rubric I found it for free on Teachers Pay Teachers and modified it to meet my students’ needs. I no longer remember who sold this product. If you recognize it please let me know so that I may give the correct person credit for this great resource.

Despite being a few weeks into the current school year, I am still not sure what I am going to do for reading logs. Any suggestions? I may just repeat what I did last year and continue trying to model and correct. Maybe they will eventually build up the higher level skills?


Our First Week Back!

Wow! It has been a fantastic first week of school here! I have never had a year begin so smoothly. Hopefully, this a good omen of the months to come.

We started our week on Tuesday since Monday was Meet the Teachers day. One of our parents was kind enough to mention that “You know your child’s teacher is in the right place when Meet the Teacher is more of a family reunion, and the kids are actually excited to start back to school.” I was so happy to hear her view the day that way; although I do have a bit of an advantage since I keep my students for 3 years in a row.

Tuesday started with a rush of FM equipment assignments. How do you manage your hearing equipment monitoring and organization? I have 13 students in my school who use FM equipment in addition to their hearing aids and/or cochlear implants. 12 of them keep their equipment in my room, and that’s a lot of chargers, wires, transmitters, and individually programmed receivers to keep sorted. It took a bit of practice, but I think I have gotten my students trained to the system of coming a few minutes early to school, going directly to my classroom, putting on and syncing their own receivers, providing an adult with the transmitter to do the Ling 6 sound check, and then marking their monitor documents themselves with the correct annotation to note if the equipment is working or if there was a problem. Then, at the end of the day, the students leave their class a few minutes early to return the equipment to my room and hook everything up to the chargers labeled with their initials. It is a smooth system that has worked for me the last 3 years. I will give more detail about this in a later post if there is interest. Do you do something different? I would love to hear about it?

In my self-contained classroom, all my kids were returning students, so I kept all my classroom routines and rules either the same or pretty similar. This made reviewing the procedures quick and easy. I addressed changes as the need arose so as not overwhelm any students. They were more receptive than I expected since some of my students with OHI (OCD) or ASD are typically highly resistant to changes in procedures.  There were really very few classroom changes though.

I started right in on academics on Wednesday.In 8th grade science, our unit is “Our Changing Earth: Structures and Processes.” We are learning about the layers of the Earth, plate tectonics, and continental drift for the next two weeks. 7th grade is doing a chemistry unit, but in my room, we will only be studying the 4 states of matter and then the difference between homogeneous and heterogeneous mixtures. The rest of it a bit too abstract, and won’t have much real life application for the students chosen career categories. Social Studies is U.S. History with a focus on South Carolina, so we are starting with a unit on Native Americans. I’m doing a cross-curricular unit with that and ELA, since the ELA unit is myths with a theme of cultural identity. In math, we started with a unit on 3D shapes to begin our geometry focus.

The students were great all week. They did well getting to their inclusions classes on time and finding their way around the school. Most of them have at least one core class in the general education environment, and they are doing well keeping up this first week and advocating for their accommodations. Altogether, they have done really well, and I hope it continues.

How was your first week? If you haven’t started school yet, what are you doing to prepare?

Back to School!

9781721-back-to-school-supplies-isolatedHello, Everyone! I hope you have all had a great summer. It has been a while since I’ve been in one place long enough to sit down and write a blog post. I’m itinerant with my Extended School Year students in the summer, and then I was lucky enough to go on an awesome road trip around the Midwest during which I had pretty much zero internet access.

But school started back yesterday, and I’m on my second day with students! We have an a blessedly smooth start to the year. All but 3 of my 11 students had already had me for at least 1 year. I kept all of my rules and most of my procedures exactly the same, so there would be no confusion of the old way vs. the new way that caused a problem at the start of my last school year.

The students stepped smoothly into back academic mode and gave only cursory complaints at having to go back to waking up “so so very early.” (I was right there with them, even if I didn’t let on.) I did institute an addition to my classroom behavior plan (more about that later) that may have helped reduce complaints and encourage on task behavior.

I intend to give you a full debriefing about our first week back to school after Friday has wrapped up, but I did want to catch all of you up on that Summer Teacher Bucket List I mentioned in this post. Here is the list again with commentary.

Teacher-y Bucket List

  • 40 hours itinerant Extended School Year I managed to fit in all 40 hours of service before the last week of July, which is the earliest I have ever finished summer schooling. My students and I were equally thrilled, because it gave us a sold 3.5 weeks (2.5 for me since teachers started back a week earlier) of summer before the 15-16 school year started up.
  • Summer Academy PD workshops  This was semi-helpful. The Stetson courses gave tips on differentiating, but many of them were pretty common sense to special education teachers who are used to having multiple ages, grades, and abilities in one room. I did manage to pull out a couple of helpful pointers and I was reminded of some activities I had forgotten about, so that was good. I did attend an excellent training on the SRA curriculum. I have used the curriculum for years, but had never actually been trained on it. This was incredibly beneficial, and really helped explain what was being done wrong to cause some of the problems I had previously encountered. Do any of you use SRA? If so which courses? I would love to hear how you incorporate it into your class.
  • teach parent and student ASL classes I did teach student ASL classes all through the summer. None of my parents attended more than one class though. It’s a good bit more to it than in Cued Speech, so I think they may have been overwhelmed. The kids stuck it out though, and we made great progress!
  • plan daily math centers with independent, hands-on activities I’m to say I never really got around to this. I sat down several times, and I just could not figure out a way that would allow the students to be completely independent in the center from beginning to end when they can’t read. Any tips? I don’t have BoardMaker, or any software like that, and reading/explaining the directions to them defeats the intention between my wanting to set up these center. The goal was for me to let them work, so they could let me work with my resource students without interruption. Reading to them would require I leave my resource kids in the middle of the lesson when my math kids come in.
  • select class novel and write reading guide and lesson plans I selected Our Strange, New Land: Elizabeth’s Diary by Patricia Hermes. It has a Lexile level of only 350 according to one calculator, so I am hoping it will be an appropriate read for even my lowest student if we preteach vocabulary and time the novel to read it after we’ve finished our Colonial American unit in social studies. It will be a good opportunity to do cross curricular activities with history, ELA, geography, math, and art. I’m really looking forward to it.
  • get TESOL certification This did not happen. I did look into a program, but they offer guaranteed job placement that you must use within one year. I’m not quite ready to make that change just yet, so I’m putting this off for at least another year.
  • improve Cued Speech fluency I did practice. My students still complain I’m too slow and make mistakes, but hopefully there’s been some improvement. Perhaps they just forgot how poor my fluency was at the end of last year. Yikes! I think I’m a little better than I was then.
  • develop way to integrate Cued Speech reading instruction Integration did not happen, but I did manage to get a transliterator to agree to offer classes to my seventh graders during their resource period, so that’s something.
  • make conversation sentence stem cards to help with language samples and class discussions I have started this, but it’s not quite finished yet. Stay tuned!

Non-Teacher-y Bucket List

  • Italy trip Check!
  • Colorado wedding road trip Check!
  • visit college friends (Atlanta, Virginia, Nashville) Check on 2 of the 3. I never made it up to Virginia. We have an overdue Skype date set for tomorrow though!
  • sew travel kit accessories Check!
  • sew placemats This one hasn’t happened yet, but I did get the materials, so perhaps sometime soon.
  • knit sheep baby blanket I’m about 4 inches deep into this blanket, but I did double the width since it seemed a little small. It’s coming along nicely.
  • finish mug storage Check! Just need to hang it on a wall now…

I was not quite as good about following though on my Reading Bucket List. I’ve only read 2 of the 5, Building Academic Language and The Lady in Gold, partly because I joined a book club at the start of the summer and ended up reading a ton of really enthralling novels.

  • I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey Through the Science of Sound and Language  by Lydia Denworth
  • Talking Hands by Margalit Fox
  • When the Brain Can’t Hear: Unraveling the Mystery of Auditory Processing Disorder by Dr. Teri James Bellis, Ph.D.
  • Building Academic Language: Essential Practices for Content Classrooms Excellent read! Very informative, and it helped to kick-start my sentence stem prompts I’m still working on. I highly recommend this. Be on the look out for a book review here soon.
  • The Lady in Gold Not as great as I expected but there was a solid middle section that was very historically illuminating, and I do enjoy my history! (as my students tell you with a moan)

That was it. Check back Saturday for a window into our first week of school!

How Cued Speech Represents Spoken Language

Whenever I mention that my current students do not use sign language but instead rely on Cued Speech to support their oral skills, I am always met with blank stares and questions. Here is a good explanation I have found over at Hannahfmann:

A Croaking Dalek With Laryngitis

Anyone who’s familiar with manually coded English (MCE) such as Signed English or Visual Phonics may wonder, rightly so, how Cued Speech can provide 100% access to English on the lips and hands. Fortunately, Aaron Rose of Cue Cognatio has designed and illustrated a 3-D model that shows the relationship between Cued Speech and spoken language.

Image courtesy of Aaron Rose. Image courtesy of Aaron Rose.

Aaron explains this model as follows:

“There are three components to each ‘system’ [speech and Cued speech] for the purpose of expressing traditionally spoken language via speech and Cued Speech.

1.) Both systems use the same mouth shapes. 
2.) The hand shapes take the place of the tongue placements (place of articulation)
3.) The hand placements take the place of the voicing/air (manner of articulation). 

This is a general model and should not be used strictly for research purposes, but is intended to provide a better idea of how and why spoken language and cued…

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Helen Keller Toward the Light by Stewart and Polly Anne Graff Book Review

helen keller toward the light

I just finished reading Helen Keller Toward the Light with one of my summer students. She loved it! This is an older book, and I couldn’t find any more recent editions of this biography. Although there are certainly plenty of biographies on Helen Keller out there.

What is unique about this book version is that only 2 brief chapters in the beginning are dedicated to Helen Keller’s childhood. The majority of the book focuses on Helen as an adult. This was a unique perspective for my students who are more familiar with the initial fight between young Helen and new Anne. My student had never known that Helen Keller went to college and traveled the world or that she helped start many schools both for the deaf and for the blind. This book also mentions Laura Bridgman who was really the first known deaf-blind person to be fully educated, not Keller, which shocked my student.

I love this version of the book, because it is specifically written for students who are Deaf. As a result, the sentences were written very simply and the vocabulary was clear. Any difficult words were explained in the story. There is also at least 1 picture in every chapter to visually summarize the main point. It is an excellent high interest-low level read for upper elementary through lower high school students. I give it a full 5 stars! I highly recommend it as an addition to any Deaf literature collection.

What is your favorite Helen Keller biography? Do you discuss Helen Keller or Laura Bridgman in your classroom?

Extended School Year Lessons

Well we are half way through summer now and deep into ESY. As a special education teacher with a high-need skill, my contract has me on call for the extended school year (summer school for special ed), and every year, I’ve been called in.

I love it though, especially now as a classroom teacher during the regular nine month school year. ESY gives me a break in routine and lets me return to my itinerant roots, traveling to my students to work with them one on one on high need, functional skills: language and auditory training without worry for content knowledge like social studies and science. It’s a much more relaxing environment for me since there’s no curriculum pacing guide we have to rush to keep up with.

I try to make sure that is also a break for the students, too. It is summer after all, and none of them are happy to be one of the few who gets pulled from camp by their school teacher or, worse, has their teacher visit them at their house!

Here are some ways I try to make ESY lessons fun:


  • Go on a vocabulary scavenger hunt. This one requires you plan in advance and are familiar with hte environment. I will sometimes have students meet me at the public library or my school classroom, and this is one of my go to lessons for those settings. It’s pretty straightforward and real simple to prep. Give students a list of the vocabulary they are learning. They then have to find examples of those words in the room (or building or yard). Just make sure there is at least one item that would fit each word. This works best for nouns and some adjectives. Verbs and adverbs are tricky as there’s no guarantee someone will be doing something to fit the word. I have let students act out these words before, though, so if you really want to include them you can with a that minor modification. Photos of elementary students using iPads at school to do amazing projects.

  • Bring in the iPad! I have a personal iPad, and my summer students consider this the most sacred of rewards. Originally, I thought I would use the iPad in my classroom, but after our school iPad was broken by an overly excited student who forgot to put the iPad down before she started signing about her game score, I removed my personal iPad from the classroom. It’s too expensive a device to risk. However, I do bring it out during ESY. It’s a more supervised, one-on-one environment, so the risk is reduced, and the motivation and feeling of exclusivity for the students makes the risk worth it. For every 1 paper activity my students complete without complaint, they get to complete 1 round of 1 educational game on the iPad. They will do just about anything willingly to get that iPad access. We also usually write our own kid’s book using different iPad apps as a summer-long project. I publish the books and include them in our class library during the school year, so student has something to show off to the other students who didn’t have ESY.


  • Read outside. A change of scenery can make a world of difference. If a student is getting fidgety, I’ll let them pick a book, and we’ll go outside to read. This is my tricky way of testing auditory reception. We sit side by side, and I read aloud. (Sometimes I will let a sibling read aloud if they are available and willing.) At random moments, I stop and ask the student to point to the last word read. We tally how many times they get it correct, and if they beat their record from the earlier times, they’re rewarded. This activity requires them to pay constant attention, but it also lets me check how well they can follow auditory input in an uncontrolled environment with a variety of background noises, not to mention that we get to be outdoors and get some sun on a pretty day. 😉
  • Sound classification outside Speaking of all the outdoor noise, another great activity I use with my newly hearing or younger ESY students was dubbed Summer Sound Sorting (by a student who had just learned the word “alliteration”). This can be a relaxing activity for a student who is feeling frustrated with other work, but be aware it may be very difficult with student with severe hearing loss or who have been recently aided/implanted. We go outside and be as quiet as possible. The student has to try to name each sound they hear. Is it a bird? A lawn mower? A car? Was that the wind or a person? Sometimes, we’ll take the iPad out to record all the sounds to review later. One student made a sound book with audio clips for his summer book project.


  • Popular Songs During the school year, I have students bring in songs they want me to cue and/or explain for them. I’ve started requiring this of my ESY students. Each session they have to bring in a song them like (parent responsibility to check for appropriateness), and we go over the vocabulary, idioms, and figurative language that comes up. My students love it! I love it too, because it gets them listening to music more and gives them something to talk about with their chronological age peers. Often, my students get left out of many social conversation about bands and top songs, but this helps keep them in the loop. We even work on singing along!

conversation beech ball

  • Keep it active! For most ESY activities, I try to make sure the student is moving. Even just a little movement can go a long way. Instead of a matching worksheet, we’ll use flashcards and really spread them out. We will act out books instead of write summaries (although they may have to write the script for us to act it!). Thanks to this inspiring blog post, I also have a beach ball that I wrote conversation topics on. We toss it back and forth; whichever topic our left thumb lands on, we talk about for a minimum of 3 minutes and no less than 3 student sentences. Anything to get them moving will help keep your students engaged when they’d rather be playing.

So how about you guys? Do you have any great summer therapy or ESY lessons? How do you make summer learning more fun for your students?

Teacher Summer Bucket List

Summer has arrived! I’m excited for the change in routine and the chance to work with my students one-on-one specifically on their language and hearing needs without concern for curriculum content. Yes, that’s right; it’s summer, and I will still be working with my students.

Contrary to popular belief, teachers are still working even when the schools are out of session. Even if you don’t have a formal extended school year program, like I do, I’m sure your classroom is somehow on your mind. There’s lesson plans to be improved, curriculum to be updated, professional development to attend… If our summer break includes a vacation it is probably no longer than what would be given in any other profession.

Every summer I always have a ton of projects and intentions for all of the “extra time” I will have on my hands. Some years, I am better at checking off all to do’s than others. One of my transliterators suggested I make a summer bucket list to help keep myself on track this year, and I’m excited to share that with you here.

Teacher-y Bucket List

  • 40 hours itinerant Extended School Year
  • Summer Academy PD workshops (We’re moving to the Stetson inclusion model; has anyone tried that?)
  • teach parent and student ASL classes
  • plan daily math centers with independent, hands-on activities (any suggestions would be most appreciated)
  • select class novel and write reading guide and lesson plans
  • get TESOL certification (45% of my students this year were ELLs.)
  • improve Cued Speech fluency
  • develop way to integrate Cued Speech reading instruction (Any ideas? My students are not fluent cue readers, but it is their primary (if not only) communication modality; we need some serious improvements!)
  • make conversation sentence stem cards to help with language samples and class discussions

Non-Teacher-y Bucket List


  • Italy trip
  • Colorado wedding road trip
  • visit college friends (Atlanta, Virginia, Nashville)
  • sew travel kit accessories (I found these ideas here, here, and decided to make my own version of this item here.)
  • sew placemats (Can you tell I like to sew?)
  • knit sheep baby blanket (idea found here)
  • finish mug storage (another fun Pinterest project idea)

Reading Bucket List

  • I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey Through the Science of Sound and Language  by Lydia Denworth
  • Talking Hands by Margalit Fox
  • When the Brain Can’t Hear: Unraveling the Mystery of Auditory Processing Disorder by Dr. Teri James Bellis, Ph.D.
  • Building Academic Language: Essential Practices for Content Classrooms by Jeff Zwiers
  • The Lady in Gold by Anne-Marie O’Connor (not teaching or Deaf related, but you gotta have some fun reading, right?)

I don’t know that I will get everything done before the end of summer, but I am hoping to finish a good bit and maybe do a few things more for my classroom and lesson planning as inspiration hits. Do you make a summer bucket list? What do you put on your list?