Monday, 1 February 2016

Accommodations vs. Modifications

In an inclusive classroom, teachers use accommodations as strategies to meet the needs of all learners.  In early 2015, in response to need, I created an accommodation checklist for our teachers as a tool for them to use throughout tiers one and two of our Pyramid of Intervention.  We call these strategies 'good teaching.' 

Sometimes, learners need a little bit more than what accommodations can provide in order to access the curriculum.  At this time, we consider implementing modifications, which allow students who are still struggling with the curriculum after all appropriate accommodations have been tried for a period of 6 weeks. 

Following is some great information from one of my favourite blogs, The Inclusive Class

Click on the image below to enlarge:

Here are some examples of modificationsRemember, that a modified lesson in an inclusive classroom is a lesson where the objective and/or learning materials have been changed to meet the needs of a special learner.  However, the overall concept or activity remains the same so that the learner can experience the curriculum alongside his or her classmates.

This math sheet has been easily modified by providing alternate questions.
Photo from

This math sheet can be modified by having the student complete
alternate math operations with the numbers on the page.

This Grade 8 science vocabulary activity has become a YES/NO activity.

An alternate activity is provided for the student
using the same handout as the rest of the class.
Photo from

Alternate text can be placed over the original text in a class novel.
(All children have the same book, regardless of reading level.)

Thursday, 5 March 2015

What Do I Need To Know to Help My Child Learn to Read?

That's an awesome question, and one I am asked often enough that I figured I should record the answer!  The development of literacy is incredibly complex in many ways, but there is a TON you can do at home to help!  Read on for some tips and some knowledge points that will help you as you encourage your young learner in their reading skills.  This is certainly not the whole package (I kept it to ten points because I can get carried away when talking about reading!) but if you are a teacher or want more detail as a parent I would be thrilled to provide it - just ask!


  • It is crucial to read aloud to children.  It is, perhaps, the single most important thing you can do.  You can read to them at their "listening level" which is higher than their independent reading level.  This exposes them to new vocabulary and often keeps their interest high.  Use silly voices, make predictions, and talk about the book after you finish - make it fun!
  • Let them see you read.  Whether you enjoy a good novel, the newspaper or the side of a cereal box, point out to your child what an important skill reading is as an adult and how much enjoyment it can bring to our lives.
  • Read alongside your child, modelling smooth tracking of the text with your finger underneath (with them eventually taking over this job) and assisting/encouraging them as they begin to identify sight words and use their skills to try to sound out new words.
  • If you have a pre-reader or new reader in your home, consider labelling everything.  Put words around your house in as many places as you can think of...light switch, door knob, door, table, fridge, stove, bed, dresser, bathroom, stairs, railing - there are potentially hundreds of things in your home you can label.  Children will see these words and equate them with the item.  If you point them out regularly, you may be surprised how quickly your child starts to recognize those words in other contexts.
2. Sounds do not have /-uh/ on the end.  This applies to the sounds /b/, /c/, /d/, /f/, /g/, /h/, /j/, /k/, /l/, /m/, /n/, /p/, /q/, /r/, /s/, /t/, /v/, /w/, /y/, /z/ and the blends /sh/, /ch/, /th/. Also, /r/ is not /er/.  When you say /-uh/ at the end of these sounds, your child will copy you and may struggle to sound out words correctly.  Imaging trying to sound out the word “cat.”  You don’t realize it as a proficient reader, but it is very difficult to make a word out of /cuh/ /a/ /tuh/. Now try (/c/ /a/ /t/.)  Do you hear the difference?  Now, try /er/ /a/ /puh/.  Sound familiar?  Not to me!  It is supposed to be /r/ /a/ /p/.  To a developing reader or an English Language Learner, that would be pretty tough to blend.

3. There are words that we can "sound out"  and words that we cannot.  Phonics is awesome, but it doesn't always work.  This is why we teach sight words.  There are certain words that we must memorize visually, and our children must learn the difference as well.  In order to be an efficient reader, children must have both sight word memorization and phonetic skills.  Home practice makes a BIG difference in the development of both of these skills.  Consider giving your child a 'target word' (or a few once they get the hang of it) to focus on for a week.  Post them, and let them loose on the newspaper with a highlighter each day to find their target words in as many places as they can.

4. When you take a word and break it into its separate sounds, it is commonly called phoneme (sound) segmentation.  When you practice this skill explicitly, you are facilitating better writing skills.  We break words down so that we are able to say a word in our head & then sound it out.  Point out the sounds that make up words to your child.  Ask them to try!

5. Alternatively, when we take separate sounds and ask a child to say the word, it is commonly called blending.  When you practice this skill explicitly, you are facilitating better reading skills.  We want children to be able to hear each sound in a word and then blend it together.  Give them some sounds and ask them to put them together to make the word.

6. Children should track their text.  Model it done correctly, and have your child do it when they read.  Left to right, top to bottom, and smoothly...not jumping word to word.  This encourages their eyes to focus on the correct spot and to develop fluent, rather than robotic, reading.  Children often think they don`t need to track before they are actually ready to stop.

7. Encourage comprehension from the beginning.  Make it a habit to ask your child what they have read after, and even throughout, a book.  Even a pre-reader can talk about the illustrations.  Making up a story using only the pictures IS a pre-reading skill!  Beginning with simple recall of details, you can progress to questions requiring more thought as children become more proficient readers.  Ask children to predict, connect the text to their past experiences, ask questions & summarize.  We want children to know they are reading for a purpose.  

8. It's okay to let them struggle!  Do not simply give them the words or they will begin to depend on that.  Instead, give them a strategy that they can use in the future.  Encourage them them sound-it-out, cover part of the word, chunk the word, or look for a base word/compound word.  Consider asking your child's teacher what strategies they are using so s/he hears the same vocabulary when reading at home.

9. Encourage children to stop if they do not understand what a word means.  Model what this looks like often, because children won’t naturally do this on their own when they want to finish.  (When you are reading aloud to your child, you can do this using `think alouds`where you share a thought process you`d like to model for them out loud.)  Before they move on from a word they do not understand, they should clarify the meaning of the word.  They will need to use a strategy such as: read on, reread, look for context/picture clues, use background knowledge etc.  Again, you may consider asking your child's teacher about the specific strategies vocabulary they are using in the classroom.

10. Develop a culture of eager learning.  Know and talk about the value of literacy.  Tell them stories about how important it is for them to become better readers and writers.  Tell them about how glad you were when you could read the map on the way to Elbow, Saskatchewan, the stop sign for the cross walk, or your favourite childhood book.  Sharing these stories of literacy helps children to make real life connections.

"The things I want to know are in books. My best friend is the man who'll get me a book I ¸[haven't] read." — Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Happy Education Week!

The staff at our school are AMAZING!  The Education Week committee did an awesome job planning some wonderful activities for this week celebrating the fact that "We are ALL teachers."  I can't take any credit, but I sure am proud of our school!

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

An Interesting Post About Vocabulary

Here's a great post about vocabulary I would recommend as food for thought for educators.  It made me think of vocabulary in ways I hadn't considered.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Five Things Not To Say To Emerging Readers

(re-posted from’T SAY: Stop. Re-read this line correctly.
INSTEAD: If the mistake didn’t interfere with the meaning of the text (like if it was ‘a’ for ‘the’ or ‘fine’ for ‘fun’) let it go. 
Do. Not. Interrupt. Your. Child’s. Reading.
How would you feel if you were putting your heart out on the line, trying something you weren’t totally comfortable with, in front of someone who you were afraid would challenge you, only to have that person stop you, interrupt your flow, and make you start over before you even finished?  Over and over and over again?
Right. So that’s why if your kiddo’s reading and makes a mistake in reading a word, let it go. We want our kids to be comfortable reading with us–we want them to feel safe–so let it go.
Just make the correction when you read it the next time.
DON’T SAY: Speed up! OR  Slow down!!
INSTEAD: Model appropriate pacing and fluency.
Fluency–or reading with appropriate speed, pacing, and intonation–is something that is best taught through parent or teacher modeling and tons of reader practice. Seriously. Fluent reading sounds like conversation, or natural speaking, and it’s something that has to be learned.
So if your kiddo is a total speed-reader or if, at this point, she’s as slow as molasses, it’s time to switch gears. Grab a level-appropriate book and say, Hey! I found this awesome book for us, and it’s going to be our book this week. We’re going to read this book until we become experts on this book– we’ll be book-reading super-stars by the end of this week, mark my word. . .
And the first day, you read the whole thing in its entirety. And then do an echo read, page by page.  An echo read is really just like an echo–a portion of a text is read and then re-read by a second person (or class if you’re in the classroom).  You can echo words, phrases, or whole pages.  In this case, with an early-emergent text, it’s great to echo read page-by-page.  First, you read a page and then your emerging reader reads that same page.  And then you read the next page and she reads that very same page, like an echo.
And on day two, you read it in its entirety the first time, and then together, you echo read every two pages. Or every three pages.
Day three, you read it the first time, and either echo read by three pages or try a chorus read. A chorus read is where you read it together, in unison, like a chorus. Sometimes these are hard, but for pacing, it helps.
Day four, you read it the first time then hand the book over to your kiddo for an entire kid-read. Give her specific praises for her super-star parts: I really like how you paid close attention to the punctuation here (point to the specific part). You noticed the question mark, and you knew that meant that [the character] was asking a question, so you made your voice go higher at the end. Awesome.
Maybe on day four, you can tape yourselves reading or put it on video (not a big deal–just grab your flip cam or camera–it doesn’t have to be a huge, complicated video production) and talk about what sounded great and what you both need to work on.
Day five, it’s showtime. You both give yourselves ‘practice reads’– start by reading the book yourself and then give it to your child.  Then it’s the BEST READ EVER–you both get to go on ‘stage’ for the most awesome, perfect, wonderful read ever.  Video tape it, audio tape it, or Skype-read with your faraway aunts, cousins, grandparents, or friends.  You both practiced all week–now show off your skills!
DON’T: Laugh.
INSTEAD: Think about something serious and ugly and breathe deeply until you regain composure.
Even if your kiddo replaces ‘bat’ with ‘butt’ or ‘fact’ with ‘fart’ don’t laugh.  The fastest way to kill confidence is to have the person a kiddo loves and trusts the most laugh in his face.
If you can laugh together, that’s one thing; most likely if your kid is reading aloud and says ‘butt’, he’ll break out into hysterics and you will too. But if he’s working hard, concentrating, and trying his best and still managed to make a mistake that tickles your funny bone, then just move on.
DON’T SAY: You know this. . .
INSTEAD SAY: What part of the word do you recognize? If you get no response, say, Do you recognize this part (point to the beginning chunk or letter) or this part (point to the ending chunk or letter)?
Three things here:
1. If the kid knew it, she would have read it.
2. We all hate to be reminded that we knew something but forgot it.
3. By picking out two parts of the word, you’re setting her up for success. It all goes back to the choices thing that really helps with kids. Most likely she will recognize either the ‘b’ or ‘-at’ part of ‘bat’ or the ‘th’ or ‘-ick’ parts of ‘thick’.  If she can pick up either part, say, You got it! That does say ‘ick’. Now let’s put the first part, (give it to her and pronounce it) ‘th’ together with ‘ick’: th-ick. Thick!
Then put that new word into the sentence and give her a high-five for getting through it.
DON’T SAY: You’re wrong. That says, . . .
INSTEAD SAY: Nothing. Really. Remain silent. As hard as that may be.
It goes back to the very first thing I said about stopping kids as they read and making them re-read.
Let. Them. Read.
And unless it’s a mistake that interferes with the meaning of the text, let it go.  And even more importantly, if every time your child gets stuck, he looks at you and you give him the word, then he’ll have a pretty easy time reading with you and won’t get to practice any decoding skills.
Now, that being said, if he did make a huge meaning-changing mistake, at the end of the page, go back and say,
  • Are you correct?  (And if he says Yes! then say. . . )
  • Read it again and check closely. (If he reads it again incorrectly, say. . . ) 
  • Can you use the picture to help you figure it out?
  • Does it make sense?
  • Does it sound right?
(And if he looks at it again and still misses the error, say. . .  )
  • Can you find the tricky part? (And if not. . . )
  • It’s in this line.
  • I’ll point it out and help you find it. (And then go back to pointing out the two chunks he may know. . . )
After kids become more comfortable reading with you, then hit them with an Are you correct? every so often on a page that he did read correctly. It’s not to make kids think you’re a pain in the neck; it’s to help them become better self-monitors.  And as self-monitors, we’re constantly checking and re-checking to make sure that what we read made sense.
(re-posted from