Teaching students to read is a fundamental responsibility as an elementary special education teacher! Learning to read can be a struggle for students, especially for those students who require special education services. Developing assessments to track student progress along with repetition and engaging activities helps students become more excited and successful when it comes to reading.
Knowledge of letters, letter sounds correspondences, and phonological awareness skills are the basic building blocks of early literacy learning.
1) Break the Code
Like most students – technology is a HUGE motivator! My students loved the giant classroom iPhone code they needed to use to exit the classroom!
On the inside of the classroom, right next to the door on the wall that is eye height to the students, I have created a poster size “iPhone Code” that students have to slap and swipe EVERY time they leave the classroom. The hand “buttons” have uppercase and lowercase letters and the “swipe” pocket has the sight word that the students are working on that week. Behind the hands I have applied Velcro so that the letters can be easily switched and moved to eliminate memorization. Students need to say the letter name or sound on each that they smack on the hand and swipe and say the sight word.
This “iPhone Code” provides visual and verbal repetition numerous times a day.
2) Letter Sound Posters
It is important when introducing a letter and/or sound that visuals are used for children with learning disabilities. Below is an example of a visual that provides the student with letter formation, numerous different fonts for the letter along with pictures and words that start with that sound. A wall of letter/sound posters also encourages students to refer to this visual took during other activities for help and reinforcement.
3) Munch! Munch! Munch!
“Munch” – The name of our alphabet eating monster!
This is a circle time “letter identification” activity that engages the students and is both fun and very successful in learning the letters of the alphabet as well as alphabetical order.
The goal of this activity is three-fold:
1) To learn all 26 lower-case letters (this can then be transferred to upper-case after this goal is accomplished.
2) To learn alphabetic order.
3) To learn the alphabet song
“Munch“ is our friendly green alphabet eating monster with 26 Velcro dots attached to his hungry tummy. Each vertical row of dots is a different color and matches the color of the letters that corresponds to that row. A color pattern helps the student problem solve by limiting choices and thus frustration. Both 26 lower and uppercase letter are made with the appropriate background color and with Velcro attached to the backside.
Each student is randomly given the same amount of Velcro letter cards face down until all cards are passed out (extra cards allows the teacher or aide to play along with the group). After all cards have been distributed, I go around the circle and have each student tell which letters they have been dealt. Many students struggle with identifying letters which makes this an especially important part of game preparation. The student must point to each of their letters and say its name so they can become familiar with each letters sight and sound.
Time to Play!
The game starts off with the question, “What is the FIRST letter of the alphabet?” Once the letter “a” is determined as the start of the alphabet, the students will then quickly look at their own letters. The student who has the letter “a” then gets to stick his/her letter to “Munch’s” tummy. Now the first round of the alphabet song begins. I point to the “a” and ask, “What letter comes next?” As a group we sign the letters “a,b.” After the next student with the letter “b” attaches his/her letter to “Munch” we repeat the song by adding the letter which is next, “c.” The song repeats after each additional letter is applied, however, we ONLY go as far as the letters that are attached to “Munch” and add the next letter that follows. In the end all 26 letters will be appropriately placed in the correct order and the song repeated 26 times by adding a letter after each turn.
This is a wonderful activity in recognition, sound and order, plus the students are physically involved and learning while having fun!
4) Environmental Print Letter Cards
This activity reinforces letter recognition through the use of popular recognizable products. These environmental print cards help the student make a connection with the abstract concept of a single letter and how single letters are grouped together to form words. Associating letters, sounds and sight recognition through using environmental cards is another successful visual tool for students. They love find their favorite products to add to the cards!!
Assessments are a HUGE part of special education for tacking students’ progress. I have developed and implemented several Google Docs Assessments for tracking data. These tools are aimed to lessen both the time and complexity of tracking data while also keeping an accurate record of progress.
The data implemented into Google Docs system provides a summary using charts and graphs on each of the following skills; uppercase letters, lowercase letters and sound identification. This is not only an easy way to keep ongoing data; it is totally parent friendly during IEP meetings.
These can be in alphabetical order or in random order (whichever is easier for you)
* I have the a letter on each page in Power Point and hit “Slide Show” to eliminate any disorganization or mess of materials!