Saturday, February 16, 2013

Guided Reading for Students with Intellectual Disabilities

This year has truly pushed me to examine my teaching practices to determine what can be adapted for students with intellectual disabilities. Sometimes I feel like I'm swimming upstream, but I'm enjoying the challenge.

I've played around with my writing workshop and have truly seen an impact on my students' abilities and literacy skills. That work naturally flowed straight into my guided reading lessons.

We suddenly had all these hand-made big books that almost all of my students could read independently. The one word per index card that we put on paper ourselves made the concept of one to one matching very easy to understand and follow. My students LOVE reading these big books. They know the words, whether from simply memory or because they are starting to recognize that 'w-e' is always the word we. Even those students who are non-verbal are starting to make utterances when they touch each index card.

I now start every guided reading lesson by reading a few of our big books. They are known, familiar texts that get us all revved up and ready to go.

Once I realized how well my students were doing with these big books I decided it was time to transfer these skills to actual published books. I very intentionally chose guided reading books from our school book room that had our familiar words and simple patterns in them.

I tried simply introducing these books but found that some of my students were still having trouble with one to one matching and transitioning from the index cards to the actual text. So, in a moment of desperation, I wrote the words of the book on the part of the sticky note that has the sticky backing. I cut them up and had the students match the words onto the page in the book.

First I have the students read the words on the sticky note pieces independently. We match the words, sort them, and do discrete trials with the words to make sure they are able to differentiate between the two words and have some understanding of them.

We write the words on the dry erase board, or trace them- whatever our ability is.

Next I introduce the book and do a book walk like I would if I was teaching a general education guided reading lesson. When it is time to say "Happy Reading" and hand off the books to the students I give them the sticky note pieces so they can match the words on each page. This forces one to one matching and helps them transfer the skills between the books we wrote, the words on the table, and the words in the book. It also helps reinforce the idea that we read left to right.

 They read by themselves, just like they would in a traditional guided reading setting, matching the sticky notes to the page, and reading it to themselves. Even the students who are non-verbal can match the words and then point to each word on the page.

When they are done I take the sticky notes out and they can put them in order without the book as a model, working on their sentence sequencing. And of course, they can read the book without matching the words.

Next, just like I would in a traditional guided reading book, we do work on comprehension and retelling the story. In this particular book the clowns are either happy or sad, so it was easy to quickly make happy and sad faces on sticky notes. The students then have two choices and can match the sticky notes with the page to show how the clown feels. This is working on our comprehension but also our vocabulary.

After that we can put those sticky notes in order to show how the clowns felt in the beginning, the middle, and the end.

Finally, just like in the gen ed classroom, my kids take their books to their book baskets so that they'll have them for independent reading. The sticky notes stay in the front of the book so that during independent reading they have to choice to match with the sticky notes or they can simply read the words themselves.

If I had time and money I'd spend a lot more time adapting these books. I could/should make boardmaker pictures that correspond with the books. If I had the money to buy an entire set of these books for my classroom I'd laminate them, velro them up and make everything more permanent than the sticky notes. But for now sticky notes are working just fine. They are quick and easy. The kids watch me write the words and then watch me cut them up just like Reading Recovery does with cut-up sentences. If words get lost it's not a big deal, and they stick on everything. Right now I'm having a love affair with sticky notes.

During independent reading I can take running records and note my students' reading behaviors. Are they adding in the sticky notes from left to right? Are they able to match the pictures with the right parts of the story? Do they match the right words? Can they read it without the sticky notes? Just like in general education this gives me the information I need to plan my next lesson.

For now it is working really, really well. Stay tuned... it may crash and burn, but right now I'm seeing an increase in book handling skills and concepts of print. I'm alternating between this and using the scripted programs provided for my program. I want my kids to interact with books, I just need to keep being creative about how we make the interactions meaningful.

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