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Jerry Webster

Jerry's Special Education Blog


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Punishment, Anyone?

Tuesday April 22, 2014

I've been focusing on behavior after some experiences at my school.  What do we do?  Why do we do it?

I realized that I hadn't written about punishment.  Despite all of our "enlightened" theory and opinions, we still fall back on old and familiar strategies.  Like punishment.  It may make us feel better.  We may feel we are fixing a problem, and we may really feel a lot better, especially when one of our little darlings has challenged us or our authority, but punishment doesn't last. All too often it doesn't fix anything, either.

So, read this bit about "punishment" and decide whether it really is going to create the outcome you want.

Beyond Behavior Management

Sunday April 20, 2014

Last weeks read in the New York Times about the work of Adam Grant, I reconsidered my experience in a couple of third grades.  Allergies have really taken their toll in Las Vegas so just before our Easter break, there's been a shortage of substitutes.  I've "sold" my prep period to cover these classes, and I was surprised in both cases how negative, whiny and adversarial these students were.  Some student knew me from second grade:  I read to their classes on Nevada Reads week, since they were amazed that men could be teachers.

I realized that the "good behavior" they exhibited for their teachers was only "skin deep."  I also realized that many of the strategies that we use are designed to give us short term relief rather than create long term success.  I also remember giving one of the fifth grade teachers some positive feedback as she praised her students on the way back from a special: "I really like how you are staying in line on the way back from art."  "I really like how you are keep your hands and feet to yourself."  I have noticed as the year has proceeded that she has had a really successful year with her students.  Too bad she is leaving us for Hawaii, where she reports private schools pay better than public schools.  Still, it serves as an example of how being intentional about building good student rapport you can also create a learning environment that is enjoyable.  You also create students are kind and caring, a gift for next years teacher.  I've shared some ideas in an article "More Than Classroom Management," where I address how we create good citizens.

Building the Child You Want

Wednesday April 16, 2014

Yesterday's New York Times Review (4/13/2014) had an interesting piece entitled Raising a Moral Child. Surveys have shown that parents across cultural groups are more concerned with raising children who are kind and caring than with focusing on achievement.    It's interesting specifically because parents' stated desire often has little to do with the way they are raising their children.  They may have a picture of the kind of person they hope their child will be but it has little to do with the kind of child that they are raising.

I read it in part with great interest because my supervisor, in my annual review, gave me high praise for the kind of classroom environment I had created.  I had good classroom management strategies in place that supported good behavior and high levels of student engagement and participation.  And, she said, "Your students really seem to want to be there."  I was pleased, of course, since it meant some highly coveted "4's" on my evaluation.  As I read this article, it struck me as more than that:  I had a sense of the kind of student I wanted to create, and I do what I need to create them.  I also value caring, authentic individuals.  Mind you, I don't care for "nice" because "nice" too often leads to that good old Southern "Bless her heart" niceness . . . the "Bless her heart" is usually the prelude to a knife in the back.

At the same time, a flurry of upper respiratory infections left us short of substitutes on a couple of days (Pollen season has been long and brutal this year in Nevada, thanks to our warmer than usual winter.)  I sold my prep periods to cover two third grades.  I was appalled.  The students were mealy mouthed, finger pointing, blaming and generally very unpleasant to their peers.  I did my best by stepping up the praise for the behavior I wanted and quickly pointing out the behavior I did not:  I put up a smiley face and frowny face on the boards and started Read More...

Lots and Lots of Hands On Math

Sunday April 13, 2014

I have found that the best way to help students with disabilities understand the abstractions of math is to give them lots and lots of hands on experience.  I recommend some commercial resources in my article on Rational Numbers, but I think the ones your students make for themselves may be just as valuable, if not more invaluable.

I created some free printable fraction pages with circles and squares.  They are the same size, so you can practice making equivalencies using the different fractional parts.  I also recommend running them on different colors of cardstock so you students will have "color coded" fractions:  all the halves the same colors, etc.   The article includes some small group activities you can do with the fraction pieces to support understanding and students success.

Revisiting Old Resources

Monday March 31, 2014

My students just read "Fun with Fish" in our reader, and it seemed a great opportunity to pull out some old resources.  I did an ocean unit at ESY two years ago, and realized that using some of those resources would engage my students and could be expanded to support Nevada science standards, learning to sort animals (ocean animals in this case) by characteristics, make observations and generally learn more about ocean environments.

I put up an article about a "stuffed fish" and a "jelly fish" that I created to hang from the ceiling.  They turn the classroom into a lively underwater environment.  I hope you might use them to create an underwater environment in your settings, as well.

Fractions for Students with Disabilities

Sunday March 30, 2014

The new Common Core State Standards have students mastering skills with fractions in third grade:  for students with disabilities, the demands are way too much.  They are expected to compare fractions, find equivalent fractions and add and subtract fractions.  Daunting for general education students, but downright impossible for our students, unless they have a firm foundation of understanding.  In a new article, Fractions as a Primary Foundation for Rational Numbers, suggests ways to acquaint and then build skills for students with disabilities.

More Easter Resources

Sunday March 23, 2014

I added two new puzzles to my Easter dot to dots for skip counting.  I have two different sets of dot to dots now.  One for the sets, the original set, offers counting to twenty and counting to one hundred, either by fives (for puzzles to twenty) or by tens (for puzzles to ten.)  This early practice is essential for students to skip count by 5's and tens.  Skip counting will support functional math skills like telling time and counting money.

My new set of dot to dots is for counting past one hundred.  These also come with two versions:  one version counting from one, which is best for your emerging counters, and the other from 82 up past one hundred.  The new puzzles are of bunnies and an Easter basket.  These help your students meet the counting standard in the Common Core State Standards for first grade.  Enjoy!

Broadening the Math Platform

Wednesday March 19, 2014

After putting up my Easter activities, I decided it was time to go back and attend to my math resources:  I decided to work on one of the most challenging areas of math or students with disabilities (and many typical students.)  Rational numbers. We know them best as fractions, decimals, ratios and percents.  We use them in many ways to represent research, to understand the relationships between different parts of populations . . . in fact, understanding rational numbers is one of the most important skills for people who work in the science and technology fields.

Being able to understand rational numbers is critical for our students to access important employment and educational opportunities.  Building that foundation is important.

I put up the first of a series of articles to serve as a platform with ideas for teaching rational numbers.  Hope it helps your students!

Simple Tools for Big Jobs

Monday March 17, 2014

It seems that since the George W. Bush administration that everyone seems on the make.  I know, I'll get slammed for making a "political comment" and should stick to special education because I know nothing about politics (I did get my picture taken with Erin Bilbray last weekend, but . . . )  Business and making money seem to be the biggest value right now.  The Edison Schools as a corporation, despite their vaunted claims, have failed to meet the supposed promise, though there does seem to be some truth in the notion that corporate interests are stripping the school of resources so they can sell us computerized education.  Yes, "virtual schools" do hire teachers who can teach at the kitchen table in their jammies, but I have questions about whether the performance of a student on a keyboard is truly a full measure of how they are doing as students.

I responded to the question of a teacher in Liberia about how to teach 125 children at a time in my blog, A Big Shout Out to Liberia, and wrote about using tongue depressors (also known as craft sticks, or in smaller size, Popsicle sticks) as a way to manage students.  It works.  I expanded that advise in a new article, Tongue Depressors and Craft Sticks for Classroom Management and suggest how to use these simple and inexpensive items as tools for behavior and classroom management as well as for math and drill games.  It reminded me that you don't have to buy a text book, or pay for a license for a program to provide effective instruction to children.  You do need a good teacher.

A Big Shout Out to Liberia

Saturday March 15, 2014

I was both delighted and distressed to get a response to my last blog posting, Counting Goes On . . . from Daniel Q. Kollie.  I will be writing back to Daniel, and following up on his comment that my site is recommended.  Hmmmm . . .

I was delighted because I have a number of friends from Liberia.  I was a Lutheran Pastor, and had friends from Liberia.  I was especially distressed when the rebel troops of Charles Taylor swept into St. Peters Lutheran Church in Monrovia and slaughtered 600 people who had taken refuge there.  My friend Jensen Seyenkulu was serving a parish in Liberia at that time.  Then, in 2008, a young man started working at the Barnes and Nobles where I worked named Varflay Kessely.  When I commented that his name was unusual, he revealed that he was the son of Edward B. Kessely, a Mandingo and the Secretary of Information in the first non-Congo administration in the history of Liberia.  Not long after that, I took at job at the Woods School in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, and found that there was a whole Liberian community working as residential aides.  I still get Facebook postings from Francis, whose parents taught in rural Liberia, and who owns a printing business back in Liberia, another favorite aide, Mohammed Fakoley, is like the godfather of the Mandingo community here in the US (in a good way.  Mohammed went out of his way to assist young Read More...

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