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Eliminating - Common Common Core Words - In my Teacher Vocabulary

Okay, are you ready?! Say "common common core words" five times fast... and GO!

Just kidding! Although, "common common core" does sound like quite the tongue twister, as well as the words that go along with common core. Those words can easily twist our tongues - even brains - too!

I teach ELA, Pre-Algebra, and Algebra, in my learning support classroom.  More frequently than not I come across, as well as my students who have me for both subjects, the same common core lingo in both subject areas.  Sometimes it makes sense and other times we really need to think about what a word like "expand" means during ELA, when I only refer to the word "expand" during math. We know how to expand in math.  We learned long ago how to write out our numbers in expanded form.

...this is typically when I hear the moaning and groaning of "why can't math stay in math and ELA stay in ELA." ...but I tell them that's just not how these common common core words work. 

In math, when we write our numbers in expanded form, we are just making the same number bigger in length.  If we apply this same knowledge to ELA, we can assume that we probably need to make the length of what we are working on bigger, too.  For instance, we can expand our sentence by using more descriptive words. However, my learning support students can't just figure out and assume, as easily as other students might be able to.

I don't blame them for this confusion at all. I am guilty of using the same common terms, over and over again. As an example, I use the word "elaborate" when I want my students to tell me more of something, rather than "expand." Using the same common words is not going to help my students. Especially when it comes time for state exams.

Ugh. I just got chills thinking about them. 

So, as of this year, I have been incorporating more common common core words into my teaching vocabulary.

I realize what you're probably thinking at this point, "why does she keep using 'common' in front of 'common core'... why can't she say frequently used, or something else to the like?" Well - this way seemed to grab my students attention the best, possibly as much as it grabbed yours. 

I needed to do something about this.  I wanted my students to see that there are other common core words we could be using, that have the same meaning/idea of the words we frequently used. I created Common Core Common Word posters to hang in my classroom to help with this.

I needed these posters to be vibrant, easy to read, and to the point. I came up with 24 posters in all. Sadly, they don't ALL fit on my bulletin board at one time.  I switch out posters to display words I feel we see/use most common in my room, or I switch to words we rarely ever see. It all just really depends.  There have also been times while lesson planning that I have come across words being used in both subject areas.  During these times I really like to drive my point across and hang a poster on my white board.  I want my learning support students to become as familiar with these common core words, as much as they can be.

This is also when I hear more moaning and groaning, but this time while saying, "okay - we get it already."

After a little while of using these posters, I noticed some of my students still were struggling with grasping how words from math class can also be used in their ELA class. I decided to make the posters interactive, for them to use as a reference at any time, by providing example cards. These example cards can be displayed in different ways.  I chose to display them on rings hanging from pushpins. I left these example cards blank.  I write examples of how we can use what the word means, in the subject we are currently discussing, using a dry erase marker on the laminated card.  I had began typing examples to print, but I was adding more to the examples, or changing examples through a lesson.  Keeping them blank was the best fit for me, but when opened in Powerpoint I can still easily input a text book and type my example - if I should ever choose to do so.

So... ta-da! This is it. This is how I am trying to incorporate as many common common core words as I can into my teaching vocabulary.  This is also how I am trying to familiarize my students with these words.  This is also the last time you'll have to read "common common core."

Well, from me anyways.

Find these posters in my TPT shop by clicking my name below!

How I Started Tackling the End of My School Year as an IEP Case Manager

It's the same feeling every year - I put on my Halloween top to go to work, come home, go to bed, and wake up the next day realizing it's MAY.  OK - A slight exaggeration, but I know my fellow teachers get what I'm saying. No matter how long the school year feels, the end is here before we even know it.

It never fails.  Around mid-May I find myself scrambling to collect data on my students to share with their upcoming case managers.  I also find myself receiving information, on students who will be joining my roster next year, and then having to remember where I placed it come August.

At the beginning of this current school year I decided I was going to end this year differently than I have been for the past 9 years.  I created IEP Flip Books at the beginning of this current school year, that's coming quickly to an end, so I knew what information I wanted and needed to know for my new roster students next year.  Yes - I can just look at their IEPs, but I like to have a physical copy of information about my students kept at my finger tips, for whenever I am planning over my summer months.

These "flip books" aren't like the "at a glance" sheets I keep at my desk, or IEP information sheets I send to the regular education teachers.  These are detailed flip books filled out by special education teachers, to then be used by special education teachers. It's an easy to use resource that allows the previous case manager a chance to introduce special education students that were previously on their rosters, to you!  I'd like to think of these as a way to eliminate hundreds of email and phone calls asking about a particular student.  Please Note:  I said hundreds of emails and phone calls - not ALL of them, haha!

Before I get started, there are two different flip book options: upper grades flip book and lower grades flip book.... but I'll get more into detail about the two as I go on. Each flip book comes in color or in black & white.  Print in black & white on color paper or on plain white paper.  When printed in color on white paper, the tabs really pop out!  The lower grades flip book comes with two cover options - 1 boy cover and 1 girl cover.

This flip book is made up of 7 pages (tabs)...
Student Info 

For this page I fill in student information I find to be incredibly important to know about the student within a school year.  The page is made up of information found in the student's IEP that's important, as well as information I feel should be passed along to the next case manager - based on the past year(s) of experience I've had with the student.

IEP Notes

When receiving this page from a previous case manager, I know it will be full of ALL important IEP information I can keep with me as a planning guide for the next school year.  Case Managers are able to fill out the most current IEP meeting date, the student's diagnosis, special considerations to be aware of, present levels of academic achievement, present levels of functional performance, strengths, weaknesses, etc. Nearly all pages in the flip book include an "Additional Notes" box, in the chance I have left something out.

Inside the Classroom

This page is probably my favorite, only because it eliminates SO MUCH stress for myself for next year.  I can read a student's IEP until I'm blue in the face. I can even take notes about what I read. But sometimes I still ask myself after just finishing reading an IEP, "is this student pull-out or fully included?" SO much information to take in.  However, now I have all of this information at my finger tips before the start of the next school year.  This page informs me of a student's educational placement, grades for the year, classroom accommodations & modifications, and any related services they might have received. I have also created this page to include two options for use - by quarters and by trimesters.

14 Years and Older/Tracking Academic Levels

This is where the slight difference between the upper grades flip book and the lower grades flip book happens.  I consider upper grades 6th - 12th, due to students turning 14.  The upper grades flip book comes with transition information.  If a student will be turing 14 years old sometime during the duration of the current IEP, the new case manager will be well aware.  The new case manager will also be aware of transition goals and services that have been going on, or have just started.

Those students 13 years old and younger fall in to the lower grades flip book.  This page is designed to track the students most current academic levels, to help with planning and preparing for the upcoming year. Academic levels that are tracking include letters, sight words, numbers, math facts, etc. There is also a place to record ability levels and grade equivalencies for certain academic areas.


I like knowing my students goals a decent amount of time before the school year begins.  I like being able to prepare for how I plan on measuring and collecting data, well before I actually begin doing it.  There are two different options for goal pages included.  The first option lets you write the goal, take notes on progress toward the goal, describe how progress was previously measured, as well as when progress was reported to the parent(s)/guardian(s).  The second option allows you to so all of that again, but you can also write and record objectives to go with each goal.

Student Survey

I really wanted to personalize each students' flip book so their next year's case manager would really get to know them.  I created these student surveys to do just that. Upper grades flip book has a different survey than the lower grades flip book.  This is only because of the different ages/grade levels.  Some of the information is the same, while other information is geared more towards their levels.

Extra Info

This is it - the last page! And guess what, it's TOTALLY blank.  This is where I can add any additional notes I want the case manager next year to know, that might have been missed in the pages before.  I have also included this page as an editable Powerpoint slide, for if you decide you want to customize a page in your flip book to better fit your own personal needs.

For ONCE it's nearing mid-May and I'm not stressed at all.  I have my flip books nearly all filled out and ready to give to next year's case managers.  I hope my newest method of tackling the end of the school year provides you with some help for tackling yours as well!  You can find both flip books in my TpT shop - Charley's Classroom. I hope everyone who is coming to the end of their school year, like I am, has a street free one! Or as stress free ending as one can get!


Sneak a Peek at What's Inside My IEP Meetings Binder

We are half way through the third quarter, and my IEP binder is about to burst!  Literally. I open it now and pray the rings don't pop open. I posted the photo above on Instagram, about two weeks ago, to share my nearly bursting binder with my Instagram friends.  I couldn't believe the comments and emails I received asking about what I have inside that thing - aside from a ton of papers. I was SO excited to share with everyone. But then... my gallbladder decided to bite the dust and I was in surgery the next day. Ugh. Now, finally feeling myself again, I'm ready to share a little peek into mine with you all! And please, don't be jealous of my lovely carpet background.

Let's get started. In the front pocket of all my binders, I keep note pages.  I like to have these readily available to me incase I need to jot something down super quick. My first official page in my binder is my Dates at a Glance page.  I like to have my IEP meeting due dates in the very front.  Mostly because they're easy to find if a teacher should ask me when a student's IEP is up, but also because I probably look at this section the most.

For confidentiality reasons I printed out a blank copy of my IEP Due Dates sheet. I list all of my students' names from my caseload, when their IEP is due, and circle if they also have a re-evaluation due. After each IEP meeting I cross the student's name off my list.

To the right of this page, I have a similar page for my re-evaluations that are due.  If I had circled "YES" on the IEP Due Dates page that a re-evaluation is indeed due, on the Re-Evaluation Due Dates page I list the student name and the date the re-evaluation needs to be completed by.
After my list of when IEPs are due, I have calendar pages directly behind to show when the IEP meetings are taking place, as well as other important dates pertaining to the meeting.  A few things I like to mark on the calendar pages include:
- when to send invitations home by
- when I sent invitations to the meeting home
- when I need to collect teacher input by
- when I sent the re-evaluation home
...and so on. I am currently in the middle of my tenth year being a special education teacher, and I learned very early on to write and record EVERYTHING.

Now for the reason my binder is stuffed full of papers and ready to burst open...

I guess you could say that the number of students on my caseload determines how large my binder is by the end of the year, haha! This year I have quite a few students, so this section is loaded.  On the opposite side of the Student Information cover sheet I like to keep a student roster. I list all of the students on my caseload, their grade, and their homeroom teacher.

After that it's ALL the info. In the past I've typically sectioned off my students' information by using fancy plastic dividers - keeping it nice & neat, as well as cute. When it looks good I just feel good!:) BUT - this year was different.  I had too many students and I needed all the room I could. So instead of cute dividers, I used just plain colored paper with each student's name typed up on it. I list my students in alphabetical order, making it easier for me to find them should I need to look up their reading level, their class schedule, etc.  I fill out a brief at a glance profile sheet for each student, and put it directly behind their divider sheet. After their profile sheet, I also include state and local assessments, transition surveys, teacher input, observations, report cards, parent input, etc. Basically, anything that I think is needed and important when developing their upcoming IEP.

I'd also like to add that it feels SO good to know it's all kept in one spot. Because let's be honest... sometimes my desk looks like it threw up papers, and other times papers go missing making me wonder if my desk actually ate them.

I guess my last peek for you all would be what I keep in my Extra Notes. When creating this binder, I specifically only made it as an "IEP Meetings Binder" for a reason. I wanted everything I needed for developing my IEPs to be in one spot - ok,  I realize everything is kind of impossible, but you catch my drift. My Extra Notes are basically everything else I need, but have nowhere to put. This is where I keep my daily schedule for meeting planning, list of important phone extensions, my contact log, student logins & passwords for taking online assessments, scoring guides, as well as much more.

Over the years, I've found that this is the best fit for how I feel I should have my binder set up, although I know there are many other ways it can be used/arranged!  For instance, the sections don't need to be in my order.  You don't even need to use some of the pages included in it. I don't, but I do still like knowing I have those pages if I should ever need them down the road. Maybe you don't like what I call the sections in my binder - like "Extra Notes." That's fine! I've included the option of creating your own cover pages. There are so many possibilities to play around with and test out.

Oops... one last thing. I switch up my binder themes at the beginning of each school year.  I like a fresh start. If flowers aren't your thing, check out my other IEP Meetings Binder themes in my TPT shop!

A Post: To The New Year!

What joy there is in starting a new year! New resolutions, new goals, new beginnings... and a new amount of times to write the year wrong.  I had only written it wrong 4 times today - and might I add I'm incredibly impressed with that low of a number.  BUT, with the joy of starting the new year, comes the sad end to another holiday break and having to get back into a routine again. *sigh* When I taught at the elementary level, I loved coming back and celebrating the new year with my students.  I loved hearing about what goals they had for themselves.  I think I've heard just about everything from - scoring 100% on all spelling tests to - not getting in trouble and having to miss recess.  Moving to the middle school last year changed that a bit, and it's not because they don't have spelling tests or recess anymore.  Now, they are "big kids."  Their goals and resolutions go beyond spelling tests and playing at recess.  I decided that over my holiday break I had to make something more "big kid" appropriate for my students to complete as a welcome back pack.  Luckily, being snowed in one morning allowed me plenty of time to do just that!  I decided to create a New Year "Welcome Back" Pack!

In this pack my students can review their last year's goals and achievements, as all as set new goals for the upcoming year.  My students can also write a note to their future self.  AND - because I finished and was STILL snowed in, I had extra time to make this for the 2018 and 2019 new years as well! Now, it's not like me to work THAT far in advance, but I just couldn't help myself. This resource, as well as other resources to get you ready for the new year, can be found in my TPT STORE!

I can't believe the first school day back from break is over already. I hope everyone has had a great start to their 2017 new year so far, and I wish for nothing but the best for the days in 2017 yet to come!

Managing Progress Monitoring

It’s that exciting time of the year again! Christmas music has already begun playing on my XM radio, and the first nine week’s progress reports have been completed, sent home, and filed away! OK, I’m actually only excited about the Christmas music. Progress monitoring has a way of stressing me out, especially at the beginning of a new school year. Some of the students are new to my caseload and I am just getting used to their goals and what data I need to be collecting. Whereas some of the other students on my caseload have been on my roster for four years, making it slightly easier. Over the past nine years I’ve come up with a few different ways to stay organized and on top of my data collecting, throughout each marking period.

During the eight years where I had my own pull-out classroom, my students had their own individual binders where all of their data was collected, recorded, and graphed. Oh how I miss doing this! I used data collecting sheets from my Progress Monitoring Recording Binder.  For this particular student (his binder is shown above), I collected data weekly – I didn’t fill in any information in the photos below due to confidentiality.  Sometimes I used tracking sheets with just the students’ goals on them, and other times I used the graphing sheets.  My students loved using the graphing sheets! They always wanted to see their progress and how they were improving.  On both tracking sheets, you are able to insert the date you collected data or Week 1, Week 2, …etc. Personally, I like to insert the date. Whichever sheet I choose to use, I keep documentation of the goal(s) being monitored directly behind them. Then, at the end of the marking period, I go through my Progress Monitoring Checklist to make sure I have everything I need to be completed. Over the past few years of teaching, checklists have become my best friend!

Now, that I am an inclusion teacher, I collect progress a little differently.  I collect data while in the regular class, because I unfortunately don’t have a time where I can pull them to come in to my office. All last year, as well as this current school year, I kept a Progress Monitoring binder.  This binder is part of my Inclusion/Co-Teaching Binder. I also have what I call a progress monitoring cheat sheet.  When I’m not in my office, it’s hard to remember what I’m monitoring for each student.  Some of the students in my inclusion class are on other case managers’ rosters. My “cheat sheet” reminds me of each students’ case manager, as well as their individual goal and any notes I take.  I use my Progress Tracking sheets to keep all students’ data in one spot. I create a different sheet for each class I am gathering student progress in.  I must say - this has been the best way for me to collect data, while co-teaching in the regular classroom!

A few years ago, my district decided they wanted us to send home not only the IEP progress reports, but also charts and graphs that display progress. So, I created graphs on Excel to do just that!  My Progress Monitoring Charting &Graphing in Excel is very user friendly, the teachers I work with love using it!  I created a “How to Guide” to go along with it, that shows exactly how I use this for progress monitoring in my classroom.  I save each Excel document separately, with the students’ initials in the title.  I input all information about the student’s goal at the top of the spreadsheet.  Then, when I input the data I collected into their chart, it’s automatically graphed! Yes, it’s THAT easy. Unlike my other forms of data collecting, not everything in the Excel document is able to be edited - due to the fact that I had to lock the graph and data table so the formatting wouldn’t be accidentally messed up.  I must say, out of all of the different ways progress can be reported and mailed home to my students’ parents, they love receiving it in this form!  It also makes me feel on top of my work when I can pull out graphed student progress during a meeting!

Alright, I’m not done yet. I couldn’t just stop there! I had to take collecting progress just one step further, mostly because it was at the request of one of my colleagues. I feel that I, as well as a few other teachers I know, have a love/hate relationship with post-it notes and progress monitoring. I LOVE using post-it notes as reminders and to scribble notes down on, but I HATE that they’re stuck all over my things and that sometimes I forget what it was I wanted to remember. Ugh. So, to try to help get rid of my hatred, I came up with Progress Monitoring Sticky Notes! These sticky notes will help you record data for 5 days, 9 weeks, by trimester, by quarter, and/or monthly.  They make data collecting easier, when you’re in a pinch, as well as taking notes on progress. I don’t find myself questioning what my scribbles meant.  I’ve been loving using them so much, I’m making them free for all!:) Knowing firsthand the agony that can come with collecting data and recording progress, I am all about finding different ways to make it as painless as can be!

How to Stress Less as a Special Education Inclusion/Co-Teacher With the Help of Just My Binder!

This year will mark my tenth year as a special education teacher. Yes, my TENTH! I swear it feels like I was just getting my very first classroom ready for my very first day. It's CRAZY to think about. In those ten years I've taught in a few different schools, I've taught both learning support and emotional support students, and I've had experience teaching every grade. Seriously though - kindergarten through twelfth grade. EVERY SINGLE. GRADE. This tenth year marks my fourth year of being an inclusion teacher, in both middle school ELA and math classes. 

I can't lie - I was nervous at first teaching alongside a veteran teacher in THEIR classroom, but now I couldn't see myself teaching any other way. I love seeing my students achieve their goals, while in the regular classroom setting. They love knowing they are, too! Co-teaching has so many perks. However, I felt the stress of not being in my classroom and not having everything I needed at my reach. There was also the stress of being responsible for students who are on another special education teacher's caseload. I didn't know them as well as I knew the students on my caseload. 

During my second year of inclusion teaching I HAD to do something to help cope with my stress. Eating chocolate between class periods could only do so much. I decided to create a binder that has since saved me from running from the inclusion classrooms to my classroom about fifteen times a day, as well as pestering other special education teachers about students on their caseload.  This is probably one of my most favorite products in my TpT store! I could sit here all day and tell you how HUGE of a lifesaver my co-teaching/inclusion binder has been for me these past few years, and tell you all that's included, BUT... I'd rather show you!

When I had originally created my binder, I didn't set it up in a way that it HAD to be used.  In fact, the order in which I set my binder up last year, I didn't do it the same for this year.  Each binder comes with a list of what's inside, and a list of different ways I have used mine.  So in saying that, I hope you read this post as more of a guide in how to use your binder, based on how I use mine.

As soon as I open my binder, I like having my notes and my schedule right on top! Co-teaching schedules can be a bit crazy.  It takes me a few days at the beginning of the school year to get used to mine.  When I have a substitute they always thank me for leaving my schedule right on top.  I make my schedule to be as detailed as possible, but I have also created a simpler schedule option that can be used. 

Right behind my daily schedule, I put my "Important Extensions" page.  If there is an emergency, or if I need to contact a specific teacher a student might have had the period before, I like to be able to easily access the number - without flipping through all of my binder pages.  I keep my "Contact Log" sheets right next to the important extensions.  If I don't write down who I called and the reason for the call right away, chances are I will have forgotten - sigh.  Been there done that TOO many times. 

Next up are my monthly calendars.  I keep track of all classroom assignments/due dates, tests, projects, field trips, etc. here.  Since I don't carry around my IEP Meetings Binder, I also write down when all of my IEP meetings are. Quite a few times we have had to reschedule classroom tests because I had a meeting during the same period that day and would not be available for my students who require being pulled out for testing. I used to keep my calendars at the very back.  This year they worked themselves up to the front!

You will see that I keep lesson plan notes and accommodation notes, but before all of that I like to put my "Monthly Plans & Projects" first.  Sometimes the teacher and I will use a project year after year.  Other times we will create from scratch.  I like keeping this open as a place to write down notes of upcoming monthly projects and the accommodations that will be needed. Sometimes all four of my inclusion classes have huge projects due during the same month! This really helps me stay on top of them all. 

FINALLY - this is where I go into the classrooms, but before I do that I list my "Co-Teaching Model" page first.  I use this as a personal reference, or if a substitute is reading my "Collaborative Plan" sheet they know the method of co-teaching I am referring to. Each class I co-teach in has their own cover page.  I keep it simple - i.e. "Math 8." Behind that I have pages for the student roster. On the roster pages I only list students' first names and last initial - for confidentiality reasons. I also write who their homeroom teacher is, in the event I need a student to finish work for me the following morning, as well as I circle if they have an IEP or not. I know all of students on my caseload, but at times other special education teachers have a student on their caseload in one of my classes. I have pages for keeping notes on lessons and accommodations I will need to make and I have pages to keep notes while collaboratively planning with the teacher I am co-teaching with. I look at this each morning so I know what to take to which class - it helps us all stay prepared! I also keep an attendance log for each class.  I like to know when my special education students were absent. It helps me stay on top of make-up tests/assignments for them and making sure they do not fall behind. 

Each class' section also comes with a modifications and accommodations check list. This reminds me which student receives what classroom accommodation - at a glance. It's such a useful tool! I also only list students' first names and last initial here.  In the off chance I am absent, and the regular classroom teacher is too, I like having a quick list for the substitute to be made aware of and be able to easily use.

Also included in each class section - but not shown - is a discipline referral sheet. I like to keep notes for IEP purposes in the event a behavior problem arises. 

In between each class sections, I insert the classroom rules, syllabus, assignments, tests, notes home, etc. Whatever the students receive, I make sure I have a copy of as well. It's shocking how quickly an important note home can vanish off a student's desk! However, for graded assignments, the teacher will give me the assignment or test beforehand so I am able to adapt it if needed. 

After all class sections, I keep cover sheets/dividers for make-up test/assignments and modified test/assignments.   I am fortunate enough to have a testing period built into my schedule to allow for students needing extra time taking tests or for making up a test. Having these two sections located in this binder are a HUGE help.  No more lost tests or assignments all over my desk! 

I know you other inclusion teachers probably feel my pain. I used to carry around make-up assignments for a few periods in a row actually thinking I wouldn't forget them on another teacher's desk - WRONG. 

I conduct progress monitoring weekly. I use my Progress Monitoring Recording Binder in my room for keeping track of my students' progress, but a checklist for me keeping track while I conduct progress monitoring in the inclusion classroom was NEEDED. I make Progress Monitoring a section all of its own, but keep checklists for all classes I co-teach in there. 

I keep a very brief at-a-glance copy of the IEP students’ information at the end of my binder. I like to be aware of their birthday, ability levels, if they have a related service, and any important medical information I should be made aware of. Again, for confidentiality reasons, I only use first names and last initials. This binder is never out of my sight and always located in the regular teachers’ desk drawer during instruction, but I still like to keep student information as private as I possibly can.  

As I said earlier, the stress of needing information that you know is in your desk drawer, down the hall, and three flights of steps up is eliminated with just a simple binder always on hand! 

I hope I have helped you stress less about inclusion/co-teaching and have helped guide you in how you want to set up your Inclusion/Co-Teaching Binder! As always - if you have any questions, never hesitate to contact me! 

This binder and others are all located in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

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