Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top Success of 2014!

Almost the last day of 2014, trying to spend a little time reflecting. 

As they would say on the RHOBH, I'm "in a good space right now" and want to focus on the positive.

Thus, my #1 most successful moment of the school year:

It has to do with a student very near and dear to my heart (as if all my stories couldn't say that)...

This student was in my class for three years and at his IEP meeting last May, it was up to his IEP team to determine if he was to take the Alternate Assessment (AASWD) or the Ohio Achievement Assessment (OAA) as a third grade student. Based on the scores from his IQ testing, he could've taken the AASWD, however, as we often know, IQ tests are not always so accurate for those with autism spectrum disorders.

The team used the flow chart from the state and determined that he should take the OAA. I was pleased with this because I believed he could. He was not two grade levels below, he was not working on an alternate curriculum... His parents agreed.

Towards the end of the meeting, we returned to the testing page and had another conversation about the tests. It was up to me to again convince the team that he could do the OAA with the allowable accommodations. I was sure he could do it. We signed off and that was that. 

Fast forward to his third grade year. I am no longer his case manager nor do I work with him at school. I do work with him privately and worked on simulating the testing conditions to complete practice tests so this was not a new experience for him. We practiced one passage and the questions 2 or 3 times each week from August through October...

...The test was coming up in two days and his teacher had an unforeseen absence the entire week of the test. Who is going to administer his OAA? I was feeling panicked. 

The day before, his teacher and I spoke on the phone and determined that I would administer his assessment. Uh oh. How will this go? What if it's too hard? Why did we do this? 

The day of the test, as I was driving into school, I had another moment of panic. What if this goes all wrong? What if this is just torture for him for three hours? What if I was wrong?

I set up our testing room with snacks I knew he would like, a visual timer, some reinforcers (M&Ms that we often use at home), pencils, erasers, water, and a white board so that I could make him a visual schedule (1. Read story. 2. Answer questions. 3. Take a break.)  I had already taught him to read the questions for each story before reading the passage. I knew he was ready. He could do this! "We got this," I thought to myself.

As the busses started rolling in that morning, I got nervous once again. Why is he taking this test? What will it tell us about him? What if I was wrong?

Too late now.

I got his testing booklet and picked him up after the morning announcements. We read a social story about doing your best and continuing to work until the test was done. We read the visual schedule to show that he would do one passage and the questions then take a break. Then he was ready.

As he opened the booklet and saw the story, he said "read the questions to me first," just like we had practiced. I read the questions and answer choices aloud to him and then he proceeded to read the passage.

Throughout the next hour and a half, he was rewarded with M&Ms, break time, theraputty, and a short walk to the water fountain. He read every passage out loud without assistance. He answered every question in the booklet with prompts only to "color the circle darker." 

As he colored in the last circle in the booklet, I could feel my tears... 

We closed the book, I shouted, "You did it! You really did it." I gave him a small round of applause as he said "no please" and pushed my hands down. 

I took him back to his resource room and walked his test booklet back to his home room. I was crying. He did it. He really did it.

And it was better than my Super Bowl. He did it.

And I didn't know what score he would earn. The written expression questions were tough. Answering questions with whole sentences was tough. 

His score didn't matter. His score does NOT matter.

I could have never seen his score and it would've still been one of the proudest moments of my 12 year career.

He did it.

He proved he could do it.

No "meltdowns," no "behaviors."

He did it.

I could not have been more proud.

He did it.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Success!!! Top 2 of the year...

Because lots of people are probably making lists or countdowns this week, I've been attempting to reflect on my ten most successful moments in the year 2014...

Truthfully, I try not to think of the school year before July and so I've settled on my two (yes two) most successful classroom moments of 2014.

Here's the big reveal:

The #2 most awesome classroom moment of 2014.... Wait for it...

This year I teach reading intervention. I do interventions with students in grades k-3 who have shown consistent difficulty on reading assessments like the DIBELS, the DRA, the STAR Enterprise, and the Wonders Reading Assessments... I give at least one "test" every other week to check on our progress. Luckily, some of the assessments only take about three minutes but the STAR Reading test is 34 long questions. I give this only once a month and we get ready for this assessment by talking about our past scores (the color band the score falls in, not the actual number) and trying to figure out how to get a better score. (By the way, YES, I HATE that this story revolves around a test. But it gets better.)

I discovered at the beginning of the school year that the majority of my students were getting terribly low scores, not because they couldn't read the test, but because they were choosing not to read the test questions. They didn't believe they could do it, so... Why try? THIS HAD TO CHANGE!

So.. I use the behavior plan that we have set up in class and give out "tokens" throughout the test when I see that the students are ACTUALLY READING THE QUESTIONS! They also get tokens for correct answers when I catch them while I am monitoring all 4 students. (Students later use the tokens to buy extra time on the iPads, computers, and prizes from the prize box.) 

(You're welcome for the background.)

Now, onto the success!

I have a seven year old second grader who told me at the beginning of the year, "I'm lazy, that's why I can't read." At the time, I made a mental note to address this and moved on. Throughout the year, I have not allowed her to use this excuse throughout her thirty minute sessions with me, but she liked to employ this belief on the.... Surprise, surprise... STAR Reading test.

By November, we  mostly had this thing down. You move up a color band, you get tokens, candy, and some major praise. She still didn't care much and moved up only 3-5 points each month. By November, she'd had enough. She whizzed through the test and answered all 34 questions in less than 15 minutes while I was attending to another student. "No way," I said. "You didn't read it. You are so smart and you aren't even trying. You have to show people you're smart. You are taking this again during recess tomorrow." (Now, I do NOT believe in taking recess away from kids, and so I found a time with her home room teacher to take the test the next day that did not include recess.) 

The next day, she showed up. "I'm going to sit next to you and listen to you read the whole test," I said.

She began. First question timed out while she read it. Second question timed out while she read it. Third question, she just looked at me. "Try this," I said. "Remember when I said READ THE QUESTION FIRST? Let's try it." She read the question out loud. Then she started reading the paragraph and the answer was in the first sentence. She looked at me and smiled and I could actually see the light bulb go on. Got the answer. Next question, "Read the question first." She did it again. Got it. By the sixth question, she was starting to feel successful. By the eighth question, I didn't need to prompt her to read the question first. By the 34th question after over 40 minutes, she had done it. She finished the questions, read every last one, and she had really tried. 


But the story doesn't end there. 

We decided to look up the score (with my fingers and toes crossed that I would be able to show her what happens when you try).

And then I almost fell out of my chair. She went from the second lowest score in second grade, in the red (red, yellow, blue and green are the color bands that show the national percentiles) to the top of the BLUE!!! 

My co-teacher and I started yelling and jumping up and down and said "Look! Look what happens you try! You tried, you tried! We're so happy you tried!" 

"Doesn't it feel good? Doesn't it feel good that you tried?"

I printed out her score in a graph so that she could see how high her score went when she just tried. We highlighted it and passed it around and went to the office to show the ladies there. I said "Tell them what you did." ( I thought she would say something about improving her test score. ) 

She said...

"I tried!"

Her smile was so big. And she was so proud.

There it is! Success!

She has not missed one "optional" homework assignment since that day. 

Her score skyrocketed into the GREEN in December.


It wasn't about the test. It wasn't about the color band or the national percentile score.


She really tried.

And she's still trying.

And I'm praying that she keeps it up when we get back after break. 

She tried!

She tried!

Whoooo hooooo!