Data Don’t Lie: 4 Ways to Use Data to Improve Your Teaching

Monday, September 18, 2017

It doesn’t matter if a special education teacher has been around for 1 year, 5 years, or 15 years. The common complaint I have heard from all of my teachers is how are they supposed to keep track of all of the data that they need to collect on a daily basis! It’s enough to make a teacher’s head spin. With that in mind, I’m coming to you today to give you 4 easy tips on how to use data to inform and even improve your teaching.  

1.    Collect data from a variety of sources
I love a good analogy but sometimes my analogies don’t always pan out like they should…so, stick with me here. Imagine you have to complete a dot to dot work sheet. The problem is that only numbers 1-25 are on the dot to dot. It’s supposed to go to the number 50. You connect the dots anyway. Dot to dot to dot. When you get to 25 you step back and look at your picture. Can you tell what it is? Not completely, but you may have a decent guess. 

In the same way that not having all those dots in your picture makes it harder for you to see and know the full picture- only collecting data in 1 way makes it harder for you to see the full picture of what your student’s abilities are.  

Ultimately, when collecting IEP data you should always make sure you are collecting the data in the manner that the IEP dictates you should be collecting that data. For example, if a student has work samples as the method of collection for a benchmark, collect work samples. That doesn’t mean though that you HAVE to only collect work samples. Could you complete some observations? Sure. Anecdotal records? Of, course! Portfolio? Maybe!

I’ll go a step further and give you an example. A student completes 10 math problems on addition with regrouping. If the teacher just looks at the problems when the student is done she can see that they are all wrong. The teacher can keep that as a work sample if that is all the IEP says she must record the progress by. On the other hand, if the teacher observed her and at minimum took anecdotal notes, she could see that the issue wasn’t the actual borrowing, it may have been a certain number that was messing her up.

I’m a firm believer that good data collection can tell us a story. So, the more data points you have, the better and clearer your picture can be.

2.    Point out the positives!
Seriously! In special ed, we tend to focus our efforts on the areas where our students need to improve. That’s our jobs. We look at gaps and work hard to help student’s close those gaps.
The problem is with that way of thinking that we are never giving our students credit for the areas in which they excel. Point out their positives and also help their self-esteem in the process. It’s a win-win in my book.

3.    Empower your students to monitor their own data!
I LOVE accountability. I also love letting students see their own progress. Even still, I love when you can have their record their own data and it makes a graph like the one below.
I had some students plot out their graph’s day by day, and by letting them fill in their own charts I saw their progress grow at a faster rate than a few other students who didn’t plot their own growth.

4.    Use Evidence Based Practices
Not only are evidence based practices rooted in science and are strategies and methods that research tells us work, a lot of time data collection is built right in to them. Task analysis? Yep. Chaining? Yep. Meaningful Data collection and analysis is built into these core activities.
Seriously. Become obsessed with EBP’s and use them daily.

These four things may seem small, but honestly, if implemented they can take your data game to a whole new level. Build a great big data picture then you can have Data that Don’t lie! ;)

In Laughter & Learning, 

Easy Transition Planning Activity Ideas

Monday, August 21, 2017

Meaningful transition activities are sometimes difficult to come up with, or at times even implement. Working with teachers in many capacities - it seems most of them share a common frustration: coming up with transition activities that are relevant to their students, engaging, and authentic.
With that, I felt that a good, in-depth list of transition activities that could be utilized would help out.

So, without further ado, here is the list.

Research career options
Learn about the student’s disability
Interview a person who has a career of interest to the student
Research driver’s education training
Complete an interest inventory to learn student’s interests
Explore post secondary options and make a list of the entrance criteria
Learn how to make an “informed” decision
Learn about how to search for housing and accessing apartments for Rent
Learn about the bureau of vocational rehabilitation in your area to help with work experiences and job training
Learn about responsible consumer spending
Develop emergency procedures to use when student moves out/lives on their own.
Manage daily schedule/ work on setting up and attending appointments
Complete a resume
Fill out a job application
Cook meals independently
Learn how to do laundry
Discuss appropriate clothing to wear for certain occasions (ex. What to wear for interview? )
Locate pertinent stores and why they are valuable to the student.
Complete non-preferred activities
Complete tasks to help out around the school – gather recyclables, deliver mail to teachers, etc.
Learn about ADA and the rights student has because of the laws
Learn about credit cards

Apply for jobs
Investigate assistive technology and how the student can use it
learn effective money management skills
Learn proper heath and hygiene skills
Investigate technical career options.
Discuss future goals and family planning
If student would like to have a family- discuss needs and functions of parents
Practice proper social skills in a variety of setting
Work on unwritten rules/hidden curriculum of life with students
Investigate types of guardianship and whether or not any is needed
Learn about health insurance
Make a monthly budget
Make a list of housekeeping a student would need to complete to keep a clean apartment.
Practice interviewing skills
Learn about gross pay and take home pay
Learn about taxes
Register to vote
Take responsibility to make a social calendar and stick to it
Learn about a healthy diet and complete a simulated grocery purchase
Complete meal planning for a week
Complete phone skills training
Learn how to search for available/open jobs
Complete a service learning project
Complete a job shadowing of a job/career of interest

Field Trip
Learn how to use transit services
Identify places in the community to buy certain items and visit them to complete a shopping trip
Visit a community mental health agency and learn about when you can reach out for help if it’s ever needed.
Identify and visit social and recreational events within the community
Tour apartments in community
Investigate opportunities for volunteering in the community
Visit the library independently or with class
Visit the police station independently or with class
Visit the hospital independently or with class
Visit the fire station independently or with class
Visit the dentist independently or with class
Visit the eye doctor independently or with class
Visit and tour places of employment that students may be interested in
Visit a bank and learn the process of opening up a checking/savings account
Visit and have a meal at a restaurant-  Practice paying and tipping
Visit a laundromat / learn how to do laundry
Participate in a transition fair
Visit a nearby airport and discuss how to use the airport if needed
Visit a farm to find how food gets from farms to stores
Visit a hardware store to look for items for home/apartment improvements
Visit a clothing store and locate clothing of student’s sizes
Visit a furniture store to determine what is needed to furnish an apartment.
Visit the social security office and learn what services/ help students may be able to receive.

For a printable list, click on the picture to go to my TpT store and download the freebie!

Have anymore ideas? leave a comment below! I'd love to update the list overtime!

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