For the past five years or so, I have been trying to come up with a way to formally test the reading level of my non-verbal students. How do you get a reading level for a child who can't speak? How do you prove they can read? How do you know if they know they sounds the letters make when they can't say the sounds themselves. With the help of a grant from the Ontario Government's TLLP (Teacher Learning and Leadership Program) we (my EA's and myself) were able to conduct some research in the topic.
Our first thoughts when coming up with this project idea was to adapt a test that was already in existence. We had thought of the DIBELS (my American friends know this test better than me) because it is free to print off from the internet. The initial sound fluency test would be easy to do with a student who is non-verbal because they would only have to point or eye gaze to the correct answer. We also thought about adapting it for our switch users on the computer using Clicker 5.
When we took a hard look at the test we realized that it might not be as useful as we first thought. All the tests in the DIBELS have a timed component for it to be standardized. Because we would be using an alternative access method we would not want to have a time limit impossed (because a lot of our special needs students need longer testing time) and therefore would the test be valid?
Here were our thoughts on each of the tests:
Measures of Phonological Awareness:
Initial Sounds Fluency (ISF): Assesses a child's skill at identifying and producing the initial sound of a given word.
The first part of this test would be easy to administer to our non-verbal students. (eg. Which picture starts with /C/?) They could point or eye gaze to the answer. The second part requires them to state which sound a picture starts with. (eg. What does "pillow" start with?) We would have to provide our students with choices (eg "p", "c", "d" "f" on cards) and allow them to point / eye gaze to the correct answer.
Phonemic Segmentation Fluency (PSF): Assesses a child's skill at producing the individual sounds within a given word.
As our students are non-verbal, they could not do this part of the test.
Measure of Alphabetic Principle and Phonics:
Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF): Assesses a child's knowledge of letter-sound correspondences as well their ability to blend letters together to form unfamiliar "nonsense" (e.g., ut, fik, lig, etc.) words.
Oral Reading Fluency (ORF):
As our students are non-verbal, they could not do either the NWF or the ORF.
LNF: Letter Naming Fluency: How many letters could be correctly named in a given time.
Again our students could not do this part of the test.
So, for all the parts of the test that require a verbal response, we would have to alter it for our students. Therefore would the test still be valid and would it be worth spending the time adapting it or would our time be better spent creating our own test that meets the needs of our students?
In looking at various assessment packages, here are some ideas we thought would be good to include in our assessment material.
I've been trying to put together some activities for the farm. I know it's not spring yet but it takes time to get activities put together, laminated, velcro-ed etc. so I figured I had better get started now. Activities that are appropriate for all seven of my students are very difficult to find. I have one student who cannot talk at all and three children with severe speech problems that use communication books with picture symbols to aid their communication. Three children are in wheelchairs and all have fine motor difficulties. They range from JK to grade 2. With that being said they are not all behind academically.
This is an activity for matching the correct number of objects to a number. The children have to look at the number on the walkway of the coop and decide how many eggs to put in the doorways. I included choice cards for "add an egg", "take one egg away", "no that's not right" and "yes that's right" for my students with speech difficulties. For my non-speaking student, I can hold the choices up in front of him so that he can eye gaze to "add an egg" or "take one egg away" to indicate whether or not to put another egg in the coop. I can then use the yes/no cards to determine whether or not he is finished.
I have to say that this has been a stressful week. Both emotionally and physically. More so for my E.A.'s than me. That's why I thought I would take this opportunity to give them the praise they deserve. I don't know what I would do without them. Bev is my right hand man and Pam is my left. They literally know what I and the kids need before we do. I know they don't often get the credit they deserve or hear enough props. So here is a big fat THANK YOU for everything they do.
Life in a special class is never dull. From equipment, to therapy schedules, to unexpected sickness, life goes on and so does the class. We try and fit as much as we can into everyday. Snacks, lunch, music, yoga swimming, character education, bathrooming, therapy (wheelchair group, fine motor group, communication group), outside time, oh, and don't forget somewhere in there is math, literacy, science and social skills.
We have a lot of equipment in our room, well, in the hall actually. We wouldn't be able to move in the class if we kept it in there. Standers, walkers, adapted bikes, wheelchairs, special chairs and even a hospital bed at the moment.
This is the sight that greeted me on Monday morning. Woody scared the living daylights out of me. I thought someone had left a child in the bed. LOL
Well I have finally taken the plunge and jumped into the world of blogging. In the past few months I have been visiting some really great blogs by other teachers and some amazing blogs on the journey of some special children.
One thing that I've noticed though, is that there are really very few blogs for teachers of students with multiple needs. Especially the ones I teach. My students are young, mostly junior kindergarten and senior kindergarten (ages 3 to 5) and occasionally an older student (maybe grade 1 or 2). I'm hoping with this blog to provide some suggestions and lessons for teachers to use with their students, no matter what their abilities are or whether they are in a self-contained class, mainstreamed or home schooled. Everything can be adapted. You just have to be creative.