TTL Cover 3For most of my teaching career, I’ve been teaching my special needs high school students strategies to enable them to help themselves to graduate from high school. I’m always extra proud of my special needs students  when they walk across the stage at graduation and receive their high school diploma. They’ve made it. They’re ready for the next phase of their lives.  But are they? Are they really ready for the next phase of  their lives as start up adults  simply because they’ve earned a high school diploma? 

Susan Traugh a mom of a special needs student and an advocate for special needs teens and their teachers recognized from personal experience simply because students graduate from high school they aren’t necessarily well prepared for life after school.  Susan wrote Transition 2 Life  to help teachers help their students better prepare themselves for life after high school.  I think Transition 2 Life is an excellent resource because it helps students develop the practical skills they need in an engaging way to successfully navigate their way through their daily lives.

I invited Susan to tell us about herself because I think Transition 2 Life is an excellent resource to help students better prepare themselves for life.

 

Susan Traugh- author of Transition 2 Life

Like so many parents of special needs teens, I was frantically fighting to help my son get through his high school classes so he could graduate and get a diploma.  Matt was really struggling to pass his math and science classes and my husband and I spent many hours every night trying to eek out those last few test points that might put him over the top.  Housework was secondary to homework, and we didn’t push him to get a job or do much community service as we put all our energy into class work.

When he graduated, we were ecstatic and felt like a major hurdle had been crossed.  And it had.  But as the weeks and months passed after high school, we realized that, while Algebra was important to get that diploma, balancing a check book or being able to read a map in order to drive to the bank were much more important in life.  And, we found that we’d been so focused ON graduation that we hadn’t supplied him with the life skills he’d need AFTER graduation.

Matt’s special education teacher also had a son Matt’s age and realized she, too, had focused on class work to the exclusion of life work.  So, we set out together to find a life skills program to help our boys.  As we looked, we found that programs were either written for teachers with lots of theory and educational jargon, or they were written for “children” without respect for a teen’s maturity and sensibilities.  The more we looked, the more dissatisfied we became.

But, the real impetus for action came with one frantic phone call.  I picked up the phone to hear Matt’s panicked voice.  His brain injury had destroyed the spatial skills center of his brain and made it hard for him to keep “a map” in his head.  We’d gotten him a GPS and he’d agreed to only drive within our city.  We thought we were covered.

But, on this night his GPS had failed. Matt had tried to find his way home and, when he got turned around, panicked and ended up making a left-hand turn into oncoming traffic.  When he called, he was stopped in the middle of the street, facing the wrong way.  He knew he was close to home (less than one-half mile away) but didn’t know how to get there.  I had him pull into a parking lot to calm down then talked him all the way home.

I called Matt’s teacher the next day and began writing my own curriculum.

Transition 2 Life was developed to give mild-to-moderately affected special needs teens a program that they can work on independently, modify to their own needs and then walk away with a portfolio that they can use during the first few years of their young adult life to navigate that transition.  Written on a third-grade reading level, it has light, airy pages with lots of bullet points and a font and pictures selected by the students who piloted the program.  And because I know how hard Matt’s teacher works each day, the program is teacher-friendly, with built-in grading sheets, federally mandated goals tied to the lesson plans and pre-printed parent letters so she can let folks know how they can help their teens at home.

Units include lessons on understanding their own Individual Education Plan (IEP), learning styles and career aptitude, writing resumes and business letters, using an ATM machine and balancing a budget, filling out job and college applications, advocating for themselves, and answering the phone.

And, yes, there’s a unit on transportation and how to get around in your home town…or around the country.

The program has been enthusiastically accepted here in California and, in fact, teacher requests have prompted us to write another series, called Daily Living Skills, which creates more in-depth units on basic adult skills such as grocery shopping, house cleaning or meal planning.  All books are sold at: www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Susan-Traugh.

It’s hard keeping all the plates spinning when you’re the parent (or teacher) of a special needs student.  Things that other parents can take for granted must be taught, and taught thoroughly, to our kids.  But, there are rewards.

Matt just took a 600 mile road trip with his sister to Utah.  Before he left, he came to go over the map and verify he knew the directions.  But, after reassuring himself, they got into the car, full of smiles and self-confidence, and went on their way.  Now, that’s a life skill.

For most of my teaching career, I’ve been teaching my special needs high school students strategies to enable them to help themselves to graduate from high school. I’m always extra proud of them when they walk across the stage at graduation and receive their high school diploma. They’ve made it. They’re ready for the next phase of their life.  But are they? Are they really ready for the next stage of life simply because they’ve earned a high school diploma? 

 

Susan Traugh a mom of a special needs student and an advocate for special needs teens and their teachers recognized from personal experience simply because students graduate from high school they aren’t necessarily well prepared for life after school.  To help teachers help students better prepare themselves for life after high school, Susan wrote Transition 2 Life.  I think it is an excellent resource because it helps students develop the practical skills they need to successfully navigate their way through their daily lives

 

I invited Susan to tell us about herself because I think Transition 2 Life is an excellent resource to help students better prepare themselves for life after high school.

 

Susan Traugh- author of Transition 2 Life

 

Like so many parents of special needs teens, I was frantically fighting to help my son get through his high school classes so he could graduate and get a diploma.  Matt was really struggling to pass his math and science classes and my husband and I spent many hours every night trying to eek out those last few test points that might put him over the top.  Housework was secondary to homework, and we didn’t push him to get a job or do much community service as we put all our energy into class work.

            When he graduated, we were ecstatic and felt like a major hurdle had been crossed.  And it had.  But as the weeks and months passed after high school, we realized that, while Algebra was important to get that diploma, balancing a check book or being able to read a map in order to drive to the bank were much more important in life.  And, we found that we’d been so focused ON graduation that we hadn’t supplied him with the life skills he’d need AFTER graduation.

Matt’s special education teacher also had a son Matt’s age and realized she, too, had focused on class work to the exclusion of life work.  So, we set out together to find a life skills program to help our boys.  As we looked, we found that programs were either written for teachers with lots of theory and educational jargon, or they were written for “children” without respect for a teen’s maturity and sensibilities.  The more we looked, the more dissatisfied we became.

            But, the real impetus for action came with one frantic phone call.  I picked up the phone to hear Matt’s panicked voice.  His brain injury had destroyed the spatial skills center of his brain and made it hard for him to keep “a map” in his head.  We’d gotten him a GPS and he’d agreed to only drive within our city.  We thought we were covered.

            But, on this night his GPS had failed. Matt had tried to find his way home and, when he got turned around, panicked and ended up making a left-hand turn into oncoming traffic.  When he called, he was stopped in the middle of the street, facing the wrong way.  He knew he was close to home (less than one-half mile away) but didn’t know how to get there.  I had him pull into a parking lot to calm down then talked him all the way home.

            I called Matt’s teacher the next day and began writing my own curriculum.

            Transition 2 Life was developed to give mild-to-moderately affected special needs teens a program that they can work on independently, modify to their own needs and then walk away with a portfolio that they can use during the first few years of their young adult life to navigate that transition.  Written on a third-grade reading level, it has light, airy pages with lots of bullet points and a font and pictures selected by the students who piloted the program.  And because I know how hard Matt’s teacher works each day, the program is teacher-friendly, with built-in grading sheets, federally mandated goals tied to the lesson plans and pre-printed parent letters so she can let folks know how they can help their teens at home.

            Units include lessons on understanding their own Individual Education Plan (IEP), learning styles and career aptitude, writing resumes and business letters, using an ATM machine and balancing a budget, filling out job and college applications, advocating for themselves, and answering the phone. 

And, yes, there’s a unit on transportation and how to get around in your home town…or around the country.

The program has been enthusiastically accepted here in California and, in fact, teacher requests have prompted us to write another series, called Daily Living Skills, which creates more in-depth units on basic adult skills such as grocery shopping, house cleaning or meal planning.  All books are sold at: www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Susan-Traugh.

It’s hard keeping all the plates spinning when you’re the parent (or teacher) of a special needs student.  Things that other parents can take for granted must be taught, and taught thoroughly, to our kids.  But, there are rewards. 

Matt just took a 600 mile road trip with his sister to Utah.  Before he left, he came to go over the map and verify he knew the directions.  But, after reassuring himself, they got into the car, full of smiles and self-confidence, and went on their way.  Now, that’s a life skill.

           

Student preparing for exams

Student preparing for exams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s the second week of June  and that means it’s time for students to start to prepare for final exams.  A recent study found 84 percent  of students prepare for tests and exams by rereading  the material.  Fifty-five percent of students in the study believe rereading material was the best way to prepare for tests and exams. But,rereading material  proved not to be the best way to prepare for exams. The most successful way to prepare for exams is quizzing.   Yet, only 11 percent of  students reported they quizzed themselves to prepare for tests and exams. Students who used quizzing  as a study strategy  correctly answered 65 percent of questions taken directly from text and 70 percent of questions that required inference and making connections across concepts. That is an increase of 10 percent for direct questions and a 10 percent increase for inference questions.

A 10 percent increase is significant.  I would be absolutely delighted if my students could demonstrate a 10 percent increase in their learning. In the past, I have encouraged students to create quizzes about the material as part of their study plan. But, some students were not convinced it was worth the effort.  Now, I have data to share with students  to  support the contention that creating quizzes is a successful study practice.

I encourage my students to create a learning or study plan because  it makes them responsible for preparing for exams and gives them a sense of being in control of the process. They can differentiate their study strategy to suit their individual learning preferences and strengths.

 

The plan includes the following headings

  1. What I need to know;
  2.  When am I going to study;
  3. How am I going to organize what I need to know;
  4. How am I going to remember what I need to know;
  5. How will I know I have learned the material I need to know.

 

If you like, I can email you a copy of the handout. Just leave a request in the comment box below.  I’d be delighted to share my learning plan with you.  students have told me it is helpful and have gone on to use it at college.

 

 

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Students taking a test at the University of Vi...
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It’s that time of year again.  Time for students to create a learning plan in preparation for taking  their final exams.  Many of my students who have learning disabilities have difficulty knowing how to plan to study for exams.  They don’t realize that having a learning  plan will make studying more effective  and help them get better outcomes.  I remind my students from time to time if  they want different outcomes then they need to chose to do things differently.  The problem for some students is that they don’t know what to do when it comes to studying. The learning plan I have them complete helps them structure their exam or test preparation and helps them achieve better results.

In class, we have talked about learning styles and students have completed questionnaires to determine their preferred learning style.  We also talked about which strategies are useful for which learning styles.  Armed with this information, students can create a differentiated learning plan that meets their specific  needs.

Learning Plan

Name______________________ Date _____________________________

Subject ____________________________________ Exam Date ________________________

Location __________

A. What I Need to Know

Topics you have studied this semester Key Points
1
2
3
4

B. When I’m Going to Study

Plan at least three study dates and times.

Date
Time

C. How I’m going to Organize What I Need to Know

Organize the information you need to learn in any of the strategies below.

1. Create a list of what you need to know.

2. Create a graphic organizer for what you need to know.

3. Use mnemonics to help you remember what you need to know, eg BEDMAS

4. Draw a picture of what you need to know.

5. Other _______________

D. How I’m Going to Remember What I Need to Know.

Choose at least two methods to help you remember the information . Refer to the strategies for each learning style in the online article above.

Examples-

1. Draw pictures so you can see the info in your mind.(Visual learners)

2. Highlight important information in notes. (Visual learners)

3. Read the material aloud so you can hear it. (Auditory learners)

4. Listen to someone read the material to you. (Auditory learners)

5. Write the material out repeatedly and read it aloud as you are writing it out. (Kinesthetic and auditory learners)

6. Walk around the room while you are reading the material aloud. (Kinesthetic and auditory learners)

E. How will I Know That I’ve Learned What I Need to Know

Choose any method of self-testing and submit the self-test.

1. Answer questions from examples in your text books.

2. Answer questions from your homework.

3. Answer questions from other students.

4. Other_____________________________________

If you have any suggestions for improving this learning plan, I would appreciate hearing them.  I’m thinking that it could be better.  Perhaps you even have a learning plan of your own for your students that you might like to share.  I would be delighted to post it here and share it with others, giving you credit of course.

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Recent PD sessions at our school have focused on assessment- assessment  for learning, as learning and of learning. The message I took away from one of these sessions was that I ought to be inviting my students to take more ownership of their learning.

I’ve  been thinking about this for a bit and decided to look for an opportunity to do just that, so when a few of my grade 12 students asked me what they should take at college next year, I decided here was my chance to invite my students to take more ownership of their learning.

We talked about how you would go about finding out what to take at college. Someone remembered a program called Career Cruising that he used in the grade 10 Careers course, but he had forgot what the results were.  Career Cruising suggests what careers students might be interested in pursuing and what education or training  is required for that career after they complete an extensive on-line survey about interests and affinities. Everyone in the class decided they wanted to use Career Cruising to see what came up.

That was great.They had started to take more ownership of their learning- deciding what to learn. Then, right on cue, one of the students suggested they do a major project on this.  He wanted to create a PowerPoint presentation to present his research results because he was good at doing PowerPoint presentations and that would raise his mark. (We’re not at the learning for the sake of learning point yet. :)

That was fine with me, and I asked the others how would they like to share their results.  Some said they’d like to use a PowerPoint presentation, others said they’d like to use a VoiceThread presentation.  A few even wanted to do a an essay. I told them that was fine with me. They looked a bit puzzled when I agreed to everything, but didn’t say anything.

Then I raised the question about evaluation. I suggested they could create a rubric, a checklist etc to evaluate their work.  It was up to them.  Again, they looked a bit puzzled, but didn’t say anything. I did suggest there was a certain process I would like them to follow. We discussed it, and they were in agreement.  I wanted to give them some guidance for  process. I’m hoping they see the value in it.  I’ll ask about the process in the reflection I’m having them do.

This is the process.

1.  Explore Career Crusing to discover careers that interest you. Choose two. One will be a back-up just in case your first choice doesn’t pan out.

2. Decide how you want to  share the information about the careers you have chosen – VoiceThread , PowerPoint, etc.  It’s up to you.

3.  Create a rubric, check list whatever  to evaluate your work. Have two peers edit your evaluation tool- one will edit the first draft, then you’ll make corrections, additions etc. and then the second editor will edit the second draft .  Then use those suggestions to create a good copy of your evaluation tool.  Have the editors complete the editor’s feedback form  indicating  they’ve edited the evaluation tool and have given you feed back about  it .

4.  Start creating the presentation.

5. Use a graphic organizer of your choice to show what info and graphics you’ll present during your presentation. Make a copy and submit it to me.

6.  Create a rough draft of your presentation including any graphics and the script you will be using.

7. Show the rough draft of your presentation to two peers editors as discussed earlier to get feed back.   Have them complete the editor’s feedback form indicating they’ve edited the draft and gave you feed back about  the presentation.  Create the good copy of your presentation using the suggestions the editors gave you.

7.  Share your presentation with us, but  first distribute a copy of your evaluation tool to each class member so that we can evaluate your presentation.

8.  Collect the evaluations and submit them along with the two rough drafts and the good copy of the presentation.

9.  Finally, complete the reflection about your assignment and submit everything to me. Thank you.

It will be interesting to read the students’ reflections about the assignment.  They’ll  inform the next assignment we do.

I’d appreciate any comments or suggestions about the process. I’m learning to give my students more ownership of their learning and would appreciate your recommendations.  Thanks.

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