5 Quick & Easy Ideas to Motivate Your Students in Math

Image of 3 digits workbook with phone, math bingo sheet, and countdown card with text 5 Quick & Easy Math Ideas to Motivate your Students
In my small math groups, we are often doing HARD work. We do it repeatedly in order to make it easier. But doing 3-Digit computation over and over can be frustrating and easy to avoid for our students with disabilities. I've been working to find 5 quick and easy ideas to motivate my students in math by encouraging them to keep working hard and trying difficult tasks.

Math Intervention Workbook with Countdown/Token Board

Countdown or Token Board

I like to use a countdown or token board as a motivator to keep my students going. I add a number to the countdown board with each and every step of the problem. They can quickly earn rewards, such as a skittle, m&m, gummy bear, or goldfish. I like to use this for students who need behavior interventions or for students who are really struggling. It helps break up the tasks in small pieces. 

Math Intervention Workbook with Images of Assorted Candy


Speaking of candy, I like to give students candy to keep them motivated. Most kids will do anything for an m&m or two. If you are ok with giving your students candy, these are a few of my favorites. 

Math Intervention Workbook with Math Bingo and Pencil


My kids LOVE any kind of bingo, and math bingo is no exceptions. I write the answers on the board ahead of time and have the students add the numbers to their bingo boards. 

We solve the problems and mark them off on our bingo boards to see if we get a BINGO! I usually let the winner get a prize from the prize box. 

Math Intervention Workbook with Hand Holding Post It Note with Number 5

Mystery Problem

Once my students are a little more proficient at solving problems, I like to help them transition to being more independent. I do this by picking a mystery problem. I write the number on a Post-It note before we get started. 

Once they finish all of the problems, I check to see who has the mystery problem correct. Whoever has the problem correct can get a sticker, pick a prize, or be the line leader. The choices for the reward are endless!

Math Intervention Workbook with Phone with Timer

Prize Box Problem

This is such a simple and easy way to get your students excited about computation! I have timers set to go off each and every day at 1:00 and 1:25. This is about 15 minutes into our group. When the timer goes off, our next problem becomes our Prize Box Problem! 

This also helps ensure that we have time to complete the right hand side of our page. These computation problems can take a LONG time, especially if we are just learning the skill. It is a great way to motivate them to try something independently instead of relying on the rest of the group for answers. 

These 5 quick and easy ideas to motivate your students in math will help make your small groups run more efficiently and motivate your students to do their best! I mean who wouldn't want that?!

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Would you like a free week of my 2-Digit and 3-Digit math interventions? They have saved me so much time and provided consistent intervention for my students. Plus, I've seen amazing growth in my students. Click here or the image above to grab the free week. 

How to Make a Progress Monitoring Tub

Progress monitoring is a necessary part of being a Special Education Teacher. It is important to student growth, but it shouldn't take a lot of time. For me, I save time by creating a progress monitoring tub full of all of the essentials for assessing my students. 

Progress Monitoring Storage

Let's first start with the container. As teachers, we LOVE containers, tubs, and all things cute storage. I love this ice cube chest from Amazon. It is large enough to hold file folders, but it is still small enough to carry around easily. 

Progress Monitoring for Specific Skills

I have various lists and rings filled with all of the things that I would commonly assess my students on. These might be lists of letters, numbers, decodable words, or sight words. They are easy to pull out and quickly assess a student's progress. 

I also have quick counting, math fact, and math computation assessments. 

Nonsense Words

I have several kids who are excellent at memorization. I use nonsense words to assess them on their abiity to decode words that follow typical spelling patterns. I have these on word rings, as well as printed lists, just like real words. 

Informal Assessments

I keep a clipboard with all of my informal assessments. I use these to assess move-in students and students being evaluated. It help me get a quick snapshot of their strengths and weaknesses. 

You can click here to find these informal assessments on TpT

Writing Utensils

I always try to keep a handful of pencils and my favorite pen in my progress monitoring tub. Typically, if I'm assessing something, it is in the hallway during my prep. I need to have everything that we will need to make that assessment faster. They'll need a pencil to solve math problems and complete a spelling test, depending on the tests that I need to give them. 

Sticks or Other Rewards

Depending on the student and the assessments you give, assessing them could be tough. I like to keep stickers or other motivational rewards handy. You never know when you might need them in order to bribe a student to get the results you need. 

Special Education: What To Do in 30 Minute Groups

As a special education teacher, there are literally NEVER enough minutes in the school day. I do my best to make the most of the precious minutes that I have with my students, even if it's only for 30 minutes! 

For my reading groups, I typically have thirty minutes on my daily schedule. With transition time, I don't always have a full thirty minutes. I split my time between spelling and reading. In the images and descriptions below, you'll find a breakdown of the amount of time I spend each day on each area. 

I introduce a new phoneme or phonemes to my students. That will be a focus for the entire week. Depending on the level of my students, we have 5 or 10 spelling words. Some of my kids could probably handle larger lists, but I have found that adds to the amount of time focusing on spelling rather than reading. 

For reading, I utilize my reading intervention to help my students cover a write array of reading skills in a short period of time. We also have words in our daily passages that review the new phoneme and review old phonemes. 

On Tuesday, we use our letter tiles to spell our spelling words. I utilize my dry erase board to help my students fill in missing letters, stretch the words together, and provide a visual to organize the sounds as they hear them. 

Using Day 2 of our weekly reading book, we practice the same phoneme, review high frequency words, read together orally, and work to better understand what we are reading. 

On Wednesday, we take a practice test. I usually let my students use dry erase boards or Boogie Boards. It is a fun way to help them gauge their progress with the new phoneme. It also gives me a chance to see how they are doing. 

In reading, we grab our leveled readers and work through our daily routine! They love to do fluency checks on Wednesdays. It is a fun way for them to measure their own progress. 

We take our spelling test on Thursday. For a while, I was trying to do a spelling test on the same day as our reading and math tests. It just became too overwhelming for the kids...and ME! We were pushed for time, and I felt like I was constantly rushing them. I like that I can slow down and dedicate a fair amount of time to our spelling test. 

After spelling, we switch to our reading books and continue reading. My students are able to check their fluency, review both past and current phonemes, and write a sentence that I dictate to them. 

Friday is NOT my favorite day of the week, guys! I feel like all I get done is test, test, test. I pull my students a little differently on Fridays. Instead of pulling ability based groups, I usually pull them based on their homeroom on Friday. I helps if teachers in the same grade level aren't on the same reading story or math lesson. Most of the time time they are, but there are always weeks where we are thrown off. 

Did you notice that I referred to that leveled reader several times? Well, they've been a lifesaver for me. It helps me ensure that I'm doing all that I can for my students. It also saves me time when it comes to planning each week. 

If you want to give it a shot, I have a free week! You can download it by clicking here. 

If you've already gotten the free week, you might be wondering where you can get MORE! If you'd like to check them out, click here to see them on TpT. 

5 Professional Development Books for Special Education

I love to read. I'm also a total nerd when it comes to professional development and learning new things. I literally have bookshelves full of books. Some I've read. Others are on my "To Be Read" list. 

I feel like there is always something to learn in special education: a new strategy, developing research, a mindset shift. We can never learn or know enough. I hope that you will take a minute to browse these books and see if any of these areas are a good fit for you to read this summer. 

Pre-Referral Intervention Manual

This book is literally in every single school that I've ever worked in. That's how important it is. I have also rarely seen it utilized to it's fullest potential. In this book, you'll find THOUSANDS of researched based strategies for so many learning and behavioral difficulties. 

When you are asked what researched based strategies you are using for your students or students in the referral process, this is your go to. What I love most, you are already doing so many researched based strategies without even knowing it. This book is extremely valuable and easy to use! 

Phonological Awareness Assessment Tools & Strategies

If you read ANYTHING about Dyslexia, you'll quickly realize the important of phonological awareness. For me, I was asking myself what I could do to help my kids improve in this area. 

I received this book when I attended an Orton-Gillingham training last year. The activities inside are GOLD. They are simple, easy, and fun for the students to do. In many cases, they don't require any materials OR they can be done with things you already have around your home or classroom. It also breaks down strategies for things that you would do in Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3. 

The Complete Learning Disabilities Handbook

I'll be honest. This one isn't a fun read. This was actually a book that I had to buy when I was working on my masters. It is big and really thing, but it is LOADED with strategies for you to use with your students. When I am working on a new product line or struggling with a student who isn't making progress, I reference this book. 

Take Control of Dyslexia & Other Reading Difficulties

I LOVE this book. It is actually designed for students and adults with dyslexia to read themselves. However, I don't believe that it's just for people WITH dyslexia. I think it's also for people who will be HELPING people with dyslexia grow and learn. 

In this book, it discusses strategies for becoming a better reader, as well as explaining what dyslexia is and how we need to get to know our own learning style. It is a quick, easy read that is very helpful for teachers and parents. I plan to keep a few copies of this on my bookshelf at school to loan to general education teachers and parents. 

Differentiation and the Brain

This book is very heavy, like in research not weight! It dives deep into the neuroscience behind differentiation to allow us to help our students. It is a unique book that offers a great understanding of WHY we need to differentiate for our students and HOW we can make that happen. 

Special education teachers, I have something just for YOU! I have a free week of reading intervention that helps me tackle all sorts of challenging areas for my students. You can download it by clicking this link or the image above. 

Small Group Routines: 7 Quick and Simple Things to Do Every Day

In special education, our time is precious. Routines help to accomplish many tasks on a daily or weekly basis to ensure that our students are getting well rounded instruction. I use these routines to accomplish practice basic skills in my small reading groups.

Blending Words

I lay out different letter cards on the table. What cards I have laid out depend on what group I have. In my lowest level group we work on CVC words where we have a vowel in the middle and we work on creating real and nonsense words that imitate CVC words. We work on stretching out the words. My students will give me a thumbs up if it is a real word and a thumbs down if it is a nonsense word. 

Manipulating Sounds

I build on manipulating sounds by having my students change on letter to spell a new word. Example of this would be change the word cat into fat. These words then become their spelling words for the week. I try to start with changing the beginning sounds then end with changing the end sound. 

Sight Word Hunt

When working on sight words I like to work on the students seeing them in their reading and tapping them (if you are familiar with Orton-Gillingham you know exactly what I am talking about). After using the tapping method multiple times we then look in our text for the sight word. Once we find our words we use highlighters to highlight the words. We also highlight our decode-able words. 

Echo Reading

After our sight word hunt we begin reading our level reader that we use. Most days we read our text three times. The first time reading is an echo reading. I read one sentence then the student's echo me. We continue this until we finish the story. This helps the students hear the story being read fluently and see the words in the story from the very beginning. 

Cloze Reading

The scond time reading the story we do a cloze reading. With this type of reading I read a majority of the sentence then I pause and I need the students to help me fill in the next word. This makes the students work on tracking, makes them focus more attention on the text, and gives them a purpose by helping me read. It also helps reinforce decode-able words, sight words, and words we have worked on in the previous weeks. These are the words that I usually stop on and ask for their help.

Fluency Passages

Reading fluency is something I just started implementing this year. We want our students to be good readers! One way to help make our students into good confident readers is by doing reading fluency. I started this in my groups by having my students read the first two passages at the beginning of the week and then reread those same two passages at the end of the week as reading fluency passages. We work together to read the passages three times to a timer (they start reading when the timer starts). I do sit and monitor the students one on one, but most of the time they are reading by themselves. This will help your students become better, faster readers, and build more stamina. 

Rhyming Words

Rhyming words is something that is hard for our kids. To help my kids become more successful with rhyming words I bought a cheap set of rhyming word flashcards that way I would know all the words had something that would rhyme with them. I put these cards in one of my baskets and I pull them out when we have time. I show the students the card and I ask them if they can come up with a word that for example rhymes with man. We take turns listing the words because many words can rhyme with the word man. This gives everyone an opportunity to come up with a rhyming word. This is an easy activity to pull out when you only have a few minutes left of group, while you are waiting to transition, or when you are in the hallways walking them to or from class. 

Did you notice that I referred to that leveled reader several times? Well, they've been a lifesaver for me. It helps me ensure that I'm doing all that I can for my students. It also saves me time when it comes to planning each week. 

If you want to give it a shot, I have a free week! You can download it by clicking here. 

If you've already gotten the free week, you might be wondering where you can get MORE! If you'd like to check them out, click here to see them on TpT. 

Special Education Teachers: What supplies do I need most?

Image of school supplies with text Special Education Teachers: The Ultimate List of Back to School Supplies
It's almost that time! Depending on where you live, you will soon be seeing sales for school supplies. For us teachers seeing those school supplies can put us into two moods. First mood is give me all the school supplies I can get because who doesn't love new school supplies? The another mood is summer is not over so do not even think about getting out those school supplies! I am one where I get excited about new school supplies and a new year!  As a special education teacher in a resource room, what school supplies do I need most?!

We often don't have students who are bringing in backpacks full of pencils, notebooks, and folders. It's up to us to stock up for those particular students. I secretly love this! Below, you'll find my supplies for the resource room that I find most valuable for students to use as well as what I need to keep myself organized and prep activities. 

Supplies You'll Need Most f Student Use

  1. Notebooks
  2. Folders
  3. Pencils (a LOT of pencils!)
  4. Erasers
  5. Crayons
  6. Scissors
  7. Glue Sticks
  8. Markers
  9. Scented Markers
  10. Colored Pens
  11. Highlighters
  12. Post-It Notes
  13. Privacy Folders
  14. Math Manipulatives
  15. Hundreds Charts
  16. Multiplication Charts
  17. Spinners
  18. Dice
  19. Clipboards

Supplies You'll Need to Stay Organized

  1. File Folders for Each Student (I like hanging file folders!)
  2. Binders
  3. Binder Tabs
  4. Post-It Notes
  5. Your Favorite Pens
  6. Calendar
  7. Highlighters
  8. Clipboards

Supplies You'll Need to Prep Lessons & Activities

  1. Laminator
  2. Laminating Sheets
  3. Velcro
  4. Colored Printer Paper
  5. Cardstock
  6. Spring Loaded Scissors
  7. Paper Cutter
  8. Ziplock Bags
  9. Sharpies
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I've also been loving this reading intervention. I have a free week for you to try! Click this link or the image above to snag it for free. 

How to Use Graphs to Make Progress Monitoring EASY

Picture of two reading goal graphs with text Using Graphs to Simplify Progress Monitoring
Progress monitoring is overwhelming. Trust me. I know. It is one of the hardest things about being a special education teacher. It's also the most essential.

So, how can we make progress monitoring easier and save time? I think that using goal graphs make progress monitoring easy and can make our lives as special education teachers EASIER!

How to Use Graphs to Make Progress Monitoring EASY:

Option 1: The Progress Monitoring Binder

Inside my progress monitoring binder, I have tab for each student. I also have a graph for each goal that my students have. Because I'm a bit of a control freak, I add the data myself and do all of the coloring. 

I love to take these graphs to IEP meetings, parent teacher conferences, or use to show students a visual of their own progress. 

Option 2: Student Data Folders

This year, I promised myself that I would do something different. Instead of being the keeper of all the data, I would try to let go and allow my kids to keep their own data folders. I decided to start with my third graders. 

After assessing them, I take a marker and draw a line to reflect their score. When we have time, the kids will color in their bar in order to build their graph. 

How to Make a Goal Graph

Print Graphs

I print out the graphs that I need. I usually try to think of the goals that I'll be tracking throughout the year. Will I need the vertical axis to have percentages, numbers 0-10, or something else? 

Graphs for progress monitoring

Copy Graphs with Dates

After I print the graphs, I add dates for when I plan to progress monitor. Then, I take these graphs to the copier and I make a lot of copies! I might make 50-100 copies, depending on the subject and the way the goal is measured! 

Reading Goal Graph with a Goal Line, Ruler, and Marker

Set Goal & Draw Goal Line

Grab your ruler and a marker for this step! Add dots to reflect the starting point and ending points of your goal. The second data point that I add to the graph should reflect when their annual case conference is due. This lets me see where the student should be by a certain date. By looking at the goal line, I can see if my students are on track to meet their goal. I can also see if they are not making adequate progress or if they are ahead and might need an IEP revision.

Reading Goal Graph with Data Points Added

Add Data Points

Once you begin collecting data, add them to your graph throughout the year. Many of our learners are visual. These graphs show a student (as well as their classroom teachers and their parents) how they are doing on their goals.

Extra Copies of Reading Goal Graphs

Keep Extras

I keep extras in the back of my binder. This helps me to be ready if a student completes a goal, a new student is added to my caseload, or as goals are changed throughout the school year.

Click here for your Editable Goal Graphs on TpT
Could these graphs help make progress monitoring easy for you? 
Grab them on TpT by clicking the image above!