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How to Accommodate Students in the General Education Classroom {Reading}

As a resource room teacher, I only get 30-45 minutes with some of my students. They spend a whole lot of time in the general education classroom. Meaning, they need accommodations! Accommodations can help them to be successful with grade level material.

Below, you'll find reading accommodations that can be used in the general education classroom or in your resource room.

Graphic Organizers 

Graphic Organizers are a perfect tool for differentiation and accommodation in the general education classroom. Students who are well trained in knowing what to do with a graphic organizer can often apply it to a passage at their independent reading level. I have found that my kids aren't always writing in complete sentences, but they are able to get ideas on paper! 

Use a Screen Reader

It's 2020, people! It would be fabulous if all of our kids could read each and every thing in front of them. But let's be honest, that isn't realistic. If you are sharing a document or website with your students, use a screen reader. You can download them for free as a Chrome Extension! 

Read Questions Orally

I like to read questions aloud to my kids before we get started reading. It helps give them a purpose for reading and it helps them find a few key ideas or words to pay attention to. Reading the questions aloud won't solve all of a student's reading difficulties, but it will help them focus as they read.

I like this accommodation for two reasons. First, it is easy to transition from YOU previewing the questions to THEM previewing the questions. It also helps them get in the habit of practicing a test tasking strategy that many teachers preach to our students to try! 

Number Paragraphs and Questions

In today's test-taking world of education, numbering paragraphs is often something that we see done on high stakes tests. I like to follow suit and help my students by writing the paragraph number under the question.

It helps my kids in two ways.

#1 They can easily chunk the test by reading a paragraph or two and stop to answer the question(s).
#2 They aren't hunting and sorting all over the passage for the answers.

We know reading and testing is difficult for some of our kids, let's set them up for a little bit of success! 

Rephrase the Question

Guys, we talk a lot. People writing test questions talk a lot. Everything handed to our kids is text heavy. Help them by rephrasing the question. See if you can make it simpler. Try to slllloooooow it down. See if that helps them to understand WHAT they are supposed to be doing. 

Let Them Draw

Reading is tough. Many of our students don't visualize or know what to do inside their head as we read aloud, much less when we complicate it more by having them do the reading.

I like to have my kids draw what is happening in our reading stories each week. Some texts lend themselves to a picture better than others, but it's a good practice to help them visualize and make the reading come to life.

Provide Sentence Stems

I like to have my students use sentence stems to help them get their answers started. Most of my kids are able to answer open-ended questions independently, but only if they have a sentence stem. We use this cheat sheet all year long. I shared more about these sentence stems in this blog post! 

Preteach Vocabulary Words

Many students with disabilities have difficulty with vocabulary. Between low verbal comprehension scores or lack of complex vocabulary at home, they need help understanding key vocabulary words.

I like to help my kids better understand vocabulary with pictures, examples, stories, or synonyms. Even the words hidden inside questions can make it difficult for students to answer. Break it down and try to help them understand what they're reading or being asked to do.

What accommodations do you find to be the most helpful?

How to Organize Your Picture Books with a Google Sheet

I absolutely love picture books for teaching and modeling reading skills. But you know what? I can't afford to buy them all. I can't even remember which ones I have, which ones I use for what skill, or if I borrowed them from a friend.

The struggle is real, my friends.

Several years ago, I created a Google Sheet with all of my books. Actually, I had my high school helper type up most of the titles and authors for me! Then, as I used a picture book, I would jot down the skill that I taught. I also added books that I borrowed from friends or checked out from the library.

Using this File

Remember Where It Is Saved

Once you opt-in above, you can access it from your Google Drive at any time. I like to bookmark mine to access it quickly and easily. If you use Google Chrome, click the little star in the corner of your browser. Then, it will appear just under your address bar. 


Know How to Sort

Using the sort feature, you can sort your books by title, author, or reading skill! It will help you find your books faster. This is seriously the game changer!

To sort, click on the column that you want to organize your books by. Then, click "Data" and "Sort sheet by Column ___, A-->Z." You can choose and of the columns listed here!


Record Where to Find the Book

Do you own it? Did you borrow it? It is a library book? Use the drop down menu to record how you'll get your hands on it again next year.


Pull It Up on Your Phone

Have you ever been in a book store and found a classic book you love at a great price? Can't remember if you own it? Pull up the spreadsheet on your phone and find the title. You can quickly see if you should snag the book or if you already own a copy! You'll just need the Sheets app on your phone. 

Free Evaluation Checklist for Special Education Teachers

How many special education evaluations do you have during one school year? I average about 20-30. And I must say, it is HARD to manage at times. This year, I started using a checklist to help keep my special education evaluations organized.


After downloading the freebie, you will be able to add your own customized pieces of the evaluation process. I have tried to include each tiny step of the process in hopes that I don't drop the ball on one or more pieces of the process.

I record when I receive general education teacher and parent packets to begin the evaluation, signature pages, rating scales, due dates, classroom observations, assessing students, and writing an IEP.

Tips for Managing Evaluations

Review Your Checklist Weekly

Each week, I browse through my checklist to see what I need to do to keep the evaluation moving. Maybe I need to pass out rating scales to general education teachers or call a parent to remind them to complete a portion of the paperwork. 

Pass Out Rating Scales Early

After having a few years of evaluations under my belt, I made a checklist of rating scales that I would need for each disability category. For example, I know students who are being evaluated for a Mild Intellectual Disability will need an ABAS-3 rating scale completed. 

Instead of holding up the evaluation process, I *try* to pass them out to teachers once I receive a due date for the evaluation. This allows me to quickly pass it on the school psychologist and she has everything she needs when she's ready to write her report. 

I drafted a quick list of rating scales that I knew she typically used. Then, I asked her if I had left anything off or made any errors. Now, it really speeds up the evaluation process and reduces the stress on the general education teacher who is responsible for completing ALL of those packets of information. 

Batch Tasks

I like to sit down and work on similar tasks all at the same time. For example, I might grab a couple of students and assess them on their Present Level of Performance. Then, I add that information into each of the future IEPs. I work better when I'm in the zone! 

Writing FBA's? I do the same thing! It helps me to check several boxes off of my checklist at once AND I can often copy and paste several things while I'm working on the same task. 

4 Mentor Texts for Teaching Compare & Contrast

Girl wearing a backpack and holding books
I absolutely LOVE to teach students to compare and contrast. I can't explain it, but I love to take books that are obviously similar and pick them apart. I also love trying to find similarities between two very different books. 

I like to introduce comparing and contrasting by using classic stories that many of my students know. In the post below, you'll find four books that I use throughout the week for teaching my students to compare key elements of each variation of classic fairy tales. 

If you are interested in snagging any of these books, click the picture to find it on Amazon. 

Mentor Text with text "Seriously, Cinderella is So Annoying!" and Graphic Organizer with text "Comparing Literature"

Seriously, Cinderella is So Annoying

I really love all of the books in this series, but this one is my favorite! Did you know that Cinderella was mistreated by her stepmother and stepsisters because she never stopped talking? Why didn't she get to go to the ball? Well, she lost her voice, of course. This book is perfect for comparing to the classic version of Cinderella that we all know as well as many other versions from other countries.

Mentor Text with text "Lon Po Po" and Graphic Organizer with text "Comparing Literature"

Lon Po Po

I remember this being in our basal years ago. My kids loved it then and they still enjoy it now! This version of Little Red Riding Hood comes from China and does not disappoint. There are so many similarities and even more differences. It is great for comparing and contrasting!

Mentor Text with text "The Princess and the Pizza" and Graphic Organizer with text "Comparing Literature" The Princess and the Pizza

This book is hilarious and the perfect upper elementary twist on a fairy tale. With cheap shots at other fairy tales and the silly tests to become a princess, my fifth graders loved this book year after year. 

Mentor Text with text "Believe Me, Goldilocks Rocks!" and Graphic Organizer with text "Comparing Literature"

Believe Me, Goldilocks Rocks!

Did Goldilocks break into the cottage or are she and Baby Bear (aka Sam) really besties? They text one another and jump on the bed! This is a fun retelling of the classic story from Baby Bear's perspective. 

Click here for your FREE Mentor Text Cheat Sheet!
Do you love mentor texts as much as I do? Have trouble organizing them all?

Do you want to use mentor texts but you don't know where to start?

I have a FREE Mentor Text Cheat Sheet for you! In this Google Sheet, you'll find MY list of Mentor Texts and the reading skills that I use them to teach. You can add your own books, sort by author or reading skills, find shortcuts to my blog posts, AND

>>>my favorite feature<<<
>>>cue the drum roll, please<<<

Choose from a dropdown menu to show where you can find the book. For example, I use a boatload of mentor texts in my reading instruction. I can't afford to buy them all. I find some in our school library, the local library, borrow from my teacher friends, and SOME of them, I do own!

Using the dropdown menu, you can easily remind yourself where you can find your mentor text when you need it! Click the image above OR click here to grab it.

4 Mentor Texts for Teaching Synthesizing

Boy standing and thinking with finger next to his mouth
Teaching students to recognize when a synthesis is happening is DIFFICULT! Like seriously, it was a really hard concept for me to wrap my mind around as a reader. Over time though, I began to see that nearly all characters in a story with a decent plot make some type of change over time. As a reader, our students can make a mindset shift as they read as well. 

Below, I'm sharing four of my favorite books for helping students see a character or themselves as a reader make a shift in their thinking as the story progresses. 

If you are interested in snagging any of these books, click the picture to find it on Amazon. 

Mentor Text with text "The Littlest Matryoshka" and Graphic Organizer with text "Synthesizing While Reading"

The Littlest Matryoshka

I love using Matryoshka dolls to help my students visually see that their knowledge of a particular idea or topic is growing and changing as they read. The Littlest Matryoshka is perfect to both demonstrate the skill and tie in the visual! 

Mentor Text with text "The Empty Pot" and Graphic Organizer with text "Synthesizing While Reading"

The Empty Pot

I'll be honest. I avoided reading this book for a looooonnnngg time. The cover didn't jump out at me, nor did the title. Once I finally gave it a chance, I loved it. I love it so much, that I use it to teach theme and synthesizing.

In this book, the Emperor was looking for a heir. To decide, he gave everyone a seed. Whoever could grow their seed into the most beautiful flower would be the heir. When the people in the village noticed that their plants aren't growing and they replaced them. Everyone does so, except for Ping. Ping returns to the Emperor with an empty pot.

As the reader, I was doubting Ping the entire way through the book. I mentally made a change in thinking as I grew to see what was happening. It's a great book and I wish I hadn't ignored it for so long! 

Mentor Text with text "Emma Kate" and Graphic Organizer with text "Synthesizing While Reading"

Emma Kate

In some books, synthesizing happens throughout the entire book. Both the character and the reader are learning and growing as the story progresses. In Emma Kate, the change in thinking doesn't happen until the very end.

This book is sweet, adorable, and simple enough to see the lightbulb illuminate as you and your students make a synthesis! 

Mentor Text with text "The Giving Tree" and Graphic Organizer with text "Synthesizing While Reading"

The Giving Tree

Are you tired of seeing my post about The Giving Tree?! I know I've shared it before, but it just fits here too! Shel Silverstein has packed this book with so many opportunities to teach an array of reading skills.

In this book, I feel that the reader should certainly be making a shift in thinking as we repeatedly watch the tree make sacrifice after sacrifice for the boy. Just as much as we can predict what is about to happen, we can see that the tree's happiness will be short-lived. How can this relate to your students' struggles? Their friends? The lives of an upper elementary student's parent?

Click here for your FREE Mentor Text Cheat Sheet!
Do you love mentor texts as much as I do? Have trouble organizing them all?

Do you want to use mentor texts but you don't know where to start?

I have a FREE Mentor Text Cheat Sheet for you! In this Google Sheet, you'll find MY list of Mentor Texts and the reading skills that I use them to teach. You can add your own books, sort by author or reading skills, find shortcuts to my blog posts, AND

>>>my favorite feature<<<
>>>cue the drum roll, please<<<

Choose from a dropdown menu to show where you can find the book. For example, I use a boatload of mentor texts in my reading instruction. I can't afford to buy them all. I find some in our school library, the local library, borrow from my teacher friends, and SOME of them, I do own!

Using the dropdown menu, you can easily remind yourself where you can find your mentor text when you need it! Click the image above OR click here to grab it.

A Quick Anchor Chart for Organizing Background Knowledge

Taking a few minutes to access background knowledge can be an essential part of improving reading comprehension. Research shows that our brains need somewhere "to go" with the information as we read. Simply reminding students to think about their background knowledge isn't enough. For my special education students, I wanted a way to allow them to quickly think about what they already know and also use that same tool to aide in their comprehension as they read.

This strategy is quick and can can be made with your kids about nearly ANY subject or book. 

During the week of this lesson, we were reading about the history of taking pictures. 

Anchor Chart with topic in the middle and background knowledge bubbles around it
I began by writing the topic in the center and asking them what they know. There really aren't any wrong answers. It can be as simple or complex as you want it. 

Since I've previewed the text, I can make the bubbles smaller if I know we aren't going to have much to add to that particular topic. 

Hand holding a pink marker with chart in the background
Then, it's time to READ! We take turns reading two pages at a time, which is about two short paragraphs with very decodable words for my group of kids. After reading, we stop. I give my students one minute to THINK! I want them to have time to process information and decide what new information they are going to share. 

Then, we write what we THINK in PINK.

We record new information on the chart in PINK. Sometimes, it's a brand new bubble. Other times, it might be adding information to an existing bubble. Either way, we record what we're thinking after small amounts of text. 

Textbook and student mini anchor chart for organizing background knowledge
Overtime, my students are working to create their own background knowledge bubbles. Although we are still working on independently reading and recording their thinking, they're trying! They are adding things that they know on their own mini anchor chart. It's a great way to give them a purpose as they read and help them understand what they're reading.

Click HERE for your Background Knowledge FREEBIE!
If you'd like to grab this simple background knowledge printable to help your students begin to organize their thoughts, grab it by clicking the image above or clicking here

4 Mentor Texts for Teaching 1st & 3rd Person

Boy sitting at desk with paper in front of him and pencil in hand
In my early years of teaching upper elementary, I struggled to help my students understand the difference of 1st and 3rd person in a story. Honestly, I think I overcomplicated it!

I began having my students determine WHO was telling the story based on the pronouns used and the information that was given. Using a simple graphic organizer and several mentor texts, it slowly became easier for my students to see the point of view of a passage. The books below are just a few of the books (all by Aaron Reynolds) that I used for modeling various points of view! 

If you are interested in snagging any of these books, click the picture to find it on Amazon. 

Mentor Text with text "Creepy Carrots!" and Graphic Organizer with text "Point of View"

Creepy Carrots

I love everything that Aaron Reynolds writes, and I put it to work during the week that I teach Point of View. This is a hilarious story written in the third person about a bunny who believes that carrots are following him everywhere. And they are! They are playing a trick on him. The reason is pretty funny!

Mentor Text with text "President Squid" and Graphic Organizer with text "Point of View"

President Squid

This book is just FUN to read aloud! Squid has five reasons why he should be the president. He wears a tie, has the biggest house ever, he's famous, he likes to talk, and he would be good at being the BIG BOSS! Once he meets a Sardine, his thoughts change. Whether those changes are for good or not...🤷🏻‍♀️

It's a silly book that my students LOVED having read aloud. We used this book to talk about a story told in the first person point of view, but you could also use it to review sequence, making predictions or synthesis. 

Mentor Text with text "Carnivores" and Graphic Organizer with text "Point of View"

Carnivores

Maybe carnivores just get a bad rep. Sharks for example, why they are just fast eaters. The Big Bad Wolf? Well, he was just a quiet walker. He isn't sneaky.

In this hilarious book, the Carnivores get together to support one another as they discover that being a carnivore isn't a bad thing. It is just who they are. This book is witty and perfect for an upper elementary kids. It also ties in perfectly with a unit on ecosystems.

Mentor Text with text "Nerdy Birdy" and Graphic Organizer with text "Point of View"

Nerdy Birdy

My kids loved this book and Nerdy Birdy Tweets! I love using this particular book to train my students to see WHO is telling the story. What point of view is the book written in?

This story is about a bird who loves all things nerdy. It takes him a while to "find his flock" and feel like he fits in. I watch my fifth graders struggle to fit in every year. They need a reminder that it can take a while. Be you, and your flock will find you! 

Click here for your FREE Mentor Text Cheat Sheet!
Do you love mentor texts as much as I do? Have trouble organizing them all?

Do you want to use mentor texts but you don't know where to start?

I have a FREE Mentor Text Cheat Sheet for you! In this Google Sheet, you'll find MY list of Mentor Texts and the reading skills that I use them to teach. You can add your own books, sort by author or reading skills, find shortcuts to my blog posts, AND

>>>my favorite feature<<<
>>>cue the drum roll, please<<<

Choose from a dropdown menu to show where you can find the book. For example, I use a boatload of mentor texts in my reading instruction. I can't afford to buy them all. I find some in our school library, the local library, borrow from my teacher friends, and SOME of them, I do own!

Using the dropdown menu, you can easily remind yourself where you can find your mentor text when you need it! Click the image above OR click here to grab it.