Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Guided Reading for Special Education/Language Learners

Shared and guided reading are great ways to build language skills and build engagement.  Building interactions around books also can encourage children to want to read more, to learn to read, to find enjoyment in reading.  Shared reading has been demonstrated to be one of the best influences on later vocabulary and reading skills.  Having interactive conversations with kids around the book being read generates vocabulary knowledge, inferencing and predicting skills, and develops higher order thinking when the right types of questions are asked.  While reading, the teacher (or parent) pauses for predictions, to ask questions, make explanations. The reading is interactive.  One purpose is to expose students to stories they may not be able to read themselves; providing experience with richer vocabulary and syntax.  Another purpose is to provide those structured interactive experiences with specific questions and prompts that enable the students to build language - and reading - skills.

In special education classes with students with more complex communication needs the focus is frequently on a combination of reading strategies and listening comprehension strategies, rather than always on specific reading strategies.  Students may have specific comprehension “props” to hold and manipulate. They may be told to listen for specific information, and can hold up these props when they hear what they are listening for.
There is a purpose for reading established before the book is read, and comprehension activities afterwards.  Ideally there is a pre-reading activity that matches the purpose for reading and the post-reading comprehension activity. 
A good quality reading session allows opportunities for students to participate.  

Ask open-ended questions.  Pause for students to fill in predictable words.  Elaborate on students’ responses.  Point out new or interesting vocabulary.  Move from asking questions whose answers are easily visible on the page - particularly in illustrations - to questions that compare, contrast, infer, predict.  If you need to help the student with a response,  re-read the part of the text that has the answer before providing a model.
Above all - keep reading and keep talking!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Phonological Awareness Skills for AAC Users

Sometimes teachers are unsure how to teach or evaluate phonological awareness skills in students who can not speak - and therefore cannot “say” letter sounds or words.  I frequently remind teachers and therapists that teaching these skills to nonverbal students is really not different from teaching to verbal students.  Only the mode of response is different.  Rather than making a verbal response, students will respond using the same mode they use for all other expressive tasks - picture based communication.
For example, we ask students to find words that begin with the same sound as a spoken word.  OK, we use pictures for this task, and that’s easy.  When we ask students to name words that begin with the same sound as a spoken word, we need to make sure that they have a sufficient aac system, or we need to provide a choice of words from which they can choose.
Light and McNaughton have some good information on their program available.  In essence,  a choice array is provided for all tasks, from identifying rhyming words to sounds to number of syllables in words.
Here are some examples for you: