Saturday, May 21, 2016

mCLASS---Helping or Holding Back my Language-Impaired Students

In North Carolina, our kindergarten through third-grade teachers will administer reading assessments, one-on-one, using the state mandated system known as mCLASS Reading 3D.  Children have also been given this assessment in the beginning of the year and middle of the year.  The publisher, Amplify, has created this video which would make us all want to go purchase this assessment immediately! It makes this sound like assessment utopia!

In my opinion, there's good and bad with everything especially when mixing business with education-- Amplify does sell a lot of products to assess and enhance reading and math skills (as do many other companies). I have nothing against progress monitoring, and one-on-one assessment time with kids, and think it's good when assessment causes adults to reflect on the effectiveness of ongoing instruction.

That being said, I do have a couple of thoughts about our EC population and mClass.

  • I have children who can read a simple book, but the digital mClass assessment won't actually measure the book-reading skills because the same child can't fully answer the 'concepts about print' portion of the test.  Once the child can't answer those questions, he is essentially prevented from moving forward in the test.  There needs to be greater flexibility as to when to stop the assessment.  
  • I have children who can read higher level text decoding, but written language is very difficult.  mCLASS requires the child to pass a 'writing about reading' component before advancing in text levels.  As a result, some of my students have essentially plateaued for the whole of the school year.  For my language impaired students, reading and writing are two separate tasks--writing abilities should not hold back instructional reading levels.  By depriving these students of higher level text, the school (or mCLASS) is limiting these students from learning the language concepts presented in reading text at their age level. I groan with frustration when my language impaired students in 3rd grade bring first grade level books to me from their independent book box ALL YEAR.  They don't seem too excited about reading them, and neither am I.  I have hated to see the 'writing about reading' part of the assessment preventing the students from moving up.  We work on it during our speech/language sessions, but it's very frustrating.  
 A couple of esteemed colleagues, who are not in special education, have also expressed their thoughts about mCLASS in EdNC. They are much more knowledgeable about this than I am (since one is a teacher and one is a literacy coach) and have presented well-balanced opinions on this topic. 

If any of you have thoughts about literacy instruction, assessment, and inclusion, speak up here!
My students struggle with this.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

App review: iTAP Test of Articulation and Phonology by Smarty Ears

The future in education is going digital.  I record my therapy notes digitally, Google drive contains all of my forms and documents, and teachers do their mClass reading assessments using an iPad.   It's only logical that articulation assessments would follow suit. I noticed that the Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation 3 has a digital option, and now Smarty Ears has the iTap Test of Articulation and Phonology.    

    iTap is administered in the same way that most paper articulation tests are administered.  The child names a series of pictures that contain target phonemes and consonant clusters in single words.  The options for marking errors include deletion, cluster reduction, substitution, assimilation, and distortion.  The examiner records on the ipad the errors the child made.  At the end, there is a small multisyllable probe.  

Rather than providing a detailed tutorial myself, the author of the app has provided a video which explains all of the features.  You can watch that HERE.

video screen shot

As with any app, assessment, or program, there are things that are great, and some areas for growth.

What's great:
  • This is an awesome tool for PROGRESS MONITORING.   This year, I have three boys with significant phonological disorders.  I take data on specific sounds daily, but to get an overall picture of progress, I like to assess informally.  Paper test protocols are expensive, so this assessment can give a good picture of progress without using up your test forms.  
  • Once you finish an assessment, this app generates a report.  All words/sounds in error are compiled into something which makes a little sense without having to sit there with the manual and charts.  
  • The app itself is easy to use.  You have to take some time to practice scoring, and figuring out which sound and phonological process button to press, but my graduate student intern learned this in no time....quicker than me.
  • The pictures for eliciting sounds are well done.  Some words, I had to orally tell the child, but that is true for other articulation assessments too, especially for students with vocabulary delays.
  • The app developer is quick to respond to suggestions and ideas for improvement.  This is an extremely important feature.  Unlike paper assessments, if you notice a mistake, app bug, or have a suggestion, the turn around time to upgrade and update the app can be a couple of weeks.  The app you buy now will only get better!   I also have a copy of the Smarty Ears Sunny Test of Articulation, and upgrades have improved it immensely over the years!  
Areas to think about before purchasing:

  • I work for a school system and our assessment kit for articulation has one central player (in our case it's the Goldman-Fristoe).  This is not going to change anytime soon.  For placement purposes and eligibility, all kids need to be assessed the same way and it's hard for an app to compete with such a solid bedrock which has been standardized and used with such a large number of children.   I plan on continuing to follow our district guidelines for assessment when placing and re-evaluating children within the special education assessment process.  That being said, this app is extremely useful for monitoring progress of children who are currently in therapy.  
  • If a child has a severe phonological disorder where multiple processes might be playing a part in a single word, this app has limitations on how many errors you can actually record.  For example, my child had a voicing error and substitution for one blend.  I could only record one. There is a notes feature in the app, but that wasn't quite the same as being able to record as the child is articulating the word.
  • It would be nice if the app could automatically determine the phonological process based on the error recorded.  Sometimes, for example, I recorded an error as substitution when it actually was assimilation.
  • If your student only has one sound error, or a frontal or lateral /s/ distortion, this is not the test for you in my opinion.  This assessment is for children who have phonological disorders such as assimilation, cluster reduction, and multiple substitutions.    
  • I didn't have access to the manual or the normative data.  I did look up the other reviews of this app from other bloggers and they seemed to indicate that the norming sample was rather limited to Texas and a limited number of children.  For that reason, if your test absolutely needs valid standard scores, you may either want to find another assessment, or wait until this developer publishes their data and then determine whether the norming sample is adequate for where you live.
All in all, I plan on continuing to use this app to monitor progress in my students with phonological process problems.  As I said, this app is new, and is only getting better as time goes on due to quick follow-up by the people at Smarty Ears.  This is a nice tool for those of us who travel, and it's nice to have a quick means to measure overall progress in a child.

Disclaimer: I received this app via promo code from the developer. No compensation was received to review them and my opinions are strictly my own. Apps and the features within them change frequently as app updates are released.This developer has an excellent track record of supporting their apps and providing frequent updates.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mother's Day!

It's right around the corner!

If you want Mother's Day themed material for your students that are actually great all year, go to my store and check these out:

Are You My Mother Companion Pack

This packet has adapted text and loads of visuals to go with this popular book. It's meant for the more linguistically challenged students.

  This packet has a cute book "Looking for Mother Stegosaurus" which fits into the Mother's Day theme.

As always, if you are a starving CF, email me if you can't afford any new materials.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Rigor Shouldn't Mean Painfully Difficult

For those of you involved in education, you know it's full of lingo, acronyms,  and initiatives. 

The buzzword in education these days is 'rigor'.
Form the Glossary of Education Reform,  "The term rigor is widely used by educators to describe instruction, schoolwork, learning experiences, and educational expectations that are academically, intellectually, and personally challenging."  Go to this link to read more.

A simple Google search yielded this article in a notable website.   Here is another article which speaks of 'rigor'.  Both articles are about as clear as mud when it comes down to actual teaching practices, and neither article addresses the need for differentiation of lessons for those students with learning challenges or those who may know little Engish.

Unfortunately, since the actual components of a 'rigorous' classroom are not clear, I find schools are interpreting 'rigor' as 'let's instruct students above typical developmental level'.  Hence, you see heavy reading, writing, and math instruction in kindergarten with limited center/play time.  You see worksheets for third graders including passages at a high school level.  All students are expected to achieve at the same high level or they are placed in reading, writing, and math intervention groups.

My school is no different from other schools in the district, so these two examples I have are not to indict any program but to illustrate the point.

  • Kindergarten Math Test:  Children read two word problems as a whole group and were then sent to their tables to work them out on the worksheet provided.  The first word problem read: "Pam found 6 flowers at recess. She wants to give the flowers to her 10 friends.  How many more flowers does Pam need to find if Pam wants to give a flower to each of her 10 friends?  Show your thinking with objects, pictures, words, or numbers.  Write an equation to match this story."   READING LEVEL OF THIS PROBLEM WAS SECOND GRADE.
  •  Third grade writing worksheet:  Students were to read a passage, state the author's opinion, and find supporting details in the passage.  The passage provided to the students was printed from this webpage about classroom pets.  To determine approximate reading level, I used this website, cutting and pasting the text. The reading level of the website turned out to be high school.  Even if the teachers went over the text line-by-line, the vocabulary, sentence structure, and language levels of the text were very high for the average third grader.  My EC students typically function significantly below average, so accessing this lesson was impossible for them.  
These are but two examples in my evergrowing stack of painful work.  Having high expectations for your students is awesome.   Instruction and materials, however, still need to be developmentally appropriate, AND work needs to be differentiated based on the levels of the students.  RIGOR shouldn't mean PAINFULLY DIFFICULT. 

What does rigor in the classroom look like?   This author explains it well.
At no point does she say to present the actual classroom materials two or more years above grade level.

Any thoughts? 


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Quiver, Fun App Meets the Engagement Triangle

Last week, I had the awesome opportunity to speak to graduate students in the speech-language pathology program at NC Central. The students were wonderful and asked on-target questions, and the topic was using technology in evidence-based practice in the school setting. 

One of the main points of the talk was that using any technology in therapy should follow a "triangle model"--one point is the student, the second is the adult, and the third is the piece of technology such as an iPad.An iPad is a tool to help facilitate skills--the iPad doesn't teach; the adults teach using the iPad.
With this model in mind, when I find a new app, I now look for ways to augment it to enhance the communication between the child and adult.  My students need to learn to request, comment, answer questions, ask questions, reject, and other basic communicative functions.  I think the app, Quiver, will enable the child to do all of these, especially with language modeling and possibly communication boards.  The app is free, as are many of the coloring pages.  There are, however, in-app purchases you can make if there are certain pages you want.  (I paid 2.99 because I really wanted the hot air balloon picture).

From the iTunes page: "Coloring pages have never been so much fun! The Quiver App combines physical coloring from “back in the day” with state of the art augmented reality technology to bring you and your children an extraordinarily magical experience." (I'm sure you need a newer version of an iPad. I have an iPad Air.)

From a speech pathology perspective: You can make a communication board or set up a device for your more challenged children to request colors, and coloring pages. Some of the pages are vehicles, some are little animated creatures, some are animals, and the list goes on.  You do have to careful about what you print, as some are not free.  Make a page of comments or core vocabulary you want to target.  Using this app can be a true interactive experience! 

Have fun!  I'm so amazed with my iPad these days!  This is a totally cool app.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Two New Interactive Dinosaur Books

To all my friends out there in blogland, hello again!

We had an awesome spring break in Mexico.  I loved it for so many reasons--the people especially, and the different cultures. The week flew by!

 Now we are two weeks into the final quarter of the school year, and I'm recommitting to this blog.  I've found that my posts from a few years ago are antiquated, and I need to post new technology, new apps, and delete posts about things that are not even available.  I'm amazed at how fast technology changes. Be careful about app purchases, because the next generation of iPads may not support them.

I promise to post more free items in the near future, but for now, I'd like to show you two new interactive dinosaur books.  My wonderful, artistic daughter, Vicki, created some of the clip art for one of the books. I love facial expressions she rendered for the Stegosaurus mother and baby!

 These are two interactive books centered around a dinosaur theme. This pack meant for the more linguistically challenged students and is perfect for speech/special ed collaboration. This is nice for integrating literacy and language. You are purchasing two interactive books, with an assortment of visual supports for all. Most clipart by Smarty Symbols ©2016 and Kate Hadfield Designs. Bones font by The Cool School .

-“Looking for Mother Stegosaurus” clever interactive book with manipulative icons ( pages 3-14) Similar in plot to “Are You my Mother?” and is perfect for Mother's Day!
-Comprehension Questions for “Looking for Mother Stegosaurus” (page 15-17)
- Sequencing page for “Looking for Mother Stegosaurus”(page 18)
-“Whose Bones?” interactive book where the child matches the dinosaur with the dinosaur skeleton (Page 19-27)

This is very modestly priced. Your students will love these books and theme!
wonderful artwork by my daughter!

Click here to see this 2 dollar packet on TPT.

Enough of sales!   How is your spring going?