Special Education with Care

MVA Special Education Department Update

March 2021

Hello wonderful MVA parents,

Spring is just around the corner! We are excited for our students to “show what they know,” as the school year begins to wind down. Please continue to encourage them to work at their full potential even when the weather is calling them outside! Thank you for all your daily hard work and please let us know how we can assist you.

In This Issue

  • Did You Know: Storyline Online;
  • Feature Teachers: Meet your Education Specialists/Case Managers;
  • Academic Resources: Strategies for Solving Math Word Problems;
  • Behavior Bits: Using a Token Economy/Reward System;
  • Sensory Corner: Brain Breaks;
  • Caught On The Net: Helpful Websites and Apps;
  • Transition Services Corner: Transition Newsletter.


Storyline Online

The SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s Daytime Emmy®-nominated and award-winning children’s literacy website, Storyline Online®, streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations. Readers include Oprah Winfrey, Chris Pine, Kristen Bell, Rita Moreno, Viola Davis, Jaime Camil, Kevin Costner, Lily Tomlin, Sarah Silverman, Betty White, Wanda Sykes and dozens more.

Reading aloud to children has been shown to improve reading, writing and communication skills, logical thinking and concentration, and general academic aptitude, as well as inspire a lifelong love of reading. Teachers use Storyline Online in their classrooms, and doctors and nurses play Storyline Online in children’s hospitals.

Storyline Online is available 24 hours a day for children, parents, caregivers and educators worldwide. Each book includes supplemental curriculum developed by a credentialed elementary educator, aiming to strengthen comprehension and verbal and written skills for English-language learners.

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Hi, I'm Michelle Denney! This is my tenth year teaching moderate/severe special education! I have worked with students from various backgrounds and ability levels in both brick-and-mortar and virtual settings. I love interactive lessons and use different resources to create individual lessons for my students. My students really enjoy Boom Cards and Reading A-Z! I try to make my SAI sessions as interactive and engaging as possible, based on student’s interests, and through the use of hands-on tools, educational videos, educational games, and research-based curriculum for math, reading, and writing.


Strategies for Solving Math Word Problems

Math word problems tend to be especially challenging for students with learning disabilities. Students with learning disabilities often lack "Concept Imagery", or the ability to visualize the whole problem by creating a complete mental image. They often jump right into calculations and computations without understanding what the problem is asking or what they're looking for.

These types of students may also struggle to understand the words or wording within math word problems correctly. The inability to correctly interpret and understand wording greatly impacts their math reasoning skills and often leads them to make the wrong calculations and arriving incorrect conclusions.

Remembering and manipulating information and details in their working memory is another challenge some students with learning disabilities face as they try to see the whole picture. Slow processing of information, followed by frustration and anxiety, will often lead them to try and get through math word problems as quickly as possible – which is why they often jump straight into computations in their attempt to make it to the finish line as quickly as possible.

SQRQCQ (Survey, Question, Read, Question, Compute, and Question) is metacognitive guide the provides students with LD with a logical order for solving math word problems. It provides just enough direction to guide them through the reasoning process without overwhelming them. SQRQCQ is also a mnemonic that is easy for students to remember and which they can fall back on when completing homework or taking tests.

Step 1 - SURVEY the Math Problem

The first step to solving a math word problem is to read the problem in its entirety to understand what you are being asked to solve. After you read it, you can decide the most relevant aspects of the problem that need to be solved and what aspects are not relevant to solving the problem. The idea here is to get a general understanding.


Once you have an idea of what you're attempting to solve, you need to determine what formulas, steps, or equations should be utilized in order to find the correct answer. It is impossible to find an answer if you can't determine what needs to be solved. Basically, what are the questions being asked by the problem?

Step 3 - REREAD

Now that you've determined what needs to be solved, reread the problem and pay close attention to specific details. Determine which aspects of the problem are interrelated. Identify all relevant facts and information needed to solve the problem. As you do, highlight them and then write them down.


Now that you're familiar with specific details and how different facts and information within the problem are interrelated, determine what formulas or equations must be used to set up and solve the problem. Be sure to write down what steps or operations you will use for easy reference.

Step 5 - COMPUTE

Use the formulas and/or equations identified in the previous step to complete the calculations. Be sure to follow the steps you outlined while setting up an equation or using a formula. As you complete each step, check it off your list.


Once you've completed the calculations, review the final answer and make sure it is correct and accurate. If it does not appear logical, review the steps you took to find the answer and look for calculation or set-up errors. Recalculate the numbers or make other changes until you get an answer that makes sense.


Using a Token Economy/Reward System

Using a Token Economy or Positive Reward System is one of the most commonly used behavior shaping strategies used for both general education and special education students. In this month’s “Behavior Bits”, we will cover how to effectively use this strategy for your child in the homeschool setting.

  1. The first step is determining what “reward” will be highly motivating to your child. This can include things like small toys, stickers, taking a preferred break, technology time, or even edible treats.

  2. Once you have this established, it is helpful to find a visual resource so your child can have a tangible way to track their progress on earning the reward. There are many examples of these online that can be designed to your child’s interests. A few examples are included below.

  3. Sit down and explain the exact parameters to your child of how they will earn “tokens” to eventually reach the reward they are working for. Some examples include:

    1. Complete one school assignment

    2. Work for 20 minutes on school work

    3. Attend one SAI or Speech session

  4. The number of tokens and what is expected will vary greatly based on what your child is able to do currently. You want the goal to be achievable for them so they feel successful and want to continue working toward the reward. For example, if your child can currently only work independently for 2 minutes, a realistic goal may be to work for 5 minutes on task to earn a token.

  5. Follow through with the plan and offer plenty of verbal praise when your child earns each token!

Your child’s special education teacher and team can work with you to determine specifics that might be appropriate for your child and can help answer questions or guide you as you implement this and other behavioral strategies.

Examples of Token Boards:


Brain Breaks

Many kids with learning and attention issues have these struggles every day. Their issues can make homework extra frustrating and harder to get through. Brain breaks during homework or lengthy chores can help relieve that frustration. They can also help kids learn to self-regulate and self-monitor when they’re getting fed up or losing track of what they’re doing. Short brain breaks during work time have been shown to have real benefits. They reduce stress and frustration and increase attention and productivity.

The key is to take them before fatigue, distraction or lack of focus set in. For grade-schoolers, that’s typically after 10 to 15 minutes of work. At that point, they may need a three- to five-minute break. Middle- and high-schoolers can work for longer—up to 20 to 30 minutes before a break.

To make a brain break effective for your child, there are a few things to consider. First, you’ll want to make sure it’s an actual break. Moving from homework to an activity that feels like more work won’t help your child stay focused.

For kids who need quiet and relaxation, a brain break can be as simple as actively sitting still. For kids who need activity, taking a “dance break” is a fun way to refocus and refresh.

Here are some examples of typical physical activities:

  • Stretching breaks that include yoga poses (dog, cat, cow, bug, rock) and animal walks (walk like a bear, hop like a frog, stand like a flamingo, fly like a bird)
  • Wall push-ups
  • Regular push-ups
  • Yoga ball activities
  • Sit-ups
  • Jumping jacks
  • Running in place as fast as possible
  • Cross crawls (touch hand to opposite knee)
  • Rocketship jumps (bending down, touching toes and bouncing while counting down from 10, then blastoff)
  • Snow angels on the floor
  • Chewing on a crunchy snack or
  • Doing tactile activities, like using Silly Putty

Whatever activities you use, it’s important to do some pre-planning with your child. That includes setting ground rules around the purpose of a brain break. You also want to consider how to schedule brain breaks either by intervals of time or by the ratio of behaviors (number of tasks completed).

Knowing how to take a brain break can help kids in ways that go beyond recharging and getting through work. Brain breaks can help reduce anxiety, which is common in kids with learning and attention issues. And being able to return to a task and get it done can build self-confidence and self-esteem. It can also show kids that there are lots of ways to work on challenges and stay motivated.


Helpful Websites and APPs

With so many educational resources available online it is at times challenging to decide which ones to try. In each Newsletter issue, we will highlight several free educational websites or apps that support the core academic subjects as well as behavior and come from reputable organizations. We hope you will find them helpful!