Special Education with Care

Inspire Special Education Department Newsletter

Welcome to our April 2019 Newsletter!

Spring is blooming in our local deserts! California’s nickname is traditionally attributed to the rush of 49ers who came panning for treasure. But there are those who insist that the name—the Golden State—has just as much to do with the California poppy, the delicate yellow-orange state flower that carpets the state each spring from Arcata in the north to San Diego in the south. We hope you are able to visit your local area with your students and see these and other magnificent flowers in bloom!

Please be advised that our last 18/19 SY May/June Newsletter edition will be available in the second part of May.

In This Issue:

  • Hot off the Press: New InspireCares Website Resources; iReady resources; Professional Perspective;
  • Transition Services Corner:

    Transition 8th Grade Bridge;

  • Did you know: Recommended Literature List: Collection of outstanding literature for children in TK-12 grade in all disciplines; Exit Ticket: A Quick Way of Assessing Your Student's Knowledge;
  • Academic Support Resources: Words in Context: Effective Strategies for Teaching New Vocabulary;
  • Behavior Bits: Competence Anchors: Overcoming Fear of Failure in School;
  • Sensory Corner: Sensory Strategies for Learning;
  • Caught on the Net: Free Academic Websites/Apps.


InspireCares Website Resources

We are continuously updating our InspireCares website's Resources section with new resources.

We have added a lot of new resources under all Resources categories on the website. Please visit our newly created training recording: Executive Function Tips

Please explore and continue to provide your feedback via a feedback survey on the website!

iREADY: Engaging Students with i-Ready

Keeping students engaged in their learning is essential, and it can be particularly challenging this time of year. There are some key strategies that could help you to motivate your student.

Guide Goal Setting:

Help students set achievable yet challenging goals about performance and learning that are self-referenced rather than peer-referenced.

Have Data Chats with Students:

Schedule data chats with your student to discuss strengths and areas for improvement, new goals, and action plans.

Track Data with Students and Help Them Self-Reflect:

Use journals, note taking, individual tracking sheets, or iReady reports to promote ownership, keep data top-of-mind, and make progress apparent.

Recognize and Celebrate Growth:

Celebrate growth rather than a fixed end goal by providing prase and other types of rewards to highlight when a student has reached a goal and/or made progress.

Professional Perspective - A NEW SEGMENT!

Please meet Holly Tremblay, one of our Program Specialists for the Los Angeles Region. We hope you enjoy her story and her professional perspective. Please tell us what you think!


Transition 8th Grade Bridge

Middle school is the “in-between” years where a student is starting to exhibit skills needed for a successful future. It is a time where teenagers are learning to understand emotions and social pressures along with meeting academic rigor. In those three years, your student has grown beyond imagination. Just as you and your student are getting used to middle school expectations, high school planning begins. Transitioning to high school can cause a student and family to become stressed or anxious in the months leading to the change. As a student and family, it is important to gather information and start planning prior to 9th grade. Inspire’s Transition Bridge is designed to provide support to students and their families as they embark on the high school journey. In order to have an effective, meaningful transition to high school, students and families need to be given tools for academic and social success. Our unique learning environment is especially beneficial in TK-8th, however, this flexibility changes in the high school years. Our highly qualified transition team will guide, mentor, and support throughout the process. High school is a time to further develop oneself while looking into the future. It is an experience to learn from, enjoy, and celebrate!

For a list of Bridge Sessions, please look at our SPED Transition Website-Parent Trainings.

Join us for the following presentation:

April 5th 2019: 10am-12pm

Topic: An Introduction to Conservatorship

Presenter: Steve Ruder, the Coordinator for the Transition Through Adulthood Projects which is part of the Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (CEDD) out of the UC Davis MIND Institute.

click here to join


Recommended Literature List: Collection of outstanding literature for children in TK-12 grade in all disciplines

Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve (Recommended Literature List) is a searchable database of books for children and teens which helps students, teachers, and families find books that entertain, inform, and explore new ideas and experiences. Each book has a description called an "annotation" that explains what the book is about. The annotation can help someone decide if the title is interesting and appropriate to read.

Search the online database for books by grade level spans or other criteria. Some books may be out of print and not readily available through most sellers, but they may be available in libraries and through used bookstores.

Recommended Literature List Search

Formal vs. Informal Assessment of Student Learning

There are two general categories of assessments: formal and informal.

Formal assessments have data which support the conclusions made from the test. We usually refer to these types of tests as standardized measures. These tests have been tried before on students and have statistics which support the conclusion such as the student is reading below average for his age. The data is mathematically computed and summarized. Scores such as percentiles, stanines, or standard scores are most commonly given from this type of assessment.

Informal assessments are not data driven but rather content and performance driven. For example, running records are informal assessments because they indicate how well a student is reading a specific book. Scores such as 10 correct out of 15, percent of words read correctly, and most rubric scores are given from this type of assessment.

The assessment used needs to match the purpose of assessing. Formal or standardized measures should be used to assess overall achievement, to compare a student's performance with others at their age or grade, or to identify comparable strengths and weaknesses with peers. Informal assessments sometimes referred to as criterion-referenced measures or performance-based measures, should be used to inform instruction.

The great thing about informal assessments is they help us gauge students’ understanding during the learning process instead of after. The informal assessment also changes teachers’ relationship to student learning.

Through informal assessment, a teacher becomes a guide throughout the learning process, rather than the judge of the student’s final product.

Exit Ticket: A Quick Way of Assessing Your Student's Knowledge

Exit tickets are a formative assessment tool that gives teachers a way to assess how well students understand the material they are learning in class. This tool can be used daily or weekly, depending on the unit being taught. A good exit ticket can tell whether students have a superficial or in-depth understanding of the material. Teachers can then use this data for adapting instruction to meet students' needs the very next day.

Why use Exit Tickets?

  • They provide teachers with an informal measure of how well students have understood a topic or lesson.
  • They help students reflect on what they have learned.
  • They allow students to express what or how they are thinking about new information.
  • They teach students to think critically.

How to use Exit Tickets?

At the end of your lesson ask your student to respond to a question or prompt.

There are three categories of Exit Tickets:

Prompts that document learning:

— Example: Write one thing you learned today.

— Example: Discuss how today's lesson could be used in the real world.

Prompts that emphasize the process of learning:

— Example: I didn't understand…

— Example: Write one question you have about today's lesson.

Prompts to evaluate the effectiveness of instruction:

— Example: Did you enjoy performing this experiment today?

Content area Exit Ticket Examples:

  • Write one thing you learned today
  • Write one question you have about today's lesson
  • Write three words with the long "o" sound
  • Why are the North and South Pole so cold?
  • Explain why Canada is not considered a melting pot
  • Draw a quick diagram that shows perspective
  • Of the 3 graphs, we studied today which one did you find most useful? Why?
  • Name one positive and one negative thing that happened during group work today
  • Multiply 3 by 4

Review the Exit Ticket to determine how you may need to alter your instruction to better meet the needs of your student.

You can also collect the Tickets as a part of an assessment portfolio for your student.

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Words in Context: Effective Strategies for Teaching New Vocabulary

Learning new vocabulary words is a key skill in developing reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. However, just hearing or even memorizing a word is often not enough for a student to internalize it and know how to properly use it. The end goal of vocabulary instruction is for students to improve language input and output, meaning that their ability to both comprehend and produce language is enhanced as vocabulary skills are strengthened.

Consider the following approach to vocabulary instruction, practice, and internalization for use with your student.

Step 1: Locate useful and important vocabulary words

Vocabulary words are most useful to students when they recognize them in their reading and can use them in their writing. Therefore, it is important to introduce students to unfamiliar words before they are exposed to them in a text.

To find vocabulary words for students to learn, turn to any of the following sources:

  • Textbooks: use boldfaced words
  • Novels and short stories: read ahead and write down a few of them from the reading assignment that your students are about to complete.
  • Vocabulary workbooks and guides: these have useful lists of important vocabulary words to know

Step 2: Create a set of vocabulary words

To collect vocabulary words, note cards work well.

  1. Choose one or two new vocabulary words each day. More than 2 words can be overwhelming and detract from a student’s ability to recall and use what they have learned.
  2. Using one note card per word, have students write the word on one side, then the definition, part of speech, and a context sentence on the other side. You or your student can add an image or a drawing to your note card as well.

Step 3: Help students learn the words

Once your student has a collection of 10 or so word cards, start using them in review activities to reinforce meaning and use. This reinforcement can take many forms, and it is usually more helpful when it taps into the student’s creativity and/or personal learning style. Try any of the following activities as context vocabulary practice:

  • Creative Writing: Ask students to choose 3-5 of their words (at random or deliberately) and use those words to write a story, letter, descriptive paragraph, etc.
  • Word Drawings: Ask students to choose a word to illustrate. This activity works well with visual learners because they can associate the definition of their words with images that they have created.
  • Synonyms & Antonyms: Ask students to choose a word from their collection (or have them all use the same word). Hand out paper and ask them to write that word on the top of the page, then fold the paper lengthwise. In one column, have the write synonyms for that word, and then ask them to fill the other side with antonyms. This activity can be given a time limit (see how many you can come up within 5 minutes), or used as a reference sheet, depending on the personality and needs of your child.

  • Formal Writing: When students have a composition or summary to write for class, have them choose words from their vocabulary collection to incorporate into that writing assignment.

  • Structured Pull-outs: Pull specific words out of the collection and ask students to tell you what they have in common.

  • Example: Take out the words “original,” and “innovative.” Without looking at the definition and use, what do these 2 words have in common? What is something that they could all describe?

  • Independent Pull-Outs: Give your student a category and ask to choose 3 words from his/her collections that could fit into that category.

  • Example: Find 3 words that could describe a happy moment. Which words did you choose? How/why do they fit this category?

  • Word Chains: Take a vocabulary word that you can manipulate and ask students to make a chain out of it, changing part of speech, prefixes, suffixes, etc.

  • Example: original word = important; make it an adverb = importantly ; make it a noun = importance ; opposite of “important” = unimportant

  • Games: Make and play go-fish, memory, etc., to match words to definitions, match words with similar meanings, etc. Having students make their own vocabulary games can be an excellent reinforcement of new words, as well.

  • Picture Writing: Show your students a photo or piece of artwork to describe using a certain number of vocabulary words, or give them specific words to use in their descriptions.

    Describe the photo below using the words “ecstatic,” “frolic,” and “cautious.”

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Step 4: Ensure individual student mastery

Take a break from adding new words once your student has a solid collection of vocabulary words (15-20 words might work for some students, while others may need to work with fewer words or more words, depending on individual needs and memory capacity). If a student had adequate practice with these words, stop to assess his/her understanding. This assessment can be a written quiz, a one-on-one oral assessment, a writing assignment in which certain words must be used, or a creative project proving vocabulary understanding. Words that students definitely know at this point can be placed aside for less frequent practice, while those that still pose a challenge should be kept in active use as they continue to increase the number of words in their collections.

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Competence Anchors: Overcoming Fear of Failure in School


Kids with learning or attention issues often experience more failure in school than other kids. As a result, they can start to believe that they can’t do new, challenging things.

If a student thinks the work will be hard—if he believes that he can’t do the task—his brain goes into escape mode, even on tasks he really can do. His inner voice is yelling: “This is going to be too hard for me! I have to get out of here!” The purpose of the competence anchor is to change this thinking.

Think about it this way: Have you ever been in a challenging situation and felt anxious because you were not sure if you could do the task? And then a friend says to you: “You should be able to do this. It’s no harder than x, which you do well.” That’s a competence anchor at work.

How to Set a Competence Anchor

1. Take your child back to something you know he can do. Remind your child of a level of schoolwork where he felt successful and competent. You could pick an example in the subject area that’s currently making him feel like “I can’t do this”. If he thinks working at this lower level is “baby stuff,” explain that you want to take him back to a place where he feels competent and in control. (You can use these words: “I want to remind you of something you can do well, and how that felt. If you have that feeling when you’re given harder tasks, it will be easier for your brain to conquer the task.”) You can also look outside of school for something your child feels successful at. This could be a sport, hobby (like Legos) or talent (like music or cooking).

2. Have him stop to feel the joy of success. Encourage your child to be mindful of that feeling of past success. If your child read a word or sentence correctly, ask him how it felt. If he got the answer to a math problem, ask him what it felt like to get it right. If he scored a big goal in soccer, ask him to remember what that was like. The brain loves success! These positive memories are likely to stick with him.

3. Connect the past success to the new challenge. Now that he has a competence anchor in mind, have him connect it to the new challenge. Remind him how he did well on this past task, then say: “This new problem is very much like this old one.” Another way to say this is: “You told me that you think you’re really good at x. I’d say it’s very likely that you’re going to be good at this too.”

4. Talk to him about the messages his brain sends. Finally, ask him to be mindful of the messages his brain is sending him. If he says, “My brain is telling me I can’t do this,” encourage him to send his brain another message, like “This might be hard, but I think I can do it.”

If your child is mature enough, you can also explain why you’re helping him focus on past successes. Explain to him the words confident (you feel sure of yourself) and competent (you can do this task very well). This is a place in which he feels totally in charge—very competent and very confident. Explain to your child that this is the feeling that will help him when he attempts something new.


Sensory Strategies for Learning

In our last edition, we discussed Sensory Processing challenges and their characteristics. Now, we would like to share some tips and tools for students with sensory processing needs in the independent study environment. While you may not be able to integrate all of these strategies, if you can simply use a few new tools each day to help your child regulate and make sense of the sensory world around him or her, your homeschooling day will go more smoothly.

Sensory Mover Tips:

If you have a mover and shaker who is constantly on the go, loves loud noises, new textures, and bright lights, you most likely have a sensory seeker. This child craves movement, sensory experiences, and activity. For this type of child, it’s important to incorporate specific sensory input into the learning routine. Use the following list of sensory strategies to help you match your child’s input craving with the right product or learning strategy.

  • Do then teach! Allow your sensory seeker to be active in the learning process.
  • Touch as much as possible. A firm touch, bear hug, massage, or added weight will help your seeker be able to focus.
  • Monitor and limit noises, visual stimuli (such as lights and bright colors on walls), and temperature.
  • Opportunities for exercise and heavy work are key, especially before learning. Try carrying, pushing against a wall, wheelbarrow walks, biking, jumping on a trampoline, etc.
  • Use manipulatives whenever possible to engage the body in the learning process.
  • Engage the senses of taste and smell — chew gum, use smelling markers or crayons, use food in a lesson.

Sensory Avoider Tips

Sensory avoiders typically thrive on structure and familiarity, are rigid and rule-oriented, become overwhelmed by sensory inputs and feel it more intensely, are often irritable and startle easily. Sensory avoiders react intensely to sensory input including sound, touch, smell, and sight. If you have a sensory avoider, it’s important to control the sensory inputs so you can help them process their environment. Using the following list of sensory strategies will help you match the environment’s inputs with the right product or learning strategy:

    • Monitor volume, temperature, activity level, visual stimuli, etc., closely.
    • Use headphones, weighted blankets or lap pads to help your child attend BEFORE learning.
    • Create a visual schedule and stick to it! Predictability is key.
    • Give your child plenty of space to move, and avoid unexpected touch or noises.
    • Allow your child to choose clothing, the place to sit, etc. Share power!
    • Teach your child to self-assess and verbalize his or her feelings and sensory needs using a feeling or sensory chart.

              Whether your child seeks sensory stimulation or avoids it, you will benefit from having a sensory kit ready and waiting to help your child regulate and engage his or her senses. Here are some inexpensive products and strategies that work for all kids who need sensory support before learning:

              • Olfactory and oral input (smell and taste): scented crayons and markers, scented bubbles, cinnamon, gum, chewies jewelry or pencil toppers, scented candles;
              • Tactile input (touch): fidgets, playdough or moon sand, felt or VELCRO® strip under the desk, a sensory box with sand or rice, Koosh or squeeze ball, tennis ball for throwing, etc.
              • Visual input (see): lava lamp, Spirograph, spinning tops, etc.
              • Auditory input (hear): musical instruments, egg with rice inside, clickers, quiet classical music, etc.

              CAUGHT ON THE NET

              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!

              Questions? Suggestions? Feedback?

              If you have questions or feedback on how we can help to support you, please let us know!