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10 FAQs About Remote Special Education Instruction10 FAQs About Remote Special Education Instruction

10 FAQs About Remote Special Education Instruction

Aug 18, 2020Remote Learning

We asked Special Education teachers what they were still wondering about at the beginning of the school year, and we’ve narrowed down the questions to the top 10 Frequently Asked!

  • How do I teach my students, with low cognitive ability, how to log on and participate in instruction?

    • Provide a clear parent portal, including usernames and passwords, screencasts, and instruction videos.

    • Record yourself logging on to each platform so that parents and students can watch the video as many times as needed.

    • Create a detailed daily or weekly schedule, with direct links to each activity, video, document, etc.

    • Create a repetitive schedule that happens every day to provide structure. For example, every day we have a morning meeting, watch an exercise video, complete a math lesson, have a snack, complete a reading lesson, have lunch, etc.

  • How do I provide push in support virtually?

    • Meet with each teacher you are supporting each week (or biweekly, depending on student and teacher needs). Any time you are discussing a student’s performance, accommodations, and modifications, it counts towards a student’s push in hours. For example, if you talk about Tommy for 15 minutes, that is 15 minutes of push in time. (We know, this is a controversial point, but our research into special education law has guided use to this conclusion, and we use it on our practice).

    • Provide accommodations that students can use during their class time. The amount of time they are using the accommodations also count towards their push in hours. For example, you’ve created a graphic organizer that will help your student write an essay. If they worked on their essay using the graphic organizer for an hour, that is an hour of specialized academic instructional support.

    • During synchronous instruction, co-teach by messaging individual students, creating differentiated documents and doing in-class small group instruction using a break out room.

    • For asynchronous instruction, provide additional documents or artifacts for support such as articles on that student’s reading level, videos, vocabulary definitions, picture support, extra directions, or video recordings of yourself reading an article aloud or walking them through a project.

  • How do I work with my in-person students at the same time I’m working with my virtual students?

    • If this is your situation, ask for a paraprofessional. This is not a feasible situation without a para.

    • Have your para manage the online students. Give them detailed instructions on how to handle it while you are teaching. You can switch and meet with the at home kids while your para covers an activity.

    • Have a camera set up close to your instruction so that it can be live-streamed.

    • Consider having your para click through a slideshow of book pictures while you’re reading a book aloud to your students.

    • Provide down time for students. Offer videos for movement exercises, neighborhood walk scavenger hunts, and family recipes for snack time.

    • Provide computer time, independent time, play time, reading time, etc. for all students.

    • Give at-home parents detailed schedules so they can choose to participate with their child.

  • How can I ensure my students are doing the work, and not their parents?

    • Consistently remind parents of the importance of students learning by doing.

    • Plan to meet individually with students you are concerned about. Ask the student questions specific to the project to assess that student’s learning.

    • Report up to your principal that this is happening and that you have done the above mentioned; this is an ongoing issue for students with and without special education needs.

  • How do I manage a paraprofessional during remote instruction?

    • This article on working with a paraprofessional remotely gives tons of great information and resources.

  • How do I know my priorities?

    • First priority is building relationships with your students. They will have experienced some sort of trauma, even from simply having their schedules disrupted. Make them feel safe during this unknown and scary time.

    • Second priority is teaching students HOW to do remote learning by explicitly teaching them the platforms they will need to use every day. Do this via live instruction, a recorded video or screencast, or both.

    • After the first two priorities are met, you can begin teaching your content. You can always start with content at the beginning, but without explicit platform instruction, it will be a struggle.

  • How do I plan instruction that is flexible? How do I plan for all of the possibilities?

    • Planning is key here. Be sure to plan activities that can be done online and in person with minimal changes.

    • Start planning the year as if you will be remote. Putting together a website, even if students are face to face. Use in-person classes to teach expectations and build relationships. Teach the online platforms you will need to use during remote learning.

    • Have long projects in your back pocket. Create research projects that can be easily sent home with students to research. Students can put together a project that shows learning and research of the subject (give them choice).

    • Be prepared to send students home with paper based work, as some school districts are not 1:1.

  • What the heck are Boom Cards and how do I use them?

    • Boom cards are super cool! You can create interactive assessments that are graded immediately and provide instant feedback for students. You can use them during morning meeting, independent time, whole group instruction, and in small group instruction. They are a great way to provide an interactive way to show what you know. Learn more about Boom Cards, it’s free!

  • How do I do small group instruction virtually?

    • Small group instruction is so important! First, start with setting up a common meeting time for you and your group.

    • Find materials that can be used online OR digitize the materials you’d like them to use. You can find books that students can interact with online at Reading A-Z, ReadWorks, BookTrust, Wanderful, MagicBlox, Vooks, Newsela, and more.

    • Use a document camera or the virtual whiteboard feature in zoom to show your students math problems so you can work through them together.

    • If a student is having trouble and the rest of the group is moving on, set aside a time to check in with that student independently.

  • How do I keep myself and my family safe?

    • Follow the CDC guidelines as closely as possible. Be sure to wear protective equipment. Advocate to your union if you are not provided with adequate PPE.

    • Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer as often as possible, don’t touch your face and leave your mask on all day.

    • When you come home, immediately put your clothes in the washer and take a shower before touching anything or anyone.

What are you still wondering about as we start the school year? Comment below with your questions!

Remote Learning Series - DifferentiationRemote Learning Series - Differentiation

Remote Learning Series - Differentiation

Aug 12, 2020InstructionRemote Learning

Starting the year virtually doesn’t mean that everything has to change. Most pedagogical best practices remain intact, but are slightly altered to accommodate the new educational setting.

We are teachers. We are fluid like water and adapt as necessary. Here are some tips (with lots of links) to help you set up your virtual classroom.

Best Practices

Teach New Platforms - Anytime a new platform, tool, or routine is introduced, students must be explicitly taught how it is to be used. There are many ways to do this including a screencast, a live demo or written directions. The goal is to prevent questions by anticipating what students might ask. For example, if a student is expected to make a new file in google drive, create a quick screencast that records each step of the process with audio matching and explaining the steps. Students with IEPs will need them AND students without IEPs will appreciate the help, as well. Post the screencast in a shared space and give students the option to view it if they are having difficulty. Rather than continuing to do screen-shares to show the steps, refer students back to the screencast when they inevitably ask what they are supposed to do.

Set Clear Expectations - Along with explicitly teaching new tools, teachers’ directions should be clear, so that students are able to work on their assignment with minimal assistance from the teacher. Post the expectations and directions in several locations. For example, when using a Google Doc, Zoom, and a shared website, link all necessary documents, share them in the Zoom chat box AND post them to the shared website. Make it easy for students to find the information they need quickly, so time can be spent on the cognitive work of the assignment. More is less here — as in, the more places for students to stumble on the right links and documents, the less they will ask for them.

Give Choices - A great way to meet the needs of various learning styles is to give choices in the concept, product, and process of the assignment. For example, providing students flexibility around how they work on the project (individually, small groups, pairs) and how they present their learning (video, essay, hands-on project, PowerPoint, podcast, etc.). Allow students to control what they research, and when they complete their assignment. This can include providing a choice board each week, or simply a list of everything that is due by the end of the week which allows students to create their own schedules.

Healthy Balance - It is imperative that there is a healthy balance of synchronous (live) and asynchronous (offline) instruction*. Students all have different processing time and many students benefit from multiple exposures to the same content. Teachers can teach a live class each day, recording them so that students can watch them again later (if there is a question of file size, maybe just record the actual lesson, not the whole synchronous class). Another option: record their lesson ahead of time and post open office hours for students to ask questions or talk through a project. Teachers can also create projects that span several weeks, and allow students to work on them independently on their own time. Being on Zoom for more than 4 hours a day is difficult!

*Some schools are creating strict policies around the synchronous lesson times. For students with IEPs, it would be a good idea to connect with the special education director and/or school leader to consider adapting these hours for them. (Check out the list of virtual accommodations!)

Pre-teaching - Such an amazing instructional strategy! There are many ways to pre-teach or provide materials prior to the actual lesson. Provide the readings, links to videos about the topic, the vocabulary list, Khan Academy videos, guided notes, and whatever else a student might need to be successful for the next day’s lesson. It’s not cheating! Building background knowledge is essential for helping students achieve success. It can feel like extra work at first, but just think of all the time it saves in the re-teaching process!

Small Group Instruction - Just like in-person teaching, small group instruction is paramount to helping students make meaningful improvement. There are many ways to do small group instruction. Groups can be created by ability level, meaning students will be in a small group with students who need the same learning. This could be done in a guided reading group, or small group math lesson. Groups could also be based on data collected during the whole group lesson. For example, give students an exit ticket using google forms, then analyze the data to determine which of your students need to be retaught the material. Form a small group for the following day and re-teach the material. Collect data on students’ performance regularly so that you can intervene before a small misunderstanding leads to a big problem.

Reduce the Number of Clicks - Keep things simple. Avoid asking students to make several clicks in order to get to the material. For example, post your links and documents in one, easy to find place. Make clicks very clear and descriptive. For example, avoid just pasting links and rather provide the title of the document and make it a hyperlink. Avoid using buttons that say “click here” but rather use descriptions such as “submit your essay”.

Virtual Accommodations

For 40+ years, accommodations have been written for in-person schooling. How do we provide accommodations for virtual learning?!

We have included a list of virtual learning accommodations that can be included in a student’s IEP. Whether the district mandate is a new amendment, updates at the next IEP, changes in a 30 day meeting, or another way of documenting this change to remote learning, including these options will be beneficial for students, parents, and general education teachers to implement to best meet the needs of students with IEPs.

Programs for Remote Learning

Math Khan Academy - Khan Academy is a free remote learning resource for teachers and students to learn and practice valuable math tools. There are free practice assessments for the SAT and Khan Academy is offering a FREE teacher preparation program that teachers are raving about.

Carnegie Learning - Carnegie has published several free resources for teachers to use during remote learning. There is a free math program that teachers can use to assign lessons and activities, and a curated list of online math lessons.

Big Ideas Math - Big Ideas is a paid subscription program, but is currently offering open access materials for teachers including printable lessons, lesson plans and videos that teachers can either print or link to their shared classroom space.

Center for Math and Teaching - Free math resources for grades 6, 7 and 8, including lesson videos, skill boosters and problem sets that can be printed or shared online.

CPM Educational Program - CPM released a free guide to remote learning for districts, teachers and families to use. Within their guide are links to several resources available for free within CPM.

Great Minds - Great Minds is the producer of Eureka Math, an online learning program designed to help students master math concepts in grades PK-12.

Singapore Math - A scripted math program, Singapore Math is providing some free resources as well as Professional Development for teachers. Act quickly, resources will not be free indefinitely.

Symphony Learning - Symphony has released a free trial version of their online math program as well as some free printable resources for early number sense teaching in grades K-5.

Zearn - Zearn has an online system full of videos, lessons and interactive practice for students.

Prodigy - Prodigy is a ‘freemium’ math game that is good for students working elementary and middle school math levels. It is free for teachers and students, however there are add ons that can be bought.

Reading/Literacy Readworks - Readworks is a database of reading passages organized by Lexile level. (Lexiles are a numerical reading level assigned to texts. You can sort passages by skills, reading level, interest and grade. Many passages also have free multiple choice and short answer response questions.

Achieve3000 - Achieve3000 is another database of articles organized by Lexile level, which allows for differentiation for students at various reading ability levels. They are traditionally a paid program, but are still offering a portion of their programs for free.

Scholastic - Scholastic offers a diverse set of online learning resources for all grades for free, but that free pass is expiring very soon. If you have funding available, Scholastic offers amazing school wide programs for both remote and in person learning.

Reading Plus - A paid online reading platform, Reading Plus trains students’ eyes to help them read word by word, line by line. It contains reading passages and multiple choice questions as well as a comprehensive tracking system for student data.

Reading A-Z - “RAZ” offers lots of passages and books for students that are made to be read online (or at home). There are several paid opportunities to provide online reading resources for students. These texts can be used in small group instruction as well.

Achieve the Core - Achieve the core has a plethora of free online resources such as articles, activities, lesson plans and other resources. Check out the “expert packs”, a great way to differentiate expectations by helping students access background knowledge.

Capit Learning - An online or in-person blended program to help K-2 students learn phonics. This program is for young students, for phonics programs with more mature content, try Lexia Learning, or Read Naturally.

Additional Resources - This site has links for Science and Social Studies, as well as music, PE, Social Emotional Learning, reading and math.

Remote Learning Series - Working with a ParaprofessionalRemote Learning Series - Working with a Paraprofessional

Remote Learning Series - Working with a Paraprofessional

Aug 2, 2020InstructionRemote Learning

It is a crazy world we are in right now, y’all.

Many teachers will be entering the 2020 - 2021 school year with little-to-no guidance on how to adapt teaching practices to meet the online demands of students. Paraprofessionals (teaching aides, classroom aides, whatever term you use) are a great resource to those who are lucky enough to have them. Teachers have been utilizing paraprofessionals (paras) in the classroom setting, but how do we transition to utilizing them in remote learning?

We have researched, brainstormed, and implemented various ways of incorporating paras during the spring and extended school year in virtual settings. Below is a working list of what has worked well for us — let us know what has worked for you and add any ideas you have!

** Paraprofessionals MUST be trained in these aspects. Check with Admin regarding rules around what paraprofessional can do in your school. **

Whole Group Video Instruction

During whole group, video-based instruction, have your para to be a “co-host” so they can:

  • Manage the Chat Box - Alert the teacher if there is a question, answer the question if they know the answer

  • Share Links, Screenshots and Documents in the Chat Box - Sometimes you want students to go to a Google Doc while on video or to have a screenshot of the PowerPoint to do their project later.

  • Manage participants - Students like to come off of mute. You can control that! Have your para be watching the participant list and mute any students whose background noise might be distracting. Feel free to remove students who are not following directions (just know, they cannot re-enter after being kicked out!), and follow up with them after live instruction.

  • Manage Breakout Groups - If your school allows for breakout groups, your para can set up those groups for you. They can also pop in and out of the breakout rooms to ensure students are on topic, answer any questions, or take discussions further.

  • Annotation - Have your co-teacher annotate the screen while students are sharing responses - whether it is through Zoom, slides, PearDeck, or one of the myriad options for virtual working that have come up!


  • Parallel Teaching - Split up your class into two groups using the breakout groups feature - or two meetings, depending on which video platform your school is using. Your para can manage one group while you manage the other. You could also coordinate switching groups, depending on comfortability and skill level of teachers and students.

  • Data Tracking & Assessment - Individual reading and math assessments take up valuable time. Train your para in how to assess students and track their performance - according to whichever tracking system you are utilizing in your teaching - and have them individually assessing students.

  • Small Group Instruction - If you have a lesson plan already written out, train your para to run the lesson with a small group of students. This can be done using the breakout feature OR they can schedule a session with just those students. Depending on your para’s comfortability and experience, have them plan a lesson based on student IEP goals and lead the lesson; during your weekly meetings review how it went and the data they garnered from their lesson.


  • Grading - Teach your para to use your rubrics or answer keys to grade student work. Then, pass over that grading! This can help reduce your workload and give your para valuable information on student present levels. It also gives your para insight into teacher mindsets when analyzing student work to re-teach and identify strengths and weaknesses. (Some states have guidelines stating paraprofessionals shouldn’t “assign” grades - which means they should not have access to your grade book.)

  • Observations (also, Data Tracking) - Paras can help with student observations for data on IEP goals. They can also observe your teaching with the same teaching rubric you will be evaluated with so that you can prepare for your own evaluation - boom!

  • Lesson Planning and Research - Have your para help you find videos, lesson plans, photos, worksheets, new (free) learning platforms (depending on district policies). As long as you give specific instructions on what to look for - your para can do the searching and prep for you. For example, ask them to find short, informational videos to provide background information and context for new units — curating those videos is time consuming!

  • Notes Home - A great way to keep in communication with students and parents during remote learning is to send little notes home - via email, text, or snail mail. This will help you build relationships with your students and families. Your para can help write and send those notes!

  • Differentiation - Have paras help create graphic organizers, differentiated worksheets, audio versions of text, and more. Similar to lesson planning and research, this can be whole mini lessons to create prior knowledge. Having your para involved in the grading will help them get to intimately know the students’ abilities and will make this process easier.

  • Google Classroom - Organizing documents, presentations, sites and more on Google Drive can be tedious. Have your para help you create, keep up-to-date, and organize your folders, Google Classroom announcements, assignments, and more.

  • Scheduling and Invites - your para can help you by scheduling zoom calls, 1:1 conferences, small group instruction and parent teacher updates. Give them access to your calendar and keep it up to date so they can just schedule meetings based on your availability.

Helpful Tips for Success

  • Weekly Meetings - Take 30 minutes to an hour each week to discuss the upcoming lessons, their responsibilities, any grading demands, parent contacts, and student concerns. Walk through the weekly schedule one day at a time listing the responsibilities of you and your para. We like to start with ‘grows and glows’ to get our meeting started with some ease.

  • Create and Use Rubrics - Take time to create an answer key or a high quality rubric to ensure consistency among grading practices! Use the days before school, or your weekly meetings, to review the rubrics together.

  • Create Robust Lesson Plants - Scripting lessons sounds tedious - but we promise, it is helpful! Especially when paras might be the ones implementing the lesson plans. If you are having your paras lead small groups independently, have them practice a few times with you first before releasing them on their own. Even better - have them observe a few small group lessons. When they feel comfortable, they can run small groups on their own while you observe and give feedback.

  • Create a Manual - Create Google Drive folders or binders with documents, links, folders, and classroom or behavioral expectations that your para will need to be successful. Include school wide discipline practices, instructions for how to access the specified video platform, and Google Classroom, a list of passwords to online programs, and anything else they will need. Keep this in one spot and be sure to update it regularly.

  • Create a Substitute Folder - Always have back up lessons available in case you need to take a day off. Share those plans with your para so they may assist the substitute with the lesson plans and class expectations. In our classroom, my para generally becomes the ‘lead’ teacher in these situations, as they are familiar with the students, systems, and structures of the classroom.

  • Keep Up Communication - Include your para on important emails, parent communication, and school wide scheduling or announcements. Treat your para as a co-teacher and keep them in the loop regarding important communication.

Further Reading: 15 Ways Paraprofessionals Can Support Ways to Utilize Paraprofessionals During Remote Learning Defining the Role of the Paraprofessional in Distance Learning Autism Classroom Podcast - Paraprofessionals

How Did We Get Here?How Did We Get Here?

How Did We Get Here?

Jul 1, 2020Who We Are

Five years ago, I worked with a 7th grade student to lead his own Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting. We prepped by going through what his disability was, what that meant for him, how he was doing in his classes, and what supports his teachers could do to help him in class. 

Did he want to lead his own IEP? Of course not, no student wants to be front and center of a parent-teacher conference, let alone a full blown, hour-long meeting to discuss an IEP and their special education services. Did he lead it? Yes, and the pride on his parents’ faces, the smile on his face at the end, and the simple awareness of his disability and accommodations has shifted the course of his schooling. As a rising senior, he is able to advocate for himself by clearly communicating his disability and accommodation needs and make sure he gets the support he needs from general education teachers. 

In working with this student, and several others, I dug through the internet to find kid-friendly resources and lessons I could implement to teach kids about their disabilities and how they can lead their own IEP meetings. 

I never found any.

The data for special education is abysmal: almost 15% fewer students with special education graduate from high school compared to their neurotypical peers, students of color (boys especially) are over-identified, students with IEPs are suspended and expelled at a higher rate than their peers, millions of dollars of the special education budget are lost in litigation each year, and parents notoriously hate attending IEP meetings and feel as though their students are forgotten, or worse, targeted, at school. 

In the 10 years that I have worked in education, specifically special education, there has always been a consistent gap between general and special educators. I have always wondered why special education teachers were the only ones with access to online information about students and their IEPs. 

Currently, school staff access IEP information one of three ways: special education teachers printing out ‘IEP-at-a-Glance’ notes and distributing them across teachers, combing through student schedules and sending emails with PDF attachments for each student, or spending hours creating a comprehensive spreadsheet with all the special education student information. 

Students can go for almost their entire school career without knowing what accommodations they are afforded, how to talk to their teachers about them - or that they can, or  even - not know they have an IEP or learning disability. 

I am here to create what we found to be lacking in education -- specifically, in special education. 

IEP & Me is a special education technology company dedicated to empowering students in the classroom by closing the gap of knowledge and providing transparent access to resources for students, general education teachers and parents.  Our company offers: 

  • An online, personalized learning curriculum of animated, interactive videos that will teach students all about special education. From the IEP process and legalities, to their specific learning disabilities, to ways to advocate for themselves by providing feedback on their individual goals and lead their IEP meetings.

  • A revolutionary IEP creation software platform that provides access points to every IEP team member. Parents, students, general education teachers, and - of course - special education teachers can access student IEP information, search by class period, disability, accommodation, and more. Each user is provided specific access to information without unnecessary extras, maintaining appropriate student privacy. 

  • Professional development and training for school staff and parents so that no adult on the IEP team feels ‘in the dark’ about what student rights are, how to work with students or specific disabilities, and easily provide accommodations or modifications. 

After a decade working as educators across demographics, special education settings, and grade levels, it was clear to myself that these two issues—lack of knowledge and access—were consistent no matter who we were working with or where. 

I love working directly with students more than any other part of my job in education. However, I realize that right now, efforts and voices are needed most in this effort to create a systemic change to how special education functions in schools. I know the system, we know what is wanted and needed by all stakeholders on the IEP team, and we are here to create it.

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