Tuesday, October 29, 2013

An Easy Method for Collecting and Analyzing Data

Hi, it's Chris from over on Autism Classroom News here to talk about one of my favorite topics: Data collection.  We know we need to do it but figuring out how to take the data, teach the kids, manage the classroom and analyze the data to use it to make decisions is simple, right? Not in my experience, and probably not in yours?  Data collection is probably one of the biggest issues that I see teachers struggle with.  Over the years I've developed a number of strategies to help teachers take data more easily (I hope) in the classroom and systems for analyzing the data.  I'm a strong believer that you are going to use different types of data collection depending on both the skill being assessed as well as the context you are teaching in.  I reviewed some of these types of data in a post over on my blog.  However, I wanted to share some basic tools that might be helpful in meeting some overall guidelines for data collection.

1.  Take data in real-time if at all possible

Data is best collected at the time that the skill or behavior occurs.  Waiting to take the data means that you are relying on memory and your memory is never quite as good as you think it is--especially as you get older.  When you rely on memory you may only remember the times that fit with what you think is happening. If you think the skill is increasing, you are likely to remember the times it occurred and forget the times that it should have happened but didn't.  The data sheet below can be used to track the behavior in real-time of one student across different activities or multiple students within one activity.  You can check out this post on my blog to download a copy and for directions on how it can be used.

2.  Collect data consistently and systematically.

Data is only as good as the method that is used to collect it.  The old adage, garbage in, garbage out definitely applies.  You don't have to take data on every single instance of a skill or behavior you are tracking.  However, you do need to take data in a way that is planned and consistent and not just haphazardly.  Again, if you take it whenever you think about it, you are back to taking data based on your beliefs about what is happening (i.e., you think to take data when the behavior matches what you expect).  So, you can take data as a sample as long as you sample consistently and in a planful manner.  So you take data two times a week on the playground to track social initiations, on Monday and Thursday every week.  You record each social initiation observed and the length of the playground session (if it varies) so you can figure out how frequently they occur.  This then gives you a consistent sample to track the behavior over time and you will be comparing apples to apples when you analyze the data.

3.  Make a habit of reviewing the data weekly.

If you wait to summarize and analyze the data until it's time for progress reports, and the student is progressing, then you have wasted at least 6-7 weeks of instruction.  Data is important because it tells us when we have to change our instruction.  Making a habit of summarizing and reviewing the data every week also means that you don't have to stay up half the night or spend all weekend doing it before progress reports or IEP meetings.  Think about including others in this effort, like paraprofessionals, if that's possible, so they can see how the data gets used.  Making data functional for everyone means everyone is more committed to taking it correctly than if it is just paperwork to complete.

4.  Graph the data.

The key to this is making sure that you have an easy way to graph it.  If you use the data sheet I referred to above, you can easily use the Excel spreadsheet from this post.  Don't worry, I did a screencast on that post for how to use it, so don't let it intimidate you.  You put in the number of correct / independent responses and the number of opportunities accumulated across the week for up to 3 activities and it will actually graph itself.  Schedule a time during each week when you graph each student's data for IEP skills that can't be tracked with permanent product or tests  This would typically include socialization, communication and behavioral goals and perhaps some academics, so it wouldn't have to be every skill you are working on.  Then you can review the graph regularly.

5.  Analyze the graph.

We actually don't have a ton of research on data collection in the classroom,   However, what we do have is clear on the following items:

  • Teachers tend to make decisions based more on intuition than on data collected
  • Teachers tend to feel uncomfortable analyzing data and using it to make meaningful decisions
  • Teachers generally do not graph their data
  • Teachers who do graph and review their data regularly have students who make more progress than teachers who don't.
So, here are some considerations when you go to analyze the data you have taken.  
  • Use general graphic conventions with meaningful X and Y axes. For instance, you can't have a Y-axis that goes higher than 100% since progress can't go beyond 100%.  If the maximum number of data points is 10, don't make the top of the graph 25 unless your aim is for the skill to improve that high or you are expecting the possibility of it getting that high.  The graphing template I talked about above will result in a percentage graph that graphs to 100% on the Y axis and will graph throughout the year to track progress.  How you organize the graph can skew how you interpret the data, so be careful with this.
  • Analyze at least 5 data points to look for whether the data is improving or not improving.
  • Draw an aim line from where the student starts on the graph to a point depicting the level of mastery (e.g., 80%) on the due date for mastery on the IEP (e.g., May 15, 2014).  Then you can assess if your student's progress is moving up that line.  If there are at least 3/5 points above the line, you are moving in the right direction.  If there are less than 3, you need to change something.
  • Use a set of decision rules, like these from Jimenez, Mims, & Browder (2012), to make your decisions.  Their research, and research before them, showed that teachers using decision rules consistently can make changes in instruction that improve student performance.  You can find the chart with the rules in the article at the link above (I don't want to paste it here because of copyright issues), but the link will take you to the article.
So, it is my hope that this at least gives you some ideas about collecting and analyzing data.  What do you see as the biggest hurdles in data collection?  Please share and perhaps a reader (or I) have some ideas that might be helpful.

Until next time,
Autism Classroom News

Monday, October 28, 2013

Easy Daysies Giveaway WINNER!!

And the winner is...
Thank you to everyone who entered! We hope to bring you more giveaways very soon! Yashika- I'll be emailing you in just a moment.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Creative Teaching: Easy Daysies Review and GIVEAWAY!!

I was BEYOND thrilled when Creative Teaching Press offered to send me the amazing Easy Daysies magnetic schedules! I was even more excited when they told me we could give one away to one of our readers too!! They were already one of my favorite teaching companies, and I was happily surprised when they wanted to me to test out one of their great products. The wonderful people at Creative Teaching Press were kind enough to send me all of the add-on packs, so I can tell you which ones are the best for you based on your needs!

This is the item you have a chance to WIN! This is the main kit for the Easy Daysies scheduling products. It is a small board that comes folded in half, but feels very durable. It has two sides so you can choose a happy tree/sun side, or a girly flower depending on the child/class you are using it for. 

It has a nice little string on the top so you can hang the chart, or you can use the extra large magnet included in the kit to stick the schedule to a magnetic surface. 

On the left side it says "To Do" and the right side says "Done!" so kids can move the magnets over for each activity when it's finished. The set also includes one blank magnet to write your own activity. It is perfect to use over and over with a dry erase maker. The magnets are all very sturdy, with clear pictures and words for each activity. There are 18 different magnets included in the set to arrange on the chart based on your needs.

 The Add-On Packs
Look at the handy bag the packs come with!
There are 3 different add-on packs for the Easy Daysies schedule. These might be my favorite part! The extra sets include so many more activities! 
The sets are:
The Family & Extracurricular Activities Set is a MUST for the family environment! It has all sorts of fun activities many kids participate in such as swimming, play outside, sports, play date, and 3 extra blank magnets for activities not included.
The Chores & Special Times set is wonderful for teaching kids responsibility. There are little white squares on the magnets so children can use a dry erase marker to check off each day they  have done the chore. I especially love that this set include CLOCKS!!! This is great for activities that must occur at a specific time and helps kids read clocks.

The Get Dressed & Bathroom Routine pack is perfect for young children as well as moderate/severe classrooms. It includes every detail of the bathroom routine. I was actually quite surprise by just how clear yet tasteful each of the bathroom images were. It can be such a tough topic to talk about and show illustrations in an appropriate way, but this set nailed it!

Classroom Packs!
If you are the winner, you can choose 1 classroom pack for your grade level!! These two were my FAVORITE part of the Easy Daysies set!!! My class has fallen in LOVE with our new schedule! We had a schedule before, but it was small, in a place that was hard to see (due to a lack of wall space), and was inconvenient to adjust each day. The LOVE the Easy Daysies schedule now on our whiteboard at the front of the room.

The kids noticed it right away when I put it up! Now they ask us, "Where are we on the schedule now?" or "Let's look at the schedule to see what's next." My kids who get a little homesick also like to see how close we are to going home based on how many of the activities they know we've completed already.

Here are the details for how I use this in our class:
  • I mixed the PreK-K and the 1+ sets together! I like features of both sets such as centers from the PreK pack and Assembly from 1+ pack. 
  • Our school has multiple activities with very specific names because it is a special education school. I did not have enough blank magnets with only 1 set! I used the blank magnets from both sets to make my schedule. The set has all of the major subjects, but my school calls things by special names and it would confuse my students to say "science" or "social studies" when they are used to saying "theme" like they are used to.
  • I write the times on the whiteboard in big clear numbers the kids can see from across the room (WAY better than our old schedule!)

Now it's time for you to WIN!!!!! 
Winner will be chosen Sunday October 27th, 2013!

Grocery Shopping Life Skills Interactive Activities

This year I have three different 'speech rooms' in three different buildings! One of those is at a middle school where I work in two different moderate to severe classrooms. One is more of a self contained class and the other is for students who are more independent. Both groups need experience with daily living skills. Since I'm new to this older population I've been scouring the web for resources! I thought I'd share a few that I'm loving so far for working on Grocery Shopping! 

Shopping List Game

I had this shopping game from my preschool days. I wasn't sure if it would be too 'young' for my middle schoolers. Turned out to work for a few of them and was too young for some others. 

I jazzed it up by using this real mini-shopping cart instead of the cardboard versions. My students all need to work on the vocabulary included in the game so it was really appropriate and they bought into the activity with the mini shopping cart. 

The amazon affiliate links are below for your convenience. 

The Goodwill Community Foundation has some AWESOME simulations online.

We used the Grocery Shelves version during this unit. Make sure you check out this free resource if you haven't before! 

I've been using the News2You Shop 'n' Pay App that came out last week. 

 It addresses the skills of shopping and paying for items. You can find it for $3.99 in the app store. 

The Shopping Cart Game app can be more difficult to navigate but addresses similar skills and vocabulary. The app is $2.99. 

I also made my own materials. The packet is 47 pages. I made it for my middle school daily living skills students. I hope you'll find it flexible enough for many of your students!  The packet starts with a 3 page book describing the process of grocery shopping. 

You can find the full preview and the  download for sale on my TpT store here

Are you working on these functional vocabulary and skills with your students? What other websites or apps have you found helpful?

Monday, October 21, 2013

You've Collected It... Now Organize It! (Data Collection)

You've collected it... but now what!?

We all have our own system for collecting data and tracking student progress. As special education teachers, one of the most important parts of our job is collecting data and progress monitoring IEP goals. Collecting the data is half the battle, but the other half is keeping it organized and ready to grab when you need it. Here is a peek at my system!

Right behind my reading table I keep my crate full of data. Each of my students has a section in this crate, and in each section I have a folder with their portfolio, assessments and progress monitoring.

The portfolio section is where I keep writing pieces that I will either give to the parents at the end of the year or put in to my students' ELA portfolios to travel with them to the next year.

The assessments section is where I keep assessments that are used for report cards, sight words, letters and sounds, math and writing.

Progress Monitoring
The progress monitoring section is where I keep all of the data sheets and progress monitoring materials for each of my students. 

Behind the folders I have a data binder for each student.

Data Binder
Each of my kiddos has a data binder that houses everything about each child. 

The student information section has general information about the student- address, contact numbers, family information, etc.

The next section is the child's IEP, summaries of their modifications and accommodations and information about their related services and therapies.

The parent contact section is where I keep every contact I have with the parents. Every email, note home or documented meeting. I also store behavior charts that the parents get each day because they serve as part of my daily parent communication.

The student data section is where I put data collection that has already been charted so I can use it at IEP meetings. This is also where I keep records of the therapies that my students get. Each time a therapist comes to get one of my kiddos for speech, OT, PT, etc.. they sign them out. I keep all of the sign out sheets to document that the services are in compliance with the IEP.

A few notes about my system:
  • It took a lot of preparation to get this system ready, but now that it is done, it is very easy to keep up with and my aides also know how to use it.
  • I got my binders at Big Lots for $2.00 each, so it isn't as expensive as it looks!
  • I only have 6 students so if you have a case load of 30, this may not work for you.
  • The cover pages for the sections of my binders are from this great organization pack!
Happy organizing!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Hello from Rae! (Our Newest Author!)

 Hello Sparkle Readers, Lisa here!! I'm thrilled to announce the newest member of A Special Sparkle! We had a wonderful response to her guest post a while back, and we just had to invite her to become a permanent author. Please take a moment to read all about RAE!!!!


I'm Rae from Mindful Rambles, a blog about being a special needs teacher.
I'm so thankful and excited to be a new Sparkler on this fabulous collaborative blog. As an author of my own special needs blog, I look to other bloggers for advice, ideas, and humor to manage with our challenging, yet rewarding careers.  This blog in particular has been a refuge for me as I seek to understand and further develop my expertise. I hope, that as a contributing author of A Special Sparkle, I will provide you with helpful information, nifty tidbits, and some laughs, because we truly have the best jobs in the world.

Facts about me:
  • I am in my 8th year of teaching! My first 4 years in the teaching profession, I was an Early Childhood teacher, primarily with Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten students. After receiving my Initial Licensure in Moderate Disabilities from Wheelock College in Boston, I began working at a therapeutic day school for students with behavioral, social/emotional, and neurological disabilities. This is where my special education journey really started. At this school, I worked with students with a wide range of abilities and grades (2nd-6th). After 3 years working at this school, I left my position to pursue other opportunities. And so...the journey continues!
My Wheelock College Soccer Team - that's me 2nd to last in the 2nd row (in white, next to the Assistant Coach in dark blue)
  • In May of 2013, I graduate with my Masters in Science in Applied Behavior Analysis from Simmons College in Boston. In January 2014, I will be sitting for the BCBA exam. While I plan to use my degree and certification in the classroom for a few more years, I am excited to say that I'm not sure what the future holds! I've good, bad, and weird experiences as a special educator, and it is with these experiences that I would like to work to help other educators enhance their lives as teachers, using my degree in ABA. Did you know that ABA can be used for far more than Autism? Fun fact.

  • On June 21, 2013 I married my better half. Our day was magical, and not just because we got married in a castle! I could not have asked for more perfect weather, more perfect company, or a more perfect man. Whenever I need someone to cry with, complain to, or someone to kick me into gear, I know I can count on him. He is the reason I am where I want to be today - he has been with me since I started my teaching journey all the way back in Wheelock! 8 years later and we are stronger than ever!
Isn't he Movie Star Handsome?
  • Our married lives may have just started, but we have been parents for 5 years - to 3 beautiful furbabies!
  • Random fact about me: While I live in Boston, and have for 20 years, I am originally a North Dakota girl! Born in Grand Forks, and lived with my Grandparents in Hettinger, I will always call North Dakota my home. Though I've been on the East Coast for 3 times longer than in the Midwest, my accent just won't kick - but I'm proud of it! Always a Midwesterner at heart :)
Just some adorable North Dakota kids! I'm in the middle
I look forward to future blog posts and collaborating with all of you! Thank you for welcoming me into this new endeavor :)


 photo Rae_zps7708f184.pngPhotobucket

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tracking student progress without the daunting paperwork!

Hey guys!

Sorry for being M.I.A.

New state, new house, new job = STRESS STRESS STRESS

I finally feel like I have my head above water, so I wanted to share my tips on tracking student progress:

4 Tips from Mrs. Dixon:

1. Find a program to use to store your data (Example: Google Docs)

If you are blessed to have an Ipad in your classroom, I would highly recommend using Google docs. 

In Google drive, you can create forms and “surveys” for you, your TAs, and even regular education teachers, specialist, or related service teachers (SLPs, OT, PT). You can import the data into Microsoft Excel, or use the graphs created for you. Read more about how to use Google Docs to collect IEP data here and here.

2. Create teacher-made data sheets

I actually got the idea from the amazing Sasha over at The Autism Helper.

Here is a made up example of what one of them looks like for one of my students:

These data sheets include every academic IEP goal and enough room for data collection for one week. I have 8 students total, so I split the data up between my TAs and me. This helps me stay organized in remembering 40ish IEP goals versus 100. During work times, we focus on our “data kids” to collect observations and check off anything. Of course we always end up working with other students, and in that event we just mark down the data from what we accomplished. At the end of the week, I type all the data into my Google docs forms.

I have clipboards & pencils velcroed all over my classroom with the data sheets so we don’t have to constantly carry these materials everywhere, and they are always available.

3. Use activities and materials that meet IEP goals and give you the data you need.

At the beginning of the year/quarter, decide on materials and the curriculum you are going to use and make sure it is meeting the students IEP goals.

I create a lot of file folder activities that are specific to my students IEP goals, along with their workboxes.  I love file folder tasks because they are super easy to put together and can be used over and over again! This makes collecting data during work time very easy for me and my team.

For math, I like to create worksheets that are specific to the goals from Math-Aids.com

I put the worksheets into the students daily work binders task folders. They complete these independently during morning work time.

For RLA, I use a sight words check lists and specific word family check-lists.

Here is a picture of our work system:

Here is a picture of a student’s assigned file folder tasks for the day:

I also use a ton of technology during the day with my students. We have access to websites such as Reading Eggs, Education City, and Study Island. My students have their own usernames, so when they sign on and complete activities, it automatically collects data. LOVE! 

4. Take assessments seriously 

I use CORE assessments and the Basic Reading Inventory benchmarking assessments at the beginning, middle, and end of the year to keep data on Reading & Comprehension. These are required by my district; however, I am sure they are available somewhere in your school! I used the BRI in my college student teaching – the book has TONs of assessments!

Finally, I use program specific assessments. In my class, I use the Unique Learning Curriculum. This online curriculum has its own benchmarks and monthly pre/post assessments to help me know what I need to cover and what I just need to review. The beauty of this Curriculum is that it is specific to students in low incidence classrooms so I can actually use the lessons!

Finding something that works for you and your team does take some time; however, once you get a system down you are golden!

Let me know if you have any questions!

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