The Chalk Blog

Jill Rockwell

This week’s blog post writer is Jill Rockwell. Jill is a Curriculum & Instruction Specialist with Learners Edge. Prior to joining the Edge, Jill was a special education teacher with experience teaching grades K-12. She appreciates and embraces the four seasons of Minnesota and can often be found hiking on nature trails with her husband and 17-month old son.

Recent Posts

Creating an Inclusive Classroom: Working with Exceptional Learners 

Today’s classrooms include students with disabilities, English Language Learners, gifted students, as well as other exceptionalities. Teachers need to be well-equipped with knowledge and evidence-based instructional practices to successfully support the needs (and strengths) of all learners.

Book editors, Wendy Murawski and Kathy Scott compiled and shared valuable expertise from leaders in the field of education in their book, What Really Works with Exceptional Learners. Here a sampling of some of the most helpful dos and don’ts when working with students with special needs and other exceptionalities.

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Topics: Special Populations

Creative Writing Activity: Family Mealtime

With November comes shorter days, colder temperatures, and my favorite holiday-Thanksgiving. For many, Thanksgiving involves a family feast around a dinner table. As it turns out, family mealtimes provide so much more than turkey and mashed potatoesLet’s take a look at the menu How about a side dish of high achievement scores? Perhaps a heaping spoonful of resilience? Or, for dessert- a positive view of the future? Backed by research, this article published by The Washington Post, promotes the value and importance of family mealtimes, beyond the holidays. Read on below to learn some strategies & free creative writing activities you can take back into your classroom to promote family mealtime to your students.

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Topics: Teaching Wellness & Inspiration

Dyslexia Awareness Month

Actors, chefs, lawyers, entrepreneurs, musicians, professional athletes, politicians…dyslexia doesn’t discriminate. Thankfully, dyslexia doesn’t limit success either. Just ask Whoopi GoldbergCherChanning Tatumand Jamie Oliver about their experiences with dyslexia.  

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Topics: Literacy

Reduce Back to School Jitters with Guided Writing

For many people here in Minnesota, the State Fair, held over a 10-day span through Labor Day, is one of the most anticipated events of the year: hot dish on a stick, deep-fried candy bars, the Miracle of Birth Center (baby farm animals), people watching…what’s not to love?!  Add the final gasps of summer weather, changing leaves, evening bonfires, and apple orchards, and it’s a beautiful parade of all things autumn. However, for many years, I have greeted that season with anxious feelings surrounding my summer vacation coming to an end and returning to school.  

Even after 14 years of teaching, I still experienced the “back to school jitters” every fall. I recall those feelings (a combination of nerves and excitement) as a child, an adolescent, and as a college student, even though I loved school I’m not alone. When I Googled ‘back to school jitters’, there were 16 million hits! Many children, teens, parents, and teachers feel anxious about the unknowns of another school year. Thankfully for most, those jitters dissipate once we get back into the swing of things.   

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Topics: Teaching Advice, Literacy

Integrating Literacy Strategies in the Mathematics Classroom

Literacy and Math Unite! 

As far back as I can remember, literacy has been a love of mine. I have fond memories of curling up on my grandma’s lap,engaged in picture books, then later independently reading every book of The Babysitter’s Club and Boxcar Childrenseries. Throughout my educational experiences, I have grown to become a skilled and confident teacher in the areas of reading and writing. Math, on the other hand, has been more challenging and less enjoyable for me, as well as forseveral of my students.  

Determined to be a more effective math teacher for my students with special needs, I began to explore literacy strategies for math. The research I found regarding the benefits, including increased levels of student engagement, supported my decision to introduce mathematical concepts with popular children’s books.  

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Topics: Teaching Advice, Literacy

How to Support Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

 I am the mom of a toddler, a typical toddler who has his share of tantrums and meltdowns (sometimes in public, sometimes at home). Although his receptive language skills are strong, his expressive language skills are still developing, causing frustration when trying to communicate his wants, needs, and feelings, hence the tantrums. When I can figure out what he is trying to tell me, we can work together to solve the problem. Determining the reasons (or functions) behind his behaviors is known as functional behavioral assessment. 

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Topics: Social Emotional Learning

4 Free Assistive Technology Tools for Your Classroom

What do pencil grips, talking calculators, wheelchairs, and augmentative communication devices have in common? They are all examples of assistive technology (AT).Per the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), assistive technology devices are defined as, "any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities." 

Assistive technology devices can range from low-tech tools such as pencil grips to assist students with written communication, to high-tech tools such as electric wheelchairs to increase personal mobility. Whether low tech or high tech, AT devices help individuals achieve an increased level of independence. As a special education resource teacher by trade (working mainly with students with learning disabilities and ADHD), I am always thrilled to find tools which help students access grade-level content. Outlined below are four of my favorite online AT tools that you can access today to support and enhance learning in your classroom.  

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Topics: Teaching with Technology, Special Populations

The Role Reflection Plays with Self-Regulated Learning

As all educators know, the act of reflection and how it relates to learning is not a new concept. Early 20th century progressive educator, John Dewey, noted, “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on the experience.” Well before John Dewey’s time, Spanish philosopher of the 1600s, Baltasar Gracian stated, “Self-reflection is the school of wisdom.” We at Learners Edge tend to agree! 

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Topics: Instructional Strategies

Tips and Resources for Teaching Summer School

 

Every spring as the school year began to wind down, I began to gear up for summer school, or Extended School Year (ESY), which is specifically for students with special needs. Sometimes my teacher friends questioned my sanity for signing up for ESY in special education every summer, but I truly enjoyed it!ESY was the perfect opportunity for students to work on their academic and social/emotional/behavioral skills based on the needs outlined on their Individual Education Plans (IEPs) in a small, laid-back summertime setting. 

Please allow me to take you through a typical summer school/ESY morning. 

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Topics: Teaching Advice, Classroom Management

You too can use YouTube in the Classroom

“Are we going to watch a movie today?” My students would squirm in their seats with excitement whenever I would pull down the projector screen. Videos can certainly breathe new life into lesson plans; even short video clips seemed to perk up my most reluctant learners. 

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Topics: Technology

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