Saturday, January 29, 2011


I compiled this at the request of students in the college classes I teach:

Let’s start with good basics: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
This basic concept has been respected for years and components of it are found in many behavior programs. I’m sure you have studied this, so I’m doing a very brief overview that hits the high spots. ABA is also recognized as a highly effective way to modify behaviors of children with autism.
1. Observations, interviews, and records reviews are some sources of information necessary to discern possible causes of behaviors, select socially significant behaviors to change, determine replacement behaviors, and establish rewards and punishment that will be effective with this child.
2. ABC is another acronym that might be helpful: Antecedent (cause, trigger of behavior), the Behavior itself, and Consequences (reward or punishment)
3. We can often eliminate a behavior by simply removing the antecedent which sometimes takes careful observation. If another student is doing something to cause said unacceptable reaction—separating them may be an easy solution, for example. This would be considered a fast and external trigger because the antecedent could be seen and came immediately before. It is more difficult when the behavior may be a slow and/or internal trigger like what we call “the straw that broke the camel’s back” or the child being tired or getting sick.
4. It is important to focus on a minimum number of behaviors to change at any one time—selecting most socially significant and serious should help guide your choices.
5. When trying to extinguish undesirable behaviors, it is critical to have a replacement behavior to introduce. This must also be a”Fair Pair”. In other words, every behavior has a purpose and function for that child. When you select a replacement, it must serve the same purpose and function. Attached you will find a Motivation Assessment Scale. Adults and teachers most familiar with the child can fill this out and the cluster scores will tell you if the motivation for this behavior is for escape, attention, something tangible, or for sensory needs (common with autism). This information, along with knowing the interests of the child will help you find a fair pair behavior.
6. Rewards and punishments should also be based on the interests of the child. What is valuable “currency” to the child may not be what seems valuable to you. So it is important to determine their currency for it to be effective either in giving or withdrawing. Time and activities can be as valuable to a child as objects—often even more so.

Here are some other random ideas for thought.
1. Strategies and routines as stressed by the Wongs can be great preventative measures
2. Building relationships with students who tend to disrupt class can fill their need for attention and get them operating with you instead of against you—start out with a few minutes a day of conversation to get to know them; also give them important roles to play. You may find the students who got on your nerves initially become favorites.
3. Brian Mendler suggests informing student you may not always interrupt class to deal with an inappropriate behavior because teaching is important, but you will deal with it later and it will be a private matter between you and that child as will be any kind of comments you will often make to all students. Because it is private—he warns in advance, don’t ask.
4. “It’s not fair” can be responded to that fair is not the same as equal, and no two students are the same. Fair is giving each student what they need, and the teacher makes that determination. The student can be reassured that if they feel they need something, they are welcome to discuss that with the teacher so it can be decided if and what is needed.
5. Group work has a lot of value, but there are things that can be done to make it more fair. Good students generally don’t feel it is fair because they do most of the work in order to keep a good grade (and control). The teacher should assign specific roles to each member and determine the leader. Individual accountability balances the group grade as each person writes their own reflection of what they learned.
6. Avoid making situations into power struggles. Choose your battles, say what you mean and mean what you say (follow through), and you don’t have to have the last word. Warn students about what is going to happen and then make sure you follow through.
7. A private conversation with eye contact and caring before something spins out of control may be a best defense.
8. Be aware that competition may bring out the worst (as a defense) instead of the best in some students.
9. Bribes may be effective, but they are only temporary solutions.
10. Class rules should be accompanied by explanation of the values behind them.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I am going out on a limb here and bucking all the groups I support and am a part of. I think spanking gets bad press when it is not about spanking, but how and why you spank. An early childhood agency on Facebook posted an article about spanking causing aggression. There was no criteria for different ways people approach spanking, just consideration given to research where a history of abuse and drugs had been present.Here is how I believe spanking should be done:

1. Never spontaneously or in anger!!!!!!!!! The "time out" or "bad chair" as my daughter called it, has a purpose of allowing everyone to cool down and think about the best way to handle an offense. Most mothers would admit that it occasionally is for the child's protection to be removed from the overly frustrated parent at that point in time. "Time out", removal of privileges or favorite toys (know what is valued by your child to be effective), or rewards (individual time with parent is more valuable than "stuff") for behavior being improved, is often enough--which segues to number 2

2. Spanking is a last resort and never a surprise. If the child has repeated the same negative behaviors and other methods are not working--then he is notified ahead of time that the next time will result in a spanking. Say what you mean and mean what you say! Do not threaten spanking unless you are calm when making the decision that it is to that point and you will follow through if it happens again.

3. If spanking is going to be effective--it must cause reasonable discomfort to the child. Some suggest using a paddle or an extension so the child does not associate your hand with this discomfort. I disagree--when done correctly (described next), this is an act of love and you can better control the discomfort being applied when you are feeling it too.

4. Discussion about why, spanking, love and re-explanation of why this had to happen. These steps are important. the child needs to understand that since he was told this would happen, he chose to be spanked. Ask questions appropriate to their understanding to make sure they understand what they are being spanked for. Administer the spanking and then HUG (YES I SAID HUG) and talk again. I added that my job is to help them learn how to act and that God gives me that job. I am responsible to God, and this is hard for me, but I do this because I love them.

5. When done effectively, it is rarely needed because they know you will. A minister once suggested that spanking should not be done before the age of 1 and probably would rarely be necessary when the process was well understood and probably almost never necessary past first grade.

6. Choose your battles. As children get older, you need to constantly re-evaluate changes that need to be made in their rules. Young children gradually get to a point where you do not have to say no about so many things that formerly would have been a danger to them or the objects. (To lessen the constant need for "no", put some things higher or away for a while) As they get older, you need to gradually give them chances to learn from choices and become more responsible. Trial and error and learning from natural consequences can be some of the best teachers. Is fighting constantly over a clean room good for any relatiuonship? Can the door just be closed so your differing standards can not stress your relationship? A clean room is not worth straining a relationship that will later have much more important issues ot deal with. Constant conflict over little unimportant things deafens the child to your concerns about something serious later.

Young children have less ability to reason but need to learn acceptable behavior. Different personalities require different types, level, and amounts of discipline or guidance. Get to know your child's interests and abilities and respect those. Spend time playing with them and showing them you love them. Prepare them for situations by explaining expectations. Be comfortable with decisions you have made about how to guide them, but also be comfortable with times you feel insecure and need to re-evaluate what is appropriate for them now. As they get older, respect their opinions, listen to their side of situations, and make careful decisions that lessen the need for arguments. Once a decision is carefully made, it should not be an arguable point.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I am going to try to explain all the facets of attention. I will be using the model from All Kinds of Minds, but as you know, many experts in the field have different ways of organizing and presenting information that is basically the same. They divide attention into 3 facets: Mental Energy (having the energy and stamina to concentrate at all), Processing (being able to focus on interacting with information in order to learn it), and Production (being able to pay attention in order to demonstrate learning through an expressive mode). Here are further explanations he gives for each in his video from the Developing Minds series.

1. Alertness
*paying attention sometimes in spite of mental fatigue
*preferential seating, cue for attention, using a “focus object”—something to keep their hands busy can help alertness, but monitor because some things may become distracting
2. Sleep/Arousal
*may have trouble sleeping and then have trouble waking
*improve sleep patterns with consistent bed time using passive activities to help relax and soft background music or white noise
3. Mental Effort
*may need a boost to get started
*help with first sentence or guide organization of thought
*use steps of things to do or lists for things like editing
*use timer-break into manageable sections, allow breaks
* help w/organization, clear work area, & note time and location of best focus
4. Performance
*make aware of up and down days and give strategies for days that require more effort and planning to do well

1. Saliency Determination
*discerning & prioritizing what is important
*being distracted by wrong stimuli & miss important information
*highlight, summarize, note taking guidance, underline question word, focus w/goals
2. Depth & Detail of
*may bog down in detail and miss main point or not understand deeply enough to remember
*may need more repetition for underlying concepts, use of subvocalization, or have outlines provided to clarify main points & details
3. Cognitive Activation
*connection of new to old knowledge
*under active with make now connections
*over active may connect to too much causing distractions
*relate to prior knowledge through discussion
4. Focal Maintenance
*Attending too long or not long enough
*give cues to continue attention and compliment to reinforce effort
5. Satisfaction Level
*Insatiable-may crave excitement which they create if it is not there
*strong desire for constant stimulation
* help them understand what this means and provide times when it is allowed

1. Previewing
*Predicting outcomes of several choices, stories, paper to write, results of behavior
*Practice predicting scenarios
2. Facilitation & Inhibition
*Use prediction skills to consider all options & make best choice
*Impulsivity is acting without thinking, predicting, and making a choice
*Practice wait time, reward controls
3. Pacing
*Many think speed is goal or just get started good when everyone is finishing
*Encourage to slow down, use timer, estimate & plan time w/help
4. Self-Monitoring
*Keep checklist on desk to mark when realize not on task
*Provide steps for editing and completing work
*Give 2 bonus pts for correctly predicting grade estimate
5. Reinforceability
*use of precedent, experience, and prior knowledge—hind sight
*keep log of past experience

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Memory is More Complicated than you Think

There are 3 components to memory. The first is short term, where we sort through all the visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic stimuli coming at us and select something to hold briefly in our minds. You can see how attention would affect this ability to sort, choose, and hold onto relevant information.

The next is long term memory. Review puts thing into short term memory repeatedly, which allows it to move to long term memory. Getting to know how much review you need and which modalities (sight, sound, feel, touch) are best for you is helpful in developing efficient study habits. It is important to note that lots of short reviews are more effective because attention wanes during long repetitive study sessions. Research has also indicated that reviewing material before sleeping aids movement to long term memory. Having material well organized and hooked to previously learned material also makes it easier to retrieve later when you need it.

The third component of memory is Active Working Memory. This is heavily affected by attention as well. I have heard the analogy of a work table. Imagine some students having a large table for all their supplies for a craft project. Others are working off a TV tray. In active working memory, you must combine new information and instructions with stored information. Holding all that in a smaller space correlates with craft supplies continuing to fall off the table and when you pick one up, another falls. An example would be the child who knows multiplication facts very well in isolation, but has trouble applying them while learning to do long division. Think of all the skills, steps, and information necessary to learn long division, and you may need to allow a student to use a fact chart (who normally doesn't need it) and provide a list of steps for problem completion.

Some other factors that can affect Active Working Memory are:

Some stored facts are easier to retrieve than others
Lack of energy to focus on multiple tasks may be due to physical, emotional, social, or attention issues

Examples where it may become evident due to the complicated process:

In Written Expression, you must apply Letter formation, Spelling, Grammar, Capitalization, & Punctuation, and Organization of Thoughts
In Fill in the Blanks, you must Retrieving answers from words in the vocabulary and have Knowledge of Spelling
In Matching, you must Discern words and meanings and retrieve from your entire vocabulary (word bank may be helpful to narrow choices)

Suggested accommodations to consider:

1.Help students over learn skills so they are automatic and maintained over time
2.Provide references, such as fact charts, word banks, checklists, & formulas
3. Written Expression: Write topic ideas on visual organizer, Allow use of spelling aid, Allow use of most comfortable writing mode, Use editing checklists
4.Long Division: Allow use of fact chart or calculator, Allow use of steps during homework & tests 5. Fill in the Blank: Provide a word bank, Reading question to student to aid understanding
6.Matching: Break into groups of 4 or 5, Identify matching groups, Reading choices (hearing sometimes helps if reading is not fluent)

Memory is something children may need lots of guidance with to develop to potential. Be aware how much attention and available energy stores affect it as well.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Remodeling a Kitchen

After reading the Understanding by Design/Backward Design article, I think you will see how this correlates. You don't demo a kitchen before making plans for what you want the end product to look like.

Just like you want to select what you want students to know and understand for the long term, you want to decide what elements you need to make your kitchen function for you for the long term. As you make a precise drawing of what you want those elements to look like when they hopefully fit together, you plan for your assessment to make sure all the pieces fit together the way you expect. After those steps are done, you demo and build from there in ways (or plan lessons) that will produce what you want that finished kitchen (or final learning) to be.

Focus on the BIG picture, the overarching learning, how the new information can connect for them with information they already have, and standards. The extraneous information that makes it more interesting or gives it more depth may not be the prioritized information you want them to focus on acquiring (understanding), retaining (remembering), and transferring (being able to apply later). That extra information is like the decorations, which are additional touches that make things interesting, but not necessarily part of the original, most important part of the plan. Decorations and additional information can be changed without affecting the primary functionality of the room or basic knowledge. Especially students who have challenges in learning and memory will benefit when information they need to spend time studying and demonstrate learning for is prioritized.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Understanding by Design (UbD)

This is a principle for curriculum and lesson planning. It is also called Backward Design because you literally plan backwards from what you want the learning outcomes to be.

The first step is to decide what it is you want the student to know, understand, and be able to do for the long term. This generally coordinates with standards.

The next step is to develop at least a draft of your assessment tool. Make a test that has all the information you deemed important to learn from the previous step. You may decide later to give choices in assessment, such as allowing oral, written, or verbal presentations. You might decide to allow group work, projects, or authentic/real world application assessments (with an individual accountability element of a written reflection done independent from the group afterwards). However you decide to assess, the basic content of what you want to cover needs to be established by drafting your assessment criteria.

The final step is to plan how you will teach the information you decided was a priority to meet standards and focus on what students need to know and understand for life. Even though we often think of planning lessons coming first, we must analyze what we want as the learning outcome before we decide what and how to teach. You can see how additional information may be added for those students with deeper interests or abilities with the specific topics, but for those who struggle, prioritizing is important.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The difference between interventions and accommodations

As RtI has become a requirement for students to qualify for special education services in the Specific Learning Disability (SLD) category, many teachers are not sure what the difference is between accommodations and interventions.

Interventions can be compared more closely to remediation. The focus is choosing specific skills a student needs to improve, matching research based teaching strategies to the specific learning style or weakness, monitoring progress, and documenting results. This also involves having measurable goals in mind, which includes what learning is to occur and how it is going to be measured.

These interventions would have to be documented for any academic area where students might qualify for SLD, such as reading, math, or written expression. Reading intervention programs (such as DIBELS) are commercially available and often are already being used in compliance with No Child Left Behind. The belief of NCLB being that all children can learn, and that more efforts should be made to match other research based strategies to individual children's needs when progress is not being made. It is widely recognized that major components of reading are phonemic awareness (hearing and recognizing sounds--not associated with letters), phonics or alphabet principle (learning and using letter sound relationships), fluency (ability to identify words quickly enough to keep the flow of the meaning of a sentence), vocabulary (understanding and applying word meanings), and comprehension (understanding meaning of written material). You can see that earlier components are pre-requisites to the final and ultimate goal of comprehension.

Not as much is available and being used in math and written expression, but state Standards may give guidelines that are helpful. IN standards are well respected and include some assessments and strategies for some skills. See
Select subject, then grade or class, and specific standard. Standards are the same for each elementary grade with benchmarks specific within each grade level. Some assessments and teaching ideas are available as resources. You can see after the subject selection what Indiana lists as major components of subject areas. Math lists number sense, computation, algebra and functions, geometry, data analysis and probability, and problem solving. There are a different set of standards for high school math classes. You can read explanations of each on the site.

Language Arts standards in writing list process (drafts getting to clear coherent writing), applications (different types of writing for different audiences), and conventions (includes all writing mechanics). Another good source to analyze components of written expression more completely is the Six Traits.
(This site credits creators of the program) You will see on this site the explanations of these six components: content/ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions.

As you have a better understanding of interventions now, keep in mind the difference between that and accommodations. While some accommodations may provide help in remediation (as one of many strategies), their primary purpose is to make the general education curriculum more accessible without changing what standards skills are being measured.

A note of interest: When skills being measured are reduced to lower grade levels, then they become modifications (defined as changed) rather than accommodations (which improve access). This is not meant to confuse you further.

You can see that for there to be continuity between grades and teachers, curriculum needs to be aligned with standards. Otherwise, lots of teachers who may be doing good things, may also be teaching different things without connection between grade levels, classrooms, and buildings. We also need to be aware of how past teachings may have affected students skill levels at any time as we decide how to design appropriate interventions.