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Competency 9: Teach based on planned lessons
As discussed in Planning for Teaching, planning lessons and teaching planned lessons is an integral part of my role as a teacher. It is important to me to plan lessons in advance (usually for the week), so that I can have all my materials organized. Planning in advance allows me to ensure I include all the necessary parts of a lesson: activating prior knowledge, modeling, guided and independent practice, and opportunities for generalization. I try to teach based on planned lessons as much as possible- this keeps me on-track. At the same time, it is important to be flexible and be able to adapt to unexpected changes in the lesson.

Competency 10: Provide for individual differences in the classroom
Whether in a special or general education classroom, it is important to remember that each student is a unique individual with distinct learning needs. As such, it is important to differentiation for each student and provide them with accommodations and modifications that meet their needs. This lesson plan, (with corresponding worksheets:Gummy Bear Sort, Gummy Bear Graph, and Gummy Bear Questions) which I taught to my high school self-contained autism class, includes differentiation for each of the 4 students at the end of the plan, illustrating my ability to plan for individual differences in the classroom.

Competencies 11 & 13: Use motivational strategies and actively engage students in learning
It is important to keep students motivated and actively engage them in their learning. In my student teaching experiences, I made sure to use lots of positive reinforcements and praise to encourage my students. If found that if I spent more time rewarding my students for doing well and staying on task, I spent less time redirecting them. I tried to use verbal praise as often as possible, but sometimes, tangible reinforcers were necessary! My Cooperating Teacher had a drawer full of candy in her desk- and the students knew that they could only have a piece if they behaved and stayed on task for the entire class!

Students need to be actively engage in their learning. They will not learn if they are simply sitting there listening to me speak. In my lessons, I made sure to ask the students questions to make sure they understood the material I presented. I tried to get them moving as much as possible, by assigning them to get supplies, or coming up to the board to solve a problem. I love using manipulatives, especially in math! I also would let my students use individual whiteboard to solve problems on- it seems simple, but it is so much more fun than solving problems on paper!

Competency 14: Promote critical thinking skills
It is important to teach students to think critically- they need to be able to analyze new situations and apply skills they have previously learned. This skill is often a challenge for student with disabilities, who often struggle with generalization. It is important for me as a teacher to teach them strategies that they can apply in multiple situations.

This Lesson on Patterns helps students to develop critical thinking skills. After they have learned about patterns that grow and shrink, they are asked to finish some patterns on their own. This requires them to take what they already know (the rule), and apply it to a new situation.

CEC Standard #4: Instructional Strategies and Competency 12: Use a variety of effective instructional strategies appropriate for the content area(s)
Evidence Based Practices (EBPs) are the “gold standard” of educational practices. They are practices that have been thoroughly researched and have been proven to be effective. EBPs are very important in special education- why would you waste your time using a teaching strategy that isn’t going to work? Throughout my coursework, I have been provided numerous resources to find useful EBPs for my classroom, including:

One evidence based practiced I had the opportunity to use was the summarizing strategy (Read Aloud). Working with a third grade student, “Jenny” (who has a specific learning disability), I read her a story and when we had finished, I asked her to re-tell as much of the story as possible, in order to measure her listening comprehension. I used a teacher-made checklist to keep track of which details she was able to recall. The next day, I read her a different story from the same series, but this time, I asked her to summarize each page before we moved on. I asked her to tell me the main idea (the who, what and where) of what happened on that page in one sentence. The goal of this strategy was to actively engage her in the story and keep her paying attention. In theory, the use of this strategy should have improved her retell at the end of the book, as measured by the checklist. Because of other factors, Jenny’s retell accuracy did not actually improve, but it is likely that this strategy would increase story retell and comprehension in other students.This demonstrates my ability to find, modify, and use effective EBPs to benefit my students' learning.

In addition to academics, EBPs are helpful for teaching appropriate behaviors, especially in children with autism. Practices such as video modeling, Applied Behavioral Analysis, differential reinforcement, Discrete Trial Training, and social stories are relatively simple, but have proven to be extremely effective in teaching, modifying and maintaining replacement behaviors.

The photograph at the top of this page shows me and my partner, Lauren, with our Discrete Trial Training poster at the Evidence Based Practices Fair in April 2012.