Zig Zag Process
Lesson 4.1 Discussion Forum
January 12, 2018 at 4:00 pm #9406Ashley LyonsKeymaster
Directions: STEP 1- As discussed in Module 4.1, often we have children who struggle and have real learning needs yet they do not ultimately qualify for Special Education, and hence an IEP. The video for Module 4.1 describes how to use the zig-zag process to support children’s learning needs both on an IEP and without. Consider your own district or agency. Are there supports or resources in place that would allow a child who struggles but does not qualify to receive high quality instruction to meet their unique needs? What steps could you take to ensure this child receives what they need, even if they do not get an IEP? Does district/agency policy allow you to work with general education teachers to help kids who are not on your caseload? Describe how you usually address this situation, and what you would do in an ideal world (with needed supports or resources). STEP 2– Talk about when, where, and under what context you have observed any of the seven (7) learning progressions, as well as what you would do in the future to address them. STEP 3- Respond to at least one colleague’s posting.
June 12, 2018 at 2:35 am #9790Dawn FagenstromParticipant
Students who do not qualify for SPED are often referred to Title I when they do not qualify. About half of the referrals to SPED come from Title I and if they don’t qualify they go back to Title. I believe that sometimes these students receive more Title I time. Generally, if students are struggling and do not qualify the teachers may ask or I will offer suggestions and/or materials to support the teacher in the classroom. Sometimes they use the suggestions and come back for more, others they keep on keeping on and do what they can in the classroom to support the student.
To ensure that the child is receiving what they need I could follow up with the teacher and check in to see if they are using the suggestions and materials presented. Other times I take the student for shorter periods of time and offer instruction during the school day to work on the area that they are struggling. Often these student will fit into a group that is already formed and we are able to work on their needs with others.
My school does allow me to work with the general education teachers and help students not on my caseload. I am often supporting teachers after school and offering suggestions or materials for struggling learners. I believe that I am very approachable and have been spoken to about several students who teachers feel are struggling, but aren’t quite ready to make a SPED referral. I would really like to see an RTI program instituted in my school. It seems there is a lot of talk about it yearly. One year, we actually had the start of a program started in the primary grades. Unfortunately, the program fizzled out with the change of administration. When I have spoken with my current principal he is for the program starting. I feel that there are enough teachers in the building that have a good understanding on how the process works. I think our school is lacking the follow through to push it into practice.
One of my students struggles across the curriculum. I’m always reminding my self and my staff that we need to teach her one letter or one number at a time. To focus on the singular rather than the multiple as it is too much information for her to work with. Same situation is true for abstract and concrete. Many of my students are good at finding facts from their reading that they have read directly in the text, but when it comes to inferring or picking up on the abstract that’s where their struggles are and where we have to break down the skill. Sometimes when describing how we use too many words and we need to keep our language simple and use unnecessary language. I see children who are less mature struggling with specific items or directions and do much better with global pictures of contexts or directions. For example go play is sometimes easier to take than go play in the kitchen area. I explain to parents quite often that we see attention and behavior struggles at home sometimes more often then they do because school is lined out with specific objectives and tasks. There is not very much free choice in school. While at home, there might be directives, but they are much broader. Go play in your room at home generally leaves a child a whole room full of experiences. Working with familiar topics and tasks is much easier for all of us, no matter our age or abilities, while working with the unfamiliar involves a whole other set of skills and higher level thinking skills. When given an option for doing a preferred task or an unpreferred, wouldn’t we all select the preferred. There is a reason why my floors don’t get mopped very often, but the tv comes on every day at my house. Same hold true for children in school. It takes a level of discipline to attempt and complete an unpreferred task. Some of us work or give naturally to others. For others, working with or giving to others is a skill that has to be developed. Some children may not understand or enjoy playing with others so we need to break the skill down and develop it in stages until they are ready to include others.
May 1, 2019 at 2:03 am #10185Naomi BuckParticipant
I appreciated reading you response. I too need to remind myself and other staff members to slow down and teach one skill at a time. Your response provides many good, and specific, examples of ways that these learning progressions are applied every day in the school setting. I think the Zig Zag Process printable will be a good tool to use at our RTI intervention meetings to help remind us to do that. I hope it will also be useful in driving discussions, focusing our attention, and brainstorming intervention strategies.
As for your RTI program, I think you are right that it takes support from the admin to get a good program up and running. In my district, I found that though most teachers were on board with the program early on, there were a few more senior teachers who were a bit resistant (It’s that whole preferred/unpreferred and familiar/unfamiliar thing, right?) to the change. But with strong leadership driving the change, after a year or two the benefits of the program became obvious and not all teachers are on board.
June 17, 2018 at 11:05 am #9799OLENA KYSELOVAParticipant
In Anchorage School District, the elementary schools have student support teams (SST) that assist teachers in developing academic and behavior interventions for students who struggle and fall behind academically. If students qualify for English Language Learners (ELL) or Indian Education programs, they receive academic support from tutors who work closely with classroom teachers. For general education students whose behaviors interfere with their learning, we have the Creating Successful Futures (CSF), a short term (6 – 8 weeks) K-4 program that targets problems behaviors and teaches students coping skills and positive behavior strategies. If students are enrolled in Title I schools, they have more resources available, such as academic support from interventionists during the school day, as well as support with homework in the afterschool program. Unfortunately, we do not have a lot of support for general education preschool students because there is no universal preschool program in Alaska.
As a part of SST recommendations, it is very common for general education teachers and special education teachers work together on academic interventions for students without IEPs. For example, in Northwood Elementary school, special education and general teachers co-teach/ team teach in the general education classroom and use inclusion model to provide special education services. It is very common that small groups in the regular education classroom are run by special education teacher and include non-special education students. As a school psychologist, I found that process very effective and beneficial for all students, on an IEP and without. Additionally, we can get great documentation and data about interventions. Team teaching is supported by the school principal, a former special education teacher.
Students come to kindergarten with different experiences. Those who were in preschool settings, transition to kindergarten easier as they have had exposure to academic instructions and behavior expectations. Students without preschool experience need to be taught every single classroom rule. When a teacher asks students to follow direction, they may not understand what it means as “following directions“ is an abstract concept. She needs at first break complicated directions into single and concrete steps.
When working on social skills and conflict resolution, a teacher introduces and explains students each specific strategy, such as I-message, walking away, waiting and cooling off, etc. The students will be reinforced to practice these strategies in their classroom with familiar peers, and then with other children, unfamiliar kids, and across different settings and environments.
Stepping out of our comfort zone and engaging in un-preferred activity is a challenge not only for children, but for adults as well. Students needs adult support, encouragement and positive feedback during this process to build their self-esteem and reduce anxiety. With trusted adults and guidance, they are more willing to perform challenging tasks. Based on my personal observation, the approach of building a classroom community, in which each student is a valuable member, is very effective in helping students transition from self-centered stage to respecting and focusing on others wants and needs.
July 31, 2018 at 5:27 pm #9836Daniel KaasaParticipant
Assigned Response for Module 4.1
Hi Again Olena,
It sounds like your district is similar to mine when looking at struggling students. That intervention approach is really important to make sure that students aren’t incorrectly referred for a disability determination. They also help maintain a student-centered plan and track it for success with data.
The big challenge we always face is that special educators, with all the job commitments they already face, are challenged to find time to in their day to provide additional academic supports to additional struggling students. With grown caseloads and a decrease in paraprofessional support, I feel districts need to face the reality of the expectations being placed on educators and find ways to allow for collaborative efforts that will result in success for all students.
June 17, 2018 at 11:07 am #9800OLENA KYSELOVAParticipant
I agree that the administration support is a key in making RTI or MTSS process work. The Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is a modern term for RTI in the Anchorage School District. I have worked in different schools and observed when principals attend every SST meeting and participate in developing and planning interventions, general education teachers are more motivated to try something different and new, and the number of initial referrals for special education decreases. This is great that you are willing to be a resource for general education teachers and support for struggling students who are not on your case load.
June 20, 2018 at 7:28 pm #9805Dawn FagenstromParticipant
It sounds like struggling students in your district are quickly identified as struggling and given the supports that are needed. I think the team teaching approach is a good idea in many situations when teachers work well together and have a similar goal in place. I agree that kinders without preschool experience often struggle with the structure of school more so than the students with previous experiences. We see this struggle also with students that have been on homeschool for their academic experience. We often find that students coming from homeschool also are struggling with skills. Often in desperation for supports general ed. teachers will look to SPED to support these students. It would be a great benefit to have the support of the many programs that are available in large districts. I appreciate all that everyone does in supporting students who are struggling.
July 31, 2018 at 5:16 pm #9835Daniel KaasaParticipant
Module 4.1 Assignment
In our district, struggling students are referred to the Intervention Team for the school they attend. Members of that Team will then begin a process of identifying what specific challenges the student is facing. Available information is taken into consideration and the student’s general education teacher is expected to bring specific interventions that already have been used along with the data that reflects the student’s response to those approaches. The Team then makes decisions on the next steps to take to get the student back on the track to success. These may include added approaches for the general education team or referrals to academic support programs available at the school. As the intervention process continues, if the student’s struggles are significant and ongoing, there may be a referral for assessment to determine if a disability exists that would initiate the IEP process for special education. At times, special education teachers may be asked to provide direct supports to the student or indirect support through consultation with the general education teachers. The zigzag process is a good reminder of the need for flexibility in the way we teach. Moving from one column to the other (and back again) while we look at the specific challenges a specific student faces will allow educators to plan for success.
Struggling students should not need a special education referral to get the added supports that will allow them to be successful. In an ideal world, the general education teacher would create a classroom that followed the principals of universal design and person-centered instruction. This is a big expectation on teachers who are already facing big professional challenges. Often the special education teacher does have resources and knowledge that would support the general education teacher and the struggling students. But they face their own professional challenges in providing successful services for their assigned students with IEPs. My opinion is that any efforts a district makes to expand collaboration time will allow for planning that keeps all educators working towards better learning environments for students.
Unfortunately too much collaboration time is lost to other school obligations.
January 13, 2019 at 4:38 pm #10001Andrea ColvinParticipant
I really like what you said in your second paragraph about helping struggling students and I absolutely agree. I think that collaboration is so very important for helping kids who are struggling. When we collaborate and have solid data to work with, we can create an atmosphere for struggling students to get the support they need. I think that a strong UDL instruction reaches many students in the classroom in a meaningful, person-centered way.
August 4, 2018 at 8:57 pm #9842Melinda JonesParticipant
My work is also in the Anchorage School District but in a different position from Olena’s. I work primarily with “general education” (in Title I schools, through Title I and limited state funding) pre-kindergarten classes (due to age, child will attend kindergarten the fall following prek). Our CARE program provides consultation, collaboration, and services students (and their teachers) who are struggling.
Typically, I find two types of children. The first is a child with an obvious delay/disability whose families were unaware of the need and the resources available for support (like the assessment teams that Olena works with and our district’s special education preschool classes). These children we tend to “fast track” to set up IEP services within the inclusive setting of their general education classroom.
The other type of child falls more within the realm of this discussion. This is a child who is struggling to keep up with peers and the expectations of the classroom. The teacher is expected to try targeted interventions prior to submitting a “student concern form” to our team. At that time, I am invited into the process to begin to help tease out whether this is a disability/delay or difference. While this is the “formal” process, the reality is that I may have already been in that classroom for another reason, or simply due to my relationships with the teachers – we have had casual conversations about their interventions prior to a formal request. I have many years of teaching both “sped”, “gen ed”, and “inclusive” (blended) classes. That and multiple years of working together have given us great opportunities to build good working relationships based on mutual trust.
Since our preschool programs do not benefit from the formal support systems that are in place in K-6 (see Olena’s post), I work collaboratively with the prek teachers to determine what course of action to follow. My role was new when I took this position 5 years ago, and I do so wish that I had had this training at that time. I was told at that time that my job would be evolving as we gradually begin to serve students with “special needs” in their regular classrooms rather than move them to “self-contained” preschool classroom. So, every year we evolve!
A good example is in one classroom this last year, we identified three students who were really struggling. Two of them were the first type of child I mentioned, and both were eligible for IEP’s under the autism category. I am happy to say they both had great years and will getting IEP services in blended classrooms in kindergarten.
Another child had a year of ups and downs – and the teacher and I “felt” like we moved through a zig zag! His needs were highly impacted by outside circumstances. His developmental profile appeared to be within normal limits with periodic deficits in his ability to self-regulate emotions, and maintain appropriate relationships with peers and adults. We drew together a team including the principal, behavior interventionist, teacher, teaching assistant, and myself (to provide consultation). We regularly reviewed his progress and behaviors, identified what parts of his day were problematic, and identified actions that the classroom teaching team (with backup support from the others) needed to adjust. We used a variety or resources and best practices to guide us.
If we had used the developmental progressions to guide our process of analyzing this child’s needs, I do think we would have had more streamlined discussions and hopefully better outcomes. The team did consider proposing an evaluation at different points in the year, but each time the evidence before us led us to continue as we were. We did document extensively so that the next year’s team (different school) can see what worked. The team all agreed that this was not a child in need of an IEP, but that he may benefit from the CSF (Creating Successful Futures) program that would be available next year in kindergarten. I would also like to say that each of my classrooms are in different schools – and that the only reason I was able to work so closely with this particular team, was because of the principal’s commitment to inclusive, collaborative practices – and supporting students who experience ACES/childhood trauma. The directives of our school district look different in each school that I serve.
My ideal world would have universal preschool with regional centers that are designed for young children, blended classrooms and collaborative team teaching services on site and in place to meet the needs of all students!
August 3, 2019 at 1:42 am #10284Beth CraigParticipant
As Melinda talked about so eloquently, there are many Head Start programs in Anchorage that do have support from ASD preschool special teachers and teacher assistants for students like you are describing. Unfortunately, most of the preschoolers that I evaluate who do not qualify for special education preschool- do not qualify (income-wise) for Head Start. So, there are quite a number of kids who won’t get any support until they show up in Kindergarten and then may be referred at that time.
Obviously, in a perfect world- we would have universal preschool with many available supports for all young learners where general education and special education teachers and children are blended together.
August 4, 2018 at 9:15 pm #9843Melinda JonesParticipant
Reply to Daniel’s post:
Bravo! Your comments on universal design summed up the soap box I often stand on. Your comments were both encouraging and realistic. We all have limitations within our work systems. It is encouraging to hear that at times special education teachers work or consult in the general education classrooms. Supporting movement between developmental progressions is a realistic approach. But as you said, constraints on time and resources may limit this. I appreciate your commitment to supporting the processes you have in place and support your hope that we could support all learners together through the blended practices found in universal design. Thank you Daniel!
January 13, 2019 at 4:33 pm #10000Andrea ColvinParticipant
Are there supports or resources in place that would allow a child who struggles but does not qualify to receive high quality instruction to meet their unique needs?
In my school, we have many resources for students who struggle, but currently they are more strong in certain subject areas than others. We have on going data for reading that shows progress students are making school-wide. We have reading interventionists that provide high quality instruction for students who are falling behind, but do not qualify for special education. We are currently piloting a social emotional curriculum that would help all students, including those who have struggles to learn about their social emotional needs. An area in which we are lacking is in math.
What steps could you take to ensure this child receives what they need, even if they do not get an IEP?
I think that collaboration is key to helping all students regardless if they have an IEP or not. We can share what we know about certain interventions and communicate with our colleagues. My school is starting to implement a new problem solving process and we recently gathered a list of resources that we have as a school that can ensure that all children are receiving what they need.
Does district/agency policy allow you to work with general education teachers to help kids who are not on your caseload?
Yes, I have had several students who are not on IEP’s join my small reading group over the years. I have also lead a math intervention group that included students who none of which had IEP’s. I also am approached by general education teachers who have students that require more intervention, they ask for ideas and I can share my resources with them. Our school also encourages teachers to observe each other and/or students to help with ideas to help kids and provide high quality instruction.
Describe how you usually address this situation, and what you would do in an ideal world (with needed supports or resources).
As I said before, collaboration is key in helping kids in general. To address this situation, I would ask what has be done in the past and what is going on in that child’s life? In an ideal world, a group of teachers could get together and look at data from all areas and talk with the family to see what is going on at home. There would be a bank of supports and resources to choose from and they could be tried out to see if that helps the student. In an ideal world that is.
Talk about when, where, and under what context you have observed any of the seven (7) learning progressions, as well as what you would do in the future to address them.
The first example that I thought of when looking at the 7 learning progressions is a student that I had that hated pencil and paper work. He would rip up any paper that was put in front of him or escalate to the point of destroying the room. To him, “work” in the traditional sense was very unpreferred to him. He did, however, love playing games and hearing stories. I learned very quickly to present “work” to him in the format of game play or a story that he was interested in. It took several years to get to the point of presenting a worksheet to him. In the future, I will keep all 7 learning progressions in mind and try the zig-zag process to make learning more accessible to specific students and address their needs in an appropriate way.
May 1, 2019 at 2:02 am #10184Naomi BuckParticipant
Thankfully, I am a part of a district that places high emphasis on early intervention and has a process in place to identify struggling students and provide interventions before the special education referral process is even considered. If a student is struggling, teachers work together to develop and implement an intervention plan (not an IEP) to address those needs. (Through in-class intervention plans as well as a “Kindergarten Call-Back” program.) If that intervention plan is not successful in closing the gap in skills after a significant implementation time (usually most of a school year, if not longer), only then can the student be considered for a special education referral. This not only greatly reduces the number of DNQ referrals that are made, but also reduces the number of over-identified students who might otherwise receive an IEP (and the sometimes difficult label that goes along with that) due to the lack of a way to provide for the needs of the student. If the student does not qualify for special education services, then supports are discussed at the eligibility meeting. Often, the student continues within the existing intervention plan. Sometimes parents seek community-based resources so that the student’s needs can be addressed in multiple settings, not just at school. Current district policy, not only allows, but requires that I work with all students and teachers. We are a team.
I see most of these learning progressions every day because I spend a portion of my day with pre-K and K children. These students range from young 3-year olds to nearly 7-year olds and they are often in the same setting together. This age span encompasses a large range of developmental abilities and readiness to perform to the expectations. Many 3-year olds are simply not ready for complex, multi-step, abstract expectations and require more scaffolding, supports, and patience to be able to perform the tasks that the 6-year olds are accomplishing. Thankfully, all of the adult teachers in the rooms are very aware of this and understand the learning progressions. We continuously scaffold and work towards the skills on the right side of the chart, but in a nurturing way that accounts for differences and allows the children to develop each skill at their own pace. I think that the greater challenge arises for the students who go to Kindergarten for a portion of their day, where they are only interacting with other 5 and 6 year olds. In that setting, the expectations are higher for all children to perform to more of the skills on the right side of the continuum. Though I am not in this setting on a regular basis, when concerns arise and there are considerations for interventions and/or referrals for IEPs, it will be helpful to have the learning progression handout to use as a talking point and a tool to help with the decision making process.
May 7, 2019 at 9:18 pm #10195Mark DineltParticipant
Mark Dinelt 5/7/2019
STEP 1- As discussed in Module 4.1, often we have children who struggle and have real learning needs yet they do not ultimately qualify for Special Education, and hence an IEP. The video for Module 4.1 describes how to use the zig-zag process to support children’s learning needs both on an IEP and without. Consider your own district or agency. Are there supports or resources in place that would allow a child who struggles but does not qualify to receive high quality instruction to meet their unique needs? What steps could you take to ensure this child receives what they need, even if they do not get an IEP? Does district/agency policy allow you to work with general education teachers to help kids who are not on your caseload? Describe how you usually address this situation, and what you would do in an ideal world (with needed supports or resources).
Many of our schools use a “tier” system for teaching basic reading and math. All students are assessed to determine current level in math or reading and assigned to “tiers”, 1, 2 or 3, with 1 being at or above expected level, 2 being behind a certain amount and 3, behind more significantly. This is done quarterly and students are assigned reading and math groups based on their tier and may work with students a grade 1up or down from their current grade level. More assistance is provided to tier 2 students and more targeted assistance is provided to tier 3 students.
The various school teams discuss the progress of their students to determine if more assistance might be needed and what impediments different students may be facing to making progress. At some point, tier 3 students may be referred to Special Services for further testing. For these groups, “blended funding” is often used so that Special Ed. Aides, with particular training in math or reading, can be used to assist students who do not qualify for Special Services. Some schools use a similar method for a Special Ed. Teacher to work with Gen.Ed. teacher to assist all students in a single classroom that includes students who qualify for Special Services. Working with Gen.Ed. cannot be their main focus and they must continue to meet all the service requirements of any Sped. Students on their case list but they can provide significant assistance to some students who may be struggling “incidentally”.
For myself, I when I worked in an integrated public school, I was always available to consult with teachers informally to provide advice and suggestions when they experienced difficulties with a particular student. I have also worked in a school which used the “blended” inclusion model. I found that to be very successful. About that time, I did have some workshops done by teachers in another district who advocated for full inclusion of all students. We did not have an opportunity to visit or see videos or how things actually worked in their classrooms but they were very enthusiastic about the approach. I have known a few students whose parents insisted on a full inclusion model for their child. Over a period of a few years, I was mostly struck by the lack of progress the students seemed to be making. Socially, they were well accepted by peers but they were not making much gains in some areas especially important to them, namely functional skills, self-help skills and skills that could help them daily navigate more independently. The parents, in both case, opted for a more integrated but not fully included. The students themselves seemed happier with the change, I suspect because they had more access to other students closer to their ability and maturity level who they could relate to in ways not possible with more abled peers. I would suppose, in both cases, more or better assistance could have been provided but, without seeing it, I have a hard time imagining happening in a way that would be totally successful for all students involved. In these 2 particular cases we are talking about who faced serious academic, communication and physical challenges. They needed some very particular help in areas that most students never have to think about.
In an ideal world, I would like to see more options available for students, from full inclusion to rather “restrictive” classrooms for those few students whose needs require very intensive assistance to learn skills or may not, currently be able to function well around larger groups of students. The district I currently work for has these options but probably not enough to meet the needs of all the students. Money definitely is a limiting factor even though officially it can never be stated that way. But it is a fact of life. I would guess that we could use more “blended” classes and fewer pull-outs of students. Some of this is lack of training and experience on the part of teachers and some of it is the difficulty of making changes, wherever you are, even when many others are agreeable. Probably the biggest problem most teachers face is finding the time to prepare themselves properly for all that they are responsible for daily. More money, fewer students, less paperwork would be very helpful, along with more time to meet with Team members for productive meetings about what to do with and for students. Real training in difficult but important areas of teaching and working with students with proper follow-up would also be a great benefit.
STEP 2– Talk about when, where, and under what context you have observed any of the seven (7) learning progressions, as well as what you would do in the future to address them.
7 Learning Progressions –
1. From single to multiple
2. From simple to complex – one example would be toilet training severely impaired students. I have been fairly successful getting students who have never used the bathroom independently in the past, at various ages (7-20) to begin going to the bathroom, as needed, without any prompting at school. Getting that to transfer, even to different bathrooms at school, can be more of a challenge. At school, I have had success. Getting the skill to transfer at home has been a different case. I have had some success when parents were very attentive to the details I provided and they were able to help their child make the transition. But, generally, I have not had parents who could help with the more seriously involved students. I have not even been able to help fellow teachers when I have moved on. Time for home visits and 1on1 time with fellow teacher s would probably suffice but that is very difficult to arrange.
3. From concrete to abstract – teaching reading to students who are “autistic”. I have had some notable success helping students to achieve a fairly high reading level but moving from concrete understanding of what is read to understand more complex and abstract ideas is very challenging. Most often the reaction, besides the difficulty of getting the idea is a lack of interest in trying to understand. More time to research and plan for teaching particular “types” of abstract thought would be wonderful.
4. From global to concrete – One of my favorite memories is of a student who could get around nicely, rode the bus with our group on community trips and was very good with social skills, getting along with everyone she met. But for a graduation exercise with my 8th graders, we practiced specifically which buses (usually 2) to take to get from school to home. I had planned to have most of the students, with parent approval and a monitor following the bus, to choose their route and get off at their stop, without any assistance from me to go home at the end of the day. The whole group rode along but did not get off with the student on “their” day. The one girl I was not sure about, who was more seriously academically challenged, asked me if she could also “take the test”. Mom was seriously concerned but I explained how we would make sure she would be safe and she agreed. After help the girl plan and practice a few times, she was our last student to successfully take herself home on the bus. She (and Mom) were so happy, the next day she came in to school very excited about her achievement. It’s an experience I will never forget. Not much to improve on here except to look for ways to have similar experiences with more students.
5. From familiar to unfamiliar
6. From preferred to unpreferred – The classic for me is actually a bit reversed. After playing with at an activity for while and it is time to move on, I like to remind students, when they haven’t learned it yet, that first they must clean up before moving on to another, hopefully fun, but learning activity, they must clean up. I may have to remind them that if they want to activity later, it has to be put away now. They may need a further reminder that the activity is going away and that if I put it away, it won’t come back for a while. For some, “play time” may depend on how much “work” is done and how quickly the last fun activity is put away. There are a number of variations that work in different situations with different students but it basically comes down to “work first, then play”. When I worked with younger students who had serious challenges every day, I was always thinking about how to make the day more interesting for them. To present important things for them to learn in small or fun bits and give them time to “play” that was also meaningful for them and not just mindless escapism. More time for planning or team teaching with someone to split the responsibility with would be helpful.
7. Self vs. others – I have worked with a great number of students who have had difficulty establishing relationships with other people, peers or staff, some because of inborn challenges, others due to issues of abuse. It is always very gratifying when one starts taking steps to respond positively and more honestly with me, as a person and a teacher who tries to demonstrate that I care about them and their learning (for their own good).
It is also very touching when a student with autistic traits begins to gravitate towards you when they need help or feel uncomfortable as someone they can trust to help and protect them. It is also just fun to see students who may be “immature”, whose view was limited to what they wanted to do without consideration for how that might affect their peers, start to take think about their peers and communicate with them when playing. Always looking for ways to connect with students to make the classroom about more than learning certain facts.
STEP 3- Respond to at least one colleague’s posting.
I appreciate what Dawn had to say about Title 1 referrals and how that works in her experience. I have seen the same thing happen in Fairbanks. I have also consulted with some teachers who request assistance and have offered suggestions to some while referring others to the schools support team. One year our Special Services team put together a “kit” of various activities and suggestions which any teacher could make use of and we took time to highlight a different one at each school wide meeting. However, I could not work directly with a Gen.Ed. teacher for the benefit of non-sped. Students formally. I could do so if it was incidental to being in the teacher’s classroom with one of my sped. Students.
I also like what she had to say about how we use language with our students. Having worked with so many who have major deficits, I find this is actually a critical skill for staff to develop. How we give directions and the words that we use can make a huge difference. I have often consulted with parents who have particular difficulty at home with behavior concerns about how to use language that is easier to follow, not-threatening and more suggestive rather than directive (especially when you don’t know if the person receiving the message really understand what you want).
May 6, 2020 at 10:33 am #10929LuEmma RowlandParticipant
As a CARE Team Preschool Special Education Teacher, I help support special education students in a general education environments such as Head Start, Migrant Education, or Title-1 programs. There is another preschool model in our district called a communication classroom or a developmental classroom. These two classrooms are for students with an IEP only. At times, students have transitioned from a general education environment to a special education environment but it’s rare.
In the CARE Team model, before students are referred for special education services, I am able to help support students with needs through modifications, accommodations, or behavior plans. If a student with behavior is struggling but does not qualify for special education services, I am able to continue to support the teacher, family, or student within their general education environment. As a team, including the general education teacher, teaching assistant, and parents we can make a plan that will best support the student and their needs. These supports could range from developing behavior plans, changing the layout of the classroom environment, creating a safe spot or calm down area, visuals for social emotional regulation, creating visual schedules, printing picture cue cards, or implementing first/then charts. I also have the opportunity to help co-teach with general education teachers in order to help teach these strategies and how to appropriately implement them.
Unfortunately, if a student with behavior doesn’t qualify for services, there isn’t another option in preschool. We can continue to help support within their current environment but there are not any other programs that exist. Ideally, it would be great to have blended preschools in each elementary school in which both general education and special education students could attend. Together, both a general education and special education teacher would co-teach and have the continuous collaboration daily instead of weekly or monthly.
This past school year, I worked with a special education students in general education preschool programs. As I received referrals for students, I would observe these students in their environments before starting the special education process. Often I saw many of the seven learning progressions present in their environment. Most of the referrals I received from general education teachers could have solved through the zig-zag process paired with appropriate accommodations and modifications.
For example: In a Head Start classroom, a little girl was struggling with following directions. The classroom teacher mentioned she often didn’t follow any directions as she needed multiple prompts or cues. As I observed in her classroom, I noticed they were often giving her 2-3 step directions paired with lots of wording. I mentioned to simply the instructions to one-step single directions paired with minimal words. For example: “coat off” instead of “Sally you need to take off your coat”. Another example would be “first coat, then snow pants” instead of “Sally take off your coat and then take off your snow pants.” From transitioning from complex to simple, we were able to minimize her off-task behavior as well as lesson the time she was expressing displeasure.
These 7 progressions happen often and we make the mistake easily of being too complex, abstract, specific, or unfamiliar. It’s not always easy as an educator to reflect on our own teaching styles and be willing to change. The zig zag process helps us reflect on how we can better help a student as well as change our own style to better meet their needs.
May 6, 2020 at 10:41 am #10930LuEmma RowlandParticipant
Peer Response to Melinda Jones:
It would be so great if Anchorage had preschool at each elementary school where both general and special education students attend. ASD had 6 new classrooms this year that were blended (both general education and special education students) with both a general and special education teacher. Ideally, it would be wonderful to have these blended classrooms in each building and merge all of our preschool programs together. As a formal developmental preschool teacher, it was tough not having any role models in our classes. We often had a wide range of disabilities and students who would have greatly benefited from a role model, a peer to play with, or a peer to talk with. I love the new structure of our preschool program and look forward to how the program will continue to grow in the upcoming years. I also think this would be the nice segment to the students who don’t qualify for special education students but need the support. These blended classrooms aren’t based off income or needs…they are for all students to attend who live in that neighborhood area.
May 17, 2020 at 1:25 am #10948Diane GeorgeParticipant
STEP 1- As discussed in Module 4.1, often we have children who struggle and have real learning needs yet they do not ultimately qualify for Special Education, and hence an IEP. The video for Module 4.1 describes how to use the zig-zag process to support children’s learning needs both on an IEP and without. Consider your own district or agency.
Currently, I work in two different school districts. In order to answer this question, I will focus on one rural Alaskan District that I work with.
Are there supports or resources in place that would allow a child who struggles but does not qualify to receive high-quality instruction to meet their unique needs?
The district I work in is very small (less than 100 students K-12). It does have a Head Start program and we do provide services to students in Head Start. There are supports available for students who are struggling but they are limited due to the size of the district. Beginning with Kindergarten through 6th-grade students can access Title I services. These services typically focus on reading and math skills and don’t address social-emotional or speech/language concerns. What does stand out to me is the length the teachers will go to in order to meet the unique educational needs of each student. They will accommodate learning needs, provide a modified curriculum, allow students to demonstrate their knowledge in different ways, etc. The supports are less obviously in place for students with social-emotional challenges. The district does work closely with local behavioral health services to address the social-emotional needs of students who are struggling. The Head Start staff work with their regional staff to problem-solve solutions for working with children in the Head Start setting, who demonstrate learning or behavioral challenges before considering a referral for a special education evaluation.
What steps could you take to ensure this child receives what they need, even if they do not get an IEP?
As I commented in my first response the teaching staff are very open to working with students and providing them what they need (in regards to academic assistance) whether they have an IEP or not. Staff is much less able to work effectively with students with significant behavioral challenges. As a special education teacher, I am more than willing and able to provide recommendations for instructional strategies, accommodations, and curriculum to general education teachers. Typically teachers will seek me out if they are having difficulty meeting the needs of a student to ask for suggestions and seek advice. Despite the fact that the student doesn’t have an IEP I am more than willing to share resources, observe and provide recommendations and help a teacher develop strategies for giving the student the support s/he needs.
Does district/agency policy allow you to work with general education teachers to help kids who are not on your caseload? Describe how you usually address this situation, and what you would do in an ideal world (with needed supports or resources).
District policy does allow special education staff to work with students, who are not on our caseload, in the context of the general education setting. Special education staff does provide instruction to students, though typically it is informally, when they are in the general education setting specifically to support a student who does have an IEP. Occasionally a special education staff member teaches a small group of students that can include general education students as well as the student(s) on an IEP. In a ideal world, class size would be small enough that teachers could more easily meet the individual needs of their students. Special education and general education staff would have time to collaborate and plan for interventions before having to consider a special education referral.
STEP 2– Talk about when, where, and under what context you have observed any of the seven (7) learning progressions, as well as what you would do in the future to address them.
I have seen many of the seven learning progressions when I’ve had the opportunity to spend time in the Head Start building. I have seen teachers give very simple and precise directions; using words and motions or modeling. When a non-preferred activity is coming up I have seen staff pair that activity with a preferred activity or begin the activity with something preferred and then move to the non-preferred activity (ie. – students who don’t like to write, but do like to paint. They can paint their name). Some children are not ready to engage with their peers when they first enter Head Start. The staff allows students to parallel play and they watch for opportunities to encourage cooperative play.
May 17, 2020 at 1:29 am #10949Diane GeorgeParticipant
The program you work for sounds wonderful. I think it is great that children are given the supports they need within the general education setting before jumping to a referral for a special education evaluation. I also applaud your district for requiring you to work with all students and all teachers. What a way to continuously support all students and staff.
July 1, 2020 at 11:30 am #11030Jesse RiesenbergerParticipant
In my school all students are tracked in reading and math. Grade level team meet regularly and use the data to create “What I Need” groups, then we have a built in intervention time which these groups break out and receive interventions in the area they need. This involves classroom teachers, specialists, and para educators so groups are smaller and kids received targeted instruction. Students with IEP’s and non-IEP students are often in the same group, since it is a school wide practice students don’t need an IEP to receive the intervention block. Grade level teams meet throughout the year and specialist and special education teachers are part of those meetings and are able to give suggestions for classroom practices and tools to use in the room which can help support those kids that don’t qualify for and IEP. We also keep our “at risk” kids a part of the weekly intervention team talk meetings, just to make sure they don’t drop off the radar or fall further behind.
In an ideal world we would have at least one para-educator in each room to work with any of the children or lead small group learning as well as the para-educators that serve students with IEP’s. With class sizes getting so large it can be impossible for teachers to reach every student when they are struggling.
I teach a special education preschool program and I feel like most of my classroom activities are scaffold to allow students to move through the 7 learning progressions. We have multiple staff members in the room which allows students to work in small groups and staff to support whichever learning progression they are on. We will often pair a non-preferred activity with a preferred item (i.e. painting with legos, or story time with puppets), giving simple tasks and then extending them to make it more complex. We try to follow the students lead so it can make the zig-zag feel natural. In the future I plan on being more intentional in identifying what we are working on with particular groups to make sure we are moving between the learning progressions.
July 1, 2020 at 11:34 am #11031Jesse RiesenbergerParticipant
Peer Reply to LuAnne
I love that your district has different preschool options. Our preschool programs have been growing over the years and we have found it challenging to help parents know which program is the best fit for their child as well as agreeing on developmentally correct programming. I like that you are able to give interventions in the gen ed preschool class!
August 6, 2020 at 4:17 pm #11068Christine KleinhenzParticipant
As discussed in Module 4.1, often we have children who struggle and have real learning needs yet they do not ultimately qualify for Special Education, and hence an IEP. The video for Module 4.1 describes how to use the zig-zag process to support children’s learning needs both on an IEP and without. Consider your own district or agency. Are there supports or resources in place that would allow a child who struggles but does not qualify to receive high quality instruction to meet their unique needs? What steps could you take to ensure this child receives what they need, even if they do not get an IEP? Does district/agency policy allow you to work with general education teachers to help kids who are not on your caseload? Describe how you usually address this situation, and what you would do in an ideal world (with needed supports or resources). STEP 2– Talk about when, where, and under what context you have observed any of the seven (7) learning progressions, as well as what you would do in the future to address them.
Task 1: I am an SLP in my school district. We have been working the last two years on implementing a more thorough process for observing a child to collect data prior to testing as well as allowing for some zig zag intervientions to take place for a couple of weeks to see to see if changing teaching styles could possible increase in learning. We also can do some intensive therapy during those weeks if we notice a missing skill but think that the child will pick it up quickly without needing to be enrolled in Special Education. This has been a response to a high number of students being tested as well as enrolled in our Special Education Program and it’s a way to try to decrease numbers but also keep out students that may need a quick burst of learning or a change in learning styles. The hope is that we will weed out learning differences from learning disabilities.
I like the examples given to decrease the complexity of a learning activity which could be used as a framework or data collection tool while observing a child during their lesson. I will be using this in the future as a way to introduce what I am looking at to the team and as a tool for offering suggestions for change.
Task 2: I think good teachers do these steps naturally. However, with the increase in students per classroom, giving individualized instruction by a specific teacher is not realistic. We do have small group learning opportunities in our “Walk to Learn” program where individuals are placed in learning groups that meet their needs for math and reading where more direct teaching of specific next steps can occur and I have seen fluid movement for students between groups depending on progress. I think more time and smaller grouping would definitely benefit the students but we are always butting up against resource and time constrictions in the system.
As an SLP, I have tried my best to monitor interests, complexities, teaching one skill at a time before generalizing or even broadening said skill, trying to use all learning modalities (drawing out pictures while I talk about examples, using play figures to set up social scenarios – play acting, writing down words, setting up visual structures that represent verbal expectations etc), finding familiar topics or using what the teacher’s theme is for the week to allow for consistency and using self as an example over broader others or external things.
In the future, I will be more aware of each zig zag process as I examine my therapy strategies and tools and modifications. I will have words to go with my process to be able to explain my thoughts and reasoning for change to others. I will be able to be more intentional in my discussions around ideas for change as well as support to teachers.
August 12, 2021 at 9:39 pm #11285Rebecca JonesParticipant
Hi Christine, I like how you took the concept of learning across modalities and then said that you were going to be more intentional with your conversations surrounding change with teachers. I think this is such an important part of what we are doing, and understanding that we don’t work in our own space or vaacuum with a child, but we must share our understanding and try to learn across modalitites, if you will, with the adults around us also! I love that way of looking at it. Thanks!
August 6, 2020 at 4:21 pm #11069Christine KleinhenzParticipant
I have to admit that I read through your response to this before I answered mine. I was taken with the comment of being more intentional in your thought process while looking at possible modifications within the classroom under task 2. That fits in with exactly what I was thinking as well. This is a great framework for talking to each other about what we see and what we could modify. I could see this being a chart or graph for group discussions etc.
August 8, 2020 at 8:25 pm #11077Sandra Diaz CrossParticipant
Our district uses the Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS) to help struggling students who are not on IEPs. This system focuses not only on the academics but also the behavioral and social/emotional aspect of a child. In tier one, all students are given the same instruction however, some accommodations will be given to struggling students. This take place in the general education classroom. Sample accommodations include allowing the student breaks to gather their thoughts or giving them extra time to complete an assignment. In tier 2, students are given targeted interventions in a small group. In our school, we have a paraprofessional who is able to help with some of the interventions, prepared by the general education teachers. Students who are not responsive to tier 1 and tier 2 interventions are given intensive interventions in a much smaller group or in a one-on-one setting. Throughout this intervention process, continuous progress monitoring is conducted. The MTSS team, consisting of the general education teacher, sped teacher, principal, counselor if need, and parent, meet to collaborate and discuss progress and/or needs, and put together a plan. If progress is not made after a certain amount of time with tier 3 intervention, a sped referral will be made.
I support the general education teachers throughout the process by helping them determine and implement the appropriate research-based intervention tools for the student. I also collaborate with the general education teachers in analyzing progress data and determining how interventions will be conducted. Our district does not have a strict policy on working with teachers to help kids not on my caseload, as long as it does not interfere with my duties to my students with IEP’s. Ideally, I meet with the general education teacher and go over data from our universal screening and district-wide diagnostic assessments. We, as a team discuss how we are going to proceed with the intervention process. We also try to use our wonderful paraprofessionals to aide us in providing these interventions as we see fit. This is what we’d do ideally but we need to work more on consistency with our procedure. Everybody gets very busy and sometimes, more than not, we have a difficult time following through with our plans.
I have observed most of the 7 learning progressions working with the Early Childhood and Kindergarten students. There is one ECE student in particular I’ve been observing when I’m in that classroom. He does not have an IEP and the general education teacher brought him to my attention due to his struggles. He is not able to follow multi step directions. For instance, he struggles with the clean-up part after the free choice time. What comes after clean up time is hand washing time to get ready for snack time. He gets very overwhelmed and starts throwing toys in the bin, or just not follow the routine. In the future, we are going to let the student complete one task first by scaffolding until it becomes a routine, then move to the next task, and the next, one at a time. Several students in the class struggle with the art activity where they have to cut shapes and glue them together. This is a complex task for most of the students. In the future, the students should start with simple cutting exercises until they are familiar with the skill and work their way into gluing their cut paper to create an artwork. The zigzag process looks like an ideal way to support our struggling students before talking about referrals.
August 8, 2020 at 8:27 pm #11078Sandra Diaz CrossParticipant
Response to Daniel Kaasa
Hi Daniel. We have the same referral process for struggling students in our district. Ideally, if the whole process is followed and we do the zigzag process for struggling students, we would not have to refer students to special education if they do not need to. I agree that we all have our own challenges and obligations that make it difficult for effective collaborations.
August 12, 2021 at 9:32 pm #11284Rebecca JonesParticipant
In our district, we are actively involved in RTI and reveiwing the data presented in order to meet each student in their needs. I beleive our district really strives to meet each student’s needs and to get them the resources they need to see that happen. I think the most important part of this process is making sure that you have good meaningful data on each child, so that you can accurately know where the need is so you can target that. District policy does allow us to work with other teachers and values and promotes collaboration between teachers, although there are strong protections in place for privacy and need to know basis. However, if you are both working with a student, it is expected that you will collaborate on how best to serve that student. If a student was struggling, and I had all the time and resources, I would definately take data on every area of growth and development the student is engaged in and I would mine that data for significant info to inform us how we can change what is happening ( mode of delivery, time of day, how many people etc.) I would then collaborate with teachers and parents on the most important data we are finding and agree on the best ways to implement change for the child.
. STEP 2– Talk about when, where, and under what context you have observed any of the seven (7) learning progressions, as well as what you would do in the future to address them.
Moving from concrete to abstract is something that I see alot of in my day as a preschool teacher. Our kiddos are often in such a concrete stage that we don’t always get to see that abstract thinking until alot later in their development. One time I was asking a child to do something that they thought they were doing, but I asked again and got the same response. One of the paraprofessionals gently said, “I think she thinks she is doing it” and I realized how I had asked her and the way she interepreted the question did in fact show that she was trying to do what she thought I was asking her to do. I asked in a different way and she changed what she was doing to follow the instructions I had meant for her to do. She was doing a very literal and concrete version of what I had asked her to do and did not understand my implied meaning. Sometimes it is hard for us adults to see things from a more concrete perspective, when we have been in an abstract understanding for so long. I hope to be more mindful of the different interpretations of what I am asking a child to do, might be out there and be more willing to understand their understanding through the process.
October 10, 2021 at 2:49 pm #11317Jill WinfordParticipant
Thank you for sharing what your school is doing to help kids who are struggling. In light of the loss of instruction over the last two years due to COVID’s interference with typical learning, a critical question in for our referral teams is: “What is a disability and what is a delay?” Nearly every student is behind. Many are struggling. Some teachers are quick to jump to the request for a sped referral. The implementation of the zig zag process helps to interrupt the knee jerk reaction to refer a student to special education.
October 10, 2021 at 2:42 pm #11316Jill WinfordParticipant
Students who struggle and have significant learning needs, do not always qualify for Special Education. In my school, there are supports and resources in place that allow a child who struggles to receive high quality instruction:
We have an SST process in place to strategize interventions and then follow up to measure student progress.
The 504 plan is an alternate to special education for some students.
Several Title I tutors are available to work with students in tiers two and three who do not qualify for special education.
Additionally, we have tutors paid through a Johnson O’Malley Education grant whom work with students and their families.
We also have tutors working specifically with our at-risk Alaska Native youth.
We also have a clinician paid through an AK Rises grant working with students who have mental health needs.
In order to ensure a student receives what they need, even if they do not get an IEP, our school team takes steps through the SST process. As a special education teacher, I do not actively serve students not assigned to special education. I do, however, care about kids and contribute to the general dialog about student needs and services. Ultimately it falls upon the school counselor to ensure that our SST team is meeting regularly and students are receiving what they need.
Yes, our school district’s policy allows me to work with general education teachers to help kids who are not on my caseload. To clarify, I help teachers with ideas for interventions, but I do not directly help gen ed students.
In an ideal world, our SST process would be robust, consistent, thorough, meaningful, and useful. It cannot be my job to meet the needs of the struggling tier two gen ed students in our building. I have a case-load of 30 special education students for whom I am responsible.
I have observed the seven learning progressions in our Professional Learning Communities. Routinely, the best teachers meet to discuss the needs of students and intuitively move back and forth (zig-zag!) through the learning progressions. A good PLC is designed to help educators pinpoint how to support a child who may be having difficulty. The zig-zag process supports children’s learning needs.
December 13, 2021 at 12:54 am #11335Erin Spooner MeyerParticipant
It sounds like your school has many resources outside of special education to support students who need tier two suppots. That is awesome. It also seems like the professionals in your building work well together to support all students. I agree that a robust and meaningful SST process would be ideal. I think many teachers just view SST as a necessary evil to get special ed testing done. If they thought it was useful, that would be great.
December 13, 2021 at 12:44 am #11334Erin Spooner MeyerParticipant
In my district, MTSS is in place to support all students at their instructional level. That is the intention, but it is not always implemented to meet needs. We have daily WIN (what I need) time. But like anything else, that is implemented with different levels of fidelity. Often, it is not started until halfway through the year or done sporadically. I think individual educators have the students’ best interest in mind, but the opinion of what that means differs.
We are permitted to work with students who are not on our caseload if it is in the general education classroom. We usually make sure we get parent permission before pulling students who DNQ into the special ed setting. Ideally, we would have enough trained and “bought in” staff to offer small group instruction. If resources weren’t an obstacle, we would have enough curriculum and money. The time to address the students’ needs would be priority during master scheduling.
I would like to say I learned how to do the zig zag process during my undergraduate schooling. Although, I haven’t heard it called the zig zag process. I hope I use it on a regular basis., but it is a good reminder. It is also a helpful concept and visual to share with colleagues.
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