Ensuring a Successful School Year for All Students

By Sue Land, M.Ed.

“Happy new year!” In September, teachers and students alike begin the school year with high expectations for a successful year with positive outcomes. How can schools ensure a great start and maintain this tide of positive energy throughout the year? This September/October issue of T/TAC Link Lines includes articles and resources to help educators start the year off strong and keep the successes coming!s

Teachers can ensure a successful school year for all their students by:

  • collaborating with their colleagues
  • designing supportive classroom environments
  • exploring learning tools for students and tools to assist teachers.

Collaborating

Marilyn Friend (Friend & Cook, 2007) stresses the importance of working with colleagues in inclusive settings to plan and problem-solve around student needs. Two articles in Link Lines support this recommendation. First, Standards-Based IEPs: A New Opportunity for Collaboration suggests that general and special educators should work together to design effective IEPs by combining their respective areas of expertise and following a consistent process.  A Look in the Mirror: “Polishing” Inclusive Practices With Self-Reflection provides teachers with guiding questions to help them determine how inclusive they really are by identifying their strengths as well as areas that need further attention. This reflection can help teachers create supportive learning environments for all their students.

Supportive Classrooms

Simplicity, Harmony, and Opportunity: Strategies That Support the Mental Health of Students profiles a student with a mental health disorder who tells her story. Ideas are shared for providing opportunities for academic and non-academic interaction among students to create classroom cultures supportive of their emotional well-being. Visit websites on cooperative learning (http://www.edutopia.org/common-ground), peer tutoring (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__dMTZIL6JQ), and morning meetings (http://www.edutopia.org/louisville-sel-morning-meetings-video) to find strategies that foster the development of positive relationships in classroom environments. Other student stories will be highlighted in future newsletters.

Another strategy for creating supportive general education classrooms for students with disabilities is the use of assistive technology. The Role of Technology in Educating Students With Disabilities in the Least Restrictive Environment offers a tool to help IEP teams determine the effectiveness of supplementary aids and services in the general education environment (link to chart). Subsequent issues of Link Lines will explore a variety of inexpensive electronic technologies, applications, and software that increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of students with disabilities in general education classrooms.

Learning Tools

Designing Interventions: The Chicken or the Egg? advocates that students make academic gains through ongoing assessment, prioritizing student skill needs, goal-setting, and designing and implementing effective interventions.  The article includes reading comprehension and decoding interventions such as Pocket Words, Spot and Dot, and Word Search that will arm your students with important reading tools.

All students need to learn how to manage digital calendars and task management systems in order to function in today’s technology-driven world. Featured Applications: Calendars and Task Management Tools suggests looking into Microsoft Outlook’s calendar and task management applications, Apple’s iCal application, or Google Calendar as ways to keep your students on task and organized; you may end up changing your own organizational tools as a result. 

Teaching Tools

Finally, Teaching Morphology: Enhancing Vocabulary Development and Reading Comprehension reveals the results of the Virginia high-stakes assessment showing a general weakness in vocabulary development for Virginia students. This article offers tools for teaching morphology or the study of the structure of words. Students who understand how words are formed by combining prefixes, suffixes, and roots tend to have larger vocabularies and better reading comprehension ( Lesaux, 2009). For more reading strategies, access the new Considerations Packet, Adolescent Literacy: Evidenced Based Instructional Strategies, Why, What, and How at http://education.wm.edu/centers/ttac/resources/considerations/index.php.

For additional information on T/TAC W&M services and resources, access http://education.wm.edu/centers/ttac/.

In the words of the philosopher and poet Kahlil Gibran, “The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” Have a great school year!

References

Friend, M., & Cook, L. (2007). Interactions: Collaboration skills for school professionals (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Prince, R.E.C. (2009). Usable knowledge from Harvard Graduate School of Education - Morphological analysis:  New light on a vital reading skill, HGSE Nonie Lesaux. Retrieved from http://www.uknow.gse.harvard.edu/teaching/TC102-407.html