From Standards-Based IEP Goal Writing to Instructional Strategy Selection

By Mary Murray Stowe, M.Ed.

Rebecca (a rising seventh grader), her parents, one of her general education teachers, the school principal, and Ms. Goodall (Rebecca’s special education teacher) met to prepare Rebecca’s Standards-Based Individualized Education Program (SB IEP) for the coming year.  Rebecca intends to graduate from high school on time and go on to attend college.  The team considers her intention when constructing her program.  As described in “Writing Standards-Based IEP Goals” elsewhere in this issue and illustrated in Figure 1, much data and information have to be examined to determine appropriate SB IEP goals.

In Rebecca’s Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLoP), strength was noted in her use of graphic organizers and visual devices (Math Standards 2.19 and 3.17) and in her ability to recognize the characteristics of concrete objects as early as first grade (Math Standards 1.15 and 1.16).  Rebecca makes meaning from text through the use of visual images and organized spatial devices to determine salient information. As early as second grade (English Standards 2.2 and 2.6), a weakness was noted in her underlying understanding of the relationships established with analogies (e.g., similarities and differences, synonyms and antonyms, comparing and contrasting) and has continued through the sixth grade, along with a weakness in developing a deep understanding of grade-level vocabulary.  Assessments from the sixth grade indicate a continued need to increase Rebecca’s ability to recognize analogies. 

Due to this extended history of struggle, the team felt that specialized instruction was needed to ensure Rebecca’s mastery of the English Standard of Learning (SOL) 7.4.  The Curriculum Framework and Essential Knowledge and Skills (see below) were consulted, and based on the assessment data, it was decided that Rebecca’s struggle with “recognizing and applying knowledge of common relationships that lead to analogy construction” would interfere with mastery of SOL 7.4, and thus required specialized instruction.

English SOL 7.4:

The student will read to determine the meanings and pronunciations of unfamiliar words and phrases.
a) Use roots and affixes to expand vocabulary.

b) Recognize analogies and figurative language.
c) Identify connotations.

Essential Knowledge and Skills Identified Within the Curriculum Framework:

“…• recognize and apply relationships common to analogy construction

  • purpose . chair: sit
  • cause/effect . sun: burn
  • sequence . day: week
  • characteristic . snow: cold
  • product . tree: lumber
  • degree . warm: hot…”

 (Virginia Department of Education English Curriculum Framework, 2003)

The SB IEP team developed the following goal in response to implications of the data.

Standard-Based Individual Education Program (SB IEP) Goal:  Using graphic organizers, Rebecca will form correct analogies demonstrating an understanding of the relationship involved with 80% accuracy on four of five classroom assessments by November of 2012.


     Figure.  Targeting SB IEP goals and strategies.

Now Rebecca’s teachers need to consider what the informal and formal assessment data tell them with regard to designing appropriate instruction for Rebecca.  What will specialized instruction look like given her strengths and weaknesses?  The five critical assessment questions presented in “Teaching and Learning: Selecting the Right Math Strategy (Buyrn, 2011) may be considered to guide selection of the appropriate specialized instructional strategies for this student.

1.  What does Rebecca know?

Rebecca is able to recognize characteristics of concrete objects and sort like objects into groups.  Rebecca makes meaning from text through the use of visual images and organized spatial devices.  We further know that Rebecca can make connections while reading text but cannot explain the nature of the connection.

2. What can Rebecca do? 

With assistance, Rebecca can complete a semantic-features analysis for concrete nouns using her ability to recognize like characteristics.  Rebecca is able to use reference materials to find a synonym or antonym.  Rebecca is also able to make connections between previous experiences and reading selections (Standard 3.6), compare facts and fantasy (Standard 4.4), and make simple inferences (Standard 4.5).

3.  How does Rebecca think?

Rebecca often confuses her thinking on a given task.  She applies incorrect processes to accomplish the requested task.  She does not automatically identify the characteristics involved with analogous relationships.

4.  What does Rebecca do when unsure?

When Rebecca is unsure of the task being requested or the skill being accessed, she proceeds without seeking clarification on what is being requested.  Rebecca completes the assignment without  clarifying the directions provided by the teacher.  She accomplishes a task, but perhaps not what the teacher requested, and then is surprised that her work is incorrect.  For example, the teacher may have provided instructions to determine the similarities between two items whereas Rebecca determines the differences between two items.  When completing a sequencing task, Rebecca often confuses sequential steps in a process.

5.  As the teacher, what do I do?

Scaffolded spatial or graphic organizers will be used to begin work on skills that lead to recognizing analogies, building on what Rebecca knows and can do.  Ms. Goodall will use the scaffolded graphic organizers to begin specialized instruction with simple vocabulary relationship building.  The use of spatial organizers has been found to be an “effective” strategy (Scruggs, Mastropieri, Berkeley, & Greetz, 2010).  Increasingly difficult vocabulary will be introduced with direct instruction in identifying, constructing, and explaining specific analogous relationships (i.e., purpose, cause/effect, sequence, characteristics, product, and degree).  Rebecca and Ms. Goodall will co-construct checklists to ensure that Rebecca has completed the analogous task being requested. 

The article “Frontloading Vocabulary in Core Content Classes:  Instructional Strategies (Stowe, 2009) and the Considerations Packet “Adolescent Literacy:  Evidence-Based Instructional Strategies – Why, What, and How” (Stowe, 2011) present several graphic or spatial organizers as well as techniques that may be used to deliver this scaffolded and direct instruction.

Ms. Goodall’s task now will be to provide focused, high-quality instruction to address Rebecca’s targeted needs, whether within a small group or an individual session, a general education classroom or a resource classroom (McLeskey & Waldron, 2011).


Buyrn, C. A. (2011).  Teaching and learning: Selecting the right math strategy. Link Lines Newsletter. Williamsburg, VA:  The Training and Technical Assistance Center at the College of William and Mary.

Commonwealth of Virginia Board of Education. (2003).  English standards of learning curriculum framework.  Richmond, VA:  Author.

McLeskey, J., & Waldron, N. L. (2011).  Educational programs for elementary students with learning disabilities:  Can they be both effective and inclusive?  Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 26(1), 48-57.

Scruggs, T. E., Mastropieri, M. A., Berkeley, S., & Greetz, J. E. (2010). Do special education interventions improve learning of secondary content? A meta-analysis.  Remedial and Special Education, 31(6), 437-449.

Stowe, M. M. (2009). Frontloading vocabulary in core content classrooms:  Instructional strategies. Link Lines Newsletter.  Williamsburg, VA:  The Training and Technical Assistance Center at the College of William and Mary. Link:

Stowe, M. M. (2011).  Adolescent literacy evidence-based instructional strategies:  Why, what, and How [Considerations Packet].  Williamsburg, VA:  The Training and Technical Assistance Center at the College of William and Mary.  Link:


Analogy video lessons and games –

Building Analogies (Teacher Tube) –

Graphic Organizers for Analogies –

Fillable PDF of an Analogy Organizer –