Seeing Red

I am excited to be featured as a guest blogger on Teacher Mom of 3!  I met Lauren through a Google+ community I joined as I was building my Personal Learning Network and she has given me some great ideas.  Hopefully, this post will share some good ideas with all of you.

I teach in an elementary self-contained special education classroom and have been conducting an action research project on high-frequency word instruction for this past school year as part of my thesis for my Master’s Degree.  I have been studying the effectiveness of Orton-Gillingham’s Red Word Method.  This is a multi-sensory, structured, and sequential approach to learning “Red Words” or words that cannot be sounded out phonetically and do not follow phonemic rules.  We have our 15 minute “Red Word” lesson every day and I am happy to say my students have made significant gains using this method to learn their high-frequency words.

To get started you need a classroom set of your high-frequency words written in red, red crayons, and red canvas.

Red Word Materials

I teach two words a week and target both words each day using the following procedure:

  • Hold the word in your (non-writing) hand.
  • Slide your pointer finger (of your writing hand) under the word while you read it.  Repeat 3 times.
  • Take that same finger and trace the letters while you spell the word, then slide your finger under the word while you read it again.  Repeat 3 times.

finger point

  • Now, extend your non-writing arm out in front of you while holding the card in your hand.
  • Place your writing hand on your arm and slide it from your shoulder to your wrist as you read the word.  Repeat 3 times.
  • Spell the word, tapping once for each letter down your arm.  Then read the word again while sliding your hand from shoulder to wrist.  Do this 3 times.

Arm tap

  • Give each student a red canvas, a small blank piece of paper, and a red crayon.  Instruct them to write the word (saying the letters aloud as they write) and underline the word as they read it.  Do this on both sides of the small blank piece of paper.
  • When you collect all of the supplies, have the student read the word to you.
  • Repeat this for each word you teach during a lesson.

This is the basic framework of a “Red Words” lesson.  I also try to use the word in as many sentences as possible during the lesson.  I also spell and say the word as I hand out the writing supplies.  Aside from the multi-sensory approach (body movements and writing on the canvas) it is also extremely repetitive – which is so important for children with cognitive disabilities.  The repetitiveness also allows students to stand up and lead the lesson as well!

The final thought I will leave you with is that even though my students have made amazing gains, there are still some of the “red words” that are tricky.  So, we give the word a high 5 each time we leave the classroom!  If you try this method or already use it, let me know what kind of improvements you see!

extra support

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To Do or Not To Do

How do you keep track of all of things you have to do during the week in addition to your teaching?To Do Listpost it  Do you use a To Do List, post it notes, mental notes, a planner?  I feel like part of being an effective teacher is being organized and I use a To Do List to make sure I get everything done!  I don’t have a fancy template for my To Do List, just a nice note pad from my principal that says From the Desk of Melissa Krumm.  I write things down as I think of them and cross them off when I finish them.  Usually, part way through the week, I have to re-write the list because of all of things that have been crossed off or added!  My goal is to finish the list as early in the week as possible, because there are always new things to add to the list.  But, I don’t like going home on Friday without the list being completed and in the recycling bin, with a blank note pad ready for the next week.  A teacher I work closely with uses Post-It-Notes.  Her desk, computer, and wall next to her desk are covered in post-its.  As she finishes a task, that note goes in the recycling.  This wouldn’t work for me because I’m sure I would lose the post-its, plus it seems like such a disorganized form of organization to me!  But, it works really well for her and we both manage to complete everything we need to do.

How do you stay organized and get everything done?  I am always looking for new ideas and ways to be more organized in my classroom.  I also like fun and creative ways to be organized.  Any suggestions?


**As I was getting on Google+ to link to this post through a couple of communities I belong to, I came across this amazing organization binder plan from Leslie at KindergartenWorks.  Check it out here and follow her on Google+!

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The Ups and Downs of Handwriting

We all have our favorite things to teach and our least favorites.  Personally, I really struggle with teaching writing.  I have two students that are working on actually getting ideas onto paper through the Co-Writer/Write Out Loud software.  The rest of my students are still working on basic strokes and shapes as pre-handwriting skills.  We have tried Handwriting without Tears and still use the iPad apps that go along with that program.  We have also explored Writing to Learn and some of my students are getting close to being able to utilize this program.  In addition to working closely with our Occupational Therapist for the fine motor piece of handwriting, we are using TV Teacher for our handwriting instruction.  We are starting to see some nice progress with this program and it has transitioned nicely into some great natural writing opportunities.

We used what we have been learning during writing to make birthday cards for Mrs. Jackson, the other Level III Special Education teacher in my building.  This was such a natural and purposeful activity and we were able to differentiate easily to the different writing levels of the students.  Plus, they were so excited to deliver them to Mrs. Jackson on Friday and watch her read them.  I really try to make the most out of these natural writing opportunities because I feel like I am at a loss the rest of the time for writing. Here is a picture of the beautiful birthday cards they created.


What do you do for writing with your Special Education students?  How do you differentiate?  How much time do you spend on writing each day?

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Oh, the joy of standardized tests….

Ok, seriously, don’t run away at the title of this post!  I know, we all just LOVE standardized assessment time.  I am lucky (or not…) to have all of my students on Alternate Assessment, so they don’t take the Iowa Assessment, but the rest of my building is preparing for the big test week.  Because we are a SINA school, we are required to take extra measures to improve our test scores.  This year, we decided to run a TEST CAMP!  Students got to stay after school and take part in sessions to prepare them for the test.  Sessions included nutrition and relaxation, skimming, bubbling, main idea, and calculators to name a few.  The parents were invited for the last half hour to meet with our principal to ask questions about ways they can help prepare their student for success at home!  The camp ended with a couple of great motivational videos and some words from our SUCCESS worker and the principal.  Then, everyone got to eat pizza!  It was a great bonding experience for the students, it was a great chance for me to interact with the students of our general education population, and hopefully, the students will be more confident when it comes to test week!  Here is the Test Taking Tips handout we gave to all of our students.  Maybe you can use it, too!

How do you prepare your students for standardized tests?

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Pass me a tissue

If your classroom is anything like mine, you have already gone through all of the tissues the students brought in at the beginning of the school year!  I have had to put out a plea to families to send more tissues to school.  In addition to the excess of runny noses this year (mine and the students), everyone in the room is guilty of using tissues to clean off dry-erase boards.

I do lots of different activities using dry-erase boards and grabbing a tissue to wipe off the writing is easier than walking to the white board to grab the eraser.  But, this means that each time we do a whole class dry-erase board activity, we use a minimum of 7 tissues.  Today, I finally decided to whip up a creation I saw on Pinterest.


I grabbed a handful of extra yellow pom-poms from a math work station, some glue, and my dry-erase markers and created built-in erasers!  I can’t wait to try these out with the kids tomorrow!  Ideally, we will go through tissues at a much slower rate and hopefully, not lose any marker caps in the process!

What are some of your favorite Pinterest creations for the classroom?

By the way, if you want to follow my teacher pins on Pinterest, you can find me by searching for ‘krummsped’ and if you need an invitation to join Pinterest, just leave me a comment and I will send you an invite!

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Intelligence in the Classroom

What is your strongest area of intelligence according to Gardner?  According to good old Wikipedia, Gardner proposed a theory of multiple intelligences that basically break down how we learn and how we learn differently from one another.  After taking this quiz, I found that I primarily fall under the musical intelligence category – that is, I learn best aurally.  Many students with special needs, however, fall into the kinesthetic category.  I was surprised to see that, according to the quiz, kinesthetic intelligence is one of my weaker areas.  So, I started to look at how this relates to my own teaching.

photo 2

I found a great kinesthetic approach right in my classroom closet that my kids love and I want to share it with you!  This is our classroom set of exercise dice.  The kids take turns rolling the dice, identifying the number, reading the exercise, and then counting out loud as they complete the exercise.  We practice number identification, phonics, and counting while getting up, moving, increasing our heart rate, and building gross motor skills.  The kids love this game and have no idea how much they are getting out of it.  And, I know how much more they are benefitting simply from the kinesthetic approach.

What do you do to address kinesthetic learning in your classroom?  Do your students primarily learn from one of the other areas of intelligence?  How do you meet their needs as learners?

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A Couple of Good Puzzles

Puzzle: Do you dream of having a classroom Valentine’s Day party that isn’t all sugar-induced chaos and actually includes a little bit of learning?

I managed to do just that on Thursday and even snuck in a little bit of science assessment.  Even though science is a very difficult concept for my students, they love the instant gratification of a simple experiment, especially when it leads to decorating Valentine cookies.

Puzzle: What is something you would like to eat that I could make with these 4 things?

milk sugarvanillared food coloring

My students were amazed to watch the milk and the sugar turn into a creamy mixture.  They guessed the vanilla would turn the mixture brown and were surprised when it didn’t, but they were not surprised when the food coloring turned the mixture red.  The best part of the experiment, however, was solving the puzzle: the thing you like to eat that is made with milk, powdered sugar, vanilla, and red food coloring is FROSTING for your Valentine cookies!  

The rest of the party was spent getting the cookies frosted and sprinkled to perfection.  The kids were organized and calm, while still getting to consume copious amounts of sugar.  It was a great success!

How do you make learning fun?  What is your favorite science experiment for kids?  I’m always looking for new ideas!

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JA BizTown


Today, I got to accompany my three 5th grade students, along with the rest of the 4th and 5th grade classes, to JA BizTown for a day of hands-on activities that support work and community.  We have been preparing for this day-long field trip for a while now with the students learning to apply for jobs, write checks, balance a checkbook, and run for mayor.  I wish I could post pictures of my students because they looked great in their hardhats going from business to business reading the meters as Utility Engineers.  Their favorite job was going around a replacing all of the dirty air filters with clean ones.  My students had a great experience and got a lot out of observing the other students do their jobs.  The other students were amazed at how busy they were and how short a 30 minute lunch break really is!  It was an excellent experience and I hope I have the opportunity to go again!  What sorts of community education opportunities do you have with your students?

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Special Needs Sunday


This is my first time participating in Special Needs Sunday!  I am excited to collaborate with other teachers of exceptional children!  The topic for this Sunday is word problems in math.  I have had to completely modify word problems in my classroom because none of my students are readers yet.  So, bring on the visual supports and manipulatives!

Mrs. Krumm: How many orange M&Ms do you have?

Frank: Three

Mrs. Krumm: (Writes 3 under the orange M&M marker) Awesome and how many green ones do you have?

Frank: Two

Mrs. Krumm:  (Writes 2 under the green M&M marker) You got it!  You have three orange M&Ms and two green M&Ms.  How many M&Ms do you have all together? (Writes a plus sign between the 3 and 2)

Frank: Five!

Mrs. Krumm: (Writes an equal sign followed by a 5) Perfect!  3+2=5!  Eat those M&Ms!  Now how many do you have?

Frank: (With a chocolate grin) None!


In addition to working on self-control (I have a hard time not sneaking an M&M or two during this activity), I am also able to work on simple addition and subtraction while introducing the concept of word problems.  I also write the number sentences on a dry-erase board so the students are seeing the operation symbols and number identification is being reinforced.  For the rest of you with non-readers, how do you approach word problems?

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What is my kid talking about?

In my classroom, each student has their own mailbox.  Contained in these mailboxes are projects, notes home, permission slips, newsletters, invitations, etc.  At the end of the day, these papers move from the mailboxes to the students’ backpacks and I send them off with hopes that their parents will look in the backpacks and see the papers.  Unfortunately, when the next day’s papers go into the backpack, they get shoved in on top of the never-seen papers from the previous day and I get a phone call in the middle of my reading groups because a parent wants to know what (field trip, event, project, visitor) their kid was talking about.

I am active in my attempts to communicate with parents and if I am addressing an issue of high importance, I will call or e-mail the family.  But, how can I get the other important information to all my students’ families in an efficient and effective manner? I would love to have my families be able to access information from the classroom newsletter without having to call and interrupt class time with a question.  I would love to not have to seek out parents the morning of a field trip because they never signed the permission slip.  How do you ensure the communication with your families is not one sided?  Do you use a classroom website?  Does your district provide something like Edline?  Do you just take a few extra minutes and contact each family using their preferred communication method?  Leave a comment and let me know how you communicate with your families.

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