Academic Skills



Teaching Multiplication in a Low Incidence Classroom

Multiplication. It is a math skills that allows math life skills to be completed in a faster timeframe. When I first began teaching in a low incidence classroom the idea of teaching multiplication seemed like a mountain I wasn't prepared to climb. How could I make this complex skills accessible for my students? Well the answer was simple (and also the answer to many of the questions about behavior and curriculum in my classroom). VISUALS.

Visual are the key to success in our classrooms. They help students communicate their wants and needs, calm down, follow directions/schedule, and comprehend. Implementing visuals into math was going to give my students the academic rigor they deserved in our small group classroom. 
Before we can have visuals we need to know what to teach. I currently teach in Ohio and I am IN LOVE with the modified standards the state has put together, The Ohio Extended Standards. If your state does not have modified standards for students on a modified curriculum check Ohio's out Here (they are broken down in to ELA, Science, Social Studies, and Math). All the standards in Ohio are based off the Common Core State standards except for Social Studies (which is specific to Ohio history). 

When looking at the image above (taken from the standards are broken down in a, b, and c with A being the most complex and C being the least complex to the original standard. This is the basic frame work that I use to determine how to differentiate grade level standards for my students participating in a modified curriculum. I won't go into too much more detail on the Ohio Extended Standards but I HIGHY suggest that you take the time to look into the extended standards your state has developed OR check out Ohio's. It has been a game changer in my road map to creating a meaningful curriculum for my students. 

So lets get back to math: specifically multiplication.  I realize that some of your students may still be working on basic math skills. However, I am a firm believer in exposing your students to rigor and I am willing to bet that you will be amazed at what your students can accomplish.  I created a leveled Math curriculum for grade bands k-2 and have begun grade bands 3-5 with a multiplication unit. This is how it is broken down: each unit has 5 skills all taken directly from the Ohio Extended Standards. 

Level One Skills: 
  • Represent products of 1's and 2's using arrays
  • Solve multiplication word problems in situations involving equal groups and arrays up to 20 involving multiples of 1's and 2's. 
  • Apply the commutative property using arrays involving multiples of 1's and 2's
  • Solve multiplication number sentences of 1's and 2's 
  • Identify the array that solves for the unknown whole number in a multiplication number sentences of multiples of 1's and 2's 
Level Two Skills: 
  • Represent products of number thru 5x5 using arrays
  • Solve multiplication word problems in situations involving equal groups and arrays up to 20 involving quantities up to 50
  • Apply the commutative and associative properties
  • Solve multiplication number sentences up to 7x7
  • Solves for the unknown whole number in a multiplication number sentences within 50 
Level Three Skills: 
  • Represent products of number up to 10x10 using arrays
  • Solve multiplication word problems in situations involving equal groups and arrays up to 20 involving quantities up to 100 
  • Apply the commutative, associative, and distributive properties
  • Solve multiplication sentences up to 100 
  • Solves for the unknown whole number in a multiplication number sentences within 100
As you can see the skills are very similar and accessible for each level. If your students are in 3rd grade and still working on counting skills they can count using arrays and accomplishing the beginning steps to multiplication! Introduce them to the vocabulary and math symbols that they will see in the real world. Who knows they might just need a new way of counting to master the skill! 

Data collection is an important piece to teaching math because 
so much of math builds on each other. My favorite part of this curriculum is the exposure to the different multiplication properties: commutative, associative, and distributive properties. The units can be mixed and matched based on skill. For example, I have a student who is in level two but has never been exposed to the multiplication properties then I will begin with level one in ONE skill. I keep all of this organized with the data sheet that is included in the curriculum.

This data sheet has every standard (aligning with Ohio Extended) included in the unit and a simple check list to show their mastery based on the standard as well as a place to record their pre and post test score to show growth. You will simply check a 3 if they are exceeding mastery, 2 have mastery, and 1 not mastered. This will help you develop each child's individualized math curriculum. I also love this method for tracking student progress because it is a clear map to future IEP goals and their present levels. Lastly, this data sheet will WOW your admin and parents. So often people underestimate our students abilities and this is an opportunity to show everyone that your students, even in a low incidence classroom, can accomplish high level math skills and participate in a curriculum that goes beyond basic math skills! Parents will be impressed, admin will be impressed, and you will be creating a culture in your school that your students are learning SO MUCH MORE than they expect! Its a wonderful feeling! 

Lastly there these skills can not just be taught once and never practiced again. In order to make sure your students can continue to get the practice of these skills even when you moved on to another standard centers were created. These will align with the workbook to a T. They are meant to be laminated so that they can be used in a 1:1 center, independent center, or para run center for reinforcement of the skills! 

If you want to check out this curriculum in my TPT store click here

If you are using my math curriculum (Grade bands k-2 or 3-5) share pictures in action (no student faces please) with the HASHTAG #SuperheroMath for a chance to be featured on my social media and win free products in my TPT Store 


Task Boxes on a Budget

Its January and while we all need winter break, those of us who teach in a Moderate to Severe Classroom know coming back from a break can be like the first day of school all over again. There are so many different ways you can keep structure in your classroom without pulling your hair out. 
First tip from myself, a fellow Moderate to Severe teacher is to not worry about teaching content the first week back. My students need time to readjust back into their routine and behavior management. This does not mean to just allow free time and choice time all day long. That will only get you further away from your goal! In comes TASK BOXES! These should already be a staple in your classroom and continuing on with your students routine (centers, whole group, etc) using task boxes in place of academic content will remind your students of the classroom routine and structure without stressing them out with tasks that are new and difficult for them! 

I like to change up task boxes every year or so, however, my current batch of kids have been with me for the past 2.5 years. In order to avoid a room full of bored kids I took some time over my winter break to assemble some new task boxes, all from...... wait for it..... THE DOLLAR TREE! Everything I bought was under 25$ Now that is what I call a successful shopping trip! So here is how I set up my  new task boxes in a couple hours and 3 easy steps! 

The dollar tree does offer a ton of bins that you can choose from, BUT I actually do not think those are the best deal. You can find shoebox size plastic boxes sold for under a dollar at Wal-Mart and Target. Have no fear I found a great alternative to house your lovely tasks. 

These bins are simply disposable cooking trays that were 3 for 1.00. I just write the task on it and the students match it to their schedule. More about that in the next tip though :) 

I love these bins because they are large enough to store many materials and they are super lightweight. Plus if they get damaged or ruined its not a big dent in your pocket! 

There are so many amazing products on TPT to help set up a structured work task system. Check out these links if you want to buy and assemble one made by these talented TPT authors:  

In my classroom, I am lucky to have students who are readers so I choose to do a simple and easy checklist. I just hand write out on a piece of paper the tasks the student needs to complete, the reward they choose, and a space for them to check is off! Simple, easy, and cost me no money at all! You can  even laminate it and leave out the task box number and reward so you can save on materials! Easy Peasy! 

Now the fun part! What goes in the task boxes! First I want to explain that if you want your students to be independent at this activity then you need to put MASTERED TASKS! I know I know, you want them to work on current IEP goals or Standards....BUT hear me out. Our students are easily frustrated and/or have learned how to avoid hard tasks (tantrums, sitting "pretending to work", thawing the objects across the room---you name it). So you can prevent this from happening by making it easy for them so they learn how to complete tasks. This will help your students in so many life skills areas and hopefully generalize it at home and in the future in their employment opportunities.
Puzzles are a great way to implant independent work. This puzzle to the right was the most pricey task box I put together because I got 4 at a dollar each. Since I am guessing my students will finish them fairly quickly I will put 2-4 puzzles in each box.

I also bought a simple foam alphabet puzzle. All of my students have mastered putting puzzles together and their letter but this is easy, not stressful, and a great way to sneak fine motor into a task box without the kids knowing!

I love this next task because it can cater to the girls in the classroom. These are pastel pipe cleaners and matching hair clips. This is an amazing fine motor tool and the kids will be busy matching colors. The pipe cleaners were $1.00 and the clips were $1.00 totally 2 bucks total!

This task is a life skill task. It is a simple pack of thank you notes with the envelopes. The students simply have to place the cards in the envelop and they are done! 10 cards came in this pack so it is something that they won't finish super quick! This task cost a total of $1.00! Simple, easy, and cheap!

I could not pass up these adorable little red cups in the paper products aisle at the Dollar Tree. You can use these in SO many different ways! Counting, letters, sorting! They were well worth the $1.00. I chose to make a task with close pins (also $1.00) to place around the rim of the cup. I don't even know if I could say this task cost me 2 bucks because I had a ton of cups and clothespins left over to make more task boxes in the future!

Plastic silverware is another great task that you can use to have students practice job tasks. I like to have the students sort them by type OR take one of each and roll them with a napkin like they would see at a restaurant! 

Socks are a mother great life skill to work on. I got a pack of 4 socks (with different patterns and colors on each pair) so the students can match and fold. The parents will LOVE this one I promise :) 
Now that you have taken the time to read about all about task boxes on the cheap you have earned your reward! (Hahaha little token economy humor for ya!) I created a freebie with 4 simple and easy sorting tasks and matching tasks to add to your bins! These are low prep and will keep the kids engaged! I included two simple sorts (emotions and fruit/vegetable) and two higher level sorts (Match the planets and Match the community places) 
   Lower level tasks 
          higher level tasks   

You can check them out Here!