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Resource Room - Tips for a working model
Susan Jones, M. Ed. 2/99
1. Be Prepared. Before you
meet the students, examine their IEPS to figure out how you're
going to meet their needs. This may mean being aggressive
in being allowed to find out the students in your courses
-- you are *not* a regular education teacher who knows that
you'll be teaching "Physical Science" fourth period
with a predetermined school system's curriculum. You cannot
really plan anything until you've seen the individual needs
of your students.
Take a good look at those IEPs. If three students with emotional
problems need a place to unwind, it will be impossible for
you to simultaneously provide an "undistracting environment"
for LD/ADD students to complete tests or assignments. If three
different students need individual or small group remediation
for different subjects, and the IEP states that each student
will get "50 minutes a day" of that service, you
may be overtaxed in your lesson planning and may find it hard
to claim that you are complying with the IEP. Before it's
December and you realize "things aren't working,"
anticipate these kinds of conflicts. Make room arrangements,
paraprofessional schedule arrangements, student schedule or
IEP changes, or other adjustments if need be.
2. Establish communication routines early
and thoroughly. Connect with the students' other
teachers, and get creative in figuring out a way to establish
regular communication with a minimum burden on either of you.
One of the great frustrations for a resource room teacher,
the student and parents, is finding out that a student has
done poorly in a class when it's too late to do anything about
it. Don't hope that a system "will evolve,"
or assume that if you haven't heard anything, that everything
is fine - even if the student tells you it is.Have
a system in place and give the student positive feedback early,
instead of waiting for someting negative and reacting to it.
3. Be Proactive.Decide how
you're going to evaluate student performance -- and tell them
on the first day of class. Just as the IEP has "measurable
progress," insist that your students learn and do measurable
things in your class. Provide a chart for weekly or daily
grades and do what it takes to make sure that your students
are getting something out of resource class -- and can see
what they've gotten.
3. Be Provocative.Expect your
students to learn from school. Some of your students will
be very adept at avoiding responsibility; many have very low
expectations. If you can't make the connection through their
regular classes, provide other things for them to learn in
4. Avoid the "enabling" trap.
"Matthew effect" is the phrase used to describe
how students with mild handicaps get further and further behind
their peers, as "the rich get richer, the poor get poorer."
Resource rooms, unfortunately, can aggravate this tendency.
When a student is being 'helped' through assignments and tests,
and not held accountable for actually learning the material
in them, then only the appearance of learning is happening.
Other students will be learning content from that same assignment
and integrating what they learn into what they already know.
Too often the "helped" student learns that school
is a place to make people think you're doing what they want
you to, that other people learn but you don't, and that you
need to be shepherded through your classes. Often, assignments
can be creatively modified to make them meaningful, without
simply reducing the quantity of work involved.
5. Avoid the "give them a fish"
trap.Teachers in middle and secondary school often
assume that if a student hasn't learned basic skills in reading
and math by that point, that it's not worth investing any
more time in learning those skills. The student may be assigned
to the resource room to compensate for the reading the student
is assumed to be unable to acquire. This is a gross injustice
to the child. Middle school students, high school students,
and adults have been successfully taught to read.
Unfortunately, the older the student, the more intensive
the program needed and the longer it will take to make gains.
It's highly unlikely that this instruction can be successfully
accomplished in a resource room setting. If the primary barrier
to a student's success in other classes is a specific skill,
especially in middle school, then placement in the resource
room may not be appropriate, although it is common. Meeting
with the parent(s) and others on the IEP team and finding
a way to teach the student those skills can be the difference
between a future college graduate and a future illiteracy
Learning Activities for the Resource Room
These activities are for students who "don't have nothin'"
or are "going to study." Depending on just how much
structure the students require, you may assign point levels
to various tasks (which can be individually adjusted) so that
the student knows how much s/he has to complete to achieve
a certain grade on a daily (or more frequently if necessary)
or weekly basis. If students keep an ongoing notebook of their
resource room work, they can see progress, especially if they
do a lot of work in one area.
Learn to study. Instead of
"looking at notes," there are many active ways to
study. Student can be graded on things such as illustrated
flashcards for words they're learning, or paraphrased notes,
or oral quizzes on the material they reviewed, especially
if you can give a quiz after fifteen minutes of active studying.
Skills Database from Muskingum College has many, many
Practice basic skills. That
doesn't sound too exciting, but often students would pick
out one of my "basic Math review" sheets -- and
since they couldn't do the same sheet twice, they ended up
doing progressively more challenging work but staying at their
"comfort level." A good secondary spelling program
can also help -- if a student learns the "i before e"
rule all of his teachers may thank you!
Learn something else of interest.
Some students will work on an independent 'project'
in a subject of interest -- especially if they are provided
with structure and feedback throughout the process. Find out
in advance about upcoming projects and give the student the
chance to get a jump on assignments that can otherwise be
overwhelming. I have had students who decided they wanted
to learn all the states and capitals, and scheduled the number
they were expected to learn each day; others used blank maps
and atlases to learn where countries were. Another student
did an extensive report on the nine planets - that wasn't
copied from the encyclopedia. It's amazing what students will
do when they have choices and expectations.
Learn to keyboard. Keyboarding
is a tangible, marketable skill and one that can be learned
relatively independently. Odds are reasonably good that there's
at least one old typewriter or computer suitable for learning
to keyboard somewhere in your building or school system. http://www.ldonline.org/ld_indepth/technology/product_list/keyboarding_skills.htmllists
many keyboarding programs (software and book form) and products
which have been used successfully with people with learning
disabilities and/or motor skills challenges.
Learn from commercial comprehension materials.
There are many, many products designed to appeal to
"at risk" or "reluctant" readers. Be aware,
though, that often the reading levels of these materials is
still beyond the independent reading levels of your students.
Don't add to the humiliation by giving a student "special"
materials -- that they still can't read. Look for materials
that actively engage the students. Vocabulary
exercises on this site may be appropriate for some students.
Weekly Reader has an "Extra"
magazine for middle and secondary special needs students that
has many activities and interesting articles. At least as
I write this, you can go to http://www.google.com,
click on the "news " tab, and type in a word such
as dyslexia, and students can read and summarize current articles
- and learn how the media perceives people with learning disabilities
and attention deficit disorder.
Learning Materials for the Resource Room
Student Dictionary - these dictionaries have definitions
that make sense to students. Collegiate dictionaries tend
to have definitions which you still have to "translate"
into comprehensible terms. Students who had been unwilling
to work independently on vocabulary or learning terms for
other classes often change their attitude when it becomes
possible to do the assignment.
Supplies are negotiable. If you are not going to have a way
to supply them, you will have to deal with students who do
not have the materials to complete their work. Some teachers
have been known to require a shoe as collateral.
Always have appropriate activities available, and students
are more likely to accept that their choice is *what* academic
work to do, not *whether* they do academic work. While I'm
not a big fan of word searches for learning content (most
of my students did not so much as read the words, much less
think about what they meant), they are an option (I assigned
a low point value to them).
If possible, get copies of the texts they use in other classes,
or other books on those topics. You can have the students
apply study skills learned in your class to materials they
may be held responsible for learning. If you want to discourage
them from relying on you to provide the books when they could
and should bring them themselves, you can stipulate that if
they use your book, they must do your assignment. As with
bringing other supplies, though, you may wish to choose other