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BRIGHT SPOTS: IMPROVED OUTCOMES FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES

Joe Gilson, Global History teacher at Port Chester High School, who worked with RSE-TASC Special Education School Improvement Specialist David Luhman in the 2015-2016 school year taught students multiple learning strategies in his 9th grade Global History I Co-Taught classes to support student engagement in writing.  One strategy in particular stood out. The 5 W’s and H is a strategy used to help students think about and identify details about a topic before writing. The students identify Who, Where, What, When, Why & How  and then use these details to first develop sentences and then develop a paragraph. This strategy is designed to get students to write more and be more specific which is important in global history, especially for Thematic and DBQ essays.

What did students with disabilities achieve using this strategy?  Students began to use this strategy with excitement when planning to write and started generalizing this strategy to activities outside essay writing. Students would raise their hands saying, “We should use the 5Ws”, “If you are stuck, try using the 5Ws,” and “If you think about the 5W’s you will know the Byzantine Empire.” Not only was it effective in getting students to write essays, but students were motivated to participate and use the strategy in class and during review sessions.


What can we learn from this Bright Spot?

  • Strategy Instruction is an evidence-based strategy for increasing student ownership of their learning for all learners, including struggling learners and those with disabilities.
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Brett Sloane from Valley Cottage Elementary in Nyack shared that a student at the school was exhibiting highly problematic behavior on the bus and not responding to any of the consequences. Serious consideration was being given to permanently removing the student from the bus.  However, the staff decided to implement a new set of strategies based on positive behavioral supports.  According to the coach, “What a turnaround!!  His behavior on the bus improved dramatically and he became a model bus student!”

How was this accomplished?

The school team engaged the student in monitoring his own behavior while they focused on acknowledging him for what he was doing well.  The student first worked with the team to develop his own positive behavior plan for the bus.  As he implemented the plan he checked in with an adult daily on his progress.  Initially he received tangible rewards for meeting his goals but now the acknowledgements and his own pride are sufficient motivation for maintaining his success.


What can we learn from this Bright Spot?

  • Teaching students to set their own goals, and then giving them strategies to monitor their success in meeting those goals, produces positive immediate outcomes that can have long-term consequences.
  • Creating structures that ensure positive student-adult interactions is an important part of effective behavior interventions.

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