How do you work with others (co-teachers, colleagues, admin…) to create a learning environment that is conducive for your students with special needs?

This is part of our week-long slow-chat about servicing students with special needs: How do you work with others (co-teachers, colleagues, admin…) to create a learning environment that is conducive for your students with special needs? #specialized-application category @informed_members @Certified_Educators


We are broken into two teams that incorporate all five core class educators. Like the Navy theory of Blue and Gold teams. We have Eagle Green and Gold teams. This is outside our typical core planned learning community. We meet initially to evaluate their State assessment scores (identifying which did not do well on Math, Reading and Writing STAAR). Those students who were borderline pass/fail, we place them into peer tutoring groups. On Thursday, our campus does Eagle period, where we carve time of each existing class period to make a ninth class period. Students who receive Eagle tutoring go to those assigned teachers for tutoring support. Our core teachers in Math, Reading and Writing, then create an Eagle period tutoring lesson to help struggling students (which include SPED). We meet as needed, but at least two-three times per school year face to face to evaluate progress. Our administrators attend the meetings and also each teacher is part of a Google Classroom that allows us to interact. Student progress is tracked.

Additionally, in the Flipped Learning class (we additionally do an in-flip classroom for those struggling SPED students that require support). Student also that fall into a case managers handling have a study skills class where they attain or can accomplish any struggling assignments. We work closely with those case managers to have access to our lessons and if necessary we can Skype with that supporting case manager and student near time (provided I am not engaged at the moment with a student in the class). Note: I think that happened earlier in the year, rather than later in the year, when the student and case manager became familiar/confident with the standard expectations of the classroom assignments.

As it is using the Flipped Classroom allows me the ability to identify struggling learners as they have to get signed off on mastering the content, before proceeding to the next assignments. Students evaluate themselves on a 3 tier system each week and then give feedback/question written on a note-taking guide each day after watching a Flipped video. I monitor their assignments (whether it is Formative, Edpuzzle, etc.) and then support by clarifying misunderstandings and give them another opportunity to master the activity/lesson/assessment.

As for SPED cases workers (which is ancillary duty), I meet with each caseworker for each of the SPED students I have in my class at the beginning of the year, reviewing their IEP (through Eduphoria) and discuss any additional information not addressed in the IEP. SPED caseworkers receive a report the first eight weeks of school on student success and concerns (I actually use the Formative data as part of the report) and then during SPED students required assessment period (which are quarterly assessments).


I teach math to primarily 9th graders at my high school, and I teach them in Algebra 1. The level of Algebra 1 I teach is the lowest level we offer at our high school. (Will talk more about that in a minute!) Our 9th grade class (about 600 students) are all part of the 9LC (Think PLC, but this only includes the 9th grade teachers) There are 5 cohorts of teachers of all subject area including health and PE, except math is not included. Each cohort has the same students assigned to them. So, the English teacher, Science teacher, Social Studies teacher, Health and Physical Ed teacher have the same students. Math is on all 5 cohorts, since math is traditionally not a single grade level subject. So, I have students from all 5 cohorts in my classes. During the 9LC meetings, (which is time during the school day that all teachers have free to meet) student performance is discussed a lot. When we have struggling learners, regardless of if they are classified SPED or not, the math teachers are then brought in through email conversation and meetings to see how to best help/support them.

When a student is identified as struggling, depending on the subject, we try to provide extra support in the classroom for those students by way of TA (Teaching assisstants). TAs are upperclassman students that have passed the class already, and has a study hall. TAs are not told who they are there to support, for confidentiality reasons, but are asked to help all students. The TAs get either community service or .25 credit for being a TA. We also have a peer tutoring program where students are matched with a peer to tutor them. (This is widely accepted and appreciated.)

Another way we support our SPED students in the lower level Algebra class is the class is offered every day for 90 minutes (instead of the block schedule of meeting every other day like the rest of the school) and the class is taught by two certified math teachers. My co-teacher and I discuss daily our struggling learners, and make plans according to their needs. We flip the instruction of this course, so that the student is only needing to watch lecture videos at home, and then has the support of the teachers during the 90 minute class time. We also use a math program that was developed by a math teacher called Get More Math that differentiates for every student. The skills are the same, but the level and amount of problems vary depending on the kids. This program allows us to assess the students and then create follow-up problems for students to re-practice and show mastery at a later time. (usually a week later) The follow-ups are all individual to the students. We have seen our state scores jump tremendously by 33% just after using this program for 1 year. We also use other formative assessment tools with these students (goFormative, Quizlet, etc) that allows us to monitor and track understanding.

Our SPED teachers (the learning support teachers as we call them) check in with us on a weekly basis about each of their students, monitors their grades through online portal, and helps us make sure students aren’t falling through the cracks.


I think that is awesome that your administrators are involved and they attend the meetings!! Great idea having your student evaluate themselves using a 3 tier system each week!!

How long does it take to give feedback from you? What age group is this? Would be it be beneficial to have the student in the meeting with the SPED case workers?


I love how technology allows conversations to be ongoing to support students. Great idea using TAs and having upperclassman help and take this leadership rule in the classroom.

The daily communication is HIGHLY important for all learner! It is important to have both teachers on board and knowing what is going on in the classroom.

Do you have any students who do not watch the flipped videos? If so what do you do to support them?


Hello Stephanie,

I teach daily, 7th Grade and tutor at times 8th graders preparing for the State STAAR assessment in the Spring.

Feedback to students is on-going. Typically, my students finish their flipped video whether it be an Edpuzzle, Screencastify/Vidyard or my own YouTube videos that evening. Edpuzzles allow me to identify those who did not complete the assignment or struggled with the activity. I then take notes of each class period of those students who need support and are ready to help redirect/clarify that material as they walk into class (normally this is during my normal warm-up, right after the “Good Things”, we practice Capturing Kids Heart program by the Flippen Group at our school, Any student who did not do the assignment, go to another part of the class to complete the assignment (at first, this is transitional, but by end year, I have only a few that fall into this group). Kids are smart, they like to be a part of the group, so eventually most of the kids “get” the idea of doing the work before class (note, we are talking about a video/note-taking assignment that takes less than 5-10 minutes total (3-6 minute videos and then writing down a question related to the driving question or activity).

As for content mastery it is an on-going process depending on the learner, but by end of week, each student has to have a check sheet signed off and placed in students binder (kept in classroom). I front load all my activities at beginning of the week. The students have choice to complete the activities either ahead of the timeline or on the due date. These assignments are announced in Google Classroom. Student pick the levels of interest and activities they want to accomplish. I am still toying with the online differentiation for social studies. The rest of my student begin the Group activity planned for that day, that could be a Formative, Wizer, project, DBQ, timeline or Padlet/Dotstorming activity. You name the activity, I have them do that with a “Driving Question” posted each day in Google Classroom and also displayed on the Google Slide addressing the I will, we will statements. This year my profound students will have the driving question with a picture/video imported into their assignment.

As for SPED students attending the Team PLC, no they do not attend. However, they do attend the ARD. We meet with student and parent with all core teachers in attendance. Elective teachers have the option to attend, rarely do they, unless they have concerns or successes that they want the parent to know about. We also rotate teachers on “how goes it” phone calls to parents of SPED students, but students do not usually attend those short interactions.


Like @slm12, I too, teach 9th grade Algebra. We have Red and Black days, so classes meet every other day for 90 minutes… .except for strugglers. They have an extra Lab class assigned so they get 90 minutes (with their core math teacher) every day. [pros and cons there]. This past year only 1 of 3 students was ‘ready’ for Algebra 1, the state-mandated course for all in-coming Freshman. :angry: Next year I anticipate only 1 out of 4 having an adequate math foundation. So, basically, it’s like every student needs extra attention, so I treat every student as if they have an IEP. :smile:

Last year, I was paired with a SpEd teacher to teach a Alg 1/Lab course. We did very well together. We communicated mostly by email/text to plan since our common planning time was taken up by PLC meetings. We work together for our students make sure their needs were covered. We started off the year with 33 students in one classroom, only 7 of which was ‘ready’ for Algebra. The rest had one (or more) of the following ‘labels’: IEP, ILP, ESL, 504, Tier 1 RTI, and Tier 2 RTI. First semester we took a traditional straight path and found that no matter what we did, so many kids felt lost that behavior problems took over our classroom. It felt as if we had 50 kids in one class! Even with 55 years experience between the two of us, it was super stressful. Half our kids had to repeat the first semester in January. Luckily, in January, they split our class into two separate blocks, one for 1st semester, and one for 2nd semester.

We still worked together to assist 15 students who were repeating 1st semester. However, this time, we took a more differentiated approach. We covered 2-4 mini-topics at the start of class and then the students branched out to work on Formatives of their choice. They had Self-Pacing Guides and chose which of six strands they worked on for that period. Strands built from easy to hard Formatives. When students got tired of a topic or needed to stop an wait for assistance, they could switch to a different strand. Students marked off the Formatives they did each day on their Guide. They could ‘see’ their progress through the curriculum. We went from about 20% engagement to over 90% engagement daily! We worked all period, guiding students face-to-face and via Formative feedback comments. Students took tests as they completed the required Formatives for each of the learning targets. About 70% of the class passed this time around. This is significant because most of our kids were registering at a 3rd-5th grade level. Those who didn’t pass either had attendance/behavior issues (outside our class) that caused them to miss time with us and they gave up.

After reflecting on our successes this year, I will continue the ‘choice’ curriculum for repeaters and a more linear path (with some choice) for those taking Algebra 1 for the first time. I’ve also read several posts this summer on the Formative Community and I’ve decided to put clickable pictures/links in my Formatives to redirect to adapted lessons for me ESL and IEP students including reduced number of questions, less answer choices, simpler phrasing, more pictures, and audio links. My Formatives already scaffold my Formatives and chunk concepts so students are better able to learn Algebra. I’m hoping that the hidden links will allow me to reach my IEP, 504 and ESL kiddos even better.


Of course we have students that don’t watch the flipped lesson. (I wish I could say otherwise, but that’s a fact of life…no all students have the support at home to complete assignments…totally different topic all together.) If a student hasn’t watched the video, they have to spend the beginning of class doing so. That means they miss out on any “fun” activity that is planned. Often times that might mean a quizlet live, or a kahoot of past material. Being that there are two teachers at all times, we can do that.

Also, if we have repeat offenders, and the student has a study hall, I will actually pull them from study hall, and have them report to my classroom (I have an open classroom with lots of seats) and will have them complete their homework with me. Often times this is when I am teaching my Advanced Algebra 2 class, which is an asynchronous flipped class, which allows me time to help other students too.


This seems like a really interesting system. Although you all teach different subjects, do you find that there is a lot of overlap in what students struggle with from class to class?


This sounds like a effective way to help students take greater ownership over their learning. It’s awesome that you are able to bring in this element of student choice on such a consistent basis!


@david Yes, we do often find that the problems/issues students struggle with in one class are the same in other content area. There are a few that might be isolated based on disabilities, but more often than not, the issues are not reserved to one content area.


We have many options within our school and I try to ask students from the first day which would work best for them as learners:
*Resource - Three parapros working with small groups to help students succeed.

  • Push-in - A teacher getting additional help from an EL assistant or Special Education teacher.
  • Twilight - After school study hall that helps students who need more time on assignments and assistance beyond the school day.
  • Class Mentors - Another student to help explain the lesson objective and be there to support a fellow classmate.
  • Before school help - mostly offered by the individual teacher.

I love that you realize student might not complete the flipped activity but you don’t stop doing it!!! This has inspired me to share your story with others and how you implement the flip classroom. I have some teachers that get frustrated that 20% of their class did not watch the video and they stop altogether. I think it is important to still offer it and like you said still have so fun activity to review while the other students are watching the video. Having you as support during the class is important! :slight_smile: Thanks for sharing!!

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I love that you have on-going feedback. Students learn more when feedback is on-going and relevant to the teaching! I use EdPuzzle too. I love that it tracks students work. I also thought the data about how many times a student watched a certain part of the video was helpful as well.

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Have you had multiple spEd Teachers? Do you think this had made it difficult to communicate lesson plan ideas? I think its important for co-teachers to have a common planning meeting. My first year of teaching I was with 4 different teachers. There was no co-planning. My 2nd and 3rd year I was with one teacher all year but different teachers each year. We were able to plan and co-teach because we were together most of the day. However it was difficult to transition the following year (year 3) because I had to learn the new routine and person again. I loved Co-Teaching it can just be difficult. However I loved my co-teachers because we did not treat our students of this one is yours. All kids were ours IEP or not. We used blended learning my 3rd year and some days the certain groups would see me other days they would see my co-teacher. The kids had no idea who was the co-teacher and who was the spec ed teacher!


Any tips to overcome this?

Unfortunately, we don’t have enough special education teachers to have as many collaborative classes as we need. :unamused: I am one of eight math teachers in my department and we only have two special education teachers to create collaborative math classes. When I found out I was going to teach a collaborative class, I made it a point to search out my co-teacher and tell her what I normally do, but ask her if there’s anything she thinks we should change. This not only includes math curriculum but classroom management as well. It’s important to me that we are on the same page and that she feels comfortable coming to me talk about changing things in the classroom.

The most difficult transition was my most rewarding. It was decided just a couple days before school started that we would be co-teaching. I already had everything set up and copied for the first day of school. She seemed okay the first day, but over then next month there started to be friction and I couldn’t understand why. Then it dawned on me… she was trying to prove that she was a math teacher, to me and to the students. We had to combat several negative students who kept inferring that she wasn’t a ‘real’ teacher. So, without saying anything to my co-teacher, I backed off. I purposely ‘shut up’ and let her teach for a whole week. I monitored the students and gave accommodations. She didn’t say anything specifically, but I could tell when she finally figured out what she and I had been doing up until then and it was evident in her body language and tone. Everything changed in that moment. I made sure to email her daily to let her know ‘the plan’ for the next day/week. Several times, I met her at the door and we did a brief collaboration while the students did the bell ringer. I had a list of things that I had planned out, she we would keep/change the activities based on what she felt the students needed as well. That year the admin started having us do peer coaching. We had to observe other teachers and give them feedback. In front of the whole faculty, a colleague went out of his way to compliment us. He said that if he were someone from outside our school, he would not have been able to tell who was the special education teacher. Best compliment ever!


That’s awesome! We discussed student needs and strategies in our special education meetings, but I wish we had some dedicated time to do it with general educators in our grade team meetings or in a PLC!


This sounds like such a huge challenge! It’s great to hear that you guys implemented RTI so as a means of better assessing the needs of & supporting students without IEPs! It’s also great to hear that you were able to work with your co-teacher to have such a significant impact on student engagement and achievement!

As a former special educator, what both you and @stephanie_howell shared definitely resonates with me and it’s great to hear your perspective on making a co-teaching relationship work. In my school, we followed an integrated co-teaching model and each year I only taught 1 or 2 subjects. While this allowed me to have more planning time with my co-teacher(s), the challenges you both bring up were definitely still there. I think it’s very important for co-teachers to communicate about common goals, values & expectations up front and it was great to hear that you are both doing that. I believe that only then can co-teachers make the most of common planning time. I also agree that a great indicator of an effective co-teaching team is students recognizing both people as their teachers. I think the reason this is a great indicator is because it signifies that while the co-teachers have specialities/focus areas, they are both working together to learn about and serve all students. It’s truly impressive how you are both able to accomplish this, especially when there’s a shortage of co-teachers or time to work together.


I wish I had the tips. Most of the problems that causes a learner to struggle are behavioral. When it comes to academic issues, we have ways to overcome this, by chunking, offering limited options, reducing the assignment length, etc. However, it’s tough dealing with behavioral issues. A lot of that is on the student. I don’t know how many times I have said to students (with these behavioral issues) that I can’t care more then them. Making students care about their learning is number one. I try to create a community where there is structure, but also the ability for the students to have room for choice.

We have had major problems with bullying, vaping this year, illegal use of over the counter meds, and unfortunately heroin use. Most of my struggling learners this year have been involved in at least one of these issues, if not more than one. Many meeting later with students and parents, and it still happens.

Another issue I had this year is that I had 9 non-English speaking students in my class of 28. 6 were Spanish speaking, 1 was chinese, and 2 were arabic. Thankfully, the Arabic speaking students knew some English, and both of those students adapted/learned very well. I have asked one of them to come back and be a TA with me next year. The Chinese speaking student knew some Algebra and with translation he was able to succeed. Of the 6 Spanish speaking students, 2 were somewhat able to communicate with the other 4 needed everything translated. One of the 4 didn’t even read Spanish, only spoke it, as his first language was Mayan. I know a little Spanish, and thus is why all 6 were put in my class. We ended up putting 4 of these students in a pre-algebra based class (within our Algebra 1 class) which helped. It was definitely a struggle on my part to make sure those students that spoke English were not being ignored/not helped because of the the extreme needs of the other students. If anyone knows of great math websites in Spanish I would be most open to learn. I will have the 4 students back next year, with the prediction of 7 additional students coming into our school system.