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special needs


This is a monograph about getting started with inquiry.  There is a list on the last page that gives 6 tips on how to get started with inquiry 

This great line….

Inquiry allows students to make decisions about their learning and to take responsibility for it.



Today I had an opportunity to read through some research on why documentation is important to student learning. In the attached article there is some great reference points about how students learn and think and how we as teachers extend our understanding of documentation as we discuss, share and collaborate with colleagues.  Another topic that was interesting was peer feedback.  I tried this informally late last year and when I felt they were ready.  I also tried a form of strengths and next steps (one star, one wish) in  my literacy assessment. It was a great opportunity to have a conversation about the student work.   Again, I did this in late February.  I was amazed at how they were able to share not only what they are good at, but where they need to improve!! 

Another important part that stood out the most for me was the accountability.  We are constantly defending the play-based learning approach to parents, the public and what better way to display learning through prompts, pictures, and questioning.  Display student work with their dialogue, questioning. Have their portfolios out and accessible for them to refer back to, display learning over time–history from previous years.  Create a communication board on inquiry and show students engaged in learning!      Have a read and enjoy!


As we get to know our students and document their learning, you will discover that every child will learn at their own pace.  In the Kindergarten program there is ample opportunity to differentiate instruction for children throughout the various centres and they can begin where they are comfortable. 

An example of differentiating instruction that was supportive in strengthening skills in literacy was to use visuals. When I chose my read aloud for the week, I ensured that when we discussed “characters”(for example) I had copied pictures either photocopied or in colour, I also included a drama piece when we focused on retelling the story.  When it came time to work one-on-one to test comprehension, I often used the pictures of the characters to help them.  Another idea that I also used was to photocopy 5 main parts of the story and have the children assemble it in order and orally tell me what they remembered from the story.

In looking at the environment of the classroom, surely posting up student work to display what they have learned makes them feel valued.  Posting pictures of the students while completing various tasks, displaying learning charts/anchor charts from the inquiry process with children’s names next to their ideas, and having clear learning goals discussed and displayed in the centres helps guide learning in the classroom.  It also displays to parents what the children are learning.  The entire classroom environment sets the tone for learning and really shows what is valued and important.  In our school we have implemented a program called First Steps.  We talk about setting rules for circle time through simple songs, being respectful, and we centre on student strengths.  Attached is a great checklist to reflect on your classroom and school environment .  Reflecting the culture of your students into the classroom also provides a great learning point.  Since most of my students are from an aboriginal background we discuss the medicine wheel and how it ties into nature.  I have framed pictures of the students dancing in powwows, books and artifacts are displayed around the room.  Reading resources have been easily integrated into my reading program.  The use of visuals (pictures, book, artifacts)  have been introduced in my oral language groups as a starting point for discussions. 

If children have special needs, an IEP is a place where you would need to document specific learning instruction (accommodations)  that will best meet the students learning goals.  In Kindergarten, it starts with clear goals, visuals, and oral discussion for them to be successful.


There is some great information from the assessment section in the Thinking it Through resource. 

Written Observation or Anecdotal records details some critical information about how to collect that information and when it is applicable.  Recording the time, date onto the back of work samples provides a context.  It also discusses some great points about factors that affect observation records. 

On p. 6 of the pdf there is a great chart that gives some ideas on “what you need to find out” and the “tools/strategies” you can use to assess.  If you do collect work samples; a binder, a folder or scrapbook is a great way to house the information. 

When assessing students it is always important to collect information over time so that you get their best work and really see their full potential. Keep in mind that accommodations may be beneficial for many of your students and as you meet with each child, you can see their unique qualities and change as needed.  On p.5 (p.30-31) of the pdf, there are ideas for instructional, environmental, and assessment accommodations.

I encourage you to read the section on Assessment in the Thinking it Through document as it give some great tools and strategies, some “ahas”, and there may be something new that can add a creative twist to assessments!!


Play is critical to learning. Children learn best when they can play, explore their world and  interact and talk with adults and peers. From personal experience, I have seen some students disengage with mindless tasks quickly and you may even see some different behaviours.

Centres are an excellent way to share the oral language experience, see their personalities and creativity, and to collect great assessment information.  I often carry around a clipboard with both blank paper, and paper divided into  squares where I can record a child’s name.  You just never know what is going to happen as you share…..

When planning a centre think of these:

  • What is my big ideas, my goal that I am trying to achieve?
  • What are my open-ended questions (2 or 3) so I can begin the conversation? Oral language assessing?
  • Do I have enough materials that they can explore?
  • Pause and Reflect on what you see and hear from your students?

Listeded below are some links within this site that discuss the importance of play.

Colouring sheets to materials that will explore their creativity……..

Research on play vs worksheets

Playing is learning

The importance of play


In planning for children with special needs in your classroom, you may have to adapt your learning centres for students with special needs.  Important things to think about for any adaptations are:

  • safety – make sure areas are clear of barricades that might cause injury, or may block accessibility.  Also make sure materials are large enough that they cannot be swallowed.
  • space – is there a quiet area children can go to for rest, or if they become overwhelmed?  Ensure pathways are large enough for children with mobility issues or spatial needs.
  • access – if there is an entry/exit to the outdoors, ensure it is secure and can be locked so children can leave unsupervised.  Also ensure easy accessibility to all centres and materials within the classroom.  Think about height of materials, easy to open containers, etc..
  • materials – try to use materials that are child-friendly.  For example, board books are easier for children to use, especially those children with fine motor issues.  Having a variety of sensory materials available can make it easier for children who have sensory issues to become engaged.  Visual cues (pictures) assist children who may not be able to read.

As we begin to prepare for the school year for our students, reviewing OSRs and FairStart files might be a great way to connect.  A few weeks before school starts I always like to send a little card in the mail to welcome them to school with a short little note attached.  Another ideas may be to call the home to say hello or to touch base.

Reviewing the OSRs would help to recall any personal information you may need to know like custody concerns, allergies, medical information, emergency information.  Some stuff my be documented in the office with the secretary, but I always like to have this information handy in my files as well for quick reference. As well, there is another set of eye looking over things just in case something was missed.

FairStart booklets may or may not have been completed early on in February.  It would be good to ensure all students have completed this process and to touch base with those who have not.  Another helpful piece of data to have is the print out of the scoring sheet once the Facilitator (SERT) has entered the information into the system.  It tells you what services the child has been recommended to if need be.  Again, it is helpful information to refer to especially when your begin assessments and need to have a handy cross-reference point.


Some children may have difficulty with sensory activities. Providing tools that will allow these children to slowly experience new things to touch and create, as well as promote motor skills, will help children deal with the world around them. Some of these tools and ideas are simple and easily accessible at school, or at home.

Break out the clay. Some children may pound or roll it, while others try to build things. The kinesthetic joy of squeezing the pliable clay and the simple goal of making a pinch pot or rolling out a snake offer a sense of mastery. This releases tension if children are becoming frustrated or angry, so there are behavioural benefits as well.

Add texture to paint with sand to create a stimulating tactile experience in finger painting, or allow children to paint with cars or marbles. To help with other possible sensory issues, you can also add pleasant scents to playdough, paint, etc…as long as you do not make the smells too strong, especially the first few times you do this.

Get children engaged in “heavy” gross motor activities such as using weights, weighted products, jumping, bouncing, rocking, pushing, pulling, and swinging.  All children need this and it is fun for adults to join in too!

Use a sand or water table.  Add some toys to the table to help children use their imagination and focus on playing, rather than the feeling of the sand or water.  Or put non-toxic shaving cream in the table for something different!

Sensory integration activities are unbelievably fun and a necessary part of development for any child, whether they have a sensory processing disorder or not.  But, if you think your child may have sensory issues, you should consult with your child’s doctor.