Get Out of Your Seat and Up On Your Feet

5wsYou know that one class– the class you can just have the most fun with because the behaviors are under control and the kids get along, not only with each other but also with you?!  Well, I’ve been lucky enough to experience that class my first year teaching, and we got to start off the semester with the all important 5W’s and 1H Questions.

Now, if you’re as excited as I am about teaching this series then you are either (a) a teacher yourself, (b) a person who loves lesson planning, (c) a journalist, or (d) a person whose thirst for knowledge cannot be quenched by a mere textbook but whose desire for project-based learning keeps them up at night writing rhyming clues for the detective scavenger hunt. If you are any of the above, read on —

We have a five-week grading period and so I often plan long project-based lessons to adhere to this timeline. This is helpful for grading, progress monitoring and reporting, and general structure to the framework of the year. We began this five week grading cycle with none other than Good Charlotte:

Great for middle school, by the way!

Next, we delved into Clue and a new game, Suspicion. both of which are who-done-it games that bring the who, what, where, when, why, and how questions to life.

Then, we added some graphic organizers to solidify our understanding along with a reinforcement assignment on, my favorite skill-building online program.

Finally, we’re headed out to complete a detective scavenger hunt, courtesy of Good Sensory Learning.

This is one of my favorite unit plans I’ve done. It’s been a blast to see the students really enjoy learning through play. Thought I would pass it along for all those who love to get “out of your seat and up on your feet” with project-based learning!

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Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit with a focus on providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at

Who Am I to Judge?

a-funny-kidsAcceptance, collaboration, putting yourself in another’s shoes, admitting someone else may have a better idea. These are not just difficult concepts for kids but boy oh boy, are they difficult for us grownups too.

No Need to be a Critic — a Struggling Student is their Own Judge & Jury

Working with kids who are struggling in school gives me a window into each child’s values, belief-system and self-esteem. I’ve taken note — when it comes down to it, each and every kid who is not making the grade truly feels left out.

At the root of all the anger, anxiety, blame, tears, skipping school and bullying is a genuine feeling of inadequacy. No matter the age or the problem, they feel judged by their peers, their teachers, their parents and themselves.

Mindfulness Abates Judgment

It’s not without work that I’ve learned to be intentional about stepping back for a minute and recognizing my own inability to judge anyone. Really, who am I to judge?

This ability to learn to love myself and others just as we are comes from the expected variables, including age, life experience, forgiveness for past wrongs and most recently yoga. I’ve been practicing yoga consistently for a good five years now and the thing that my Type A brain loves most about it is the fact that there is no judgment. I’m not supposed to judge others (especially that one guy in the front of the room whose hot tree is like perfect every time!) and I’m certainly not supposed to judge myself.

That’s what I teach my students. No matter the diagnosis or the grades, no one is allowed to judge you, not even the harshest critic – yourself.

This is not to say a student shouldn’t strive for that ‘A+’ or try out for the lead in the school play, only that we all have different abilities, learning styles and gifts. Some subjects will be harder. That’s a fact. Withholding judgment is not a free ride to eliminate trying your very best.

Be Free from Judgment & Help Your Child Learn to Love Learning

The goal is to be free from judging the aftermath: Judging yourself as a parent for working late again, judging your child for getting a C on his math test, judging your spouse for not doing his share of the housework, judging that mom at the playground who always has your kid’s favorite bunny graham snack.

Learning to accept what is, opens the door to what could be.

By refraining from judging yourself as a parent, teacher or provider, you are giving your child, your student, the freedom to explore.

Isn’t that really what’s at the crux of the matter. We feel stifled, so we judge. We need the freedom to say let’s try this, instead of I must do this.

By giving ourselves that freedom, we are teaching our kiddos how to love learning. And that’s the ultimate gift.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping struggling students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them in and out of the classroom.

Welcome to The Flipped Classroom

flipped classroom bart“The flipped classroom is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions.”

This is an interactive yet independent way to teach and learn for all ages and all levels. Here’s how it works:

Traditionally, a teacher will introduce a new concept in class. This is the first time students have heard this concept. Students take notes and have a mini-class discussion. Then the teacher will reinforce the concepts learned in class with outside-of-class homework.

In contrast, The Flipped Classroom places the onus on the student and puts emphasis on the student’s own preparation for the lesson before class. Once the student gets to class, the teacher and the students, together, reinforce the subject-matter through project-based learning.

Here’s Why The Flipped Classroom Should Be the Norm:

Traditional teaching means that the student’s first introduction to the subject-matterFlipped-Classroom-Comparison is through the eyes of the teacher.

For students who learn best thorough lecture, this is a fine way to learn a new concept. But for students who have multiple modalities of learning, like many of us, the lecture-first way of teaching can be confusing, taking a student down a learning pathway that is unnatural.

The Flipped Classroom model, however, first requires the student to introduce themselves to the material by engaging in a self-taught lesson through articles, videos and research before they come to class. That way, when they enter the classroom they are already prepared with foundational knowledgeable of the lesson and relevant questions to promote a class discussion followed by project-based learning in small groups.

This is how college classes work too.

I’m intrigued by the fact that there is such a push for all kids to make college a goal, yet our lecture-first learning model is not college centered. In undergraduate and law school, I received the syllabus and on the first day of classes in my very first year, I was ready for the lesson because I had prepared the assigned reading. This is how higher education is structured.

So if we want our children to be prepared for college, this is how we should be teaching our elementary, middle and high students.

One Example of how The Flip Model is Implemented

I recently toured the STEM3 Academy, an amazing Middle & High School designed specifically for students with an IEP and who have a propensity for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Their classrooms are not just desks but lab centered, project-based learning at its core. Their seats are in pods so students can work together as teams. Reading can be done first with follow-up questions and ideas that explore that concept further in class.

advantages of flipI am so excited to learn that schools and teachers are taking a genuine look at this new way of learning and helping their students navigate the lesson by placing the power in the students’ hands. By taking the initiative to prepare for class, doing their own research beforehand, the student is in control of their educational choices.

The Flipped Classroom promotes independent thinking and learning, places the onus of learning on the student and creates students who know how to self-advocate and are more aware of their own challenges at a younger age, which only serves them better in life.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them: “To be a part of a student’s ‘ah ha’ moment is the best feeling in the world because I know I’m helping that student build foundational confidence that will lead to a successful path, not just in school but throughout life!”

Decoding Reading Fluency & The Tipping Point of Third Grade

booksChances are that at a recent Parent/Teacher Conference your child’s teacher mentioned the phrase Reading Fluency. You nod politely just waiting to hear those magic words: “[Your Child] is on track in his/her Reading Fluency.”

Education Lingo is Another Language

Let’s face it– speaking education lingo is like learning a new language. It’s hard enough to translate what a 1, 2, 3, or 4 means grade-wise let alone understand how kids are learning math these days! So here’s a little cheat sheet, if you will, as to what Reading Fluency means and how to make sure your kid is on track to meeting this goal.

Just Remember to Rap A RAP

ARAP: is a quick acronym for the four components that make up Oral Reading Fluency, as taken from Reading and Word Attack Strategies: Reading A-Z.

  • A: Accuracy – the ability to recognize (decode) words correctly
  • R: Rate – how (1) quickly and (2) accurately a reader reads connected text
  • A: Automaticity – the quick and effortless reading of words in or out of context
  • P: Prosody – the tonal and rhythmic aspects of spoken language. This builds meaning and comprehension

Help Your Child Get Better at Reading with These 7 Strategies

Everybody struggles in something and if your child is struggling in reading, that’s ok! There are strategies you can employ that will help them overcome this hurdle.

1. Use Picture Clues – gives the student visual context and helps begin the word-picture association process

2. Sound Out the Word – helping to develop Phonemic Awareness, which is the fancy way of saying that reading to your child helps them hear what a word or groups of words should sound like

3. Look for Chunks in the Word – Phonics aka The Blending of Letters/Sounds/Symbols/Prefixes/Suffixes/Endings/Whole Words/Base Words

4. Connect to a Word You Know – Ah, the good old Compare v Contrast. A method of testing comprehension that will be on every test/quiz all the way through law school 🙂

5. Reread the Sentence – A good rule of thumb when using this strategy is to remember I do/We Do/ You Do.

I DO: First, you read the sentence so your child can hear what is should sound like.

WE DO: Then, read the sentence with your child to boost confidence and reinforce the sounds.

YOU DO: Finally, have your child read the sentence himself.

Even if your child doesn’t get it right away, don’t worry! Build in wait time. For example, count 30 seconds in your head then go back to reading the sentence together. Encourage your child’s efforts. Refrain from tearing down their attempts.

6. Keep Reading – Go back through the story or passage and look for new vocabulary. Point out patterns and word play. Expose your child to the nuances of the English language.

7. Use Prior Knowledge – Identify repeated words and compare the second sentence to the first. What word makes sense in both sentences?

(Reading and Word Attack Strategies: Reading A-Z)

When Should My Child Know How To Read?

Just like learning to walk and talk, learning to read is also a developmental process. “All children do not begin to read at the same age. Children reach literacy milestones along the way.” (The National Institute for Professional Practice, see points below)

Typically, a child should be on track to learning the skills of Oral Reading Fluency during the K-3 grade levels:

  • Awareness and Exploration of Reading Stage (typically pre-K)
  • Emergent Reading Stage (typically pre-K to early Kindergarten)
  • Early Reading Stage (typically Kindergarten to early Grade 1)
  • Transitional Reading Stage (typically late Grade 1 to Grade 2)
  • Fluent Reading Stage (typically Grade 3 and higher)

The Tipping Point of Third Grade

Third Grade is when we start to look extra carefully at our young readers. There is a student split amongst their peers between the kids who are “getting it” and the kids who aren’t. Third Grade is also when the work starts to get harder and the testing more rigorous.

Coincidentally, it’s when I start to get a lot of calls from parents looking for a Tutor and we start talking about testing to begin the IEP process.

Reading is a skill that takes time to master. If your child isn’t “getting it” by the time he/she completes third grade, then parents and teachers should be asking “why?”. It may just be a slight developmental delay, or it may be something more. A good Teacher, Tutor, Advocate, and Parent, however, will strive to put into practice the strategies for successful reading fluency to help their student learn this new language and decode the mystery as to why reading is hard.

If you find that your child is struggling in school, contact us. We can help you answer that all-important question: Why?

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services.  Want to Know More? Head on over to

10 Special Ed Blogs that Make You Wanna Go “Yeah!”

special_education_blogsMy Twitter feed is on fire with some awesome blogs lately. There are so many resources out there in internet-land that I had to share a few of my favorites.

If you’re looking for a little inspiration, need to find more education, or just want to talk about your frustrations then check out these gems in the blogosphere.


  1. Adventures in Aspergers
  2. Autism Father Blog
  3. Autism Hippie
  4. Firefly Friends
  5. Fusion Academy
  6. Innovative Speech & Language Pathology
  7. Love That Max
  8. National Center for Learning Disabilities
  9. The Center for Well-Being
  10. Wrightslaw

For more resources take a look at our LinksWeLove or Find Us on Facebook & Twitter

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services.  Want to Know More? Head on over to