Teaching Language Arts, Math, and Science to Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities / Edition 1

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Under NCLB, students with severe disabilities are expected to make progress on state academic content standards in language arts, math, and science. But what material should educators teach from these three content areas, and how should they teach it? With this groundbreaking textbook, future educators will finally have the answers they need. The first major research-to-practice resource on this critical topic, this text goes beyond functional and access skills and shows educators how to make the general curriculum accessible to students of all ages with significant cognitive disabilities. Twenty-five of the best-known researchers in the field.

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Editorial Reviews

Russell Gertsen

"Few will read this volume without picking up a host of innovative ideas for providing more thoughtful special education."

Vanderbilt University, Editor, Exceptional Children - Steve Graham

"Just what the teacher ordered!Practical, easy-to-use, and evidence-based . . . Teachers will rely on it so much, they might just want to order two copies."

Professor of Special Education and Pediatrics, Director, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Behavior Analysis Clinic - Craig H. Kennedy

"Represents the state of the art in developing meaningful curriculum and instruction for students with significant disabilities in inclusive settings."

Associate Dean for Curriculum and Academic Programs, College of Education, University of Oregon - David J. Chard

"Finally, a comprehensive resource to help us make sense of access to the general education curriculum for students with significant disabilities! [This book] will improve the lives of all students."

NCEO/University of Minnesota - Martha J. Thurlow

"A sure—fire help for teachers . . . addressing the demands of NCLB."

Professor, Department of Special Education and Associate Director, Institute for the Study of Exceptional Children and Y - Margaret McLaughlin

"Very likely to be the most important text to emerge in the area of special education for students with significant cognitive disabilities in this decade."

Doctoral student, Western Michigan University; Reviewed in Education Review-Brief Reviews - June E. Gothberg

"The lesson plans provided are unique and encourage students to be creatively engaged...The book concludes with vital information on how to align curriculum with the general education standards...The editors have raised the level of academic expectation for students with significant cognitive disabilities and have also provided needed guidance to achieve this goal.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781557667984
  • Publisher: Brookes Publishing
  • Publication date: 3/1/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 324
  • Sales rank: 627,819
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Diane M. Browder, Ph.D., is Snyder Distinguished Professor and doctoral coordinator of Special Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Dr. Browder has more than 2 decades of experience with research and writing on assessment and instruction of students with severe disabilities. Recently, she has focused on alternate assessment and linking assessment and instruction to the general curriculum. She is Principal Investigator for an Institute of Education Sciences—funded center with a focus on teaching students with moderate and severe disabilities to read. She is a partner in the National Center on Alternate Assessment and Principal Investigator for Office of Special Education Programs—funded projects on access to the general curriculum.

Dr. Spooner is Professor of Special Education, Coordinator of the Adapted Curriculum (Severe Disabilities) Program, and Principal Investigator on a personnel preparation project involving distance delivery technologies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Dr. Spooner has more than 2 decades of experience with research and writing instructional practices for students with severe disabilities. He is co-editor for Teacher Education and Special Education and serves as an associate editor for Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities. He was a co-editor for TEACHING Exceptional Children and an associate editor for Teacher Education and Special Education. Recently, he has focused on alternate assessment and linking assessment and instruction to the general curriculum and serves as a Senior Research Associate for an Institute of Education Sciences—funded center with a focus on teaching students with moderate and severe disabilities to read.

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Read an Excerpt

Copyright © 2005 by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

When Karla began first grade, she had no academic individualized education program (IEP) objectives. Instead, her previous IEP team had focused on her need to acquire a system of communication (she was nonverbal), to become consistent in toilet training, to learn to feed herself, and several other important life skill goals. Her teacher, Ms. Ramirez, was convinced that all students should have the opportunity to gain literacy skills. She began with Karla's interest in Disney movies. She found a book of stories based on these movies and began to read it with Karla. Karla showed keen interest in the stories by laughing, clapping, and pointing to the pictures. Ms. Ramirez then developed a picture communication board for the main characters of the story (e.g., Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Seth, Andy). As she read the story, she had Karla point to the picture on her communication board as well as on the page in the book. Next, she decided to ask Karla comprehension questions after reading the story. "Who was Andy's first favorite toy?" Karla pointed to Woody. She then asked, "When did Buzz Lightyear arrive?" Excitedly, Karla began to blow on the picture of the birthday cake as if blowing out the candles. "Yes!" Ms. Ramirez replied. "Buzz Lightyear was Andy's birthday present." In just a few months, Karla had begun to use picture/word symbols to show her understanding of a story. Her mother was delighted when the IEP team met again to discuss how to teach Karla to read.1

Often when students such as Karla, who is nonverbal and has many life skill needs, begin to show the ability to learn symbols, the instructional approach is to teach sight words that relate to activities of daily living. These sight words can be an important tool for students, allowing them to become more independent in their home, job, and community environments. Unfortunately, sight-word instruction is sometimes the only reading instruction students with significant cognitive disabilities receive. Like all first graders, Karla needs the opportunity to gain broad literacy skills and to have the opportunity to experience the joy of reading. Older students also can benefit from being exposed to the literature that enriches our culture, such as poetry, plays, short stories, and nonfiction. This chapter provides guidelines for teaching sight words that are useful to daily living, but also provides a broader approach to literacy that can be used to help students participate in diverse reading activities.


Before describing the specific guidelines for promoting literacy for students such as Karla, it is important to consider what educators know about how children learn to read. The National Reading Panel (NRP, 2000), in response to a charge from Congress to assess the status of research-based knowledge in teaching children to read, identified five components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. Although the NRP's findings were the source of some debate (Allington, 2002; Shanahan, 2003), most experts would agree that these focal areas are all important elements in learning to read. How these elements are best taught and learned also has been the source of many debates. Multiple learning models have been outlined to explain how children learn to read (Ruddell, Ruddell, & Singer, 1994). Pearson and Stephens (1994) presented a history of more than 30 years of research in literacy, discussing the shifting focal points and beliefs about how best to teach and learn reading. They define reading as ". . . a complex, orchestrated, constructive process through which individuals make meaning" (p. 35). Amid this complexity, there are linguistic, cognitive, social, and politica

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Why teach the general curriculum? 1
Ch. 2 Promoting access to the general curriculum for students with significant cognitive disabilities 15
Ch. 3 Building literacy for students at the presymbolic and early symbolic levels 39
Ch. 4 From sight words to emerging literacy 63
Ch. 5 Learning to read : phonics and fluency 93
Ch. 6 Balanced literacy classrooms and embedded instruction for students with severe disabilities : literacy for all in the age of school reform 125
Ch. 7 Enhancing numeracy 171
Ch. 8 Addressing math standards and functional math 197
Ch. 9 Science standards and functional skills : finding the links 229
Ch. 10 Developing math and science skills in general education contexts 245
App. A Example of adaptations to a general education lesson plan for science
App. B Adapted lesson plan on leaf classification to include a student with significant disabilities in a seventh-grade science lesson
Ch. 11 How students demonstrate academic performance in portfolio assessment 277
Ch. 12 Promoting the alignment of curriculum, assessment, and instruction 295
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