My Final COETAIL Project- Course 5: Self-Advocacy Presentations

Unit Introduction

  • As we entered the final quarter of the year,  I started our Advocacy presentation unit off with a brainstorming session around their transition to grade 8 and what kinds of things they would want to share with their teachers. It was a group discussion allowing them to start looking for the words to help describe themselves as learners & individuals. Further lessons would then give them more vocabulary around how to speak about themselves in that same way with confidence and expand their self-awareness and demonstrate how to articulate what they need to get the most out of their learning and more importantly, enjoy the process!
  • Check out our Unit Planner linked here with some slight alterations made that will be shared in the video at the bottom of this post.

The Learning Process

  • After our brainstorming sessions, we had numerous SMART skills lessons allowing us to grow in educational vocabulary and reflect on ourselves as learners. I transformed an old pen and paper Executive Functioning survey to being a google doc, and found success with the reflection piece and debriefing the students with their own personal data.
From this... 

to this...

allowing for a greater level of independence and mini lessons on the vocabulary within the survey to add to their personalized Vocabulary journals.

  • From offering choice selections lessons through “bingo boards” (as seen in the final video) to direct instruction reading lessons my EAP (English for Academic Purposes) and LRC (Learning Resource Class) has a fine balance between independent activities and lessons that require active engagement. Allowing them to choose all activities in 1 language domain or complete one activity from each of the 4 domains (Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking).
  • Many of which we started the year off completing together as a class and as the year went on similar activities then became some that they could complete independently- such as the Nearpod listening lessons.
  • As we got closer to the final assessment for our project, we dove back into their goals and charts of their progress and continued the reflection process. Partnering up to work on skills in similar areas as well as different partners whose strengths and weaknesses were opposite to them was beneficial. In these partnerships, they were able to discuss strategies and ways they focus on their strengths to help with things that are more challenging for them.
  • Here are a few altered (for confidentiality) screenshots of the final projects showcasing slides of the student’s work and some of their excitement to celebrate not only their growth and success around meeting their goals but to celebrate their differences and truly value the unique individualness of each and every one. Be sure to check out the final video reflection at the end of this post, to see parts of the presentations in action!

ISTE Standards for Students

Empowered Learner

Creative Communicator

Both Images taken by Shalene Huth
  • As an empowered learner my students (1a),  “Articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes.” and  (1c) “Use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.”
  • As creative communicators my students (6a), “Choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication” and (6d) “Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.”
  • Allowing students the option of which platform they wanted to use to complete their project authentically embedded the ISTE Standards for students into my content area. It has gotten better as it has become easier to identify which units are using which ISTE standards, and how to go about planning meaningful lessons to help with significantly re-designing the task or to create an entirely new one.

    ISTE Standards for Educators

Image taken by Shalene Huth.      I have deepened my practice of the  educator ISTE standards, by using them in my unit and becoming more reflective in the designing stage, opposed to only at the completion of the unit. Looking at not only the standards I wanted the kids to model, but those designed for educators has allowed me to grow in the planning and implementation of this unit, ensuring that almost each standard is somehow incorporated into this final project.

I also realized that for the future I’d also like to focus on and continue to grow in Standard 3-Digital Citizenship:where "Educators inspire students to positively contribute to and responsibilty partcipate in the digital world."

ISTE Standards I was proud to meet through the implementation of my final project:

    • “Educators continually improve their practice by learning from and with others and exploring proven and promising practices that leverage technology to improve student learning.”
          • Specifically: “Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.”
    • “Educators seek out opportunities for leadership to support student empowerment and success and to improve teaching and learning.”
          • Specifically: “Educators: Shape, advance and accelerate a shared vision for empowered learning with technology by engaging with education stakeholders.” and “Advocate for equitable access to educational technology, digital content and learning opportunities to meet the diverse needs of all students.”
    • “Educators dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems.”
        • Specifically, “Educators: Collaborate and co-learn with students to discover and use new digital resources and diagnose and troubleshoot technology issues.” and “Demonstrate cultural competency when communicating with students, parents and colleagues and interact with them as co-collaborators in student learning.”
    • “Educators design authentic, learner-driven activities and environments that recognize and accommodate learner variability.”
      • Specifically, “Educators: Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.”
    • “Educators facilitate learning with technology to support student achievement of the ISTE Standards for Students.
        • Specifically, “Educators: Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.”
    • “Educators understand and use data to drive their instruction and support students in achieving their learning goals.”
        • Specifically, “Educators: Provide alternative ways for students to demonstrate competency and reflect on their learning using technology.” and “Use assessment data to guide progress and communicate with students, parents, and education stakeholders to build student self-direction.”

Meeting Our Goals

  • The main goal for this unit was to present a video recording about themselves as a learner demonstrating clear English speaking and knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses while reflecting on their goals from this year.
  • For myself and this unit, I wanted to open it up to doing the project, not from a standard template- I’ve provided in the past, with explicit step-by-step instructions, but to give them the end goal and give them choice on how to reach it and bring, what I cherish and value: creativity, into my lessons.
Showing my students first hand, it can be extra rewarding to just "go rogue" as you can see here with a painting class I experienced... where I took the liberties to ask for black paint created my own pink and followed instructions in a different way. 


Photos taken by Shalene Huth
  • I think this project has challenged me to rethink traditional approaches, in the sense of breaking away from set graphic organizers and templates to allow more room for student choice. Then once students begin follow up with bringing in sentence starters, prompts, or graphic organizers to aid them.
  • It was also a goal of mine, to explore utilizing my own photos and to begin taking more “abstract” ones that could, later on, be used in blog posts- a goal of which I was thrilled to see come full circle in this post and within the images of my final video.

Adding to Our Toolbelt

  •  Movie Maker
  • Screen Casetify
  • Google forms-surveys
  • Google Docs.
  • Padlet & Flipgrid
  • Nearpod
  • Read & Write assistive tech.
  • Most of my students were familiar with a number of these and it’s great to see more and more teachers using them regularly within their classes. So what may be new to you, more often than not, is not new for our students.
  • Choosing the tool to match the task, is also an easy feat once you have a broader knowledge of what’s available to you.  Being able to start with knowing what you want and select a tech tool to best support it allows the focus to stay on the task with technology simply enhancing the redefinition of what we thought was possible in the many learner objectives and endless opportunities to show demonstrate of the expected outcomes. 

Sharing our Transformation

  • Being that I am the only SEN teacher for my grade level I shared this unit with the transition team and next year’s teachers. Teachers received an e-mail with links to each of the students’ videos for whom they will teach for grade 8. I will initiate collaboration through setting up the transition meetings and holding end-of-year progress meetings and support plan meetings with parents and classroom teachers. During this time, teachers will be able to ask the students directly any clarifying questions on their projects. We have been unable to have any of these meetings yet, due to Covid-19.
  • I will continue to share out my learning experiences with my colleagues as we implement new TTT (Teacher’s Training Teachers) sessions at our weekly Faculty and Dept. meetings (not just the monthly PD days) as well as through engaging them in the transition meetings and student support meetings.  Sharing these types of projects and the lessons leading up to our final outcome will also empower teachers better serve diverse groups of learners.
  • All of this will greatly impact the students I service, by taking these skills of self-awareness, self-advocacy, and empowerment and generalizing them into their general education classrooms and with a larger setting and in a subject that may be more challenging to them.

Learning Outcomes

  • Greater self-awareness, confidence, and advocacy skills!
  • Assessment task: creating a presentation (of any kind) with visuals and demonstrating speaking skills that can reflect on themselves as a learner and how they set goals and worked towards achieving them.
  •  They also learned about collaboration and speaking with their classmates and the classroom teacher is of utmost importance to continue to grow as a learner and to take more control over their education.
  • The enduring understandings that students walked away with were the different tools and vocabulary to utilize in ensuring they are getting the most out of every class lesson.
  • In end, the final transition piece will occur after the results of their WIDA language assessment in 2 weeks’ time. I am confident that all the students I worked with this year will reach a level 4 or 5 in the speaking domain as it has been a joy seeing their confidence grow and have some wonderful discussions, debates, and informal dialogue week after week.
Image taken from:

Final Reflection

My COETAIL experience will impact my future practice, with whatever field I go into. As I am unexpectedly leaving my job and home in Moscow and on the search for something new and exciting back in Wisconsin! Everything I have gained through COETAIL, I am confident, has allowed me to take the next steps in whatever is to come.  I don’t know what my role will be in the fall, within education, but the COETAIL experience has given me numerous opportunities to expand my PLN and countless new tips and tricks with innovative tech skills that I am sure I will find success.  I will look for a position that allows me to continue to spread the joys of what it means to be a life long learner, eager to try new things, gather data, and continually reflect and meet the needs of ALL learners, who are eager to take control of their own learning and help make this world a better place

Be sure to check out the video for further reflection on the project itself!

From everything available on Google, Youtube, Twitter, our PLN, and helpful links provided by the COETAIL instructor, the 2 tips I really took with me for the creation of my video were:

“…You have to be able to see the feeling…” & “…just lift your chin up, go forward and don’t worry about nothing…”

Take from:

Final Project Video Reflection

C4Wk3: Learning Deeply, Digitally

The Moral Imperative

is the value and commitment to serve EVERY student to raise the bar and to close the gap.

Whether it is for students in the Special Education program or within the English as an Additional Language program or even those coming from any background, they are all given the commitment of high expectations and deep learning opportunities.

Moving from the first two weeks of the fundamental changes in education to focusing on learning partnerships to now Deep Learning Tasks- is one action step to help move schools forward in achieving such a shift in educational practices.

Seeing that the Change Process begins with- “Fostering deep commitment to the moral imperative…” makes me think not all schools are ready for this. Moving from the USA to the international scene in education I’ve realized that many schools out there are only beginning to remove discrimination lines on their acceptance pages and really looking at “the how” in order to best serve and meet the needs of all children an ensuring qualified and trained educators are filling these positions.

Photo by Marvin Kuhn on Unsplash

Equality in my Classroom

Students who enter my classroom, whether it’s the tiny room at end of the hall or a “normal” size room, know that the learning expectations and workload remain similar to those of their other classes.

Whether it is during a “pull out” small class group or “push-in” co-taught large class group settings students know that we continually push to raise the bar and hold them accountable to high, but fair, expectations.

I ensure that students have a firm grasp and understanding of what the learning targets or outcomes are for the day and try to set up the learning experiences so that they are clear and easily followed. In the past, I have even had a student who’s Individualised Learning Plan (ILP) goal was to make connections to what she was learning to real-life examples, and if it wasn’t clear- she would then advocate for that until she fully understood the connection. How amazing would it be, if all educators out there- did just that for their students all. the. time.

Make all learning, deep learning, connected to real-life contexts

Deep learning experiences will take thoughtful and meaningful conversations in the planning stages to ensure the intended outcomes are achievable.  Allowing students to choose over what they learn and how they learn it is a great step towards making deep learning experiences stick.

Whether it’s through stations or a simple choice board- like graphic organizers that allow students to choose different ways to learn about a particular concept, incorporating technology will only allow us to enhance these experiences and create better deep learning opportunities.

If we remember to bring technology in to enhance what we are doing and not start with it, I think it will long allow us to not only facilitate but serve as activators in these new and deep learning experiences.

Based on this week’s readings, I think I would shift my practice by attempting to have further conversations with my co-teachers on the ways to bring more deep learning experiences into our shared classroom space. Focus on the deep learning tasks and ways to reflect more with SAMR model and TPACK from week one to really see where we’re at and where we’d want to be. Ensuring that we are creating that student partnership and having them know that we are learning alongside them will be of value. So the students can see us designing and structuring the lessons tailored to their own unique learning styles and needs.

As stated in, A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning,

“In deep learning tasks, the goal is to develop new knowledge, through the integration of prior knowledge with ideas, information and concepts, into a wholly new product, concept, solution or content. In good deep learning tasks, students also go beyond creating new knowledge to doing something with it  to using that new knowledge in the world.”

It is our job as educators to continually push for students to no longer memorize facts and details, when information is literally at their fingertips and a 2-second google away, but to get them to create new knowledge and then further apply it to new and real contexts. As a Special Educator, I am fully aware of the challenges many students will face- as the last step in acquiring new skills is to generalize it to new and unfamiliar contexts. But through focused design and meaningful planning and preparation mixed with repetition and confidence building the sky is the limit.

I’m confident that students entering my classroom grow in their confidence and start believing more in themselves and what they are capable of. We focus on strengths to then close their gaps.  Reminding each other we learn from one another and that mistakes grow brains and everyone’s thoughts are valued.  All students CAN and WILL learn is a reality in our class- where we learn to follow any negative self talk with the word- “yet” such as, “I can’t do this task… YET.” or “I don’t know how to do this task…YET.”

Photo by Frans Vledder on Unsplash

Nurturing Self-Awareness

Self-awareness plays a key factor in our Special Education program and specialized classes. The ability to self-identify and clearly communicate strengths and weaknesses play a huge role in the development and lessons for our classes. Once goals are established we then focus on self-regulation skills and self-monitoring them. So every step of the way we are continually evaluating our learning experiences from class to class.  Teaching kids to think about how they think is crucial. Understanding that everyone thinks differently, and that’s of value, is also important. Alongside with everyone learns at different rates or speeds and in different ways.

These concepts support our personalizing learning experiences since my role as their case manager and advocate is to ensure they know how to eventually become their own great advocate for their learning. Asking for accommodations, but first even knowing what accommodations are, what they consist of, and most importantly which ones help them learn the best.

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash

I love sitting down with my students as we prep for their annual student-led ILP or SSP (similar to 504 plans) meeting and going through their accommodation lists and talking about whether or not they use it and find it helpful. There is nothing better than when a student can vocalize in their own words which accommodations they find useful and why as well as which ones don’t help them along with an explanation of why.  It also is wonderful when highschool teachers will tell me or write to me about a student I once taught in middle school, and how they are now advocating for themselves and can confidently speak about themselves as learners.

I also hope to give my students the real experiences they crave while creating & using new knowledge in a world beyond our classroom where they can see the point of it all and truly develop a love for learning.

Invisible Bais

Teaching students to acknowledge and confront their own bias even when not invisible can be a challenging task. None the less when it is invisible. This can also stem across cultural barriers that can lead to students feeling isolated or even scared.  As teachers, I think this is one area that proves challenging the more we celebrate our differences and teach tolerance. I am careful here about word choice, as wanting to teach acceptance I don’t think is the answer. Making sure as an educator I don’t bring in my own invisible biases in the classroom will take attention to my word choice that I don’t think I have been mindful of in the past.  This lesson similar to our Mad Libs activities was a great way to show students the value of the words they choose and their own unique basis that go along with them.

Ethical Practice Focus Group

This past week I was asked to take part in one of my school’s audit groups, specifically around ‘ethical practices.’ It was a challenging one for me, as I am constantly asking questions and challenging policies and procedures to ensure that what we do, is “doing right by kids.” This small subcommittee had some great conversations around ethical and equitable practices within the faculty and staff and I was surprised how little was mentioned even amongst foster equitable learning environments for the students or centering the discussion around those who should continually be the center of educational discussions- the students. In the end, it allowed me to voice concerns and hear others’ points of view challenging my own invisible bias especially in terms of local vs. overseas hires, and simply the makeup of our student body being primarily an embassy-sponsored school in transition. It seems now more than ever questioning our meaningful learning environment and what that really looks like is of utmost importance.

Create the Reality that ALL Students Can & Will Learn

It starts with you…. so what will YOU do?

Final Project for kids in SEN

Please follow the embedded google document below to see my UbD Project for the Learning Resource Class to build students Self-Awareness and Self-Advocacy Skills as they transition to the following grade.

UbD Project Plans

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
  • I chose this topic because unlike many teachers, who have a set curriculum and standard to asses, I find my passions lie within my three pull out courses for the Learning Resource Classes. Classes that, in my opinion, are not a glorified study hall (where there are a time and place for those classes as well) but a class for students to become more self-aware and begin to take control over their education by growing in advocacy skills. As a special educator, I feel my number one job is to advocate for these students, but by the end of each school year, hopefully have taught and empowered each of the students on my caseload to become better advocates for themselves.
  • I revamped a previously created learning experience by changing it from a PowerPoint/google slides presentation to a video. All the components have remained the same, but the final project to submit is different. I thought about adding choice to this piece but want to try one year with this new video component to see the difference in final products. I also feel short videos will be more memorable for the audience.
  • This learning experience was different from other learning experiences I have designed, as I created this one without the help of other co-teachers and utilized the official UbD template.
  • This learning experience relates to things I learned in Course 1, by adding the video technology component and the accessibility of the technology that I have gotten more used to trying during this course.
  • Selecting the ISTE standards and creating my own goals for this course has influenced me the most. It is reflected within my learning experience as the entire unit plan is all about students reflecting on their own identities and creating goals and support plans.
  • I hope that my students have a successful transition to the following year (high school) and hope that their new teachers are able to know each of them to be able to provide proper accommodations and encourage the advocacy skills right from the start of the new school year. With students complete this learning experience I hope that they each are confident in themselves as learners, can focus on their strengths, and be proud of the things that make them unique individuals. I especially hope that they view their contributions to the learning environment positively and are able to meet their individualized goals.
  • We are only partially through this unit and with moving to distance learning it will probably still continue to evolve. With moving to distance learning, I have learned to not wait until 2nd Semester to start much of this project but continue to do pieces of it throughout the year.
Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

Share passion projects & let students speak freely about their own passions as much as possible

…like in this project, kicking it off with the focus of their big dreams and what interests them. Get other teachers to know your students by what they love doing outside of the classroom to be able to bring their passions INTO the classroom.

Authentic Audiences bring purpose to learning

….whether its the following year’s teachers or the next year’s students giving your current students an authentic audience will provide that motivation for a successful learning experience. Continue to explore widening that audience beyond the school community and how to reach more global viewers and listeners.

Remote Reflections for Distance Learning

… I found that starting my classes off every day with a short (under 5-10 minutes) flipgrid video allows for me to be fully present in my student’s mind and accessible with the office hours posted. Since we are “asynchronous” I felt it’s important to still establish the 1:1 communication with the students in SEN as well as provide a platform for them to still get to interact with one another and get social time with their peers especially during a time of many self-isolating and family quarantine going on. Flipgrid responses at the end of each day/week has allowed my students the ability to check in with a structured reflection question guide as well as comment on the progress others are making during their time of many individualized works. Edpuzzle has also been great for the mid-video check ins and google survey for quick check-in responses.

What tools have you found for distance learning…most beneficial for SEN students*?

*I firmly believe in person-first language, “students in SEN” but in this case, it fits the visual text box better. Apologies.

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