Now we move on to vocabulary instruction using my monthly thematic unit from Boardmaker Activities-to-Go! As I am a special education teacher and a private tutor, these are typical components of my reading instruction. And I make sure that parents are privy to all aspects of my instruction and materials.
Recently, a parent joined the end of my lesson with her son. As we wrapped up, she had tears in her eyes. She shared the following story with me.
“It makes me so pleased to hear him learning words like ‘tilt.’ You’re teaching words his peers are learning, too! I am not sure if anyone ever thought he should or could learn a word like ‘tilt.’”
This hit me deeply, both as a teacher and a parent. As a teacher, all I could think was, “Huh? It’s the word ‘tilt.’ Of course, he should learn this word!” Then I thought about her comment as a fellow parent. I know I want my own children’s teachers to hold them to high standards. I now believe that they can learn anything, and I hope their teachers believe it, too! Her comment shed light on a common conundrum many parents who have children with special needs face, which is that their child may only receive instruction in what their teacher believes they can learn.
For example, is there a place for instruction in functional vocabulary and sight word development? Yes! These foundational skills can be the building blocks of learning. However, let’s not stop there. Let’s also give the same weight to content vocabulary. These words create opportunities for students to develop knowledge and engage more meaningfully in everyday experiences and classrooms. They also serve to break down stereotypes about students with special needs can learn!
I left that tutoring session with a message to share. While you continue the important work in teaching functional vocabulary and sight words to your students, consider adding content derived vocabulary from sources like Boardmaker Activities-to-Go! The monthly thematic units make delivering meaningful content a breeze. Your students and their parents will thank you.