Did anyone else find it difficult to do progress monitoring during the COVID-19 Closure? I had to try a few different strategies until I figured out what worked best for me and my students. I had several other special education teachers asking for my advice, so I thought maybe I could help others by sharing the system I came up with! I found I had the most success with using Seesaw as my online eLearning classroom platform, as well as for addressing IEP goals and gathering progress monitoring data. With the help of my students’ parents I was able to monitor the vast majority of their IEP goals.
This post contains my opinion of Seesaw as it pertains to distance learning and progress monitoring. I am not a sponsor or affiliate of Seesaw, and this post does not include affiliate links.
How Do You Monitor the Progress of a Special Education Student?
Data collection is essential in monitoring the progress of your special education students. The data you collect provides information to your administration, helps you report progress to families, and helps to guide your instruction. How often you take data for students will depend on the IEP goal, as well as on your district policy for data entry. In my school district, we are required to enter data on IEP goals every two weeks. We enter the data directly into our IEP software system.
There are some goals, however, that I take data on throughout the week. Some of these goals are for areas that are harder to address out of context, or out of a natural environment. Some examples of these types of goals would be communication, behavior, or social skills goals. For these I add to the data throughout 1-2 weeks, then get a percentage on that data and include this in my data entry.
How Can This System Apply to Distance Learning?
When I was first presented with the task of progress monitoring during distance learning, I was a bit frustrated trying to think of how to make this happen. Although I was meeting with my students and their parents through Google Meets, most of my students needed lots of prompting to participate in greetings, respond to my questions, or even sit and look at the me on the computer screen. Several of my students are non-verbal and do not have access to some of the tools we have at school to assist with their communication. Therefore, my Google Meetings were mainly to answer parent questions, provide parents with guidance, and interact the best I could with my students. I wanted to make sure they were still seeing me and hearing my voice during our school closure. It was about keeping up our relationships more than providing any type of virtual instruction.
I knew that getting them to respond to activities through a virtual meeting was not going to be effective. These students need fluid guidance, prompting, and instruction that can only be done in person. The only way this can happen is by getting parents or caregivers involved in the process. Through the right online, eLearning platform, I was able to create assignments to address each individual IEP goal, assign that goal to individual students, and receive back usable data for progress monitoring. I assigned these activities once a week, and was still able to enter data into our online system every two weeks.
Why Seesaw Provides the Best Online Platform for Self-Contained Students
When the Covid-19 Closure first began, I immediately embraced Google Classroom just like most teachers. However, I found it difficult to make interactive activities. It was possible, but quite time consuming, and they just never worked as smoothly as I intended. I also found that parents were not having an easy time helping their children find, complete, and submit assignments.
Once I found Seesaw, I quickly discovered how much easier it was to design activities and make them interactive. It was also very easy to upload files and links to the activities. Once I began getting practice in making daily activities, I was able to apply this to addressing IEP goals.
It was also easy for my students and families to transition to Seesaw because they were able to log in with their Google emails and passwords, which they already had. Once logged in, assignments for each student are clearly visible.
Some other great features are the ability record yourself saying your own directions, and easily add icons as part of the directions. This is great for my non-readers. They can not only hear the directions, but they are able to hear my voice as well. You can also pair visuals with directions that match the actual buttons students need to click to go through the activity.
Different IEP Goals = Different Activity Types
You will need to take several things into account when deciding how to create activities that will assess IEP goals. One important step is to let parents know the importance of allowing the students to answer on their own. I made sure parents knew not to prompt students towards the correct answers to ensure accurate data. The majority of my parents seem to understand this and most of my data has been accurate and in line with what students were doing prior to the closure.
Next, depending on the activity or behavior expected of the student in their goal, you will need to determine what type of activity to assign. You will also need to determine what type of product for them to submit to get the most accurate data. There are several options of activities and student products that you can choose from.
Create Activities by Uploading Curriculum Work
In our classroom we utilize Unique Learning System (ULS) as our core curriculum. For my students with academic goals such as adding, telling time, or reading comprehension, I can easily upload work from the ULS curriculum to my Seesaw activity. Students can then complete the activity by writing or circling answers.
Documents and worksheets can easily be uploaded directly to the student response templates. Students can then click on the pencil within the activity to draw, write, or circle items to complete the activity. You can also add pictures or icons to a document you uploaded for students to drag and drop. If your curriculum has materials in PDF format, just save the pages you need and you can upload them right into the activity as well! I have uploaded PDFs, Google Slides, Screencastify videos of myself reading stories, and other items from my Google Drive for my activities.
Use the Video Feature to Gather Data on Life Skills Goals
I have several students who have goals in the areas of life skills. Some of these goals include washing hands, brushing teeth, and washing their face. To get accurate data on these activities, I like to see the students completing the task. This is where the video feature can be useful. I have the adult who is assisting the student click on the “Add Response” button within the activity. Then they can click on the video camera and begin recording. This way I can see the student completing the task, note any prompts that were given by the adult, and see how the student cooperated. Seeing these videos has been one of my favorite parts of distance learning! I love seeing them in action!
Another item I add to these activities is a fun Youtube video or song about whatever task they are doing. You can copy and paste the link for the video in the “Multi-media Example.” For example, I added a link to a song about washing hands to watch prior to the activity. Most of my students are motivated by music so this helps get them in a great mood before attempting the activity.
Use the Microphone Feature to Record Their Answers
I found this helpful for goals where I needed to hear them perform an activity. For example, a few students had goals for counting numbers or counting money. I uploaded a coin counting PDF from ULS. You can also find ready made counting activities in the Community part of the Seesaw Library. These can also be copied and edited to make any changes and include your own instructions. Once students pull up the worksheet, either themselves or the adult can click the microphone icon and begin recording as they count the amounts out loud. This way I can hear if they can count the entire amount independently, if they needed prompting, or if they have trouble at the same spot in the counting sequence. By hearing the process you can get so much more information than if you just had them write in the amounts. Plus, you get to hear their voice, which always makes me smile!
Use the Notepad Feature for Parents/Caregivers to Enter Data
The Notepad feature allows me to specify exactly what data we needed for the parents and/or caregivers. This was especially helpful for goals on skills that occur throughout a day or week. I also used this feature for parents to enter data on goals that involved time, such as how long their child could attend to work sessions. In the instruction, I included details on exactly what was being measured. If necessary, I included details on how to set up an activity or provided any needed visuals. Then for the response, I used the Notepad feature for them to enter data.
For example, one student is working on attending to work tasks for a certain amount of time. I attached his first/then visual to the activity, suggested tasks they could do with him, and on the notepad his parent entered the number of minutes he attended. The notepad feature also makes it easy for parents to add notes about the activity. For the attending activity, the parent of my student provided information on what work tasks they did, if he protested, and how he performed. This helped me determine strategies to suggest for her during future work times. I also used this method to gather data for a student who was working on using a switch for greetings. It really makes data collection easy for parents to assist with.
Easily Add Links to Other Data Collection Sites and Activities
One other site I found useful for data collection was Epic. On this site, you can assign books to students based on their reading level. You can also assign books that can be read to the student if they are non-readers. A great addition to these activities is that many of these books include quizzes at the end. Also, all your student needs is a class code to log in. Once they log in, they choose their name and get their assigned books. I included the class code and the name of the book in the Seesaw activity instructions. When you upload media, you get the choice of adding a link. I just paste the link to the Epic site and students can click on it and go right to it. I also use this link to assign activities on the News 2 You student view, included with our ULS curriculum. This gives you data directly into ULS. All you have to do is copy and paste the link to the site you wish to direct them to.
How Do I Assign Activities to Individual Students?
Once you create each activity, assigning them to individual students is easy! Click the green “Assign” button in the top , right hand corner of the activity. You will see the name of your class listed. Instead of checking the box next to your class name, click on “edit students.” This will bring up the list of all students in your class. Click the student(s) you would like to assign that activity to. If you have the paid version of Seesaw, you can click the “schedule” button to schedule what day and time the assignment will be posted. If you are using the free version, you will not have this option, so just click “assign.” If you click on the “Activities” tab you will see all the activities you have assigned and who you assigned them to.
Where Do I Record the Data Once Assignments are Turned In?
You will get notifications under the “Journal” tab as students turn in their assignments. You will need to approve each assignment. You also have the option of “liking” the assignment, posting comments, or returning the assignment. As I receive assignments back, I enter the data on my student data sheets. I use the same data sheet I was using before the school closure to record data for the assignments. All the IEP goals for one student are kept on a single sheet of paper. This streamlines the data collection process, helps you stay organized, and ensures you are not forgetting any goals. I have created an editable version of this data sheet that you can download for free. Once all data is recorded for each student, you will be able to enter the data into the progress monitoring system your district uses!
Access My Resource Library for My FREE Data Sheet Template! Click below!
Since our students are not completely independent with their assignments, we heavily rely on parents and caregivers for help getting the activities completed. I am sure we have all had some students who we are having a hard time getting assignments from. I have been fortunate to have weekly contact with each student throughout our school closure. This has been very helpful in making sure they are understanding and completing assignments. For students that are behind on assignments in general, I contact those parents and ask that, as they make up their work, to complete the goal related assignments first. This way I can get the data as soon as possible.
I can’t stress enough the need to be understanding of the parents and caregivers whose children have gotten behind or haven’t completed work. This is such a difficult time for every student, but especially those with special needs and their families. The most important thing we need to do from a paperwork standpoint, is to document the parent contacts we have made to show we made reasonable attempts to get students to complete work. Then continue to offer gentle reminders, support, and understanding to parents. Just make sure to document your contacts!
Final Thoughts on Progress Monitoring During Distance Learning (And a Shout Out to Parents for Helping us!)
What a learning experience this school closure has been! Based on the current news, things are still very uncertain as we look towards the next school year. I have a feeling we will still be using some distance learning activities at least for part of our instruction. Since becoming familiar with the Seesaw classroom and activities, I plan on using this resource as part of our classroom technology time once we do transition back. It will provide a great way for students to have individualized practice on their IEP goals, or to continue to use for data collection.
The one thing I have been most thankful for during this distance learning experience are my students’ parents! I have had to rely on them to help their children complete all of their activities, provide prompting, and even to collect some of the data. Some of them have more than one child. A few have more than one child with special needs. Others are essential workers who are still working 8-12 hour shifts in addition to making sure their children complete assignments. They are true superheroes!
I hope these strategies have been helpful, as you consider the best ways to gather data on your students’ IEP goals. If you didn’t yet, grab my free data sheet template below to streamline your student data! Please comment below if you have additional resources or tips to keep up with progress monitoring of students in your self-contained classroom. We can learn so much from each other as we navigate this new method of instruction.