Special education teachers are a pretty spectacular group of people…we are not provided with specific curriculum and we go and find a lot of materials and resources on our own. The beautiful and challenging thing about our students is they are all unique-they have different abilities, styles of learning and preferences, so we know full well that we can’t just have one single curriculum to teach reading and language arts. I have taught resource and cluster settings at multiple schools, and have discovered some great reading resources that I use in my classroom today. Here are my five favorite…

1. Jolly Phonics

I discovered this gem two schools ago…it’s a British (Meghan Markle would approve) multi-sensory approach to teaching students 42 phonics sounds (includes digraphs and vowel pairs). Each sound has a song and a movement that goes with it. I have purchased most of my Jolly Phonics materials on Amazon and you really don’t need much to implement it in your classroom. I made the songs and movements part of morning meeting (you can get the songs for FREE off YouTube) and students of varying abilities are able to participate. Last year, may of my limited verbal and non-verbal friends were able to at least make the movements (download the movements for free here) and this year, I have a student who is blind who loves listening to and singing along with the songs! While I use this program primarily for the letter sounds, they have a variety of materials including Jolly Grammar, which is designed to help teach beginning reading comprehension and grammar rules.

Here is the Jolly Phonics Wall Frieze. I purchased this on Amazon for $13.00. I laminated and cut them all out so each letter could be separate. On the back, I cut out and glued the words to the song for the sound and the movement. I have students or a paraprofessional hold up each visual during the song to target three different learning styles-visual, auditory and kinesthetic.

These are the workbooks that go with the 42 phonics sounds (pictured above). There are seven of them and you can see in the picture below the inside of one of the workbooks. I got mine on Amazon for $22.75. I would recommend these to any teacher who teaches phonics as part of their curriculum.

2. Orton-Gillingham

Orton-Gillingham is another multi-sensory approach/curriculum used to teach phonics, decoding and sight words. I was fortune enough to go to a week-long training for this program a few years ago and it made a huge difference for my students! I know that we special educators are operating on a tight budget and I mention this program so that if you have the opportunity to get a PD paid for, I would highly recommend it! In the meantime, one of the books that this used the Orton-Gillingham program is Recipe for Reading, available on Amazon (what did teachers do before Amazon?). It is available new for under $30 and used for under $18.  I also wanted to include a link to a video that features the Three-Part Drill, which is something you might be able to implement in your classroom without attending the training. Other components of the program include using sand trays to trace the letters (giving students multiple practice opportunities to learn sound/symbol correspondence) and using screens to help learn sight words.

3. Reading A-to-Z

Reading A-to-Z is an online reading program that has downloadable books, materials, comprehension worksheets and more! All the books are leveled and there are even decodable books that teach certain phonetic rules and sounds. I have used this program in both the resource and cluster program settings. It is a little expensive ($109.95 per class, per year), but one class subscription is usually enough for the number of students in two resource or two cluster program classrooms. I’m lucky that my school currently pays for our subscription, but in the past I have split the cost with another teacher. There is also Vocabulary, Writing and Science A-to-Z, if you are interest in more target instruction in those areas.

Okay, so I hate it when people share long stories in blogs (I just want the the cinnamon roll recipe! I don’t need to know you’re life story…), but I’m going to, so I’ll warn you now so you can skip this part…

I used Reading A-to-Z with a student when I taught resource. I would give him the book at the beginning of the week and we would read it together each day. He also read the book for homework each night and did the assignments and worksheets that went along with the book. Every Friday, I would give this student an open book, Reading A-to-Z multiple choice test. He kept getting 20% or 30% on these tests and I was like, we need to figure out what’s going on. So one Friday, I just said we would do the test together and I showed him how to go through each questions, look at all the choices and use the book to answer the questions. After we had finished, my student said, “Oh I get it Ms. Bueb…the answers are in the book!”. 

I often tell this story to illustrate the importance of explicit instruction with students and taking the time to make sure students know exactly how to do something. And it’s about Reading A-to-Z.


4. High-Frequency Words Stories & Activities 

I randomly found this book in a drawer two schools ago, and I loved the Level A book so much, I bought the other three! The High-Frequency Words Stories & Activity Books series by Evan-Moor introduces 6-7 sight words per section (there are 15 sections in each book). There are three worksheets that students use to practice their words in each section. But, what I like best about this resource is that each section has a story that uses all the high frequency words students have learned. It is rewarding for students to see all the words they just learned and be able to read a passage. I also made picture flashcards with Boardmaker symbols to use with this book. I use a lot of the Evan-Moor books in my classroom…check out some FREE samples here. You can find more levels of the Evan-Moor High-Frequency Words Stories & Activity books, including books of high-frequency word games and word family activity books that also include reading passages on Amazon.

5. The Autism Helper (Of Course!)

As usual, the TAH has you covered! We all know depending on individual goals, reading and language arts instruction can vary from student to student. I use the Daily Language Arts Curriculum with some of my students, who are able to write and attend to words on the page. You can purchase the whole bundle, or the levels individually. If you are interested in seeing these products in action, click on the link to watch Sasha explain how to set up Daily Curriculum.

Another product from TAH I use in my classroom to teach pre-reading and basic reading and language arts skills is the Daily Work. You can purchase all three levels as a bundle or each level separately. Daily Work is repetitive and features the same student response sheet each day so students can focus on learning the skills.

Many forget that social studies and science are another reading class! It gives students the opportunity to read and experience non-fiction text and introduces new vocabulary! I use TAH’s Daily Leveled Science and Social Studies Curriculum to teach basic and functional reading skills. Be sure to watch the preview videos to both of these products when you click on the links above.

Another amazing TAH helper product to use with pre-readers is the Category Mega Pack. Starting to categorize pictures can help with learning basic vocabulary and will later aide in listening or reading comprehension. This pack includes both simple and complex category sorts and activities. Also included are category boards and anchor charts. Read more about this amazing product in Sarah’s blog (aren’t speechies the best!?).

I hope you got some ideas of reading resources to use in your classroom! Share some of the materials, tips and tricks you use to teach your students reading and language arts!

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