There are as many ways to run resource rooms as there are resource rooms! However, if you’re new or teaching one for the first time, or are just not happy with the way yours is running, that’s a pretty unsatisfactory answer.
We’ve compiled two approaches from our experience here at Azulita. Hopefully, you can find some ideas that work for you in your situation.
We started each day taking turns reading from a novel the students had voted on and selected. One student would read (at least one paragraph) and then pick the next student to read.
I had a comprehension question per page we read. I took volunteers to answer the question. We would stop reading once everyone had had a turn reading and/or answering a question.
Occasionally, I had students with particular needs/specifications, and we always found a solution that felt comfortable. Making time for one-on-one conversations is essential.
Some students were nervous so would volunteer to be first and ask about any concerning words. Others would pick out the passage for the next day and I would make sure they got picked for that particular passage.
On Wednesdays, we had a weird schedule, so I changed it up. We did a writing activity based on the novel we were reading.
The question was one of the comprehension questions we had answered earlier in the week (so they should have already heard the answer). If it was forgotten, I encouraged students to ask one another and discuss it before writing.
The students would respond in either ACE (answer, cite, explain) or CER (citation, explanation, reasoning) format depending on what better aligned with their skills and what their general education teachers expected.
I provided feedback with their strengths and edits to be made. Once all edits had been completed, they could move on to their other classwork/projects.
I recommend starting your class with whatever skill/practice all your students need. For me, that was reading aloud (with comprehension questions) four days a week.
However, if your students greatly need study skills or vocabulary you could focus on that.
I’d recommend making it only ¼ of the class time though and reserving the rest for independent work time. That way, you have time to wander the room and help whoever needs it.
I’ve found that working with students on their IEP goals (and/or skills they need to improve) organically was most effective.
Meaning, if a student had a writing goal, I could gather data while helping them with their other classes’ work. Or if a student needed help with organization, we would organize their actual papers instead of inventing an extra task for IEP data collection.
Depending on your virtual setup, parts of this may or may not be possible. That’s okay. We can be flexible. I trust you know your students and what is best for them.
Whatever is possible for you: I strongly recommend having a routine/lesson to start of each day and then move into independent work/support time 👍
There are a few varieties of resource rooms. I’d say there are two main sorts you encounter the most though: behavioral/emotional and academics. There’s obviously overlap but those are the ones I’ve seen the most in the wild.
Honestly, you can treat them more or less identically. In both cases, your students will need support for navigating both the emotional and academic parts of school.
They’re likely to have the same confusions and both will need more support passing classes. There are differences, but I’ll get to them later.
A good resource room should be one thing above all others though: flexible. These rooms don’t have the same pattern and rhythm as other classes. Structure is still immensely valuable.
Like Katrina I had daily routines. Routines still help students feel that their day is predictable and helps them feel confident that they can complete what is expected of them.
I suggest having an activity that always starts out your class. For most of my resource rooms I used journal writing.
This gives students time to decompress, think and get their materials out or in order. It also gave me time to take attendance and deal with any tiny disasters that may crop up at the beginning of class.
Journaling isn’t your only choice of beginning classwork. For an English support resource class, students did 5 English editing tasks from a book I bought with 180 days of exercises.
If you’re really pro-level, you may have the students running something meaningful like a current events discussion panel. The important part is that it is a meaningful task that can be done individually or in pairs, or even in small groups.
After a set amount of time (usually 5 minutes) we’d go over whatever the beginning of class task was.
There would sometimes be a lesson (more on that to come), but usually no longer than 20 minutes.
Next, grades would be checked. Most places I worked students could do this themselves, but other places, we’d have little one-on-one mini-conferences.
While this happened, students would be working on anything missing, past due or unfinished. I always let them work together. I think you learn more with other people.
This time would also be frequently used for students going to other classrooms to work with other teachers or to take a test in an academic learning center. It was a great way for students to access accommodations such as extended time without having to go outside of the school day.
At the end of the hour, I would make sure to give at least 3 minutes to get organized and pack up, since we were often working on executive functioning skills. For many resource rooms, this was also the time I would check that students had written down what they still needed to complete in their planners.
Lessons in a resource room
Now’s the tricky part of a resource room: balancing the time between building skills and providing support in academic classes.
The beginning of the semester is prime time to build essential skills. Likely, students will have minimum work from other classes and you can use almost the entire class period.
What you choose to teach should be based on the IEP goals that placed the majority of students in your class. Much of the time that’s either remediating specific skills for math, reading and/or writing to address gaps, the rest of the time it’s executive functioning skills, like time management, organization, and planning.
Look at those needs and decide what needs that gift of additional time, and allocate it.
The rest of the semester should consist of mini-lessons, or breaking one lesson into small parts spread over a few days. It feels awkward, but it gives students time to process and practice, so it can actually be a better way to teach.
Don’t forget that a resource room is typically both a support in terms of new skills and practicing other skills with additional support. A good resource room attends to both.
Students with extra time
It was normal for students to not have work they needed support on for that day. In most of the resource rooms I taught, the first thing I’d ask them was: are your things organized in your backpack? Usually, the answer to this was: no. So, they would do that.
After they were all organized again, and I had checked their grades and deemed them acceptable we’d discuss anything they needed to study. If there were upcoming tests, I would encourage them to create a study deck for themselves on flashcards or cram.com.
After that, there were a variety of enrichment activities that were approved. We created our “I’m done, now what?” menu based on these activities.
Most of the time, students wanted to help friends complete their work, study or organize. I completely encourage this! It helps students create a supportive community for each other.
What do you grade?
The most important thing to remember about a resource room is that it is a place where students are practicing difficult skills. Your grading should be able to provide them success as long as they are practicing.
I chose to grade only tasks completed in class. Most graded items were based on completion, not to what extent they were successful.
What I graded most the time was the following:
- Completion of the beginning of class task (not how well written it was)
- Planner was written in weekly
- Turning in any practices from lessons
- Projects at the end of units (which I gave feedback on throughout the process of them working on it)
You may have different guidelines at your school but I suggest making the grading as transparent and forgiving as possible. These are hard skills and being in a special education class can be stigmatizing, no reason to make it difficult to pass as well.
Special variations for an emotional/behavioral resource room
Students in an emotional/behavioral resource room may have more intense needs for social skills, and emotional support.
The other thing that can be helpful in such a class is a designated area for students to decompress. Having comfortable seating (such as a loveseat or couch) with headphones and a computer for music and/ or meditation is a great addition to the class. Another great item to have would be processing activities to help students having a rough time.
Outside of these alterations, the room runs pretty similarly, with routines, mini-lessons and one-on-one support.
Building your own great resource room
As we said, there are many ways to structure your resource room. Above all it should be a supportive place for students to practice difficult skills and strategies. As long as yours does that, it’s a great one!