I have always been dedicated to teaching students who were considered at-risk. My students were either learning English, having trouble reading, behind academically, and/or had a disability. Teaching special education came after teaching English Language Learners (ELLs) and remedial reading.  The timing was perfect, because my students with intellectual disabilities (IDs) had an exaggerated version of the challenges my previous students had. They were missing background knowledge, vocabulary, needed help with with reading, writing, comprehension, and understanding concepts. In addition, they needed to learn functional information.

Because of significant impairments, students with an ID require high-intensity explicit instruction to address memory, motivation, processing, and attention. The results have been AMAZING. It follows best practices and supports learning and filing new information like never before.

Here is an example of instructional dialog for a page of a current event article we published in February, 2018 titled “Blue Whale Carcass”.

Classroom Setting: The teacher has page 2 of the ebook version of the article projected on a SmartBoard. Each student has a copy of the book at their seat as well. Students are using their own book for pointing, etc.

Tutor, Speech Therapy, Home Setting: The ebook is on a computer screen and the student interacts with the ebook.

Teacher Engagement:

Class, this animal is called a blue whale. Please point at the blue whale.

Class, I have bad news. That whale is dead. It is not alive anymore. It died.  Is the whale alive?

Is the whale dead? …Yes, the blue whale is dead.

The carcass is on the beach. Point at the blue whale carcass.

A dead body is called a carcass. What is a dead body called?

Is that whale alive?  No, it is dead. Oh no! That poor blue whale.

What kind of animal is on the beach?

Is that a fish? ….No, it’s a whale. You are correct!

Is it a tiger? …..No, It’s a whale. It’s a blue whale, you are correct!

Why is the blue whale laying on the beach like that?

Have you ever been to a beach?

What do you do at the beach?

Let’s look at this carcass again. Yes, the blue whale is dead.  It is on the beach. The blue whale died in the Pacific Ocean. Would you like to see a blue whale that is alive? https://youtu.be/9pjI2XkmoL0

The blue whale used to live in the Pacific Ocean. The whale on the beach used to be alive like the whale in the video. This blue whale used to swim in the Pacific Ocean. But not anymore.  Do you know how to swim?

Where do you go swimming?

That poor blue whale. It was swimming and then one day it died. I wonder why it died?

What do you think happened to this poor blue whale? Why did it die? ….. We don’t know, do we?

Maybe we will find out why it died in this book. I hope so!

So sad.  It could not swim anymore because it was dead. Can a whale swim if it is dead?…. No, it stopped swimming in the ocean when it died.

The waves in the Pacific Ocean pushed the whale to the beach. Now the blue whale is stuck on the beach.  He is stuck right there. He is not in the Pacific Ocean anymore. The waves can’t push him now. He is stuck.

One time my car got stuck in mud. I couldn’t move it. It was stuck like that whale is. Have you ever been stuck?….Well, this whale is stuck on the beach.

Point to the sand on the beach.

The whale’s carcass washed up on the beach.  Yes, it washed up. That means it got pushed to the beach by the waves. Is the whale stuck on the beach?

This beach is in a country called Chile. Point to the beach where the blue whale carcass is.

Is the beach in Chile?

Is this whale in Chile?

Point to the Pacific Ocean right behind the whale. What ocean is that? Yes, Pacific Ocean. The whale was swimming in the Pacific Ocean.

Now the whale carcass is stuck on the beach in Chile. Point to the beach in Chile. That is sad. What happened to the blue whale? Did it used to be alive?  It died in the Pacific Ocean near Chile.

Point to the Pacific Ocean on the map.

Point to the Pacific Ocean in the picture.  Look at the map. See the USA? That is where we live.

Look down south (drag finger down the map) This country is called Chile. Chile is in South America. That is where the beach is that the whale is on!!! Where is Chile?

Please point to Chile on the map.

Point at the whale laying on the beach in Chile.

What kind of animal is that? Yes, it’s a blue whale.

What happened to it?  Oh, that poor whale.

Have you ever seen a dead animal carcass?


What happened? Etc.

Do you feel sad that the blue whale died?

Teacher Notes for this page:

Page 2:

The carcass was found on a beach. The beach was in Chile. Look at the map. Look at where we live. That whale used to be in the ocean, but the waves pushed it up on the beach. It was dead.

Point: Chili, U.S.A., carcass, dead blue whale, Pacific Ocean, Beach in Chile, sand

Yes/No: Is the whale dead? Is it alive? Is it in Chile? Is it on a mountain? Is it on a beach? Is it a fish? Tiger?  Did the whale used to swim in the Pacific Ocean? Can the whale swim now?

Questions: What is a carcass? Why is the blue whale on the beach? What kind of animal is that? Video  https://youtu.be/9pjI2XkmoL0

Connecting:  Have you been to a beach? Do you swim? Have you seen a dead animal carcass before? Do you feel sad? Is it sad when a whale dies? Why? Why not?

Note About Connecting Prior Knowledge

Keep in mind that at any point in the discussion, you may talk about a subtopic for several minutes before moving on, which AWESOME!  You are NOT getting sidetracked. What is happening is that you are engaging students and helping them connect new information to prior knowledge, which is a comprehension strategy.

Knowing your students, their interests, and experiences, can help you think of subtopics to bring up as they learn new content.

To support you in using Austin & Lily curriculum, we include talking points for each page of each book. We have done the thinking about questions you might ask, and how you might explain things so that you can use the suggestions and ideas to engage your class. As you can see with my example, the ideas from the teaching notes are incorporated plus I added more as I went along. Our notes also provide links to YouTube videos at times to enhance comprehension.

Let me know if you have any questions. Was this helpful? I would love to hear from you!