November 2020 - Volume 47
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In this issue:

Featured Video:
Orpheus Students Love Maths!

Accessible Materials Made Right (AMMR)

As many teachers and students shift their learning to online environments, the desire to make teacher websites visually engaging and attractive has also come to the forefront. It is important that our sites are laid out and designed in a way that keeps students focused and engaged. A popular solution that has emerged is to use graphics such as Bitmojis as links to other sites, resources, or assignments.
It is important that we keep in mind that all images, including those that act as links, must contain alternative (alt) text. It is also worth noting that alt text for images that performs various actions, also known as functional images, is different than alt text for images that convey information.
Images that convey information should include alt text that is descriptive of what is in the image and possibly how it relates to the context. Functional images, such as links, need alt text that describes the function that will be performed when clicking on the link. For example, when used as a graphic, a Bitmoji of a teacher will describe the actual image (e.g., “Bitmoji of Mrs. Johnson dressed in a blue shirt and brown pants pointing at the blackboard”). However, if that same graphic is made into a link, the alt text will simply state the function or destination of that link (eg. “Mrs. Johnson’s 4th Hour Google Classroom”).

Assistive Technology (AT)

The AT leadership group, composed of Michigan educators who are regularly involved in considering, providing, and supporting assistive technology use by students, continues to meet for monthly AT Lunch and Learns. These informal meet-ups cover relevant AT topics and offer opportunities to brainstorm solutions to AT challenges with other AT leaders. The next AT Lunch and Learn meeting is November 5, 2020 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EST. All are welcome to join!
To receive information about future AT leadership meetings or join the AT-contacts listserv, email

Comprehensive Literacy for Autonomous Communication

We can teach reading and writing to every learner. Literacy may take longer and the progression may look different for students with disabilities but it is possible. For students who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), the 26 letters of the alphabet are the key to becoming autonomous communicators (e.g. saying what they want, when they want, how they want, to who they want, wherever they want). Listen to an interview with literacy expert, Dr. Karen Erickson on the Talking with Tech Podcast. During the interview, Dr. Erickson shares the why behind teaching literacy to learners with complex communication needs and significant disabilities. If you would like to learn more about emergent versus conventional literacy learners, as well as the benefits of inclusion for everyone,  check out the second part of Dr. Erickson's interview on the Talking with Tech podcast. 

Delta Math

Targeted practice opportunities, originally designed to provide distributed practice, can be used as an alternative to the Delta Math Intervention Lesson Cycle if intervention time is limited.

Differentiated tier 2 and tier 3 support can be provided without decreasing access to core instruction during previously planned warm-ups, closing activities, math centers, choice time, and/or at-home practice.

Visual Fluency Cards, Additional Guided Practice, Independent Practice Activities, and Online Practice can be located near the bottom of the Tier 2 Intervention tab at the Delta Math website.  All resources are aligned to the readiness and tier 3 standards and supported with instructional protocols that include student reflection opportunities.

If you have any questions about Delta Math Response to Intervention (RtI) program resources or implementation, please contact Mike Klavon at

Enhancing Mathematics Instruction for Students With Learning Difficulties

Thank you to all of our Enhancing Math sites past and present for all of the work you are doing with removing barriers to math learning for all learners. Alt+Shift will continue to support currently certified Enhancing Math facilitators and their intermediate school districts (ISDs) who wish to continue the training but will no longer be providing the information as a 3-day course or certifying new facilitators.  We will instead be utilizing other means, including our website and other math professional learning opportunities, to share information about the Math Accessibility Framework and how general education and special education can collaborate to meet the needs of learners with disabilities.

Foundations of Communication (FoC) and Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD)

The pandemic has created the need for virtual AAC considerations and assessment for those learners with complex communication needs who receive remote or distance instruction. An AAC assessment should be considered when learners do not have access to robust communication. If you are looking for ways to complete an AAC assessment virtually, check out this Quick Win from Alt+Shift.

Foundations of Math (FoM)

This fall Alt+Shift completed “Level 2” instructor training with nine future Foundations of Math and Foundations of Math: Teaching Students with Significant Disabilities instructors.  Instructors-in-training spent five days over three months with Dr. Chris Cain, developer of the courses, as part of their certification process. Their next step is practice presentations and co-instructing their first courses. Alt+Shift looks forward to working with our new group of instructors and their ISDs in the coming year.

Interested in partnering with Alt+Shift on Foundations of Math and developing your own ISD course instructors? Contact or visit the Partnering Process page on our website to learn more.

Foundations of Math: Teaching Students With Significant Disabilities (FoM:SD): Implementation Story

Lauren Bellmore
Washtenaw ISD, Eberwhite Classroom

Before our professional development sessions with FoM:SD, math was not a core focus for our students in the classroom. We had daily practice with counting and calendar during our morning meetings with students, but it never went any deeper than that. I focused so much of my time and energy into emergent literacy that I forgot about the importance of math. To be honest, math scared me. I never liked it in school when I was younger so of course I was not excitedly thinking about ways to incorporate it into my daily lessons let alone an individualized education program (IEP) goal.
The main problem I had with teaching math was truthfully I did not know how to do it or where to even start. I needed someone to come in and teach us the step-by-step instruction needed to teach students with moderate cognitive disabilities and complex speech and language needs. FoM gave us the tools we needed to implement a new math initiative into our classroom. The planning process became more of a daily routine once we knew what to do.
During the pandemic, we had to get creative! Our instruction has been delivered virtually along with learning packets delivered to the home. Students have been routinely doing a morning meeting with staff including counting and calendar, such as before, but now we have added skills from the Learning Trajectories such as counting and comparing numbers. We have been able to successfully assess our students’ math skills by having these practices embedded into our daily practice. We even have a special math chant to start off our math lesson!
Implementing the FoM approach has helped my staff and me focus on appropriate levels for our students and see the bigger picture of their math needs. It has impacted both the staff and students in a positive way because we are able to start at the developmental stage of their math knowledge and build upon what they already know how to do. Even during a pandemic, students are exposed to new math terms, tools, and skills needed to continue their learning, even while sitting behind a computer screen in their homes.
Our next steps are to continue putting math as a core focus, along with emergent literacy and IEP goals. All our students have current math goals on their IEPs and have daily skill practice from the EQUALS curriculum. We want to expand knowledge both on our end as the classroom staff as well as for the students, including the use of our AAC devices along with our math lessons.

Upcoming Events: Alt+Shift

Mathematics: Reaching All Learners Together
November 1 - December 31
On-demand virtual conference

Upcoming Events: Michigan

Michigan Math Educators (MichME)
Various - check the registration page for information
Virtual meetings

Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics Fall Book Study
November 3, 2020
7:30 - 9 p.m.

November 16, December 7, February 22, May 7
10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Empowering Math Educators - Session 5
(do not need to have attended previous sessions)
November 19
Virtual session

Responsive Instruction and Leadership Webinar Series: Braving a New Pandemic World
November 18, 2020, January 2021, May 2021
Webinar series

Math in Action: Call for Presenters and Save-the-Date
February 20, 2021
Allendale, MI

Michigan Council for Exceptional Children (MCEC) Conference
March 3-5, 2021
Grand Rapids, MI

Upcoming Events: National

Closing The Gap 2020
October 28 - November 11, 2020

National Association for the Education of Young Children Annual Conference
November 8-10, 2020
Virtual conference

National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM) Leadership Seminars
November 9, 2020 and February 8, 2021
Virtual seminar

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Virtual Conference
November 11-14, 2020
Virtual conference

Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) 2021: AT Connected Home
January 25 - February 6, 2021
Virtual event

Council for Exceptional Children 2021 Convention and Expo
March 8-13, 2021
Online event

National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM) Bold Leadership Summit
April 25-27, 2021
St. Louis, MO

NCSM Annual Conference
September 20-22, 2021
Atlanta, GA

Lending Library Update

There are 101 items out on loan. 

The Alt+Shift library is open.
Please return items/devices to the Alt+Shift office at:
1037 S U.S. Highway 27
St. Johns, MI 48879

A hand holding a small device the size of a large pencil, scanning a book

New Item:

ReaderPen is designed to promote independent learning for any student suffering from reading difficulties such as dyslexia.The reading pen is Mac, PC, and Linux compatible. There is no software required. Connect the pen up to a computer with a USB cable, and it appears as an external hard drive or a keyboard.
As well as promoting independent reading this pen features: the ability to hear words or lines of text read out loud, first-tier monolingual dictionaries, the ability to scan, store and transfer to a PC or Mac (1GB+ of storage/no software required), the ability to scan direct to the cursor on a computer, and a voice memo recorder.

Lending Library Opportunities to Learn More

For International Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Awareness Month, Google has brought Assistant to Tobii Dynavox's applications and services, including Snap Core First app. By integrating Google Assistant with Tobii Dynavox's technology, you can assign a tile to a Google Assistant action and control compatible smart devices set up in the Google Home app.

Tiles can also be configured to get answers from Google Assistant to questions like "What's the weather?" or "What's on the calendar for today?"

How it works:
  • Create a Google account and set up a smart speaker or smart display in the Google Home app on Android or iOS.
  • After providing access to the Snap Core First app, configure tiles by selecting a button in edit mode, tapping on "Add action," and then tapping on "Send Google Assistant command."


Closing the Gap’s annual conference provides opportunities for educators, parents, and AT users to learn more about the technologies available for learners of all ages. One perk of conferences is the ability to network and learn more about products directly from exhibitors. This year, Closing the Gap is virtual, which brings exhibitors to you! You can join scheduled live meetings as well as 15-minute product demonstrations to learn firsthand about the latest technologies that are making a difference in the lives of children and adults with disabilities. If you’re interested in learning more, check out the Closing the Gap exhibitor schedule. This opportunity is free to attend, but interested participants must register for the Closing the Gap Exhibit Hall.

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Alt+Shift, encompassing Michigan's Integrated Mathematics Initiative, is an Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Grant Funded Initiative out of the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Special Education.