Students may struggle for different reasons - they may lack strength in a particular academic area or they may have a true learning disability. In addition, struggles can be unpredictable and come and go with whatever material is being presented in class or whatever is going on outside of class. Oh, the challenges in education! How do we make sure all students are able to learn from the curriculum and experience success? Also, how do we make sure all students can demonstrate what they know? Well, it’s not easy, but providing accommodations to students and modifying the curriculum are two strategies. I know these are buzz words in the special education world, but these strategies can help all students and all teachers. Effective teachers do these things on a weekly, daily, or minute-by-minute basis. Furthermore, students need to understand how to use accommodations to help with their own learning. A quick note to teachers and parents—talk to your students and kids about this! If they know what tools they can use, it will make your life easier. As early as possible, students should be encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning. In the short-term it can help with work completion and in the long-term it can help with understanding their specific learning process.
Let’s define accommodations and modifications. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), “accommodations are alterations in the way tasks are presented… Accommodations do not alter the content of assignments, give students an unfair advantage or in the case of assessments, change what a test measures. They do make it possible for a student with LD (learning disability) to show what they know without being impeded by their disability.” So, an accommodation does not change the assignment, but it does allow the student to demonstrate their understanding. A common accommodation is giving a student extra time to complete an assignment or test. The task is the same, but the student just receives more time to complete it. What about modifications? Again, according to the NCLD, “a modification is an adjustment to an assignment or a test that changes the standard or what the test or assignment is supposed to measure.” One common modification is providing audio recordings of reading passages. This becomes a modification if the purpose of reading the passage is to improve or measure reading comprehension. Since the student is actually listening to the text, the construct being measured (reading comprehension) has changed. There are many ways to modify curriculum, and this is just one example that allows a student to participate in the general curriculum and (hopefully) be successful in school.
Students with Section 504 Plans and Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) may have accommodations and modifications built into their plans. They are designed to meet that individual student’s needs. However, as teachers and parents, we don’t need to provide only what is on the plan. Furthermore, we can provide these supports to many students! Most accommodations are JUST GOOD TEACHING FOR ALL and most teachers apply them ON THE FLY. For example, I routinely collaborate with the general education teachers at my school to obtain their reading assignments for the next day or week. Then, I pass the assignments on to my students so that they can pre-read the selection with me or at home at their own pace. Also, when reading, I ask all students to track the text with their finger to promote focus/attention and improve comprehension. This is a good strategy for improving engagement and I do it when I need to remember what I've read. For writing, my students frequently use computers with spell check and grammar check. Being able to use the computer almost always provides motivation and a level of comfort. Knowing that spell check and grammar check “have their backs” can make a student feel at ease with writing. Another common support is using graph paper in math. This helps kids with lining up their numbers and spacing them appropriately.
These are just a few examples of ways to support student learning. For more ideas, please visit “Toolkit for Students Who Struggle with Reading, Writing, or Math” on the Products page. It’s a FREE printable with lots of easy to implement suggestions and it will be delivered right to your email inbox.
Once again, I hope you found this information helpful and thank you so much for reading. If you have any comments, I would love to hear them! Please leave your thoughts in the section below.
National Center for Learning Disabilities http://www.ncld.org