Editor's Note: We've asked Special Education teacher Brett Bigham to look at videos in Tch's library and tell us how he would adapt them for the wide range of learning abilities seen in today's classrooms. Click on his picture to the left to see the full list of blogs in the series.
I love how Ms Van-Phanz has thought bigger than an 8.5x11’’ piece of paper! I am a HUGE fan of students creating the art and decorations in a classroom and every subject you teach should be able to lead to a great classroom poster.
Those of you who read my column regularly, you probably already know what I'm going to say. This is an excellent opportunity to translate and adapt a regular assignment so that your students who are not the best writers can express themselves in a different way. Instead of just having the students write out their findings, I’d love to see Ms. Van-Phanz’s students drawing out a map either by hand or created on the computer to go along with their written poster. This would be a good two-sided project with drawing on one side and writing on the other.
Quite often I recommend drawing out writing assignments for those who don’t write. This strategy does, however, come with its own issues that can frustrate your students. The simple truth is this: if a student is significantly behind with their writing skills, their eye-hand coordination could be equally impacted. They may not be as skilled at drawing, with their poster going up right next to something made by your classroom’s Norman Rockwell.
And that's why you sometimes have to adapt your adapted lesson. It might not be enough to offer one or two levels of the same work. You might have to adapt for two or three kids in both directions from the median.
When I look at the writing needed for Ms. Van-Phanz’s posters, I know a lot of my students would not be able to participate at that level. The strong point here being that each group is discussing their poster and creating it together. That still might leave some of my students out. That is where collage work can come in very handy.
For this classroom assignment, I would carefully assign a map-making segment where students would have to create a map of the park. I would give this assignment to students who would be challenged by labeling a map, but who could do the bulk of the work independently. Depending on interest, I’d allow students the chance to create the map on the computer or draw it out by hand.
This will give those students who are still working on vocabulary a chance to build up their skills.
For students who don’t write or need easier vocabulary, I looked at what Ms. Van-Phanz presented and saw the relationship she was drawing between the park and what animals you would see when you visit. This is a perfect chance for you to assign a collage to your non-readers. They can easily download, cut out or draw pictures of the animals from their list.
Collages can be extremely thought-provoking and they erase that anxiety of not being able to write or draw well. The collage is, in many ways, a tool for teachers to level the playing field. Done well they can also make awesome classroom decorations and I’m a firm believer that if a student helps decorate the classroom, they will feel like it's their space. Especially during the first weeks of the school year, when so much effort is spent getting students to buy into the space, I highly recommend making some posters — or two, or three!
And finally, because teachers don’t always adapt everything down to a simpler form, sometimes we need to occupy our dreamers and bigger thinkers! I’ve created a free downloadable activity for your students to draw their dream park — download that here!
A very special thank you to pngIMG.com for sharing so many fun animal pictures for people to use free of charge. I highly recommend their squirrel section for all of your squirrel needs!