Our students are more diverse than ever before – different experiences, needs, interests, and abilities. While diversity creates opportunities for students to learn with and from each other, it also means that teachers must intentionally adapt their instruction to meet various student needs. Here are five things effective teachers do to ensure that their lessons are optimal for all learners:
1. They read student IEPs. Not only can IEPs provide us with important information related to student strengths and needs, they are legal documents that teachers must implement. If you provide direct instruction to students with disabilities, you can access their most current IEP in SSM via IMPACT. Here is a step-by-step guide for accessing the IEP and relevant information, such as which accommodations and modifications are relevant for your subject(s).
2. They collaborate regularly with others. After you read the IEP, you might be left with additional questions. Remember, you are part of a team. Connect with teachers who had your students last year to learn more about what works and what does not. Partner with family members who will be able to answer your questions and provide you with additional information. Check in with related service providers to identify specific strategies to incorporate into your lessons. And don’t forget to include the student in your quest to learn more. Students know themselves pretty well and can let you know first-hand what they are interested in and what works for them.
3. They plan with UDL from the start.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for removing potential barriers and making curriculum more inclusive for all learners. It is based on neuroscience research and is guided by three primary principles – provide multiple means of representation (the “what” of learning), action and expression (the “how” of learning), and engagement (the “why” of learning). Click on the chart to access the CAST website and examples of how to design lessons aligned to each principle.
4. They align accommodations for classroom instruction and assessment. The effectiveness of accommodations provided to students during daily classroom instruction should be monitored regularly and adjusted as needed. Based on what works in the classroom, these same accommodations should be provided to students during assessments (e.g., ANet and Noble Street Interim assessments). For standardized assessments, however, be sure to check the accommodations manual to determine which supports are allowed so as not to invalidate the test.
5. They know and use their online resources. Your time is incredibly valuable. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Remember that you have substantial knowledge at your fingertips and can access that knowledge quickly. Develop your toolkit of online resources to support you in adapting instruction for your diverse learners. Here are a few to add:
- Bookshare – online library of digital books for people with print disabilities
- Intervention Central – academic and behavior interventions
- Newsela – leveled non-fiction
- Reading A-Z – downloadable materials for reading instruction
- Time for Kids – age appropriate news stories