Adapting Instruction

Even a first-year teacher will tell you that no two children learn at the same pace or in the same way. Some need lots of reinforcement; others "get it" immediately. Some read well; others get more from listening or from visuals. Some have trouble writing clearly, but express complex ideas in art or music.

Experienced teachers learn how to spot "what works" for each student and check to be sure that lessons contain activities and content that will connect for each student in the class. They also recognize that each student will require individual attention from time to time.

Adapting a classroom to accommodate a special education student is a very similar process, but the degree and scope of the adaptation may be more extensive. The underlying principle, though, remains the same. Below is a chart showing some of the adaptation strategies common in working with special education students.

Nine Ways to Adapt Instruction
Size Time Level of Support
Adapt the number of items that the learner is expected to learn or complete.

For example: If student is to know the fifty states, have students only be responsible for remembering a certain number at a time. This would be dependent on the student's level of disability.
Adapt the time allotted and allowed for learning, task completion, or testing.

For example: Allow student additional time to complete timed assignments. However, if the total project is due by a particular time, have the student complete each portion of the project over various intervals with the required finished project due at a later time.
Increase the amount of personal assistance with a specific learner.

For example: Allow for peer teaching. Pair the slower students with the more advanced students in order to provide support. Offer some sort of incentive to the more advanced student for assisting others. Design some type of contract with students that they could show to their parents indicating completion of their work and the assistance they are giving to others. Offer this as a bonus to their grades.
Input Difficulty Output
Adapt the way instruction is delivered to the learner.

For example: Provide students with a audio and/or video tape of the lesson. Allow for field trips, guest speakers, peer teaching, computer support, video productions performed by students, Incorporate lesson in other subjects areas
Adapt the skill level, problem type, or the rules on how the learner may approach the work.

For example: Allow the student to be creative providing that task is completed according to instructor's specifications. For example the student may draw a picture of the assignment, do an interview, etc. depending on subject. Allow the student to come up with the idea. Accept any reasonable modifications.
Adapt how the student can respond to instruction.

For example: Allow students to draw pictures, write an essay, complete specific computer software program relating to lesson.
Participation Alternate Substitute Curriculum
Adapt the extent to which a learner is actively involved in the task.

For example: Tailor the student's participation in a task to his or her abilities, whether intellectual or physical.
Adapt the goals or outcome expectations while using the same materials.

For example: In a writing assignment, alter the expectations for a disabled student who takes longer to write a paragraph.
Provide different instruction and materials to meet a student's individual goals.

For example: Instead of discussing the reasons for the civil war, have the disabled student work on a puzzle showing the Union and Confederate states.

from Adapting Curriculum and Instruction in Inclusive Classrooms: A Teacher's Desk Reference, by Deschenes, C., Ebeling, D., and Sprague, J., 1994.

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