Keep it simple.
I try to modify the presentation and assessment in my lessons to provide different levels of instruction for different learners. But last year I had a student with such severe learning disabilities that it was also necessary to modify the content.
This is the final post in a week about positive incentives because:
In this case, modifying content raised the student’s expectations. It empowered him to learn while still holding him to the highest standards possible.
This required simplifying the lesson objective in a very explicit way. For example, in my lesson on area of a rectangle, every student is expected to understand that area is measured in square units. They must discover the formula for the area of a rectangle, but they also must be able to estimate the area of unusually shaped figures. They must recognize that shapes with the same perimeter can have different areas. This student was simply asked to recall, “Area equals length times width.”
After planning a modified objective, the essential step was sharing it with the student at the start of each class. I used an index card to give him exactly what I would expect him to recall at the end of the lesson. Writing was very difficult for him so one of his big tasks was to copy the index card onto his tracking sheet. He would still participate as much as he could in rich activities designed to build understanding. He would work with teammates to explore and make connections. But ultimately, he was only responsible for memorizing the information on the index card.
At the end of every lesson I asked him what we learned that day, and he had an answer. Class ended with cheers, smiles and a sticker. It was not only an important modification for the student, but it emphasized the most basic ideas for other students. Perhaps most importantly, our classroom became a place where we clearly respected eachothers’ differences.
Ultimately, all of the teachers in the grade used this approach. We created the tracking sheet above to give the student space to record his success in each class. It helped us stay accountable for planning modified objectives, and it provided a record of the student’s work over the course of the year. Most importantly, it helped all of the students learn.