How can I design lessons that meet the needs of all my students?
While there are many different opinions and theories about lesson planning, most effective lessons contain the following components: (a) clearly stated objectives that you want students to learn; (b) an introduction to the lesson; (c) the engagement of students in learning activities designed to help them learn the desired content or skill; (d) opportunities for students to practice while you provide them with feedback on their progress; (e) a summary or closing to the lesson, and (f) assessments of what the students have learned.
The Florida Department of Education hosts a website called Teaching Resources for Florida Exceptional Student Education that contains a page on designing lessons for a diverse learners. The page also contains links to information that will help you improve your skills at addressing each of the lesson components listed above.
In addition to including the key lesson components noted above, it is also important that you know the strengths your students bring to the classroom. All students can further develop their knowledge/skills/talents in certain areas. To design lessons for students, consider the specific learning needs of the students when designing instruction. Are there any pieces of the instruction that will prove problematic for some students in terms of their ability to access materials or demonstrate their knowledge? If so, can the designed instruction be altered for all children to improve access without changing the goals and objectives? For example, you may find that reducing the amount of required independent reading for all students will make the lesson more accessible for students who have specific learning disabilities and will reduce the need for additional modifications/adaptations.
If modifications/adaptations to lessons or materials do need to be made and you are working with a special education teacher, the special education teacher may be the person who will suggest these changes to your lessons. If this is the case, adequate planning time is required so that the two of you can talk about the goals of the lessons and what might be appropriate modifications/adaptations.
Assessments may also need modifications or accommodations as a student may appear to have not learned because of the ways he or she is asked to demonstrate his or her knowledge or skill. Consulting the student's IEP will provide guidance about the design of appropriate methods for assessing a student's learning.
Differentiated Instruction is another strategy to meet the needs of diverse learners, including students who have disabilities. For more specific information on Differentiated Instruction, refer to Essential Question 2 Sub-question 3.
- Download and complete the UDL Class Profile Maker Tool from the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) to create a profile of the learning diversity in your classroom.
- Download the Lesson Analysis Template from Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) and create an inventory of the current methods you use to make lesson content accessible to all of the learners in your classroom.
Meet with the special education teacher who is primarily responsible for the student about whom you have a question. This teacher is called the student's case manager. The case manager can explain in more detail the student's learning strengths areas of need. The two of you can also discuss the most appropriate types of lessons and the strategies that will help the student learn best. A partnership with the case manager is a powerful one in supporting the student in your classroom.
Resources and Links
- The ReadingRockets website has an abundance of articles around reading and young children. Many of the articles and suggestions on the website are useful for all teachers, however, regardless of grade or content level. The article How to Adapt Your Teaching Strategies to Student Needs provides a list of easy to implement adaptations based on difficulties that students are having.
- The Access Center is a national technical assistance center that supports states and local districts in their move to help students who have disabilities effectively learn in the general education curriculum. Resources are listed by content as well as by strategy.
- The Special Connections website is housed at the University of Kansas. The site addressed four main areas: Instruction, Assessment, Behavior Plans, and Collaboration. Best practices are identified within each of these four areas and nationally recognized experts create materials for a module about that topic. Teacher tools for implementing specific practices, case study materials, and references and resources related to each practice are provided in each module.
- The Council for Exceptional Children provides information on their website about instructional strategies and instruction within specific content areas.
- The Florida Department of Education hosts a website called Teaching Resources for Florida Exceptional Student Education. While oriented to educators in Florida, the site has many excellent resources including a handbook, Designing Lessons for the Diverse Classroom, that provides information and examples of the different lesson components and sample lessons that highlight the accommodations that have been made for individual students.