Students who struggle have different needs and need to be considered when implementing curriculum in the classroom. Participants began by discussing the potential challenges for students considering what a typical ELA curriculum demands. So now the question becomes, how do we bridge the gap between where students are now and where we want them to be? Also, how can we alter our curriculum to best support these students?
Teachers have to think positively about their students’ abilities (all students can achieve) and have to find their students’ strengths so they can improve upon those. There are enough factors within a teacher’s control that positive change can occur for students who struggle. When considering how best to meet the needs of struggling learners, teachers can consider either modifying their curriculum or accommodating their students’ needs.
- Accommodations can include providing equal access to instruction, maintaining rigor, focusing on HOW, and maintaining achievement expectations.
- Modifications include focusing on WHAT and are not designed to move students to independent mastery of the standards.
Participants examined standard RL.11-12.4 which concerns author’s word choice, and discussed how they would support, accommodate, or modify their instruction to get their students to meet the standard. Teachers have to decide where the line is drawn between modification and accommodation in order to ensure that accommodation happens more frequently than modification so that expectations and rigor are maintained for students. Of course, a student’s IEP reigns when considering how to adapt curriculum so that a student achieves the standards.
Teachers can share useful materials from this session with their colleagues in order to aid in the differentiation of instruction and to work through accommodations that must be made for students with diverse learning needs. One document, “Guidance for ELA Scaffolding for Students with Disabilities,” addresses topics like grouping, feedback, and comprehension and should be shared with teachers of all content areas.