ELA Session 4 on Friday morning focused on adapting modules to meet students’ needs while maintaining alignment to the standards. Expeditionary Learning started the session with the Chalk and Talk protocol where participants responded in writing to other peoples’ comments regarding students’ classroom needs. This is a protocol that is used frequently in the 3-8 modules in order to get students to start thinking about various areas within a certain topic. It enables students to share their thoughts and reflect upon each other’s thinking in a silent, respectful manner.
The Chalk and Talk activity was followed by discussion around a fictional high needs classroom in which the teacher is implementing a third grade lesson. Participants thought about and discussed adaptations they would make to the lesson that would meet the needs of the students. This “classroom” in an urban, high poverty school district, has 24 students, some of whom read just below grade level, some significantly below grade level, and some at or above grade level. Some students have IEPs. Each table talked about what the biggest challenges would be in the teaching of this lesson and what kinds of adaptations they would make. Vocabulary and independent reading were two issues that were highlighted. Some adaptations discussed included teacher modeling, using sentence starters, providing pictorial clues, strategic grouping of students, and small group instruction.
Participants then watched a video of a third grade classroom in which the teacher made adaptations to the same lesson. They were to take note of standards alignment, adaptations that were made, and effectiveness of the adaptations. The teacher in the video read an excerpt of the book aloud to the students “for fun” so that all students were exposed to complex texts. One person noted that the use of Learning Targets helps keep students focused and assures that all students have a common educational goal. This video is a good example of lesson adaptation that could prove useful in districts’ own professional development experiences.
The next activity involved conversations regarding the efficacy of certain adaptations for various types of students. Discussion was around whether the adaptations made are too complex or too simple and whether they are too complex or too simple for many of the students or a few. This resulted in conversations about how best to adapt lessons to meet the needs of all of your students without leaving some behind. It was acknowledged that effective lesson adaptation would require planning, collaboration and a common vision shared by everyone in the district.
To provoke more thinking around lesson adaptation, participants worked in groups of three where they read a sample of an adapted lesson and thought about whether the teacher’s choices maintained alignment to the standards. They then discussed within their groups four questions: What needs is the teacher trying to meet? Do the changes maintain the learning targets? Do the changes allow for maximum rigor for as many students as possible? Will the teacher still be able to assess students’ progress toward the learning targets? These are all questions for teachers to consider when adapting lessons to meet the needs of students.