Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Unlocking Achievement Through Curriculum Modifications: A Path to Inclusive Education

    Curriculum modifications play a pivotal role in ensuring that every student, regardless of their unique needs and abilities, has the opportunity to thrive academically and socially. In an educational landscape that seeks to foster inclusivity, equity, and individualized learning, understanding and implementing curriculum modifications have never been more critical. 

    These modifications bridge the gap between students who may struggle with grade-level content and the broader educational objectives. They represent a powerful tool to transform accessibility into achievement, allowing educators to tailor their teaching approaches to cater to a diverse range of learners. 

    There is a simple method for unlocking academic achievement in the general education curriculum for students with disabilities. Start with the grade-level lesson and then make adaptations in one (or more) ways:

    • Content: Teach grade-level lessons and adapt the content to align to the student's interests and developmental stage.
    • Instructional Method: Teach grade-level lessons and provide an instructional approach that is more appropriate to the student's ability level.
    • Conceptual Difficulty: Teach grade-level lessons and reduce the complexity of the lesson to align with the student's range of comprehension.
    • Educational Goals: Teach grade-level lessons and adapt the learning outcomes of the lesson to align with the student's IEP.

    Some examples of curriculum modifications include:

    • A fifth-grade student could learn about plant growth by planting a seed and observing its development over time, rather than delving into the plant's cellular functions.
    • The text in a class novel can be changed to better suit the reading level of the student. Use resources such as Newsela, chatgpt, or the Sherlock Center.
    • A grade-level math worksheet on fractions can be altered to teach number identification, addition, subtraction, or sequencing. Use resources such as SnapType to make quick, easy adjustments.
    • A grade-level lecture on cell-biology can be delivered via a list of developmentally appropriate FAQs. Use resources such as Curipod to create engaging instructional methods.

    1. For more ideas and strategies to modify curriculum, check out, Inclusion in Action: Practical Strategies to Modify Curriculum or bring me to your school! 

    Tuesday, February 28, 2023

    Curriculum Modifications and Teacher "Buy-In"

    Curriculum modifications play an essential role in the academic and social/emotional success of students with intellectual disabilities. With students who have disabilities spending more time in the general education classroom, general education teaching practices need to evolve to include adapting and modifying curriculum so it is accessible and achievable. 

    So, how can administrators and special education teachers help staff make the successful transition to creating accessible and achieveable lessons for all?

    Develop shared values - As education professionals, we are concerned with closing achievement gaps and creating more equitable learning environments. Therefore, it makes sense that our classrooms reflect our value systems and embrace students with a wide range of backgrounds and abilities. Have conversations with staff members that center on creating equitable classrooms and then explore strategies for including all students in the classroom and school community. Develop the mindset that "all students" are "our students".

    Help teachers understand their role and responsibilities - Research tells us that teacher "buy-in" is greater when they understand the reasons for change. Teachers typically take greater ownership of the process and are more likely to implement it with fidelity. "Underscoring the importance of the work, and that it is based on research, and not the latest whim" is essential to success (Murray & Brooks, 2017).

    So, why must general education teachers take on more responsiblity for modifying curriuclum for students with disabilities in their classroom? First and foremost, The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, (2004) mandates that students with disabilities have a legal right to access and make progress in the general education curriuclum. 

    Second, while the education of students with disabilities has long been the responsibility of the special education teacher in self-contained special education classrooms, research and experience tell us that the social, emotional, and academic outcomes of students with disabilities are greater when they are educated in general education classrooms. As a result, we are seeing a shift in placement, with general education teachers having a wider range of learners to instruct. 

    Finally, 70% of the school day is allotted to academic instruction during which all students - including students with disabilities - need to have access to meaningful, appropriate, and engaging learning experiences.

    Provide professional development - In all fairness, general education teachers are typically not given any training or information on how (or why) curriculum needs to be modified for students with intellectual disabilities. 

    Give teachers the tools that they need to be successful when modifying curriculum and plan time for professional development. For example, provide step-by-step instructions on how to make modifications. Whether you meet as a staff, a grade-level, or in-person, provide information on modifying curriuclum and multiple resources that will set teachers up for success. 

    In addition to giving teachers the "why" behind the need for modifying curriculum (see above), equip teachers with examples, websites, and tools for instruction

    Give the gift of time - As educators, we juggle a thousand things in a school day. Most of us don't even take a break to eat lunch! Since time is a luxury, one of the best ways to get teachers modifying curriuclum is giving them time to do it. Plan time to meet with teachers (either individually or in groups) and modify a lesson together. Better yet, collaborate on a series of modified lessons or even create a bank of modified materials. 

    Coach and communicate - Support staff through the process of learning to modify curriculum. Learn about teacher needs and challenges. Set goals with teachers (individual and/or groups) and follow-up. Check-in with them on a regular basis and provide support as needed. 

    Identify the runners, joggers, walkers, and sitters on your staff - Know who you are working with. Author, Becca Silver, writes that it's important to know the speed that teachers are willing and able to make changes. She suggests identifying four groups:

    Runners - These are your fastest changing teachers. They will begin planning out their next steps before they leave the staff meeting. They are motivated and on a mission. Stay out of their way but praise is appreciated. 

    JoggersJoggers are the direction-followers. They play by the rules and want to get everything "just right". They are also very co-operative. To support joggers in learning how to modify curriculum, first model the modification, give them step-by-step directions, and then watch them complete the modification independently. Encourage them to support others (which they love to do). Be generous when praising Joggers - they love it!

    Walkers - Walkers are slow to embrace change. There isn't much change taking place and you might need to move mountains to get them to meet with you. When you do end up meeting with the walkers, present information in small, "bite-sized" pieces so as not to overwhelm them. Offer to co-plan or even co-teach the lesson. Be prepared to re-schedule.

    Sitters - Sitters are the least likely to make big changes. They are resistant even when you provide them with a wide range of supports. Be patient and work on building a relationship first. Get to know their classroom challenges and concerns. Ask them what they are already doing to support their students with disabilities. Best to build off their established routines rather than introduce new ones.

    Do you have any suggestions to add? What has or has not worked with your staff? 

    Thursday, June 2, 2022

    Three Lessons Learned About Inclusion From My Marathon Journey

    Author, blogger, and cerebral palsy (CP) advocate, Zachary Fenell, is back on our blog with a story about inclusion and a marthon. Read below to find out how the two intersected and changed Zachary's life in ways in couldn't have imagined. For the full story, check out Zachary's new book, Slow and Cerebral.

    Discussing inclusion proves important. Through such discussion we learn from each other. Gathering ideas which will help inclusion thrive. Exactly why I approached Nicole and asked about providing a new guest post for The Inclusive Class blog. 

    A lot has happened since my last guest post, published nearly a decade ago. Nearly a decade? Wow! Where the heck does the time go? Anyway, amongst those prior mentioned happenings, one in-particular stands out to me. I accomplished a feat that nearly a decade ago I deemed “unreasonable.” Becoming a marathoner.

    Wednesday, May 11, 2022

    The Effects of Presuming Competence

    Ms. B is a teacher at XYZ Middle School. She has 32 students of various abilities in her class, including a student with intellectual disabilities. The student with intellectual disabilities has the support of a paraprofessional who facilitates access to the curriculum. Ms. B is about to plan for an upcoming unit on plants. The grade-level learning outcomes require students to understand the structure of plants and plant biology. She wonders if the topic and content will be too challenging for her student with intellectual disabilities to understand. Ms. B is concerned that the student will become overwhelmed and frustrated when presented with such a complex topic. Should she plan for the student to work with a list of science vocabulary words that were targeted for review in a recent assessment or should she plan to modify the unit lessons for the the student so they can participate in the class lessons and learn the same new concepts as their peers? Ms. B wonders what to do.