Tools for making adaptations during unit planning
When planning minor or significant
changes to a planned unit, the teacher might start by considering strategies
that have proven to be effective in teaching students with diverse learning
needs. The following questions might be helpful in designing a unit to
meet the needs of all students:
- Should the presentation of the
teaching materials include use of visual, auditory, tactile and/or
kinesthetic modalities (multisensory approach)?
- Should the instructional groupings
be changed to create cooperative groupings, peer partners or cross-age tutors?
- Should the unit be developed
as an integrated curriculum?
- Can the unit be connected to
the student’s personal and cultural experiences?
- Can some lessons be presented
using thematic units, semantic webs, venn diagrams or other means of
connecting and illustrating concepts?
- Should some lessons be presented
as an interactive experience involving the student’s active participation,
such as, a reciprocal teaching interaction?
If accommodations are still needed
to meet some students’ needs, the teacher will have to consider
what kinds of changes must be made. Least intrusive adaptations (minor
changes) should be considered first. Teachers might ask these questions
to make further adaptations:
- Are changes needed in the format
and length of the lesson?
- Must adjustments be made in the
time completing the lesson?
- Should the level of difficulty
- Should the classroom be arranged
to meet specific students’ needs, such as preferential seating,
study carrels or other physical arrangements to reduce distractions?
- What additional support is needed
for the student? (Support can involve peer tutoring,
paraprofessional assistance and assistance by other teachers or ancillary
- Can assignments be adapted, or
should alternative assignments be made, in order to allow a student to
- Should the teacher or teacher
assistant preview and review the lesson for a student requiring additional
More intrusive adaptations (major
changes) might be required for students with significant disabilities.
With these students, teachers might adapt the general education curriculum
to promote functional life skills. Modified or alternative standards in
areas such as career/vocational or functional community skills might be
needed for some students with significant disabilities. The teacher should
ask the following questions when selecting and/or modifying standards
of the general education curriculum for students with significant disabilities:
- Is the content of the standard
relevant to the knowledge and skills the student needs for current and
future daily living and community adjustment?
- If an alternative standard is
selected, does it set high expectations for the student?
- Have parents participated in
selecting content standards that relate to the student’s post-school outcomes?
The teacher must decide what materials
are best suited for students with disabilities. Considerations may include:
- Textbooks covering the same content
but at a lower degree of reading difficulty
- Use of manipulatives to demonstrate
- Use of advance organizers to
facilitate reading comprehension
- Use of computer-based instruction
or assistive technology
Assessment is an important aspect
of the process of standards-based instruction. Teachers must know how
to determine if students have mastered the content set forth in the standards.
A few preliminary questions might help in the selection of appropriate
- Can the same assessment procedures
be used for students with disabilities and their non-disabled peers?
- Should minor changes be made
in assessment procedures to accommodate the individual needs of students
with disabilities, such as oral responses, time extensions or reduced
number of times?
- Are alternative assessments necessary
for students with disabilities who are unable to participate in the
regular assessment process, even with accommodations? Performance-based
assessments, such as demonstrations, projects and illustrations, are
alternative ways of assessing mastery.