Adaptation in the Classroom

“If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” – Ignacio “Nacho” Estrada

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As teachers, we should be aware that not all children learn in the same way. Knowing this, what can we do so that we can reach all of our students?

First, we have to understand the need to make adaptations and adjustments in order for students to succeed in class. If we do not succeed, our students run the risk of falling into the Downward Learning Cycle (below).Class art-01

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles that recognizes that there isn’t a single, one-size-fits-all solution, but rather implores flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs. UDL requires teachers to present information and content in different ways (Multiple Means of Representation); differentiate the ways that students can express what they know (Multiple Means of Action and Expression); and stimulate interest and motivation for learning (Multiple Means of Engagement). This is just an overview of UDL, to learn more go to udlcenter.org.

There are four areas that teachers need to think about when it comes to engaging students: curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and environment.

How you set up your classroom can have a huge impact on how students perform. A lot of teachers, however, share their classroom with other teachers and classes, so you may need to collaborate with your colleagues.

1) Curriculum: Whether you have an actual curriculum or are teaching straight out of a book, there are a number of ways to adjust a curriculum to suit the needs of your students. You can use a different year-level curriculum (provided you have a curriculum that builds on knowledge previously learned). For example, you may be teaching “Level 4” English, but within that same class you may also have students working at “Level 2,” “Level 3,” or some other level. This especially applies to teachers who are given new students that may not be on the same level as other students. Be aware that the content needs to be within the same broad area that you are currently teaching. The second approach is to put a different focus within the same level. That is, to have students working towards different learning outcomes within the same lesson. The third strategy is to provide a range of different resources to access the same content.

2) Pedagogy: There are many effective pedagogies a teacher can adopt, but the ones I will focus on here are: A) Three Tiers of Teaching—as illustrated by this image: (below)Class art-02B) Cooperative Learning: where groups of students work together to achieve a defined goal or outcome. C) The use of visual and graphic organizers. These help students deconstruct the information you are giving and reconstruct their own understanding. Some examples include Venn’s diagrams, Fish bones and Mind Maps.

3) Assessment: This theme can be adjusted in three ways. You can alter the process of the task (by providing additional time, set tasks based on cooperative learning, etc); the task itself (by allowing the use of digital technologies, allow students to use visual/graphic organizers, etc); and the response (reduce the expectations of the task, reduce the amount you expect students to produce, etc).

4) Environment: How you set up your classroom can have a huge impact on how students perform. A lot of teachers, however, share their classroom with other teachers and classes, so you may need to collaborate with your colleagues in order to implement the following: making sure that all students can physically access all areas of the classroom that they need; making sure there is easy access to all exit doors; making sure technologies are accessible to all students; establish a quiet area in your room; making sure the room does not over stimulate students; using your furniture in a variety of ways, depending on the learning activity taking place.

Keep in mind, this is all a very broad overview that you, the teacher, should be doing in order to make sure all your students are able to learn to the best of their abilities. It may seem a bit overwhelming to have to be conscious of so many things, but once you get the hang of it, they will make your classes run a lot smoother and your students will learn a lot more effectively. Please research each of these areas more thoroughly so that you are able to give your students the best learning experience possible.

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