Teaching in the twenty first century has become a major challenge for everyone involved with education. Not only do teachers have to worry about test scores and how to handle the multitude of differences when it comes to students. But, also making sure they have adequate documentation to support all the differences and education they are supplying. When adding the documentation and strategies to special education students it becomes even more difficult. However, using strategies that align with Common Core can easily engage and participate those that are special education students and have them become successful.
Now that our country has moved more and more towards Common Core instruction it is important that teachers do not lose those that are struggling to learn. Adding the toughness and rigor of Common Core easily complicates this situation. As teachers we need to learn to adapt to the changing curriculum and engage our students in a way that they can still learn through the Common Core instruction. One way to do this is through using a variety of assessments. Variety of assessments allows teachers free range how to assess their children based on their learning styles. This can be done by using either formative or informative assessments. Formative assessments is a process used by teachers and students during instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning to improve students’ achievement of intended instructional outcomes (Dodge,2012). When we use formative assessments it is allowing us to see exactly the areas of need/improvement, as well as the areas of strength. This is wonderful because it allows teachers the opportunity to then re-teach students based off their areas of need.
When we are teaching math it is important that we try to keep the lessons as actively engaging as possible. Math tends to be a big struggle for many special education students. The more Common Core is pushed on students the more they feel as though they might not have the ability to learn. Therefore, using an inquiry and student learning model can benefit those who struggle with math. The inquiry and student learning model is where the teaching is put back on the students in the role of hands-on inquiry (Hertz, 2013). The teacher does the modeling and the students then do the work with each other and explain the process. This really allows the teacher ample time to observe and go work with students and grab data that might not be possible. While this is happening, the children are actually having fun and they are learning! Another way to engage children with Common Core is during reading and language arts instruction.
Teaching children to read is the foundation for educational success. In order to get kids engaged in learning we need to make it fun and have the students take value in what they are doing. Reading is a wonderful subject, when done correctly, the teacher can really make it fun. Having students go through a topic or core for the day and then focusing differentiated hands-on centers will really allow the students to use what they are learning more effectively. Instead of students reading in a group and then doing worksheets, they are actually putting letters together using letter cubes or play –doh. Taking the concept they just learned about and making it into their own writing story. These are activities that children love and remain engaged in and what classrooms should be doing. Another way to ensure learning is taking place for all students is making sure that the space is free of any safety concerns for those who have physical or health limitations.
Physically handicapped students are aware of the fact that they are physically different that most others and that there are certain things they cannot do (Watson 2011). Therefore, it is up to the teachers to set a positive image from the beginning. This will limit the amount of talking and self-esteem crushing that can take place in the classroom. It is also important for the teacher to set up the room before any children come in, so the environment is already positively set. Making sure that the room and areas are de-cluttered, and there is a defined area for a wheelchair to get through can make a big difference in how a physically challenged student feels. It is also important to let all involved with the disabled student, what the plans are in case of emergencies, such as; fire drills or a lock-down situation. Teachers need to do their jobs to ensure the safety of all students disabled or not. Students that enter a classroom and are physically disabled, usually have some fine or gross motor skill issues.
These issues can be worked on through an occupational therapist, but also need to be reinforced when the occupational therapist is not in the room. When it comes to cutting or using a scissors the teacher should find out if the student benefits from a hand over hand assist or the use of a specialized scissors to complete the task. Knowing how severely the student’s handwriting is effected is also a very important thing to note. If the student has extremely poor motor skills and writing is not an option, then the teacher needs to look into getting a communication device that will do the typing and written work for the student. It is also beneficial to know how much self-help the child needs. Does the child need help going to the bathroom and washing their hands, or zipping up a coat? These are all questions that can decline the amount of frustration on a teacher before the student is even in the classroom.
Using all of these strategies can really help and cut down on any behavioral issues that can arise when a student becomes frustrated and overwhelmed by the amount they are not able to do. Since physically handicapped children have many issues to sort out, it might become overwhelming for them and they might not be able to socialize correctly or discuss how they are feeling. When this happens they need the support and strategies to help them work through their feelings. Teachers might have the students engage in a social skills group with only four or five other students. The one leading the group can focus on different social issues; such as; embarrassment, bullying, feeling left out. Even if the disabled child is unable to talk, they can bring their assistive technology to help them participate. Role-playing can also be a huge positive for everyone.
Many times children do not know and understand what it is like to be physically handicapped and not have the ability to run and play soccer. So, when the shoe is on the other foot in a role-playing mode the students can then begin to see how much the disabled child is affected. Social skill interventions start with accurate diagnosis and continue by allowing students to practice positive social interactions in a step-by-step, decision-by-decision fashion (Beelmann, Pfingsten, & Losel, 1994). Teaching children is an art form. It is something that cannot be explained and truly understood until others have walked in those shoes. All teachers can do is hope that we are using strategies effectively and communicating accurately to reach the needs of all the students, whether they are disabled or not. By using strategies and accommodations we are opening the door of possibilities and one that will benefit all that are involved not just the ones who qualify for those strategies and accommodations.
Beelmann, A., Pfingsten, U., & Losel, F. (1994). Effects of training social competence in children: A meta-analysis of recent evaluation studies. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 23(3), 260-271. Dodge, J (2012). Tips for using formative assessments to help you differentiate instruction and improve student achievement. Retrieved fromhttp://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/what-are-formative-assessments-and-why-should-we-use-them Hertz, M (2013). Common Core Standard: Third Grade Math Strategies. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/ccss-3rd-grade-math-strategies-mary-beth-hertz Watson, S (2011). Physically Handicapped Students. Retrieved from http://specialed.about.com/od/physicaldisabilities/a/physical.htm