Addressing Unique Student Needs
Feb 18, 2013 Learning Methodology 3019 Views
"Each person has a particular pattern of needs or preferences that allow for optimal learning." (Eby, 2011. p. 144)
Identifying similarities and differences can play out in many ways in the classroom. Students can be engaged in tasks that involve comparisons, classifications, metaphors and analogies. In addition, these tasks can either more teacher directed or student directed.
This article describes instructional strategies and modifications designed to meet unique student needs: culturally-diverse learners, linguistically-diverse learners, exceptional needs learners, students with learning disabilities and advanced learners/ gifted students. The History-Social Science content standard that is used here is from the California State Department of Education published in 1997 for Grade 1 students. Living as we do in a multicultural, pluralistic society, it is important for teachers to explore and understand the literacy histories of the pupils. Instruction should build on the students' experiences and develop and reinforce the skills and values important to their culture(s) as well as those important to the school.
As an example, let us say we are to instruct a first grade History content standard from the California State Department of Education as published in 1997 as follows:
1.4 Students compare and contrast everyday life in different times and places around the world and recognize that some aspects of people, places, and things change over time while others stay the same.
On the first day of instruction, the teacher will read Mem Fox's book "Whoever You Are" to the students. After reading, the teacher will ask the students how are they similar or different from one another.
The teacher then will show photo cards of children around the world. The teacher will share how lives of the children from different countries are diverse from the students' lives.
The following will address different types of learners:
1) Culturally-diverse Learners
The teacher will encourage children to learn greetings from various cultures. The teacher will also point out that nonverbal greetings also differ. But people of every culture understand a smile!
2) Linguistically-diverse Learners
Teachers must carefully involve English Language Learners (ELLs) in, for example, book discussion, to make them true members of the class community. Through this, teachers can foster the ELLs' language growth and broadening the experiences of all the students.
3) Exceptional Needs Learners
Of all classroom grouping strategies, cooperative learning may be the most flexible and powerful. One way to use cooperative learning is Dramatic Play.
Students can use play foods to set up an international restaurant. Encourage children to order, serve, and pretend to eat foods from different cultures.
4) Students with Learning Disabilities
For students who have been identified as having learning disabilities, the goal may be to "follow rules, such as sharing and taking turns, and know the consequences of breaking them" (CAPA Levels 1-5). Sample behaviors/ activities can be:
- Student will participate in a simple activity (e.g. dramatic play) with other students.
- Student will appropriately respond to a 1-step direction from a teacher aide.
5) Advanced Learners/ Gifted Students
Gifted students need to be given challenging material and programs.
Gifted children can be taught to count to five in another language. The teacher can also demonstrate why day and night occur at different times around the world. The teacher places the globe near a bright light, or shines a flashlight on it. The teacher explains that the light represents the sun. When the sun shines on the U.S.A., it is daytime. Then, the teacher turns the globe so that the U.S.A. is in the dark. The teacher asks students which countries have daylight when children in the U.S.A. are asleep.
The United States is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse nations in the world. Dozens of languages are spoken in U.S. schools, and dozens of cultures are represented.
Increasingly, students who have learning disabilities, and other challenges are being taught in regular classrooms. Because these children have special needs, their programs may have to be adjusted so that they can reach their full potential. Adjustments also need to be made for children who are still learning English. The gifted also have special needs and require assistance to reach their full potential.