It can feel really scary for teachers to have students with a variety of needs in a classroom with just one teacher. How do teachers make sure that all students are able to access the curriculum? I understand this fear. As teachers we strive to meet the needs and challenge all students. Dear hard working teachers, here is my solution...
1. Plan Ahead and Plan Together
It is important for both teachers to be aware of the class objectives, lessons, and what students are doing. This is just as true when there is only one teacher present during the class period. The learning specialist needs to have a strong handle on what is happening in the classroom in order to ensure accommodations, modifications, and student strengths are being considered.
I've posted these before, but it bears repeating. This one pager from KU helps teachers keep track of the overall goals and concepts from week to week.
This co-teaching sheet can be used even if there is only one teacher. Skip over the "Type of Co-Teaching" section and fill everything else out.
Co-planning is wonderful but the little truth that all teachers know is that even the best weekly plans don't go according to plan. Maybe an assignment is taking longer than expected or the opposite can happen and a week long project is completed in a day and a half. Maybe a student has missed several days of school and is now behind on class instruction. Or maybe the class is struggling with understanding a concept and the teacher decides that they would benefit from reteaching. Whatever the case, the classroom is a dynamic, changing place. The solution to this is constant check-ins.
This can be as casual as popping in during lunch time and asking how the science experiment went that day.
2. Differentiate at the Beginning
- Use literature circles or guided reading groups. Provide texts at a variety of reading levels.
- Use differentiated texts online.
- Create a choice board.
- Create projects or open ended activities that allow students to approach the activity in a variety of ways.
3. Look at Student Work Together
I recommend both teachers looking at the work of every student in the class. Both general education teachers and learning specialist should have an idea of what students who are performing below, at, and above grade level are learning, understanding, and producing. If one student is struggling with an assignment, this gives you very different information then if half or even a quarter of the class are struggling. Grading together or splitting the grading (or even having one teacher take a quarter of the grading) is a great option here.
4. Provide modifications that allow MORE access to the curriculum
- Accessibility settings on computer and iPad
- Modified entrance and exit slips
- Self Management checklists
- ShowMe app
- Note taking labels
- Alternative Seating and fidgets
- Math Help Binders
- Portable Word Wall
- Modified Rubrics
- Clear behavior plan
This one isn't always possible. As a learning specialist, it's hard to provide supports for a class you've never seen. If you ever have a free moment, try to make a point of stopping by the classroom to actually see it in action. It can be easier to problem solve when you are able to observe first hand.
Remember, providing a fully inclusive environment is a process and it doesn't change over night. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and take breaks. Just like anything the more you do it, the easier it gets.
Have a great year!