It is sometimes necessary to make modifications to the learning environment to meet the learning needs of a student. One example is when a student has a diagnosed condition that may affect their learning, such as a hearing impairment. This term I have made a number of modifications to meet the learning needs of one such student with a hearing impairment. Let’s call this student, Student A.
Modifications for students with diagnosed difficulties generally fall into two categories: modifications to learning environment and instructional modifications. In accordance with the Individual Learning Plan for Student A, and after consulting with our learning support coordinator, I have modified the learning environment in the following ways:
- I (subtly) ensure Student A sits towards the front of the room where there is a clear view of me.
- I check that Student A is making eye contact before giving instructions or delivering important content. I also ensure that every important instruction, content item or skill demonstration is delivered both verbally AND in a visual way.
- I regularly checking in with Student A during lessons to check their understanding of the work.
- I try where possible to minimising noise disruptions (keeping noisy voices to a minimum, carefully planning collaborative work).
In addition, I have made the following instructional modifications to my lesson plans:
- Firstly, I show rather than tell. I provide non-verbal access point for all key content information and skill demonstrations. For example, I have a powerpoint containing all instructions, discussion questions and tasks in written or visual form that I project onto the screen in my classes with Student A. This way, Student A is always aware of what is happening. If spontaneous discussions or tasks occur as a result of real-time instructional decision-making, I make sure I keep a visual track of these on the whiteboard. I also provide models for how I want students to demonstrate their learning rather than just explaining it.
- Secondly, I modify plans for collaborative work to allow the student to maximise their participation and minimise noise interference. Sometimes we use the think, pair, share strategy rather than larger group discussion. I have also taken students into spaces that are larger than the classroom to work through group tasks. For example, I have taken students to a shaded area in the playground so there is some distance between groups. Another great location for such tasks is our school library because of the many break-out locations and small conference rooms. I also actively enforce a ‘whispering/inside voice’ policy for classroom activities. In future, I plan to make use of online platforms for collaboration such as a discussion forum, blog or padlet. These changes aim to minimise the cacophony of noise that accompanies an entire class of teenagers working collaboratively and provide Student A the opportunity to actively participate.
- Finally, I regularly check for understanding using a variety of formative assessment strategies and individual conferencing. This way I know how Student A is travelling with their learning and can make real time modifications as necessary.
Some of these modifications are simply good teaching practice, but they have been made in a way that specifically tailors to the needs of Student A while also ensuring the learning of the rest of the class is uninterrupted.
AITSL Standards: Standard 1.6, Standard 3.5, Standard 4.1, Standard 4.2, (Also Standard 1.1, Standard 1.2, Standard 1.5, Standard 2.2, Standard 3.3, Standard 3.4)