By Amanda Beck, NJEA Preservice member at The College of New Jersey
Because of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), teachers and students have been adjusting to remote learning. This looks different for every school district.
For some, this involves packets or Google Classroom, and for some it is a combination of both. For many teachers and students, this is their first time experiencing this change. Remote learning can be difficult for a typical student of any age, but it can be even more difficult for a student with a differing ability. Some students with differing abilities need someone in front of them to hold them accountable, verbal instruction, visual instruction, assignments broken down, and so forth. These vary from student to student.
Many teachers are struggling with how to provide these modifications through online learning and the worksheets or packets they sent home. Even though remote learning looks different grade to grade, keep these suggestions in mind that may be helpful to all students.
All students need consistency, but especially those with differing abilities. When assigning and turning in work, holding lectures, introducing a new topic, it is important to keep it consistent. For example, if every week your students do a journal, make it always due on Thursdays. Also, the way that they turn it in should always be the same. If they are emailing a picture, then keep it the same week to week. If you send Google slides with audio to your students to introduce a new topic, always do it that way.
By keeping it consistent, your students will feel more comfortable completing the work and they can focus on the material and topics.
On a platform, such as Google Classroom, some students may struggle with just reading instructions. A way around this is to record yourself giving instructions and embed the video. Another option is to host a Google Hangout or Zoom with those specific students who would benefit from hearing the instructions. Keep in mind that you should only be using such tools if they are approved by the district in which you are working.
Make sure that instructions are simple, straightforward. For example, if the assignment is for your students to make a poster about a specific state and post a picture, clearly outline the information that you want your students to cover. Maybe put this in a checklist format. This way your students know what is expected of them.
If you have a strong classroom community and communications with parents already established, continue to use that. Ask your parents how their child is working at home and what they may be struggling with. You can also host a Google Hangout or Zoom meeting—if this is available to you—to host a face-to-face meeting.
If you would feel more comfortable, reach out through your guidance department to connect to parents. By checking in with students, they will feel like they are not in this alone. This input can help you understand how to best support that student.
Look back at the documentation, logs and data that you have collected on your students. Use this data to help make decisions as to how you will support your students. Reach out to the child study team to discuss additional supports. They may also be a good resource to reach out to the parents in addition to the guidance department.
If you are assigning a large task or project, chunk it for your students. For example, if you are having your students do a PowerPoint on a president of their choice, first give instructions to choosing a president. Next, give them instructions on how to research that president with a checklist of the type of information you are looking for. Then, instruct them to put it in a PowerPoint. The key is to not give them all of these chunks at once. Wait until they turn in each piece to give them the next. If you do this, your students will feel less overwhelmed and increase their success.
All teachers want all of their students to be successful and it is imperative that, even though we are learning online or through packets, we still need to provide modifications to our assignments for students with differing abilities. I hope that these tips are helpful.