As a resource room teacher in a small high school in Wells, Maine, I have the benefit of knowing many students in the building. I am in two freshmen classes, World Studies and Physical Science, where I work with the content area teachers to help make the content accessible to our students with IEPs. This is my third year back in a classroom working with students. My colleagues and I have tried many ways of differentiating instruction and assessments in order to offer our students ways to succeed.
During the summer the social studies team of grade 9 and 10 teachers and I worked on differentiating instruction and assessments. We were committed to making the content accessible to all students at different levels we referred to as Tiers. In the end we designed Tier 1 the regular content and assessments with the standard that students would complete annotations and sentences at the highest level. Next our Tier 2 students accessed the same classroom content, however, when they were writing, they would use 3 annotations, 2-3 full sentences describing their work and research. During the assessments they would have 2 multiple choice answers to read instead of 4 or 5 choices. Since our students read and process at a slower rate, this modification has been very successful. Finally, for very small number of students we offer a Tier 3. The same classroom content is offered. The annotations and sentences are 3 per page, with 2 sentences describing their research answers. This group of students takes the Picture ID part of the tests and quizzes using their notes. Instead of the multiple choice tests these students take a test using the Quizlet vocabulary words they have used since the beginning of the chapter.
Our results. The students in Tier 1, 2 and 3, barely notice the accommodations that the other groups use. They are all too busy doing their own work. The teachers have been able to see the different Tiers working. The teachers are using the different Tiers with students who may not have an IEP. Why not? If the accommodation is working, if the accommodation allows the student to experience success, why not offer it to more students. The Tiers are flexible, students can move up and down the Tiers depending on their previous success or challenges.This work around the Tiers has been ongoing and constantly changing with the social studies content.
In the Physical Science class the teacher and I have a different approach for our students. All students have the same instruction except where math problems are concerned. The content and note taking are the same for all students. The number of annotations are flexible depending on student processing speed and understanding. The most accommodations occur during quizzes and tests. It is not unusual to have 4 or 5 different levels of quizzes and tests in this class. It works, the students with IEPs have access to their notes and may have different math questions most often with the formulas written into the test, word banks are built into the tests, and for some IEP students the CLOZE system is used with a hint when they are answering questions.
We are making different better for our students!