It is easy to get caught up in an educational passion. We’ve seen passionate Science teachers, English teachers, Kindergarten teachers, History teachers, fifth grade teachers, and many more. They not only love the content but they love the age the student is at for a variety of reasons. This is a good thing we promise you. Passion yields students who want to connect and students who as a whole move forward in ways that might not have been previously possible. However, with passion, and when speaking about students in a classroom with disabilities, differentiation, or even modification may not always be enough.
Case in point: this week, Renay attempted to modify a text this week. We know Renay is fairly adept, so we had no fear that this would be done with a general whole hearted effort that would give the students who needed it access to the text. Renay has now officially dubbed this text “The Novel that Probably Shouldn’t Be Modified.” Part of the issue lies in the fact that she’s never seen this novel taught. The rest was caught up in the author’s natural propensity for flowing exposition that cannot be cut easily due to the nature of foreshadowing. Complicating modification of this novel involves the fact that the novel was written with strict adherence to English Grammar from the year it was published. This has since aged the flow of words in light of the modern era.
If she didn’t attempt to modify the text and worked through line by line with the student, perhaps the student would achieve what the teacher wanted, even a modified goal of half of what the teacher wanted, perhaps by May in all honestly. But that also requires a student who is willing to pair up with a paraeducator and discuss those expectations and be willing to pass or continue on those things.
While as a writer, Renay appreciates this author’s work, the question that remains at the top is looking at the text in this five by six published work of art, she knows her students will be less likely to want to interact with the text. The density and spacing of the text makes the book look like a solid black line for some students. Though it is the size of most student’s hands, this book can easily look and act like a dictionary. But, fortunately for the students Renay serves, this isn’t the first time she’s come up against an academic wall on the way to modified curriculum.
- Is it all necessary? Especially within reading, many students with disabilities don’t like reading because they honestly struggle. They’d rather not do the ‘hard’ thing than be found deficient. Even in a school that models growth mindset behaviors. Appreciating an author’s senses to be filled in sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste, is a skill many students, no matter the age needs to experience at least once, and for some, perhaps briefly. Combat this with reaching to the general education teacher and asking which key passages will be needed to connect to literary elements that will be explored in the reading. (Then take those segments, retype only those in 14 pt font, at least 1.5 spacing if not double spaced!)
- Avoid the trap of being in early in the year of “Nope, not going to work at all.” Even when you know the student. A little shove at the beginning of the year is a lot easier than a bulldozer in April or May. Certainly do a little shove now, see what happens. You may still need that bulldozer in April or May but you’ll have a first attempt now in the early part of the year to decide how big of a bulldozer.
- Older students find some Sparknotes to be very useful. The summaries and focus on the characters helps at least outline plot points and help students to look and then connect segments to the reading.
- Be visual. Build a box of things that are related to the story. Bring in pictures or show pictures from Ancient Greek Antiquities. Show pictures from trips around the Mediterranean. Have pictures of modern day Wyoming. Bring in a car enthusiast who can talk about the importance of car races from the 1950-1960s United States. Draw a time line and have students line up plot points as a sequence of events.
- By now you’re probably wondering, “Why not use the movie?” or “Audio book?” And yes, those things are useful. But most movies cut parts of the reading for time or alter things for exposition. Like the book, the movie also can be creatively different, while some students can compare and contrast those things, some students aren’t ready to do that level of thinking yet. And some audio books are limiting, especially when the teacher asks the class to go back to page 20 and find 3 examples of figurative language.
For the passionate educator, don’t despair. This isn’t to limit your love of teaching the way you want to, even for a student with a disability. If you’re aware that your students aren’t keeping up, pause more often. Don’t feel like more is always better. And appreciate when a student does rise up and meet at least some of your expectations, just as you would for a student who met all your expectations.
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here, and on our website. Paraeducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.