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Adapting Unstoppable Learning: how to differentiate instruction to improve student success at all learning levels

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Foreword by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey

Modify your curriculum using streamlined assignments, targeted assessments, and student engagement strategies for different learning styles.

This practical guide expands upon the Unstoppable Learning model to explore accessible learning for all students. Through specific curriculum and environmental accommodations and modifications, as well as personal and technology supports, K–12 teachers will discover how to provide differentiated instruction to students with varying needs, from physical disabilities to twice-exceptionality. Forms, tools, and diagrams designed to aid instructional planning are also included.

How will this book help you?

  • Learn how to adjust curriculum in ways that maintain appropriate levels of rigor for different learning styles.
  • Consider real school vignettes and examples that illustrate successful Unstoppable Learning adaptations for inclusive classrooms.
  • Study the four guiding principles of systems thinking: relationships, communications, responsiveness, and sustainability.
  • Consider the importance of collaboration and communication in learning adaptations.
  • Study helpful and informative tools and diagrams intended to aid in planning instruction for different learning styles.

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1 Creating an Adaptation-Friendly Systems Thinking Classroom

ePub

CHAPTER 1

CREATING AN ADAPTATION-FRIENDLY SYSTEMS THINKING CLASSROOM

The systems thinking that creates Unstoppable Learning is integral to providing adaptations for students. Systems thinking compels educators to see the big picture and make decisions that benefit students as a learning body. Applying this thinking leads educators to the triangle of support and universal design for learning. These two key methods take a broad look at classroom needs and use specific elements within a lesson to build a fortified platform that ensures students comprehend and meet learning targets. To make these elements work together successfully and craft the content, process, and products, educators must commit to systems thinking and use the triangle of support and universal design for learning as guides to help them ensure that students receive what they need.

Systems Thinking

The educator is responsible for detecting patterns, new and recurring, so he or she can strengthen the structures that help a classroom run effectively (Fisher & Frey, 2015). Creating an effective learning environment also is characterized by an educator’s ability to identify the barriers students face and strategize the elements of a lesson to overcome those obstacles. In a systems thinking classroom and school community, all stakeholders understand that it takes a collaborative effort to ensure each student’s learning success. All stakeholders must remain aware that many elements and structures interweave and develop a thriving learning environment that responds to these interactions.

 

2 Making Accommodations and Modifications While Ensuring Rigor

ePub

CHAPTER 2

MAKING ACCOMMODATIONS AND MODIFICATIONS WHILE ENSURING RIGOR

All students must have access to the general education curriculum. Adaptations ensure that is possible. A variety of useful, creative strategies provide accommodations and modifications from which many students benefit. While adaptations are ultimately individualized, some general approaches can be useful. This chapter explains those approaches and fleshes out the adaptations that Fisher and Frey (2015) introduced in Unstoppable Learning. Figure 2.1 shows the array of options educators should consider when providing adaptations.

Figure 2.1: Adaptation types.

We remind education teams of two things: (1) that differentiated instruction through the use of accommodations, modifications, and accelerated learning falls under the umbrella of adaptations, and (2) to remain mindful of curriculum standards, including when and how they change depending on student needs. Many strategies and supports fall within these categories and often overlap. Does a student require more rigor by increasing difficulty or complexity, and if so, how does this change compare to the standards this task represents? The difficulty measures the amount of effort the student must exert to complete the task. The complexity signals the amount of thinking, action, or knowledge the student must employ to complete the task.

 

3 Determining Personal Supports

ePub

CHAPTER 3

DETERMINING PERSONAL SUPPORTS

Curriculum, technological, and environmental supports can only sometimes go so far as to help a student access curriculum. Some students need personal supports, which include full-time and part-time support staff, intermittent support staff, peer tutor support, natural supports, and supplemental supports (Fisher & Frey, 2015). The support staff members can be special educators, paraprofessionals, and health care personnel. Some students require considerable supports in terms of curriculum and personnel while others require less support. Teachers often have to investigate the available resources on campus.

Personal supports are fluid and flexible. Some students succeed with a variety of support staff, peer tutors, and natural supports depending on the class content, activities, projects, and task at hand. And like curriculum adaptations, teachers should gradually reduce personal supports as needed. Adult support can fade into peer tutor support. Peer tutor support can fade into natural supports.

 

4 Communicating With Key Collaborators

ePub

CHAPTER 4

COMMUNICATING WITH KEY COLLABORATORS

Many variables play a role in ensuring students can access and master content. Crafting the content, process, and products for a systems thinking classroom requires teachers to establish a foundation based on relationships among students and education team members, including general and special education teachers, paraprofessionals, related service providers, students’ families, and others. Collaboration among these groups can improve instruction. Each participant has a valuable perspective to contribute and offers knowledge and tools that build a stronger learning environment, including students. Villa, Thousand, and Nevin (2010) argue there are many rationales to collaborate with students, one of which is that “student collaboration increases academic and social competence” (p. 15). Overall, developing key relationships with all stakeholders involved in a student’s education is imperative for student success in general education classrooms (Jones, 2012).

 

Epilogue: Changing a Belief System

ePub

EPILOGUE

Changing a Belief System

The concept of a systems thinking approach is intertwined in every aspect of developing lessons according to universal design for learning principles and activities that provide access to all learners. Developing a systems thinking classroom requires education practitioners to reflect and commit themselves to taking the challenges that students face and using them to create an environment where they can help meet student needs. Responsive educators consider the existence of communication barriers and varying learning styles as opportunities to dive into collaborative and innovative lesson design. Collaboration among education teams—the co-planned lessons, universal design for learning principles, support system, student profile, infused skills grid, and academic unit lesson plan—removes the barriers.

We advocate for educators to rigorously question their instructional models and evaluate their belief systems and actions. It is vital that educators redefine their views and eschew low expectations for students who have difficulties. Consider each viewpoint. How can a student show competence if he or she does not have the necessary tools to develop those skills? What impedes a particular student from demonstrating knowledge? Is it a physical or language barrier that requires support to overcome or has he or she never learned a prerequisite skill? Has the instruction failed to address specific learning styles? Has the student accessed all available resources? Has there been an opportunity to establish specific learning criteria for individual students? Have the assessments and progress-monitoring activities facilitated student growth based on individual learning objectives?

 


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