AQ Assignment: Differentiating for Special Needs

In the ongoing saga to share my learning within the AQ I am currently taking, here’s another assignment, and my response.

The Assignment:


Take a lesson plan that you have used in the past and make the necessary changes to that lesson to include some type of assistive technology to better support your special needs students. Here is what you’ll need to post:

  • A brief summary of the original lesson.
  • A description of the special needs students.
  • A brief summary of the assistive technology that you have chosen to use.
  • A brief summary of how your lesson will now look.

Original Lesson

Check out this TED Talk on the destructive power of our “throwaway” lifestyle.

On your blog, write a post explaining some of the key ideas, sharing your reaction to the talk, and explaining some strategies we might be able to introduce in the school, or at home, to help to solve this issue.

TAG your post “pacifictrash” to help us track the conversation.

The Response

Instead of focusing on the particular needs of a fictional student in my fictional classroom, I’d like to explain why I think a lesson like this is bad for every student, not just the ones with particular special needs. This is an actual lesson I pulled from my blog that I would have delivered a few years ago.

This was a lesson I would have had my students complete as a written assignment on their blogs. We completed “blog prompts” on a weekly basis. The basic format was “watch the video/read this text/look at this picture, and write a response”. The question I ask in the top is laying out a prescription for success: obviously I think that the video should elicit a negative response, and I want the students to jump through my “hoop” to explain what they might do to fix the problem. I probably got 30 responses all starting with the horror of how mankind treats the world, and then ending with cries for efforts to recycle more often, or reuse items.

My lesson had no space for students to differentiate the product. I want a written response here. For students who don’t like to write, I don’t give them any other options. In order to shift this lesson this is the first piece I need to change. I don’t want everyone giving me a writing response except the one student who is incapable of writing, further centering him out for the rest of the class, especially on a blog where every student’s work is visible. I need to re-write the lesson to allow for different products: poems, podcasts, raving video arguments, photo-essays etc. In this way I give each student the means to express their learning about the Garbage Patch in their own way, and I can conference one-on-one to help give focus to the response, and provide AT needs as required to the students who require additional assistance.

The other problem is I don’t give the students the opportunity to own the learning. I have only provided them with one resource, and that resource may be biased to a particular way of thinking. In order to properly differentiate this lesson for each student, I should be empowering them to go off and find out everything they can about the Pacific Garbage Patch. I need to empower them to be co-learners along with me, and allow them to come back to their blogs and share in their own way, everything that they think is important about the particular subject in question. I need to provide them the ability to become the teacher, and share what they learn with the rest of the class. In this way my lesson looks very different, and provides me the means to differentiate the process and the product for each individual student.

Further to that, depending on what I am actually trying to teach them — which in this case was an expectation from the Grade 5 Science curriculum (Evaluate the social and environmental impacts of processes used to make everyday products) — I could (and should) make the project even more open-ended, and leave them to discover things like the trash patch as a possible example of the impact on the environment, rather than pigeon-holing the students into that particular incident. The garbage patch post is my post, and now I need them to write their own. If I’m exploring this learning goal, it should be enough that I provide them a repository of safe content, in which they can discover for themselves — and teach the rest of the class — the various ways in which we impact the environment through out need to create things.

In this way I’ve changed my lesson completely, and in the midst of that hopefully found ways to differentiate the process and the product for each students’ needs.


Published by jarbenne

Jared Bennett is the Student Information System Consultant at Hamilton Wentworth District School Board.

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