Accommodations in the Classroom: A Guide to Making Them Real
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Savvy and successful school principals certainly understand the value of keeping it real. In a recent training, Stetson and Associates offered a wide array of examples and practical applications. Each recommendation was designed to help teachers interpret how vital accommodations can realistically happen based on the Individual Education Programs (IEPs) of their students.
For many teachers, just the sheer number of accommodations recommended in a student’s IEP can be daunting, with so much information to juggle that they don’t always have a concrete idea of what these accommodations will actually look like in their classrooms. The following guide breaks down a typical list of middle school accommodations using helpful tools on how to practically implement each one. Many of the listed accommodations are tied with valuable skills all teachers could include in their instructional toolboxes.
Accommodation:Checking for Understanding
- Use group response activities. Checking understanding with a group response means 100% compliance in responding.
- Use thumbs-up, thumbs-down or thumbs to the side for an “unsure” response. Make sure students feel comfortable being honest with this method. Start with easy or personal questions such as: “I like Spring Break” or “Today is a rainy day” before moving to instructional content.
- Provide whiteboards and markers for students to show understanding, such as solving a problem in math class, or adding to a list of character traits for reading comprehension.
- Enlist help from athletic coaches on their best methods to check for understanding with their players. Coaches are often masterful resources.
- Use response cards. Teachers ask a question, give a few seconds wait time, then ask students to “show me.” Students pinch, point or flip to the correct answer. Examples:
- What operation first?
- What punctuation goes here?
- Which branch of government?
- Establish a routine of moving around the classroom as students begin their work. Ask questions such as, “Tell me the directions,” or “Tell me the first thing you’re going to do in this assignment.” Clarify, thank and move on.
Accommodation: Verbal Prompts/Visual Cues to Maintain Focus
- Post learning objectives.
- Post a daily agenda and check off items as they are completed.
- Visually show “brain breaks” or “device breaks” in an agenda.
- Appoint a student to the job of monitoring and checking off the agenda.
- Project a visual timer for the entire class. Some students may benefit from the use of a personal timer such as a watch.
Accommodation: Instructions Repeated/Rephrased
- Teachers restate the instructions.
- Post a clear visual of the instructions at the front of the classroom while restating the instructions to address both visual and auditory learners.
Accommodation:Use Agenda to Record Assignments
- Remind students throughout the day to complete their agendas. Be consistent to ensure success.
- Instruct students to set a timer as a reminder.
Accommodation: Retake Tests/Quizzes for Higher Grade
- Use a variety of methods for retakes.
- Consider both written and verbal responses. While monitoring testing in progress, call a student to your desk to ask them to tell you (quietly) what they know about the topic/chapter/unit. Record their verbal responses and consider these when grading their written exams.
Accommodation: Shortened Assignments
- Maintain the integrity of the assignment by carefully reviewing which parts can be deleted.
- Make sure all standards of the full assignment are represented in the shortened version.
Accommodation: Extended Time on Assignments and Projects
- Establish school guidelines about what extended time means. There may be different recommendations for specific students, but “reasonable” is the keyword.
- Complete required checks on student progress all along the way, especially when extended time is needed for a long-term project or assignment.
Accommodation: Multiplication Table/Calculator
- Understand the grade level standard and lesson objective to determine the use of multiplication tables and calculators as a student accommodation.
- Know the difference between an accommodation and a modification.
Accommodation: Bathroom Breaks When Requested
- Monitor bathroom breaks with sensitivity regarding time and frequency.
- Follow up with the nurse’s office if questions or concerns arise.
Accommodation: Typing for Written Assignments
- Check to see if a device has been assigned to a student to replace paper and pencil.
- Look into all available assistive technology options.
Accommodation: Present Examples of Work/Problems to Follow
- Spend time with student completing a task; ask student to complete the next one independently; check for understanding.
- Show examples of successfully completed tasks or problems.
- Provide rubrics to illustrate accurate completion.
Accommodation: Reminders to Slow Down and Take Time
- Use reminder signals.
- Avoid stigma of verbal reminders.
Accommodation: Copy of Notes
- Make copies of class notes available prior to the lesson.
- Encourage students to follow along, highlight, circle or underline as the lesson is presented.
Accommodation: Short Breaks
- Define parameters of extra breaks including length.
- If a break is needed for behavior, allow the student to do some deep breathing for one to two minutes before resuming work.
- If break is needed for focus, use a timer to keep the break short.
- If needed for health reasons, ask the student and/or nurse what is needed.
- Ensure the student can take a break within the classroom in an unobtrusive way.
- Use alternative seating such as stools or standing desks when practical.
Accommodation: Preferential Seating
- Refer to the IEP for specifications on individual seating requirements and purpose.
- Examples may include seating at the front of the room for vision limitations or lessening of distraction, or sitting near a door for an easier exit.
Accommodation: Break Down Larger Assignments into Smaller Parts
- Break large assignments into manageable pieces to help organize a student’s thinking.
- Help students learn how to break down their assignments into more manageable parts on their own, including checking for understanding with their teacher.
Accommodation: Additional Wait Time for Responses
- Develop awareness that wait time can be appropriate for all students, especially for those whose first language isn’t English, students with autism, or those with any sort of communication disorder. Some introspective students may also need more time.
- Remind teachers that these accommodations need to be intentional and practiced behaviors.
Accommodation: Graphic Organizers
- Use graphic organizers to help students organize their thinking around a concept.
- Appeal to non-auditory learners by presenting information visually.
- Assess student understanding through the use of graphic organizers such as maps, diagrams and charts.
The next group of accommodations all refer to testing. However, it should be noted that students should be using these same testing accommodations during regular instruction so they are proficient with them.
Testing Accommodation: Separate Setting
- Ensure there is a specific designated place in the school for testing that can be monitored.
Testing Accommodation: Open Book/Notes
- Be prepared to address the issue of perceived fairness arising if other students see this method in practice.
Testing Accommodation: Read Aloud
- Determine what this would look like depending on student needs and requests. For example, some students ask “What word?” while others may need more, “Please read this sentence or paragraph.”
Testing Accommodation: Multiplication Table/Calculator
- Understand the specifics of the standard and objective being measured in the assessment, as there may be instances where this accommodation moves into the realm of modification.
Testing Accommodation: Text-to-Speech
- Specify which text-to-speech technology should be used and on which devices.
- Make sure students know how to use the technology and use it regularly in class.
Testing Accommodation: Scribe for Writing
- Identify a scribe in each class when needed.
- This accommodation is typically for students with physical limitations.
Testing Accommodation: Oral Responses
- Ask students individually to come to the teacher’s desk to explain verbally (quietly) what they know about the topic/chapter/unit. Record their verbal responses and consider this knowledge when grading their written exams.
Testing Accommodation: Read Aloud (Math)
- Designate someone to do the reading. Ensure there is no perceived unfairness or possibility of assisting with answers.
Testing Accommodation: Extended Time
- Assess whether the IEP specifically defines the length of the extension for testing.
- Understand whether the extension should occur within the classroom or at another location.
- Determine how this accommodation will be monitored.
When educators define successful Tier 1 instruction, many just call it “good teaching.” It involves teachers knowing their students’ knowledge levels and learning characteristics, then using that information to guide their instruction. Many teachers make natural accommodations within their instruction to meet individual student needs. However, extra care and consideration is required when it comes to fulfilling specific IEP requirements. Stetson and Associates has over 30 years of experience in accurately understanding those needs and helping schools meet these challenges head on.