BY: YASMINE BAKHSHESHI
Education professionals are always looking for new and improved strategies to reach students, especially within special education. It is not always easy and time is of the essence! There are so many diverse skills and each student learns at their own pace.
I am just going to be transparent here, students that require special education need a more intense individualized learning environment than students that are not on the spectrum. One quality that special educators need is strategy.
This brings up the Certified Autism Specialist Credentials, this credentials isn’t just another set of letters at the end of your name. This credential shows that Special Education Teachers have taken the trainings and professional development necessary to assist their classes. It’s important that we are capturing student’s attention as well as teaching them. Christine, a CAS from Ohio said this, “The CAS certification has been meaningful and satisfying in so many ways! It has given me a sense of self-confidence, greater awareness, and a wonderful sense of pride! Earning the CAS title gives reassurance to our staff and families that I do possess a more in depth understanding of our students with autism. It has also allowed me to provide more staff development trainings and my principal can assure families we have a CAS member on the administrative team at our school”. Click here to see if the Certified Autism Specialist Credential is right for you.
Thanks to Concordia University, here are six simple strategies that I think will help you bring quality education to ALL of your students within your special education classroom.
1. Form Small Groups
Forming small groups of two or three students within the class grouped according to their level can help with personalizing the teaching while not sacrificing class instruction time. For example, in math class, one group could be working on the basics while a more advanced group could be working on their geometry skills. Students would be grouped together according to similar skill levels and objectives along their education pathway.
2. Create Classroom Centers
Classroom centers are another effective way students can be grouped. Each center would specialize in one area or level. The centers would be self-contained in terms of instructions and all lesson materials. They would also be somewhat self-explanatory and self-guided to allow the teacher to rotate among the different centers and provide appropriate guidance. A teaching assistant, parent or volunteer could help facilitate the groups. Such centers would strike a balance between being self-explanatory, without totally giving up more direct teacher time.
3. Blend ‘the Basics’ with More Specialized Instruction
Still another way of instructing multiple levels of students is to teach general concepts to the whole group while pairing it with individual instruction. Since every school subject has some general concepts that could be relevant, individual students can benefit from this no matter what their level of proficiency.
Reading comprehension strategies, the basics of math, organizing writing ideas, or even a scientific theory are some examples of general concepts that could be taught to support what each student is learning in that area. Students can then apply this knowledge to their particular individual assignments. However, the teacher could always add some additional content for more advanced students.
4. Rotate Lessons
Lessons within the different groups or centers could be rotated so that on any given day the teacher could introduce new material to one group, while only having to check in on others who are doing more independent activities. The teacher assistant could also be of service within such a lesson cycle.
5. Try Thematic Instruction
Thematic instruction is where a single theme is tied into multiple subject areas. This method of teaching has been shown to be very effective in special education classrooms. A “theme” could be anything from a current event, honing the skill of reading comprehension, a writing topic or a historical event. For example, a historical event could be tied into all other subjects. The theme should be attention-getting — something that will grab the students’ interest and keep them engaged.
6. Provide Different Levels of Books and Materials
Since there will be a variety of proficiency levels in the classroom, be sure to have different levels of textbooks and other teaching materials available for each subject. Having a range of levels on hand will ensure that each student can learn at the appropriate level. This minimizes frustration and maximizes confidence and forward momentum in the student.
As you can see, teaching special education students effectively can be enhanced with some adjustments. Regardless of the severity of their disabilities, classes can be structured in a way that caters to the individual level of functioning.
Doing so does not mean giving up quality personal instruction time. No matter what the content areas or variety of levels your students are working on, harmony and integration are possible. Strategies such as grouping, learning centers, rotating lessons, choosing class themes and having a flexible array of texts and materials can help teachers to provide ideal instruction and support within their special education classes.
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