How to use differentiation to make children with special learning needs feel more included

One size doesn’t fit all! Different students learn differently. Here’s how teachers and education use differentiation to make children with special learning needs feel more included.

The teaching-learning process can be customised for a student in many simple and well-planned ways. A teacher can differentiate or modify the following:

1. Environment

Environment plays a huge role in learning, especially in the case of students who have specific learning needs.

For example, students with attention deficit issues can get distracted easily near a window so they need to be seated away from the same or the door.

Reducing noise, flexible seating, adjusting lights and the proximity to the teacher can impact learning positively.

2. Content

The content to be taught could be broken down into concise summary and supported with visual cues, pictures and flow charts.

The content may need to be simplified for some students in terms of the language. Sometimes, the presentation of the content may need to be adjusted to help a student learn more effectively.

Recently, I had to increase the font and line spacing for few students in Grade 4 to help them read a two-page story in their English class.

This works for children who struggle with reading as they lose their place on a page due to visual perceptual issues.

3. Process

The process by which a child learns can be modified as per his or her specific requirements. For example, some students comprehend information better by listening to the teacher while others need to read the text, do an activity or see a diagram to understand the same.

Hence a multisensory approach is the most effective way of teaching as it caters to the diverse learning needs of all the students in a mixed ability classroom.

4. Assessment

Modifying the method of assessment according to students’ learning pattern while keeping the assessment criteria in mind is also part of differentiation. The responses from children could vary, therefore it needs to be considered in the assessment process.

Some children may write the summary of a story that they read, others might create a quiz on it while some might enact or illustrate the story.

Making differentiation more effective

1. Communication

Communication is the central point of any practice. The teacher must consistently interview students about what they enjoy the most while learning and what is their favourite activity, lesson or project. This can help the teacher in ensuring even better results for the future.

Parent-teacher partnership programmes can be very helpful through which one can consistently take feedback from parents about their child’s learning needs and improvements that can be made.

2. Technology

Since the online schooling mode began, technology has played a crucial role in imparting education. For instance, through the several educational tech apps, teaching and learning has become easier while opening up a new space for using differentiation for stimulating better learning.

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