Great teachers accommodate all students

Why Only Accommodate Students with Special Needs?

Years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to be part of a research project identifying characteristics of the very best teachers. One thing that impressed me is how they made their classrooms fit the individual student, and they made it seem easy.

If your child has an Individual Education Plan, you can request accommodations and modifications to meet your child’s special needs.

Accommodations are changes which do NOT fundamentally alter or lower the standard or expectations of the course/standard/test. An example is at

Modifications are changes which provide access for a student with a disability to participate which, DO fundamentally alter or lower the standard or expectations of the course.

Both accommodations and modifications can be requested in:

  • Course content – for example, an eighth-grade student in a small school uses a wheelchair. He could attend physical education with other eighth-grade students without disabilities. He would do the swimming with the rest of the class, but during the weeks the class played basketball he would do other exercises.
  • Teaching strategies – for example, a teacher may hand a student with learning disabilities an outline of main points before each lecture, and at the end of each lecture, ask the student a question to check for comprehension.

Over the years, I have seen more and more how those modifications can help ALL students. When I had a student who as blind in my graduate statistics course, she asked if she could record the class to listen to the lecture later, and if I could give her copies of my powerpoints (this was before web-based systems like Blackboard were common). I said, “Of course!”

She shared her notes and recording with the sighted students in her study group and they started asking for the same. Now, I upload videos all of the time, and students who feel they need some additional refreshing before we dive into, say, repeated measures Analysis of Variance, can watch those (or not).

It’s not just graduate students who can benefit from some accommodation. When my daughter, Ronda, was in middle school she was already one of the top-ranked junior judo players in the country, training 15-20 hours a week. Two years out of middle school, she was the number ranked woman in her weight division, a spot she kept for the next five years.

When Ronda thought she might need to drop her band elective, that she really liked, to have more time to study, her music teacher told me that Ronda could use what would have been her physical education period as an extra study hour. Since she clearly didn’t need to work out more and she could use that extra hour during the day to do homework, it was a great solution.

The videos require some extra time, but not all that much, since I just use the same powerpoints from class. Allowing her to have a study hall instead of P.E. took no extra time except for a coach signing a form each month to verify her attendance at practice.

Modifications and accommodations can help all students and don’t have to require a huge amount of effort and time.

Speaking of modifications, all of our games are intrinsically motivating, documented to raise math scores and can be used in classrooms to individualize instructions. We usually recommend that students start with the easier games, Spirit Lake (shown below) and Making Camp, and work through at their own pace. 

mother says that was the wrong number

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