Do you teach on instructional level or grade level???

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by rookieABC123, Jan 22, 2014.

  1. rookieABC123

    rookieABC123 Comrade

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    Jan 22, 2014

    Well it's the middle of the school year and I feel I've structured my learning support classroom all wrong....

    I teach 7/8 reading and language arts. All of my students have a disability in reading and read at least 2 grade levels behind (some more, some less).

    I'm not new to spec. ed. but I am new to this grade. I currently teach students from a 7/8th grade reading book that is part of the district curriculum. I try to modify it the best I can. But my question is maybe I'm teaching too much at their frustration level and not at their instructional level? If that's the case some of my reading classes will need to be grouped separate within my classroom. Because I have higher functioning mixed with a few really low functioning readers. Should I be using district 5th grade curriculum or should I be using something totally different such as an intervention reading program like READ180.
    Also, my goals are not based on grade level, they are based on making progress at their instructional level so doesn't mean that I teach on their level???? I think this all changed when state assessments started and spec. ed. teachers were told to teach at grade level. But if I teach at grade level, why are they in spec. ed.???
    Why does special ed. have to be so confusing? Any suggestions on how you structure your classroom and instruction would truly be helpful! Thank you!!!
     
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  3. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Jan 22, 2014

    I think you're asking the right questions! The short answer is that you should always teach at a child's instructional level when possible, but that may look different depending on their goal. For example, you may use a book that is on a child's frustrational level when it comes to decoding & overall fluency, but in their instructional level when it comes to comprehension. So, if you have a child who can only read 5th grade books, but can understand 8th grade books, the ideal situation would be to use both 5th and 8th grade books depending on whether you're working on fluency or comprehension. BUT, if you're using an 8th grade book, you'll likely have to provide significant scaffolding to the point of likely having to either read it to him or provide a lot of words.

    In terms of structuring your classroom for intervention, that becomes more of a management issue than a reading theory issue. Yes, you definitely want to be teaching kids in groups with similar instructional levels given the instructional goal. So, if you're teaching reading comprehension, and have some kids vastly higher than others, you won't be able to do whole group instruction. This obviously becomes problematic with a large number of kids, a broad range of instructional levels, and not a lot of time. So, a lot of teachers face the situation of having to create a realistic instructional plan vs an ideal one. Ideally, you'll provide sufficient instruction on each child's instructional level to promote mastery of that skill before introducing the next skill. In practice, that doesn't always work. Doesn't mean it's okay, but does mean you have to make some choices about how to spend your time. For example, you may only have time to do one small group in reading per day, and still need to cover a lot of material your district requires you to teach. In that situation, I'd choose the most foundational skills to cover in group, and the most "accessible" skills to cover in class - ones that I could reasonably provide sufficient scaffolding for across a variety of levels. Often times, that looks like working on fluency in small groups and comprehension in whole group. Again, it would be better to do both in small groups sometimes, but you don't always have that luxury.

    Now, if you're in a SPED class and your numbers are small, you may have the ability to cover everything in relatively homogenous skill groups, which would be best for most things.

    Only other caveat I'll say about this is that there are a variety of subjects, such as history, that really are a combination of a variety of skills. You probably won't be able to create skill groups in these subjects, and it probably wouldn't really make sense to either, unless you really have kids with a variety of cognitive levels that wouldn't really be able to even grasp the foundation of the lesson. In reality, though, many classrooms would be comprised of kids with a spectrum of skills per child in those subjects. One child may be great at writing, for example, while another may be great at project management. Those kids may be able to work in heterogeneous skills groups fine because skills would complement each other, and because you're often not teaching discrete skills in those subjects.
     
  4. rookieABC123

    rookieABC123 Comrade

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    Jan 22, 2014

    Thank you! What you said makes a lot of sense!
     
  5. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

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    Jan 22, 2014

    I do both. I don't have a curriculum. I teach the same novels 7th grade does, but I also supplement with small group leveled texts.

    This year is more difficult because I have a combination of resource and self-contained kids. However, all of them are between a 1st and 4th grade reading level. Most have higher listening comprehension, but that still complicates things as far as "close reading," common core, and "grappling" with complex text.

    I am honestly not sure if I'm doing it right either. I've found there are no clear cut answers in SPED. Everybody's doing something different.
     
  6. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Jan 22, 2014

    Everything I teach is at the students' level. I don't teach anything on grade-level, unless the student is in my room due to behaviors as opposed to academic skill deficits.

    I would use something different, an intervention program. I would probably only use a lower-grade level curriculum book if I had no access to anything else and/or if it truly seemed the best solution for the student. In most cases, I don't think it would be.

    I agree. So many things about sped are just so confusing.
     
  7. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

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    Jan 22, 2014

    I was trying to teach at everyone's level and was told I needed to "have higher expectations." :whistle:

    Nothing really burns my a$$ in SPED quite like that comment. Nothing. I can make peace with everything else, but that right there is going to send me back to gen ed.
     
  8. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    Jan 22, 2014

    I have to teach grade level concepts because my students are in gen ed classes. They are all on the mild/moderate range and read at middle school or lower. However, I use differentiated techniques to teach students who need extra support to learn a concept. For example, when my 10th graders are doing geometry, some cannot perceive corresponding sides of figures (triangles, etc). I give them a lot of support finding those sides and stress the equation solving instead. Some can do the operations, but can't set up problems. Some can't work with decimals (because they can't place the decimal in correct location which skews their answers) so, for them, I create problems without decimals.

    GEN ED 10th graders should be able to work with decimals, set up equations and determine corresponding sides, so my students are not working at grade level, but they are learning grade level concepts. Their goal is grade level (ie. find the missing side of a right triangle using the Pythagorean Theorem) but their objectives leading up to that goal are individually scaffolded steps.
     
  9. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Jan 23, 2014

    Glad it helped :)
     

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