Monday, February 21, 2011

Special Needs Students

As a Special Education teacher, I struggle every day with how to best accommodate students with learning disabilities in the regular education setting.  With more and more districts pushing for full inclusion, teachers everywhere are being faced with students with reading and/or math skills that are often several grade levels behind their regular education peers.  How to we provide excellent learning opportunities for students of all abilities in the same class?!?
With that in mind, I thought I’d share 1 quick and easy accommodation I use with my students (all of them, regular education and special education) that seems to have the huge returns as far as their performance, understanding, and just plain enjoyment of being in class goes.  
Guided notes
How do you get a student who can’t read on your grade level to complete a homework assignment of reading 5 pages and taking notes on what he read?  How can you get a student who can’t spell (or who writes illegibly!) to answer comprehension questions in a way that is useful to them and readable by you?
Guided notes can be one solution.  By taking the time to go through the section you want your students to read and giving them guided notes you will be providing your students with an assignment that clearly shows them exactly what you expect them to know.  Struggling readers are able to use the context clues in your notes to help them find the information, advanced students who want to get it all right are assured that they are on the right path, and in the end, you know that if your students have completed the notes – they have an excellent study guide.  It’s an easy way to make note-taking and reading comprehension a bit more accessible for all of your students.
For example, if your goal is to have them read from your text book and then list the 4 main reasons immigrants come to America, what a noun can be, different types of angles, etc.  Then your guided notes might look like a larger version of this:

Name _______________________________________________ Date _____ / _____ / _____
Social Studies Notes:  Chapter 4
Important Vocabulary:  Find the bold words on pp. 33-35.  Add them to the organizer and then complete it with what the word means and what it looks like to you.
Vocab Word:

What it means:
What it looks like to me:

Vocab Word:
What it means:
What it looks like to me:
Key Concepts:  Read pp. 33-35, then complete the chart below with the information you learned from your reading.

4 Reasons Why Immigrants Came to America
It might seem overly simple – but some of the best ideas are.  And after years of watching teachers grow frustrated with how long it takes students to copy notes from the board, how students often take notes without knowing what the critical information is, and watching students with learning disabilities struggle with writing legibly, finding the crucial information, and reading the material, I have learned that guided notes can save both teacher and students a lot of grumbling!
I hope that you give guided notes a try if you haven’t yet.  I think you’ll find them helpful.  I know I do!

Meghan Mathis

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  1. The example of guided notes did not come out quite as I wanted it to in this article (a new laptop without a Word program has made my life a bit complicated this week!).

    If you are interested in guided notes and would like to see some better examples, please contact me at Teachers Pay Teachers. I'd be happy to share some with you!

    Meghan Mathis

  2. I remember guided notes from school! Thanks for the Idea Meghan.


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