Accessing and Adapting curriculum

In my last post, I addressed the fact that, in the U.S. at least, we are required to teach the general education curriculum to all students - even those with significant cognitive delays. I happen to teach in Georgia, so I will use Georgia standards but they are similar from state to state.

From regarding students with significant cognitive impairments:

The new Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) are Georgia’s curriculum standards for all students in Kindergarten through 12th grade in the areas of English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) require access to appropriate grade-level educational standards developed by the state be provided for students with significant cognitive impairments.
Access to the GPS can be in the form of objectives in the Individual Education Program (IEP) aligned (matched) with standards in the GPS or in the form of grade-level activities in which the student will practice and use skills and knowledge. Students will be assessed on using these skills as part of their educational program through the Georgia Alternative Assessment (GAA), when required.
Providing access to grade-level GPS will be different for each student, based upon individual strengths and needs. Teachers may utilize different types of instructional materials to teach academic content (including pictures, symbols, tactile objects, adapted books, and assistive technology), and students may show understanding using different methods (including using Augmentative/Alternative Communication (AAC) devices to answer questions, matching symbols or tactile objects, using switches to make choices). Other skills important to the student, such as adapted behavior, self-help, communication and motor, will continue to be a part of each student’s IEP and instructional day.

So, how do I go about planning essons that allow my students to access the general eucation curriculum?

The first thing I do is go through all of the standards for each grade level and choose the ones that I think are most relevant to my students. Then, because I have students in every grade, I look across grade levels and see how I can use one or two activities or lessons to address different standards. (For example, 4th graders learn about simple machines - including inclined planes, 2nd graders learn about motion - including rolling objects down inclines of different angles to see how the speed changes, kindergarteners learn about describing the motion of objects - I can address all of these with one "unit" of lessons/activities.)

Once I've decided which standards to focus on, I look at each grade level's curriculum maps so I can try to coordinate and work on topics at the same time as the general education classes as much as possible. This way if a grade level plans a special speaker, field trip, project, etc. my students can be included and it will me more meaninfgul to them (as they are learning about the topic at that time).

The Georgia Standards Resource Guide instructs teachers to identify the "Big idea" of the standard, determine what all students are expected to learn and then plan activities to help students understand that big idea. From here, I'll show you an example. Here's a kindergarten, 2nd and 4th grade standard - I've italicized the portion I will address with my students
Kindergarten: SKP2. Students will investigate different types of motion.
a. Sort objects into categories according to their motion. (straight, zigzag, round and round, back and forth, fast and slow, and motionless)
b. Push, pull, and roll common objects and describe their motions.
Second grade: S2P3. Students will demonstrate changes in speed and direction using pushes and pulls.
a. Demonstrate how pushing and pulling an object affects the motion of the object.
b. Demonstrate the effects of changes of speed on an object.
Fourth grade: S4P3. Students will demonstrate the relationship between the application of a force and the resulting change in position and motion on an object.
a. Identify simple machines and explain their uses (lever, pulley, wedge, inclined plane, screw, wheel and axle).
b. Using different size objects, observe how force affects speed and motion.
c. Explain what happens to the speed or direction of an object when a greater force than the initial one is applied.
d. Demonstrate the effect of gravitational force on the motion of an object.
I print out boardmaker pictures of important vocabulary (push, pull, fast, slow, lever, pulley, wedge, inclined plane, screw, wheel and axle). I also print pictures of examples of simple machines and of things that move back/forth, round and round, and straight.
I also use boardmaker pictures to write a very simple explanation of the ideas (i.e. if you push a toy car hard, it will go fast ... if you push a toy car soft, it will go slow) to make a book for the unit. On the first couple of days, we read the book together as a class and I show concrete examples of the concepts. (i.e. I push a toy car hard and soft - then I let the students do the same). I find different ways to illustrate the concepts and use the same terminology and simple explanations repetetively. We play matching games with the vocabulary pictures (most of my students have IEP goals of matching pictures), practice with flashcards (which one of these is a pulley?), sorting (fast and slow animals - using color cues for some students - fast animals are on red cards, slow ones on blue cards, then they sort by color and we then go through the animals and tell them the jaguar is fast, etc.). We count, add, make patterns and graphs with pulleys, levers, wedges, etc. in math. We color, cut out, etc pictures of things that move back and forth, things that go round and round, etc. to work on fine motor skills. We trace, copy or write sentences ("A turtle is slow.", "This is a wedge.") to describe pictures.
Here are some examples of activities we did in my class to wrap up our unit focusing on these standards:

We made our own simple machines.
We found examples of different simple machines around our school.

The fourth graders built complex machines and presented them to us, pointing out the simple machines that made them up.

This activity was fun to do on the interactive whiteboard.
We found examples of machines here and here.
We pulled each other on scooters to illustrate fast and slow.

2 Responses to "Accessing and Adapting curriculum"

Liz Ditz (visit their site)

Do you know the blog of Daniel Dage -- he too is a special education teacher in GA

MNicoleM (visit their site)

Liz - I suppose I need to put my blog roll somewhere on here :-) The Life That Chose Me (Daniel's blog) and your own blog (I Speak of Dreams) are both in my RSS reader. Thanks for visiting!!