If you teach in a self-contained special education classroom, chances are you teach multiple grades at one time. It can feel overwhelming to think about meeting the needs of each student. Luckily, managing a wide range of levels of learners in the classroom doesn’t have to be difficult. I teach students in grades 2nd-5th in all academic subjects and I’ve come up with three ways to manage different levels of learners.
Differentiate, Differentiate, Differentiate
You can still teach whole-group lessons with a variety of learners at different levels. Think about what each student needs to access the lesson. Do they need switches, picture cards, or AAC? What are the skills each student is working on? In my class, we do whole-group math lessons but tailor the student’s questions to their learning goal.
We hold whole group lessons using boom cards on our classroom Tap-It. I use a boom deck with addition questions and have each student’s question tailored to them. If my student is working on counting, they count the objects and find the number that’s the answer. Other students may be working on identifying numbers we count together and they identify the number from a field of two. If you are interested in what a Tap-It is and what you can do with it check out this article here.
Small Group Instruction
Small group instruction is a lifesaver. Group students with similar goals and needs together. Utilize tasks and hands-on activities with students during this time. If your students are like mine, they are still learning how to work independently to the best of their ability. Grouping students in small groups of two or three allows you to work with students on similar levels and in the same grades more directly. Make sure to assign paraprofessionals to small groups to increase instructional time and reduce student wait time. I like to set a time for twenty minutes. I use this timer found here.
Utilize Independent Work
“What if my students can’t work independently?” That’s okay! Find something your student can do with minimal oversight. Independent work doesn’t need to be a worksheet or taskbox. Independent work is anything the student can do on their own. Some students that may be playing with sand or cars, it could be a sensory bin, or watching an education video. I had a student that had the use of one finger. I connected a Bluetooth switch to an iPad and curated an educational YouTube playlist that the student could use the switch to navigate through with her finger. Here are some great ideas for independent work from Whitney.
Most importantly, be flexible and kind to yourself. You will figure out a system that works for you. I hope these three ways to manage different levels of learners help you create a system that works for you.
Don’t have room for a big task box shelf? You can use the 3 drawer system. Here are the FREE labels!
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