Welcome to the Accommodate and Overcome series; a blog series addressing common accommodations and scaffolds in science classrooms. In each blog, we will look at not only the educational need but how to address it in Pivot Interactives and in your classroom.
Our primary goal should always be to SUPPORT THE STUDENT to meet the challenge. If this is not an option, then we should ADJUST THE CHALLENGE to meet the student.
In a recent survey, we asked teachers how they used Pivot Interactives to meet the needs of their students.
"I typically make a copy of the existing lab and rewrite questions as needed to be all or mostly multiple-choice, with feedback for wrong answers and multiple attempts allowed. Most students find this really helpful."
**This right here!** I was SO happy to read this because this is a perfect example of “reduce and modify.” As an inclusion teacher, the typically broad “reduce and modify” accommodation would slide across my desk with nearly every Individual Education Plan (IEP) that I read. As a starting teacher, it was hard enough to figure out what that meant, let alone how to do that! So, in this blog, we’re going to dig deep into the options to meet this ever-common need.
#1 What does “reduce and modify” mean?
#2 Common reduction strategies
#3 How will I differentiate who gets these assignments in Pivot Interactives?
Remember the philosophy stated earlier: Our primary goal should always be to support the student to meet the challenge. If this is not an option, then we should adjust the challenge to meet the student. While most of the accommodations and scaffolds used in a classroom will be support-based, occasionally you will need to adjust an activity because there is no other way to support the student in a reasonable manner. Reduce and modify is the general description of any accommodation, scaffold, or support in which a modified version of the activity is used with these select students in the select case where you cannot support the student to meet the challenge.
This is different from general modifications that you make when you find an activity. For example, I like to modify my activities to add memes or general announcements. I would also chop or splice activities so no matter what I was doing, it took 30-45 minutes, fitting into my 48-min classes. (Yes. Specifically 48 minutes. I had one year where they ranged from 48-53 minutes and it bugged me.) In order for it to qualify as “reduce and modify,” it needs to be specific to the student or group that is using the activity and it should not be used with the whole class. If you find an activity online and change it to match your teaching style, that is not a “modification” for this accommodation. If you find an activity online and change it to match a specific learning need for a student (such as reducing the passage lengths of the reading), then that is a “modification” for this accommodation.
Common reduction strategies include:
Just a note: these terms can get very specific, so always check a student’s IEP or 504 to ensure that you are meeting the expectations of their services team. If you ever have specific questions about an individual student, you should discuss those with the special education coordinator at your school or the case manager for the student.
Earlier, we laid out some different reduction strategies that you may use in your classroom. Let’s now break them down into actionable plans.
What does this solve? In this strategy, we’re going to reduce the cognitive load of the overall activity to focus on fundamental and essential learning objectives. Often, this requires removing more advanced questions, such as creative exercises or complex application questions, in favor of basic application questions. This is done to reduce the burden of an activity and encourage students to focus on foundational skills first; they can do those more difficult tasks another time.
Additionally, this same skill can be used to reduce unnecessary repetition. If your student has already shown mastery after two questions, are eight more really needed? Do we have sections that go above and beyond the level of skill needed to show mastery? Do we have questions that may lead to unproductive struggle, which could ultimately halt the entire learning process? By reducing these questions, we free up educational time for students to focus on skills that they haven’t mastered.
How will we do this in Pivot Interactives? You can remove entire sections easily in Pivot Interactives. To do this:
This same strategy can be applied to remove individual questions. Any time you see that trash can, you can delete the part you’re looking at!
What does this solve? In this strategy, we’re going to reduce the choice overload associated with multiple-choice questions. In a well-written multiple-choice question, invalid options are distractors because they target specific misconceptions that a student may have. However, if a student doesn’t have that misconception, seeing lots of possible solutions can overwhelm them. This leads to instances where the student knows the answer, but they don’t complete the question because they quit.
How will we do this in Pivot Interactives? You can remove question options easily in Pivot Interactives. To do this:
Just a reminder: if you reduce the choices, you may also want to change the submissions available for the question; this is done at the start of the question in the Submissions field.
What does this solve? While we content experts may consider Campbell’s Biology or Zumdahl’s Chemistry a bit of light reading, mere paragraphs of similar text can be an unapproachable mountain for our students. Overly long passages may lose the attention of readers with attention disorders or can be overwhelming for students with anxiety about reading.
How will we do this in Pivot Interactives? As we stated previously, you can easily delete entire questions or sections. And, within any component, you can remove any wording you wish to remove. (Those text boxes are 100% editable.)
However, this reduction strategy is as much about how much you delete as what you delete. When removing content, ask yourself: “will I be able to answer all relevant questions with ONLY the text remaining?” Be sure to adjust your text, and then check your questions to ensure that your changes still allow the student to answer their questions.
Also, when adjusting, remember that Lexile scoring services may have a hard time giving an accurate score. In general, it’s better to replace verbiage, reduce “fluff,” and add pictures to describe complex events. For more strategies, check out these tips on how to adjust readability.
Now comes the assignment process. A valuable part of the accommodation process is anonymity: in the ideal practice, students wouldn’t even know that their activity is different than their classmates’. This reduces the shame and isolation that can be felt by the students with accommodations and leads to a more inclusive classroom. While this can be difficult to achieve in the classroom, it is very easy to manage online.
Check out this helpful article on how to assign an activity to only some students using Co-Labs.
When you apply an accommodation or provide a scaffold (whole group or small group), make sure you document it! If you reduce an assignment, make sure you note this in the grade book. (We used Infinite Campus, so I did this with the fill grade feature.) You can also just record these on an accommodation tracker in your teacher notes if you prefer pen and paper. This is especially important if you need to give another copy of the activity, since you may not remember your exact changes later. No matter what you do, document it so that you have a record in case you are asked for it later.