Here are some questions about incorporating students with special needs in foreign language classes from a college student named Nicolas. I presented on classroom management in his class and he asked if I could answer some further questions.
My name is Nicolas J. I am a student in Foreign Language 341 with Dr. Wagner were you presented yesterday. I spoke to you about answering a few questions regarding students with special needs. Please find below the list of questions. I need them for a paper. The assignment was to ask our host teacher and write an essay. I have already asked my host teacher who is also a Spanish teacher, however, I thought it would be interesting to incorporate your answers as you two are completely different in the way you teach. Thank you so much for doing this. I truly appreciate it.
P.S. I found your tips from last night to be very beneficial and I have already incorporated some into my teaching today.
1. Have you had a student with a learning disability in your classroom, if so,what?
Yes, several over the years. I have several right now, as a matter of fact. ADHD and reading problems are the most common.
2. In what way do you aid a student with learning disabilities in your classroom? If you do not have a student with a disability, how do you think you would accommodate their needs?
I provide written instructions. I pre-teach vocabulary and we practice it in tactile ways. I provide opportunities for all students to see it acted out and used in context. Most accommodations are just good teaching that help all students to learn, in my opinion. I also ask different levels of questions to different levels of students so that all are challenged with the same material.
3. Is it more difficult or time consuming to have a student with a learning disability?
I can be, but once you incorporate it as routine in your teaching it is not burdensome.
4. Do you feel that having a student with a learning disability in a class has an effect on the other students? Why?
Yes. I used to think it was a drag on the class, but now that I understand more about developing a growth mindset I am convinced that having students with learning disabilities is an asset to my classroom because I now praise students for effort rather than achievement or intelligence, and that keeps all students confident, engaged and learning. The ultimate outcome is that all students learn more.
5. Do you see it as a benefit to have a student with a learning disability in your class? Why?
Yes. See above. Also, having students with learning disabilities keeps me focused on praising students for effort and struggle in the face of setbacks. This focus keeps gifted kids from being invested in only being clever and having their egos wrapped up in being smart. Doing well or doing poorly on assessments then becomes only a minor part of class–the focus shifts to learning more and getting all that they can from class. That kind of thinking will keep all students learning long after they have left my classroom and that is what I want.
6. Were you ever educated on how to assist students with learning disabilities? If so, how?
There have been lame attempts by administrators with which I have been associated, but my best training has come from reading, from my students and from ongoing dialogue with other teachers that care, mostly via emails; specifically the books The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle and Mindset by Carol Dweck.
A student with learning disabilities named Sean a couple of years ago had perhaps the biggest effect on me as I began to a haltingly apply some of these ideas and I saw him run with them. He wound up taking three years of Spanish at could speak more fluently and confidently than most students in the class, including many students that had been labeled gifted and talented.
7. Do you have any people or professors that can assist students with learning disabilities?
Our school has counselors and our district has a school psychologist. There are also special education teachers, but no teachers I know of ever have time to really confer with them.
8. Was having a student with LD a learning experience?
Yes, see above.
9. When you first interacted with a student with LD, what was your first thought? Did you think it was going to be hard to handle? Why?
When I first began teaching I thought that students with LD’s would slow down the class, but that is true of only superficial learning, unfortunately the giant state and national testing monster that runs education now is steering all teachers in the directions of short term test prep based teaching, rather than on developing life long learners. Now I see that the kind of teaching I do with LD students is a deeper kind and the learning that comes from it will help all students both now and in the future.
10. Do you think students with learning disabilities should be placed in the same classroom as those without?
Yes. No question about it. All students benefit from their presence in class.
11. How do you find out which students receive special education services?
The special education department sends out notices when a student is staffed as SpEd and we get lists at the beginning of the year.
12. How do you decide which accommodations, if any, students receive?
I base it on my own observation and interaction with the student in my class as much as on the reports I get from the SpEd department.