by Greg Cunningham, JFYNet Learning Specialist
Effective Connected Learning tools for special education students
Two groups of students have been especially hard hit by the shutdown: English Learners and special education students with IEPs or 504 plans. These are some of the most educationally vulnerable groups in our schools. Special attention needs to be paid to them in order to help them keep up with current studies and simultaneously catch up on previously learned material that may have been lost during the shutdown. JFYNet’s online reading program helps teachers provide effective accommodations for Special Education students and strategies for EL students whether in the classroom or working remotely.
When students first log in to our program, they take an assessment called the Level Set that measures their current Lexile score. (The Lexile is a standard national measurement of reading skill.) This measurement makes it possible for all students to read the same material, but each at his or her individual level of difficulty. This system allows a whole class to have a “mentor” text: a text that students and teachers can use for multiple purposes, which is differentiated to individual skill levels. The program automatically parses out and tiers the text by student reading level, relieving the teacher of that painstaking task.
When students log in to their assignments they see their target vocabulary. They can listen to it, repeat it, and hear the part of speech. They can also see and hear it used in a sentence. This multi-modal presentation helps them process new vocabulary by both seeing and hearing it. Teachers can then use it in an original sentence, or have students do a think-pair-share with the word. This is a standard strategy for EL students. The program also provides opportunities for students to build familiarity with new words through activities such as word search.
The program will read to students. Reading aloud is an indirect vocabulary development tool. For students who have learning disabilities in reading, this technique can be particularly helpful. Sentences are parsed out with yellow highlights. Each individual word is then highlighted in blue as it is spoken. Students can re-listen to a sentence or paragraph as many times as necessary. This feature allows students to continually revisit the text to process it.
After students read a text, they can highlight specific passages and annotate the selection. They can copy their work and bring it over into a reading-response. This helps them develop their comprehension strategies, and also helps them use a text thoughtfully to respond to a question.
Students can work in partner pairs to develop their own text-dependent questions based on Bloom’s taxonomy. Teachers can assign text-dependent questions for students to develop based on their WIDA level. In addition, the JFYNet program contains a wide array of graphic organizers for teachers to use with EL students or students with Special Education accommodations from a 504 plan or an IEP.
All students will need extra support coming into this academic year, but English Learners and special needs students will need more tools and support in order to realize necessary achievement. No matter what skills students need to master during this upcoming academic year, the tools in our ELA program will help all students find success, especially those who require targeted support.
This video illustrates just how effective and beneficial the program is for students.
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