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How to Differentiate Process for Special Education Students

There are three primary ways in which educators can differentiate instruction: content, process, and product.  In this post we are going to discuss how a special education teacher can differentiate process for students with learning disabilities.


First, we can start out by defining process as it relates to differentiation.  Differentiating process involves looking at how the students make sense of or master the content that has been taught.  After a teacher has delivered the content to the student, they want to allow for a variety of opportunities for students to engage with the content by applying their knowledge and essential understandings.  


Examples of Differentiating Process

Because students with disabilities come to us with a variety of learning profiles and readiness levels, it is important that we provide multiple opportunities for them to to make sense of content.  One example of differentiation of process would be for students to engage in a turn and talk or a debate over a particular concept.


Processing information verbally and having the opportunity to share ideas with others, is a solid way for students to push each other in thinking critically around a topic.  While many students may benefit from processing information verbally and auditorily through conversation, other students may benefit from having a chance to process independently through drawing, creating a diagram, or journaling.   


When reading a lengthy text or excerpt, we may want to have students complete a close read and annotate in order to assist them with tracking their thoughts in preparation for a writing task.  Graphic organizers can be used in math to assist students with learning a lengthy mathematical process, by chunking steps and making them more manageable.


Graphic organizers are also a great for students to organize information that they have learned from a text, audio, or video about a certain topic.   When building up to a major task, such as an essay or presentation, directing students to keep their graphic organizers and notes in a notebook can assist them with processing at a later date as well.


A Strategy for Special Education Teachers

By moving away from a one-size-fits-all method of having our students engage in learning activities, we are able to provide access to the  general education curriculum to all students, regardless of whether or not they are a student with a disability. Because of this, it is important for special education teachers to differentiate the ways in which students process new learning.  

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