Students with Disabilities Class Reflection #2

March 20, 2008

Students With Disabilities                                                                               Class Reflection #2

Class Reflection # 2

A) Describe in observable terms the academic difficulties the student exhibits

            The five classes I am student-teaching have approximately one-hundred students total. There is one Accelerated Class and four regular classes. There are two students with IEPs and the team’s teachers recommend that two other students be classified as Students With Disabilities (SWDs). Two of the four core classes, Social Studies and Science, are inclusion classes. The other two core classes, Math and Language Arts, are not inclusion classes. My cooperating instructor has had two other students with Learning Disabilities removed from his class. One student was removed because he did not do the work and the other because he was a constant disruption during class. My cooperating instructor does make accommodations for the two remaining SWDs other than allowing for more time to take tests and to remove one choice from the group of four choices on a typical multiple choice test. His reasoning is that if they are in his class then they should be treated no different than the other students. I have asked during my immersion time if I should make allowances, such as being able to turn in work late, for these two students and he said no. One student has a failing grade and one student has a C grade. 

This reflection will focus on one Gina (not her real name), one of the students with an IEP. Gina is failing the course, primarily due to her poor test scores. She is very quiet in class. She does not speak unless spoken to, and when called upon she usually does not have a response, or her responses tend to be short, inaudible, and generally off topic. In group activities she does much better, speaking to her group mates, making her thoughts and feelings known, giving input, contributing, etc. However, if her group must present to the class she is very quiet, standing still and not participating. For example, at the beginning of the current literature unit I had students do a process drama activity as a pre-learning activity. When Gina’s group gave their performance she did not speak or act out in any way. Her two group mates were forced to do the entire performance by themselves. Knowing that she is a LS (Learning Support) student I felt it prudent to not ask her in front of the class what her role was supposed to be and why she did not perform it. During group work she tends to work with the same two girls who do not seem to mind working with her. In a Body Biography activity Gina was grouped with these same two girls plus another girl and by looking at the finished product it was obvious that Gina did contribute. During the presentation of the biographies all group were required to talk about their contributions which Gina did do.

Gina is a poor test taker, failing all the tests for the current nine weeks. She finishes tests quickly, usually being one of the first students finished, which indicates that she does not understand the material and is hurrying through it. She is not alone in rushing through tests however, many other students finish quickly and those students also either fail or earn a D grade. Part of the reason for these students rushing through the tests is because they do not want to take the tests and want to get them over with quickly. A second reason could be that some students do not care what type of grade they receive and again just want to get taking the test over with quickly. A final reason could be that these students have reading comprehension problems and do not understand the test questions and/or how they relate to the test. Based upon my observations of Gina and comments made to my cooperating instructor I think that her problems with tests are equally related to reading comprehension problems and with her work ethic. She has recently lost a close family member and her overall interest in life and school has curtailed due to this loss.

The personal problems Gina is having may be also due her not doing homework. I have given a large number of small homework assignments during the current unit and she has not done many of them which have also affected her grade.

B & C) Design a probe that will identify Gina’s areas of difficulty and explain why these probes were used.

            I am going to first design a basic skills probe that will address how Gina takes in information. I feel that if she understood the material better she would have better results on the tests and have improved responses to the homework assignments. I also feel that Gina’s observable strengths are her responses to the material she understands. (For instance, all students were required to do projects for the Tom Sawyer unit. Gina chose to write a “Her” history story, emulating the way Mark Twain wrote Tom Sawyer as the story of Tom Sawyer. Gina’s response, though short, was fine work which met the requirements of the rubric. The writing also showed ability to use humor and characterization by Gina.)

            I will begin with a see-say probe using two of the class’ required novels, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (TAOTS) and Holes. TAOTS requires a greater amount of attention to detail than does Holes, and Mark Twain’s purposeful use of dialect and period vocabulary requires all readers to define words through contextual use and also to say many words out loud to be able to understand what was written by Twain and what is being spoken by the novel’s characters. Holes, on the other hand, is a much easier text to read and understand, and was written with a simpler vocabulary.

            The first step will be to have Gina read aloud from Holes while I follow along to test her accuracy with speaking the words correctly. Being that this is an easy text I expect her to do well. As she reads I will mark the number of mistakes she makes and the words she misspeaks. I will then categorize the mistakes to check for any noticeable patterns. As Gina reads I will also stop her from periodically and test her knowledge of the story’s elements, such as character development, plot, etc. I will track her responses without correcting them, and then analyze the errors afterwards to again check for patterns and noticeable comprehension problems.

            After Gina reads a selection from Holes I will choose selections from TAOTS for her to read. These selections will be of three types: dialogue, exposition, and narration. Twain’s narration is much easier to understand than is the dialogue, during which he uses dialect, and his descriptive passages can be exorbitantly detailed, creating vivid images designed to put readers into the settings themselves. I am using the three different types of selections because a number of students have remarked that they have trouble at various times with all three, and also because Twain’s talent allows him to move back-and-forth between the various types of writing that readers must be almost as equally as talented readers to keep track of what is happening in the story.

            I will do the same for TAOTS that I did for Holes, keeping track of mistakes Gina makes while reading from all three different selections. Because of the elevated level of difficulty of this text I will stop Gina more often for comprehension checks. But because of this elevated level of difficulty I will also allow for the anticipated increased number of mistakes.

            After Gina has finished reading from both selections I will look at the notes I have made and compare them for Gina’s ability to read the easier text to the more difficult text. If as expected she does better with Holes than TAOTS, I will recommend that Gina be given novels more accustomed to her reading ability.

            The second probe I have designed for Gina involves me reading aloud to her form both texts and doing the same type of reading comprehension checks as I did when she read aloud. I will alternately read faster and slower from both texts to test if her ability to listen and understand at different speed levels. I think this is an important part of my probe because not having the text to follow from will force Gina to listen more carefully and not “cheat” by using the text to help her answer the comprehension check questions. Also, some people can see things in texts when they are read aloud and an appropriate course of action for Gina could be to have her use audio books for more difficult texts.

            The third probe is the use of study guide (SG) questions. Students in my cooperating teacher’s classes must answer SG questions while they read as a combination reading/comprehension check. Gina did poorly on these questions, often not answering any of them at all and most times answering them incorrectly. I will check Gina’s responses to the SGs, asking her why she answered the questions both correctly and incorrectly. Having her show how she got the responses will provide information to her reading ability, and why she is able to understand what is asked for with some questions while not understanding what is required of other questions.

2) Choose 3 accommodations for the PSSAs.     

            1) The first accommodation I will make is to allow Gina for more time to complete the tests. All students are afforded this accommodation; acceptable PSSA scores are highly valued at my site, but Gina will be given as much time as needed to complete the tests. Another accommodation I will consider making for Gina is to force her to take her time while taking the tests, and I will do this by giving her the test materials as she finishes each section, and requiring her to take a certain amount of time for each sub-part of the test. Of course, I will only do this if it is legally permitted.

            2) The second accommodation is another basic accommodation but it is designed to address one of Gina’s weak areas. One reason Gina hurries while taking tests could be that she believes she will be able to finish in time or she is intimidated by the number of questions. To address this problem I will reduce the number of questions on the test and not the number of choices for the multiple choice questions. I realize now that removing the fourth choice is a modification not an accommodation.

            3) My third accommodation is to, again if it allowed, is to use shorter reading and writing pieces that still assess tat the same level. Shorter passages to read and write may make the test more accessible to Gina providing her with the confidence and encouragement that she can be successful taking the test.       

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