Step 5: Identify the Features of the Materials That Need to Be Adapted

The design of materials can create several types of problems for students with disabilities. Many of these problems, some possible short-term adaptation solutions, and some long-term instructional goals associated with the problems are listed in Table 1, below. Teachers can use this table to help identify features of curricular units and expectations that might be causing a learning problem.

Table 1


Design Problems in Curriculum Materials and Possible Solutions


Design Problem

Short-Term Design Adaptation

Long-Term Design Adaptation

1. Abstractness – The content appears too conceptual, hypothetical, and impractical. Provide students with more concrete examples, analogies, interpretations, or experiences. Teach students how to seek more examples, explanations, and interpretations through questioning and research.
2. Organization – The organization is not clear or is poorly structured. Make the organization explicit for students by creating graphic organizers and reading guides and inserting cues that focus attention. Teach students how to survey materials and identify text organization, read to confirm organization of ideas, and reorganize information for personal understanding and use.
3. Relevance – The information does not appear to have any relationship to students or their lives. Make the connections between the information and students' lives explicit by building rationales and tying information to student experiences. Teach students to ask appropriate questions about relevance, search for personal connections, and explore ways to make content relevant when given material that appears irrelevant to their lives.
4. Interest – The information or presentation of the information is boring. Present information and assignments in ways that build on students' attention span, participation, strengths, and interests. Teach students self-management strategies for controlling attention in boring situations, and how to take advantage of options and choices provided in assignments to make work more interesting.
5. Skills – The information is written at a level that assumes and requires skills beyond those possessed by students. Present information in ways that use the skills students have. Provide intensive instruction in basic skills required for basic literacy to middle-school students who are unprepared for secondary school content.
6. Strategies – The information is presented in ways that assume that students know how to approach tasks effectively and efficiently in strategic ways. Provide instruction in learning strategies to students who do not know how to approach and complete tasks. Cue and guide students in how to approach and complete learning and performance tasks by leading them through complex tasks.
7. Background – Understanding information usually requires critical background knowledge, but students often lack the experiences and concepts (or cannot make connections to personal background experiences) to make new information meaningful. Present information in ways that provide background experiences or make background linkages clear. Teach students how to become consumers of information from a variety of information sources and how to ask questions of these sources to gain background knowledge and insights.
8. Complexity – The information or associated tasks have many parts or layers. Break down the information or tasks and present them explicitly and in different ways so that students can learn and perform. Teach students how to "chunk" tasks, represent complex information graphically, ask clarifying questions, and work collaboratively in teams to attack complex tasks.
9. Quantity – There is a lot of difficult or complex information that is crucial to remember. Present the information in ways that facilitate remembering. Teach strategies for chunking, organizing, and remembering information.
10. Activities – The instructional activities and sequences provided do not lead to understanding or mastery. Provide students with scaffolded learning experiences that include additional or alternative instructional activities, activity sequences, or practice experiences to ensure mastery at each level of learning before instruction continues. Teach students to independently check and redo work, review information, seek help, ask clarifying questions, and inform others when they need more or different types of instruction before instruction in more content begins.
11. Outcomes – The information does not cue students how to think about or study information to meet intended outcomes. Inform students about expectations for their learning and performance. Teach students how to identify expectations and goals embedded in materials or to create and adjust goals based on previous experiences with similar materials.
12. Responses – The material does not provide options for students to demonstrate competence in different ways. Provide opportunities to students to demonstrate what they know in different ways. Teach students how they can best demonstrate competence, identify and take advantage of performance options and choices when they are offered, and request appropriate adaptations of tests and competency evaluations.

More on Adapting L.A., S.S., and Science Materials for the Inclusive Classroom.

Council for Exceptional Children

Provided in partnership with The Council for Exceptional Children.


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