S.O.S. – Survey, Obtain Information, Self-Test

The problems encountered by students with disabilities in the middle grades are often magnified by the heavy emphasis on reading assignments as a means of acquiring subject-matter information. Often, teachers present major ideas during class and ask students to read supporting material in their textbooks.

The reading levels of textbooks are typically at grade level or above, or they vary within the same book. Thus, students who are reading below grade level often do not complete the reading assignments and other related assignments in their subject-matter courses. Although the verbatim tape recording of textbooks has been recommended, research has shown that it does not help students learn or improve their performance.

This adaptation was developed to be useful across subject-matter areas, to overcome the shortcomings of traditional audiotaping practices.

The Adaptation

The adaptation involves a specially marked textbook, an audiotape and tape recorder, a study guide, and a set of procedures students use to listen to the audiotape and learn the information in each chapter. As students listen to the audiotape, they participate in three activities (S.O.S.):

  • Survey
  • Obtain Information
  • Self-Test


During the survey, students become familiar with the main ideas and organization of the chapter. The textbook/tape contains information regarding the title of the chapter, the relationship of the current chapter to the preceding and following chapters, the introduction of the chapter, the main ideas of the chapter, and the summary.

The voice on the tape provides instructions to students to help them find the important information in the chapter and make a skeletal outline of the chapter's main headings. Thus, the voice on the tape acts as a mediator between the students and the textbook information.

Obtain Information

As students obtain information, they follow along through the chapter while simultaneously listening to the voice on the tape read the most important subheadings and related information, and instruct them on what information they should enter into the skeletal outline of the chapter.

Once the outline is complete, students should paraphrase their notes to themselves. If they cannot paraphrase their notes, they should review the pertinent part of the tape again until they can.


During the self-test, students ask themselves the questions in the study guide and answer them, using their notes for reference. If an answer cannot be found in the notes, students review the textbook and the audiotape until they find the answer. The self-testing process continues until the students know all of the answers to the questions in the study guide.

More on Adapting Existing Materials.

Council for Exceptional Children

Provided in partnership with The Council for Exceptional Children.

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