Tools to Support Teachers and Learners: Special Edition #1

Year after year mainstream teachers are assigned students with special needs. English learners, Resource students, and students with individual education plans (504s in California) pass through our doors each day bringing with them a set of instructional challenges that a mainstream teacher may not be trained to meet.  Unfortunately these same teachers are given little if any support to reach these students and in these stark economic times these conditions are not about to change. This is not meant to be a reflection on the special education staff in any school. The demands on these teachers make such support a difficult challenge to surmount. It is simply the reality that is. Indeed increased class sizes; the complete mainstreaming of all levels of English Learners (including newcomers); and full immersion of all levels of special education students into regular instruction will only enhance the challenges of the educator in a mainstream classroom. 

This is the first of an ongoing series of articles about tools mainstream educators can utilize to reach the needs of these students. Each article will have a different focus and will offer educators several resources that can be used to create a toolkit to address the needs of students who may struggle with our content.

 2 Tech Tools

Quizlet- free online flashcards.

www.quizlet.com 

What It Is

Not the only option out there, but it’s the one I currently use for several reasons. First students find it easy to use and it does not require them to register in order to access a set a flashcards. This year Quizlet has added a voice option that reads the word or definition when a speaker icon is clicked. This is especially helpful to those students who struggle with the pronunciation of new words. The option to print the words and definitions as flashcards is also a plus since it allows offline access by those who may not have a computer or internet connection at home. Another advantage is the option to include images on the cards. The Quizlet site also engages learners with games such as Space Race. Additionally I like the site’s ability to generate tests from the cards. This feature allows me to easily check for understanding. It also allows students who may struggle with tests to practice in a less stressful more engaging environment.

Why It Matters

Students who struggle in a mainstream classroom can benefit from this tool because it allows them to move away from lower level thinking tasks such as copying to the actual manipulation of the knowledge. This is turn creates memory and allows the student more time to process the content. Additionally the use of sound and visuals as well as the interactive nature of the activities empower the students to access challenging verbal linguistic content in a manner that may draw on one of their learning strengths.

Talking flashcards

There are several many of these out there in App world. Here is the one I use.

http://www.theratechsolutions.com/theratechsolutions/Talking_Flashcards.html

I like this App even at its price of $3.99 on itunes because it offers a choice of voices. The speed of these voices can be easily modified and there is even an option for spelling! Easy downloads from cards on Quizlet is an added plus. As we upgrade our ipods touches please consider donating yours to a school so more students can access learning tools such as these.

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