Key Learnings

Universal Design & Differentiated Instruction

Both students and teachers benefit from the broad principles of universal design because it helps enhance the learning of all students. All the principles are taken into consideration from the very beginning. It operates under the understanding that one size does not fit all and reduces barriers to learning. Student engagement increases and they are empowered to be self-directed learners. I think that as a result of all of these benefits to students, teachers would need to do less in the way of classroom management as students take more ownership for what they are learning. The key difference between UD and DI is that universal design is a set of principles for the classroom environment, while differentiated instruction allows teachers to address specific skills and or difficulties that students may have. Teachers can differentiate the content, process or product. Some strategies include MI when doing planning, using a variety of organizers, creating opportunities for small group, partner, independent groups and varied questioning strategies.


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Supporting Students with Limited Prior Schooling

"English language learners with limited prior schooling come to Ontario schools from a variety of life situations and experiences. While their individual circumstances are unique, they have not had the opportunity to attend school on a regular and consistent basis or may have had no schooling at all. These students have significant gaps in their learning and have had limited opportunities to develop age-appropriate language and literacy skills even in their first language." (Supporting English Language Learners with Limited Prior Schooling)

These students require English Literacy Development programs (ELD), which are a combination language learning and accelerated literacy development. Students will most likely require this support in all subject areas due to their limited schooling. The goal of ELD is to transition students to integration and main stream programs with ESL support.

It is important to understand the experiences that these students have had and to know the circumstances surrounding their coming to Canada. Some may have experienced war, violence, famine, poverty, natural disasters, or political instability. These may have a significant effect on their ability to learn and adjust to their new country. There are several ways teachers can support these learners:

-provide a consistent, safe place in which to learn, with clear parameters, where values of equity and inclusion are evident and demonstrated;

-teach routines as they may be unfamiliar with what happens at school;

-ensure that learning environments reflect the diversity of the learners, so that all students can see themselves represented in their classrooms;

-recognize that the learner's needs go beyond academic needs;

-learn about geographical, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds of students through reading, settlement resources, and positive, informal interaction with students;

-establish peer buddy groups, perhaps related to first language, and monitor relationships to ensure that the relationships are beneficial for all;

-daily integration with English-speaking peers

-opportunities to use first language as a bridge to new learning

Special Education Considerations

"Some English language learners have Special Education needs. They are as likely as any other student to be intellectually gifted, to have a learning disability or a behavioural disorder, or even to have multiple exceptionalities." (Supporting English Language Learners)

School boards must develop a protocol for supporting these students. The schools are to work in close consultation with parents in order to determine what supports are needed for students. They are cautioned to not assume that the behaviours or performance they are seeing can only be attributed to a learning disability as some of what is seen may be a result of language acquisition or acculturation or even a lack of prior schooling. Careful observation over a period of time is what is necessary to ensure students are receiving the right supports.

"When ELLs with limited prior schooling are several years out of phase with their age peers, educators may inadvertently assume that these students have special education needs when the difficulties that they are experiencing relate to their prior lack of opportunity for formal learning." These students may:

-initially make slow progress when compared to their age peers who have been in school, because they need time to adjust to school and a new culture, and to acquire oral language proficiency;

-forget concepts and have difficulty remembering words and ideas, because the concepts are culturally irrelevant to them or are not taught in a context that builds on the students' prior knowledge;

-avoid trying to learn to read, because they are intimidated by the facility of others around them and they feel that they will never acquire this skill;

-be unable to retell a simple story in sequence, because they lack the vocabulary to effectively retell the story; however, they may be able to demonstrate that they have understood the concepts by arranging visuals in the correct order or retelling the same story in their first language;

-appear to have short attention spans, because learning in another language is an exhausting task. Students are typically immersed in their new language all day, and find it difficult to concentrate when they are tired, or have trouble understanding what is being said;

-may score very low on standard assessment tools, because they have had limited education that allows them to read and write in their first language and limited or no experience with formal assessment (Supporting English Language Learners with Limited Prior Schooling)

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