Possession of a college degree as well as a Special Education credential does not necessarily mean one is ready for all the challenges of meeting the needs of diverse learners. If one thinks having a curriculum guide and a set of text books is going to do it, one is mistaken and must seriously reconsider his or her career choice. Individual planning for certain groups and learning styles is a must. But don’t count out lessons geared for gifted and talented students when planning for those with learning or other disabilities.
I learned this through a course I took in teaching the gifted and talented offered by a local college and taught by an expert in the field of Twice Exceptional Education, Dr. Susan Baum. “A Toolkit for Teens” served as the basis of many of the lectures. The course was not simply taught in a didactic manner; it was also taught experientially. There were lectures, but there were also less traditional experiences.
Through this course, I learned to weave cinematherapy into my Middle and High School language arts classes. Important themes, such as bullying and independence as well as deceit and, of course good and evil, could be studied by watching characters and the choices they made in movies such as The Princess Diaries, Contact, and Cast Away. The onus was on the characters in the movies, not on the students in the class. Writing summaries, taking notes, making inferences, and drawing conclusions were included at every step. If writing was a challenge, drawing, role playing, and giving speeches were encouraged. We also studied goal setting, action plans, and time management. These lent themselves nicely to mathematical lessons. We learned about stress busters as tools to combat anxiety and how and when to use them. We studied Active Listening and “I Statements” as well as the difference between assertive versus aggressive language and actions.
The bottom line is that in the quest to meet standards and assessments, there are different paths to follow. Differentiation is a complex process which requires creativity and skill. I strongly recommend this Toolkit for Teens in planning your next semester. It is a strength-based model and focuses on what students can do despite what challenges they might have. Whether students have been diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder, ADHD, or Executive Functioning issues, these lessons and activities provide helpful strategies. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. All students need enrichment activities.
Antonia Guccione, MA; MS
Antonia is a consultant, educator, and author with over forty years’ experience working with students of all ages, strengths, and needs.