Note: I've written before repeatedly about things like retakes and RRR on my Latin blog, Pomegranate Beginnings. As PBP is undergoing some changes, I am opting to post this update here as part of this series. I feel it fits both discussion of Latin and working with all kinds of learners however.
Retakes can be a sticky subject for teachers. I've heard many reasons as to why retakes should be given and why they shouldn't. I've even addressed some of these in previous posts (see above). What I want to consider today is how retakes can harm students and particularly neurodivergent and disabled students and, more importantly I think, how we can use this vital tool to support them instead.
I'd like to take a look at a few scenarios. Some are things I've heard about in general classrooms and some are things I've done in the past. I want to be clear that I am, in no way, trying to target any particular teacher and, more importantly, that none of us are perfect (I am far from it). Rather, I'd like to bring a different perspective to these practices that are often considered "standard" or even "best" in certain cases.
General Topic. Scenario. My thoughts.
To put it bluntly...
These kinds of retakes really only serve a specific type of student:
So... what can we do?
There is no one answer. I know that isn't the ideal response, especially as teachers who are responsible for multiple students (I have an average of 150-180). But, hear me out. The simple answer is: flexibility and adaptation... on the teacher's part. I was afraid when I realised this because I wondered how much extra work it would put on me. After a few years of working this way I realise... it doesn't. It isn't something I can put in a single blog post or provide a template for, however. But... let me address each of the students we talked about in our scenarios:
I wish there were a simple answer, but there isn't because we don't teach computers, we teach human beings. Education and testing, in particular, have largely and historically favoured the neurotypical, affluent, and gifted student when they are the students who often succeed without any help or intervention. As educators we should be working to ensure progress for all types of learners.
Disclaimer: This is not an exhaustive list. My teaching is always adapting and changing. Additionally, you'll find other resources and more specifics on posts on this blog with the tag "Vision" and on the resources page of my website.
Welcome to the first installment in my series on working with all types of learners. I decided to create this series to (in no particular order) catalogue the things I was doing for reference and for the future, provide resources for teachers who may be new to working with various types of learners, and to help support advocates, teachers, and students in their educational journey. Today's installment will focus on supporting vision students.
Today's blog post and resources focus on working with vision students. Like all disabilities and types of learners, there is a wide spectrum to what qualifies as a "vision student". Some students wear glasses, some have varying degrees of vision and legal blindness, and some have temporary or chronic conditions that may require different supports at different times. In my district, various schools have programs that focus on specific disabilities. Our school cluster (elementary, middle, high) houses the vision program for the district. We have dedicated TVIs who work with our students and provide a variety of life skills and classes in things like braille, and mobility.
I am very happy to be personal and professional friends with our TVI and some of the paraprofessionals in this program. We work together closely to support students and I am really glad they are here! You will see references to them in this post as they have shared with me many ideas and resources that I use with my students.
For the Teacher
What can we as teachers do to show our support or prepare ourselves for teaching vision students? Here are some things I've done:
Putting things into braille
If you are able to put things into braille, that's great! If you have someone at your school who can do it for you, or if your student has assistive technology that allows them to read documents as if they were in braille, these pointers might help you:
For the Students
Here is a quick list of ways to adapt activities and support vision students in your classroom.
One of the things I like to do for story review is to have students brainstorm what they remember. In the past, I've taken notes on the board and taken a picture of them to put online to share. However, this is not a way to provide full access to vision students who read braille or use audio devices. So, I decided to try and find a way to take the notes in a way that was easy for me, but to provide it for students in multiple formats (multiple means of representation in UDL speak).
I did this today with a Latin I class. We were reviewing the first half of a story before reading the second half. I ask students to give me notes of what they remembered, in any order, each period. I added them all to the same document and made the notes available to all classes.
How We Made It Work
Right now I am teaching in person and digitally, so I needed a way to see all my students AND take these notes. So, I pulled out my iPad and wrote notes while they spoke and typed at me. I used the Notability app which I've talked about before when discussing annotated stories. I love this app for taking notes professionally and creating resources for students, but I still don't know everything about it. For example, today I learned that I can take my handwriting on the app and quickly convert it to digital type (which can be read by an text to voice system).
After I had all the notes written, I used the Notability app to convert them into typed text. It wasn't perfect and there were a few mistakes, but I quickly fixed those using a keyboard. I then uploaded the document as a PDF. Zamzar was able to take that PDF and turn it into a word doc. I then removed all formatting (making it more accessible to a braille Note).
As you can see, my handwriting is fun. I use a mix of cursive and print and I colour code things. I don't solely provide one or the other and often use a mix of my own handwriting and digital type. I see value in both (aka, this isn't the place to get into an argument over cursive vs. typing skills).
I am so glad I learned how to do this today and will definitely be employing it in the future as well!
This blog post is a reflection on the article, "A Resource for Equitable Classroom Practices" from the Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. The button above will take you to the original resource. My reflection is reflected below in a video I created. This does not contain all of my thoughts, but does consider some key points in about five minutes.
This page is dedicated to my compilation of ideas and resources. You can find my sources either in these posts or listed under the other pages in this menu.