Jennifer taught 9th grade ELA and AP Literature for over 8 years. She has a dual master's in English Literature and Teaching Secondary Ed from Simmons University and a BS in Psychology. She is a full-time senior content writer and certified AP Test Reader.
Writing Assignments & IEPs
Not every student learns in the same way, and that statement is especially true for special education students. While there are many ways to modify writing assignments for them, we have to be sure to follow each student's individualized education program (IEP), which includes legally binding modifications and accommodations.
Modifications may not only include scaffolding assignments and graphic organizers, but also call for fewer sources for a research paper, a lower page count, or customized directions. Check with your student's special education liaison or department head if you have any questions or concerns.
No matter how big or small an assignment, it is important to break down academic material so students feel confident that they can complete the objective or task and learn the skill. This technique is called scaffolding. Scaffolding is when you break down a larger assignment into smaller, more manageable parts. These parts can be combined over time to complete the overall objective.
When assigning writing work, scaffolding means setting smaller goals for special education students that will help them pull all of the pieces together. Here are some techniques for breaking down the different parts of writing assignments and helping our special education students succeed.
Short Writing Assignment Techniques
Even for a short or one-page assignment or reflection, first brainstorm with your special education students. For example, don't simply give them a prompt and ask them to write. Have them brainstorm using a mind map or bulleted points so they don't feel overwhelmed. It might also benefit all students if you brainstorm as a class so that struggling students can see how others work through the given assignment.
Another way to help get special education students going is by using sentence starters. Ease students into an assignment by writing the beginning of a sentence on the board or on a worksheet. For example, you could write something like, ''Today in class I learned...'' or ''During today's class, I learned three things about World War I.'' Then, add some bulleted points for your students to fill in on their own.
These seemingly small tips help special education students feel like they can complete an assignment, especially if you offer support along the way. Now let's take a look at how we can help them during longer writing assignments.
Long Writing Assignment Techniques
For longer assignments, break down each section of a paper into manageable parts, such as:
- Thesis statement
- Topic sentences
This way, the task doesn't feel overwhelming. Students can work at the assignment piece by piece at their own pace until they complete the task.
To break up an assignment effectively, give students a graphic organizer. A graphic organizer is a handout that breaks down tasks into smaller pieces. It usually contains visual representations - such as boxes or other shapes - to help students organize their thoughts. There are many sample organizers for open responses and long compositions available online. However, feel free to create your own and design them specifically for each long writing assignment.
Another tool that can help special education students is modeling. Modeling is when you show students how to complete an assigned task. For example, you could model an open response on the board or give students a sample essay to read. You could also walk them through each step in the writing assignment by having them try the task first and then completing it together.
For most students, the thought of completing a research paper is a daunting task. For special education students, this task can feel impossible. Using scaffolding, we can make these assignments feel like a walk in the park.
Start by looking at the assignment as a whole, and see where you can break down a larger paper into smaller steps. For example, provide students with mini deadlines and assign due dates for reading material, writing small portions of the paper, and compiling sources. If possible, provide a model for each section of the paper, such as internal citations and a works cited page, to give students a reference point, especially if this is their first research paper.
When working with special education students on writing assignments, start small. First, use scaffolding and break assignments down into smaller, more manageable chunks. Next, see if there is a graphic organizer or model you can give students to help them understand what you are looking for in the finished product. You can also use mini deadlines, depending on the rigor and size of the project. And don't forget to check the individualized education program (IEP) to ensure each one of your special education students is receiving the proper modifications and accommodations.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack
Resources created by teachers for teachers
I would definitely recommend Study.com to my colleagues. It’s like a teacher waved a magic wand and did the work for me. I feel like it’s a lifeline.