Unit 5: Curriculum for students with SLD

5.1 Learning outcomes at elementary stage adapting curriculum to the needs of students with SLD

5.2. Teaching models concept attainment model, direct instruction, role playing

5.3 Instructional planning steps

5.4. Pyramid plan

5.5 Curriculum adaptation













5.1 Learning outcomes at elementary stage adapting curriculum to the needs of students with SLD


Children with learning disabilities begin school expecting to learn and be successful. If your child is having difficulty in school, she may learn differently from other kids. Parents are often the first to notice that “something doesn’t seem right.” But sometimes knowing what to do and where to find help can be confusing.

Children grow up to be adults and unfortunately learning disabilities cannot be cured or fixed; it’s a life long issue.  And some individuals don’t realize they have learning disabilities until they are adults.  With the right support and interventions, however, children and adults with learning disabilities can succeed in school and life.  Recognizing, accepting and understanding your learning disability are the first steps to success.

Learning disabilities are due to genetic and/or neurobiological factors that alter brain functioning in a manner which affects one or more cognitive processes related to learning. The majority of children K-12 who receive special education are served under the specific learning disability (SLD) category. Approximately 80% of those children have an SLD in reading.

Learning disabilities range in severity and may interfere with the acquisition and development of one or more of the following:

Learning disabilities often run in families. They should not be confused with other disabilities such as intellectual disabilities, autism, deafness, blindness, and behavioral disorders. None of these conditions are learning disabilities. Because learning disabilities cannot be seen, they often go undetected. Recognizing a learning disability is even more difficult because the severity and characteristics vary.

These approaches, incidentally, can also be helpful for most students who prefer a clear, structured educational program.



5.2 Teaching models concept attainment model, direct instruction, role playing


Concept attainment model

The Concept Attainment model is an instructional strategy founded on the works of Jerome Bruner. Built on the principle of concept formation, the Concept Attainment model promotes student learning through a process of structured inquiry.

The model helps students to understand and learn concepts by identifying attributes or key features through a process of analysis, comparison, and contrasting of examples. Two sets of examples are used in this strategy – Yes (examples that have attributes of the concept) and No (examples that do not have attributes of the concept) examples.

Concept Attainment Model in Practice

Introduced as a whole-class activity, this instructional strategy can be implemented using the following steps:


§  Choose a concept with well-defined attributes.

§  Prepare “yes” and “no” examples. Some of the yes examples should have a high attribute value (meaning it should be a clear representative of the concept)

In the classroom:

§  Introduce and explain the strategy.

§  Draw two columns on the board and title them as “Yes” and “No.”

§  Present each example and write them in the appropriate column. Start with three examples in each column.

§  Instruct students to analyze and compare the examples, within the group (find similar attributes in the “yes” group) and between the groups (find how “yes” and “no” examples differ from each other). Write the attributes listed by the students on the other side of the board.

§  Add three more examples to each column. Instruct students to refine the attribute list by analyzing the additional examples.

§  Ask students if they are able to identify the concept, but not to say it out aloud. Students who have identified the concept can be encouraged to add more “yes” examples to the column. Encourage other students to examine the student-generated examples to identify the concept.

§  Teachers can assist by modeling the thought process to help other students identify the concept. Once identified, help students define it using the list of identified attributes.

§  To test for understanding, have students suggest more “yes” and “no” examples of the concept with explanations. Or, teachers can present students with examples and instruct them to categorize them as “yes” or “no”.

Practicing the Strategy

Divide the class into small groups or pairs and provide them with Concept Attainment Worksheets. (A sample is included at the end.)
Instruct students to find the essential attributes of a concept, identify the concept, and define it. An additional sheet with random examples can be included which students can be instructed to categorize. At the end of the session, each group can present and discuss their findings.

Teachers can combine the Concept Attainment model with the Carousel method, placing different concept worksheets at different workstations. Each group starts from one workstation and eventually visits each workstation identifying attributes and recording them. At the end of the carousel, groups return to their original workstations and using the information recorded, try to identify and define their concepts. Each group can then present their concept to the class, teaching using the Concept Attainment model.

The Concept Attainment model serves as a powerful teaching and learning strategy. For teachers, it is advantageous to use the model to introduce and teach new concepts through an active, student-centric, inquiry-based approach. Simultaneously, the model as a learning strategy helps students to:

§  Link past knowledge with new information

§  Critically analyze, compare, and categorize information

§  Examine and understand a concept from multiple perspectives, strengthening understanding and retrieval of the concept.

Image 1: Concept Attainment

Looking at this set of pictures, what theme do you think all the pictures have in common? If you guessed, 'weather,' you are right. The pictures and text associated with the pictures (sunny, rainy and cloudy) all have one thing in common - they are symbols and descriptors of the weather!

That was pretty easy, you may say! Well, that was a very basic and elementary example of concept attainment.

Concept Attainment is a teaching strategy created by Jerome Bruner that encourages critical thinking and involves a teacher giving students a group of pictures or words and asking them to decide what the pictures or words have in common. The concept or common theme, therefore, is kept from the students so that they can use their critical thinking skills to figure it out themselves! It really is a fun teaching method and fun for students as well!

Direct instruction

Direct instruction is a teacher-directed teaching method. This means that the teacher stands in front of a classroom, and presents the information. The teachers give explicit, guided instructions to the students.

So, isn’t that how everything has always been taught in a classroom? Not entirely. Nowadays, experimenting in education is “hot”, as teachers find that not all students benefit from listening to a teacher talk all day, and not all lessons are best taught through direct instruction. Teachers now match the type of instruction to the task. Using direct instruction is effective when it suits the skill students have to learn.

The 6 functions (or steps) of direct instruction

Direct instruction doesn’t stop at the teacher explaining a concept. There are 6 steps that are very important in the process. I’ll briefly describe them below, but if you want to dig deeper, make sure to read “Teaching Functions”

1. Introduction / review

First, you set the stage for learning. This is the opening of the lesson, and it’s intended to engage students, get their attention, and activate their prior knowledge.

Build upon a previous lesson, or get an understanding of their background knowledge of the subject you are about to teach them. To show your students what exactly they have to learn and what is expected from them, you can give them lesson objectives.

2. Present the new material

Use clear and guided instructions, so students can begin absorbing the new material. The lesson content should be carefully organized step-by-step, with the steps building on each other.

In the direct instruction method, you can present new material through a lecture or through a demonstration.

Lecture method

There are a few essential steps for a lecture to be successful:

1.     State the main points of the lecture.

2.     Introduce a main organizing idea or theme.

3.     Use examples to illustrate each idea.

4.     Use repetition to reinforce the main points.

5.     Summarize and refer back to the main organizing idea.

But how you go about these steps? This is where the fun comes in, and where every teacher gets to use their creativity. This is where you get to engage your students. So, if you think a lecture is boring, you got it all wrong.


Here, the teacher demonstrates the skill or principle in small steps. Visual demonstrations will engage more students than a pure auditory lecture. This method is often used in science classes.

3. Guided practice

Here, the teacher and students practice the concept together. The student attempts the skill with the assistance of the teacher and other students.

The guided practice is conducted by the teacher. The purpose of this step is to guide initial practice, correct mistakes, reteach (if necessary) and provide sufficient practice so that students can work independently.

It’s very important to ask good questions to verify your students’ understanding.

4. Feedback and correctives

If students don’t understand the lesson material, the teacher has to correct them and give feedback. This is also very important in the guided practice, as students have to understand everything in that phase.

There are 4 types of student responses to questions and actions a teacher should take depending on the answer.

Student answer

Teacher action

Correct, quick, and firm

Ask a new question to keep up the pace of the lesson.

Correct, but hesitant

Provide encouragement.

Incorrect, but careless

Simply correct and move on.

Incorrect and lacking knowledge

Provide hints, ask a simpler question, or reteach.

5. Independent practice

After guided practice and receiving the right feedback, students are ready to apply the new learning material on their own. Independent practice gives the students the repetitions they need to integrate the new information or skills with previous knowledge or skills. Independent practice also helps students to become automatic in their use of the skills.

During this phase, students usually go through two stages: unitization and automaticity. During unitization, the students are putting the skills they’ve learned together and use them in new situations. As they keep on practicing, students reach the “automatic” stage where they are successful and rapid, and no longer have to “think through” each step.

6. Evaluation/ review

Check whether your students know everything before moving on to a new concept that builds upon what they’ve just learned. Collect student data you can review and decide whether or not the lesson needs to be retaught.

There are much evaluation and reviewing methods, so make sure to pick the right one to find out data that really means something. Make sure your evaluation says something about your students’ learning process. Formative assessments are better suited for this.

Direct instruction is a structured, teacher-directed method of instruction. Direct instruction is recommended especially for instruction of students with learning disabilities. Studies have shown that a combination of direct instruction can positively influence academic performance for students with learning disabilities and exceptionalities. DI programs involve precisely sequenced, scripted fast-paced lessons taught to small groups of 4-10 students with a stress on drill and practice

The Main Features of DI

Direct instruction programs are some of the best research-based programs available for students with learning disabilities (Hallahan & Kauffman & Pullen, 135). Direct instruction focuses on the specifics of the instructional process.   One important piece of DI is using task analysis. Task analysis is breaking down academic tasks into their component parts, so teachers can teach those parts separately.  Later, the students can be instructed on how to put those individual parts together in order to demonstrate a skill (Hallahan & Kauffman & Pullen, 135). Advocates of the DI strategy emphasizes a systematic analysis of the concept to be taught, as opposed to an analysis of the characteristics of the student.

Role playing

Role-play is a technique that allows students to explore realistic situations by interacting with other people in a managed way in order to develop experience and trial different strategies in a supported environment. Depending on the intention of the activity, participants might be playing a role similar to their own (or their likely one in the future) or could play the opposite part of the conversation or interaction. Both options provide the possibility of significant learning, with the former allowing experience to be gained and the latter encouraging the student to develop an understanding of the situation from the ‘opposite’ point of view.

Advantages of role playing

·       Students immediately apply content in a relevant, real world context.

·       Students take on a decision making persona that might let them diverge from the confines of their normal self-imposed limitations or boundaries.

·       Students can transcend and think beyond the confines of the classroom setting.

·       Students see the relevance of the content for handling real world situations.

·       The instructor and students receive immediate feedback with regard to student understanding of the content.

·       Students engage in higher order thinking and learn content in a deeper way.

·       Instructors can create useful scenarios when setting the parameters of the role play when real scenarios or contexts might not be readily available.

·       Typically students claim to remember their role in these scenarios and the ensuing discussion long after the semester ends.

Steps and tips for using role playing

1.     Offer a relevent scenario to students. This scenario should include the role the student must play, the informational details relevant for decision making in this role, and a task to complete based on the information. This information might be provided on the screen through power point or by using a handout. It is highly recommended that the instructions be provided in writing so it is clear to students what they must do and how?

2.     Give students five to ten minutes to complete the task. The instructor might have students do this alone or in small groups or follow the think-pair-share format in which students work individual and then discuss their results with their partner.

3.     Find a way to process student deliberations. The instructor might ask students to write their replies to submit or this might be a very good lead in to a larger class discussion where students can justify their differing outcomes or opposing views.

Challenges of the role playing technique

One of the biggest challenges of the role playing technique is to get all students to participate and be truly engaged. Instructors might want to consider ways of increasing the likelihood of strong student participation. The instructor might offer a participation grade somehow tied to a short product students produce from their perspective in their given role. It is a good idea to find ways to increase student awareness of the likelihood their group might being called upon to share their answer with the entire class if they are playing their roles in a group context. The instructor might also consider using some of the role playing tasks in questions on exams and make it clear to students that that is the case. The instructor could even tell them that they might have to answer a question from the perspective of any of the roles, not just the one they were assigned.



5.3 Instructional planning steps


Instructional planning includes not only planning what students will learn, but how they will learn it.

Instructional planning, the systematic selection of educational goals and objectives, and their design for use in the classroom. We will divide this purpose into four parts, and discuss them one at a time. First is the problem of selecting general goals to teach; where can a teacher find these, and what do they look like? Second is the problem of transforming goals into specific objectives, or statements concrete enough to guide daily activity in class; what will students actually do or say in order to learn what a teacher wants them to learn? The third is the problem of balancing and relating goals and objectives to each other; since we may want students to learn numerous goals, how can we combine or integrate them so that the overall classroom program does not become fragmented or biased? Fourth is the challenge of relating instructional goals to students’ prior experiences and knowledge.

Planning should include both short-term goals and long-term goals, and for students with exceptionalities, should address the goals on their Individualized Education Program (IEP). Instructional plans may include considerations of academic content, assistive or augmentative technology needs, scaffolded supports, specific teaching strategies, and adaptations of or modifications to content.

When delivered with fidelity, well-planned instruction is designed to maximize academic learning time, actively engage learners in meaningful activities, and emphasize proactive and positive approaches across tiers of instructional intensity.

Specific steps to cover when planning instruction include:

1.     Creating a personalized lesson plan calendar. This will help a teacher visualize and organize instruction.

2.     Creating detailed unit lesson plans, which should include objectives, activities, time estimates, and required materials

3.     Planning for students who might be absent during a given lesson

4.     Creating assessments, including classwork, homework, and tests 

5.     Reviewing how the lesson or unit fits into the overall instructional plan for the school year

6.     Writing a daily lesson outline and agenda. The details included will differ depending on how detailed the teacher wishes to be. At a minimum, the teacher should have an agenda prepared for herself and her students so that she appears organized and maintains students' interest. It is very easy to lose student attention if the teacher has to search for a page she wants students to read or has to fumble through a stack of papers.

7.     Creating and/or gathering required items ahead of time. This can include making handouts, overheads, lecture notes, or manipulatives (learning objects, such as pennies for counting). If the teacher plans to start each day with a warmup, then he should have this created and ready to go. If the lesson requires a movie or item from the media center, the teacher should check out or order the item well ahead of time.



5.4 Pyramid plan


The Pyramid Approach to Education is a comprehensive framework for establishing and supporting effective learning environments. Designed by Andy Bondy, PhD, and based on the principles of functional applied behavior analysis (ABA), The Pyramid Approach offers a solid foundation for those who teach in education, work, home or community settings. This unique model benefits individuals with developmental differences, autism, communication challenges and/or other learning complications across all ages.

Maximizing learner outcomes requires not only information about what and how to teach – it requires a plan to put all the pieces together.  The Pyramid Approach provides a clear guide for everyone on the team to determine what elements to address in a specific order. Just as building a pyramid begins with establishing a firm foundation before constructing the body of the building, the Pyramid Approach begins with a strong foundation, relying on a science-based approach to teaching.

The Pyramid Approach involves a distinction between structural and instructional components.

The structural elements form the base, creating an environment conducive to learning. These foundational elements include:

1.     Functional Activities

2.     Powerful Reinforcement Systems

3.     Functional Communication and Social Skills

4.     Addressing Contextually Inappropriate Behaviors (CIBs)

The instructional elements form the top of the Pyramid and include information relevant to the creation of effective lessons. The top elements include:

1.     Generalization

2.     Lesson Formats

3.     Teaching/Prompting Strategies

4.     Error Correction (uniquely developed and suited to specific prompting strategies)

All elements involve data-based decision making, requiring both systematic data collection and analysis. When all of the elements are combined, the approach results in success for staff, parents and students. By implementing the Pyramid Approach to Education you will build an effective learning environment that will result in progress and increased independence.

The Pyramid Approach emphasizes the “why” of learning and “how” to teach rather than simply “what” to teach, allowing each learner’s program to be individually tailored to meet their learning goals.



5.5 Curriculum adaptation


Once a learning disability is identified, different kinds of assistance can be provided. In addition to specialized, explicit types of instruction, child learning Disabilities with LEARNING DISABILITY are entitled to have accommodations (such as extended time, readers, and note-takers) or modifications (such as abbreviated tests or alternate assignments) as appropriate. These guarantees are afforded to child learning Disabilities with LEARNING DISABILITY by law.
Under the
 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1997 and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, people of all ages with LEARNING DISABILITY—child learning Disabilities and adults—are protected against discrimination and have a right to different forms of assistance in the classroom and workplace.

Academics & Organization

·      Break learning tasks into small steps.

·      Probe regularly to check understanding.

·      Provide regular quality feedback.






Testing & Accommodations: