Breaking Down Accommodations

  • Elementary
  • High School
  • Middle School
Stephanie Codorniz

Welcome to the 2019-2020 school year! New students, new schedules, new school supplies! I enjoy the first few weeks of school. I spend time getting to know students - their likes, dislikes, learning styles, dreams, strengths, and needs. For our students with disabilities, their needs are documented in their Individual Educational Plans (IEPs). These documents can be several pages long, often with language that can be overwhelming for parents and classroom teachers, and I seek to bring clarity to one of the key sections.


One important part of the IEP is the Accommodation section. Accommodations are supports that help students meet their needs in general education. They do not change the content the student is receiving. Accommodations help level the playing field in the classroom.


All teachers need to know what accommodations are in their students’ IEPs and use them so students have the best opportunities for success, but sometimes the list of accommodations can be daunting. Let’s dive deeper into some common accommodations in the classroom.


Preferential Seating

This means having the student sit in an area of the classroom where they can learn the best. Maybe this spot is near where the teacher is teaching, so the teacher can quietly and privately redirect the student to help him stay on task. This could be next to a student that is a good peer role model for a  cooperative learning pairing or at a table instead of a desk so the student can spread out all of his materials. 


My colleague Sarah Straume has several seating options for students. She has tall tables for students to stand and work at in the back of the room. She also has exercise balls of different sizes that students can sit on and bounce on as needed. There is a carpet in the front of the room with pillows that students can lay on or sit on to work. One of my students prefers to sprawl out on the floor while watching direct instruction. No problem - Sarah has designated a spot for that, too. Students get to select which seating arrangement works for them. #metacognition


My colleague Sarah Straume accommodates students by having different work stations in her classroom. This is a table that has height extenders attached to the feet. The top of the table is high enough that students can work comfortably while standing in the back of the room.


Small Group Testing

Sometimes when there are so many students in a classroom, having a student in a smaller setting can take away the extra stimulus - there are fewer children, less noise, less movement, fewer papers shuffling and computer keys typing. This can truly help a student focus. 


This specific accommodation is the child’s choice. If he or she wants to stay in the classroom, he or she doesn’t have to leave to go to the small group testing area. If it is going to cause the child more stress, staying in the classroom should be allowed. Students who will use this accommodation should also take all their practice tests in the small group testing area so they are comfortable ahead of testing. We want them to be familiar with the environments prior to assessments.


Use of a Computer/Technology

I currently have a student whose trigger is writing with a pencil (or a pen or a marker). Give him a computer, and he’s fine. If you aren’t grading handwriting, an appropriate accommodation is to allow students to use computers during their classes. Google has speech to text and free extensions that can help students get their thoughts out. There is a wide variety of technology tools, simulations, and even learning games available to support students who work well with digital accommodations.


Regular Check in with Student

Relationships with students are key to student success. I believe relationships must come before academics. If a student has this accommodation in his or her IEP, find a few times during the day to say, “Hey, how are you doing? What can I do to help?” I know it’s hard to find “extra” time to conference with a student, but sneak it in during independent reading time, going out to recess, or when the student asks to get a drink of water. This extra attention can be just what the student needs to get clarification on the assignment, or reassure her that you really do care. 


Read Test Questions Aloud

I’ve seen this done well for a whole class. The teacher passes out the test to everyone, stands in front of the class, and reads all of the questions aloud to everyone, one after another. She doesn’t wait for the students to answer the questions to read the next one, but she says, “If anyone wants me to read any of these questions again during the test, just raise your hand.” This option helps all students. If we are testing their science knowledge, would reading aloud the question impact their science knowledge at all? No.  The important thing to remember when reading test questions aloud is not to call extra attention to students who need support - saying in front of the class, “Johnny, do you want me to read aloud the questions on the test for you?” would probably embarrass the student.


Provide Consistent Structure

 If you have one student in your class who needs high structure, your class needs to be highly structured in order for that student to have success. High structure includes individual seating arrangements, specific spots for all students to sit on the carpet, visual schedules, and expectations that are posted and referred to throughout every day.


While it is important to know and follow student IEPs, it is equally important for all members of the IEP team to attend IEP meetings. This includes but is not limited to the student's guardians, all of the student's teachers, and a local education agency representative, which is a person in the district that is knowledgeable of Special Education services and programs. Everyone’s input is important in order to create a plan to support the student. Strategies that help the student in music class could help the student in social studies class.

What accommodations do you use in the classroom to support students?

  • Accommodations
  • IEPs
  • Special Education
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The opinions expressed by the CORElaborate Bloggers, guest bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Puget Sound Educational Service District (PSESD), Ready Washington or any employee thereof. PSESD is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the Washington State Teacher Leader or Guest Bloggers.

Stephanie Codorniz Board

National Board Certified Teacher, Special Education Teacher Leader, K-8th Grade, West Hills STEM Academy, Bremerton, WA