Special Needs in the Classroom

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Special Needs in the Classroom Virginia teachers face many challenges when trying to meet the needs of special needs students in their science classrooms. The most difficult task at hand for Virginia teachers is making sure that all students (general education and special education) learn the content outlined by the Virginia Standards of Learning. These standards "set reasonable targets and expectations for what teachers need to teach and students need to learn" (Virginia Standards of Learning, 1995, foreward). These targets and expectations are in the four core subjects, including science, however, no accommodations have been made in the SOLs for special needs students. All students, regardless of ability will need to know the same material in order to pass and graduate. One way that Virginia teachers meet the challenging needs of students is through the use of special strategies. Much research has been conducted which supports the use of special strategies to teach science content to students with special needs. Research has shown that some strategies to help special needs students in science are to prioritize materials in order of importance, pre-teach vocabulary that may be difficult for students, paraphrase passages, provide study guides, graphics, and organizers, or provide audio-taped texts (Munk, Bruckert, & Call). Other research suggests that teachers should, "employ strategies that emulate the principles of inclusive education (for example, outcome-based education, multiple intelligence theory, constructivist learning, cooperative learning, use of technology in the classroom, and peer-mediated instruction)." (Norman, Caseau, and Stegfanich, 1998) Gallas (1995) writes that it is important to build on students’ prior knowledge, so that they can use that knowledge to explore theories and construct other ideas and explanations. Methods of evaluation are also a concern and challenge for educators of special needs students today. Finson & Ormsbee (1998) argue that, "rubrics are effective methods for objectively and individually assessing the achievement of students with learning and behavior problems in inclusive science classrooms…." Rubrics are especially useful because they are written as a specific outline of the skills or knowledge that the students are to master after the lesson and points are awarded in a systematic and objective manner. To further explore the realm of special needs students and their education in science classrooms in Virginia today, we interviewed two educators from Central Virginia. "There simply is never enough time in the day to meet the needs of all students. And, when you think about it, they all have special needs…" Anne, a fourth grade teacher remarked when asked how she finds time to attend to both her general education students and special education students.
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