I love the phrase “specially designed instruction” because it tells us exactly what we should be doing. The lesson should be special – something different than the typical general education approach. The approach should be designed – intentional and planned. The intervention should be instructional – not just helping or monitoring, but teaching in a way that will provide progress toward the IEP goal.
Here’s an example from a lesson I recently co-taught.
- reading passage
- several sticky notes, cut with a point to look like arrows
- chart paper with a 3-circle target, the center of which is large enough for only 3 of the sticky notes
This lesson is best done in small groups. If co-teaching, split the class into two groups, each group with its own chart.
- Show students a 3-circle target on the board. Ask them if they have seen one before and do they know what the center is often called.
- Discuss how the bull’s eye is the most valuable – worth 100 points, the middle circle is a bit less valuable – only 50 points, and the outer circle is nice, but not as valuable – only 25 points.
- Give every student several sticky notes, cut to look like arrows.
- Explain that as they read through the passage, if they come across a detail that they think might be important, they can share it aloud, then write it on their sticky note. (Try to avoid duplications.)
- Once the detail is on a note, ask the student to place it on the target, in whichever circle they believe it belongs. Is it highly important and valuable? Do they think it might be the main idea or a lesser one?
- Continue on through the passage, following steps 4 & 5.
- As soon as the center has 3 sticky notes in it and a student wants to add a fourth, explain that there isn’t enough room – not everything can be equally valuable. Have students discuss which detail might be moved to one of the other circles. Ask them to explain their thinking.
- When finished with the passage, ask students to reevaluate their decisions now that they have the total picture. Encourage them to move notes around if necessary. Remind them that the three in the middle should be most important and capture the main idea of the passage.
- Work with the students to turn the three bulls-eye notes into a main idea statement.
If two or more groups do the activity simultaneously, bring the whole class back together and compare the two main idea statements and charts. Ask students what they notice that is similar or different.
To solidify the learning, use the activity several times. If you find it works especially well for some students, provide them with an individual target handout and guide them to using it on their own. In this way, the skill can become generalizable to independent study or other classes.