Interventions, Accommodations, and Modifications, Oh My!
Teachers, you’re reading IEPs and 504 plans, thinking about your struggling students, and feeling overwhelmed with changing assignments or adding to your workload. Good news-- you don’t have to be overwhelmed! Let’s talk about how interventions, accommodations, and modifications might look in your class. I’m going to focus on students with dyscalculia, which impacts math, science, and sometimes history classes.
An intervention is something that occurs during a lesson, classwork, or homework. A student might keep a list of times tables, 1-12, at their desk. You might incorporate extra repetition during a lesson, have students make posters for odd and even numbers, prime and composite numbers, or rational and irrational numbers (these are grading opportunities, too!) that can be displayed in the classroom or kept in a math notebook. During one-on-one or small group sessions, an intervention might be using a deck of cards to find factors or multiples. Interventions are designed to present knowledge in a new way, which can help students strengthen memory, retention, and recall.
Accommodations are unique ways to support students during assessments. An accommodation might be extended time, using a calculator or reference sheet, or breaking up a homework assignment or test into smaller chunks that can be completed over time. An accommodation for students with dyscalculia could include having a sheet of worked examples or a list of formulas and vocabulary prompts, since dyscalculia causes people to lose math information over time. Another popular accommodation is to have students take tests in quiet areas where they can focus without distractions (this does not include the hallway, the nurse’s office, or the front desk area!). Accommodations allow students to demonstrate their knowledge while acknowledging their learning challenges.
Modifications are a change in the standards a student is expected to meet. Modifications are not appropriate for most students. Specific Learning Disorders like dyscalculia, dyslexia, or dysgraphia do not require modifications; neither does ADHD, High Functioning Autism, or processing disorders. A modification would be having a student skip topics or complete half the amount of work as other students.
Wait-- half the work? Doesn’t that sound like an accommodation? The difference between an accommodation and a modification comes down to the expectations you have for a student. An accommodation allows students to work on 5 long division problems with multiple digits and remainders, then take a water or stretching break, then complete 5 more. A modification would mean only giving a student 2-digit by 1-digit long division with no remainders.
General education teachers will rarely use modifications, but accommodations could be very common. Most interventions are just good teaching practices, honestly, and they will benefit all of your students. As you read through IEP and 504 goals, remember that assisting students with learning disabilities doesn’t have to be challenging for you. Interventions and accommodations are designed to level the playing field for the student, not to increase teacher workload. For more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or look into our professional development courses.