Great ways to differentiate for LIFE Skills!

Dear Noodler,

I’m not sure what to do with my LIFE Skills math class, so I grabbed these addition flashcards and started reviewing. Was that alright?

-Unsure Sub

5 Steps to Differentiate for LIFE Skills

Dear Unsure Sub,

Yeah! It’s way better than falling asleep or watching a movie… but you have to make the activity exciting and interactive. If you are just up the in the front of the class holding up flashcards, then it’s not alright.

There are a few steps you can follow to make the lesson you are trying to deliver better for LIFE Skills students:

  1. Identify the student(s) that are in need of visual supports and provide them with the tools to make them successful. That may be communication devices, picture icons, or an interpreter. Either way, you are making sure they have the correct tools to do the task. In the case of the flashcards, I would have provided a number line, calculator, or picture icons of the steps.
  2. Identify the student(s) that are lower and give them extra supports by modifying the activity. Maybe instead of doing the addition flashcards, you have them sequence numbers, write their own number line on the table with a dry erase marker, or simply read the cards and identify the numbers correctly. They will not do the same activity, but will still be participating.
  3. Identify the student(s) that are higher and make them helpers or tutors. Social interactions are usually lacking in LIFE Skills classrooms- so get students talking to each other. Making the kids who know it all part of teaching others reinforces their knowledge, gets the students social, and also helps you to manage your class.
  4. Use your paras! Get your paraeducators to take a small group of students and facilitate their activity- whatever that is. And get them working with more than just one student! Even when intensive support is needed, including other students sometimes compels better behavior and gets them out of their bubble- that makes the para’s job easier too. It also helps to manage students and learning.
  5. Finally, don’t do things too long. You have got to mix things up a bit… and things get boring after 10-15 minutes. Don’t plan on doing flashcards for an entire class period straight unless you change what they are doing, how they are doing it, or who they are doing it with.

These tips apply for all LIFE Skills teachers in any classroom… visuals, supports, peer helpers, use paras, and mix it up and you will be golden!

Infographic- Differentiate for LIFE Skills

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