As teachers, we are tasked with providing learning experiences which are aimed at achieving learning outcomes and progressively building on skills, whilst ensuring that individual learning needs are appropriately met. But how do we achieve this in a class where there is a wide range of learning styles, abilities and needs?
Here are some ideas that could work for providing scaffolding and support structures for children in an art session who have specific learning needs and individual differences:
Table or worktop set up - organise a work space which is steady, flat and can be accessed from several different heights, such as seated in a wheelchair, on a regular chair or from a standing position.
If needed, trace the shapes of items that are needed for a process onto a large sheet of card and place this over the top of the table so that a child is able to organise their work space more easily simply by placing their own utensils and tools onto the traced shapes.
Visual cues - provide cards, diagrams or photo-based flow charts which show how to complete specific tasks, so that if a child forgets part of a sequence they are able to access a quick reminder using a visual cue card or similar.
Familiarity - many young people benefit from a room set up and a lesson process which is predictable and familiar, and may struggle with unexpected changes to routine or equipment or furniture which has been moved in the room.
Multi-modal communication - be sure to share information with children in formats which work for them.
This might mean providing verbal instructions and accompany these with visual gestures, signing or hand signals, or that you provide a series of picture or text-based task cards at a work station to show how to complete a task.
Co-active tasks - some tasks can be completed more easily with assistance from a teacher, aide or volunteer.
Place a hand over the top of the student’s hand and guide them through a process so they begin to learn skills such as judging how much pressure to apply or how far to extend a line or shape. Be sure to ask permission from a child before performing a task co-actively with them.
Timing - consider how long each stage of a lesson should run for, and provide opportunities for those who wish to keep going with an activity as well as those who are looking for a break after a short while. Remember, we all have different capacities for concentrating on a task.