Adaptations For HS Students With LD

Teaching Science to Students with Learning Differences

Abstract:_Recent legislation, such as the No Child Left Behind and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act amendments of 1997 and 2004, emphasizes the importance of teaching students with mild disabilities in the general education classroom using the general curriculum. Consequently, students with learning problems take a variety of science courses, including biology, chemistry, and Earth science, that require complex cognitive skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, evaluating, analyzing, and interpreting data. Many of these students, in fact, are in college preparatory courses and tracks. Because of the emphasis on high-level thinking skills, science courses may be particularly challenging for students with learning problems. This article summarizes some common characteristics of students with learning problems who typically take high school science courses and presents modifications for instruction to help these students and their teachers experience success. The strategies described in this article are not complex; however, using modifications when appropriate enhances the experience of students with learning problems in the science classroom, and increases their chances of success. In addition, these ideas could assist students without learning problems who are struggling with complex science content in high school.

The most prevalent learning-problem categories represented in general education high school science courses include communication disorders (CD), Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD), and learning disabilities (LD).

Adapting Tools and Methods

High school students see various teachers for different subject matters throughout the day. Each teacher has a different teaching style. This could possibly hinder students with learning disabilities from achieving. Teachers should come together and discuss their students’ learning styles as well as their academic needs so that they may be more effective in their instructional strategies.

Teachers should work with the students to set goals for achievement. Having children create their own rubrics is always a good way to make them feel as though they have a choice as well as control in their own learning.

Here are some other suggestions that science teachers could take into consideration when modifying the curriculum for LD students:

∑ Using a variety of learning methods is more likely to make new material more meaningful and therefore attainable for students (Goodnough 2001).

∑ Vranesh suggests modifications such as writing a variety of reports, observing, discussing, participating in-group activities (e.g., sharing data and ideas), creating websites, doing hands-on activities, and reflecting (2002). Varying instruction can make classes more interesting and meaningful for all learners.

∑ Train students to use their textbooks as a useful tool. Teach students to read at the beginning of each new section, the chapter outline; to become familiar with or memorize the key words within the chapter; to make note cards with class notes and to study them frequently.

∑ The use of mnemonics—picture cues, keywords, association clues, and acronyms—are among the memory devices that teachers can use to assist with recall of content (Bulgren, Deshler, and Schumaker 1997).


Steele, M., National Science Teacher’s Association: The High School Classroom, The Science Teacher, March 2007, p. 24-27

This page was added by: Kai Blackwood