Accommodating Student Needs
One of this year’s Elevate Learning outcomes indicates that attendance requirements, reading assignments, seminary learning assessments, and institute elevate learning experiences are always used as opportunities to deepen conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. As religious educators, we have a sacred responsibility to help accommodate the needs of students who struggle to reach graduation requirements while still deepening their conversion to the gospel. The following information will help you ponder how you might help with each of the graduation requirements.
Accommodations for students who cannot meet the attendance requirement are varied and are up to the individual teacher as he or she seeks the guidance of the spirit. On this topic, the Seminary and Institutes of Religion Policy Manual says: “When makeup assignments are required, they should be given to bless and not punish the student. Specific assignments are determined by the teacher and should generally be related to the work missed. The assignments should be meaningful, reasonable, and individually suited to the needs and abilities of the student” (Seminaries and Institutes of Religion Policy Manual—United States , 3-12).
Following that principle and in consultation with the student, parents, and priesthood leaders, makeup work strategies for attendance can and should be individualized for each student. When considering makeup assignments for a student, consider the following statement by Elder Dale G. Renlund:
“I now realize that in the Church, to effectively serve others we must see them through a parent’s eyes, through Heavenly Father’s eyes. Only then can we begin to comprehend the true worth of a soul. Only then can we sense the love that Heavenly Father has for all of His children. Only then can we sense the Savior’s caring concern for them. We cannot completely fulfill our covenant obligation to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort unless we see them through God’s eyes [see Mosiah 18:8–10]. This expanded perspective will open our hearts to the disappointments, fears, and heartaches of others. . . . We need to have eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts that know and feel if we are to accomplish the rescue so frequently encouraged by President Thomas S. Monson. Only when we see through Heavenly Father’s eyes can we be filled with ‘the pure love of Christ’ [Moroni 7:47]. Every day we should plead with God for this love” (Dale G. Renlund, “Through God’s Eyes,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2015, 94).
Are there students in your class who do not know how to read or have reading disabilities? The following are examples of appropriate accommodations to help them succeed in reading assignments:
Have another student read with or to the student.
Enlist the help of a parent or priesthood leader in reading with or to the student.
Encourage the student to listen to scripture blocks on the Gospel Library app or on LDS.org.
Use the Scripture Stories resources with a student. These resources are available on LDS.org as videos and from the LDS Store as print books. Students, parents, family members, and priesthood leaders can use these resources and the accompanying illustrations to complete the reading requirement.
Seminary and Institute Learning Assessments and Projects
The purpose of assessment accommodations is to enable students with specific needs, disabilities, or health-related conditions to participate in the assessment on an equal basis with other students. Teachers should make appropriate accommodations to meet the specific needs, disabilities, and health-related conditions of their students. Consider the following guidelines as you make accommodations for your students:
Identify students who may have specific needs or disabilities. Have a private conversation with each student to identify his or her specific need(s). Listen attentively, and be positive. You may consider having conversations with these students’ parents or Church leaders to help you better understand their specific need(s).
Based on your conversations, make a plan that appropriately accommodates the student’s specific need(s).
Implement the accommodations. Individual accommodations should remain confidential. It is impossible to list all possible accommodations; however, the following are several examples of possible accommodations:
o Presentation: Provide the student with an audio version of the assessment, present the instructions and assessment orally, or provide the student with a large-print version of the assessment (see the Learning Assessments webpage for the currently available formats of the assessment).
o Setting: Provide the student with preferential seating in the classroom, provide a space with minimal distractions, or administer the assessment in a small-group setting or in another room.
o Assessment scheduling: Administer the assessment in several sessions or over several days, allow the various parts of the assessment to be taken in a different order, administer the assessment at a specific time of day, or allow extended time to complete the assessment.
o Response: Allow the student to verbally respond to questions, allow for answers to be dictated to a scribe or recorder, or permit answers to be marked in the assessment booklet rather than on the answer sheet.
Assessment accommodation information is available in 37 languages.
Note: Avoid making accommodations that change or reduce the learning expectations of the student. Have Christlike love for each student, and follow the promptings of the Spirit as you make accommodations to meet students’ needs.
The following are additional resources about accommodating students’ needs:
“Making Accommodations for Students with Disabilities,” Seminary Learning Assessments (2016), ix–x