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Literacy Matters

Student Learning Needs: How to Assess, Adapt, and Achieve

January 30, 2023

by: Ramon Torres

2 mins


Every student is unique in who they are, where they come from, and how they learn. While we applaud quick learners and fast adapters, it’s crucial to identify students in need of additional support as soon as possible. Here to teach us some practical methods for meeting the varying needs of your students is Dr. Miriam Ortiz!

On this episode of Literacy Matters, Cheryl Lundy Swift connects with Dr. Ortiz, owner and chief consultant of K12 Matters. Dr. Ortiz has helped countless schools and organizations incorporate evidence-based practices into their curricula and achieve positive educational outcomes for learners of all backgrounds.

The First Step is Diagnosis

The word “diagnosis” can sound like a scary word. However, diagnosing student learning in your classroom is vital for their long-term success. In this instance, diagnosis consists of giving students formative assessments to help you more effectively modify instruction as your students learn. How do you know if your pre-planned instruction is making a difference if you don’t assess how well your students are grasping it in real time? Getting baseline data of your students’ performance will help you benchmark their progress throughout the year. As they progress through the curriculum, these benchmarks will provide you the feedback that can be used to “course correct” in situations that call for it. Once you identify, you can adapt!

Nailing Down the Process

Class time is a sacred resource. Seconds wasted in the classroom can add up over time and chew into valuable class time. To preserve it, Dr. Ortiz recommends practicing common classroom processes with your students.

These processes could include reinforcing basic classroom etiquette, such as the proper way to pick up and put away materials, behave in activity centers, or ask to go to the bathroom. By practicing routine procedures consistently, they become second nature to your students and allow for more instructional time. 

To provide more individualized instruction for your students, start by facilitating small-group instruction. As obvious as it may seem, students benefit greatly from one-on-one interaction. However, with growing class sizes, it’s become increasingly difficult to deliver personalized instruction. By working with smaller groups of students, you can provide more targeted, sustainable support.

Similar Needs, Systematic Support

You may find that your students share similar learning characteristics. This can either mean they’re all excelling at the same rate or they’re all struggling together. Whatever the case may be, your approach should remain the same. Formative assessment and consistent process practice are key.

Over time, you may notice learning shifts occur in some students. Some may begin accelerating through lessons, while others still may need additional support. Formative assessment allows you to monitor the learning differences among your students and remediate with specific groups of learners if necessary.

Success in the Long Run

How do you know if you’ve effectively met the needs of all your students? By assessing, adapting, and teaching throughout the year, there’s only one way to know your interventions worked. For example, are your students all reading at grade level by the end of the school year? Learning takes time, patience, and positivity. 

As educators, we know that giving up is not an option. Whether your students are struggling or thriving, the goal is to keep the learning moving forward. “You really do have an impact on the future of your students,” Dr. Ortiz says. Continuously challenging your developing readers to achieve and succeed will help them get to the finish line.

Ultimately, your ability to adapt and help your students overcome any obstacles they will support their growth. To discover more ways to effectively meet the needs of your students, watch the full episode of Literacy Matters with Dr. Miriam Ortiz. 

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