In my experiences as a student teacher as well as my experiences in my practicum placement, I made accommodations for the myriad differences in the students with whom I worked. While I was not placed in an "inclusion classroom," I had the opportunity to work with students in other classes with various needs as well as with students of varying ability in my own class. I taught a Reading/Language Arts lesson in a 3rd grade class with 22 students. Of these students, 5 were receiving Special Education services. These services varied from behavioral support to communications support to a completely modified curriculum. When I taught, I was able to adapt my instructional activities so that all students could participate by changing the directions for student who were unable to write at the 3rd grade level. For these students, I had them draw a picture summarizing a story I read to the class, rather than writing their own brief summaries. This allowed me to see whether the students in question grasped the concept of summary without testing their ability to write.

In my own classroom, I had two at-risk students. One student struggled with behavioral expectations as well as academic expectations. I initially struggled with my approach to working with this student, because she appeared to be so sensitive that any redirection back to completing her work resulted in tears and drama. However, I quickly learned that she was mainly after attention (positive or negative). I learned to set short-term goals and keep an eye on whether she was on-task throughout the day and encourage, cajole, or simply restate directions as needed. The other at-risk student joined my class in February. His home life was unsettled and he had just moved to the area. He also struggled with work completion, but I was not as successful at finding ways to encourage him. Rather than acting out, he simply sat in his chair and did not respond to questions or directions. On rare occasions when I was able to engage him, he demonstrated reading ability but struggled with math and writing skills and worked extremely slowly. During the short amount of time I taught this student I did see an improvement in his academic performance when he made an effort, but I was not able to find the key to unlocking his engagement and effort. My cooperating teacher continues to implement strategies and interventions for this student, and I hope to keep up with his progress in the future.

I also had the experience of teaching (for one period each day) a student with Asperger's Syndrome. His 504 plan specified certain behavioral accommodations such as warnings and removal from specific situations he found difficult. During the period I was teaching, he was being evaluated by the school psychologist and tested by a Special Education teacher to determine his eligibility for an IEP. As part of this process, I helped tally his behavioral issues such as calling out, arguing, off-task behavior, and refusal to participate. During certain activities such as videos, I provided him with paper to draw images from the video as a concentration aid. This student was high-performing academically, but his behavioral issues sometimes made him difficult to teach. I learned to simply adjust, commenting on his behavior or enforcing rules as necessary.

I also taught several Gifted students. For these students, I made an effort to take explanations and activities further. For example, when these students finished written work I often had another question for them to work on as a challenge. When students had listed all of the different ways to say "one quart," I had them start working on ways to say "one gallon" while the rest of the class finished their work.

I spent several hours shadowing a Special Education teacher around my school, watching the various strategies she used working with different students based on their needs. It was a very informative experience, which I described for my Exceptional Populations course. In that class I also researched Evidence Based Practices to help struggling or special needs students, and implemented (in a very limited way) one of the strategies I researched.

I had the opportunity to observe two IEP Eligibility meetings and a formal Response to Intervention meeting. In each of these meetings various specialists were present, along with at least one parent, a classroom teacher, and the Assistant Principal. By paying close attention in these meetings I learned a great deal about how to modify my instruction to meet the needs of these students.