Elaine’s Good Question

In a listserve post (#90219) about how I assess kids who are very weak in either auditory (stories) or vocabulary list memorization (visual), I had written the following:
“These accommodations are an earned privilege. Of course, in 504 type situations, I must accommodate. With primarily auditory kids, my accommodations reflect a complete absence of the district vocabulary tests on their grade. On the other hand, with primarily visual learners, my accommodations reflect just the opposite – an absence of grades connected to our auditory work.

“Grading kids on their strengths, visual or auditory, and not their weaknesses, brings a lot of good will from parents and kids and eliminates a lot of needless conflict for me. My job is their success. But such arrangements are not available to kids who have the ability to learn the vocabulary lists but are just too lazy to do so.”

Then Elaine wrote to me:

“Okay, please explain this. How do you accommodate the auditory learners and how do you accommodate the visual learners. Please explain the details of these arrangements… And, on average, about how many students each year do you make time for these arrangements?”

So I wrote back to her:

“Our first parent conferences are in October each year. By then I know if a kid is weak in either listening (low story grades) or in visual learning (memorization of vocabulary lists outside of class). If the kid is trying (key point) and just can’t do it, I look in the computer, print the grades, bring them to the parent conference, and, if the parents and the child feel it is best for the child to not feel the pressure of either taking tests on stories or memorizing, whichever they are weak at, I ask the parents about the kid’s history, learning style, etc. and with the parent and kid involved, we all agree to simply not grade story tests if they are visual and not grade vocabulary memorization tests if they are more auditory. It keeps the kid in the class instead of losing them at the trimester. Remember, this is for kids who want to succeed only, who are willing to work. When these kids pass my class when otherwise they would have flunked it, they go to the second level where it is all grammar at the high school and they of course have been trained in book learning by so many other teachers so they get their two year requirement in, which is at least one goal we have as language teachers, to prepare the kid for college. The total number of kids this year on this plan is four, last year there were three, etc.”

Then Elaine said:

“…. and do you keep this as a secret between the student, parent and you?”

And I said:

“Yes, normally it is a secret. But I have found that it is a matter of respect. Most kids don’t need the accommodation and they know it. They know that they have the ability, so they leave it alone, even if the accommodation goes to a friend. They are happy to see their friend succeed. It is pretty rare that I do this – I only do it to keep a kid in my program who otherwise would have been bumped out. Most of the kids go on and get B’s and even A’s in the book based programs at the high school! Most of them are visual learners. They just needed a little help through the crazy Slavic first year in eighth grade with all the auditory insanity.”

Then Elaine asked:

“What does the student do when you are testing everybody…take the test too and pretend like they are going to be graded too?” 

I responded:

“Oh yes, they actually WANT to take it, because, knowing it isn’t graded, they don’t have any pressure and they do have their pride. Remember, this deal is for motivated kids only. Many of them do a lot better on those tests than regular lazy kids, because they DO study and take it seriously, they just have the weak area there.”

Elaine then observed:

“I have several students that really do try but just can’t perform because they are different kinds of smarts.”

I loved that sentence. It is so true. I responded:

“Yup! This is a good way to deal with them, bless their hearts.”


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