Classroom Neurodiversity: The Marzano Model says ALL kids can learn

You already know you have a neurodiverse classroom. This may sound familiar: you have kids on the autism spectrum, kids with dyslexia, kids with hyperlexia, kids with ADD, kids with ADHD, and so on. You and the Learning Sciences Marzano Center believe that all kids can learn—not aiming for most, but all. Meanwhile, you are expected to implement Common Core State Standardsin your classroom. How can you bridge the gaps, and what are some great strategies for handling neurodiversity in the classroom?

Neurodiversity Defined
First, let’s define neurodiversity. The term seeks to acknowledge the complexity and variety in the human brain, and how such diversity leads to great variety in advantages and disadvantages—and these advantages and disadvantages can vary greatly by context.

Set High Expectations: Design Question 9
In the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model, Design Question 9 states our approach to neurodiversity quite clearly: Communicating High Expectations for ALL Students. If all we see are the negatives of neurodiverse students (historically low grades, behavioral difficulties, etc.), we miss out on maximizing their strengths—plus, research has shown we project our expectations onto students, and the impact is huge.

Inspire Them with Positive Role Models
For kids on the autism spectrum, here is a list of great autistic role models, here is an autistic Miss America contestant, and here is a great video of an autistic math prodigy. How about ADD/ADHD? Check out this great list of people who turned ADD/ADHD into an advantage.Prepare, Learn More about Neurodiversity, and Utilize TechnologyDomain 2 of the Marzano Model (Planning and Preparing), element #48 is “Needs of Students Receiving Special Education. You need to differentiate learning for your students, and that may very well require some deeper reading. A fantastic resource is Neurodiversity in the Classroom, by Thomas Armstrong, (and here is a video on neurodiversity in the classroom by the book’s author).

The benefits of technology for special needs kids are well known. Do you use iPads in your classroom? Check out this great list of Common Core-friendly apps for helping lower-grade level neurodiverse students.

So, the student you have who is obsessed with tanks? I bet he’ll be a great resource when you talk about WWI. The kid who has difficulty writing an idea? Have you thought about letting her express it some other way? Do you have a student with difficulties in math, but is a talented musician? Have you tried using music to teach math?

Share your expertise!
Speaking of expertise – don’t miss our second annual Marzano Conference, Building Expertise 2013, this summer in Orlando, Florida. We’ll have lots of classroom resources to share.

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