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A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

Lesson Plan Modifications: Teaching Diverse Learners in Your Classroom

By Monica Fuglei How to Modify Lesson Plans

Special education teachers are well-trained in managing students with individualized education plans and 504 documentation, but general classroom teachers may wonder how to modify curriculum to adapt to the needs of all of their learners.

Whether or not students are on IEPs, they deserve individualized attention that helps them achieve the best possible learning. Teachers know how the personalities, challenges, and strengths of their students can fundamentally change the flow of a classroom. Adapting to this diverse body of learners is both challenging and rewarding.

Helping all learners in the classroom: Common lesson plan modifications

Slight modifications to lessons can work to help all learners in the classroom, but it’s important not to make the changes and adaptations so large that advanced learners are left on their own. Here are several ideas for adaptations based on common student needs.

Modifying lessons for literacy challenges 

For developing readers, doing the same work as the rest of the class can be difficult. Offering complimentary materials that include step-by-step pictures associated with the directions helps developing readers establish reading security.

Other ways to offer students opportunities for literacy success include:

  • Different learning objectives for lessons, such as making inferences based on pictures
  • Reading material multiple times to increase comfort
  • Practice holding a book the right way and turning pages during reading time 

Keeping in mind the difficulties of those struggling with literacy while creating lesson plans can help teachers establish support structures that allow and encourage them to succeed.

Lesson plan accommodations for sensory students or kinesthetic learners

Students with attention deficit disorder or sensory integration disorder can benefit greatly from movement and physical action during lessons. Teachers can modify lessons to allow for this movement by having them work in a small group in the hallway or adding kinesthetic learning techniques.



Younger students can practice the alphabet by playing ABC musical chairs. Slightly older students can play reading catch by decoding ping pong balls printed with sight words or spelling words their partners toss to them. Later-grade learners can be given a variety of tasks that combine work with the lesson at hand, including combining science with gardening or math by installing small bricks or paving stones on the schoolyard. 

Even something as simple as sitting on a yoga ball instead of a chair can help sensory students or kinesthetic learners focus during lessons. Accounting for this physical need can make all lessons run more smoothly.

Peer assistance lesson plan modifications

Some students require physical assistance to participate in classroom behaviors. Keeping in mind the principle of partial participation, it can be extremely positive for a student and their peers to develop peer-support relationships that allow for in-class assistance from fellow students to help some particularly challenged learners adapt in the general education classroom. 

Students who help their peers should be given training from special education on how to provide aid to their classmate, but it is helpful to articulate for both the learner and their peers what your specific goals are for that student during each lesson time.

These interventions might include turning on equipment, helping a student with a tripod grasp and basic writing, or completing the majority of steps in a task but allowing the student to complete the last few. Whatever the goal, identify your peer supports and identify for them and the student your specific, individuated goals for that learning time.

There are nine major types of adaptations for lessons: Input, output, time, difficulty, level of support, size, degree of participation, alternate goal, or substitute curriculum. Being familiar with potential opportunities for lesson plan adaptations can help teachers stick to their intended curricular goals while still honoring and acknowledging a diverse classroom of students.


Monica Fuglei is a graduate of the University of Nebraska in Omaha and a current adjunct faculty member of Arapahoe Community College in Colorado, where she teaches composition and creative writing.


What Do General Education Teachers Need To Know About IEPs?, School Psychologist Files

Natalie Olinghouse, Designing Lessons for Diverse Learners, Michigan State University

Darla Briganti, Kinesthetic Learning at Northwood, Crestview Bulletin

Curriculum Modifications and Adaptations, Statewide Parent Advocacy Network

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