2. How can teachers support students with special learning needs in the TWI program?

TWI programs can be seen as ideal placements for special needs students, as many of the accommodations considered useful for these students (e.g., hands-on learning, thematic instruction, and multimodal instruction) are the same strategies recommended for two-way educators (Artiles & Ortiz, 2002; Genesee, Paradis, & Crago, 2004). Some of these strategies are highlighted in the table below (developed by Patricia Martínez, special education teacher, Key Elementary):

Strategies that Support Second Language Learners Strategies that Support Children with Learning Disabilities Strategies that Support Both Groups

Provide modifications for worksheets, tests, and other class materials.

Help students make connections across languages in both content (e.g., by activating prior knowledge) and in vocabulary (e.g., through cognates).

Engage students in authentic, high-interest reading material and in writing tasks that draw on their background experiences.

Provide students with visual support for oral presentations.

Paraphrase and keep oral instructions at student’s level of language proficiency.

Provide opportunities for oral expression, particularly in pairs or small groups.

Encourage students to ask for help and explanations.

Provide reading material in the student’s native language so that he/she can continue learning and developing literacy skills in that language.

Recognize and use students’ multiple intelligences.

Use a multi-sensory approach (e.g., have students talk, write, draw, move).

Allow for alternative responses for tests and classroom tasks (e.g., oral responses instead of writing)

Teach memory strategies (e.g., chunking of information, making visual images, constructing mnemonics).

Use manipulatives to help children transfer from concrete to abstract levels of thinking.

Teach metacognitive skills (e.g., have students evaluate and monitor their own work).

Use behavior charts.

Provide visual calendars or a plan of the day.

Provide organizational supports, such as daily planners, homework checklists, etc.

Provide extra time for task completion.

Use instructional strategies such as cooperative learning and hands-on learning.

Use performance-based assessment to determine mastery of a concept or skill.

Minimize distractions in the environment (e.g., organize materials, use predictable routines)

Present new information in context.

Use graphic organizers.

Teach pre-reading strategies.

Allow extra time for processing and thinking.

Provide instruction in small groups for greater individual attention.

Inform students of learning objectives both orally and in writing.

In working with both second language learners and students with special needs, the challenge is in maintaining high academic expectations while making the activities comprehensible and accessible. Without careful thought and planning, simplifying the language and providing other accommodations may have the unintended effect of lowering the thinking level required to complete an activity. Careful attention must therefore be paid to this matter, as students with learning disabilities are the ones who most need access to challenging curriculum.

The special education teacher can work closely with the classroom teacher to see how special education interventions can be worked into the everyday functioning of that classroom. If necessary, the special education teacher can work directly with the student, preferably as an added support in the classroom. This special education support can be given in both languages, so as not to disrupt the language development plan designed to attain bilingualism and biliteracy.

A final recommendation for supporting special needs students in TWI programs is to promote the attitude that all children can learn and that all children can learn in a TWI environment. If this is the philosophy of the teachers, administrators, and parents, then it is much more likely that the steps needed to provide support for special needs students in TWI programs will be taken and these children will be successful in the program.