Making Modifications for Students of Different Content Acquisition Levels

As I started to research this topic, I ran across an article written by John McCarthy on Edutopia regarding ways to plan for differentiated instruction.  The basis of the article was that with so many things that teachers already have to do, how do we make time to plan for differentiated instruction.  His argument was that teachers are armed with the tools to differentiate and must really focus on The Learner Relationship (below).

Image Credit: John McCarthy

The idea here is that content is delivered in various formats for students at different levels of acquisition.  In addition, the process is often altered to allow students time to reflect on content in different ways.  Lastly, differentiating the expected product that students produce as a summative allows students choice and the ability to craft something within their abilities and interests (McCarthy, 2014).

In my Grade 12 Physical Education class that I have referenced previously in this blog, this process can easily be replicated.  The following ideas will be based on a unit I have created referring mainly to the below standard from The Ontario Curriculum:

The Basic Movement: Human Performance: B2.1 describe basic training principles (e.g., specificity, overload, progression, reversibility), and explain how various training methods (e.g., circuit training, cross-training, strength training, fartlek training, interval training) can be used to enhance individual health-related fitness or athletic performance.

Content Delivery and Process: When delivering content on training principles, I will offer the information in a variety of different ways – creating three stations around the classroom for students to rotate through.  At one station, I will provide different online and printed articles (of different reading levels) so students can read about the different training principles.  Students will be asked to write three short sentences summarizing the three main ideas learned from the articles read.  At another station, I will provide laptops showing videos.  Students will be asked to draw three pictures representing the three training principles.  At the third station, I will discuss the training principles and allow students to have discussions amongst themselves, creating a third formative assessment that allows me to check for understanding as they discuss the ideas learned in class.

Product Creation: As their summative, students will be tasked with making a training plan that will integrate training principles and training methods learned throughout the unit to create a one-year overview that focuses either on health-related fitness or athletic performance.  Depending on what type of training plan is chosen, students will be given examples to base their plans off of.  The idea of the summative is not to break the plan down by day and discuss daily routines, rather the idea is to discuss how and why to properly space the different types of training principles and training methods over the course of a year in order to get the most benefit from training.  Differentiation will be subtle, but absolutely present as students will be free to work from examples given, replicate training plans of professional athletes, or completely create their own ideas for themselves from what they learned throughout the unit.  This, hopefully, will allow for students at different levels of acquisition to all create a summative that has good content.

Differentiation for a Student with a Disability

If the case is that I have a student in class that is in a wheelchair and is unable to participate in the activities that necessitate use of the lower body, I will research different alternatives that athletes in wheelchairs use.  According to Ozmen (2014), “Explosive strength training improves speed and agility in wheelchair basketball athletes.”  So, explosive strength might be a substitute activity that is given.

One other example would be: if the budget is available and the student is comfortable with it, I would have enough wheelchairs accessible so that the entire class could participate in the alternative activity with the disabled student, all using wheelchairs.  This would be inclusive for the student and allow others to feel the differences of training in a wheelchair.

Another example would be to just alter the activities based on a 1-on-1 conversation with the student, accommodating them with what they felt comfortable with.

It will be fun to learn how wheelchair-bound athletes get the same results as those with normal use of their legs through alternative training methods.  The training principles will go unchanged, but there is no doubt that some of the training methods will have alternatives that need to be researched.  I will prepare in advance for this situation and be ready to present the entire class with the alternative activities.


McCarthy, J. (2014, July 23). 3 Ways to Plan for Diverse Learners: What Teachers Do. Retrieved April 10, 2017, from

Ozmen, Tarik, Yuktasir, Bekir, Yildirim, Necmiye Un, Yalcin, Birol, & Willems, Mark ET. (2014). Explosive strength training improves speed and agility in wheelchair basketball athletes. Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Esporte, 20(2), 97-100.

The Ontario Curriculum: Grades 9 to 12 – Health and Physical Education. (2015). Ontario, Canada. The Ontario Public Service. Retrieved April 3, 2017 from