EL Education.

Helping All Learners: Characteristics

What are some specific characteristics of our special populations?

"For children, diversity needs to be real and not merely relegated to learning the names of the usual suspects during Black History Month or enjoying south-of-the-border cuisine on Cinco de Mayo. It means talking to and spending time with kids not like them so that they may discover those kids are in fact just like them."  —John Ridley, screenwriter of Twelve Years a Slave

"Special populations," as we discussed earlier, can be defined as those students who share a common background, a cultural orientation, physical capabilities, and/or a developmental or psychological status; a commonality that teachers can take into account fruitfully when planning instruction. On this page, we will explore some of the specific characteristics of common special populations. 

The information on this page is not comprehensive; special populations can be as widely diverse as the individual students in front of us in the classroom. Rather, our goal here is twofold: to address the main commonalities of special populations that might affect children who are under your instruction, and to consider how those characteristics might affect your instructional planning and implementation, coaching, or administration. 

Learning Targets

  1. I can describe the commonalities of specific special populations. 
  2. I can describe how the commonalities of specific special populations may affect my coaching, administration, and/or planning and instruction. 

Watch: "Don't Limit Me," Megan Bomgaars 

In the video below, Megan Bomgaars talks with teachers in the Douglas County School District, Colorado, about the accomplishments she achieved as an adolescent in school with Down Syndrome. Consider the following questions as you watch. If you are working within a group, conduct a Turn and Talk protocol after the video to discuss your answers to each of the questions. You can review and/or download the protocol here. 

  1. Summarize Megan's message to her teachers in two or three sentences.

  2. Given Megan's accomplishments, what are some concrete actions that you can infer Megan's educators have taken with her until this point?

  3. Pretend that Megan is a student in your class or school. What strengths would she bring to your learning community? 
 

Other Topics in This Pack

Need help?

Not sure how to use this site? We've made a demo to walk you through the structure and features.

 

Everyone Matters (2013, August 14). “Don’t Limit Me!”- Powerful Message from Megan with Down Syndrome. Retrieved October 23, 2015 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOwDfnoek6E


Dig Deeper: Characteristics of Special Populations

Below are some key resources for understanding the context of some common special populations. Although many of these groups relate to students with disabilities, others, such as students living in poverty or gifted students, do not. 

We recommend that you differentiate for your needs by choosing one or two resources that relate directly to your teaching, coaching, or administrative needs and interests. We have provided an optional note-catcher for you to use: 

Special Populations note-catcher: Word format

Special Populations note-catcher: PDF format

If you're working in a group, consider dividing the resources among the members of your team, and then using a Jigsaw Protocol to share the information you've received. You can download the Jigsaw Protocol here.

"NCELA Fact Sheets": Who Are English Language Learners? 

"Definition of Intellectual Disability": Who Are Students with Intellectual Disabilities?

"What Are Learning Disabilities?"Who Are Students with Learning Disabilities?

"Emotional Disturbance"Who Are Students with Emotional Disabilities? 

"Autism Spectrum Disorders": Who Are Students with Autism? 

"Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder"Who Are Students with ADD/ADHD?

"Redefining Giftedness for a New Century"Who Are Gifted Students? 

"Gifted and Learning Disabled: Twice Exceptional Students"Who Are Twice Exceptional (2e) Students? 

 

If you don't see a special population you are interested in, check out this page for further special population definitions and information.


Discuss: Instruction for Students in Special Populations 

Download and/or navigate to "Effective Teaching Practices for Students in Inclusive Classrooms" by Sue Land. 

Then, consider the suggestions made in the article in the light of the special population you explored above. 

For Teachers... 

  1. How do the characteristics of this special population intersect with the suggestions made in the article? 

  2. Which practices seem the most pertinent to your classroom? 

  3. Which practice seems the easiest for you to implement for this special population, and why?

  4. Which practice seems the most difficult for you to implement for this special population, and why? 

  5. Based on all the information you have learned on this page, create a specific, realistic, actionable goal for improving the instruction of special populations in your classroom.

For School Leaders...

  1. How do the characteristics of this special population intersect with the suggestions made in the article? 

  2. Which classroom practices are currently in place in your district or school? Which are not? 

  3. What administrative practices in your district or school currently support the suggestions made in the article?

  4. Based on all the information you have learned on this page, create a specific, realistic, actionable goal for improving the instruction of special populations in your school or district.