Alternatives to Common Assignments

Teachers can easily fall into a routine by asking students to do the same projects or presentations throughout the year. To keep students engaged, occasionally change the routine and assign a new activity. Each of the following alternatives can be easily adapted for special population students, as well as differentiation options for all.


Alternatives for Research Papers

The ability to write proper research is a necessary skill; however, writing a research paper is not always required for every course. Instead of asking students to write a research paper, try using one of these alternative assignment options:

Maintain a Blog

To incorporate technology in your assignments, have students create and maintain a blog throughout a unit. Requirements can be set for the level of formality, the number of sources students should reference and the length of each post. Students will have the ability to read and make comments on peers’ posts and facilitate a dialog that might not have been possible with students verbally discussing the lesson during class time. Blogging also gives students the ability to look back through posts and review as needed.

Special population students can have different requirements for the posts, such as shorter length or assistance finding sources to examine. Some IEPs call for less writing, so these students could write a post less frequently than the rest of the class. Such a strategy will allow individuals to focus on editing and elaborating on posts already created.

Students Lead A Lecture

Schools with limited technology access could implement times when the students become the teacher. Individually or in small groups, students will be given a topic to research and present to the rest of the class. This activity will require some preparation by the teacher to determine which topics should be covered, where students will find relevant information and how the material should be presented to the class.

This teaching strategy will require differentiation based on the classroom population. Advanced students could teach brand new information to the class with some assistance from the teacher.  Those who can grasp content after some exposure to the lesson can teach extension lessons. For struggling students or special populations, they will excel at teaching review lessons at the end of a unit.

Alternatives for PowerPoint® Presentations

While student-created PowerPoint® Presentations can be a useful exercise, it is often over-utilized in the classroom. Most students have been creating PowerPoint® Presentations since elementary school and crave variety. Rather than asking students to develop a PowerPoint® Presentation, try one of these assignment options instead:

Film a Video

Rather than creating a presentation on a computer or tablet, students could film a video or infomercial covering the content. Videos allow opportunities for a variety of content and mediums, such as interviews, multiple students on screen at a time, transitions, etc.

Presenting a video in class is especially beneficial for students with special requirements and needs. For individuals with severe anxiety or speech disorders, they will have the opportunity to edit and refilm sections with mistakes. It is even possible for the teacher to assign “roles” to each student in the group or allow them to select responsibilities for creating the video. Possible options include scriptwriter, interviewer, editor or director. This will enable students to incorporate their strengths into the project.

Create an Escape Room

One of the more recent activities utilized in classrooms is creating an escape room. In an escape room, students must solve a variety of problems at stations around the room. Each station will reveal a different code the students must gather. Once all codes are discovered, the students “escape.”  The great thing about escape rooms is the options are limitless. Digital escape rooms can be developed and completed on tablets, cell phones, or laptops. (A simple Google search will show examples of how to create this activity or provide premade escape rooms that can be downloaded for free or for a small fee.) Physical escape rooms can be completed with the use of lockboxes and various types of locks or a chain with a code assigned to each group. Stations can be set up throughout the room for groups to solve.

Special population students could be given a lock with only three codes or be assigned to a group with reliable peer tutors. More advanced students could even be required to design an escape room for their peers to complete.

To discover more alternative assignments, access the Teaching Strategies for Special Populations resource.