How to Reach and Teach Students of All Abilities

How to Reach and Teach Students of All Abilities

Phyl Macomber is a curriculum strategist, national trainer, and author of T.H.E.  P.A.C.T framework of instruction. As an education specialist, Phyl has conducted several training sessions for educators in different parts of the world. Her research in the field of education has won her recognition in several national conferences and conventions.

Dede Rittman is a veteran educator, author, and motivational speaker for teachers. Her teaching career spans 37 years of dedication and creativity. Even though she has retired, she continues to remain a big support for teaching community by sharing her experiences and knowledge.

Phyl and Dede will be presenting a webinar on ‘How to Reach and Teach Students of All Abilities’ on July 20, 2016, at 1 pm EDT, 6 PM GMT and 10:30 PM IST, in association with WizIQ. They will share their experiences of teaching students of all abilities.  

You can save your seat by clicking on the button below.

Recently, both of them spoke with Amanjot, Online Marketer Executive, WizIQ, on teaching students of all abilities. They shared about their experiences and observations in the classroom and how they’re shaping education, as we see it, with their innovative teaching model.

Amanjot: Phyl and Dede, both of you have extensive experience of working closely with teachers and learners. How did this change you as individuals and teachers? Would you like to share any instances that had a lasting impact on you and your teaching methodologies? 

Dede: I was in the classroom for 37 years, teaching students with various abilities. For 33 years, I worked with a program for reluctant learners/underachievers.  I chose to stay as their teacher all those years, because I found that my patience, my belief in these students as learners, and listening to their needs impacted me as a teacher, and all of them as my students.

Our classroom was atypical; we learned information rather than just covering it. And I found that “typical” teaching methodology was thrown out the window- I taught the way the kids learned, and they helped to teach me how they learned.

Phyl: Since completing my clinical fellowship at Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Kennedy-Krieger Institute in 1988, I have consulted with and trained thousands of educators across North America and in parts of Australia and Italy.

Unfortunately, I can say that many of the problems that existed back then continue to persist in our systems of education today. Each day, we – as teaching staff – walk into our school, go inside our classroom, arrive at our learning center, or enter our therapy setting – and face trying to simply keep our head above water in the workplace. But, most importantly, we show up each day trying to make a difference.

For the first two decades of my professional career, although I derived significant enjoyment from working with both students and teachers, I also had an ongoing sense of frustration.This was because every time the curriculum changed, teachers had to keep reinventing the wheel and taking on the burden of starting from scratch over and over again in their very limited planning time.

So, to solve these problems, I authored a simple, 4-step, research-based teaching framework called T.H.E. P.A.C.T. – which stands for Technology Helps Easy and Practical Accessible Curriculum Teaching.

Amanjot: Phyl, as you are the brain behind T.H.E. P.A.C.T framework. Could you please share more about it? What challenges does it address and how?

Phyl: T.H.E. P.A.C.T. is a 4-step roadmap for teaching anything to anyone. These steps are the vital four components of educational standards: Learn About, Read About, Write About, and Talk About. As educators, we need to do these things in this order, based on the longstanding research of how the brain works. This helps students succeed.

It provides “connect-the-dots” teaching, so that both students and teachers understand what they are doing and why. They do this in a way that the students feel anchored with the “how-to-do-it” part.

And, because we’re building a true understanding of knowledge here true mastery students have decreased anxiety in the classroom when asked to share what they know about these things. Students simply know what to do, how to do it, and how to then share it. In fact, they are actually excited about it!

The beauty of it is that teachers can come up with their own creative activities to teach. So, in turn, it speaks to their OWN style of teaching, without us telling them “how” they have to teach it. It is a “win-win” for all involved.

Amanjot: There’s nothing-one-size-that-fits-all. The field of education is no exception to this rule. Also, there is a huge gap between special and general education. So, what do you suggest should be done in such situations? Is there a way to teach learners with different abilities in the same environment?

Dede: I am a strong believer in inclusion, and I know that one size never fits all.  But, modification is the key, and students with special needs can learn so much more than what some teachers think. My students with special needs always met or exceeded my clearly outlined expectations. Students CRAVE a routine- they learn so much when they have familiar procedures.

Phyl: The longstanding myth in education is that learners receiving specialized services need much “different” teaching strategies than those that can be used in the classroom. The TRUTH of the matter is that the same successful strategies should be used with students of all abilities. Bridging the gap between special education and general education is truly achievable by using the same methodology that can differentiate up or differentiate down for students of all abilities.

Amanjot: Who all can use T.H.E. P.A.C.T. framework? Are there teachers or institutions already using this methodology? What results did they get?

Phyl: T.H.E. P.A.C.T. framework is being used by both teachers and students – in special education and general ed – from preschool to high school, as well as post graduate vocational programs. T.H.E. P.A.C.T. is currently being used across the United States, in some provinces in Canada, and to a limited extent, in parts of Australia and Italy.

The results? This systems-based approach of T.H.E. P.A.C.T. has shown improved comprehension of curriculum content, with students acquiring knowledge at a faster rate over time with each topic, as evidenced in our two-year research study, in both the United States and Canada, across 19 research sites serving learners with disabilities.

For example, Special Education Director, Catherine Woods, explains the following:

“Prior to using T.H.E. P.A.C.T. – ‘Pre-PACT’ – the instructional lessons did not connect as well as they could have and were sometimes disjointed. Staff would jump in with great content; however, it was almost as if the instruction started in the middle of what they should be teaching and did not include an adequate amount of time teaching strong vocabulary skills.”

Amanjot: How can teachers use this universal design of learning in their curriculum? What advice would you like to give them?

Phyl: Educators can use T.H.E. P.A.C.T. to teach any topic in any subject area at any grade level in multiple levels of representation. To be more specific, T.H.E. P.A.C.T. is being used to teach math, science, social studies, and language arts. For instance, it has been exciting setting up iPACT App activities for Dede Rittman’s new children’s book, Grady Gets Glasses, so that our preschoolers and elementary school students can Learn About, Read About, Write About, and Talk About the main character, Grady. This type of consistency and predictability can then be used to teach any children’s book to anchor students in literacy-based activities.

Dede: The simplicity of T.H.E  P.A.C.T. is deceiving- students are not being fed any kind of “watered down” curriculum- it fits with the common core, yet, with all of the higher level thinking going on, it is so manageable for kids because of the structure. They love the color coding, the expectations, the activities, the group participation,and learning in a specific order.

Additionally, teachers can create lessons using T.H.E  P.A.C.T. and the iPACT App System in a matter of minutes! I wish I could have used T.H.E  P.A.C.T when I was in the classroom all those years – every child would have benefitted.

My advice:  invite Phyl into your school, enjoy her training sessions, and watch your students learn and their test scores grow!


A marketer by profession and an explorer by nature. I love to read, learn, travel, experiment with new music and food, and have a good laugh.

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