Accommodations vs. Modifications: What is the difference?

Accommodations and modifications are two VERY different things, however, the terms are often used synonymously.  And I'll seriously be honest, it just drives be bonkers! At the end of last year, I sat in several transition conferences for some of my students who were headed to middle school.  Repeatedly, I was asked, "What modifications do you make for this student?"  And repeatedly, I would say, "Absolutely nothing."  Here's why.

Modifications are WHAT, whereas accommodations are HOW.  

If you are making modifications for a student in your classroom or on your caseload, you are changing WHAT the student is expected to do.  

In fifth grade, the ability to multiply and divide fluently is the expectation for all of my students, regardless of their ability.  I teach fifth-grade, general education.  I am required to follow the state standards, and regardless of a disability, these students and I must put forth our best effort to see that they learn these basic computation needs.  Although some students may seriously struggle with this skill, I am not changing WHAT my students will be learning.  How do we do this?  Well, we use accommodations!

Accommodations allow students to accomplish grade level expectations with the help of an outside tool or resource.  

Using the above example, students with disabilities often struggle to complete fifth-grade computation.  They need additional assistance to help them be successful.  In my classroom, I make use of an accommodation that allows them to access their own resource.  I have my students create a multiplication chart of their own, where they have to write out and solve all of their multiplication facts. Then, I laminate it so they can use it all year.  Just by having their multiplication facts handy, they don't have to focus on that aspect of computation, and they can instead focus on learning the process of the algorithm. I shared this accommodation in a FB Live!

So, what's the point of this post?

I invite you to think long and hard about the things that you are doing in your classroom for your students with identified disabilities.  Are you accommodating them?   Are you allowing them to use a tool or other resource to help them accomplish grade level standards?  Or are you modifying for them?  Are you "dumbing" down the workload for them to make their life, their parents' lives, and your life easier?

Students with disabilities should still be expected to do grade level work.  Will it be challenging? Probably. In my school, I've honestly had to work to change that mindset.  For many years, students with READING disabilities were having their MATH work modified.  Ummm, when you put it in writing, you can see how that doesn't make sense, right?  In the end, having students do work that is far below their grade level is harmful long term.  Trust me as a fifth-grade teacher when I say, you aren't doing them any favors.  It is seriously crippling.

Now, what can you do to appropriately accommodate your students?  Check out the freebie above to see simple strategies for accommodating students in your classroom!


  1. Great post to put this into perspective for people. I pinned it too!

  2. I want to give you a standing ovation!!! πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ» I will be teaching sped this fall (first year😳) i love your blog!

    1. Awww! Thank you, Michelle! I am sure you will love it! <3