In today’s classrooms, more and more students are taught in the regular education setting. As the prevalence of students with learning disabilities increases, both special educators and regular educators need to modify their teaching strategies to match the needs of these students. We also need to provide students with the necessary accommodations in order for them to be successful across the curriculum.
An easy technique to start with is to present materials both verbally and in written form, whether it be on the whiteboard or overhead projector. This allows students to not only see the information, but hear it as well. All students, including mainstream learners, have different learning styles and teaching this way can help a great number of students
Another good teaching strategy is to let students work in groups. Students sometimes learn more from each other. You do not have to do group work every day, but do it often enough so that students who don’t learn as well listening to just the teacher.
When working with students who have learning disabilities, it is important to not overwhelm them with too much information. A good way to avoid information overload is to teach information in smaller chunks. Let’s say we are teaching a lesson on adding fractions with different denominators. Teach the students how to get common denominators, then let them practice that. After they have grasped that concept, then teach them how to add the fractions, practice that, then later on work on reducing fractions to lowest terms.
An additional strategy that is beneficial is to allow students to start their homework in class. I know that many teachers believe that all homework should be done at home, but for students with learning disabilities, they can easily forget the information when they get home, or actually forget that they even have homework to complete. By allowing them to start their homework in class, the teacher can check to make sure that they really understand the material. This also gives the teacher the opportunity to adjust their lesson plans for the following day, based on how many students seem to be struggling with the assignment.
Accommodations are the little changes that we can do to make the students’ job just a little easier, while allowing them to receive the exact same education as students without disabilities receive.
There are several accommodations that teachers can provide for testing. The most common one is allowing students extra time to complete tests and quizzes. Many of these students have anxiety when it comes to taking a test, so allowing them additional time takes some unnecessary stress off of them, and instead, allows them to really focus on the content. Also, when it comes to testing, only test them on the most important information, not the extra, unneeded information. Some students may need tests read to them, or can be allowed to answer questions orally, particularly essay questions. It may also be a great idea to provide students with word banks for fill-in-the-blank questions, or narrow down their multiple choice questions from 4 possibilities to 3. Students should also be provided the opportunity to take tests and quizzes in a separate environment, such as a learning support room.
If your classroom subject material typically requires that students take a lot of notes, you may find some students with learning disabilities struggling. The task of grasping the information and then writing it down quickly and thoroughly, can not only be frustrating for some students, but very hard to keep up with. Provide these students with guided notes in which they only have to fill in key phrases, and the other words are provided. This way they are still getting the same information, but can focus more on the content of the lesson rather than on the stressful task of taking notes.
Many other accommodations can also be provided for students with learning disabilities. Here are some additional suggestions:
- Calculator for math calculations
- Shortened homework assignments
- One-on-one re-teaching of concepts
- Sitting in the front of the room to reduce distractions
- Study guides for tests
- Use of an agenda book to record homework assignments
- Prompts to remain on task
- Condensed vocabulary definitions
The above-mentioned teaching strategies and accommodations can be used to help students with specific learning disabilities succeed in the classroom. None of this should be done all at once. Teachers need to start slowly when making these changes and find what is most comfortable for both them and their students.
It is important to remember that these techniques may not work for all students. Be attune to feedback from students, parents and other educational professionals about what would help each individual better complete the work and achieve success in your classroom.