Information Bulletin Number 10
Strategies for Helping Children Experiencing Difficulties Learning
When teaching children experiencing learning difficulties in the classroom, it is often possible to increase the likelihood of the student learning successfully without:
• giving the student undue attention
• changing the basic lesson content
• damaging the student's self esteem or
• causing yourself undue stress.
Some ideas for structuring the learning experience for success include:
1. Simplify both oral and written instructions appropriately, making them succinct. Check for understanding by questioning or having the student repeat back to you what it is they understand the task to be.
2. Reduce, to one or two, the number of instructions that the student has to process at any one time.
3. Strip tasks of non-essential details.
4. Relate new information to the student's background knowledge. Build on what the student already knows.
5. Model the skills you want the student to learn. Much learning results from observation and modelling.
6. Allow adequate wait time after asking a question. This provides students with time to process what is required of them and then to formulate an answer.
7. Provide students with opportunities to make approximations. Encourage them to "have a go" and take risks.
8. Allow adequate time to practise new skills to ensure mastery and confidence.
For example, children will need opportunities to practise and apply new spelling rules before learning is consolidated.
9. Give regular feedback regarding work (i.e. let students know how they are going).
10. Give constant positive feedback. Reinforce effort and approximations as well as outcomes. Make reinforcement specific and immediate.
11. Consider alternative ways in which students can present their work. It may be appropriate, for example, for the student to produce an oral report, computer word processed document, tape recording or a modified written response (e.g. in point form) rather than write an "essay". Focus on the intended outcomes of a task and be aware of what it is you are intending to measure, for example, the student's knowledge and understanding or his/her ability to write neatly.
12. Make modifications to the number of responses that must be completed, i.e. complete five out of the 10 sums. Showing an understanding of the process or the concept taught may be more important than the amount completed. This allows "slower" workers to achieve success. .
13. Establish positive expectations for students - be firm but friendly. Teacher expectations play an important role in student achievement. Expectations can be self-fulfilling.
14. Maximise student time on task. The more time the student spends actively engaged in an appropriate activity the more he/she will learn.
15. Ensure the student sees purpose in the activity and meaning in what he/she is doing. This will increase the student's motivation towards that learning.
16. Break tasks down into manageable parts to provide the student with short-term, achievable goals. Set specific tasks to be completed within specific times. An egg timer may be useful to encourage the child to self monitor.
17. Tailor questions to the child's level of ability and understanding. This can be achieved within a class activity such that the student participates in the whole class activity but completes an independent task specific to his/her ability level.
18. Use peer mentors or tutors to assist weak students. Pairing children who are of similar levels of ability tends to result in gains being made for both the tutee and the tutor - the tutor will consolidate his/her own skills by having to teach them to someone else.
Further information can he accessed through the Peel School Psychology Service.