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Teaching Strategies

Your role as teacher is to create an environment in which all students can participate to the best of their abilities. One of your greatest challenges is to provide a positive learning environment for the students in your classroom. Because each student has his or her own unique set of physical and intellectual abilities, perceptions, and needs, the learning styles of your students may vary widely.

Once you determine the special needs of your students, you can identify the areas of the curriculum that may present barriers to them. In order to eliminate those barriers, you may need to modify your teaching strategies. The following information will help you identify students with special needs. It also offers strategies for you to tailor your lessons and presentations so that all students have a more equal opportunity to experience success.

Gifted
Second Language Learners
Students With Behavioral Disorders
Students With Learning Disabilities
Students With Physical Impairments
Students With Visual Impairments
Students With Hearing Impairments
Students With Speech Impairments

 

Gifted

Overview
Although no formal definition exists, gifted students can be described as having above average ability, task commitment, and creativity. They rank in the top 5 percent of their classes. They are usually capable of divergent thinking. Students in your class who consistently finish work more quickly than others and who have above average ability, task commitment, and creativity may be considered gifted.

Teaching Strategies

  • Emphasize concepts, theories, relationships, ideas, and generalizations.
  • Let students express themselves in a variety of ways, including drawing, creative writing, or acting.
  • Make arrangements for gifted students to work on independent projects.
  • Make arrangements for gifted students to take selected subjects early.
  • Encourage gifted students to take on a wide variety of enrichment and independent practice activities that will put them in contact with people in the "real world" and allow them to observe the daily practices that lead to success.

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Second Language Learners

Overview
Some students speak English as a second language, or not at all. The customs and behavior of people in the majority culture may be confusing for some of these students. Cultural values may inhibit some of these students from full participation in the classroom.

Teaching Strategies

  • Remember that students' ability to speak English does not reflect their academic ability.
  • Try to incorporate students' cultural experiences into your instruction. The help of a bilingual aide may be effective.
  • Include information about different cultures in your curriculum to help build students' self-image.
  • Avoid cultural stereotypes.
  • Encourage students to share their cultures in the classroom.
  • If your class includes any second language learners, provide outlines of lecture notes or planned classroom discussion topics in advance to give second language learners the opportunity to review materials later at a slower pace or to look up unfamiliar vocabulary.
  • When discussing numbers, speak slowly and clearly and write the numbers under discussion on the board along with the signs indicating the operations being performed.
  • In regular classroom activities, allow sufficient time for second language learners to answer verbal questions.
  • Pair second language learners with native speakers for verbal exercises when appropriate.
  • Give extra attention to second language learners when discussing telephone skills and interviewing techniques, as these topics can be intimidating for students who feel uncertain about using English.

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Students With Behavioral Disorders

Overview
Students with behavior disorders deviate from standards or expectations of behavior and impair the functioning of others and themselves. These children may also be gifted or have a learning disability.

Teaching Strategies

  • Work for long-term improvement; do not expect immediate success.
  • Talk with students about their strengths and weaknesses, and clearly outline objectives.
  • Structure schedules, rules, room arrangement, and safety for a conducive learning environment.
  • Experiment to determine the best learning modality for each student, and structure activities accordingly.
  • Model appropriate behavior for students and reinforce proper behavior.
  • Use enrichment materials that capitalize on their interests.

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Students with Learning Disabilities

Overview
All students with learning disabilities have problems in one or more areas, such as academic learning, language, perception, social-emotional adjustment, memory, or ability to pay attention. In general, students with learning disabilities require more support and structure and benefit from a classroom that incorporates a wide variety of learning modalities (visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic).

Teaching Strategies

  • Clearly define rules, assignments, and duties.
  • Distribute outlines of material presented in class.
  • Allow for pair interaction during class time; utilize peer helpers.
  • Allow extra time to complete tests and assignments.
  • Make chapter audio tapes so students who find the written text difficult to use can listen and read simultaneously.
  • Advise students who have problems with verbal processing to read materials before class discussion.
  • Allow students with learning disabilities to read notes taken in class by other students to ensure that they are not missing any valuable information.
  • Clearly specify the scope of assignments and review the work of students with learning disabilities on a regular basis throughout the course of projects.
  • Break up complex tasks into self-contained steps and provide additional assistance as needed.

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Students With Physical Impairments

Overview
Students with physical impairments fall into two categories — those with orthopedic impairments (use of one or more limbs severely restricted) and those with other health impairments.

Teaching Strategies

  • With the student, determine when you should offer aid.
  • Help other students and adults understand and accept physically disabled students.
  • Learn about special devices or procedures and whether special safety precautions are needed.
  • Allow students to participate in all activities, including field trips, special events, and projects.
  • To ensure their full participation in the class, make sure they have full access to the classroom; be aware of common items that can be barriers, such as a narrow walkway or a heavy door.
  • Keep in mind that some students in wheelchairs have full use of their hands and others do not.

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Students With Visual Impairments

Overview
Students with visual impairments have partial or total loss of sight. Individuals with visual impairments are not significantly different from their sighted peers in ability range or personality. However, blindness may affect cognitive, motor, and social development. Often, listening skills are enhanced when visual impairment is present.

Teaching Strategies

  • To help students with visual impairments cope with the volume of printed material in class, use a combination of resources, such as readers, books in Braille, and recorded books and class lectures.
  • Modify assignments as needed to help students become independent.
  • Teach classmates how to serve as guides for students with visual impairments.
  • Encourage students with visual impairments to use their sense of touch; provide tactile models whenever possible.
  • Verbally describe people and events as they occur in the classroom for the students with visual impairments.
  • Avoid standing with your back to the window or light source.
  • Some students benefit from working with a peer "visual translator" who is able to verbally describe visual images, such as the photos in the textbook to the student.

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Students With Hearing Impairments

Overview
Students with hearing impairments have partial or total loss of hearing. They are not significantly different from their peers in ability range or personality. However, the chronic condition of deafness may affect cognitive, motor, social, and speech development. Many students with hearing impairments, ranging from complete loss to moderate loss, communicate mainly by sign language.

Teaching Strategies

  • Provide favorable seating arrangements for hearing-impaired students so they can see speakers and read their lips (or interpreters can assist); avoid visual distractions.
  • To encourage their maximum participation, look at students with hearing impairments when you speak; this allows students the option of viewing you and your lip movements directly.
  • Limit unnecessary noise in the classroom, as students who wear hearing aids can be easily distracted by background noise. Because each hearing aid has its own limited range of use, you will need to learn how close to stand so the student can hear you. Keep in mind that comments made in the back of the room may be inaudible.
  • Write out all instructions on paper or on the board; overhead projectors enable you to maintain eye contact while writing.
  • Pair students with hearing impairments with hearing partners; this will benefit not only the students with hearing impairments, but also the hearing students who will gain knowledge about how students with hearing impairments compensate for their challenge.
  • If class materials involve technical terminology, supply a list of these words in advance to students with hearing impairments and their interpreters. Unfamiliar words can be difficult to lip-read or sign without prior exposure.

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Students With Speech Impairments

Overview
Students with speech impairments may have impediments ranging from problems with articulation or voice strength to being unable to speak. These impairments can include stuttering, chronic hoarseness, or difficulty in expressing an appropriate word or phrase. Typically, such students refrain as much as possible from class participation.

Teaching Strategies

  • When speaking with a student with a speech impairment, use normal communication patterns and refrain from completing words or phrases for the student.
  • Some students use electronic speaking machines or are adept at using body language to communicate.
  • Allow students with speech impairments or difficulty with oral expression the opportunity to submit written questions about material that they find challenging.
  • Students with speech impairments often do not feel comfortable participating in exercises devoted to interpersonal skills because the physical difficulties they experience can make the exercises uncomfortable for them. Even so, these students can benefit from watching others and participating at a level they select as comfortable.
  • Students with speech impairments benefit from an opportunity to make a contribution to the class in ways other than in-class discussion. For example, students might prepare a bulletin board display or a report on a topic that could be distributed to all students.

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