A Few Tips for Teaching Learners with Special Needs

A few months back during an in-service, we had a workshop on working with students with special needs in an inclusive setting. Often times, tips like these can help a majority of your students.

  • Use chunking with assignments – break down projects and other big assessments into smaller “chunks”. Even adapting project guidelines into smaller sections with more instructions can help students who have difficulty with anything from short to long-term memory transfer, to ADHD, to students with organizational difficulties.
  • Visuals – accompany everything with more visuals than you might think necessary. If you have a project, give an example, and create visual reminders in the classroom (from a display of exemplary past work, to a date-board reminder, to a calendar with upcoming work due. This may seem obvious, and I think that foreign language teachers tend to use more visuals than other teachers, but I may be wrong. Smartboard and other technologies have helped make it easy (and help save time for the teacher) when preparing these visuals.
  • Put the schedule on the board – this goes along with having visuals, but putting up a daily schedule at the front of the room, or if you have a pretty routine schedule, make sure that’s posted somewhere readily visible. Letting students know what to expect for class that day can help alleviate confusion, anxiety, create a sense of familiarity, and save time in helping create transitional habits. You may also want to list the OBJECTIVES for the day, or week, or unit, in addition.
  • Use clear, concise language (and be explicit) – I’m still surprised now and again that I hadn’t thought something through well enough (though I guess after 2-3 decades of teaching as opposed to 2-3 years of teaching you would hone in on this skill). Think through every detail when giving a project or study guide to best aid your students (and save yourself trouble later). Be very specific when creating projects, and remember to create and do the same with grading rubrics. (You see how these tips would be useful for any type of student- think of your concrete sequential learners!)

As I’m reading and writing this, I think it seems like the above would all be good tips for any student. The second part of this section of in-service also brought up good ideas for using appropriate language. Below are some words to use in discussing behavior, and other aspects of the classroom environment.

More PC/friendly “verbage” to use in the classroom, or in discussions about students (with colleagues and especially with parents)

expected vs. unexpected

appropriate vs. inappropriate

“weird” thoughts instead of “bad” thoughts

You see what I’m getting at? It reminds me of the first class I had on “exceptional learners”. I had a great teacher. One of the first word-choice things I learned, which has stuck with me, was to say “a child with autism” instead of “an autistic child”. It makes sense and can help lessen labeling, isolation, negative connotations, etc…

Boy, do I need to get more posts up! 🙂 It’s the weekend, yahoo!!!

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