11 Classroom Strategies for Kids Who Learn Differently

Four education professionals offer their picks for the best strategies teachers can use to help kids who learn a little differently.

A teacher applying classroom strategies for kids who learn differently

GIVE KIDS MULTIPLE OPTIONS to complete an assignment, each of which addresses a different style of learning — auditory, visual, kinesthetic, and so on. For example, some options for completing a project might be to: write a story, draw a comic strip, act out a scene, make a podcast.

THINK-PAIR-SHARE. Allow time for students to pair up and talk over answers before calling on someone. This strategy gives students time to process and creates a safer (smaller) environment in which to discuss their thoughts.

GAUGE AND MONITOR how much your students are learning — by short written/verbal questions, quizzes, observations — and reteach skills or lessons as needed.
—Megan Byers, Brehm Preparatory School (brehm.org)

USE VISUALS — photos, drawing on the board, a collage made from magazines, a YouTube presentation — to enhance the understanding of written material. Children who reinforce written materials with visuals learn and retain more.

CLARIFY AND PARAPHRASE when going over directions or material that is “abstract,” to make sure you’ve addressed the different ways that students may process or understand material.

BREAK DOWN LARGER ASSIGNMENTS into smaller ones to reduce the stress if a student becomes overwhelmed with the workload. Create several smaller goals to reach instead of one big one.
—G.S. Featheringham, Brehm Preparatory School (brehm.org)

When children or adults with language-based learning differences know what is expected, they have a better chance of succeeding. GIVE THEM RUBRICS, TEMPLATES, OR EXAMPLES for all assignments. A checklist or chart that they can use to complete a task is also helpful.

USE ONE THREE-RING BINDER for all classes. This keeps all papers and materials in one place. Students don’t need to think about which color binder is for which class. One large binder, with tabbed, two-sided pocket dividers to separate the classes, cuts down on confusion.

If possible, parents should PURCHASE A SET OF TEXTBOOKS FOR HOME USE, so their child can take notes in the margins, highlight, underline, or “consume” the book as he or she learns. Do the same for other books — novels, say — that are being read in class.
—P.K. Sanieski, The Gow School (gow.org)

PUT THE MOST DISTRACTIBLE OR DISTRACTING STUDENT IN CHARGE of the class for a set time. We all tend to be more attentive, focused, and invested when we are directing ourselves. The appointed leader will find himself relying on the cues and reminders that you offer him, reinforcing them for others.

Students categorized as “learning disabled” may notice something that a teacher has missed in the lesson plan. Nothing squelches enthusiasm quicker than sticking to a plan that is not working. When a student points out something that you’ve overlooked or haven’t thought through, LEARN FROM IT AND ADJUST ON THE SPOT.
—Michael Riendeau, Eagle Hill School (eaglehillschool.org)

TAGS: Talking with Teachers, ADHD Accommodations, 504s, IEPs

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