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What You Need to Know to Be a Good Special Ed Teacher

written by: Kathy Foust • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 1/5/2012

Teaching students with special needs can be challenging, there are several tips and tricks that can help to make teaching go more smoothly. Read on to understand the characteristics of a good special education teacher and you will be well on your way to success in the classroom!

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    As a learning support teacher who has been teaching students with learning disabilities for over eight years, I have learned several techniques and strategies that have been proven effective in my classroom. These tips also reflect characteristics of a good special education teacher. These ten tips are especially effective for students with AD/HD, but also help the students who have reading, writing, and math disabilities.

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    Top Ten Tips

    1. Repetition - Say instructions a few times in order to ensure that students have heard what they are to do. The more that students hear something the more likely they are to remember what is being taught.

    2. Response Options - Allow students to respond to questions in a variety of ways, such as orally or in written form. Some students are better when questioned orally while others are better using pencil and paper.

    3. Reduce Work Load - Instead of making students do a whole worksheet of problems let them do half, this will still ensure that they understand the concept while keeping them from feeling overwhelmed

    4. Adapted Notes - Students will be able to focus better if they only have to copy key words for their notes instead of copying every single word. Give copies of the notes to the students and make them fill-in-the-blanks. This especially helps students with ADHD because they can focus on the key concepts.

    5. Flexibility - Sometimes a lesson may not go as planned and needs to be taught in a different way so the lesson may need to be taught again. Sure lesson plans have been written, but if the students need to be re-taught a concept, or even need extra practice allow time for that. Flexibility is the most important tip for teaching students with learning disabilities.

    6. Remodeling - Teach the concept individually to students as needed. A concept may be taught and most students will understand, but there may be a few that don’t get it. Take the time to remodel the concepts to those students.

    7. Teach Key Concepts Only - Try to eliminate extraneous information from the lessons and only teach what the students really need to know. Think about what the students’ life goals are and say to yourself, "do they really need to know this?"

    8. Positive Reinforcement - This gives the students better self-esteem and encourages them to keep trying. Research has shown that students with learning disabilities tend to have lower self-esteem and a more negative self-concept of themselves, so praise and encourage them whenever you can. It is the small things that teachers do that can really make an impact.

    9. Routines - Establishing a routine in the classroom ensures that the students know what to do and takes the guesswork out of the expectations. Once routines are established, teaching of lessons can begin more promptly and it allows more teaching time.

    10. Allow Time for Homework - This will show the teacher that the students understand the materials and also ensures that most of the homework is completed. Many students with learning disabilities forget they have homework, so let them start it in class, even just five minutes.

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    Understanding the characteristics of a good special education teacher is not that hard if you follow these tips and strategies. Teaching students with disabilities can be extremely challenging and tough on the teachers, but the little adaptations and changes we can make to our teaching can make a huge difference.