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Strategies for Teachers of Students with Disabilities

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

To teach students with disabilities, teachers must attend to the learning environment, as well as the beliefs and characteristics of the students. Teachers should strive to effectively plan, deliver and evaluate instruction. This article focuses on the strategies teachers should use.

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    All teaching strategies for students with disabilities need to be carefully orchestrated to take into account the interactive nature of the teaching and learning process. This should be based on the belief and characteristics of the learner, teacher and the instructional cycle. The instructional cycle is where a teacher has to determine the goals of instruction and learning, plan and deliver instruction and evaluate and modify instruction. Although the teacher teaches the whole class, the teacher should plan for each student's needs.

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    Assessing Progress

    Means continually examining data from both formal and informal assessments to determine student's knowledge. Some of the ways to examine are by reading inventories, looking at the standardized tests, work samples and observations. Types of evaluation measures a teacher can use are performance records, charts, progress graphs, portfolios, learning logs and journals.

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    Designing Instruction

    Once students' skills have been assessed and objectives have been set, teachers should use the student data that has been gathered to plan for instruction. The first thing is to group students according to their educational needs. Setting goals for each student and identify students that may need more intensive instruction. Setting goals for instruction helps the teacher know where he or she is going. Some of the questions a teacher should ask themselves as they write goals are;

    • Have I considered the needs of the student?
    • Have I taken into account my beliefs and attitudes?
    • Have I involved the student in setting the goals?
    • Have I set realistic and challenging goals?

    Grouping - Due to the large range of abilities and interests among special education students, grouping the students according to their needs is an effective strategy for instructing disabled students.

    Adaptations - The goal is to ensure that all students participate to the maximum extent possible in classroom activities. It shows the care a teacher has for each individual student. Adaptations include;

    • Instructional design - Examples would be accessing resources, collaboration and integrating technology.
    • Making learning explicit by using clear, simple language, scaffolding and providing different ways of demonstrating learning.
    • Behavior Management - teaching students acceptable behavior, being consistent, having routines, and engaging.

    Scaffolding - This is also an effective strategy for instructing disabled students. This is simply adjusting and extending instruction so that the student is challenged and better able to develop new skills. A teacher can scaffold by manipulating the task at hand, materials, the group size, pace, presentation and so on. An example would be students with reading difficulties often do not infer the thought processes that good readers use, so a teacher should model strategies and guide students through the new task and assist them in acquiring the new skill without frustration.

    Time Management - As one of the most powerful strategies in educating disabled students, teachers should avoid wasting time and should carefully decide how much time to give to each activity or concept. An example would be a few students in a teacher's class are struggling with capitalizing proper nouns. A teacher could probably spend 10 minutes with these students providing direct instruction on the rules of capitalization. The teacher can check for understanding by asking the students to think aloud about why some nouns were or were not capitalized and based on their responses. She can then modify instruction and make sure she is using time effectively.

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    Delivering Instruction

    Once a teacher has completed planning and designing effective instruction, the last phase is the delivery of the instruction. Some of the effective ways of delivering instruction are quick pacing, wait time and error correction.

    Quick Pacing - This refers to instruction and student response that move at a manageable pace for students while taking full advantage of every minute of instruction. Quick pacing is important because it eliminates excessive talk from the teacher and hence minimizes the amount of time between activities, hence allowing more instructional time. An example would be students with reading problems will need increased instructional time to catch up to their peers. Quick pacing also helps students stay more focused because there is no room for extra activities.

    Wait Time - When delivering the lesson a teacher's focus should be on allowing students to practice and review the skills they have been taught. Some of the ways to limit teacher talk include using choral and individual responses and teaching students in small groups.

    Error Correction - When students give a wrong response, a teacher should correct them immediately.

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    By utilizing these and other teaching strategies for students with disabilities, you can ensure success in the classroom. As a teacher, you will also realize that this ultimately contributes to your students' success in endeavors beyond the classroom, as well.

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