Peer Teaching Strategies for Students with Language Impairments in the Classroom

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Brainstorm Instructional Accommodations

Teaching students with language impairments in the classroom involves brainstorming instructional accommodations, ascertaining implementation of appropriate accommodations, and evaluating student progress. Identify the learner’s strengths and weaknesses to determine the appropriate implementation of student accommodations, in addition to developing a way of tracking or assessing the accommodations' effectiveness. A collaborating teacher can help with class time accommodations. Small groups with peer tutors can aid with difficult vocabulary and text comprehension. A student may require resource room time placement for direct instruction: a special education teacher for intense instruction on basic skills in the areas of orthographic rules of spelling and basic comprehension strategies. Teacher/peer strategies aid positive learning outcomes. In regards to performance, daily comprehension checks and quick reviews (such as probes) help maintain learning.

In order to maximize teaching, keep in mind the INCLUDE Strategy for accommodating students with special needs in the general classroom. Step 5 of INCLUDE is “Use information gathered to brainstorm instructional adaptations.” Concerning classroom teaching and organization, a collaborating teacher in class provides meaning in context, pictures, visual cues and transfer skills to real text reading.

Small groups with peer tutors will help with challenging vocabulary and comprehension of text.

  • Allow the freedom of thought to see, think and use every strategy or cues to help reading.
  • Work regularly with an instructor or therapist to visualize written material mentally.
  • The instructor models correct use of adjectives and attempt to prompt the learner with familiar vocabulary.

Placement in a resource room for direct instruction with a special education teacher can offer regular teaching drills for basic skills to help students with language impairments. The most basic strategies for comprehension are employed — including a review of grammar and spelling rules — to further understanding.

Strategies for Teaching

Teacher/peer strategies encompass a wide variety of methods to assist the challenged language learner.

  • Co-teaching takes care of the issue of not singling out struggling students with language impairments, which encourages a positive classroom climate.

  • Parallel teaching allows for twice as many opportunities to respond. This allows the special education instructor to ask the right applicable questions to help the student’s awareness of instructional cues.

  • One teach–One assist aids the language impaired student by introducing new skills. This method of teaching gives time to take into account instructional cues and prompts, class deficits, and lets the teacher elaborate or expand instruction.

  • Direct Instruction addresses spelling, reading comprehension, phonology and decoding.

  • For optimal results, design identified-skills cue cards to use as a fast daily review prior to reading. Employ tactile/kinesthetic strategies for non-phonetic word spellings — like letter tap/finger spelling.

  • Create reading comprehension strategy cards with the author’s purpose, main idea, details and facts, cause and effect recognition, prediction making, compare/contrast, word meaning in context discovery, conclusion drawing, making predictions, and deciding what is fact and what is opinion.

Learning Maintenance

Performance checks help maintain what is learned for special education students with language impairments.

  • Daily comprehension checks along with fast reviews (like probes) aid in learning maintenance.

  • Give the language impaired learner five vocabulary words to make-up a story. Incorporate websites such as and where a student can generate cartoons the story he creates. (These are extension exercises off his current work.)

  • Perform data checks daily.

  • Encourage oral performances and presentations like oral reports, interviews, role plays — in conjunction with summarizing, explaining, describing, retelling or paraphrasing text or material from stories. Tell the special education student to act out characters in the story as a non-verbal assessment activity.

  • For oral and written products, the special education student maintains a log to encourage usage of metacognitive strategies as he reads expository text.

INCLUDE Strategy Step 6 — Decide which adaptions to implement — helps ascertain an instructor’s method or direction to help students with language impairments in the classroom. Use FIRST (Nagel, Schumaker, & Deschler, 1986), a letter mnemonic strategy: Form a word, Insert a letter or letters, Rearrange the letters, Shape a sentence, Try combinations.

The language impaired student will benefit from this strategy in the spelling and phonemic area of awareness. The student requires practice to identify the specific areas of decoding he has trouble with. For a quick review each day, use cue cards with the identified skills.

For a paragraph writing strategy, try PLEASE (Welch, M., 1992). Pick a topic, List your ideas about the topic, Evaluate your list, Activate the paragraph with a topic sentence, Supply supporting sentences, End with a concluding sentence, Evaluate your work.

PLEASE encourages the language impaired learner to visualize what he sees while listing his own ideas. Instructors should encourage vocabulary the student already knows to aid with thought and comprehension flow. This method is preferable over the student’s struggling with spelling while engaged in a writing activity. Let the student have pictures to prompt his topic ideas. He can then list adjectives that fit the picture descriptions. Allow him to maintain his own vocabulary words thesaurus. The combination of these activities aid in teaching students with language impairments in the classroom.


Bursuck, W.D., Friend. Including Students with Special Needs. Pearson Education, 2009.

Chapter 4: INCLUDE Strategy,

Author’s own experience.