Every person has a right to education, and the minute they step into a classroom, they become part of a system that should accommodate their uniqueness. As an instructor, it can be tempting to fall into a habit and repeat behavior patterns when you’re teaching. The result can be a rigid curriculum that is likely to be difficult for all students to follow.
The key to creating a good learning environment is respecting and accommodating students and their needs instead of expecting them to adapt to your teaching style. But before you read more about teaching students with diverse needs, you must know what this even means.
Who are diverse learners?
People come from different backgrounds, have different quality of life, have unique learning abilities or disabilities, and are diverse in their strengths and goals. This affects the kind of learners they are, how they comprehend information, and what will appeal to them.
The role of an educator is to create a safe, purposeful, and supportive environment that allows every student to grow academically and socially. Plus, having a group of students with diverse needs co-exist can positively impact the school community. It improves their critical thinking skills, encourages out-of-the-box thinking, and promotes empathy.
So how can you successfully teach a group of diverse students? We’ve listed some helpful tips below
- Teach in more ways than one
Gone are the days when traditional classroom planning was held in high esteem as it was rooted in keeping a typical student in mind. But, as time passes and inclusion becomes a more significant part of the education system, traditional learning has taken a backseat. Why limit your student to learning something one way when you can offer more options?
As an instructor, you can opt for online special education courses to learn unique teaching methods applicable to a group of students with diverse needs. These courses provide professionals such as yourself with a flexible way to upskill their practice. After completion, you’ll be able to design a more effective curriculum for teaching students with unique needs.
Survey your students to see what they already know and questions they might have, and create a lesson plan accordingly. “Scaffolding” is a way to support students through a task by giving enough instructions that will allow them to attempt the task independently. Scaffolding can include visual aids, guided notes, or any concepts or words that need to be discussed before.
When you use different methods to deliver information, if students are moving around the classroom for a lesson, be sure all of them are supported and their needs are met for this task. If they are reading a text, ensure it is available electronically so they can increase the font size, adjust brightness, etc., to make it more accessible.
- Prepare students for the next lesson
Discussing lesson plans before you begin will help students be better prepared during the lesson and know how much time they will need to process the information you teach. Are they expected to behave a specific way during the lesson? Describe it to them. For example, if they are going to be divided into groups, then how will they work together.
You can also provide the schedule in advance and summarize your lesson plan, so everyone knows what is happening at what time. Ensure clarity on the materials needed for the next lesson. For example, if they need a protractor, scissors, etc., they ought to get it beforehand or have a sharing policy to ensure class harmony and socialization.
- Help them participate in class
It is pretty normal for students to feel overwhelmed in social situations. But you must be more mindful of students with special needs. Perhaps you can agree on special cues to help them stay focused and be able to answer questions when they are asked any. This can be a smile in their direction, a pat on their back, or a verbal affirmation.
If you’d like students to participate, gently ask probing questions after they’ve done the task to see how they are doing. If they don’t answer, wait a few seconds before you move on to asking someone else. Make it a rule not to criticize or respond sarcastically to any student by practicing it yourself. You don’t want to draw unnecessary attention to children with learning disabilities.
- Teach cooperative learning
Cooperative learning is an excellent strategy for teaching in diverse learning environments. It allows students to use language in interesting ways to build self-esteem, confidence, social skills, etc. Group different types of students, i.e., those with mixed academic achievements, goals, strengths, and weaknesses.
Ensure a small group is responsible for each other’s learning and is expected to motivate and help their group members out. Give them detailed and explicit instructions on how to behave so they learn to collaborate and work effectively within a team of diverse learners. Remind them of their accountability as well as their team’s.
- Help them focus
It is pretty common for many students, especially younger ones, to have trouble focusing on one task. It can make teaching students with learning disabilities slightly challenging. During a lesson, if you notice a student drifting off or distracted by any other task, share a gentle reminder for them to keep working on what has been assigned.
You have already set some behavioral expectations for all students at the start of the lesson. So remind them of that and continue your lesson. The key is to remain calm. If they have trouble focusing on a task, break it down into less complex tasks. This is where knowing your student as an individual is important and creating a good relationship with them. It can help you understand where they are having a hard time.
Be ready to provide extra explanations or ask a fellow student to tutor those who have difficulty in reading comprehension or whose mind wanders off during lessons.
As an instructor for students with diverse needs, you will likely face a few hurdles when preparing your lesson plan. It all boils down to how you can make learning an easier and more accessible process for all students so they don’t feel left out. Be realistic about the challenges and prepare yourself beforehand to feel less frazzled during the lessons.