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Differentiating Instruction for Children With Learning Disabilities (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Additional presentations and practice

Children with learning disabilities may need more than one chance to learn content or master a process. After an instructional activity involving the whole class, we could plan an additional presentation for those children who need it. We might present content at a slower pace, use simpler materials, or introduce new supporting resources, like photographs, maps, charts, or diagrams. For a process, like learning to use a scale of miles on a map to calculate distance between two cities, children with learning disabilities will need additional guided practice with close supervision.

Increased use of graphs and charts

Teachers should consider using graphs and charts to support both oral presentations and reading assignments. Graphs and charts simultaneously simplify material, highlight the most important words and phrases, and visually reveal the relationships between subtopics.

Use of instructional prompts and cues

A very useful strategy is to emphasize essential bits of information, words, and phrases by prompts and cues. This can be done with written material by highlighting, underlining, or color coding. For example, in a lesson on how the Colonists responded to the taxes imposed by the British Parliament between 1765 and 1773, one of the teacher’s content objectives was for the children to understand a boycott, a practice used successfully by the Colonists to protest the import taxes known as the Townshend Duties. The teacher prepared a poster with the definition of a boycott, “an organized plan to not buy things.” The key words in the definition were not buy. The teacher used a red marking pen to write those words, the rest of the definition was written in black. Prompts and cues can be used in oral presentations as well. A common prompt is “remember to.” One assignment in the American Revolution unit asked the fifth graders to write newspaper headlines for important events. After giving instructions to the whole group, the teacher might end with “Again, remember to keep your headline short, under six words.” Other cues include repeating words and phrases and clapping hands two times before and after an important phrase or sentence. Some teachers use their hands very effectively when they are talking to their students by showing numbers (holding up one finger when stating “first”) or pointing to places on maps or charts to focus student attention.

Active student involvement

It is important that as many social studies lessons as possible keep all children actively involved. Elementary school teachers should avoid the instructional method used most frequently at the college level and far too frequently at the high school, “lecture/discussion.” The teacher makes an oral presentation and, at certain times, students are asked to respond to questions. While some material may be presented to children in oral presentations by elementary teachers, these lectures should be brief and supported by other materials, such as charts, diagrams, maps, illustrations, and real objects. For children with learning disabilities, it is very important that instructional activities that typically require relatively little student involvement, like oral presentations and silent reading assignments, be modified. At different points in the lesson, students need to be asked to do something. One choice is for a mass response using colored cards. Each student has a red card and a blue card. The teacher asks a question and poses two possible answers, one to be signaled by the red card, the other by the blue card. The teacher restates the question and the possible answer and then says, “Without looking at your neighbor, please show me your answer.” All students show the teacher one of the cards. This also is an excellent way to check to see if the students understand the material presented. Another good choice is to pose a question and ask the students to discuss possible answers with a partner. This technique is called “Think-Pair-Share.”

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