QUALITY CHILDREN EDUCATION
It is inevitable that we will have the opportunity (and pleasure) of working with special needs students in our classroom. We make accommodations for some and modifications for others. Providing for the needs of special education students is certainly one of our greatest challenges.Learning disabled students are those who demonstrate a significant discrepancy, which is not the result of some other handicap, between academic achievement and intellectual abilities in one or more of the areas of oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skills, reading comprehension, mathematical calculation, mathematics reasoning, or spelling. Following is a list of some of the common indicators of learning disabled students. These traits are usually not isolated ones; rather, they appear in varying degrees and amounts in most learning disabled students. A learning disabled student :
- Has poor auditory memory—both short term and long term.
- Has a low tolerance level and a high frustration level.
- Has a weak or poor self-esteem.
- Is easily distractible.
- Finds it difficult, if not impossible, to stay on task for extended periods of time.
- Is spontaneous in expression; often cannot control emotions.
- Is easily confused.
- Is verbally demanding.
- Has some difficulty in working with others in small or large group settings.
- Has difficulty in following complicated directions or remembering directions for extended periods of time.
- Has coordination problems with both large and small muscle groups.
- Has inflexibility of thought; is difficult to persuade otherwise.
- Has poor handwriting skills.
- Has a poor concept of time.
Teaching learning disabled youngsters presents us with some unique and distinctive challenges. Not only that these students demand more of our time and patience; so, too, they require specialized instructional strategies in a structured environment that supports and enhances their learning potential. Learning disabled students are not students who are incapacitated or unable to learn; rather, they need differentiated instruction tailored to their distinctive learning abilities. We use these appropriate strategies with learning disabled students:
- Provide oral instruction for students with reading disabilities. Present tests and reading materials in an oral format so the assessment is not unduly influenced by lack of reading ability.
- Provide learning disabled students with frequent progress checks. Let them know how well they are progressing toward an individual or class goal.
- Give immediate feedback to learning disabled students. They need to see quickly the relationship between what was taught and what was learned.
- Make activities concise and short, whenever possible. Long, drawn-out projects are particularly frustrating for a learning disabled child.
- Learning disabled youngsters have difficulty learning abstract terms and concepts. Whenever possible, provide them with concrete objects and events—items they can touch, hear, smell, etc.
- Learning disabled students need and should get lots of specific praise. Instead of just saying, “You did well,” or “I like your work,” we make sure that we provide specific praising comments that link the activity directly with the recognition; for example, “I was particularly pleased by the way in which you organized the rock collection for Karin and Miranda.”
- When necessary, we plan to repeat instructions or offer information in both written and verbal formats. Again, it is vitally necessary that learning disabled children utilize as many of their sensory modalities as possible.
- Encourage cooperative learning activities when possible.Invite students of varying abilities to work together on a specific project or toward a common goal and create an atmosphere in which a true “community of learners” is facilitated and enhanced.
Students of high ability, often referred to as gifted students, present a unique challenge to teachers. They are often the first ones done with an assignment or those who continually ask for more creative and interesting work. They need exciting activities and energizing projects that offer a creative curriculum within the framework of the regular classroom program.
Characteristics of Gifted Students
Gifted students exhibit several common characteristics, as outlined in the following list. As in the case of learning disabled students, giftedness usually means a combination of factors in varying degrees and amounts. A gifted student:
- Has a high level of curiosity.
- Has a well-developed imagination.
- Often gives uncommon responses to common queries.
- Can remember and retain a great deal of information.
- Can not only pose original solutions to common problems but can also pose original problems, too.
- Has the ability to concentrate on a problem or issue for extended periods of time.
- Is capable of comprehending complex concepts.
- Is well organized.
- Is excited about learning new facts and concepts.
- Is often an independent learner.
Teaching Gifted Students
If there’s one constant about gifted students it’s the fact that they’re full of questions (and full of answers). They’re also imbued with a sense of inquisitiveness. Providing for their instructional needs is not an easy task and certainly extends us to the full limits of our own creativity and inventiveness. Here are some instructional strategies:
- Allow gifted students to design and follow through on self-initiated projects. Have them pursue questions of their own choosing.
- Provide gifted students with lots of open-ended activities—activities for which there are no right or wrong answers or any preconceived notions.
- Keep the emphasis on divergent thinking—helping gifted students focus on many possibilities rather than any set of predetermined answers.
- Provide opportunities for gifted youngsters to engage in active problem-solving. Be sure the problems assigned are not those for which you have already established appropriate answers but rather those that will allow gifted students to arrive at their own conclusions.
- Encourage gifted students to take on leadership roles that enhance portions of the classroom program.
- Provide numerous opportunities for gifted students to read extensively about subjects that interest them. Work closely with the school librarian to select and provide books in keeping with students’ interests.
- Provide numerous long-term and ex-tended activities that allow gifted students the opportunity to engage in a learning project over an extended period of time.