It’s no surprise children learn at different rates, and, according to some published research, only when they are ready. Other research stresses intrinsic rewards, differentiated curriculum, and motivation by personalizing lessons. However, the bottom line for many educators is that some children are slow to learn, but don’t have a learning deficiency.
Perhaps the greatest challenge to an educator is a child who is a slow learner. These children do not fall into the category of special education, do well outside the classroom, and show no evidence of having a medical problem. They simply do not do well in school or a particular subject.
In the days before formal schooling, these students would carry on productive lives working at tasks that did not require extensive reading, writing or math. However, today the emphasis is less on occupational learning and more on academic preparation. Thus, there is a growing need for help to remediate these children and provide them the best possible opportunities in a changing world.
There are two commonalities occur with slow learners. First, they need extra time to complete tasks. This means parents must be willing to augment what happens at school regardless of how fruitless it might appear.
Secondly, the child must be offered appropriate incentives. Depending on the child, the best incentives are family projects or activities, such as building a model or attending a concert or game. The incentives should require delayed gratification, so the child learns patience.
The next area is proper nutrition. Children need breakfast. Every study done points out a quality breakfast and proper sleep are the two best ways to improve student performance.
Finally, a teacher or parent must seek lessons and other resources that make it easier to differentiate the curriculum and make learning more vital and relevant. To this end, special education sites on the Internet have some great ideas. Although slow learners do not qualify for special education classes, the concepts teachers use with special education students are ideal for helping a slow learner once the student’s weaknesses have been diagnosed. In any one of my classes, about 10 percent are slow learners, so having a slow learning child is not unusual.
Characteristics of Slow Learners
In general, slow learning students may display some or all of these characteristics, depending on their age and degree of problems acquiring knowledge at school.
First, slow learners are frequently immature in their relations with others and do poorly in school.
Secondly, they cannot do complex problems and work very slowly.
They lose track of time and cannot transfer what they have learned from one task to another well.
They do not easily master skills that are academic in nature, such as the times tables or spelling rules.
Perhaps the most frustrating trait is their inability to have long-term goals. They live in the present, and so have significant problems with time management probably due to a short attention span and poor concentration skills.
Remember, just because a child is not doing well in one class does not make that student a slow learner. Very few children excel in all subject areas unless there is great deal of grade inflation at that school. So it’s essential the parent or teacher examine in depth standardized tests scores to look for trends.
Also, slow learners differ from reluctant learners. A slow learner initially wants to learn, but has a problem with the process. A reluctant learner is not motivated and can also be passive aggressive, creating more problems for teachers and parents through non-cooperation. Reluctant learners seldom have learning disabilities.
Proven Ideas to Help Slow Learners
Provide a quiet place to work, where the child can be easily observed and motivated.
Keep homework sessions short.
Provide activity times before and during homework.
Add a variety of tasks to the learning even if not assigned, such as painting a picture of a reading assignment.
Allow for success.
Ask questions about the assignment while the child is working.
Go over the homework before bed and before school.
Teach how to use a calendar to keep track of assignments.
Read to the child.
Be patient but consistent.
Do not reward unfinished tasks.
Challenge the Child:
Have the child do the most difficult assignments first and leave the easier ones to later. Call it the dessert principle.
Don’t be overprotective. Students whose parents frequently intercede at school are teaching that they do not respect their child’s abilities. If you do call a teacher, make sure you seek a positive outcome. Remember most teachers have worked with numerous slow learners and have plenty of experience. However, sharing your child’s strengths and weaknesses could make the school year more beneficial for all concerned.
Contact the teacher if there is a concern. Calling an administrator solves nothing, as the teacher is the sole legal judge of academic success.
Take your child to exciting places where they can see academic success is important. A trip to a local university or community college, a walking tour of city hall, a visit to the fire station or a behind-the-scenes tour of a zoo are highly motivating.
Examples of Interventions for Slow Learners
Reduce distractions, change seating to promote attentiveness, have a peer student teacher, and allow more breaks.
Make them shorter and with more variation, repeat work in various forms, have a contract, give more hands-on work, have assignments copied by student, have students use “three transfer” method.
Use shorter tests, oral testing, redoing tests, short feedback times, don’t make students compete.
What to Avoid
Don’t use cooperative learning that isolates the student and places him or her in a no-win situation or standardized tests. Definitely don’t ignore the problem.
What to Encourage
Grouping with a patient partner. Learning about the child’s interests. Placing the student in charge. Mapping, graphic organizers, and hands-on work.
Teaching Strategies for Students Having Learning Disabilities
Classroom Modification and Strategies
Inclusion of a Child with Learning Disability
Emerge the children with learning disabilities within the normal settings
Why! ………No child left behind
Already live in normal settings (Not Identified)
Need little assistance / modifications in delivering the curriculum
Learning / Classroom Settings
Crowded [Strength of students, Classroom environment (seats/desks, charts, etc)]
Motivated teachers / Activity Focused
General Tips for the Teachers
Use pictures to supplement written material
Keep reading material short & simple (Use Flash Cards for that)
Help kids preview material that needs to be read (explain new terms, highlight important concepts)
Be patient and provide extra time for reading
Allow students to listen to books as mp3 or on CD
Give kids time to practice before they will read anything out loud
Feedback; a main source to enhance the child's progress more effectively
Letters or Word Recognition: With the use of white board or sand
Use phonemic games.
Teach students to move a token for each sound segment in a word.
Reverse-a-Word (Say “cat”, then say it with the first sound last and the last sound first – e.g. “tac”).
Remove-a-part (Say “cat”, then say it without beginning sound – e.g. “at”).
Tapping technique, where students identify speech sounds before they spell words by touching the thumb to successive fingers as they segment and pronounce the speech sounds.
Use of different software’s to recall/reading
Charts and visuals aids regarding the problem letter/word
Enlarge Writing Page
Use Graph Sheets
Puzzle sort Activities (Finding letter) Sheets
Assistance with Audio and Visual Aspects of Learning Disability
Teachers may find the following helpful:
Repeat and summarize oral lecture notes and give students written key points.
Verbalize what is being written on the chalkboard and read aloud material contained in handouts.
Use low cost teaching resources / Handmade materials
Use box-words that mirror the shape of letters in words. e.g. m-o-t-h-e-r
Assistance during Assessments or Evaluation (Exam)
The teacher may wish to:
Choose an alternate exam site away from the general education classroom. Ensure that this alternate locale is free from auditory and visual distracters.
Avoid confusing or complicated language and/or consider a substitute exam/assessment.
Allow student extra time to complete exams/assignments, especially if there are unique demands regarding reading and writing skills.
Motivated teachers / Activity Focused
Additional Instructional Ideas
Supporting learning with visuals
Stressing step-by-step instructions
Should modify the strategy each time to give the instructions
For students with ADHD, teachers should: Give only one assignment at a time.
For writing assignments, students with LD should be allowed to use a computer so that they can get spelling support through the spell check program.
Students with dyslexia may find that writing assignments are more easily completed on a computer.
Consider trying computer software, like Jaws, Kurzweil 3000, which reads textbooks and other materials to students.
Allow students to use calculators during Math
Allow students to tape record lectures and/or tape notes for students.
Allow students who cannot speak clearly to use a speech synthesizer
Some but not the Least Barriers
Students with learning disabilities may suffer from emotional problems/depression, and/or low self-esteem. This may cause students to withdraw from social interaction.
Teacher’s attitudes toward child with learning disability. Such as ignorance, etc.
Students / peers attitude
These barriers can be overcome, if the teacher is enthusiastic and motivated toward his/her profession.
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Noor-e-Sehar Special Education School
A Project of Mari Petroleum Co. Ltd. & Special Talent Exchange Program (STEP)
Address: Dharki, Sindh
Phone: 051-8435806, (0723) 650187 Ext: 4550