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Teaching a Child with Special Needs at Home and at School
Strategies and Tools that Really Work!
byJudith B. Munday M.A. M.Ed.
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From Chapter 9: Teaching and Study Strategies
Keep Your Student Engaged
Your student’s study time will be much more fruitful when she engages with the learning task instead of merely looking at notes. It is important for her to be involved with creating a work product or doing something more active. This is a very important study principle: in each of the strategies below, notice that the student is not merely doing repetitious writing tasks or drills. Instead, she is actively engaged in some manner. To reinforce learning, repeated practice and recall are as important as writing information down, perhaps even more important. It is more effective to recall answers as frequently as possible and in multiple formats, such as writing, answering orally, and/or creating pictures that represent words. 138 Students who study merely by looking at textbook pages tend to drift mentally, because it is a very ineffective approach to study. Instead, they must take deliberate action to mentally store new information in their brain. As I explained in Chapter 2, there are four key elements to effective learning. You learned that it is not enough for your student to acquire information. She must practice retrieving the information several times from her “brain-file” and in different ways (such as noting key words or self-testing). Effective study means both focused storing and retrieval of information.
You can keep your student engaged by being alert to moments when she starts to “fade” during study times. If she seems to lose focus, simply switch the nature of her task, but do not switch the topic. For example, if you see your student fade while reading study notes, stop her from reading and switch to a related review task. You could have her take turns reading aloud from her textbook, or ask her to find specific vocabulary terms as you call them out from the page she is reading. If she is studying spelling or struggling to write spelling words by hand, encourage her to use magnetic letters or use keyboarding to practice spelling. If she needs additional support, spell the first part of the word with plastic letters and ask her to complete each word. You keep the focus on spelling, but you have transformed it into a hands-on, multi-sensory study activity.
Recall that sometimes a student with learning challenges “fades” merely because her brain-based inefficiency causes her to experience fatigue. She may appear to be trying to avoid work, but it is more likely she has done all her mind can handle for the moment. Do not allow her zoning out (or acting out) to cause you to stop her studying altogether. If you do, she will quickly figure out how to fake “being tired” to escape challenging learning tasks she does not like. I have made this point in other places in this book, but it bears repeating because it is important. You will need to exercise discernment, and remember that struggling students usually are working very hard to succeed, but they cannot sustain that level of effort indefinitely. The important point here is to know that when your student may truly be weary of mental work, you must be flexible. Keep your focus and stay in charge of the task.
Teaching your child how to monitor her own performance is another proven strategy to improve performance. 139 Developing self-awareness of one’s own progress can be challenging for students with learning issues. They may not be able to use self-talk or generate a coherent internal dialogue.
You can help your student to develop self-monitoring skill. Try one of the following ideas:
1. Select a sample assignment and pretend to be the student. Talk aloud about the good points in “your” assignment.
2. Demonstrate how your child should reflect on her work by offering comments as you read it.
3. Point out only one area or skill that your child needs to improve or correct. If you dwell on too many, you will overwhelm her and discourage her heart.
4. Ask your student to find an area in her own work that she believes needs improvement.
5. Ask the student to state one thing that is particularly good about her work. This is so important!
6. Ask the student to evaluate and correct her work independently once she has mastered the skills necessary to do so.
7. Ask the student to evaluate and correct her work independently once she has mastered the skills necessary to do so.
A key element of self-monitoring skills is the ability to set short-term and long-term goals.140 Students need lots of support to master goal setting, so initially, you may need to generate the goals and present them to her on a chart or checklist where she can record her work. 141 Gradually transfer the responsibility for setting goals for individual tasks. Over time, you can stretch her to set larger, more long-term goals.
Many students respond with increased motivation if they see a graph showing the track of their grades earned on selected tasks (raw scores or percentages). The graph provides tangible evidence of progress, but it also clarifies where your student needs to put forth more effort and study. (If students are tasked with creating the graphs, they get the bonus of learning associated math-related skills.) If test scores drop or continue to fall, ask your child what she thinks she needs to do to improve her performance on the next assessment or assigned task. You will be surprised at how perceptive she can be!
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About the Book
Have you been searching for help as you try to teach a struggling learner? This is the book you have been looking for! Judi Munday draws from what she has learned in 30 years of teaching exceptional students and shares that practical knowledge with you in Teaching a Child with Special Needs at Home and at School: Strategies and Tools that Really Work! This is a highly readable and helpful guide for anyone who teaches a child with learning disabilities or high-functioning autism or Asperger's. Judi has packed it full of easy-to-use instructional strategies and advice about ""what works" - for both parents who homeschool and for teachers who work with students with special needs. Since it is always difficult to find enough time to individualize, Judi makes sure that her teaching recommendations require little extra work or advance planning. She shows you how easy it is to modify or adapt textbooks and instructional materials. You will also learn about evidence-based instructional tools - such as graphic organizers and rubrics. Chapter topics include high-functioning autism/Asperger's and specific learning disabilities, along with a generous supply of specific teaching strategies that apply to them. You can also learn more about effective instruction, assistive technology, and student education plans. Judi has the heart to share her wisdom to educate, encourage, and equip you to be a more effective teacher of your special learner.
About the Author
Judi Munday has written a highly readable and informative guide for anyone who teaches a child with special needs. She provides easy-to-use strategies and advice about “what works” to teach struggling learners. Her practical teaching recommendations can be implemented by parents and teachers with little advance planning. In this well organized and valuable resource, Judi explains how to make wise curriculum choices and to modify and adapt instructional materials to ensure they are appropriate for students with language-based learning disabilities and high-functioning autism. She offers an abundance of evidence-based strategies and instructional tools, tips for success, and friendly professional guidance. Judi’s personal experience and wisdom will encourage and support you. If you have been searching for help teaching a struggling learner, this is the book you need!