Helping the Child with Language Learning Disability in the General Education Classroom

Anderson et al (2004) American Secondary Education 32. 19-36 gives six practices that have been shown to be most helpful for the student with language learning disabilities in the classroom.

  • Mnemonic strategies: presenting strategies, keywords or facts that need to be memorize using mnemonics can assist the student in remembering. (ex. POSSE strategy developed by Englert and Mariage (1991) which is a metacognitive approach to studying. Predict, Organize, Search, Summarize, Evaluate).
  • Visual and graphic organizers: guides the learner’s thinking as they fill in and build upon a visual map or diagram. It is best that some of these are consistent across the curriculum.
  • Guided notes: teacher-prepared hand-outs that outline or map lectures, but leave “blank” space for key concepts, facts, definitions, etc. As the lecture progresses, you fill in the spaces with content.
  • Class-wide peer tutoring:  (CWPT) is a comprehensive instructional procedure or teaching strategy based on reciprocal peer tutoring and group reinforcement wherein an entire classroom of students is actively engaged in the process of learning and practicing basic academic skills simultaneously in a systematic and fun way. 
  • Linking current knowledge to new information: Create anticipatory sets and activate background knowledge, this facilitates the ability of all students to assimilate new information
  • Reciprocal teaching: instructional activity in which students become the teacher. Provide students with problems, procedures, and materials and have them brainstorm ways to use what they have been given. This can be done with a wide variety of subjects or topics including reading groups, math problem solving, STEM lessons, experiments.

What strategies have you found helpful for the students in your classroom?  Is there a particular mnemonic, graphic organizer, a template of guided notes or set up of your classroom that you feel supports the student with language learning difficulties?

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8 comments on “Helping the Child with Language Learning Disability in the General Education Classroom
  1. I find graphic organizers, guided notes, peer tutoring, the jigsaw model, and visuals whenever possible to work best in my classroom for my students with language learning difficulties. If I can find a video that relates to the lesson, usually a 5 minute clip, I like to show that to help get the students into the lesson. I also use graphic organizers as much as possible because the students like things broken down step by step and graphic organizers really allow that to happen. I do peer tutoring and match my students up. I have one student with Autism who loves to work with one of my students who gets straight As and has a good educational foundation. This student is very good about working with my student with Autism, so I do peer tutoring with that student when we are pairing up students.

    I also love to do the jigsaw model and let my students become experts on one piece of information and then they then teach their classmates. I usually split up the assignment giving students a workload to master that I know they can handle. This allows them to feel important and smart because they get to teach their classmates. They first start out in groups where the group works together to fill out a graphic organizer on their topic. I then have them rotate to new groups to teach the new group all about their topic and then learn about the other topics from their classmates. My students usually like this activity because they only have to read one piece, not the whole thing, and they get to move around the room.

    In my classroom, I do a lot of guided notes as well with the students. A lot of my co teachers want my students write notes but with their disabilities it is not always realistic to expect them to handwrite all the notes themselves. They usually will shut down if they are asked to because it is so overwhelming for them and for some students hard to actually do. Therefore, I do guided notes and leave blanks for them to fill in. I take the notes the teacher will be giving the genera ed kids and make that into guided notes, that way everyone has the same information. I have also had the whole class do the guided notes at times too if the co teacher will allow it. I like this approach because they have to pay attention to the notes to find the missing word, they are still writing, but they also feel like they are winning as well.

  2. In the classroom, I find that fill in the blank/ guided notes/ graphic organizers, think pair share, and auditory as well as visual aids can be very beneficial to student learning. During my student teaching experience, I taught a junior level American History class that had 28 students who preferred to use the tools listed above on a daily basis to learn. Students would be engaged in the lesson but would not want to take notes the entire time because they would fall behind, so I was able to incorporate a graphic organizer with fill in the blank spots, matching, multiple choice, and some short answer. This format of the graphic organizer students enjoyed because it was in a test format so they would become accustom to questioning in the class that reflected questioning that could be on the test. This can be extremely helpful for those with a language learning difficulty as they have to write less and are not caught off track from writing, but instead engaging in the lesson and discussion as they only have to write a few things. Along with this, students completed graphic organizers where they were given a picture and had to describe or recreate a different drawing describing what was happening in the picture. This was a type of graphic organizer I found extremely helpful for language learning difficulties, as students were able to draw their own image of what they saw happening in the picture, or write what they saw in the picture. As a teacher, this gave me great feedback on who understood the concept and some students who may have been lost, as they were able to use their creativity to create a concept they could remember about a specific piece of information in social studies.

    Along with graphic organizers/ fill in the blank/ guided notes, think pair share was also helpful for students with language learning difficulties. Students were asked a question about a topic that could have multiple answers or just one, and asked to think silently about what they thought the answer would be for 30 seconds to 1 minutes. This period of time helped students understand the question and try to think of an answer. The question would be given verbally, as well as on a piece of paper the class would be completing. Students would then turn to someone near or next to them, and share out their answers. As they are doing this, I would monitor the room for answers- encouraging students who got the question right, as well as trying to steer those who may be off track from the right answer or answers. Think pair share is able to boost student confidence to share out to the entire class, as two students are able to collaborate on their answers and reassure themselves that they are right.

    Auditory and visual aids are extremely helpful for students with a language learning difficulty. There are multiple resources online to use including YouTube videos, GIFs, documentaries, talk shows, etc. that can give students a visual of the material as well as an audit response about the answer. This can help students process information better as they are able to see an image that goes will the language and connect the dots. Along with this, videos of historical events can portray what actually happened and help students to understand the true event. Auditory and visual aids, along with blank/ guided notes/ graphic organizers, and think pair share activities are very helpful in the classroom to support students with language learning difficulties.

  3. In my classroom, the use of mnemonic devices, graphic organizers and guided notes have helped my students tremendously. When I first began teaching, I knew of a few mnemonic devices for math but did not think of using guided notes of graphic organizers in math as I did not think of them in my content area. As I have grown as a teacher I have collaborated with my math colleagues and we have come up with many sets of guided notes that go with most content we teach. I need to work on this more with my Algebra 2 students as most of the content is process based. The special education teacher I have worked with for years has created some useful graphic organizers for the step by step processes learned in class and I have been lucky to have them and continue to use them every year. My students are now used to guided notes when they come to me as their previous teacher uses them on a regular basis, so I try to use them when possible but taking the time to create them for every section can be time consuming and I do not always have the time to do so. I know once I create them I will never need to again, I just need to begin the process so I will have them for the long run.

    Some mnemonics I have used are PEMDAS (Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction) for order of operations and SOHCAHTOA (Sine=opposite over hypotenuse, Cosine=adjacent over hypotenuse and Tangent=opposite over adjacent) for trigonometry.

    When it comes to graphic organizers in math, I use them for all my classes not just the inclusion classes I teach. They can help any student with a disability especially one with a language disability. As many of the words are complex, being able to see the step by step process on paper can help students have a better understanding of the process.

  4. In my classroom I have used guided notes to learn new mathematical concepts. I have also used reciprocal teaching and activating background knowledge. I found that guided notes used sparingly are effective. When guided notes are used too often the children become bored and stop paying attention to the material. However, filling them out for ten minutes or less once per week was a great way to build notes to look back on when a student was stuck applying math concepts. This strategy has been the best to support students with language learning difficulties. The notes become a resource for them to look back on. Additionally, when filling out the notes they can stay on track with the class as the sentences are formed for them and they only have to fill in a word or two.
    My students also liked reciprocal teaching. They were all engaged because they got to explore and try new strategies to problem solve. Doing this in a group setting helped to support my lower students as well.
    I have found that the best strategy is activating background knowledge or connecting a concept to the real world. When I connect a new concept to an old one they have an easier time bridging their knowledge and it becomes something to refer back to in order to remind them of the details of the new concept. When I connect a new concept to their life or to the real world I find that my students are more engaged and can understand the new concept a bit easier. They like to see the concept has a place in the real world and is worth learning.

  5. My students really benefit from graphic organizers. I love making organizers especially when I see that they make my students successful. While student teaching, I used to create PowerPoints and guided notes for my students. Within my guided notes, I asked questions and created activities within the notes to make it more interactive. I have seen guided notes where teachers just delete some words and students have to look at the PowerPoint and fill the words in. I don’t think this is very effective considering many times the teacher bolds or highlights the word that has to be written into the notes. Students probably don’t even read the slide because they are so focused on looking for specific words. Therefore, if I can make the guided notes interactive, at least I know the students have read the slides and listened in order to comprehend the material.

    Last year, I also used reciprocal teaching in Math. This worked out great because I would have students in class that were on many different tasks due to their lack of attendance. Therefore, I would have sometimes 6-7 different projects going on in one class. I relied on the students who were consistently in my class to teach other students the material (I did not do this often but sometimes it was necessary so students were not off task). Not only did this benefit me, but it also demonstrated that the student understood the content and the other student who was learning was able to connect with the peer who was teaching. Sometimes, students can learn from each other more effectively. As teachers, we may assume the student knows certain steps, however, when peers teach each other, they teach how they know the material. If a student can teach the material, they definitely know the content.

    There is not any specific graphic organizer I use to help students with language disorders. However, in the future when I create graphic organizers, use visuals, or reciprocal teaching, I will keep in mind how students with language disorders would benefit from them.

  6. Building a community of learners that support students with disabilities is an essential part to every classroom. There is a big responsibility on the teacher to be the one to foster and build this accepting, open and safe environment for every single one of the students in their classroom, especially for students with disabilities. In my own personal experience, I have seen great gains made between classmates and their acceptance levels of others that are different than them when they are all integrated. For example pairing students with disabilities with general education students for peer modeling or tutoring is a great way to not only reinforce topics they need help on but also include a social aspect where they are getting the opportunity to know one another and talk. Aside from the social aspect, another strategy I find help with supporting students with disabilities in my classroom is having graphic organizers, lists, and schedules for everything we are doing. The organizer make it less over whelming, the lists make them aware of the steps of things they need to do and in what order for that given task/lesson and the schedule is able to show them what to expect for the day so that there are no surprises that could set them off or shut them down from learning.

  7. I have found visual and graphic organizers to be very helpful in my classroom. Its great tool for reading and writing. I have found that doing completing a graphic organizer on the class about a book we have read before they are expected to complete a writing piece on it, improves their writing dramatically. I have also found guided notes to be a great strategy as well. Guided Notes are also great because it forces students to really listen to a whole class lesson and allows me to see what they thought were the important facts and aspects of it. It is a great tool that also allows me to see who may not have understood a lesson or who had a difficult time finding the important facts of a lesson.

    I also like to use a K-W-L chart to see what, students in my class already know about a topic. I like to know what prior knowledge they have on a subject and have them write questions about what they would like to know about the topic. Then after reading the story I like to know what they learned. I also like to use the hamburger-writing organizer, where the buns are the topic and concluding sentence and the middle the bun and toppings are the details of your writing. Sometimes for my language learner students I will modify their graphic organizers and have them more so fill in the blanks with their details depending on the needs of the student. Having visual graphic organizers are especially helpful for these students.

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