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For Teachers Updated April 6, 2018

Effective Teaching Strategies for Special Education

By The Room 241 Team September 12, 2012

This post has been updated as of December 2017.

Looking for effective teaching strategies for your special education classroom? These quick suggestions should come in handy for teachers working with special-needs students who pose certain challenges.

Working with short attention spans

  • Set clear expectations for all students.
  • Break assignments into smaller pieces to work on in short time periods.
  • Space breaks between assignments so students can refocus on their tasks.
  • Share ideas with parents so they can help with homework.
  • Carry out everyday routines consistently.
  • Develop a reward system for good behavior, completing work on time and participating in class.
  • Use visual and auditory reminders to change from one activity to the next. This may need to be done several times before the change is made. An egg timer is a good auditory tool that indicates a signal to begin or end an activity.

Managing constant change

The science behind teaching special education students is not cut-and-dry, and the strategies that teachers develop for their classrooms shouldn’t be permanent—instead, think scalable and flexible.

  • Design teaching aids and lessons that are flexible.
  • Add creativity to lessons and homework.
  • Develop easy-to-use monitoring tools that are needs-based.
  • Design lesson plans that can be modified to fit each student.
  • Develop a set of resources and interventions that work.

Teaching effectively

Being an effective teacher requires many tools, most of which you likely choose through trial and error. Effective teaching strategies include:

  • Use a multiple-scenario approach to developing lesson plans.
  • Monitor and verify student responses to lessons.
  • Evaluate and adapt lessons as necessary.
  • Use peers to review lesson plans and to develop ideas that might be applicable.
  • Develop and maintain a pool of mentors.
  • Keep a list of resources for teaching, lesson plans, and professional development.
  • Set a professional development plan for yourself and track your goals.
  • Develop or implement a system that allows for easy and comprehensive data collection to help monitor and adapt lessons.
  • Gather some tricks of the trade from fellow teachers, including those who do not teach special education.

For more ideas, printables, and reading materials, check out TeacherVision’s resources for teachers of special needs students; we love the wealth of information and advice on their site.

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