Supporting home learning
This week is the start of at home learning for Term 2. In this article we provide suggestions to support this transition for teachers of students with learning differences.
- Managing the emotional impact
- Working with strengths and managing the challenges
Children with learning differences generally have heightened anxiety and worry about their learning already. With the current changes of both going online with learning and with the Covid 19 alert system in NZ this worry will increase. These feelings are all normal, they are just happening more for us at the moment.
When a person is anxious their thinking brain (pre frontal cortex) is not engaged so learning is very difficult. To be able to take part in learning helping with anxiety is a priority.
1. Why focus on the relationship
To help reduce the anxiety for your student with a learning difference the relationship you have with them is essential. When they trust you to help them and not put them down* they will relax. Once they are more relaxed, they can learn better.
*These children generally have low self esteem and this changes their emotional filter on how they interpret your comments and actions. You may say something that is very neutral, but their own personal filter will interpret this, likely more negatively, about themselves. The best way to counter this filter is using targeted and specific praise.
This online learning is all new and you will likely already have set up many creative ways of maintaining those relationships you have with your students. Just know though, for these children, how very important it is to their learning having this relationship with you.
2. Routine makes them feel safe
We are in unprecedented times and normal routine has completely changed. This means it is important to help establish online routines with your students with learning differences. This can be done within your on line classroom and with the overall school communication. It has a double impact for their learning. When these students feel safe with the routines they
- free up cognitive space to use for their learning (not having to work out what is coming next), and
- reduce their anxiety about learning.
- Using the same language to explain tasks as you used in the classroom (where possible)
- Touching base at regular times
Thinking what they normally require as accommodations in the classroom can apply here too.
- Extra time and/or no timed assessments
- Information in visual form or recorded
- Limit verbal instructions and verbal information to small chunks
- Give them examples of work to be completed (and parents will find this helpful)
- Using checklists to work through the steps of a task
Working with their strengths
- They need the big picture so give the overall plan of what the learning task is to achieve.
- Visual based learners so provide visual info where possible. Keep in mind to have the info spaced out so they don’t become overloaded with too much information at once.
- They want to learn, however if it’s too hard to understand the big picture, or there is not enough explicit instruction they will struggle to engage or become overloaded.
Children with learning differences can easily overload their short term memory and sequencing and ordering of information abilities.
Where possible keep this in mind so chunk their information and give them time to process the information. Also provide a clear visual sequence of the tasks in easy to follow steps with explicit instruction. Do not assume they will understand.
Provide a format for them to ask questions privately. They don’t want others to know if they are struggling.
At the Learning Differences Aotearoa Trust we run professional development workshops for teachers, school leaders, teacher aides, SENCO’s and LSC’s. Our workshops will increase your knowledge on dyslexia and other learning differences, how it affects learning and strategies you can use in the classroom that make whatever programmes you are using more effective for these students.