Accessibility Links

How primary teachers can support pupils with learning and attention difficulties

27/04/2019 Anthony

Teaching can be a tremendously rewarding career which enables you to make a positive difference in the lives of many children. It can also be incredibly varied when you are catering to different learning styles, attention spans and educational levels. There are a variety of learning and attention difficulties to be aware of which can affect how a child learns and perceives information around them. Some of the most common include dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, and those with visual, auditory or slow processing speed issues. These affect about 1 in 5 children, yet only a relatively small number receive specialised attention to facilitate their learning. It’s vital to educate yourself on catering to the different needs of those with learning and attention difficulties as doing so can benefit everyone in the classroom.

As a teacher, you are constantly evaluating your students’ needs and strengths to create effective strategies which will enable them to openly participate in class. Through a mix of accommodation techniques, creative teaching styles and proper guidance, you can create an ideal environment for those with learning and attention difficulties to thrive during this fundamental phase of learning and development.

Multisensory teaching

Multisensory teaching involves engaging with multiple senses at the same time to support and enable different styles of learning. These including utilising touch, kinetic, visual and auditory forms of learning.

Incorporating a variety of teaching styles in the classroom can help those with different learning conditions to learn more efficiently. For example, those with dyslexia can struggle with visual reading, so incorporating touch by using the finger to tap out each sound in a word or using audio supplements can help a child better understand the word and learn the pronunciation. Multisensory teaching can also be used in maths. Teachers can use physical tools (called manipulatives) such as blocks to allow children to visually see addition and subtraction in a real-life setting — particularly useful for children with dyscalculia.

Kinetic teaching methods are especially beneficial for those with ADHD and can be popular in classrooms regardless of learning style because they incorporate a physical way of learning which is different from the most common aural and visual forms of learning. The movement involved gives children a productive outlet for their excess energy and supports the retention of new information.

You can provide multisensory teaching material such as the previously mentioned manipulative tools and visual aid to explain concepts. In addition, text-to-speech software can help students to see and hear words at the same time to better grasp the meaning of them.

One-on-one support and guidance

By reducing the size of groups that teachers manage, they can provide greater care for their students and dedicate more time to the personalised support and guidance of certain individuals, or groups of individuals. Small groups generally work best, especially for children with learning and attention difficulties, so that they receive a more personalised approach to teaching.

In some cases, those with learning and attention difficulties may need more explanation or support from a teacher than the rest of the class, which may bring about feelings of alienation when they are in a classroom full of those who learn differently from them. Therefore, creating a group where the teacher can spend time with and support each person may allow the child to feel more comfortable and integrated with the community of students who learn at a similar pace to them. Each specific learning style can be made into a group; for instance, those with ADHD may benefit from working in a setting with fewer distractions and those with dyslexia may benefit from reading in a group.

In these specialised groups, teachers can adjust the pace of their teaching to give students the time to absorb and respond to lessons.

Empathy and respect

If you are a child with ADHD, consider the task of entering a classroom and sitting quietly for large quantities of time each day — it would be difficult and uncomfortable with your form of learning and self-expression. By putting yourself in that child’s shoes, you are showing empathy which is a very useful trait when supporting children with learning issues. With this in mind, aim to use positive rather than negative language when setting rules. For instance, you could suggest that “when we come in, we do it quietly and sit at our desks” instead of the phrase “do not make noise when you come in.”

However, it is important to set rules and boundaries so that all children have access to an uninterrupted learning environment. The CASPER approach highlights the key steps you can take when dealing with behavioural management. This involves appearing calm and assertive and considering status preservation, empathy and respect when reprimanding students.

It’s always beneficial to tackle difficult situations from a calm and controlled mindset, and it’s even more important to set a standard of respect when dealing with people. Children can and probably will unintentionally misbehave — they are still learning and developing their manners, social awareness and skills every day. By empathising with this, but still being assertive in your stance to treat everyone with respect, you can effectively deal with any issues that arise and set boundaries in a way that facilitates growth and consideration in the classroom.

Find a primary teaching job you love with Teaching Personnel

At Teaching Personnel, we take pride in providing teachers of all levels with career support and guidance in achieving their career goals — contact us to see how we can help you or search for your next primary teaching job with us today.

Add new comment