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Effective Teaching Strategies for Struggling Students

Janelle Cox

As teachers, there’s nothing worse than seeing a student struggle when learning a concept. Sometimes when learning becomes too difficult for a child, they to tend withdraw, or even act out. To prevent this from happening, we can use teaching strategies that will help support these students to gain motivation and clarity during learning. Here are a variety of effective teaching strategies to support struggling students in your classroom.

Teaching Strategies that Simplify Concepts

One of the best ways that you can help a struggling student is to show them how to simplify concepts. Here are a few effective simplification teaching strategies.

The Chunking Method

The “Chunking method” helps to simplify concepts by breaking down the word or concept into smaller parts. For example, if a student was struggling with the word “Metamorphosis,” you could start by having the student clap or tap the syllables of the word, then break the word into chunks so they can visually see it.

Another example of how you can break down a concept is to teach it in isolation. If the students didn’t understand what the word “Metamorphosis” means, then you need to explain it. Once the student understands what it means, then you could reintroduce it in context.

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Use a Visual

Visuals also help struggling students understand a difficult concept, because they help turn an abstract concept into a concrete one. Manipulatives can help with math and reading, while graphic organizers, charts, and posters can help with all of the other subjects. Manipulatives like tiles and cubes are great visuals for students who need to touch, feel, and see what they are learning about. Shaving cream, sand, and tile letters are great for students who are just learning how to read (spell out the word using each of the mediums mentioned).

How to Unlock Struggling Students’ Full Potential

Students who struggle must learn how to persevere and move through their problems. As teachers, we have the ability to help struggling students unlock their full potential by using teaching strategies to encourage a growth mindset, as well as show them how to stay focused and keep on track. Here are a few suggestions to help unlock your students’ full potentials.

Foster a Growth Mindset

Students who are struggling in academics tend to have low self-esteem. One way to unlock their potential is to encourage a growth mindset, which will help them learn to not be so hard on themselves.  Try and share stories about people who persevered and overcame obstacles. Talk about famous people like Albert Einstein, who had a learning disability but overcame it through hard work. By discussing success stories of how people overcame obstacles through perseverance, you will give students the mindset that they too can reach their full potential with a lot of hard work.

Show Students How the Brain Works

Students who struggle in academics don’t realize that their brain has the ability to rewire itself to learn better. Teach students that everyone learns in her own unique way, and that it’s important to find the way that their brain works best. Encourage students to think of their brain like any other muscle in their body. The more they exercise it, the stronger it will become. Having this knowledge of how they learn can help students to reach their full potential.

Instructional Teaching Strategies

Students who struggle with reading can be supported with a few instructional teaching strategies. Here are a few suggestions.

Directed Listening-Thinking Activity Strategy

The Directed Listening-Thinking Activity (DLTA) is a strategy that was designed for students who have yet to master independent reading. This strategy helps to develop students’ predictive listing and comprehension skills, as well as establish a purpose for reading. The DLTA involves prereading, during reading, and post-reading discussions where students will predict what will happen in the text. Students then talk about what happened, and finally discuss how they knew what happened in the text. This strategy works best for students who need to check for understanding and practice active thinking skills, as well as for passive readers who may need help making predictions.

Skim and Scan

Another effective teaching strategy to support struggling readers is to show them how to skim and scan their text. One of the major issues most struggling readers have is comprehending what they read. The skim and scan technique helps students think about the title, major headings, introduction, and bold words before they even begin reading. It also helps to direct students to read with a purpose.  

How to Keep Strugglers Working

Struggling students tend to give up and not fight through their struggles to get through them. Here are a few suggestions on how to keep these students working.

Teach Them Perseverance 

Teach students when the going gets tough, keep on going, even though it may be hard. For example, when they get stuck on a question, they need to try a variety of different strategies until they figure it out. A simple way to do this is to hang posters of tips and strategies in the classroom where all students are able to refer back to it.

Write Down Your Directions

Many struggling students have a hard time remembering things. If you give your students oral directions, there’s a chance they will forget them, which means they’ll struggle with not knowing what to do next. To avoid this, always write down everything that you want the students to do on the front board, so they will always have a resource they can refer to.

Struggling in school can be both exhausting and frustrating for both the teacher as well as the student. Keep positive, continue to work with the student, and never lose hope. The more time you put into the student, the more time the student will put into himself.

How do you deal with struggling students in your classroom? Do you have any teaching strategies or suggestions that you would like to share? Please share with us in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you on this very important topic.