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struggling studentIf your child is struggling in school, it is important to uncover the issues that are creating the challenges before any appropriate intervention can be made.  For many children, it’s not the content of the academics that is creating the difficulty, but rather the process of learning and performing that is more challenging.  For these children (many of whom are diagnosed with various isms, such as ADHD and/or Executive Function deficits) impulse control, slower processing speed, distractibility, and the ability to sustain attention severely hampers their ability to reach their potential.  Additionally, for many of these children, anxiety, staying organized and utilizing working memory to manipulate and remember multiple steps can cause challenges that impact their learning and performance as well.  Within this article, we explore a wide variety of support suggestions for the struggling student

Reduce Pressure with Accommodations & Modifications

There are several accommodations and modifications that can help reduce the added pressure these deficits create while allowing the student to more accurately demonstrate what they know and have learned.  Many of these can be informally provided by the classroom teacher, however for the best assurance that these services will be provided and for consistency across the years of schooling, it is often best, when possible, to receive these services as part of a 504 Plan or an IEP (Individual Education Plan).

Below is a broad list of common accommodations and modifications for the struggling student.  As your child’s parent, you often know your child best.  It is important to speak up and advocate in your child’s best interest.  Depending on your child’s specific learning situation, you may request additional services that are unique to your child.  When you approach your child’s team, be armed with knowledge of how your child is impacted by different challenges and be open to working together with the team to develop the best interventions for your child.

Acquire Learning Tools for the Struggling Student

There are many tools and techniques that can help a student increase his performance.

Increase Typing Speed

Obtain efficient and rapid keyboarding skills.  Explore typing games.

Get Organized

Use graphic organizer apps.  Explore some of the available apps below:

Track Homework and Assignments

Use an effective homework and assignment tracking system such as one the apps below:

Plan long-term assignments by establishing short-term assignments and due dates.

Develop a system for actively turning in completed assignments.

Support Tracking when Reading

Use a blank card or other item to help with tracking when reading.

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Discover Note Taking Strategies

Learn multiple strategies for note taking, studying, and quiz/test taking so student can discover their preferred method.  Explore some of these note taking apps:

Don’t Underestimate the Timer

Use a timer to stay on task and to budget time. Explore Visual Timers: Boost Productivity and Self Esteem

Explore some timer apps:

Promote Active Learning for the Struggling Student

Teachers can implement a variety of strategies to help promote active learning in the classroom.  Some strategies include:

Provide Class Notes

Teachers can provide class notes to allow for additional focus during lesson time and to support at home learning and studying.

Establish a Buddy System

Provide a study partner for added learning through discussion and modeling.  Create a buddy system in the classroom.  An after school buddy system in a homework club sort of format may be a great way to help students build their study skills in preparation for an upcoming test.

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Reinforce the Positive

Reinforce positive behaviors with specific praise to help with motivation and to develop a positive mindset.

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Ensure Appropriate Reading Material

Provide reading material that is appropriate and stimulating with consideration for both fluency and comprehension levels.  Explore audio books if appropriate.

Pull Out the Highlighter

Highlight important information and material.  Teach children how to highlight important components within the notes you have provided.  Or, consider using the highlight feature in your word processor and have the key components already highlighted.

Use Working Memory Aids for the Struggling Student

Write it Out

Provide written instruction for classwork and homework.  Written instruction will supplement the verbal instruction and ensure that children with limited working memory are able to retain instructions.

Use Tools

Allow use of calculator, formula sheets, and rule sheets.

Get Visual

Provide visual aids for multiple step projects and activities.  Explore More >> Use Visual Aids to Take Advantage of Your Child’s Visual Learning Style

Encourage Organization for the Struggling Student

Color code materials for each subject.  This will help students to keep their subjects organized and be better able to access material at a glance.

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Provide direct support for developing effective organization of materials, including multiple subject materials management and systems for remembering materials for home and school. Laminated checklists attached to the book bag or velcroed to the desk is one tool to help students remember what to bring home.  The same system can be applied at home to remember what to bring back to school.

Maximize Attention & Positive Behavior

One simple concept that is often overlooked is communication with the student.  When teachers take a moment to dig a little, they can determine exactly WHAT is distracting a student.

Ask the Student

Discuss seat assignment with the student to minimize distractions and maximize teacher support.

Post Visual Aids

Post classroom rules and schedules to aid in compliance and transitions.

Classroom rules can be posted on a wall near the whiteboard and schedules can be posted directly on the students desk.  Consider adding visual imagery to further support transitions.

Be Discreet

Develop a discreet plan and signal with student for when student is distracted or off task.  Discretion is key here.

Develop discreet plan and signal with student for times when movement or less distracting environment is needed.

Constantly calling out a student in front of his peers brings negative attention to the student which in turn greatly impacts his self esteem.

Prep for Transitions

Prepare for transition time with ample warning and transition plan.  For example, “In ten minutes, we will put our science books away.  In five minutes, we will put out science books away and pull out our math workbooks.  Ok, now, put your science books away.  Pull out your math workbooks.”

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Improve Student Output

Improve Testing Output

Give quizzes and tests to the student alone or in small groups.

Allow extra time for assignments, quizzes, and tests.

Allow short breaks during testing.  Encourage movement during these short breaks.

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Administer tests over multiple sessions.

Provide alternate method of demonstrating knowledge and skills.  Perhaps the child can demonstrate knowledge orally?

Allow student to write answers directly on the test rather than using Scantron.

Reduce Distractions

Reduce distractions with a study carrel.

Allow for white noise or headphones during independent work to reduce auditory distractions.

Enhance Writing

Provide interval time goals for longer assignments, quizzes and tests.

Reminder for review of grammar and spelling.

Allow for use of word processor to aid in speed and legibility of output.

Allow for use of dictation software or other means of presenting information.

Modify the length of assignments when possible.

When possible, reduce the writing required by the student and do not require rote copying of material from other sources.

Consider Additional Supports for the Struggling Student

Adjust Scheduling

Adjust scheduling of classes so that classes that require the most mental focus are during student’s peak learning time.  If the child’s peak time is in the morning, language arts may be the best subject for the morning hours.

Collaborate with Parents

Parent collaboration and communication is the key to success.

Have open communication with the parent and student together about agreements and arrangements made with student regarding strategies and supports for staying on task, organizing, completing work, etc. so that parent can support and reinforce efforts at home.

Maintain communication log (via notebook or email) with parent and students regarding goals, progress, and performance.

Meet with the Student One on One

Meet with student quarterly to set goals for performance (behavior, homework completion, quality of work), not just grades.  This will allow student to adjust efforts and improve the quality of performance.

Provide a break down of the grade to show performance on content, grammar, process, etc.

Have an age appropriate discussion of how learning challenges impact the student.

Specific Teacher Training

Training and education for teacher regarding student’s profile and challenges.

Remember, it’s more often the process of learning and performing that is the challenge in the classroom.  More often than not, the student’s can handle the content of the academics.  They just need a few supports and accommodations.