Disengaged students often lag behind in class when it comes to academic achievement. Yet, to avoid this from occurring, teachers are expected to apply various strategies of instruction. A majority of instructional strategies are universal and applicable to various groups of learners while others yield better results when applied to a certain group of students. In this essay, the author reviews various strategies that can be applied to fifth-grade learners with each of the following special needs: ADHD, dyslexia, and visual impairment. Featured strategies will be applied consistently with cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional, and physical levels of development as well as with the Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each group.
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According to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, fifth graders fall under the preoperational period which ranges from two to seven years of age (Bjorklund & Causey, 2017). Therefore, they can engage in semiotic function and participate in the symbolic play. This calls for the use of multisensory learning. Multisensory learning utilizes instructional methods that engage learners through various senses. Senses that can be utilized are visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic which involve seeing, hearing, touching and doing respectively. For learners with either ADHD or dyslexia, all senses are applicable, but for those with visual impairments, the teacher should exclude the visual sense since it represents a challenge for this specific group. Examples of multisensory learning strategies are the use of tactile materials, physical activities, and games. Piaget recommends the allowance of “spontaneous research” for each learner through strategies that are consistent with the level of development. Methods that support rediscovery and reconstruction of “truths” to impose disequilibrium are highly encouraged.
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Since firth graders are only able to focus on one dimension of problems, their communications and thoughts are normally egocentric. Teachers should respond to this trait by favoring rewards over punishment. Rewards are likely to make the child strive harder for the stimulus while punishments can lead to the development of a negative image about the subject or even school. In fact, scholars have found out that positive reinforcement is the key to curbing negative behavior for students in grade-level education (Martin & Pear, 2015). The teacher may apply one or more types of reinforcements depending on the situation at hand. Common reinforcement mechanisms engage the student through either of the following means: Activity, natural and direct means, social means, tangible means, or tokens to promote the desired behavior.
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It is crucial to consider modes of representation and social origins of higher processes when developing instructional strategies for fifth graders and especially for the three groups of students that this essay addresses. Bruner (1966) asserts that teachers should use the three modes of representation (iconic, enactive, and symbolic) since the course of intellectual development moves through these stages. These should be blended with discovery in accordance with the level of learning that each learner manifests. Further, Vygotsky emphasizes the use of observation, experimentation, and problem-solving in various settings (Berk, 1994). Although observation is not applicable to a student with visual impairment, it can engage concentration when assimilated with other approaches. In sum, Vygotsky advocates the utilization of varied instructional methods since no single principle can account for development. Teachers can evaluate each situation to choose an approach that best fits each learner’s intellectual state.
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In addition to the aforementioned theories, the teacher should consider the individual needs of each learner when preparing instructions. Dyslexic students typically do not retain information efficiently. This leads to a slower pace of learning that can be complicated by individual traits of a learner. However, teachers can apply a number of well-equipped evidence-based strategies such as the use of assistive technologies, helpful arrangements, educational games, and collaboration with tutors and parents. Learners with dyslexia also need extra time for practicing tasks as well as customized aids for facilitating the learning and retention of information.
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For a learner with ADHD, teachers can deal with patterns of inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity by establishing classroom routines, offering accommodations in class, focusing on positive relationships, and working collaboratively with relevant stakeholders (Abikoff, 1991). Classroom routines can help students, with or without ADHD, to remain on task. Appropriate supervision should be given where routines are at play particularly because students with ADHD tend to be more forgetful, disorganized, and easily distracted. As such, the teacher should offer accommodations by ensuring there are no distractions and encouraging positive peer models, allowing movement, and preparing for transitions. The use of positive feedback is also highly valuable because it helps the students recognize, appreciate, and strive for rewards.
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Lastly, the teacher should use assistive devices, proper methods of presentation, personal delivery, and multisensory learning strategies to help learners with visual impairment remain engaged. Assistive devices are principal to a visual learner because they have the potential of completely averting the barrier of impairment in a classroom setting. Personal delivery methods include the use of speech visibility and positioning where the teacher ensures that they can be heard, seen, and recognized by the learner. Personal learning in combination with multisensory is also helpful in creating engagement with the student.
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