Differentiated Instructional Strategies - Students Who Have Difficulty Related to Organization, Memory, Comprehension, Attention, Reading and Writing (History/Social Studies)

Instructional strategies for all learners, including those with cognitive and physical disabilities who have difficulties with:
  • Inattention/distractibility 
  • Organization 
  • Following directions 
  • Memory/recall 
  • Reading decoding/access
  • Understanding/comprehension 
  • Mechanics of writing/drawing
Problems with Inattention/Distractibility:
Teach students how to:
  • Use class and individual schedules. 
  • Check off tasks as they are completed. 
  • Set goals for how much of a task they can complete in an allotted time.
  • Verbalize while working. 
  • Use self-monitoring techniques. such as SLANT (sit up, lean forward, ask questions, nod your head, track the teacher) to help them remember the needed behaviors.
Before, during, and following instruction:
  • Give students advance notice (a physical cue, special word) that you will be saying or showing key information.
  • Break assignments down into shorter segments.
  • Alternate short work periods with teacher-controlled breaks - have this student be your official pencil sharpener, note-runner.
  • Vary presentation of a task.
  • Use physical, visual, or auditory signals/cues to redirect student to stay on task. 
  • Provide copies of work that is on the blackboard or textbook.
  • Use color cues such as neon-colored highlighters to direct student attention to important information, key words, and directions. 
  • Use games to reinforce concepts. 
  • Allow additional time to complete assignments/tests.
  • Limit the number of problems that students copy and solve problems. Highlight the number of problems you want the student to complete. 
  • Use a digital, silent kitchen timer to help a student who is slow to complete work.
  • Assign a peer tutor. Surround student with appropriate role models.
  • Introduce only one concept at a time and provide scaffolding within your instruction.
  • Reteach concepts frequently by varying the instructional approach.
Provide a physical environment that is: 
  • Free from distractions and clutter. Have the student remove all but the material with which he is working from his desk.
  • Seat student in area free from distractions such as open doors or air conditioners.
  • Use study carrel. 
  • Use proximity seating.
Provide work materials that are:
  • Try not to copy on both sides of the paper. 
  • Use frequent indentations, double spacing, and boxes around key words to provide visual clues. 
  • Block extraneous information on pages to limit distractions.
  • Present material on colored paper. 
  • Provide "windows" cut from paper or cardboard to expose only one segment at a time.
Problems with Organization
Teach students routines and procedures:
  • Goal-setting skills.
  • Note-taking skill to identify and highlight key information. 
  • Decision d making/prioritizing skills. 
  • Time-management skills to help them estimate how long it will take to complete assignments.
Within the environment: 
  • Provide a time weekly for organizing desk and notebooks.
  • Use assignment books and calendars.
  • Have students "check" unneeded books and notebooks at the door. They can pick up their items as they exit class. 
  • Attach things that often get misplaced (pencils) to students' desks with Velcro.
  • Check that homework assignments are written down daily. 
  • Check homework daily.
  • Send daily/weekly progress reports home.
  • Color code notebooks and school book covers.
Before, during, and following instruction:
  • Provide page numbers where answers can be found. 
  • Provide boxes for students to write in answers.
  • Provide advanced organizers or outlines of the content.
  • Use slot outlines. 
  • Color-coding to identify vocabulary, main ideas, and details. 
  • Use a variety of teacher demonstrations & modeling, guided, independent practice, and frequent review opportunities. 
  • Provide a copy of assignments for home. 
  • Use checklists and mnemonics to help students remember the expected behaviors. 
  • Avoid cluttered/crowded worksheets.
  • Allow student to use a computer to complete assignments.
  • Assign a peer buddy to assist with organization.
  • Create backwards timelines for larger projects. 
  • Introduce only one concept at a time and provide scaffolding within your instruction.
  • Reteach concepts frequently by varying the instructional approach.
Problems with Following Directions
Teach the student to:
  • Verbalize written directions. By doing this, you will detect early errors or misunderstandings. 
  • To repeat or re-explain directions.
  • Look at the person who is speaking.
  • Write down each step of a problem and check off as they complete it.
Before, during and following instruction:
  • Face the child and speak slowly and distinctly.
  • Check frequently that the student is following directions.
  • Model or demonstrate each step. Have students check off each step as it is completed.
  • Present the key points of a lecture at the beginning of your talk, then summarize.
  • Divide longer orally assigned tasks into shorter ones.
  • Very gradually help the student learn to take orally presented notes.
  • Provide example of completed item. 
  • Give the student extra time to respond to oral questions. 
  • Provide only one portion of the assignment at a time. 
  • Provide an outline of your lectures; use graphs and tables to reinforce concepts.
  • Provide practice in noticing, describing, and comparing details. 
  • Provide visual displays such as - flowcharts, webs, pictorials, pre-reading questions, and keyword note-taking organizers frequently to help students listen and follow directions.
  • Use a buddy system to clarify directions.
  • Use cooperative learning activities.
  • Use mnemonic aids to signal steps. 
  • Introduce only one concept at a time and provide scaffolding within your instruction.
  • Reteach concepts frequently by varying the instructional approach.
Problems with Memory/Recall
Before, during and following instruction:
  • Provide the student with a written out schedule of classroom routines and timelines.
  • Chunk pieces of information together. (For example have students learn the number facts in sets of three). 
  • Provide a balance of visual and auditory stimuli in your instruction.
  • Provide multiple opportunities for practice in different formats.
    • Use flashcards for individual or group review.
    • Use songs, rhymes, or rhythms to help remember information.
    • Use acronyms to remember words or phrases.
    • Use mnemonics like "Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally" (order of operations) to remember sequenced steps.
    • Play memory games.
  • Use semantic maps and diagrams to help students remember the connections between concepts.
  • Introduce only one concept at a time and provide scaffolding within your instruction.
  • Reteach concepts frequently by varying the instructional approach.
Problems with Reading/Decoding Access
Before reading:
  • Teach students to read strategically – e.g., review title/chapter headings; locate main ideas, etc.
  • Reduce amount to be read
  • Adjust allotted time for assignment 
  • Present several versions of the same story
  • Locate high interest/low reading level materials at library, etc. – to facilitate fluency in reading
  • Enhance/adapt/modify books:
    • Enlarge print materials – on photocopier
    • Rewrite text in simplified form and paste over original text associated with graphic – to allow student to read independently
    • Use objects and actions to enhance meaning of text, specific vocabulary – toys or other objects and role playing can be used to provide cues to meanings of words.
    • Cut apart and remake books, which have graphics but no text – for student to “tell” the story from the pictures.
    • Make props – cut graphics out of one copy of a book, put Velcro on back of graphics/pictures and Velcro on the pages of a second copy of the book, the book becomes interactive, e.g., students can match characters/objects to the picture in the book, choose the correct picture when asked by teacher, do interactive worksheets, etc.
    • Use clear drawings/photos – which correspond to text or relate to content
    • Cut & paste Picture Communication Symbols – place over text so student “reads” via the symbols or place under text to facilitate reading of text
  • Extensive reading preview – vocabulary development, story line, background information, etc.
  • Label items/spaces around the classroom
  • Provide adaptive surfaces for reading materials (slant boards, easels, non-slip padding)
  • Have needed books on CD-ROM, videotaped, or audio taped if possible
  • Have computer generated text available if possible
During reading:
  • Enhance meaning of reading with gestures, exaggerated facial expressions and intonation during group reading
  • Use choral reading or singing of words/text – music, rhythm and rhyme are memory enhancers
  • Peer tutor – or adult, to support or read to student
  • Discuss what is depicted in the drawings – how it relates to the text; location of specific vocabulary within the illustrations
  • Highlight target vocabulary words from a larger field of text – removable transparent highlighter tape, highlighters, etc.
  • Use a magnifying glass, word windows, mini-flashlight – for visual tracking of words/letters
  • Segment components of stories/words – so they can be physically manipulated (stickies, index cards, sentence strips, etc.), e.g., sequencing parts of stories, manipulating word families, etc.
  • Colored acetate filters laid over text – can make a tremendous difference for students who have Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome (SSS – a sensitivity to light which affects depth perception); especially helpful for students with Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome, e.g. Transparency Pockets (office supply stores) or filter kit from See It Right which includes multi-colored sets & instructions (See It Right); special colored glasses – may be necessary for some students with severe SSS
  • Color code word targets to match answer location – e.g., put yellow arrow sticky in section of text where answer will be found
  • Colored pens for note-taking – to differentiate vocabulary, types of information, sections etc. or to highlight after the fact
  • Graphic Organizers – to preview/review story narrative, vocabulary, characterization, etc.; e.g., concept maps, Venn Diagrams, story boards, sequence grids, & webs (webs are effective for brainstorming ideas individually or in groups by choosing a topic placed in a circle in middle of page; free associate quickly; list all responses without judgment; related ideas branch out from the topic and can later be grouped into clusters; pictures/symbols can also be used as templates, e.g., spider, tree, flower, etc.)
  • Have books on tape or in digital format for students to hear/review story content or to read along with text.
  • Video taped versions of stories – to motivate, make story come alive, and to preview/review story content
  • Hand-held talking dictionary/speller – e.g., Franklin Homework Wiz & Speaking Homework Wiz, dictionary/thesaurus; spell check; create personal word list; words appear on small screen; target words, definitions, & synonyms can be pronounced aloud if speaking version; offers practice in cursive and print handwriting; arithmetic tutor & calculator
Following reading:
  • Songs – teach students original or other songs, then use overhead device with song lyrics on the overlays; students read as a group; students take turns tracking the words with a pointer
  • Word walls – to reinforce frequently used words and topic/story vocabulary; create on blackboard, whiteboard, or cards posted on walls; words may be grouped together by category and color-coded
  • Word dice made from milk cartons – for sight word development, vocabulary, synonyms, etc.
  • Word searches & crossword puzzles
  • Letter tiles, Scrabble tiles, magnetic letters – to form words/sentences
  • Magnetic word sets – to create sentences, poems, etc.
  • Modify worksheets – simplify format; reduce amount of text; reword in simplified language
  • Reteach concepts frequently by varying the instructional approach.
Problems with Understanding/Comprehension
Teach the students:
  • The meaning of key vocabulary words.
  • How the textbook is organized and the format for each page or section.
  • How to verbalize as they complete or work through problems.
Before, during, and following instruction:
  • Teach in small chunks so students get lots of practice with one step at a time.
  • Model and teach metacognitive strategies (Model and verbalize procedure, guide students through verbalization of problem computation, monitor student verbalizations as they complete procedure, periodic reviews provided). 
  • Provide an example of a correctly solved problem at the beginning of the lesson.
  • Provide visual cues to help students who may have difficulty visualizing shapes, dimensions and sizes.
  • Provide learning aids such as calculators to help students focus on conceptual understanding.
  • Provide many practice opportunities and include problem solving, reasoning, and real-life application to help with transfer of information.
  • Use cooperative learning techniques such as "jigsaw" or "think-pair-share".
  • Use taped textbooks. 
  • Introduce only one concept at a time and provide scaffolding within your instruction.
  • Reteach concepts frequently by varying the instructional approach.
Problems with the Mechanics of Writing/Drawing
Make accommodations for writing through the following strategies:
  • Allow more time to complete assignments
  • Reduce quantity of final product
  • Explore different forms of writing – for example, don’t restrict writing to cursive
Consider using an adapted writing surface:
  • Enhanced line paper – commercial raised line paper or adapt your own paper by printing lines in a color, then laminating the paper and gluing over the lines to enhance.
  • Variety of tactile writing surfaces – e.g. sandpaper, screen, etc.
  • White board or small chalkboard
Consider using adapted writing tools:
  • Pencil grips stabilize a student’s grip on pen or pencil. These can be commercially made or make your own with a piece of foam or non-slip material.
  • Use adapted pens/pencils such as triangular pencils, Squiggle Wiggle Writer, triangular shaped, vibrating or the Nightwriter lighted pen. 
  • Experiment with a variety of writing implements by trying markers, paints, fat crayons/pencils, grease pencils.
  • Use rubber stamps & stamp pad – for letters/numbers/name.
  • Use magnetic alphabet letter sets – sticks to any magnetic surface, e.g., cookie sheet
  • Scrabble or other letter tiles – for writing, spelling
  • Highlighter markers or tapes, colored dots, correction tape – to “take notes” in text by highlighting important points or to indicate margins or start/end points on the writing paper (office supply)
  • Use computers with touch screens or switch access if available
For positioning try:
  • Shifting the position of paper – the standard positioning may not work for all students
  • Using a clipboard to hold paper or tape paper to desk – to hold writing paper steady 
  • Using a three ring binder or slant board.
  • Use adaptive equipment for posture: booster seats, arm rests, phone books, etc.
For longer assignments, taking notes, or completing worksheets try using:
  • Prewritten words/phrases on labels/cards/paper
  • A peer/aide takes notes for student – use carbon paper, NCR paper
  • “fill-in-the-blank” answer format.
  • Modified worksheets by making templates for student to complete
  • Use multiple choice answer format
  • Word walls – to reinforce frequently used words and topic/story vocabulary; create on blackboard, whiteboard, or cards posted on walls; words may be grouped together by category and color-coded
  • Correction/cover-up tapes – to correct mistakes in writing if erasing is a problem (office supply)
Links and Resources

History & Social Science Resources (Virginia Department of Education) - http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/standards_docs/history_socialscience/index.shtml

The Story of Virginia - An American Experience - http://www.vahistorical.org/what-you-can-see/story-virginia?legacy=true

The US50 - A guide to the state of Virginia - History - http://www.theus50.com/virginia

Social Studies Lessons http://www.csun.edu/~hcedu013/plans.html

Council for the Social Studies - http://www.ncss.org

Social Studies Standards http://www.socialstudies.org/standards/teachers