Seven Steps to Better Control a Classroom with Students with Learning Disabilities


You have come to class having your lesson plan ready, well prepared for a lesson with a specific grammar and vocabulary target and minutes later Kostakis, who has been diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), starts fidgeting in his chair and Marilia, who cannot control herself from commenting, shouts out that cannot concentrate having next to her someone sitting on a swing rather than a chair. And at the same time Thomas, who has serious learning difficulties, feels lost and unable to make head or tail of what he was supposed to be doing. Since the number of students with any type of learning disability has increased, it is quite unlikely that you do not come up against this challenge as a teacher almost on a daily basis.  So, how can you manage to get through this situation? First of all, do not panic and secondly take one step at a time.


By Sofia Mouka


Step 1: get to know your students


Kids talk about their strengths and weaknesses not only with words but mostly with actions or even with their silence. The educators have to be trained to listen carefully and decipher these messages in order to act accordingly. A student who refuses to read aloud in class is not necessarily a lazy kid but may as well be the one who is aware that has a serious reading disability and by pressing him/her to read, the teacher is just making matters worse. Instead, that specific student could be asked to repeat a chunk of the text right after another classmate or participate in a class reading aloud all together, so as to follow the other students words.


Only a well informed class teacher can facilitate the students in the best possible way in order to excel inside and outside the classroom environment.


Step 2: classroom organization


As teachers we can scan our students and identify who is who within a few lessons. Therefore, the one who tends to get easily distracted either from his/her thoughts or their classmates’ behaviour, cannot be left sitting at the back of the classroom. A better place for that student is next to a well organized fellow student or better still close to the teacher. A teacher can organize the classroom in such a way that students can interact with one another and stay focused on the content at the same time. If the student can meet their individual desires while staying engaged in the curriculum then there will be less disruptive behaviour.


Even the way the desks are organized in the classroom can affect the students’ interest in the lesson and their learning experience in total. A good way to modify the seating arrangement is to organize the desks in a circle around the classroom. This will work better with smaller classes, but can still be used occasionally in others. This strategy works well with promoting public speaking and classroom debate. It engages students because they all become one member of the same group. They are prone to listen more actively and have better eye contact with the person who is speaking. In this model the teacher has to make sure to create an environment where students feel invited to share their views without any fear of judgment. In order to do this the teacher must make it clear that the students know the consequences of inappropriate behavior. It is also a good teaching point on how to respect people who have different opinions than their own.


Step 3: use pair or team work activities


Pair/team work activities create an excellent opportunity for the teacher to promote cooperation among students and with a careful selection of team members to encourage the weak ones to develop their potentials. Moreover, when working in pairs or small teams, students can work on projects rather than worksheets which allows for the teacher to have a finished product to hang on the classroom walls. Having students’ work around the class is a great opportunity to build rapport with the students and creates a visually stimulating environment to look at. No matter how much each member of the team has contributed to the final product, they all feel equally proud. The result is that even the weakest students walk into the classroom feeling that they are appreciated.


Step 4: use flexible activities


As a general rule, it would seem reasonable to suggest that classroom harmony might be achieved better in a group of motivated students who are allowed to participate and cooperate.  Teachers need to promote a lively, rich environment attracting active participation of all learners. However, no one is willing to even attempt to do something when failure is sure to come. So the activities the educator uses in class have to be carefully selected having a specific class in mind each time. And even if a certain activity seemed to work perfectly well once, it may not work the second time. Therefore, the class teacher has to be ready to change it so as to promote student involvement. It is also a good idea to break tasks down into small easily remembered pieces of information and make sure that everyone has understood what they are asked to do before moving on.


Step 5: develop students’ organizational skills


Good organizational skills are vital not only because they set in order students’ notes but also their knowledge and their thoughts. Class teachers can encourage good organizational skills by the use of folders and dividers to keep work easily accessible and in an orderly fashion. Also the use of different colour notebooks for different use can help students find easily the appropriate notebook for each task assigned. By telling the class to open the red notebook the teacher eliminates the chances of having students taking a different notebook out of their bags.


Step 6: set a class routine


All students and on top of them dyslexic ones find it much easier to follow the lesson when it is based on a routine. The routine helps the class teacher maintain order and also helps the kids stay calm. If there is a set activity for every part of the lesson, valuable time is spent on teaching and less on giving instructions and generally controlling the class. Another benefit of setting a class routine is that students can carry out specific tasks that require a high level of responsibility. They may not perfect it the first or even the second time, but doing something regularly is a sure way to become proficient at it. Added responsibility also improves student self-esteem.


Occasionally, though, it is not a bad idea to break that routine in order to stimulate the students’ interest on a special day. That could be the last day before Christmas or Easter break, on which the lesson could be enhanced with level and age appropriate arts and crafts creations.


Step 7: have self control


Never enter the classroom leaving your self control behind. No matter what comes up in class, the educator is there not only to facilitate learning but also to create a peaceful environment.


Concluding we can pinpoint that in order to be able to teach, as far as possible, according to each child’s educational needs, it is essential to see him or her as a whole person, complete with individual strengths and weaknesses. Class teachers need to have an understanding of the problems that each child may have within the classroom situation. Hopefully, with this knowledge, a great deal of misunderstanding of a child’s behaviour can be prevented and a high level of class control can be achieved.