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How To: Adjust Your Teaching Style to Your Students' Learning Style
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How To: Adjust Your Teaching Styles to Students' Learning Styles
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How To: Implement Standards, Curriculum, and Assessment

The High-Risk Learner
Sharon Longert

There are a vast majority of students in urban school settings who are considered to be in the “high-risk” category. Students are at-risk because they do not meet adequate yearly progress on state standards; or they do not progress to the next grade level; or they fail to graduate with their cohort group. The research supports the need for explicit, systematic instruction that is engaging and geared to the need of these students. “The teacher must be aware of the students’ understanding of the content. They need things broken down. Teachers need to be willing to make adjustments, take longer and try new things. Sometimes they have to restructure their activities based on the students’ needs.” (1)

  • When creating classroom and curricula for all students, at all grade and age levels, teachers need to develop classrooms that incorporate:
  • student centered, experiential, social activities; authentic, collaborative, challenging assignments;
  • holistic ,cognitive, developmental projects;
  • choice, responsibility, community and diversity;
  • technology instruction that mirrors the 21st century;
  • reflective/self evaluation, individualized assessment. (2)

Intervention strategies included in Literacy classrooms need to be expanded to the other content areas, so that we bring reading in the Content Areas into the classroom. In a recent Time article, Lisa McLaughlin states, “Experiential learning (is) the idea that people learn through their senses first, and then reflect on what they’ve experienced.” (3) This is especially true for our English Language Learners, Special Education students and students who are low-level readers. Implementing these strategies is shown to improve student performance.

Students who are lower performing need extra time and benefit from extended block programming; continuity and consistency work well.

A class session can include whole group instruction; small group work that is teacher directed to revisit, review, teach and reteach; one-on-one reinforcement; and peer dyads.

Provide variety, use special programs, trade books, technology, content area materials and layered texts that meet a variety of purposes.

Instructional Design
Direct instruction, indirect instruction, small group work, multi-level assignments and tasks.

Documentation/ Monitoring
Continuously use systematic, on-going goals & benchmarks, rubrics, checklists, individual conferences and close observation. First assess based on an individuals’ growth, then compare to the groups achievements.

The Home/ School/Community triangle needs to be maintained and continuous. Systematic communication is essential.

By providing direct instruction that has opportunities for individual applications student confidence is improved and students move out of the high-risk category. Building in success for our students compensates for past failures. The rewards come in small steps both for the student and for the teacher who is willing to make small changes.(4)

I hope you’ve found this article helpful. If you have a question or suggestion, don’t hesitate to e-mail me.

(1) Brownell, Adams, Sindelar, Waldron, VanHover, “Learning From Collaboration: The Role of Teacher Qualities,” Exceptional Children, Winter 2006, p.177.
(2) Daniels, Bizar, Teaching the Best Practice Way: Methods That Matter K- 12, Stenhouse, 2005.
(3) McLaughlin, Time,June 12, 2006, p.56.
(4) Strickland, Ganske, Monroe, Supporting Struggling Readers and Writers, Stenhouse, 2002.


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