5 common techniques for helping struggling students

A teacher helps a child who is writing on a piece of paper in a classroom.

At a glance

  • Teachers use various methods to meet the needs of all students, including those who struggle.

  • Some methods include slowing down or speeding up the pace of the work for individual students within a classroom.

  • Other methods include using props such as charts and pictures to show students what they are expected to learn.

Teachers know that students walk into their classrooms with a wide range of abilities. But teachers try to find ways to meet the needs of all students, including those with learning and thinking differences. Here are five common teaching methods.

1. Differentiated instruction

With this approach, teachers change and switch around what students need to learn, how they’ll learn it, and how to get the material across to them. When a student struggles in one area, the teacher creates a plan that includes extra practice, step-by-step directions, and special homework. Find out more about differentiated instruction.

2. Scaffolding

This is a method that breaks learning into chunks. The chunks follow a logical order and move toward a clear goal. Teachers form a bridge between what students already know and what they cannot do on their own. These bridges are referred to as “scaffolds.” They can include charts, pictures, and cue cards.

Teachers often use this method by presenting a model of high-quality work before asking students to work on their own. Just as they’re used when constructing buildings, scaffolds are removed when they’re no longer needed.

3. Graphic organization

Using this method, a teacher draws a picture to map out thoughts and ideas. Graphic organization can help younger students with activities like identifying the characters in a story they’ve read. This can also help them plan and organize a story they’ll write. Older students can “map out” history, like the events leading up to World War II, or compare and contrast people or topics.

4. Mnemonics

Students use special phrases to help them remember information. Here’s an example: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally is often used to remember the order of operations in math: Parentheses, Exponents, Multiply, Divide, Add and Subtract.

This strategy can also help with learning vocabulary. For example, a child can learn the scientific name for the common frog, Ranidae, by using rain as the keyword along with a picture of a frog sitting in the rain.

5. Multisensory instruction

This method links what students see, what they hear, how they move, and what they feel. When students learn using all of their senses, they remember the material better. Math teachers might use base ten blocks and two-sided counters so that students learn through touch. Drawing might help students learn new vocabulary by capturing the meaning of a word and sketching it.

Each child learns differently. Teachers will use many creative methods to teach your child — and the other students — so they all learn.

Key takeaways

  • Mapping out ideas using pictures and charts is especially effective with struggling students.

  • Strategies that involve memorizing phrases help students remember concepts longer.

  • When students use all their senses, they remember the material better.


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