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Creative Ways to Engage Special Education Students

When teaching special education students, engagement is key to success. Increasing interaction and a deeper understanding of materials can be a challenge unique to each student, especially when teaching students with a wide range of learning disabilities or disorders. Creativity can help bring fun and success into the classroom, improving outcomes for all students.

Saint Joseph’s University's online Master of Science in Special Education helps teachers better reach special needs students. The capabilities that teachers gain through this degree help them improve their students' learning outcomes and expand their qualifications for greater opportunities in the special education field.

Engaging special education students requires teachers to understand their needs and mold activities to suit those needs.1  If you believe all students can learn, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish. Evaluating students’ individual needs and creatively figuring out how to fulfill them can be a rewarding aspect of teaching in a special education environment.

Here are some examples of creative ideas to improve classroom engagement:

Question Formulation Technique

Instead of simply teaching students, the Question Formulation Technique turns the tables and gives students a prompt to ask questions.2  They can ask anything, and this technique can be used for any subject matter. When teaching about history, for example, a teacher can provide a picture from a time period and simply answer questions the students ask about that picture.

Turn Instructions and Lessons Into Songs

Music can be a powerful tool to engage children with a wide range of learning disorders.3  Rhythm and melody can help improve memory and the understanding of key words. Turning lesson instructions and key information into songs can encourage students to sing and drum along.

Put Activities on a Menu

Connecting classroom information to real-world activities is a good way to engage students.4  Anything you find in the real world can be brought into the classroom as a vehicle for engagement. Students can, for instance, select questions to answer from a restaurant-type menu, with different questions listed under headings such as “Appetizer,” “Entrée”, and “Dessert.”

Have the Students Create Something

Another successful strategy for engagement involves helping a special needs student create something. The details of such a strategy will vary because the goal is to work with each student's individual abilities to spur creativity.5  Whether this is directly connected to a lesson plan, this strategy can help students engage while improving their self-confidence.

Find the Learning Possibilities in Things Students Love

Anything students enjoy can be used to teach something.6  Songs, movies, and activities can all be used to teach things such as vocabulary, numbers, or other subjects. Ask students what they like to find the learning possibilities in them.

Special Challenges and Rewards

Interacting with special education students requires flexibility and creativity. It can be a rewarding experience to learn the individual needs and interests of different students and transform them into classroom activities to help them grow and thrive.

Saint Joseph’s University’s MS in Special Education gives teachers the skills necessary to help better engage and motivate students with a wide variety of learning disorders. To find out more about this program, call (866) 758-7670 to speak with an admissions representative right away or request more information.

Sources:

1. Council for Learning Disabilities. Academic Diversity: Ways to Motivate and Engage Students with Learning Disabilities. http://www.council-for-learning-disabilities.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Weiser_Motivation.pdf

2.  Right Question Institute. Building Student Engagement in a Special Education Classroom. http://rightquestion.org/blog/student-engagement-special-education-classroom/ 

3. Edutopia. It’s a Snap! 4 Ways to use Music with Special Needs Students.http://www.edutopia.org/blog/music-with-special-needs-students-michelle-lazar 

4. Council for Learning Disabilities. Academic Diversity: Ways to Motivate and Engage Students with Learning Disabilities. http://www.council-for-learning-disabilities.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Weiser_Motivation.pdf

5. Friendship Circle. 10 Items Every Special Educator Should have in their Classroom. http://www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2012/11/20/10-items-every-special-educator-should-have-in-their-classroom/ 

6. Edutopia. It’s a Snap! 4 Ways to use Music with Special Needs Students.http://www.edutopia.org/blog/music-with-special-needs-students-michelle-lazar