What does the literature suggest about the optimal strategy for quickly memorizing various types of content?

What does the literature suggest about the optimal strategy for quickly memorizing various types of content?

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I just finished reading Moonwalking with Einstein, a journalistic piece on the World Memory Championships. The book explicates the various techniques used by participants to memorize different types of contest materials-- for example, there are techniques for memorizing large lists of numbers, foreign language vocabulary, packs of cards, and poetry.

The Dominic System, for example, is often used for memorizing numbers, the PAO system is often used for memorizing for packs of cards, etc.

However, a lot of these techniques have not been rigorously tested in a scientific setting to determine which forms of techniques are empirically optimal. Often, they're just circulated in underground communities, without any objective way to adjudicate between the merits of competing systems.

I was wondering what the research on memory suggests is the best way to memorize the above types of content. I suppose you need a metric to qualify "the best way", so let's say that preference is given to speed over duration of memory. I'm in the process of learning a new language, so I'm also particularly interested in foreign language techniques.

The first and most obvious answer would be that repetition cements new information into memory. The second technique is that an event that involves a strong emotion will be more easily remembered then an event where little or no emotion is felt. If you are learning foreign languages, you could practice sentences or paragraphs in a dramatic way, like learning the lines of a play. This could be done verbally or non-verbally, but verbally would be preferred for the auditory feedback. Flashcards, mind maps, and similar tools would help with visual feedback, helpful as this article suggests. Handwriting and typing would help with tactile feedback.

1. Don’t read front to back (aka, READ BACKWARDS)

Reading a textbook chapter front to back ensures that you will waste time.

I know it’s counter-intuitive to not read a book front to back, but don’t do it. Mystery novels stink when you read the back first, as do good thriller movies. If you read the last page of a Sherlock Holmes novel before you read the story, it’ll be lame. If you know Bruce Willis is dead, don’t watch the 6th Sense.

But textbooks are rarely building to a suspenseful twist at the end. I promise. I’ve read a lot. They don’t come with surprise endings. “And then, Abraham Lincoln dodged the bullet!” Yep, that’s never going to be in a textbook.

Want to try this strategy? Try reading your textbook chapter in this order:

Go to the questions at the end first . Read them, answer them to the best of your ability, and then begin your actual reading strategies. This will sort of “prime the engine” of retention.

Next, read the final summary of the chapter. This will give you a general background as to the Big Ideas in the chapter.

Third, look at the headings and subdivision of the chapter.

Fourth, read the chapter introduction.

From that point you can then work through the chapter from front to back. By taking this out-of-order strategy, you are focusing not on the chronological order, but rather connecting the ideas found in the chapter together. This is infinitely more important than reading things in the order they were written.

Top 10 evidence-based teaching strategies

Most teachers care about their students' results, and if you are reading this article, you are undoubtedly one of them.

There is no doubt that teachers make a difference to how well their kids do at school. However, when you explore the thousands of research studies1 on the topic, it is apparent that some teaching strategies have far more impact than other teaching strategies do.

Evidence-Based Teaching Strategies
Research shows that evidence-based teaching strategies are likely to have the largest impact on student results. I wrote this article because you (and other teachers) have far too many demands on your time to sift through decades worth of research. At the same time, I wanted to help you step outside your personal philosophies about teaching and the fancy jargon being peddled by authorities, to discover the science of what works.

For teaching strategies to be included on this list, they had to:
* Be supported by hard research, instead of anecdotal case studies or untested theories
* Have a substantially higher effect on student results than other teaching strategies
* Be able to be used on a wide range of subjects and in every year level

What evidence-based teaching strategies made it onto the list? Here is the top 10 strategies - the results may surprise you.

Evidence-Based Teaching Strategy 1: Clear Lesson Goals

It is crucial that you are clear about what you want your students to learn during each lesson. The effect that such clarity has on student results is 32% greater than the effect of holding high expectations for every student (and holding high expectations has a sizeable effect). If you cannot quickly and easily state what you want your students to know and be able to do at the end of a given lesson, the goal of your lesson will be unclear. Clear lesson goals help you (and your students) to focus every other aspect of your lesson on what matters most.

Evidence-Based Teaching Strategy 2: Show & Tell

You should normally start your lessons with show and tell. Put simply, telling involves sharing information or knowledge with your students while showing involves modeling how to do something. Once you are clear about what you want your students to know and be able to do by the end of the lesson, you need to tell them what they need to know and show them how to do the tasks you want them to be able to do. You don't' want to spend your entire lesson having the kids listening to you, so focus your show and tell on what matters most. To do this, have another look at your lesson goal.

Evidence-Based Teaching Strategy 3: Questioning to Check for Understanding

Research suggests that teachers typically spend a large amount of teaching time asking questions. However, few teachers use questions to check for understanding within a lesson. However, you should always check for understanding before moving onto the next part of their lesson. Techniques such as randomized sampling, student answer-boards and tell-a-friend help you to check for understanding before moving on from the show and tell part of your lesson while you can use other questioning techniques at different stages of your lesson.

Evidence-Based Teaching 4: Summarize New Learning In A Graphical Way

Graphic outlines include things such as mind maps, flow-charts and Venn diagrams. You can use them to help students to summarize what they have learned and to understand the interrelationships between the aspects of what you have taught them. Studies show that it doesn't seem to matter who makes the summary graphic, be it you or your students, provided the graphic is accurate. Discussing a graphical summary is a fantastic way to finish off your show and tell. You can then refer to it one more time at the end of your lesson.

Evidence-Based Teaching Strategy 5: Plenty of Practice

As saying says, practice makes perfect. Practice helps students to retain the knowledge and skills that they have learned while also allowing you another opportunity to check for understanding. If you want to harness the potent power of practice, you must ensure that your students are practicing the right things. Your students should be practicing what they learned during your show and tell, which in turn should reflect your lesson goal. Practice is not about mindless busy work. Nor does it involve assigning independent tasks that you haven't previously modeled and taught. Finally, research shows that students do better when their teacher has them practice the same things over a spaced-out period of time.

Evidence-Based Teaching Strategy 6: Provide Your Students With Feedback

Feedback is the breakfast of champions, and it is the breakfast served by extraordinary teachers around the world. Put simply, giving feedback involves letting your students know how they have performed on a particular task along with ways that they can improve. Unlike praise, which focuses on the student rather than the task, feedback provides your students with a tangible understanding of what they did well, of where they are at, and of how they can improve. In John Hattie's view, any teachers who seriously want to boost their children's results should start by giving them dollops and dollops of feedback.

Evidence-Based Teaching Strategy 7: Be Flexible About How Long It Takes to Learn

The idea that given enough time, every student can learn is not as revolutionary as it sounds. It underpins the way we teach martial arts, swimming and dancing. It is also the central premise behind mastery learning, a technique that has the same effect on student results as socio-economic status and other aspects of home life. When you adopt mastery learning, you differentiate in a different way. You keep your learning goals the same, but vary the time you give each child to succeed. Within the constraints of a crowded curriculum, this may be easier said than done however, we can all do it to some degree.

Evidence-Based Teaching Strategy 8: Get Students Working Together (in productive ways)

Group work is not new, and you can see it in every classroom. However, productive group work is rare. When working in groups, students tend to rely on the person who seems most willing and able to the task at hand. Psychologists call this phenomenon social loafing. To increase the productivity of your groups, you need to be selective about the tasks you assign to them and the individual role that each group member plays. You should only ask groups to do tasks that all group members can do successfully. You should also ensure each group member personally responsible for one step in the task.

Evidence-Based Teaching Strategy 9: Teach Strategies Not Just Content

Earlier, I highlighted the importance of show and tell. You can increase how well your students do in any subject by explicitly teaching them how to use relevant strategies. When teaching children to read you need to teach them how to attack unknown words, as well as strategies that will deepen their comprehension. When teaching them mathematics, you need to teach them problem-solving strategies. From assignments and studying, to characterization, there are strategies underpinning the effective execution of many tasks that you ask students to perform in school. And, just as with content, you need to tell students about these strategies, to show them how to use them and to give them guided practice before asking them to use them independently.

Evidence-Based Teaching Strategy 10: Nurture Meta-Cognition

Many teachers believe they are encouraging students to use meta-cognition when they are just asking students to use strategies - strategies such as making connections when reading or self-verbalising when solving problems. Don't get me wrong, as I stated in the above point, encouraging students to adopt strategies is important, but it is not meta-cognition. Meta-cognition involves thinking about your options, your choices and your results - and it has an even larger effect on student results than teaching strategies. When using meta-cognition your students may think about what strategies they could use before choosing one, and they may think about how effective their choice was (after reflecting on their success or lack thereof) before continuing with or changing their chosen strategy.

What Teaching Strategies Didn't Make the Top 10?

Some evidence-based teaching strategies that didn't make the top 10are still worth adopting. Research shows that a few of these teaching strategies, such as holding high expectations of students, have a significant positive impact on student results. They just have less of an effect than those that made the top 10list. Other evidence based teaching strategies, such as reciprocal teaching, didn't make the list purely because they can only be used within a single subject. Don't assume that a teaching strategy is no good just because it isn't in the top 10.

That said, there are some popular teaching strategies that do not have a large effect on student results. These include whole language, teaching test taking and inquiry learning.

Information about the author is given at the end of the article at the website.

Inquiry-based science education

History of science education

Inquiry learning has been used as a teaching and learning tool for thousands of years, however, the use of inquiry within public education has a much briefer history. [22] Ancient Greek and Roman educational philosophies focused much more on the art of agricultural and domestic skills for the middle class and oratory for the wealthy upper class. It was not until the Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason, during the late 17th and 18th century that the subject of Science was considered a respectable academic body of knowledge. [23] Up until the 1900s the study of science within education had a primary focus on memorizing and organizing facts. Unfortunately, there is still evidence that some students are still receiving this type of science instruction today.

John Dewey, a well-known philosopher of education at the beginning of the 20th century, was the first to criticize the fact that science education was not taught in a way to develop young scientific thinkers. Dewey proposed that science should be taught as a process and way of thinking – not as a subject with facts to be memorized. [22] While Dewey was the first to draw attention to this issue, much of the reform within science education followed the lifelong work and efforts of Joseph Schwab. Joseph Schwab was an educator who proposed that science did not need to be a process for identifying stable truths about the world that we live in, but rather science could be a flexible and multi-directional inquiry driven process of thinking and learning. Schwab believed that science in the classroom should more closely reflect the work of practicing scientists. Schwab developed three levels of open inquiry that align with the breakdown of inquiry processes that we see today. [24]

  1. Students are provided with questions, methods and materials and are challenged to discover relationships between variables
  2. Students are provided with a question, however, the method for research is up to the students to develop
  3. Phenomena are proposed but students must develop their own questions and method for research to discover relationships among variables

Today, we know that students at all levels of education can successfully experience and develop deeper level thinking skills through scientific inquiry. [25] The graduated levels of scientific inquiry outlined by Schwab demonstrate that students need to develop thinking skills and strategies prior to being exposed to higher levels of inquiry. [24] Effectively, these skills need to be scaffold ed by the teacher or instructor until students are able to develop questions, methods, and conclusions on their own. [26] A catalyst for reform within North American science education was the 1957 launch of Sputnik, the Soviet Union satellite. This historical scientific breakthrough caused a great deal of concern around the science and technology education the American students were receiving. In 1958 the U.S. congress developed and passed the National Defense Education Act in order to provide math and science teachers with adequate teaching materials. [15]

America’s National Science Education Standards (NSES) (1996) [25] outlines six important aspects pivotal to inquiry learning in science education.

  1. Students should be able to recognize that science is more than memorizing and knowing facts.
  2. Students should have the opportunity to develop new knowledge that builds on their prior knowledge and scientific ideas.
  3. Students will develop new knowledge by restructuring their previous understandings of scientific concepts and adding new information learned.
  4. Learning is influenced by students’ social environment whereby they have an opportunity to learn from each other
  5. Students will take control of their learning.
  6. The extent to which students are able to learn with deep understanding will influence how transferable their new knowledge is to real life contexts.

10. Teach QARs

Question-Answer-Relationships, or QARs, teach students to label the type of question that is being asked and then use that information to help them formulate an answer. Students must decipher if the answer can be found in a text or online or if they must rely on their own prior knowledge to answer it. This strategy has been found to be effective for higher-order thinking because students become more aware of the relationship between the information in a text and their prior knowledge, which helps them decipher which strategy to use when they need to seek an answer.

Search Strategy

Several electronic databases were searched (MEDLINE ® , CINAHL ® , PubMed ® ) using terms of evidence-based practice research, implementation research, and patient safety. (The terms “quality improvement” or “quality improvement intervention research” were not used.) The Cochrane Collaboration𠄼ochrane Reviews was also searched to look for systematic reviews of specific implementation strategies, and the Journal of Implementation Science was also reviewed. I also requested the final reports of the TRIP I and TRIP II studies funded by AHRQ. Classic articles known to the author were also included in this chapter (e.g.,Locock et al. 123 ).

Reading Rockets

The memory demands for school-age children are much greater than they are for adults. As adults, we have already acquired much of the knowledge and skills we need to function day to day. Although the knowledge base for some fields such as technology changes rapidly, the new information is generally highly specific and builds on existing knowledge. On the other hand, school children are constantly bombarded with new knowledge in multiple topic areas in which they may or may not be interested. Additionally, they are expected to both learn and demonstrate the mastery of this knowledge on a weekly basis. Thus, an effective and efficient memory is critical for school success.

Many students have memory problems. Students who have deficits in registering information in short-term memory often have difficulty remembering instructions or directions they have just been given, what was just said during conversations and class lectures and discussions, and what they just read. Students who have difficulty with working memory often forget what they are doing while doing it.

For example, they may understand the three-step direction they were just given, but forget the second and third steps while carrying out the first step. If they are trying to solve a math problem that has several steps, they might forget the steps while trying to solve the problem. When they are reading a paragraph, they may forget what was at the beginning of the paragraph by the time they get to the end of the paragraph. These students will look like they have difficulty with reading comprehension. In facts, they do but the comprehension problem is due to a failure of the memory system rather than the language system.

Students who have deficits in the storage and retrieval of information from long-term memory may study for tests, but not be able to recall the information they studied when taking the tests. They frequently have difficulty recalling specific factual information such as dates or rules of grammar. They have a poor memory of material they earlier in the school year or last year. They may also be unable to answer specific questions asked of them in class even when their parents and/or teachers think they really know the information.

The following ten general strategies are offered to help students develop a more efficient and effective memory.

1. Give directions in multiple formats

Students benefit from being given directions in both visual and verbal formats. In addition, their understanding and memorizing of instructions could be checked by encouraging them to repeat the directions given and explain the meaning of these directions. Examples of what needs to be done are also often helpful for enhancing memory of directions.

2. Teach students to over-learn material

Students should be taught the necessity of "over-learning" new information. Often they practice only until they are able to perform one error-free repetition of the material. However, several error-free repetitions are needed to solidify the information.

3. Teach students to use visual images and other memory strategies

Another memory strategy that makes use of a cue is one called word substitution. The substitute word system can be used for information that is hard to visualize, for example, for the word occipital or parietal. These words can be converted into words that sound familiar that can be visualized. The word occipital can be converted to exhibit hall (because it sounds like exhibit hall). The student can then make a visual image of walking into an art museum and seeing a big painting of a brain with big bulging eyes (occipital is the region of the brain that controls vision). With this system, the vocabulary word the student is trying to remember actually becomes the cue for the visual image that then cues the definition of the word.

4. Give teacher-prepared handouts prior to class lectures

Class lectures and series of oral directions should be reinforced by teacher-prepared handouts. The handouts for class lectures could consist of a brief outline or a partially completed graphic organizer that the student would complete during the lecture. Having this information both enables students to identify the salient information that is given during the lectures and to correctly organize the information in their notes. Both of these activities enhance memory of the information as well. The use of Post-Its to jot information down on is helpful for remembering directions.

5. Teach students to be active readers

To enhance short-term memory registration and/or working memory when reading, students should underline, highlight, or jot key words down in the margin when reading chapters. They can then go back and read what is underlined, highlighted, or written in the margins. To consolidate this information in long-term memory, they can make outlines or use graphic organizers. Research has shown that the use of graphic organizers increases academic achievement for all students.

6. Write down steps in math problems

Students who have a weakness in working memory should not rely on mental computations when solving math problems. For example, if they are performing long division problems, they should write down every step including carrying numbers. When solving word problems, they should always have a scratch piece of paper handy and write down the steps in their calculations. This will help prevent them from losing their place and forgetting what they are doing.

7. Provide retrieval practice for students

Research has shown that long-term memory is enhanced when students engage in retrieval practice. Taking a test is a retrieval practice, i.e., the act of recalling information that has been studied from long-term memory. Thus, it can be very helpful for students to take practice tests. When teachers are reviewing information prior to tests and exams, they could ask the students questions or have the students make up questions for everyone to answer rather than just retelling students the to-be-learned information. Also, if students are required or encouraged to make up their own tests and take them, it will give their parents and/or teachers information about whether they know the most important information or are instead focused on details that are less important.

8. Help students develop cues when storing information

According to the memory research, information is easier retrieved when it is stored using a cue and that cue should be present at the time the information is being retrieved. For example, the acronym HOMES can be used to represent the names of the Great Lakes &mdash Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. The acronym is a cue that is used when the information is being learned, and recalling the cue when taking a test will help the student recall the information.

9. Prime the memory prior to teaching/learning

Cues that prepare students for the task to be presented are helpful. This is often referred to as priming the memory. For instance, when a reading comprehension task is given, students will get an idea of what is expected by discussing the vocabulary and the overall topic beforehand. This will allow them to focus on the salient information and engage in more effective depth of processing. Advance organizers also serve this purpose. For older students, Clif Notes for pieces of literature are often helpful aids for priming the memory.

10. Review material before going to sleep

It should be helpful for students to review material right before going to sleep at night. Research has shown that information studied this way is better remembered. Any other task that is performed after reviewing and prior to sleeping (such as getting a snack, brushing teeth, listening to music) interferes with consolidation of information in memory.

Care Delivery Systems

There has been steady improvement in the proportion of patients with diabetes treated with statins and achieving recommended levels of A1C, blood pressure, and LDL cholesterol in the last 10 years (2). The mean A1C nationally has declined from 7.6% (60 mmol/mol) in 1999–2002 to 7.2% (55 mmol/mol) in 2007–2010 based on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), with younger adults less likely to meet treatment targets compared with older adults (2). This has been accompanied by improvements in cardiovascular outcomes and has led to substantial reductions in end-stage microvascular complications.

Nevertheless, 33–49% of patients still do not meet targets for glycemic, blood pressure, or cholesterol control, and only 14% meet targets for all three measures and nonsmoking status (2). Evidence also suggests that progress in cardiovascular risk factor control (particularly tobacco use) may be slowing (2,3). Certain patient groups, such as young adults and patients with complex comorbidities, financial or other social hardships, and/or limited English proficiency, may present particular challenges to goal-based care (4–6). Even after adjusting for patient factors, the persistent variation in quality of diabetes care across providers and practice settings indicates that there is potential for substantial system-level improvements.

Chronic Care Model

Numerous interventions to improve adherence to the recommended standards have been implemented. However, a major barrier to optimal care is a delivery system that is often fragmented, lacks clinical information capabilities, duplicates services, and is poorly designed for the coordinated delivery of chronic care. The Chronic Care Model (CCM) has been shown to be an effective framework for improving the quality of diabetes care (7).

Six Core Elements

The CCM includes six core elements for the provision of optimal care of patients with chronic disease:

Delivery system design (moving from a reactive to a proactive care delivery system where planned visits are coordinated through a team-based approach)

Decision support (basing care on evidence-based, effective care guidelines)

Clinical information systems (using registries that can provide patient-specific and population-based support to the care team)

Community resources and policies (identifying or developing resources to support healthy lifestyles)

Health systems (to create a quality-oriented culture)

Redefining the roles of the health care delivery team and promoting self-management on the part of the patient are fundamental to the successful implementation of the CCM (8). Collaborative, multidisciplinary teams are best suited to provide care for people with chronic conditions such as diabetes and to facilitate patients’ self-management (9–11).

Key Objectives

The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) maintains an online resource ( to help health care professionals to design and implement more effective health care delivery systems for those with diabetes. Three specific objectives, with references to literature outlining practical strategies to achieve each, are as follows:

Objective 1: Optimize Provider and Team Behavior

The care team should prioritize timely and appropriate intensification of lifestyle and/or pharmacological therapy for patients who have not achieved beneficial levels of glucose, blood pressure, or lipid control (12). Strategies such as explicit goal setting with patients (13) identifying and addressing language, numeracy, or cultural barriers to care (14–17) integrating evidence-based guidelines and clinical information tools into the process of care (18–20) and incorporating care management teams including nurses, pharmacists, and other providers (21,22) have each been shown to optimize provider and team behavior and thereby catalyze reductions in A1C, blood pressure, and LDL cholesterol.

Objective 2: Support Patient Behavior Change

Successful diabetes care requires a systematic approach to supporting patients’ behavior change efforts, including

Healthy lifestyle choices (physical activity, healthy eating, tobacco cessation, weight management, and effective coping)

Disease self-management (taking and managing medications and, when clinically appropriate, self-monitoring of glucose and blood pressure)

Prevention of diabetes complications (self-monitoring of foot health active participation in screening for eye, foot, and renal complications and immunizations)

High-quality diabetes self-management education (DSME) has been shown to improve patient self-management, satisfaction, and glucose control. National DSME standards call for an integrated approach that includes clinical content and skills, behavioral strategies (goal setting, problem solving), and engagement with psychosocial concerns (23).

Objective 3: Change the Care System

An institutional priority in most successful care systems is providing high quality of care (24). Changes that have been shown to increase quality of diabetes care include basing care on evidence-based guidelines (18) expanding the role of teams to implement more intensive disease management strategies (6,21,25) redesigning the care process (26) implementing electronic health record tools (27,28) activating and educating patients (29,30) removing financial barriers and reducing patient out-of-pocket costs for diabetes education, eye exams, self-monitoring of blood glucose, and necessary medications (6) and identifying/developing/engaging community resources and public policy that support healthy lifestyles (31).

Initiatives such as the Patient-Centered Medical Home show promise for improving outcomes through coordinated primary care and offer new opportunities for team-based chronic disease care (32). Additional strategies to improve diabetes care include reimbursement structures that, in contrast to visit-based billing, reward the provision of appropriate and high-quality care (33), and incentives that accommodate personalized care goals (6,34).

Optimal diabetes management requires an organized, systematic approach and the involvement of a coordinated team of dedicated health care professionals working in an environment where patient-centered high-quality care is a priority (6).

Conducting an exhaustive literature review is your first step. As you search for journal articles, you will need to read critically across the breadth of the literature to identify these gaps. You goal should be to find a &lsquospace&rsquo or opening for contributing new research. The first step is gathering a broad range of research articles on your topic. You may want to look for research that approaches the topic from a variety of methods &ndash qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods. SAGE Research Methods Online, accessible on the Library&rsquos A-Z Databases page, is an excellent source for learning about research methodology.

Using the search technique called nesting , you can add these words to your search and limit to the abstract of the articles to quickly identify research that uses different methods. To learn more strategies and how to take advantage of advanced search features in article databases, see the Library&rsquos Research Methodology page.

Effective Teaching Practices for Students in Inclusive Classrooms

School teams spend precious time creating the foundations of inclusive programs for students with disabilities. Careful thought goes into scheduling co-taught classes, creating balanced classroom rosters, training co-teaching partners, developing collaborative relationships, and providing appropriate supports for students with disabilities (Walther-Thomas, Korinek, McLaughlin, & Williams, 2000).

However, even with well-planned inclusive services, general education teachers and co-teaching teams often struggle with how to effectively teach students with disabilities in general education classrooms. This article provides tips for inclusive practices that will assist general education teachers in meeting the educational needs of their students with disabilities.

Tips for Planning
  • Collaborate with special education teachers, related service providers, and paraprofessionals on a regular basis.

If you are co-teaching, commit to planning at least once a week with your co-teaching partner and determine your respective teaching responsibilities. Write your plans down and share the work load.

Use a variety of co-teaching methods, including:

1. Interactive Teaching - Teachers alternate roles of presenting, reviewing, and monitoring instruction.

2. Alternative Teaching - One person teaches, reteaches, or enriches a concept for a small group, while the other monitors or teaches the remaining students.

3. Parallel Teaching - Students are divided into mixed-ability groups, and each co-teaching partner teaches the same material to one of the groups.

4. Station Teaching - Small groups of students rotate to various stations for instruction, review, and/or practice.

Be aware of student needs and provide the accommodations listed in your students' individualized education programs.

Tips for Classroom Management
  • Create a structured classroom. This may include designating separate areas for group and individual work and centers for reading or art, as well as creating a daily class schedule.

Post the daily schedule incorporating color.

Provide opportunities for purposeful movement.

Develop classroom cues for settling down to work, getting out materials, and quieting down.

Plan for transition times (between subjects or tasks, before and after lunch, changing classes).

Help students organize their materials by using checklists, folders, and containers to keep materials organized in desks.

Visually monitor student activity.

Tips for Structuring Lessons
  • Differentiate instruction by using flexible grouping, providing activities that appeal to various learning-style preferences, giving students choices, and creating alternative activities and assessments (Tomlinson, 2001).

Think "universal design" when planning instruction. "The central premise of Universal Design for Learning is that a curriculum should include alternatives to make it accessible and appropriate for individuals with different backgrounds, learning styles, abilities, and disabilities in widely varied learning contexts" (CAST, 2004, 3). Incorporate three qualities of universal design when planning instruction:

1. Multiple means of representing content (visual and oral strategies),

2. Multiple means of students' expression of content (writing, illustrating, speaking), and

3. Flexible means of engagement as students learn (videos, software, and role-playing).

For more information on universal design, access the website of the Center for Applied Special Technology,

Provide opportunities for students to work in small groups and in pairs. If cooperative learning strategies are used, five conditions must be present: (a) The task must be authentic, worthwhile, and appropriate for students working in groups (b) Small-group learning must be the goal (c) Cooperative behavior should be taught to and used by students (d) Group work should be structured so that students depend on one another to complete a task successfully (e) Students should be held individually accountable (Putnam, 1998).

Use graphic organizers to assist students with organizing information in meaningful ways. For example, Bender (2002) suggests providing students with lesson outlines as note-taking tools.

Use the instructional sequence of "I do" (teacher model), "We do" (group practice), and "You do" (individual practice). Provide supports or scaffolds to students as they are learning new material and withdraw them when they are able to perform the task on their own (Bender, 2002).

Employ active learning strategies such as "think, pair, share" to promote recall and understanding of new learning. This strategy allows students to reflect individually on a question, pair up with a partner to share and compare answers, and finally give the best answer (Kagan, 1994). For more active learning strategies, download the Considerations Packet, Techniques for Active Learning. This packet is available from the College of William and Mary Training & Technical Assistance Center at

Teach learning strategies along with content material. Strategy instruction may be defined simply as instruction in how to learn and perform (Lenz, Deshler, & Kissam, 2004). "Learning strategies help students learn and perform by providing them with a specific set of steps for: (a) approaching new and difficult tasks, (b) guiding thoughts and actions, (c) completing tasks in a timely and successful manner, and (d) thinking strategically (Lenz et al., 2004, p. 261). Learning strategies may include organizing materials, memorizing information, taking notes, reading text, and taking tests.

Use ongoing informal and formal assessments to help inform instruction and monitor student progress.

To ensure success for students with disabilities in general education classrooms, teachers must plan collaboratively, create structured classrooms with clear rules and expectations, and teach content in meaningful and memorable ways.


Bender, W. N. (2002). Differentiating instruction for students with learning disabilities: Best practices for general and special educators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

CAST. Summary of universal design for learning concepts. Retrieved September 20, 2004, from

Kagan, S. (1994). Cooperative learning. San Clemente, CA: Kagan.

Lenz, B. K., Deshler, D. D., & Kissam, B. R. (2004). Teaching content to all: Evidence-based inclusive practices in middle and secondary schools. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Putnam, J. W. (1998). The process of cooperative learning. In J. W. Putnam (Ed.), Cooperative learning and strategies for inclusion: Celebrating diversity in the classroom (pp. 17-47). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed ability classrooms (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Walther-Thomas, C., Korinek, L., McLaughlin, V. L., & Williams, B. (2000). Collaboration for inclusive education: Developing successful programs. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.