The Basics of Adjusting Your Teaching
Style to Students’ Learning Styles Sharon Longert
Everyday we make instructional decisions before, during, and after we
meet our students. These decisions lead us to tailor instruction
to individuals or groups in our classrooms. Often the populations
we work with have been labeled and our decisions are made in terms
of these labels.
But within a label we will likely find
academically diverse learners and this is why we need
to move beyond the labels and make curriculum choices
that complement our students’ interests, strengths
and needs. Helping students to link what they are learning
to daily living experiences keeps them engaged and motivated
in the learning process.
The effective teacher is constantly making decisions about how to present
information to achieve this, as well as monitoring and adjusting presentations
to accommodate individual differences and enhance the learning of all
When presenting content, effective
teachers gain their students’ attention, interact
positively with the students, review previously covered
material, and provide an organization for the material,
(e.g., graphic organizers, outlines, anticipation guides).
Clear directions, adequate examples, and practice need
to be provided in a relevant context for students.
In addition, it is always important to keep in mind that some students
learn facts more easily, while others are more adept at grasping concepts,
some prefer concrete examples, others prefer abstract examples. Now to
some specific basics.
We take listening for granted, and like anything taken for granted, it’s
important to occasionally revisit it for a fresh perspective. With that
in mind, consider the following:
Listening is the cornerstone of
Listening requires directing one’s
attention to what is being said and then making sense
Listening is a skill and requires
Students spend over half of their
time in school listening.
Most students can think at a much
faster rate than people can speak, in order to gain
and maintain students’ attention, they need to
be listening first.
Some special needs students may
need more time to process information while listening.
To ensure that all students are listening
to the lesson, stop periodically and ask them to summarize
in their own words; record any questions they have; respond
or react to anything they have heard; or record, draw
or write any other things that capture their thoughts.
These form the basis for a Speak, Listen, Respond Log.
Activating Prior Knowledge
The prior knowledge a student brings to the lesson is key to linking
to other learning. Effective teachers do not make assumptions about
students’ prior knowledge, rather they plan for them.
Review the content or skills from
the previous lesson. This is the place for scaffolding
information, as well as checking that skills from the
previous lessons are accurately acquired. If the lessons
haven’t been understood, now is the time to reteach
Provide an anticipatory set to students
at the start of the lesson to pique their interest
and to help them connect to the content.
Reveal the key components of the
lesson to students so they can be motivated to respond
and practice what they learn.
Reviewing the previous lesson provides distributed practice (a little
bit each time repeatedly), and over time the information becomes
automatic and can be called up from memory with little effort. These
reviews are brief, fast and engaging and serve as a launching pad
for the new lesson. Students can become the “teacher” for
this portion of the lesson. A brief pre-planning meeting with student
reviewers will ensure that they understand the format, content and
the time period for delivery of the review.
Monitoring involves making decisions about how to provide feedback and
how to keep students actively engaged while delivering instruction.
Feedback should be immediate, frequent and provide explicit information
that supports correct responses and models for improving incorrect
responses. One way to monitor students’ progress is by walking
around the classroom while the students are responding in their Logs.
This is the perfect opportunity to provide clarification or to have
students work with a study buddy. (Adapted from Merrill Harmin’s Strategies
to Inspire Active Learning, Christopher-Gordon Publishers, 1995).
I hope you’ve found these basics
helpful. If you have a question or suggestion, don’t
hesitate to e-mail
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