4 Strategies For Exceptional Learners

educational tips exceptional learners teacher tips Dec 22, 2020
4 Helpful Strategies For Exceptional Learners

      Whether you have a self-contained class of exceptional learners or a few are part of the general population of your classes, having strategies on hand to help these students will help them (and you!) in the long run. The great thing about these strategies is that they will help any students in your room, not just exceptional learners. Let’s go through some of these strategies and learn how we can help all of our students!

Visual Schedule 

      Visual schedules are so useful! First, they help you as the teacher to stay on track with time management. There have been many times when I’ve gotten really into an activity, or really frazzled by something, and having a schedule readily available helped get me back on track. It helps me with my pacing, which in turn helps classroom management. What could be better than that?!

      For our exceptional learners, visual schedules are key to helping them know what to expect. Surprises, or the unknown in general, are often hard for these students to process. A visual schedule of some sort helps students know what’s currently happening in class, and what’s to come. This helps ease their minds and engage easier with the content. There are so many benefits to visual schedules!

2. Microphone!

      I cannot recommend microphones enough! I use mine anytime I am speaking with the class, giving instructions, or explaining material. I typically turn it off when singing because our microphones are sensitive, but I know other music teachers who use theirs the whole time! These help students who have auditory processing disorders or hearing loss to focus easier on your voice. Using microphones also helps prevent you from straining (and losing) your voice. Protect your voice and help your students at the same time!

3. Expected routines

      When students know what to expect, they are more at ease. This doesn’t mean doing the exact same thing every day; that wouldn’t make sense! It means having a clear, set structure to your class. For example, my students know that I address them in the hallway with a summary of the day before they come in, then they find a seat on one of the dots in our circle, we do a mindfulness activity, and then we begin our activities for the day. If I happen to forget one of the steps of this routine, I can immediately tell. Whatever works for your classes, make sure to be consistent!

4. Larger staff lines

      One thing that surprised me when I first started teaching happened when I was teaching the notes on the staff. I projected staff lines up onto the whiteboard, and everyone seemed to be doing well with that concept. Once I passed out white boards (the kinds with the smaller lines, multiple staves per board), several students struggled with being able to identify which notes go where. 

      After a few days of this, one student mentioned “they’re so much smaller!” It clicked for me: Some students struggle with spatial awareness, so transferring the huge whiteboard staff onto a tiny, personal whiteboard was hard! The solution was easy: Larger staves for the students. The students performed much better after that change was made. When faced with a problem like this, always ask yourself: What has changed from the group concept to the personal? You might just be surprised!

      Of course, these are not the only strategies for exceptional learners. There are all sorts of tried and true ways out there to help every student, no matter what may be on their IEP. If you’re looking for new ways to make your music classroom more accommodating for all students, be sure to check out our free resource: Serving Exceptional Learners

What are some strategies that have worked for you? Let us know in the comments!


This article was submitted by Rachel Ammons contributing author for ThatMusicTeacher.com. Interested in becoming a contributing author? Email resume and writing sample to [email protected]