HAPPY NEW YEAR! We hope everyone has had a lovely start to the new year, both inside and outside of the classroom!

Today’s blog will be about techniques to use in your classroom for students with learning disabilities and for behaviourally challenging students. At BELL, one of the focuses for our CLIL teacher training is on managing students with special education needs.

As teachers, we of course want to engage all of our students, however it may be difficult for some children to participate in a traditional way and so adapting your lessons can be very beneficial. 

For many students with learning disabilities and challenging behaviours structure, organisation, and routine are very important and beneficial.

Back to school

An organised and structured routine helps make a child feel safe, secure and calm. It allows students to know what is expected from them and helps them manage their time and behaviour better. This will allow the child to build confidence in themselves while preparing for upcoming tasks. Tip: let your students know in advance of any changes to the typical schedule.

Your other students can be a great support for their peers with special education needs. It is a great way to teach empathy, kindness, and encourage all your students to get along and help each other reach their full potential.

When teaching students with learning disabilities, the most important thing to do is try to recognise their learning disability and adapt your lessons to cater to this. 

Ways to adapt your lessons:

  • Give the child different ways to do something (e.g. instead of writing a word, they can say a word aloud)
  • Make sure you are being very comprehensive (i.e. explain the activity using very simple language – you can even directly explain it to them one-on-one as the other students get ready for the activity)
  • Give them their instructions in multiple ways: verbal, written, and spoken (visual aids can often help students with learning disabilities – another reason why we love flashcards!)
  • Give them a buddy to work with and let the other students help out (encourage teamwork!)
  • Give them other tasks (i.e. let them be your helper! – by holding the flashcards when you are introducing vocabulary to the class, or using their fingers to keep track of the team points during a game, or writing the points on the board, or handing out the papers)
  • Have the entire class do something that they really like (e.g. if a child with autism really loves sharks – have the entire class sing ‘Baby Shark’ with them!)
  • Positive reinforcement and rewards (give a lot of praise and reward them with something they really like, such as playing their favourite game, if they are doing well)

With behaviourally challenging students the most effective way to deal with difficult behaviour is to prevent it. Of course, that is easier said than done – however it all starts with classroom management.

A comprehensive classroom management plan lets you implement classroom routines, develop strategies to keep students organised and implement positive behaviour support systems. It is important to create a classroom environment that reinforces positive behaviour.

Some steps to follow:

  1. Try to understand why they are behaving this way (i.e. maybe they do not understand the activity or maybe they are engaging in attention-seeking behaviours) and what the consequence is after the behaviour (e.g. attention from peers – having to sit out so they don’t have to participate anymore)
  2. Define what is inappropriate behaviour and what is acceptable behaviour for this student
  3. Find out what they like and use that to create a positive reinforcement reward system
  4. Use effective discipline and truly follow through with your behaviour plan

A great tool to use is a positive reinforcement reward system. This is a point system that provides points for the behaviours or academic tasks that you want to reinforce and increase; points are rewarded for preferred behaviours.

How to create a behaviour plan and reward system:

  • identify the behaviours you want to increase and decrease
  • determine the items, activities, or privileges that can be earned by the points (pay attention to what your students prefer to do in their free time) or use a reward menu to discover your student’s preferences
  • decide on the number of points earned for each preferred behaviour, and the time frame for wining prizes or the reward
  • decide how points will be delivered (e.g. as a tally on a piece of paper or stars on the board)

Positive Reinforcement Reward System Example:

  • An 8-year-old child refuses to do any work or participate – he loves to colour and enjoys playing with trains.
    • Reward System Example: for every minute he participates or does his work, he can earn a coloured star on a piece of paper. If he earns all the colours in the rainbow, then he gets five minutes to colour or play with his trains. After some time, increase it to: for every two minutes he participates or does his work, he gets five minutes to colour or play with his trains. Friends can also be included in the reward and play with him!
Use other students to support the child

Extra tips:

  • react to unwanted/bad behaviours with a neutral facial expression (i.e. not impressed, not happy, not angry – just neutral)
  • react to preferred/good behaviours with a lot of positive reinforcement
  • follow through with consequences (both positive and negative)

Important Highlights:

  • Adapt your lessons, games, and activities to suit the child
  • Use other students to support the child
  • Create a behaviour plan
  • Use a lot of positive reinforcement and rewards


  • Two Resolutions and One Lie
    • Have everyone tell the class two (or one) of their real New Year’s resolutions and one fake resolution. Have the students guess which one is the fake resolution.

Happy teaching and let’s make 2020 a fantastic year to remember! We hope to see you soon, whether that be for a TIE show, a CLIL week, a summer camp or our exploring abroad trip!

Leave Your Reply