How to Deal with a Slow Learner

Slow learners may require some additional support.

Teachers must face the challenge of instructing students of varying ability levels, often simultaneously. If a student is a particularly slow learner, this can present a problem for the teacher as she must allow him time to grasp the material without slowing the progress of the rest of the class. If your current student load contains a child who needs a little extra help -- or perhaps just extra time -- the way in which you deal with the student and his needs could play an important part in determining how academically successful the child ultimately ends up becoming.

Pinpoint the specific problem. Instead of just placing a blanket “slow learner” label on the child in question, figure out specifically what is presenting a problem for her. If you can determine which area of learning the child is struggling with most acutely, you can more effectively tend to her needs. To make this determination, monitor her closely and take notes on her apparent areas of difficulty.

Try an assortment of interventions. While some learners just move at a slow pace regardless of what you do, many can benefit from interventions. If you discover, for example, that a student struggles to copy notes down, slowing his class progress, you could offer him printed copies of the notes instead of asking him to painstakingly copy them. Try an array of different interventions to ensure that you adopt one that is a perfect fit.

Provide just the right amount of support. Though you will almost certainly need to assist slow learners for them to be able to reach their learning goals, you shouldn’t over-assist them either. Take care not to provide an excessive amount of support, as doing so could hinder the learner’s ability to function independently. To reduce the likelihood that you provide too much support, start by only providing a little then gradually increase the support as you find that more support is necessary.

Partner the learner with stronger peers. By grouping your slower learner with a strong peer, you can provide him a support system. This arrangement also helps the higher-performing peer, as it gives her a chance to reteach information, something that can help cement knowledge for her as well.

Focus on growth. Depending upon how slow the learner in question may be, he may never reach the same level as his peers. Instead of focusing only upon getting the student to the academic level at which he should be performing, allow him to feel success by focusing instead upon growth. As he improves, celebrate each success and, in doing so, show him that you value his efforts.

Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.