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Arkansas State University

Tactics for Teaching Diverse Learners

A career in reading education today relies on the individual learning needs of today’s diverse classrooms. Differentiated learning helps students in the diverse classroom succeed, but it can be difficult to meet each student’s needs. In a typical classroom, you may be teaching reading to English Language Learners, students with disabilities or special needs, and students from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Teaching such diverse students requires a serious commitment to flexibility and experimentation — and a lot of hard work. In an online Master of Science in Education in Reading program, you will have the opportunity to study methods and strategies for creating a successful classroom for all types of students.

Teaching Reading to English Language Learners

One of the challenges of reading education is teaching reading to English Language Learners (ELLs). The number of these students is increasing rapidly. While pursuing a master’s degree in reading, you will become well-versed in many strategies to help ELLs improve their reading and fluency.

Teachers should base each student’s instruction on their individual strengths and weaknesses, which teachers can glean from both formal and informal assessments. With this information, the teacher can design differentiated lessons that cater to each student. In addition, the small group instruction, activities and interactions in an integrated classroom are very effective in teaching reading to English Language Learners.

Teaching Reading to Students with Disabilities

The vast majority of students with disabilities do not have cognitive impairments; thus, their ability to read is unimpaired. For these students, there many adaptive technologies and strategies that can help their reading, such as braille readers and modern speech recognition software for people with visual impairments. For the small percentage of cognitively impaired students, both direct individualized instruction and integrated small group instruction can be effective.

Teaching Reading in the Multicultural Classroom

Teaching reading to a diverse classroom can be challenging, but it is also a wonderful opportunity to build multicultural understanding. As with most effective teaching, working with students from different cultures means understanding those cultures and how each student learns best, both in school and at home. This is no different from any other form of differentiated instruction, but the difference is inclusive multicultural content.

Traditionally, the majority of content in the reading classroom concerned the dominant culture without representing minorities. Providing multicultural literature helps students of different cultures relate to what they are reading; they feel valued, and they develop motivation. In addition, it helps students learn about each other’s cultural backgrounds.

Whether teaching reading to English Language Learners, students with disabilities or special needs, students from various cultural and economic walks of life, or all of the above, the common thread of effective reading instruction is utilizing the diversity within the classroom. In most situations, students benefit not only from individualized differentiated instruction but also from working with other students of varying abilities and backgrounds. For the aspiring reading teacher earning a master’s degree in reading, these and other methods of teaching diverse learners will become essential tools. Diversity itself is a great educational opportunity.

Learn more about Arkansas State University’s Online Master of Science in Education in Reading.


Edutopia: Integrating ELL Students in General Education Classes Strategies to Support Multicultural Instruction

Huffington Post: Why Teach Multicultural Literature?

Reading Rockets: Effective Reading Interventions for Kids with Learning Disabilities

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