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Managing a classroom with students with severe disabilities

When presenting a lesson, effective teachers use a number of techniques that can enhance student achievement. These teaching practices encompass four different skills: eliciting frequent responses, maintaining an appropriate pace during the lesson, maintaining student attention and monitoring student responses.

Eliciting responses when working with students who have severe disabilities will promote student learning. Research has shown that there is a strong positive correlation between student achievement and the amount of time spent in question-answering type interactions. Students who are continually asked to give some type of response tend to be more attentive during instruction. The teacher, continually receiving feedback, is able to adjust the lesson to provide better instruction. Responses may be verbal or non-verbal.

Maintaining an appropriate pace helps maintain the attention of the learners and increases the amount of content coverage. Effective teachers can maintain an appropriate pace by being well prepared for the lesson and eliciting responses from students while taking the time needed to respond appropriately using decreasing prompting (physical and/or verbal).

Maintaining student attention is often more difficult with students who have severe disabilities. Teachers need to systematically adjust their teaching practices to increase student attention. Attention given to tasks can be increased by using verbal, visual, auditory, tactile and olfactory materials and reinforcers.

Monitoring student responses and adjusting instruction are very important. An accomplished teacher must be able to modify the lesson to meet the needs of each student. Effective teachers ensure that all students are called upon and they provide good eye contact to all students. They also allow an adequate amount of time for all students to formulate answers.