Strategies for slow learners

Teachers should ask questions and enable all learners to participate. / Net photo.

Learners have dissimilar potential, some learn in class, others understand a topic better when they read, and some students find it hard to grasp what is being taught, leading to poor performance or failure. 

A slow learner is defined as a child of below average intelligence, whose thinking skills have developed significantly more slowly than the norm for his/her age. This child will go through the same basic developmental stages as other children, but will do so at a significantly slower rate.


However, experts say it is important to encourage slow learners by working with them patiently and celebrating their successes. 


Assisting slow learners in class


Isa Kiyingi, a language teacher at CCI-Essi-Nyamirambo, recommends that all learners who tend to be slow be helped by the teacher through grouping — those who are at the same level of learning fast, and those who are a bit slow — placed in small groups, or individually, and helped while the others work out the other tasks. 

Secondly, to avoid being passive, the teacher may draft for them content of their own to help them catch up with the others. Cutting studying out may be a result of inability to learn like others do, due to a lot of factors. The teacher’s role is to see that learners have equal rights towards participation (may give tokens to students when the token lapses then stop sharing or talking and give another person a chance), he adds.

“Let these students be given room to air out and ask questions where they are stuck. They should also be given time to internalise knowledge and familiarise before the final production of their own,” Kiyingi states.

He also points out that teachers must give learners the chance to interact with the authentic materials. In this, manipulation of objects and pictures, as well as videos and audio materials, may be a better way of delivering lessons since many people internalise visual objects twice as fast as the content given. 

Kiyingi adds that the role of a teacher should be to explain vague and complex topics that may seem to be thorns in the journey of learning. In other words, teachers too may look into their ways of lesson preparation and delivery, if they involve 20 out of 80 students, rather than the teacher’s instructions.  

They should draft lessons which are more inclusive and well-endowed with critical, awakening and brainstorming parts, that stimulates the learners’ auto-recall of previous covered topics such as the assessment of learners, he notes.

“This can highly increase a large number of slow learners rather than fast ones. But if the teachers revise their lesson delivery tactics, they will deliver memorable, understandable and durable content that will be enhanced by lesson planning,” he says. 

Kiyingi also highlights that teachers should help out all learners despite their educational backgrounds, by modelling the lesson with lots of scaffolding, use of demonstrations or roleplaying, and this will be a great success to all learners. 

Along the way when groups or pairs are created, let the slow learners take up more difficult tasks than the others, since it will encourage the faster learners to explain to them in detail due to the fear of failure. A teacher is like a candle, when it burns out, then teaching will seem to be a burden to them, Kiyingi adds. 

Richard Kaweesi, Chief Executive of Brain Teasers Rwanda, notes that slow learners should be given extra time to be tutored, especially in subjects that they struggle with. 

“Teachers ought to give learners a chance to discuss how much they have understood a topic, and even if they are wrong, don’t discourage them, rather, help them understand thoroughly the specific subject. All they need is not to be left out when other students are participating in class,” he states. 

Divin Lionel Dushimimana, a student at Green Hills Academy Nyarutarama, says that students’ interests should be celebrated not only in the classroom, for instance, through signing them up for extra-curricular activities, such as athletics or arts. It is important to know what a student is interested in and give them a chance to try it out.

He adds that homework can also assist slow learners improve in classwork, that’s if they make effort to do it by themselves. Parents should only come in to help where the learner needs assistance, otherwise if the homework is done for them, they will not learn.

Dushimimana adds that teachers shouldn’t be fast while teaching, but considerate and even repeat learning points, this enables the slow learners to get to know the subject better. 

Teachers should ask questions and enable all learners to participate, so that they are convinced that all learners are up-to-date with what they teach.

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