Vol 10.4  |  October 12, 2022  |  View in your browser

Practical Support for Struggling Learners
Lindsey Estes

“Every student learns differently, not better, not worse.” –Unknown
Every student that walks into our classrooms is uniquely created by God and has a different set of strengths than the student sitting next to them. Just like our students are each unique, so is their ability to learn and apply their learning. Some students need additional support when learning. For some it may be a particularly challenging season socially or emotionally, and they are distracted; for others it may be a difficult concept to grasp, or they may struggle with particular subject much of their academic career. As teachers it is our job to teach and support the broad range of learning abilities in our classrooms, so how do we do that realistically?

As teachers it is our job
to teach and support the broad range
of learning abilities in our classrooms.

Differentiation. Scaffolding. Response to Intervention. All three are key phrases that have been thrown around when it comes to supporting struggling learners. These buzz-word phrases can often feel like yet another thing to keep up with in teaching. Teachers are already managing a lot, and when we add on new strategies, procedures, or new ways to do something it can feel like all too much. While differentiation and scaffolding are both necessary things in the classroom to support our learners, some of the best strategies are those that are doable, practical, and realistic for everyday lessons. These strategies aren’t formal plans, they aren’t another section on the lesson plan you need to write. They are tried and true practices you can incorporate in your everyday teaching.
Growth Mindset
Many students who struggle in school become pessimistic, discouraged, and lose motivation for learning. Creating a growth mindset in your classroom can be a powerful tool not just for your struggling learners, but for all students. There is power in students saying, “I can’t do this YET.” In doing so, they demonstrate hope and optimism that gives them the drive to persevere in the moment of not mastering or completing a task.
For all our students, pointing out their growth is important, but it is particularly encouraging for students who struggle. Instead of focusing on what their end mark is, point out how much they grew. I have even found graphing out data points helpful for students to visually see how much they are growing. This growth encourages students to continue working hard and pressing forward.
Utilize Multisensory Learning When Possible
Multisensory learning is when sight, sound, and touch are used to learn new information. Research has shown that children learn best when all of their senses have been activated. A holistic teaching method – Whole Brain Teaching – has been developed based on this theory on multisensory learning.
[2] When children can see a concept, hear about it, and do it with hands-on activities or motions, it is easier for students to retain the information they learned. This could be making up hand motions to new vocabulary words, creating songs or posters for new concepts, or utilizing manipulatives.
Give Students Think Time
As teachers we want to get through our lessons and continue something, but not all students think fast. Often teachers wait less than two seconds after asking a question before calling on students to answer. If we wait five to ten seconds for students to really think about their answers, we are giving more students the opportunity to think and answer. It also gives students the opportunity to be able to elaborate on their answer.
Let Students Choose
When students can choose their activity, they are more likely to maintain interest and motivation. Giving students choice also helps students feel that they are in charge of their learning. This gives students the opportunity to feel empowered in their learning even when it may be challenging for them. This can be as simple as providing three options to practice the same skill (e.g., write a journal entry, record a video, or create a model to explain the water cycle).
Reinforce Concepts
Reinforcing concepts can happen in a variety of ways - small group instruction, a review at the start of the next lesson, one-on-one teaching, practice opportunities, and peer teaching. Some students will need additional explanations and reinforcement of topics. Be sure to build in opportunities to practice skills, review, and intervene when necessary. Building in opportunities for reinforcement of topics into your lesson doesn’t just help your struggling learners, it helps all your students. Spend five minutes at the start of the lesson reviewing the prior days material, prior knowledge skills, key vocabulary, or completing a warmup review.
Pray & Seek Help
Two of the most important strategies to support struggling learners are to pray and seek help when needed. Pray for wisdom in supporting each of your students’ needs. Pray for their minds to be moldable and willing to learn. Pray for motivation when they may feel discouraged. As teachers we want to see each student succeed, and sometimes that means we also need to seek help from those around us. If you are struggling to support a student, reach out to another teacher, a special education teacher, or others in education you know. You can also contact our School Services department ( We weren’t created to do everything, and sometimes those outside a situation can provide us with creative techniques and strategies to support our learners.
Love your students well as you teach, encourage, and empower them with knowledge. Even now, take a moment to pray for your students and consider which of the above practices you could incorporate into your lessons this week.
Lindsey Estes serves as TeachBeyond's Associate Regional Director for Africa. She has taught at the elementary level in Africa for several years. She enjoys equipping teachers to be successful facilitators of learning and transformation.

[1] See for more information on growth mindsets.
[2] See


Photo Credits:
Mindset Bulletin Board. E. Burnham. Used with permission.
Multisensory Learning. E. Burnham. Used with permission.
Woman Praying.
Shutterstock. Cropped & resized.
Copyright © 2022 TeachBeyond, All rights reserved.

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