6 Creative Teaching Strategies for Diverse Learners

According to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), meeting the needs of diverse learners is a responsibility. Teachers are committed to making sure that all students receive an equal and adequate education. Find research-based and teacher-approved strategies to teach diverse learners.

How To Meet the Needs of Diverse Learners

1. Make an IEP cheat sheet

Individualized education plans (IEP) are detailed documents. Make an IEP cheat sheet to store reminders about goals and accommodations to better reach and teach diverse learners.

2. Encourage active learning

Incorporate active learning strategies to engage all students in learning. Michigan State University’s Office of Medical Education Research and Development suggests the following as a way to teach diverse learners through active learning:

  • Group learning
  • Case-based learning
  • Group discussions and talk-and-turns
  • One-minute papers and one-sentence summaries
  • Demonstrations and memory matrixes

3. Embrace small-group instruction and learning stations

As a fourth-grade teacher, I learned to embrace small-group instruction to meet the needs of my diverse learners. When meeting with my students in a small group, I was able to provide lessons tailored to their needs.

In my class group small-group instruction involved splitting my class of 20 into five mixed-ability groups. Every day during math, I would do a whole-class introductory lesson that served as a lead-in for what we would learn. Then, students would look at the whiteboard and determine where their group was to start on the center rotation. My setup included:

  • Teacher Table: Daily Lesson (I taught this to each group).
  • Table 2: Math Facts in a Flash (handheld games/tablets practicing math facts).
  • Table 3: Review Roundup (worksheets/games that review concepts students already understood).
  • Table 4: Dice and Card Center
  • Table 5: Create a Test/Writing Prompt/Journaling (activities vary, but create a test requires students to pull a topic such as addition, subtraction, etc. and then create math problems and an accompanying answer sheet).

Students rotated tables clockwise at my signal (with a timer, of course) until everyone had been to the teacher table. The results were amazing! All students understood the material better.

You should consider including small-group instruction into your weekly routine in some way as it helps address knowledge gaps. Additionally, it promotes collaboration and communication among students, gives more opportunities for feedback, and encourages independent learning. Find additional suggestions and guidelines for effective small-group teaching from the University of New South Wales Sydney.

4. Promote project-based learning

While you are differentiating your teaching, consider project-based learning (PBL). Project-based learning is a way of helping students understand what is being taught through hands-on activities. During PBL activities, kids work together to solve real-world problems by coming up with solutions together. The real ingredients of project-based learning activities used to teach diverse learners are:

  • The academic content itself (the topic you’re teaching)
  • Real-world scenarios that make the material more relevant
  • A sense of purpose (end goal)
  • Opportunities to practice collaboration
  • 21st-century skills
  • Student-focused activities with ample choice
  • Opportunities for self-reflection

The following is an example of project-based learning:

A history teacher is looking for a way to help his students better understand the impact that legislature and the Trail of Tears had on Native American communities. Instead of having them read a passage or do a traditional research project, she assigns them to small groups.

Then, she asks them to come up with a better way the government could have continued on with U.S. expansion without negatively affecting the populations that had lived in the U.S. for thousands of years before European settlers arrived.

Because he wanted students to have a choice in their learning, the teacher made the project open-ended. This permitted students to present their plan any way they wanted to. Some suggestions included a skit, papers, or visual presentations.

5. Incorporate ed-tech and adaptive learning tools

Another suggestion for finding creative ways to teach students is to incorporate ed-tech and adaptive learning tools.

6. Provide alternative testing options

The fact that we traditionally test on paper doesn’t mean that it’s the only acceptable way. Instead, you should differentiate your approach by allowing students to answer orally, through drawings (pictures), and with the use of their notes.

Doing a quick search for “alternative assessments” will bring up tons of creative testing ideas for every type of student. This will allow you to evaluate your students better and improve your own teaching.

This article was adapted from a blog post initially developed by the education technology company Classcraft, which was acquired by HMH in 2023. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.


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