Tips For Teaching Art To A Group Of Special Needs Students

When teaching a group of students with special needs it can be challenging to know how to structure your class to meet everyone’s abilities and needs.  Here are some tips on what have worked for me.

  • Structure like a studio art class with some structure and ideas but with options for each student to work on their own ideas. The first challenge is to assess skill levels and how much assistance each of your students may need.  Start your first class with a simple project.  Start with something simple like an abstract design using color and lines and shapes.  Demonstrate how to do it.  Keep it very simple and basic.  Observe how each student does with this.
  • For some students this will be extremely easy and they may express that to you.  Observe which students are able to draw lines and shapes.  Some students may struggle with this.  Identify the students that are most independent, students who need some assistance and students who need one to one assistance.   I do this with younger kids and older kids.  This first project gives you the opportunity to observe and come up with a plan and ideas for adapting the lessons you teach.
  • For your next class decide on a lesson.  Whatever idea, theme or materials you have decided on.  Present and demonstrate your lesson.  Let your students know that they can choose to work on your lesson idea or they can work on their own.  Help the more independent students get started.  Next help your students who need some level of support get started.  Walk through the first step with them.  Observe anyone who may be struggling.  Demonstrate the next step of the lesson. Move through your group and give a few minutes of one to one time to the students who need it.  Move to the next step of the lesson. 
  • Continue to observe and provide any help your student may need.  It may seem like some of your students have to spend time waiting for your help.  Many of them are used to this.  They will just be happy to get to participate and have real help.  Some of your students will finish quickly and need another project.  Let them experiment on their own.   

As you do more classes and get to know your students you will come up with more ideas for adapting projects and ideas for them.  Do not get discouraged.  Your first few classes may seem like you are not having success.  The key is persistence and experimenting.  Some things will fail and some things will be more successful.  The more you do this the more tricks you will learn.

 
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