Teacher’s Corner: Tips To Maintain Engagement For Students With Learning Differences

edtech solutions Teachers Corner webinar: december 2021

Thank you for joining us for today’s brand-new Teacher’s Corner.

Today’s topic is something we hear about frequently from teachers and parents: how ebooks can maintain engagement for learners who may struggle with focus or staying on task. So today, we are discussing some common learning differences and what teachers can do to encourage a successful learning environment. We also demonstrate some of those helpful tools and accessibility options that we have in our ebook reader at EdTech Solutions, RedShelf.

Topics include Tips for Students with…

  • ADHD
  • Anxiety
  • Sensory Processing Disorder
  • Dyslexia
  • Autism

Online Tools Referenced:


Note Taking Tips

Read the transcript below:

Ebook Integration and Your LMS


Hello everyone. Thank you for joining us for today’s brand-new Teacher’s Corner. Today’s topic is something we hear about frequently from teachers and parents. And I’m very excited to introduce two of our team members who bring classroom experience, as former teachers. Augustina and Angel are here to talk today about how ebooks can maintain engagement for learner who may struggle with focus or staying on task. So today, Augustina is going to discuss some common learning differences and what teachers can do to encourage a successful learning environment. And Angel’s going to demonstrate some of those helpful tools and accessibility options that we have in our reader at EdTech Solutions. As always, a recording of this webinar will be available on our website at edtechsolutions.com, along with links to any of the resources that we’ll discuss today. So at this time, I am excited to turn it over to you, Augustina.


Thank you. Okay. So first I’m going to talk about what’s helpful to all students. And all of these are going to be things that you might see in an IEP or 504, but I’ve used in the classroom with all students, because all students need some help. School is really, really hard, and students have a lot to deal with. So helpful for all. The very first thing when talking about student differences in learning is talking about your own differences in learning. So, if you’ve ever had struggles in the past, just with tests versus essays or concentration, if you had struggles with math versus science versus reading. Just having your students know that that’s a normal thing to happen to everybody really helps. And it really helps them talk about what they’re struggling with so that you can best help them. So definitely talking about any sort of mental health that you notice that students are dealing with, whether it’s anything like ADHD, dyslexia, reading comprehension issues, anything like that, just have it be a norm in your classroom that those things happen in every single classroom.

So I’m going to give a couple of actual classroom strategies for everyone. So, the biggest thing that I found that helped students is repetition, reading things out loud and having visual cues. So if you have a bunch of tests, it doesn’t matter if you’re in kindergarten or in 12th grade, reading the questions out loud before the test really helps students, especially if they’re so nervous that they’re not going to understand the question, not even if they just know the knowledge that that question is based off of. So having the entire class read the questions out loud, having them ask questions about the wording of the question, not necessarily what is the answer to this question, it would really help. Homework assignments. You can do it for in-class assignments.

Having visual cues on the board. So their schedule, any sort of timer. A lot of students focus more on how much time they have left instead of what they’re actually doing. So having a visual timer really helps for them. And then having actual tasks. So not just, I want you to do the reading. It’s I need you to read three sentences. Then I need you to highlight two words in each sentence. Then I need you to turn and talk to a partner about the two things you highlighted and why they’re important. Those kind of things. So break down big chunks of tasks into really little consumable things that teenagers and children can deal with.

And the last thing to help all students is holding students accountable. So just because your student has something like ADHD or reading comprehension or anxiety doesn’t mean that they cannot function like all of the other students in your classroom. And if you are holding all of your other students accountable, and you’re giving this crutch to one of the students that has some sort of IEP, 504 or whatever, they’re going to use that crutch. And they’re probably going to sustain that crutch forever after high school. So holding them accountable and telling them, “Yes, I understand that your processing is different, but you can manage them using these tools,” will definitely help in the long run.

Tips for Students with ADHD:

So, I’m going to talk about some of the most common learning difficulties that I’ve faced just with my personal students. The biggest one is ADHD. And then for each of these, we’ll go through. And then Angel will go through the RedShelf app and then show you what is best for each of these and how these actually work.

Proximity: So just go to the student’s desk, even if you’re facing away from the student’s desk, just them knowing that you are two feet away from them instead of half a classroom away from them really helps them focus and stay on task.

Checklists: Having them do desk checklists. So, if you have an Expo marker or anything, and you have a checklist on the student’s desk for things like ‘take out your pencil,’ ‘put your backpack away,’ and if they have to check every single time they get one of those tasks done, that really helps. So checklists for everything. And it’s something that they can internalize and then do forever.

Movement: They need to move a lot. All students need to move a lot. So have them go to the board and do work on the board, do it as a group work so you’re not having one student at the board at a time, which is really stressful.

Novelty: If they each have Expo markers have them write on their desk. If they don’t have a whiteboard, write on the desk, and then just get Clorox wipes to clean it up, because they will focus more on the Expo marker with their desk than they ever will in a notebook with a pencil, which they do in every other class.

Quick/Short Recall: For reading comprehension, have them do short questions between reading. So have them read two or three sentences and then write a note about those two or three sentences. And you could have a five word maximum. You’re only allowed to write five words about the last two or three sentences you wrote, so that next time they read it, they’re not reading paragraphs about the paragraphs that they just read. So just have them summarize.

Angel will show you how to do the notes, the highlighting, and all of that on RedShelf.


Taking notes and highlighting through RedShelf, as well as the use of bookmarks, can really help these students. Especially with even the comprehension, as she said, so that you can do just small bits at a time. I’m going to go ahead and share my screen and give some examples.

Highlighting Tools in RedShelf: Highlighting is fairly simple. You are going to go ahead and select whatever the text is that you would like to highlight. There are different options for colors, and it’s really good to define what your color is going to be for annotation. So you can use like red for main ideas, yellow for vocabulary, green for supporting facts, or blue for figures or data or statistics.

So if you’re highlighting each of those in different colors, that’s going to help with that process of note taking. And then you can also, once highlighted, create study guides later. And I’ll talk about that more at a later time. When you have just selected one word, so I’m going to go ahead and select ‘entrepreneurs’ it’ll also bring up a definition which will help with your reading comprehension. If you don’t recognize a word, just instantly getting a definition for that word is going to assist you in being able to place that context and understand the paragraph as well, because it goes both ways.

Bookmark Tool in RedShelf: You can also just use bookmarks. So I know that Augustina spoke with just having small portions that you’re going to complete at a time. So if I were to use the read-aloud feature. And I apologize, my zoom bar is right in the way.

If I were to use the read allowance feature…

There are several different options for that, which I’ll tell you more about later, but that’s going to also allow me to set a bookmark so that later I know if we’re talking about something, where I left off if I close it. If we have an in the classroom activity and I need to step away, when I come back, it’s going to help me to focus back in on the area that I was actually at. All right, go ahead. Let’s talk more about the classrooms.


Okay. So going back to ADHD, just to wrap that up. Any repetition of steps, questions, or having those visual cues, schools should be about testing the students’ knowledge, not how much concentration they can withhold a hundred percent of the time in the school day. So if you have to repeat a question or tell the student we were on this line in your book every once in a while, that’s okay, because that happens to everybody in every job forever. So it’s okay to repeat. I understand it’s a lot.

Tips for Students with Anxiety:

So definitely having students with anxiety in the classroom, especially social anxiety, answer questions out loud or read out loud, most people think about things that they have to do out loud a few seconds ahead of it. I know when I was a kid, I would count how many students were in front of me before I had to take my turn to read something. Students with social anxiety have that a hundred-fold.

Use RedShelf to Read Aloud: So, having them read aloud is pretty terrifying for them. Having a feature on RedShelf that can read aloud to them, that Angel just showed, is huge. And if you have students read that through the read aloud and then have them repeat it as a class so that the information sinks in more, they know all of the things that they’re reading. They’ve already heard it once. So they’re not worried about mispronouncing a word because they just heard it. So having the read-aloud feature is huge.

Tips for Oral presentations: If you have anything that the students have to do in front of the class, have all the other students work silently. They don’t have to stare at that student while they do. And this works for all students. Other kids can work on their oral presentation or draw silently or put their heads down so that they’re not all staring at the student that’s presenting, because that’s really hard for adults, let alone a 10 year old or a kid in high school. Teaching students to look at the people’s desks instead of at the people’s eyes. And so like no one knows where they’re looking and it looks like they’re looking at everyone, but they’re not. So just the little hints that you can give them that you yourself struggle with public speaking for is going to help all of those kids.

Give time for asking questions: Give students time at the end of the day to ask about homework assignments, anything that they didn’t understand, either coming to you at the back of the room or asking other students or writing it on a piece of paper and handing it to you will really help because a lot of students with social anxiety or just anxiety are not going to ask those questions and they’re going to fall behind, but they still have those questions. So having a classroom environment where question asking is really important will really help. And then just, if you’ve ever struggled with asking questions when you were a student, talk about that because that really helps those kids too.

Tips for Sensory Processing Disorder:

Then the next one. So we had read aloud on RedShelf that you just saw. And we had the flashcards that you guys just saw that helps with anxiety. The next one is sensory processing disorder. Some kids can get really overwhelmed by noise information.

  • If you have a lot of posters and decor in the classroom, try to minimize that because visual processing can be a lot too.

  • Let students work on the floor outside if you have time to go outside with your classroom. They don’t have to sit under the desks, that’s dangerous. But they can sit right next to the desk. They don’t have to lie down on the floor. But sitting in a chair all day, especially those school classroom chairs, is really uncomfortable.

  • Give a choice of where you want us sit so that you can work the best will help.

  • Playing instrumental music or having a calming scene, if you have a smartboard or a projector, really helps so that they can focus on one sound at a time. And it helps calm other students down. “If it gets too loud in here, the music has to go away,” really helps motivate students to just not talk. And then that lowers any of the auditory stimuli for any students with sensory processing disorder.

  • Moving students’ desks so that they’re not looking at everybody else or moving them to the back of the classroom if they have anxiety and they don’t want everyone looking at them. So just moving their desks around the classroom.

  • Keeping all of the students separated. So I understand a lot of classrooms have those group desks, but a lot of times that doesn’t work if there’s a sensory processing disorder, and you have a student who’s super, super messy, and they have everything under their desk next to a student that has a sensory processing disorder, and they can’t concentrate because that pencil is halfway onto their desk. And that’s the only thing they can concentrate on.

  • And then for RedShelf, having that read aloud gives them something to focus on. And then the headphones alone gives them a lot. It helps a lot for them.


Yeah, I agree. And just to touch on a few of the things that you just mentioned.

Alternative seating is huge. Not only for kids with sensory processing disorder, but also with kids that have ADHD or anything else. So having a standup station in your classroom is good too. I’ve actually taped a box on a floor and told a student, if you feel like you need to walk, go back to the box on the floor and you can just walk back and forth while you’re listening. They have wobble seats that are great to sit on, and they spin. They can either go sideways. They rock. There’s actually a few classrooms that I’ve heard of that have completely alternative seating, and the students can choose what they want for the day. The exercise balls are huge. You can get them with or without a stand.

I love playing music in my classroom. So that was great too. And yeah. So let’s say you are playing music in your classroom though, and it’s reading time, and you have somebody with a sensory processing disorder. Their use of headphones with the read aloud feature will allow them to focus directly in on the text that they’re supposed to be paying attention to. Gives them something, not only visually, but auditory for them to block out any distractions in the classroom.


Tips for Students with Dyslexia

Perfect. Okay. So the next one that I’ve seen that’s pretty common in the classroom is dyslexia or any form of reading comprehension, anything with writing. So I’ve had several students that have that motor function that’s not built in as well as it could be yet, just because that part their brain, those synapses aren’t as connected. So they write too hard or they write too soft. That’s not them just putting too much pressure on their pencil, it can be a form of dysgraphia. So having that and having practice with that really helps for all of those.

Having others read aloud directions, assignments, questions, texts, that help students with dyslexia, where they are struggling so much to pick apart the word that they are reading because the text is so jumbled or it’s backwards or it’s jumping out at the page really, really helps. They are so focused on trying to pick those words apart that they don’t understand what the whole sentence is saying. So having that read aloud to them really, really helps. That read-aloud technology, that is available on RedShelf. That’s huge for a student with dyslexia or any sort of reading comprehension. They can also summarize to show understanding. So if you’re worried that they’re just going to space out during the reading, they can draw a picture. They can write a five-word summary every few sentences to show their understanding.

Allow students to ask any questions about the wording of a text. So don’t embarrass a student if they are a senior and they come up to you and they ask what a word on a page says, they may not even be asking for the definition, they may just not be able to pick apart that word. Those bookmarks, use paper bookmarks as line readers so that they can keep their place. And then, if RedShelf has, and Angel, you can speak more to this. If RedShelf has a line reader, that would really help.


Yeah. So RedShelf, I’m going to go ahead and share my screen again. And there are a lot of options that you can have for RedShelf, including the personal view for your display. And that lets you change to larger words. So that’s really going to help somebody that has a hard time with breaking apart those words and focusing on small pieces at a time if there are fewer words on the screen. You can change the font to be one that is more friendly to whomever it is that’s reading. And you can also change the color. So that way, if you are able to see better with either sepia or black and reversed coloring, then that is available too.

You can make the spacing of words further apart so that it’s easier to split those words. You can also make them closer together, which can make it a little bit more jumbled. But each of the children can set up their own personal view. And once they have that, it will remember that as long as this personal view is turned on. And then you can also change the margins as well. So that is helpful. Then once they’ve got it set up to whatever it is that is going to help best for them, as she said, underlining would be good.

Okay, now that I’ve got that closed and it’s showing the whole screen, it’s going to start reading whatever is at the top of the page. So, let’s say I put, we’ll start at organization and so it underlines the word as it’s reading it.

I’m going to pause it because it’s hard to hear both of us at the same time. But it will underline each word as it’s reading it. It’s harder to tell because I changed in the personal view the background color. But it’ll also highlight the paragraph that it’s reading from. So let me turn that back off, sorry.

And then we’ll talk a little bit about notes as well. So you can take notes off to the side because that was another thing that Augustina had mentioned, was that just after you’ve read a paragraph, take notes on the paragraph. So all you have to do in order to take notes on that paragraph is highlight any portion, hit notes. And you can type, organizations, just whatever is relevant for that, and five dysfunctions, just because I pulled that out of there. Later, that can be used for another great tool that we’ll talk more about.


Perfect. Okay. So we have the zoom-in text, the text size, the font, that’s super helpful when reading text on RedShelf. That’s also, if you use print tests or assignments in your classroom if you can change the font so it’s bigger and more easily read. There are certain fonts that are easier to be read by students with dyslexia. So you can look through those fonts and see if you can change them to those. If you’re writing comments, I always wrote comments on written assignments, tests or anything that I handed back to my students, even class notes like encouraging class notes. If you have students that have reading comprehension or dyslexia, have them read those comments back to you. So you know that they know what you wrote, or just make sure you’re writing the comments very, very clearly, with just the handwriting, as neatly as you possibly can, to make sure that they can actually read those.

For students with dysgraphia, I mentioned that they’re writing too hard because that motor function they have an issue with. They can always, I’ve had students write on carpet, just have their paper on carpet so that if they push too hard, they can sense it because it puts holes in the paper. So just have them practice on a piece of paper. Typing instead of writing on a piece of paper is huge for that.
Students with dysgraphia and dyslexia also have a lot of spelling or grammar errors. So having something like RedShelf that reads to them while showing them all of the punctuation, all of the correct spelling. Reading is the best form of learning vocabulary, and it’s the best tool to help students spell. So the more students read, the more they can write. So having those students that have trouble with spelling like dyslexia and dysgraphia, having something where text can be read aloud to them is really important.

Tips for Students with Autism

The last one that I want to talk about that I’ve had students experience is autism. So with autism, the biggest thing that I have found that helps those students are having student experts in the classroom or tailoring assignments to help those students with what interests them, because they do get tunnel-visioned on their interest. So if you are taking notes on RedShelf and you have something about the World War II, have them associate World War II to any interest that they have. If they can make that connection, as farfetched as that connection is, they’re going to remember that fact better. So having that tied to any of their interests, any projects you have, assignments. If you have an essay, have the students choose what their essay topic is.

Sticking to routines and procedures is huge for a student with autism. I mean, all kids benefit from routines, schedules, just as parents. That’s probably super apparent. So having those routines and procedures, and having those written cues on the board for the schedules and tasks would really help because once those routines and procedures are broken, that can really just ruminate in the minds of a student with anxiety or ADHD or autism.

Use concrete language. And that dictionary tool in RedShelf is really important for that because it helps students with autism know exactly what they’re reading. Using concrete language when you can, instead of figurative language or explaining when you’re using figurative language. Having them take notes. If they’re reading a literature book where they have a lot of figurative language, taking notes as a class every time you get to something like it’s raining cats and dogs, or he was so excited that something super weird happened, you can have the students take notes so that all of the students understand those emotions.

Those visual cues is really important. A lot of students with autism really, really benefit from visual cues. And most teachers in elementary school do that because it’s elementary school. And then they kind of stop doing that as they get closer to high school because they just expect all the students to be able to read text very clearly from then on. But a lot of students with autism really benefit from visual cues. So incorporating that more into your classroom will help those students.

Allowing students to type instead of using a pencil really helps them focus more. And then those notes on RedShelf really helps for that.

Allowing solo work instead of group work. A lot of students with autism do not want to be surrounded by a bunch of other students. And they get tunnel vision. So having other students talk while they’re trying to work can be really difficult. So allowing solo work, and that actually goes into the feature that you can use all of those notes for, to create group work and classroom work out of solo work.


Yes. And along those lines, all of those notes and highlighting that we’ve done through the classroom, there are additional features that can be used within RedShelf that will allow those students then to make a study guide once they’re through the end of the chapter, when it’s time for them to start reviewing that information. So if I click on study guide. And it allows you to open the new notes. I don’t have any saved, unfortunately. But once the notes are up, you would be able to, here we go. So I’ve highlighted some text. Down here in the bottom right hand corner it tells you what page we were on when we’ve highlighted. And it will show you this arrow. If you click on the arrow, it takes you back to the text so that you can see in what context that was used, which will help those students then if they highlighted something. Later, they can be like, well, why did I highlight that? What was the point? They might have just highlighted one word. And so then they can go back and read the paragraph which it occurred in.

Then also, and I haven’t shown you yet. But you can create flashcards. So once you’ve highlighted, instead of using the highlighting color or the note, you’ll go to flashcard. It will bring up the flashcard there. And then you can type what you would like for it to say. There are different decks that you can create. So you can have decks of cards, one for unit one, chapter two, whatever it is. One specifically for types of, depending on the subject, but types of math problems, things like that. So that way, you can select that deck. I’m going to use default because I haven’t created any. And we’re just going to use, the front will be components. And I can either, from components, it will give me a definition that I can create right down here. Or if I don’t want to have the definition as the backside of the flashcard, I can remove that and type in whatever I’d like. So my jeopardy question, what is a part of something else? So a component.

All right. And then once you’ve created all of those notes and those highlights, you can collaborate with other members in your classroom. So other students, you would be able to share your notes with them. And it will label them. And then there’s a group code. So you would share that group code with those that you would like to be able to see your notes and highlights. And they’re able to then see what you have done. You can do the same if somebody else in the classroom shares with that student and they can see what it is. And you can then also subscribe and view by entering their code.

Once you have shared it with the somebody else, all you have to do is hit stop sharing, when you’re done. So let’s say you have group work for one day and you’re supposed to compare your notes for a section and talk about it. So that’s a great way for like a shoulder partner then to go and summarize what they’ve done for the day. So the two students can talk about socially distance even, they can socially distance and talk about what they’ve learned for the day, what they’ve highlighted. And then at the end of that day, they can stop sharing.


Awesome. Thank you so much Angel and Augustina. We really appreciate you and all of the work you put in, and sharing all of that with us. That does conclude our webinar for today. Teachers, if you have anything you would like to see in future editions of Teacher’s Corner, any topics or questions about the reader that we discussed today and the features that we demonstrated, please reach out to us, contact us through our website at edtechsolutions.com. And again, this webinar will be available on our website as well. We hope you have a great day. Thanks again for your time. And we’ll see you next time.

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