The current situation
Every teacher will tell you that the nirvana of teaching is pure personalisation. This means every child is being taught in a way that is suited to their needs. In reality, few teachers successfully achieve differentiation within a lesson on broad ability types. This is partly due to class sizes and partly due to a lack of training in how to address different children’s needs.
What techniques should teachers be using?
The 2014 Code of Practice brought special needs children back into the mainstream classroom. There was a call for inclusion and for children to enjoy personalised learning in amongst others. This means, possibly for the first time in their careers, teachers are being asked to facilitate lots of different needs.
The first strategy involves pre-learning and over-learning. This means that the special needs child will be introduced to some of the important words and ideas in a lesson before the lesson takes place. This means when the lesson is underway they will already understand some of the key words you are using, which you presume the average ability child in the class should know. Over-learning means that you teach the same concept in a number of different ways, literally going over and over the topic. This may seem like a waste of time to you but to the child it ensures that the learning sticks.
Second, reinforce oral instructions with visual prompts, both in words and pictures. If necessary, give children with specific needs a sheet with the instructions written in bullet points. This means they can follow the lesson on the sheet and recapture the learning process if they become disorientated. This is even more effective if you buddy this child with a peer who is able to subtly point to the part of the lesson on the sheet. This is much better than tasking a support teacher to this role, as it reduces the sense of difference in the child’s mind.
Finally, and possibly most importantly, address an instruction directly at the special needs child, even if it is one the whole class should follow. There is a good possibility that the child was not engaged when the instruction was issued. Furthermore, they may not realise that “everybody” means them too. Therefore, finding a subtle means of repetition and then repeating using the child’s name, is an important practice that teachers need to perfect. To be honest, finding new ways to say completely the same thing is basically all that teaching is, so this should be no problem for the majority of practitioners.
Although not the complete guide to teaching children with different needs, this offers three important beginning points for practice that will help to personalise the classroom.
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