Monday, 7 April 2014

Teaching English to children with special educational needs

Hi all,

Dear colleagues from all around the world,

I am very sorry of not posting anything new for a while because I was so busy. I had to prepare my students for different levels of competitions. I also had to prepare students to take their exams in English and so on. To tell the truth, all my dear students passed their exams. On the other side, my school children won the first places during the competitions. I am so happy as well as they are.
In this post, I am going to say a few words about teaching English to kids who have special needs. I am so interested in this subject matter, because in my country every teacher has got a lot of problems about teaching these kids. I say this because teachers, in my country, neither have any seminars or any professional development or any lectures about this kind of teaching nor they have an assistant who will help them in the process of teaching kids with the special needs. It is a big problem which my colleagues meet from day to day. Searching through the Internet, I found some rewarding tips that can be useful for many teachers who also have the same problem. 

English as a foreign language for children with additional educational needs It is often thought that foreign language learning for a child with additional educational needs can waste valuable time that could be spent more profitably on teaching 'more relevant' skills and that it may confuse
children who already have problems mastering their mother tongue. However, it is important to provide every opportunity to expand and enhance the range of learning experiences available for these children by including them in a wide range of activities throughout life. One of these activities is foreign language learning. This article builds on the principles of inclusion and is written in the ethos that children with additional educational needs should have the same right as other children to experience and enjoy foreign language learning, and in the belief that they have the potential to benefit and to progress linguistically, psychologically, cognitively, socially and culturally. 

 Diverse needs
Children with additional educational needs may have physical and conceptual difficulties, mild and moderate learning difficulties, severe learning difficulties and emotional and behavioural difficulties, and will usually require some sort of extra support. This article will address the needs of children with mild and moderate learning difficulties, which can include short attention spans and a lack of concentration, memory problems -

A school policy
In order to cater as effectively as possible for the diverse learning needs of such pupils, a school should agree its policy and implement it as a team. This will include decision-making concerning methodological approaches, assessment procedures, ways of supporting the learner, and how best to organise classes depending on the context in which you work.
both short and long term, poor generalisation skills, auditory discrimination problems, visual discrimination problems, a lack of imaginative thinking and poor eye-hand co-ordination. Their needs are diverse and, when deciding what to teach and how to teach, foreign language programmes should aim to start with the needs of each individual child in order to build on their strengths.

Methodological approaches
As we can see above, some of the special needs described are not so very different from those of our 'regular' pupils, and many of the familiar principles which underlie good educational practice, as used by foreign language teachers of young learners, are appropriate. These include effective teaching strategies and techniques, selection of materials, task design, including differentisation, and clasroom management skills.
  • Teaching strategies and techniques
    Good teaching strategies and techniques include the planning and stating of carefully balanced, varied learning sequences with clear achievable objectives, so children know what is expected from them. They will also include using the mother tongue, as appropriate, to contextualise and support learning, so children can relate something new to something familiar and thereby develop a sense of security; providing clear, meaningful, concrete contexts in which to present language; providing plenty of repetition, recycling and reviewing; using plenty of mime, signs, gestures, expressions to convey and support meaning; involving children actively in the learning process as much as possible through the
    use of action rhymes and songs, stories, colouring, making things, dancing, drawing, total physical response activities and games; stimulating childrens' senses as much as possible through multi-sensory aids.
  • Assessment procedures
    Children need to be clear about the learning objectives, which could accommodate the graded objective principles and the Council of Europe statements: for example, I can understand and use familiar everyday expressions. Once these are established, and with systematic post-activity reviewing, children will be able to perceive their progress. In many cases, this will be small-step progression, and needs to be established by the school and team of teachers as part of their overall policy.
  • Materials selection
    Materials need to be varied, accessible and clear and provide plenty of visual stimulus and support in the form of pictures, objects, puppets, realia, storybooks, videos, ICT, etc.
  • Task design
    Tasks should provide a reasonable degree of effort or challenge within the linguistic and cognitive abilities of each child, and have short-term goals and clearly identified steps leading to successful completion, as well as purposeful outcomes allowing immediate feedback and positive reinforcement. In order to design tasks, teachers need to be able to judge whether the level of demands made on each child is appropriate and also to identify the types of demand made. These relate to concepts and notions of language, such as shape, size, colour, location, cause and effect, and language functions, such as describing, classifying, sequencing, predicting etc. Teachers also need to be aware of the kinds of concepts which their pupils can cope with at specific stages of their development. Furthermore, each learner possesses their own learning styles and intelligences and some tasks may only be suitable for specific learning styles or intelligences, making them difficult for learners who do not possess these or have low levels of specific types of intelligence. Differentiation of tasks is also central to successful methodology and needs to be done in a way that the areas of experience, for example, a topic or
    theme, will be the same for each child but the depth in which it will be covered will be different.
  • Classroom management skills
    A well-managed classroom will be one where routines are established, the teacher is firm but fair and establishes a secure, non-threatening learning environment. He or she will explain methodological approaches to avoid a mis-match of expectations and to establish clear ways of working, and will praise all effort, however small. Classroom dynamics will be analysed and seating arrangements planned accordingly. Teacher talk will be analysed in order to keep this clear and simple for instructions and demonstrations, to be sensitive to the level of challenge different questions imply and to pitch them appropriately for individual children, and to avoid excessive teacher talk, which can be confusing. Pupils' attention will be focussed so they keep on task and teachers will be aware of the behavioural effect of activities which settle or stir, occupy or involve, and sequence these appropriately.
Supporting the learners                                                                          
In addition to the methodological approaches described above which support the learner, the school may decide that the help of a support teacher or teaching assistant is required. Their help may be requested on a full-time, part-time or sessional basis and they may work with individual pupils, several pupils or a whole
class or department. In whatever setting a support teacher may work, he or she can help the pupil's learning by having a clearly defined role in the classes, time to share the planning and evaluation of lessons, adequate resources. In addition, the importance of their role in the staff team must be recognized. 


Organising classes
From a Vygotskian viewpoint, a child with special needs who is integrated into a regular class would be able, through co-operation and interaction with classmates, to develop their knowledge, language and thinking. In a primary EFL context classes tend to emphasise oral communication, especially in the initial stages. Thus, one of the main weaknesses of the child with additional needs, that is, writing, is avoided. This can be
beneficial in that he or she starts out on an even footing with his academically more able counterparts.
Many of the responses required are whole-class ones so a child is rarely singled out and can learn to communicate in a foreign language without fear of failure. Integration may require the presence of a support teacher to deal with possible unpredictable behaviour which may disrupt classmates and incite general bad behaviour; to explain to classmates a child's particular needs so they can understand and respect these differences and respect the additional effort such a child may have to make in the learning process, to diffuse any potential peer ridicule through such explanation as above, to help with activities that may require cutting, pasting, writing, to help explain the teacher's methodology and to reinforce the classroom code of conduct and to liaise with parents as required. Once basic oral/aural skills have been acquired and other pupils progress perhaps at a faster rate, a school may feel that separate specialised classes may be more appropriate to meet the children's needs, although these classes would be integrated within the framework of the regular school.
The teaching of foreign languages to children with additional educational needs is complex and each school needs to decide on a policy that is best for their context. A great deal of support can be found through CILT who publish an annual Languages and Special Educational Needs Bulletin and have a discussion forum to generate ideas and mutual support for all those who are involved in teaching modern foreign languages to pupils with special educational needs in both special schools and mainstream classes.

Here is also an address of the web site where you can find different activities and addresses which people from all around the world use in the process of teaching English to kids with special needs ( I also want to hear from you and all your advices and suggestions are welcome. Feel free to write to me. I want to gain new knowledge about this.

Best regards