As an English Language teacher, you may have students with unidentified additional learning needs in your classroom. Often these learning difficulties are ‘invisible’, not easy to recognise in class, or hidden behind other issues such as poor behaviour, and an apparent lack of motivation. Continue reading
Marie Delaney is a teacher, trainer, educational psychotherapist, and author of ‘Teaching the Unteachable’ (Worth). She will be hosting a webinar entitled “Teaching Students with attention, concentration and hyperactivity difficulties” on 11th and 14th March. Here, she explores some of the themes of the upcoming webinar.
Imagine being in a crowded shopping centre, music blaring, people shouting, laughing, talking excitedly all around you, traffic whizzing by, flashing neon signs, … and sitting in the middle of this chaos, trying to learn a foreign language.
This is what it is like for some learners in our classrooms. Information and ideas bombard their brains and they find it impossible to focus on one thing.
Joachim, a learner says.
It’s as if every room in my brain has the lights on, I don’t know which room to go into first, in case I miss something important in another room.”
Teaching these learners can make us feel quite agitated and stressed.
Agata, a teacher says
Teaching Maja gives me a headache, she is like a spinning top, never stopping. I lose my own focus when talking to her.”
The behaviour of these learners usually falls into one or more of the following categories:
- They are easily distracted
- They cannot pay attention to detail
- They do not seem to listen or follow instructions
- They forget things all the time
- They fidget and squirm
- They constantly leave their seat
- They seem constantly ‘on the go’ as if driven by a motor
- They shout out
- They cannot wait their turn
- They often express emotions inappropriately
Some of these learners might have been diagnosed with ADHD. However, there are many possible reasons for this type of behaviour. If we can try to understand the underlying reasons and identify the needs of the learner, we can find teaching strategies to support them.
Possible reasons for the behaviour
- They might be tired or hungry
- They might be preoccupied about outside worries or feel unsafe in class
- They might lack confidence and be anxious about their ability to do the work
- They might not understand the classroom rules
- They might have difficulties with executive functioning – the part of the brain which we use to think and solve problems. This also includes the internal voice, the voice we use to self-regulate
- They might have difficulties with working memory – holding information in our minds long enough to act on it
Identification of needs and teaching strategies
This leads us to the following learner needs and possible teaching strategies:
The need to feel safe and secure
- Have a few clear classroom rules and remind learners of them
- Have a clear reward system; involve the learners in the design
- Set clear time limits for work; give warnings when time is nearly over
- Have a worry box for learners to post their concerns to the teacher
- Sit the learner near the teacher, away from distractions such as windows, heaters
- Allow the learner to go to a designated quiet area if the classroom gets too stressful
- Use visual prompts and timetables
The need to build self-esteem
- Notice and praise when the learner is on-task and behaving appropriately
- Focus on the learner’s strengths
- Send home good reports
- Encourage study buddies
The need for help with self-regulation
- Use individual laminated whiteboards for learners to show their answers rather than shouting out
- Allow the learner to work with headphones on or to imagine wearing headphones to cut out distractions
Above all, do not give up with these learners, they will benefit from your perseverance!
For other ideas on meeting the needs of these learners, particularly with regard to executive functioning and working memory, join my forthcoming webinar on 11th and 14th March entitled “Teaching Students with attention, concentration and hyperactivity difficulties“.
What do Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Muhammed Ali have in common? They all found school and teachers difficult. Thomas Edison’s teacher sent a note home when Thomas was 6, which said: “He is too stupid to learn”. These successful people had dyslexia. Their teachers didn’t know much about dyslexia. They labelled them lazy and stupid. Continue reading
Marie Delaney is a teacher, trainer, educational psychotherapist and author of ‘Teaching the Unteachable’ (Worth). She has worked extensively with pupils with Special Educational Needs and trains teachers in this area.
Do you have learners with special educational needs (SENs) in your class? Have you had any training for teaching these learners? Probably not.
In many countries across the world governments are promoting a policy of inclusion for learners with SENs. However, there is often a gap in training and resources for teachers to implement this. This has led many teachers to feel anxious and insecure about their teaching skills. There are some common fears and misconceptions which make a lot of teachers anxious.
5 myths that make teachers anxious
- You have to be a specially trained teacher to teach learners with SENs
Not true. Good teaching strategies will benefit all learners. Good classroom management and a positive attitude are things every teacher can have.
- It takes a lot of time and extra planning
It doesn’t have to. If you already plan your lessons with a variety of activities and use a mult-sensory approach, you do not need to do lots of extra planning.
- You can’t do fun, challenging activities
Not true. See beyond the label. Learners with SENs are individuals with their own personalities and strengths. Discover your learners’ strengths and build on these in your classroom activities.
- Other learners suffer because of having learners with SENs in their classes
Not true. Other learners benefit from developing understanding and acceptance of differences.
- Parents of learners with SENs are challenging for teachers
This does not need to be the case. These parents have often had to struggle to get help for their children. They can help you to understand the issues and develop strategies together which work. See them as allies, not critics.
So what works?
You already have lots of classroom management skills which will help learners with SENs. Like all learners, they need clarity, consistency, understanding and a multi-sensory approach to learning. In the case of learners with SENs, these things are absolutely vital.
8 top tips
Make these clear, concise, give them on a step-by-step basis. Check by giving an example and getting an example. Give in different senses – for example, have visual cues such as an ear for listening and gestures to reinforce. Avoid the use of sequencers, such as ‘before you do this,’ and give the instructions in the correct order.
- Use positive classroom language
Say what you want learners to do, not what you don’t want them to do. For example say ‘Look at the board’ rather than ‘Don’t keep turning around’.
- Use visuals to reinforce rules and routines
For example, have a traffic light system to show when the whole group is going off task. Use visual cues to let learners know the order of activities in the lesson.
- Think about your learners needs and have a seating plan
For example, hearing impaired learners will need to sit near the teacher, learners with ADHD need to sit away from distractions such as windows and radiators.
- Learn from your students
Ask them what helps. Get to know their strengths and interests.
- Use a multi-sensory approach
For example, have learners step out the word stress, draw the word stress, sing the word stress. Get feedback in different ways, for example, use individual mini whiteboards where learners hold up their answers
- Create a positive environment where learners help each other
For example, have a buddy system where learners sometimes help those with SENs. Use activities which develop empathy such as guessing about people in the room.
- Work with parents and other professionals
Focus on what works, not the problems. Do more of what works.
Above all, see your learners as people and not as labels. And enjoy learning with them.