Dealing With Special Needs Learners
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If you are teaching EFL in a school, there is a good chance that you have a learner with Special Educational Needs (SENs) in one of your classes, as a result of new social and educational inclusion policies which puts SEN students in mainstream classrooms. Dealing with SEN students can be challenging for teachers especially because teachers can feel unprepared or untrained to deal with such situations.
Since we don’t all have the time and money to go on a SEN training course, we thought we’d give you a few tips to help you out should you find yourself in this situation.
- Learning English is about learning skills
While your SEN learners may not show as much progress as some of your other learners, this does not mean that they are not learning. SEN learners will learn a lot of skills from being in an EFL classroom, from listening skills, turn-taking and creativity to social language and co-operation, being in the classroom benefits SEN learners in many different ways besides learning a language.
- The classroom is a positive space
This is not only the case with SEN learners but with learners in general: students respond better to positive rewards and encouragement than threats and punishment. Using positive language in the classroom and focussing on positive rather than negative behaviour will result in an increase in this type of behaviour.
- Encourage collaboration
Working together with classmates is a good strategy in any learning environment and when you have SEN learners involved it becomes even more so. SEN learners may need more help and assistance than other learners but this does not necessarily have to come from the teacher. Helping other students learn about working with people with SENs is a great way to prepare students for the real world. Usually you will find your students are naturally empathetic and working together will create an atmosphere of empathy and understanding.
- Use a variety of resources
Again this is not something which is beneficial only to SEN learners but is one of many effective teaching techniques. When planning lessons, think of a variety of tasks and activities which can be used to accomplish your aims. Using visuals, drama, music and movement enhances your lessons as they will appeal to the learners in your class who all have different learning styles.
- Embrace structure
While having a routine in your classroom may seem monotonous and boring, having a structure for your lessons gives your learners a sense of comfort and safety, allowing them to focus not on the situation but on the learning.
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