7.1 Support for pupils.

There are many ways to provide support for pupils to access learning.

a. Types of support integrated in the teaching:

When teachers are preparing lessons, it is important that they decide in advance on the type of support the pupils will need in order to do the expected task. They might, for instance, consider the choice and/or the adaptation of activities and resources, or the questioning technique. Once teachers have established the necessary support for pupils, they then have to plan carefully.

Case study 12: The advice from Mrs Dalok’s school board

Mrs Dalok is the headteacher of a state primary school at Adétikopé in Togo. This school year, the school is welcoming children with disabilities: a child in a wheelchair who also has a lack of visual acuity, and a child with a hearing impairment. The headteacher checks her school with her team of five teachers to establish what needs to be modified. The third item on the agenda is:

3. Support during class lessons

Mrs Dalok:Mrs Laban, the pupil with a physical disability will be in your class. Have you thought of what you could do for him? Remember, that he is also a pupil with a visual disability. He does not see well. However, you can all give Mrs Laban ideas on how to include this child better.

Mrs Laban: I was thinking of placing him where he can see the blackboard well.

Mr Adji: It is also imperative to write legibly and in big font and to read what is written on the blackboard aloud. All materials also need to be prepared to accommodate his needs: materials printed in big font, bigger pictures …

Mrs Dalok: Thank you. We will meet his parents to have more information on his condition and to ask whether he might need notebooks with thicker lines for writing.

Mrs Laban: I was thinking that we could use objects for him to handle/manipulate to learn better. I also intend to involve his classmates; he will work in pairs or in small groups and thus will have his friends’ support.

Ms Karim: If his eyesight is greatly affected then we have to help him, through games, to learn the names and voices of his friends by hearing or touch.

Mr Eglo: If his eyes are greatly impaired, then, we will need the help of teachers from specialised schools for blind children to be able to manage, as he will need specific materials for science and mathematics. He will need materials written in Braille, and it might also be helpful to record some lessons for him.

Mrs Dalok: We’ll see. Now, let’s talk about the pupil with a hearing disability, Mr Adji. Most of the arrangements we have talked about will also benefit her. But more specifically, how do you plan to meet the needs of that particular pupil who will be in your class? Please, the rest of you, feel all free to contribute.

Mr Adji: First of all, I will explain to her friends the difficulties that she faces, the precautions they have to take when they will talk to her. In class, I will place her facing away from the light, not far from the blackboard so that she can see my face and also the other pupils’ faces when we are talking and we have to articulate clearly and at a slower pace. I intend to seat her near a good and caring pupil who can help her if needs be. She will also benefit from duplicated lesson notes.

Mr Eglo: For spelling exercises, she can be given texts with mistakes to detect while her friends are writing the text. But if she can do the spelling test, then you must talk at a slower pace and never talk with your back turned. You must also check if she has understood the questions and reframe them in a simpler and different way.

Mrs Dalok: You must also make sure that the teaching aids include objects, toys, games and pictures that will facilitate understanding and assimilation of knowledge to acquire. All the other pupils will benefit from the arrangements that should facilitate learning for all. But in this case, we’ll have to see whether the hearing impairment is acute, how to work with the parents and specialised schools, and how to improve what we do. We may have to learn sign language to be able to communicate with her.

Activity 31: Pupil support strategies integrated to the teaching

This activity will enable teachers to start collecting strategies to vary and adapt activities and resources and to use questioning in order to support pupils.

Support integration in the activities

  • Prepare a sheet entitled ‘How to integrate support into the learning activities’.
  • As you read the following documents, write down the ideas you could use to support pupils in doing all suggested activities. If other ideas come to mind, add them. Organise your notes in such a way that they are really clear and useful when you prepare your lessons.
  • Documents to read: Click on the link A directory of activities or look for it in the chapter ‘Planning and preparing lessons to include all pupils’ and read it. Then, read Case study 12: The advice from Mrs Dalok’s School Board above.

Support through using varied and adapted resources

  • Prepare a sheet with the title ‘Support by resources’.
  • As you read the following documents, write down the ideas you find on varied and adapted resources. If other ideas come to mind, add them. Organise your notes well so that they are truly useful when preparing your lesson.
  • Documents to read: Resources for all, click on the link or look for it in the chapter ‘Planning and preparing lessons to include all pupils’ from this Toolkit. Then, read Case study 12: The advice from Mrs Dalok’s School Board above.

Support using appropriate questions  

  • Download the key resource ‘Using questioning to promote thinking [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] ’ from the TESSA website
  • While reading this resource, annotate it.
    • Think of the stages of learning in the topic and the level in development of reflection reached by your pupils.
    • Think of your pupils. Which type(s) of question(s) will you use to enable weaker pupils to find the right answer? Which type(s) of question(s) will you ask to promote further thinking for the gifted pupils and further develop their problem-solving skills?
    • If you wish, you could also prepare a sheet Questioning techniques to enable pupil support. This may help you prepare your lessons.

If you are working with a colleague, share and discuss your answers and your list of strategies.

Keep these lists at hand. When you encounter new strategies for assessment of learning, add them to the appropriate list.

b. Providing support by using group work in the classroom

Activity 32: Advantages of using group work

This activity will allow teachers to think about the best way to use group work to provide different pupils with different support.

  • Alone or with colleagues, brainstorm on the theme ‘Providing support by using group work in the classroom’. (See TESSA key resource ‘Using mind maps and brainstorming to explore ideas’ on the TESSA website.)
  • After brainstorming, read your list of ideas. Would you like to organise them? Would you like to add anything? Feel free!
  • Collect other ideas from the TESSA key resource ‘Using group work in your classroom’ (download it from the TESSA website) and Encouraging collaboration in the chapter ‘A classroom for all in a school for all’.
  • Now, compare your list to the one created by a group of teachers during a session for professional development in Case study 13 below. Which list seems more comprehensive? Don’t hesitate to add other elements to yours if you wish.

Case study 13: The results of a group of teachers’ brainstorming session on the advantages of using group work in the classroom

  • Pupils learn from each other.
  • More pupils will have the opportunity to talk in the same space of time.
  • Shy pupils will feel safe enough to express themselves.
  • The ideas of pupils who do not dare talk in front of the whole class will be listened to and validated.
  • My deaf pupil can write her contributions and will be given a voice through the group spokesperson.
  • The pupils can make mistakes without feeling threatened in front of the whole class.
  • When well managed, group work promotes collaborative work and the participation of all children.
  • There is less room for teacher talk and thus pupils have greater opportunities to express themselves.
  • When pupils are working in groups, I can circulate among groups, listen to them, take note of the needs of pupils’ individual needs, intervene to provide them with individual support or ask questions that will push them to find more complex solutions.
  • If, as the teacher, I think ahead on the composition of the groups and the type of work I will give to each group, I can work with different groups at different points in times so as to provide the appropriate support to the weakest or to the gifted ones and allow everyone to try the type of work that will stimulate them most.
  • One can give different activities to different groups in order to address any gaps or put in place the activities for progress, according to notes I took in previous sessions.
  • I can distribute different support cards to different groups.
  • I can ask one of the parents helping me in class to work on something specific with specific pupils.

c.  Pupils supporting pupils

Case study 14: Alassane, a profoundly deaf young man from Senegal, shares some of his experiences at school

‘There is not a secondary school for children with hearing disabilities in Senegal. When I was in standard 6, on the first day of school, the headteacher made me sit on the front bench. The girl next to me started writing on a piece of paper for me. It was then that I realised the importance of making progress in French.

Fortunately some teachers as well as some classmates started to learn sign language and the little they knew made them become more interested in me and more willing to help me.

After the high-school certificate, I took part in a competitive examination for admission at the Higher Institute of Technology and I was accepted. When we started the new academic year, I was not feeling at ease when the people started to talk. Fortunately, there was a student, MouhamedLamine, who knew American Sign Language and had completed his studies the previous year. He came to sign the first day’s instructions and also the following days’. He also explained to me some of the difficult topics.’

Case study 15: Idrissa, a child with albinism, talks of the support received during his school years in Zambia.

… Others supported me in class, as my eyesight is not good. My classmates took notes for me or read from the blackboard; others let me borrow their notebooks so that I could copy the notes at home. Even though I was seated in the first row I had problems seeing. As far as the teachers’ support is concerned, there was a teacher who wrote to the authorities to advise them that there was a pupil who could not see well at school and that all the assessments given should be written in bigger font. And it did happen: they used a bigger font for all the exam papers.

Case study 16: Lélé has a slight mental deficiency. He is in CE2 in a state primary school in Boukoki in Niger. Sani, his brother, talks about what he does in his free time.

‘I am in Form 2 and we don’t have lessons in the afternoon during week days. Every week, for one or two afternoons, I go to Lélé’s school. When I arrive, the teacher tells me exactly what he is going to do and what he wants me to do for my brother. Actually, I mostly repeat the instructions to make sure that Lélé understands properly. I observe and guide him when he is doing the activities. I follow the teacher’s recommendations and am very careful not to do the work for Lélé. What I prefer when I go to my brother’s school is to read stories to a small group, and to show them pictures. Seeing and understanding what goes on at my brother’s school is really helpful: I can help him at home and I can also explain to my parents how the teacher helps Lélé.’

 Activity 33: My very special friends, my allies

This activity will allow teachers to consider how pupils can help each other and what the consequences are for all.

  • Download the resource ‘Keep your mouth shut!’ from the section Equal opportunities in the Audio resources area on the TESSA website.
  • Listen to this short play.What role does Efe play in relation to Ada?

Now look back on what Alassane, Idrissa and Sani wrote about their experiences at school in Case studies 14, 15 et 16.

  • Make a list of the roles that other people can play in relation to pupils with special needs.
  • If you have other examples of the roles that other people can play in class, write them down and describe or explain them.
  • Which advantages and disadvantages for the teacher, for those receiving the support or for those providing it and for the whole class, do you see to another person working in the classroom alongside the teacher?

Before considering the part played by children, let’s comment once again on the initiative taken by Idrissa’s teacher who, in this particular case, made it possible for the pupil to have access to the exam papers by contacting the examination board. All the children, Efe, Mouhamed Lamine, the girl sitting next to Alassane, Idrissa’s, and Sani’s friends, all acted as an interpreter or intermediary between the teacher and the pupil who has special or specific needs. They too are great friends who help provide access to learning. This role is very important for the child with special or specific needs, but it is paramount to remember that support-children do have the right to education too and the teacher should check that the support they are giving to their classmates or close relatives does not interfere with their own learning and progress.

d.Support using innovative technology

New technologies can provide important support for pupils in the classroom.

Activity 34: Brainstorming new technologies

This activity will allow teachers to identify technologies available in class.

Activity 35: Inventive and creative use of new technologies

In this activity teachers will use their knowledge of the pupils with special and specific needs and their own imagination to determine to what extent new technologies can be used as a support.

For each new technology you have chosen:

  • write a minimum of one and a maximum of three examples of how this particular technology would support a range of pupils
  • if there are certain specific challenges (excluding the cost) that require special arrangements, note down these challenges and suggestions to overcome them.

If you are working with other colleagues from or out of your educational establishment, share your ideas on ways to provide support to all pupils. Are they all realistic?

It is impossible to have an exhaustive list of existing possibilities, all the more because of the rapid evolution in technologies. But let’s consider one or two examples.

Most of us possess a cellphone. While using text messages, a pupil who cannot speak can express his ideas rapidly or ask questions, and a deaf pupil can read instructions or any other short messages that a friend may send by SMS. If the cellphone has an SD card slot, it might be possible to use it to record instructions or texts for pupils with visual deficiencies, which the other classmates will have to read. However, it is likely that you will need to seek the school headteacher’s permission and a discussion will need to take place with the whole class, to agree a Pupil Code of conduct concerning the use of cellphones in class.

Presumably less frequent among pupils, a laptop that can be shared in class is a precious tool. Word-processing software packages allow them to write, save, recall, correct and improve documents (with or without the teacher feedback): this makes it possible for all children to improve what they create. A laptop can help to present documents neatly and allow pupils with motor difficulties or who find it difficult to hand-write to be proud of their work. Some software packages allow users to write with images or to transform written text to an audio output. With some imagination and creativity, a teacher can use a laptop for a vast array of support at different levels.

There are other technologies – such as school radio – that offer a lot of sources that enable activities to be varied and differentiated and to motivate pupils.

One should be careful though! New technologies are not the universal panacea: remember that like any other resource, they should be used with good judgment.

Consult on the TESSA website

TESSA key resource: ‘Using new technologies

e.  Managing support strategies as a way to differentiate

 All forms of support mentioned above entail pedagogical scaffolding that help construct learning. As pupils gain confidence and develop their own learning strategies, that is, when pupils become more secure in their learning, the scaffolding can be removed progressively.

7. An appropriate support for all

7.2 Forms of support for teachers