Continuing our subject-specific guidance, we’re looking this week at how teachers and TAs can support pupils with SEN in geography, history and religious education
SENCO Week Help Sheet 10- TA support in humanities.pdf
Supporting pupils in humanities
Each of these subjects warrants separate consideration as there are particular issues within the different areas, so for detailed guidance see the David Fulton series Meeting SEN in the Curriculum (Geography by Diane Swift; History by Richard Harris and Ian Luff; RE by Dilwyn Hunt). There are issues common to teaching humanities, however, and these will be the focus of support this week. Before we move on to that, though, there are some important points to highlight in regard to the separate subjects:
Geography: incorporates both the ‘indoor’ and ‘outdoor’ classroom, so special consideration should be given to the inclusion of pupils with SEN in all types of field work. Map reading is a specific skill and individual pupils may need extra practice in developing this skill and thinking spatially.
History: is about ‘becoming curious, thinking critically, developing moral sensitivity and communicating effectively’; it’s important that these objectives apply to the planning for all learners, including those with SEN. For younger learners especially, an understanding of ‘time’ itself can be a particular issue and might be a focus for some additional support.
Religious education: involves more than learning about different forms of organised religion. It is also about children forming their own judgments and reaching a clearer understanding of their personal beliefs.
- Inclusive classrooms
- Ensuring understanding of concepts is at the heart of effective teaching and there are generic strategies to help with this:
- clear explanations, using an appropriate level of language
- concrete examples, linked to previous learning/familiar contexts
- VAK input (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic)
- learning by doing
- checking understanding – careful questioning, asking the student to explain to a classmate, applying learning to a different context
- being prepared to go over something a second/third/fourth time – perhaps with the support of a TA.
The humanities are traditionally subjects which involve a fair amount of reading writing and this in itself is a major source of difficulty for many pupils. Teachers can reduce barriers to achievement by:
checking the readability of textbooks; making sure that books to be used are up to date, with a clear layout. Make sure pupils know how to use the Contents page and index.
- reading out loud from a text book – or asking a TA to do this with particular groups (avoid ‘reading around the class’ as this may embarrass poorer readers)
- using visual material when possible
- displaying word banks around the room, changing them to match the current topics
- providing easy-to-use dictionaries (and atlases in geography)
- always allowing for plenty of thinking/talking time before asking pupils to write
- using writing frames to help pupils structure their work
- teaching them how to use mind maps
- encouraging pupils to use predictive text software (with training from TA)
- introducing a range of recording methods, eg posters, video recordings
- using TAs to act as scribes.
Involving pupils in the evaluation of their own work, and each other’s is a valuable strategy to use in encouraging them to redraft and improve their work, showing them how to use criteria and develop critical skills. A useful model of formative assessment might be as follows:
Teacher explains what the pupils need to do to achieve their objective, providing criteria and possibly showing them a good example of completed work.
- Pupils do the work.
- They discuss in groups/pairs whether they have met the criteria.
- Ideas shared among the class.
- Constructive suggestions made by class members to help individuals/groups improve their work.
- Improvements/additions made.
In most secondary schools, the Humanities are squeezed into a small amount of time each week. A teacher of RE for example, may teach five hundred pupils during the course of a week. It is asking a lot for that teacher to know each child’s learning needs; this means that the role of TAs can be particularly important in supporting individual learners, but also in supporting their teachers. Where each department has a ‘dedicated TA’, this can be effective in helping to create inclusive approaches and developing both strategies and resources to meet a wide range of needs. See HELPSHEET 10 for making the most of TA support.
A survey of local authorities in England and Wales has found that only 5 % are meeting their legal duty to provide information about special educational needs (SEN) provision.
The report argues that it is parents, rather than bureaucrats or politicians, who are best placed to decide where and how their child should be educated. But it argues that ‘choice’ cannot be properly exercised if parents are not given the information they need.
In 2001 the government introduced legal requirements for councils to publish information on their websites describing local SEN policies; information that is vital for helping parents to negotiate a complex and opaque system. But just 5% provide all the information they are supposed to publish, while only 27% give information about the funding available to support children in the School Action and School Action Plus categories. Particularly concerning is that only 39% of authorities explain how they monitor the allocation and effectiveness of SEN spending and resource deployment.
Lucy Wilkins, the author of the report, said that ‘the last time local authorities were surveyed, in 2003, only five per cent were found to be publishing all the information they are required to publish. Five years on and still only five per cent are in full compliance with the law. This only goes to underline the difficulties faced by parents trying to access support for children with learning difficulties.
The difficulty in accessing information about the services and support they can expect from their local council means that it is only the most articulate parents, supported by strong lobby groups, who are likely to be able to access scarce provision. The gap between policy and its implementation at a local level highlights the almost complete lack of accountability in the system and the low prioritisation that SEN receives.’
This e-bulletin issue was first published in May 2008
About the author: Linda Evans is the author of SENCO Week. She was a teacher/SENCO/adviser/inspector, before joining the publishing world. She now works as a freelance writer, editor and part-time college tutor.