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Thread: Help teaching a special ed class with different levels

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    Default Help teaching a special ed class with different levels

    Help, please. I'm currently teaching a class at elementary school that has a huge gap in ages and ability levels. None of the students have any physical impairments--it's all developmental and/or social disorders, so that's not a problem. However, they range in age from first grade to sixth grade. The highest level students are three fourth graders (granted, only two of them listen very much). There are also two first graders with Down's Syndrome that comprehend very little, and have difficulty in pronouncing words as well, though they can make approximations. The problem is making a 45 minute lesson for ALL of these children together, with any theme I choose.

    I've only had class with them about three or four times so far, and the last time was a disaster. The first time, I just introduced myself and played janken train. After that I tried to do a sports theme with karuta, charades, and "What's missing?" type of card games, which worked reasonably well at first. I think they like music, too--I did, "If You're Happy and You Know It" for this month, which they seemed to enjoy, but didn't get much English out of. My teaching may be at fault there, too.

    There are two special needs teachers that come and stand in the classroom with me, but I'm really struggling. Any advice would be really appreciated.

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    Fit via vi Virgil's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help teaching a special ed class with different levels

    Quote Originally Posted by Larien View Post
    Help, please. I'm currently teaching a class at elementary school that has a huge gap in ages and ability levels. None of the students have any physical impairments--it's all developmental and/or social disorders, so that's not a problem. However, they range in age from first grade to sixth grade. The highest level students are three fourth graders (granted, only two of them listen very much). There are also two first graders with Down's Syndrome that comprehend very little, and have difficulty in pronouncing words as well, though they can make approximations. The problem is making a 45 minute lesson for ALL of these children together, with any theme I choose

    I've only had class with them about three or four times so far, and the last time was a disaster. The first time, I just introduced myself and played janken train. After that I tried to do a sports theme with karuta, charades, and "What's missing?" type of card games, which worked reasonably well at first. I think they like music, too--I did, "If You're Happy and You Know It" for this month, which they seemed to enjoy, but didn't get much English out of. My teaching may be at fault there, too.

    There are two special needs teachers that come and stand in the classroom with me, but I'm really struggling. Any advice would be really appreciated.

    It's an age old teacher problem. More often than not the students will not be of a uniform level. Some are more drastic than others. You have to make the lesson accessible to all the students so that everyone can learn, but you don't want your higher achieving kids getting bored. One way to help with this is once you know your students well enough you can make activity groups so that the high-achievers can help their group after they are done. For the Downs kids you can help them more and give them a little extra attention.

    I know it's tough if you're not getting any support - and that's just not your fault. I beat myself up so much my first year of teaching in America because I thought I was awful (ok I was) but I had so little support in an insane school ... I was set up to fail.

    I have the same problem but at the high school level. It's really tough coming up with creative (yet simple) enough ideas to keep all of the students engaged and learning SOMETHING.

    I would love to teach elementary kids since it's easier to get them to sing etc. With highschool age (yankii at that) I might as well hang myself. Sing sing, and sing more. You may not think they are picking anything up but it's a great way to have entry to a language. You can't learn the language by only singing, but if you're musically clever you can do some great pronunciation/rhythm practice. Maybe you can slip some vocabulary learning in there. There's all sorts of children's songs that would be great, but have probably never been used in the English classroom in this country.

    Special ed is TOUGH no matter how you slice it.

    EDIT: I should have specified that my classes are not special ed, just very very low level with a few (comparatively) high level students peppered in. I know there are special ed doing higher level English work.
    Last edited by Virgil; September 30th, 2015 at 15:55.
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    Default Re: Help teaching a special ed class with different levels

    I still remember how to buy a train ticket to Carcassonne in French after 10 years thanks to a song.

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    Fit via vi Virgil's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help teaching a special ed class with different levels

    Quote Originally Posted by Frap View Post
    I still remember how to buy a train ticket to Carcassonne in French after 10 years thanks to a song.
    Yeah seriously.

    It's actually pretty amazing.
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  5. #5

    Default Re: Help teaching a special ed class with different levels

    Thanks, Virgil. It does make me feel better to know I'm not the only one to feel like I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing here. :P

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    Default Re: Help teaching a special ed class with different levels

    Where's the teacher in helping you plan this? If this is a Sped class, then they should be leading it regardless of "alt time" or not.

    At my sped school (I actually visit the local disabilities school which is half mental/physical and half hearing assistance), with a mental capabilities group like that I tend to be stuck doing songs exclusively. If they split it based on capability rather than age, which can happen at my sped school specifically for ALT visit time, I am often doing karuta/vocab stuff that the teacher wants to teach. I am in no way expected to plan the lessons or develop the materials at that school.

    I think the biggest thing to do is to manage your own expectations for performance rather than theirs. You don't need to be superman/woman/furry, you just need to be in the class. The students don't need to learn anything from you either, as this isn't the standard English class, but rather a collector class in a school eh?
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    Default Re: Help teaching a special ed class with different levels

    ^ I think that's a big part of my frustration. I tend to feel really crappy when I don't feel like I'm doing a good job, or like the kids are learning enough.
    ...on the other hand, if they don't "have" to learn anything in this class, what...am I doing, exactly? Not knowing the goal makes it particularly difficult, I think. And yes, the lack of teacher support.
    I've other taught three other special ed classes before--one in elementary, and two in junior high--but both classes were lead by at least one Japanese teacher to whom I was the support role. In elementary, the teacher and I discussed what to do in class together, but I feel like this time around I've just been handed the baton and told, "Do something in English." Um... I don't know if they realize the extent to which I'm not familiar with the kids' particular behaviors and learning styles, and the extent to which that matters in trying to teach them. I guess they must have realized to some extent now, because they saw my train wreck last time around.

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    Default Re: Help teaching a special ed class with different levels

    Quote Originally Posted by Larien View Post
    ^ I think that's a big part of my frustration. I tend to feel really crappy when I don't feel like I'm doing a good job, or like the kids are learning enough.
    ...on the other hand, if they don't "have" to learn anything in this class, what...am I doing, exactly? Not knowing the goal makes it particularly difficult, I think. And yes, the lack of teacher support.
    I've other taught three other special ed classes before--one in elementary, and two in junior high--but both classes were lead by at least one Japanese teacher to whom I was the support role. In elementary, the teacher and I discussed what to do in class together, but I feel like this time around I've just been handed the baton and told, "Do something in English." Um... I don't know if they realize the extent to which I'm not familiar with the kids' particular behaviors and learning styles, and the extent to which that matters in trying to teach them. I guess they must have realized to some extent now, because they saw my train wreck last time around.
    Yeah, it's not your job to be an expert in education much less special education. If you never receive the needed support then the best you can do is try to make it an enjoyable experience for both you and the students.
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    Default Re: Help teaching a special ed class with different levels

    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
    Yeah, it's not your job to be an expert in education much less special education. If you never receive the needed support then the best you can do is try to make it an enjoyable experience for both you and the students.
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  10. #10

    Default Re: Help teaching a special ed class with different levels

    You're probably no less clued in than their regular teachers as to their "special learning requirements".

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    Default Re: Help teaching a special ed class with different levels

    Quote Originally Posted by uthinkimlost? View Post
    I don't even know what this means. My entire exposure to this is the little Tsims said in his blog.
    Quote Originally Posted by Shincantsen View Post
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    The Sun's Bird God..what? Zolrak 22's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help teaching a special ed class with different levels

    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
    I don't even know what this means. My entire exposure to this is the little Tsims said in his blog.
    From what I remember about the time I read the intro, the guy sucks but he inspires his students... Or something like that?

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    Default Re: Help teaching a special ed class with different levels

    Go and observe a couple of their other classes and get an idea of what level they are at and how much is expected of them. If the Japanese and math teacher is happy to let them fling their own shit at each other while drooling over their worksheets I doubt anyone is expecting you to bring them up to eiken level 2.
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