Creative approach to organization of practical work on special education methods of teaching a foreign language
Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №11 - 2019
Author: Oskolkova Anna, Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan
By 'practical work' we
mean tasks in which students observe or manipulate real objects or materials or
they witness a teacher demonstration.
Practical work can:
- motivate students, by
stimulating interest and enjoyment;
- teach, develop and
improve laboratory skills;
- enhance the learning
of both language and scientific knowledge;
- give insight into
academic work and scientific method and develop expertise in using it - develop
'researcher attitudes', such as open-mindedness and objectivity.
An effective teacher
plans practical work bearing in mind specific learning objectives. By using
different pedagogical approaches the same practical task can be used to achieve
different learning outcomes.
For some practical
tasks, the learning is about inanimate objects and observables. Students are
expected to recall what they have observed. Other tasks involve making
connections between observables and research ideas. Students generally find the
latter harder, as they involve cognition, vision and physical activity. The
task design needs to scaffold students efforts to create these connections.
Practical work to
develop students research knowledge is likely to be most effective when:
- the learning
objectives are clear, and laconic for any given task;
- the task design
highlights the main objectives and keeps the class session in order;
- a strategy is used to
stimulate the students cognitive process beforehand, so that the practical
task is answering a question the student is already thinking about .
classes (SEC) provide a unique service to physically or mentally challenged
students. The ideal SEC provides quality instruction to students with
disabilities (SWD). While the push in education these days seems to be toward
online education and the inclusion of special education students within
mainstream classrooms, SEC are still needed for more severely disabled
students. The purpose of the SEC setting is to provide more intensive,
individualized attention to the students who most need it.
However, even in SEC
settings there can be a wide a range of skill levels and abilities. How can
teachers provide quality instruction to all students? Here are some strategies
that special education teachers can use to benefit all of their students:
1. Work in small groups:
Forming small groups of two or three students within the class grouped
according to their level can help with personalizing and differentiating the
teaching while not sacrificing class instruction time. For example, in language
class, one group could be working on the basic rules of grammar tense formation
while a more advanced group could be working on their reading or listening
skills that can help them to work with a text and find the examples of those
tenses. Students would be grouped together according to similar skill levels
and objectives along their education pathway.
2. Create classroom
centers: Classroom centers are another effective way students can be grouped.
Each center would specialize in one area or level or a part of lesson content.
The centers would be self-contained in terms of instructions and all lesson materials
and aids. They would also be somewhat self-explanatory and self-guided to allow
the teacher to monitor the work of the different centers and provide
appropriate guidance. A teaching assistant could help facilitate the groups.
Such centers would strike a balance between being self-explanatory, without
totally giving up more direct teacher time.
3. Include more
specialized tasks in the general instruction: Still another way of instructing
multiple levels of students is to teach general concepts to the whole group
while pairing it with individual instruction. Since every school subject has
some general concepts that could be relevant, individual students can benefit
from this no matter what their level of proficiency. Reading comprehension
strategies, the basics of math, organizing writing ideas, or even a scientific
theory are some examples of general concepts that could be taught to support
what each student is learning in that area. Students can then apply this
knowledge to their particular individual assignments. However, the teacher
could always add some additional content for more advanced students.
4. Be flexible: Lessons
within the different groups or centers could be rotated so that on any given
day the teacher could introduce new material to one group, while only having to
check in on others who are doing more independent activities. The teacher
assistant could also be of service within such a lesson cycle.
5. Try thematic
instruction: Thematic instruction is where a single theme is tied into multiple
subject areas. This method of teaching has been shown to be very effective in
special education classrooms. A theme could be anything from a current event,
honing the skill of reading comprehension, a writing topic or a historical
event. For example, a historical event could be tied into all other subjects.
The theme should be attention-getting - something that will grab the students
interest and keep them engaged.
6. Provide different
levels of books and materials: Since there will be a variety of proficiency
levels in the classroom, be sure to have different levels of textbooks and
other teaching materials available for each subject. Having a range of levels
on hand will ensure that each student can learn at the appropriate level. This
minimizes frustration and maximizes confidence and forward momentum in the
student. As you can see, teaching special education students effectively can be
enhanced with some adjustments. Regardless of the severity of their
disabilities, classes can be structured in a way that caters to the individual
level of functioning.
Doing so does not mean
giving up quality personal instruction time. No matter what the content areas
or variety of levels your students are working on, harmony and integration are
possible. Strategies such as grouping, learning centers, rotating lessons,
choosing class themes and having a flexible array of texts and materials can
help teachers to provide ideal instruction and support within their special
education classes .
Creativity is a complex
field studied and discussed from many different perspectives. This is one of
the reasons why there is no generally accepted definition and we always have to
be aware of the point of view we take in defining creativity. The creative
approach to language teaching is an approach that presents creativity as one of
our many innate skills, a talent that every person, and every language learner
has. This approach focuses on the idea that we all can enjoy the potential to
be creative under certain conditions; that we all abound with many different
forms and levels of creativity and that it is the teachers task to stimulate
the creative potential in students.
Language teachers have
three advantages that can help stimulate creativity in students.
First, language is
creative in its very nature. We can express or communicate one idea in many
different ways. Furthermore, every expressed or communicated idea can provoke
many different reactions. Every single sentence, phrase or word we say or write
is created in a unique moment of communication and can be re-created,
re-formulated, paraphrased or changed according to the goals of the speaker or
Second, language classes
are not limited by any specialized subject or knowledge. Language teachers can,
therefore, build their lessons on topics related to sport, management, law or
philosophy and still focus on language. This is why a community-of-practice
setting, where students and teachers share their individual types of expertise
and knowledge, can be more easily established.
And third, language
classes can easily engage students in creative situations. By creative
situations we mean close-to-reality situations in which students do not use
well-known and practiced steps that can be applied almost automatically in order
to achieve one correct solution to a problem. In creative situations, students
have to produce one or more answers to a series of inter-connected problems.
They do not know what steps can be used to solve a problem, they may not be
sure if the problem has one solution, a wide range of possible solutions or if
it has any solution at all. Students simply do not encounter clear-cut
situations that can result only in succeed-fail or correct-incorrect
solutions, rather they face unclear situations with unclear and tentative
solutions. Sometimes, even the setting of a situation or instructions can
require a certain level of interpretation. Since language usage represents a
form of communication that can be used in almost every situation, authenticity
or reality-close situations can be created more easily than in classes of
chemistry or history, for example.
The creative approach to
language teaching, which is based on the idea that any student can be creative
when they are engaged in creative situations, shows students the complexity of
a language by exposing them to close-to-real-life situations in a safe,
flexible and dynamic environment by means of a class of learners constituted as
a community of practice.
sources. Teachers often believe it is their duty to choose texts and activities
for students and are sometimes surprised when students are not satisfied with
their choice. In order to minimize the danger of spending too much time on
preparing materials our students do not find engaging, we can use strategies of
the negotiated syllabus method and ask them to find useful materials and decide
which activities they would like to try on their own. This activity can improve
students autonomy and cater for individual learning styles.
We can show the
principles through the example of reading skills. We can ask students to:
- explore their fields
of interest and find texts they consider both interesting and of high quality;
- send samples of such
texts to the course online space;
- read the text samples
before the following session.
At this point, we can
choose to take control and decide what activities we are going to do, based on
the collected texts. In other words, we have saved our time when looking for
texts that could be interesting for the group, and our task then is to find the
appropriate sections of the collected samples that can suit our teaching
purposes best. Alternatively, we can ask students to identify problematic
issues or issues of interest and follow their particular needs. In order to
help them identify issues, we may proceed in different ways and ask them to:
1) compare their own
texts with those of their classmates and see what differences or similarities
2) choose one text and
paraphrase it in their own words;
3) identify the main
ideas in each text;
4) identify the authors
5) discuss their
Internet search strategies;
6) vote for the most
interesting text, the least understandable text, a text with the highest level
of past tense use, with widest range of vocabulary, or any other feature the
class would like to focus on.
This style of work
offers several advantages for both teachers and students. Teachers do not have
to look for the best material that would suit a particular group. Instead
they obtain a database of texts from their students. Teachers can also move
away from their traditional positions of providers of one ultimate truth and
can become facilitators of complex processes that form part of language
learning. Students, on the other hand, are more actively engaged in the search
for the texts; they have to create their own criteria for quality, and they
practice reading and critical thinking individually and intensively outside of
the class. Each student also works in their own area of interest, so they can
develop both their language and non-language related skills at the same time.
What is more, students are engaged in situations with unclear solutions: they
do not know whether they can find a suitable text; they have to form their
opinions, make decisions, present their results to classmates and be ready to
respond to their reactions' .
"For me, fostering
learner creativity is a vital role for any teacher as doing so can help
learners to develop predictive, analytical, critical and problem-solving
skills, to develop confidence and to develop self-esteem. Fostering creativity
is even more important for a teacher of a second or foreign language as it can
help to achieve the affective and cognitive engagement vital for language
acquisition as well as helping learners to understand language used for natural
communication and to use language for effective communication themselves.
Teachers of EFL therefore need to be creative in order to encourage their
learners to be creative too.
Most language teachers
still rely on course-books to provide the activities they will use in the
classroom and most course-books do not typically provide activities which
foster creativity. It is therefore important that teachers make use of their
course-book as a resource rather than follow it as a script and that they
develop the confidence, awareness and creativity to adapt course-book
activities in ways which can foster creativity. One way of adapting
course-books so that they foster creativity is by opening up their closed
activities so that they invite a variety of personal responses instead of requiring
all the learners to give the same correct answer.
modifications of course-book activities:
- The teacher acts out a
text from the course-book. For example, when reading a passage about a park in
China which activates spikes when somebody sits on a bench for too long, the
teacher actually acts out going to the park, being tired, sitting down on a
bench, falling asleep, being woken up by spikes, screaming with pain, jumping
up and running away.
- The students act out a
text from the course-book as the teacher reads it aloud as dramatically as
possible. For example, before reading aloud a Korean folk tale about a
hard-working but poor farmer and his lazy, greedy and rich brother, the teacher
divides the class into two halves and tells one half to act out what the
hard-working brother does and the other half to act out what the lazy brother
After this dramatization
of the text the teacher asks the Yes/No questions from the course-book, as
personal questions to the brothers. For example, instead of asking Was X
lazy?, the teacher asks Were you lazy? Why?
Then, instead of asking
the question from the course-book about the lessons to be learned from the story
the teacher asks the students in character to think about what they have
learned, if anything, from what happened to them. These small changes are easy
to make and bring the story to memorable life.
- The teacher writes and
performs a bizarre story using the words of a course-book drill. The students
in groups then write and perform another bizarre story using the same words.
This way the students hear and pronounce the target sounds many times in ways
more engaging and memorable than repeating them without context in a drill. For
example, the teacher performs the story below which makes use of these words
from a drill.
Cycle; cyclist; cycling;
thunderstorm; bike; tornado; gym; dog; vacuum; chores; clouds; rainbow.
Its not been a great
week to be a cyclist. On Monday I went cycling in a thunderstorm and was blown
off my bike. On Tuesday I went cycling in a tornado and was lifted off my bike.
On Wednesday I went cycling in the gym and was knocked off my bike by a dog who
was vacuuming the floor. On Thursday, after doing my household chores, I went
cycling in the clouds and was washed off my bike by a lion who was cleaning a
- The students perform
dialogues in character. For example, in a dialogue in which A is a salesman in
a shoe shop and B is the customer, A is told that he is the ex-husband of B and
has not seen her since the divorce. Or in a dialogue in which A asks B how to
operate her new office computer, B is told that he is in love with A but she
doesnt know this.
- The students find ways
in which wrong answers could become right.
In pairs, decide on the
rules for a library. Complete the sentences with: can, cant, have to or dont
You __________ keep
quiet in the library.
Use cant and
because to complete each of the sentences.
You __________ keep
quiet in the library.
The examples above of
additions and modifications are easy to think of and to apply and yet they make
the experience of using a course-book much more creative and potentially much
more enjoyable and rewarding for both the teacher and the students. Other
creative adaptations to course-books include:
1. The students drawing
their interpretation of a text rather than answering questions about it.
2. The students
interviewing characters from a text.
3. The students
developing a text by, for example, continuing it, re-writing it from a
different perspective or in a different culture or location, responding to it
with a letter or e-mail.
4. The teacher turning a
closed activity into a competition by getting each group to develop an extra
question to challenge their peers with.
5. The teacher giving
the students the comprehension questions and getting them to create the text.
6. Groups of students
chanting out a drill in different voices (e.g. a very young child; a
headmaster; a very old person) .
1. Practical work learning, Teaching and
Learning Using Practical Work. Retrieved from: https://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/practical-work-learning/teaching-and-learning
-using-practical-work (Reference date: November 24, 2019).
2. 6 Strategies for Teaching Special Education
Classes. Retrieved from: https: // education.cu-portland.edu/blog/classroom-resources/6-strategies-for-teaching-special-education-classes/
(Reference date: November 24, 2019).
3. Carlile, O and Jordan, A Approaches to
Creativity: A Guide for Teachers. Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2012.
4. Fraser, D The creative potential of
metaphorical writing in the literacy classroom. English Teaching: Practice and
Critique 5/2: 93108, 2006.
Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №11 - 2019