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 [1].

Special education 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 [2].

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 writer.

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.

Student-generated 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 they find;

2) choose one text and paraphrase it in their own words;

3) identify the main ideas in each text;

4) identify the authors position;

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' [3].

"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.

Examples of 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 does.

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 rainbow.

- 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 have to.

You __________ keep quiet in the library.

Changes to:

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) [4].


1. Practical work learning, Teaching and Learning Using Practical Work. Retrieved from: -using-practical-work (Reference date: November 24, 2019).

2. 6 Strategies for Teaching Special Education Classes. Retrieved from: https: // (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

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