Some thoughts on special needs – suggestions welcomed

Following the first online discussion since the conference that changed me two weeks ago, I’ve been having a few thoughts about the students I have in my charge with needs that don’t fit within the current narrow definition of achievement – well below to above – that we work within.

During our #edchatnz discussion last evening, Danielle posed this question:

My answer was swift because it has been something I’ve been grappling with as my teaching philosophy has rapidly developed since my return to the full-time teaching fold a year and a half back:

To expand the question somewhat: How do I provide relevant content to the year 5 & 6 students I have who are achieving at Level 1 of the NZ Curriculum? 

I worry that these students are getting lost within the melee of the unstructured structure I have constructed for my learners this year. 

I truly believe this is my greatest challenge as a teacher. Giving these learners the education they deserve while still delivering challenging learning for those gifted students who are knocking on the door of secondary school achievement levels. 

My question to the PLN I have constructed for myself over the last fortnight is this: What do I do? What do you do? I have a couple of hours of teacher aide time per week. I want to be as inclusive as I possibly can – why should they miss out on the learning of the rest of the class just because of their abilities? I have some ideas but I would love to hear some of the solutions that already exist out there.

I owe it to my L1 students to do the best I can for them. 



6 thoughts on “Some thoughts on special needs – suggestions welcomed

  1. Hi Mike, my class sounds similar to yours. As a third year teacher I have been battling with this on a day to day basis. I have a teacher aide in my room and am always trying to find the best way to have her support my learners.

    One thing I found particularly useful was having ‘what’s going on?’ Time, like morning talks, kids share and then offer questions that are then answered by the speaker.
    My class learned that my kids with different needs had something to offer and wanted to share their lives, some comments were a bit random, but with more practice and by listening to the others, those low ability kids have found a voice. Now they offer some really valuable input to class discussions in all areas of learning.

    All the best with your class, it’s nice to read about someone in a similar situation who wants to do better for their student and hasn’t told me to get the Teacher Aide to go do some photocopying.


    Pia Bradshaw


  2. When I ran a collaborative classroom, the kids did a lot of independent work in groups – if that makes sense. I often had a group called MsBs group. These were the students who were struggling to master the particular task. They would start the learning session with me. Often, but not always, their work was differentiated. I would work with them to set their goals for the particular session in particular focusing on what they could achieve in the time available and would make sure the work was accessible to them. The other kids had the chance to opt into that group if they felt they needed more help. Seemed to work well.


    • I’ve been doing a bit of that this year. Send everyone off then call students down for further teaching, but offer that workshop to everyone. That seems to work well.


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