Name of Initiative: Creating an enjoyable experience of learning English for my
special education students
Grade: 9th grade special education class
My vision has always been to turn my special education students into happy, self-
confident kids when it comes to English. The idea of creating a challenging learning
environment for my students has always been on my mind, and since I am fond of
creative drama and believe it can be combined with English, I decided to look for
suitable, attractive and popular material that could be adapted into a series of graded
activities. My aim was to see my students learn English and enjoy every minute of it.
I have often heard people claim that because special education students are so weak in
their native tongue, they should receive no English at all. I must confess that this
approach appalls me. No one can survive in today's world without basic English. If
there is a will, then English instruction can and must certainly be added to these
students' schedule and I am glad that they are.
Teaching English to special education kids in the 9th grade is not a simple task. On the
one hand, both their level of English and their general knowledge are very low (this
can lead to feelings of inferiority and over sensitivity), but on the other hand they are
not six years old. Therefore, they should be treated with extra care and respect.
I suggested a few options and the students chose to read about Aladdin and his
adventures. I started looking for materials in books and other sources and found
something appropriate on the Internet: Aladdin and the Lamp. The text was taken
from the Snunit Center for the Advancement of Web Based Learning, to which I was
introduced a few years ago by a colleague.
1. The first thing was to look at the picture of Aladdin (taken from the Internet),
eliciting background knowledge about the topic in English. We identified
Aladdin, Jasmine, Jaffar and the Genie. They remembered that the Genie gave
Aladdin a chance to ask for three wishes. Then each one of them asked for
his/her own wishes. This was a moment that was very special and private.
2. I divided the text into two parts. (It can be divided of course into more parts,
depending on the level of the class.) The students are not non–readers, so the
text was suitable for them.
3. I introduced the new words using pictures and flash cards. The students copied
4. I took sentences from the text and let the students read them, so when they
received the text they were already familiar with it.
5. I prepared a series of activities that can be suitable for different levels. All the
activities were done in class.
a) Pair work in class using flashcards, matching words and their meaning.
b) Arranging mixed words into correct sentences in English on the clipboard.
c) Worksheets with different assignments such as: write true/false, fill in the
correct word and write the word in English.
d) Creating comics from the text. A talented student drew the characters from
the text and the students wrote suitable sentences in the balloons. Then we
put it in the English corner.
e) Recording the students while they were reading parts of the text as
preparation for a mini play. Another aim was to teach them correct
f) Creating a mini play with the students. This can be a long process, but it is
a lot of fun. We wrote the script together. We chose the roles and made
sure that each student had something to do or say. Those who were very
shy were given other tasks. I actually taught them how to act. We
discussed the characters of the heroes and that made it easier for them to
play their role.
Support Needed for Carrying Out the Initiative:
Teaching English in the Herzlia Hebrew Gymnasium has always been a wonderful
and special experience for me. I am lucky to work with an amazing staff headed by
Danny Gräber. We often work together, share materials and support each other. I get
full support and help when I need it from the management and from the school as a
Advice for teachers:
Be warm hearted and sensitive.
Show every single minute that you truly and honestly care and believe that
they can succeed.
Try to take them as far as possible but remember not to ask for the moon.
Do not criticize – flatter every attempt, no matter how small.
Never give up – it will be worth it at the end!
Entering a special education class, I often meet kids who are not only unable to speak
or write English correctly, but sometimes don't even know the ABC. At the end of the
road, with a lot of love and affection (trying to forget the drawbacks, of which there
are a lot), the students' English not only improves tremendously, but they are also able
to recognize just how far they have progressed. As for the teacher, the satisfaction and
the sense of accomplishment are often beyond compare.
To be specific: My students enjoyed learning about Aladdin. They loved the activities
and were happy to learn new words. I was delighted to see the light in their eyes and a
change in their self confidence.
Nitza Kalman graduated from Seminar Levinsky and has been
teaching junior high, both mainstream and special education
classes, as well as high school Mabar classes for nearly 28 years.