Ever since I started teaching English as a foreign language in by HC121107071638


									                Teaching English in Inclusive Classrooms
               By Biljana Pavlović, Vuk Karadžić Primary School, Krusevac

Ever since I started teaching English as a foreign language in 1986, Serbian classrooms
have been inclusive, although the term was unknown at that time. There were always
parents who, for various reasons, did not want their children to attend schools for
students with special needs, so we had students with all sorts of disabilities for many
We tried to cater for their needs as best as we could, none of us being trained in special

When the concept of inclusion was introduced a few years ago, we realized that it was
something we were facing for years, but without any official support.

Then the first trainings started, although the majority of them had the aim to help us write
papers and documents, like Individual Education Plan or a student’s profile, with a few
hints of how really to work with inclusive children and what methods to use.

In the meantime four blind or visually impaired students were enrolled in the primary
school where I work and we faced a challenge of teaching them. All the professional
development trainings we had was about teaching average or gifted students while
students with special needs seemed invisible. Even today none of the seminars for
teachers of English in Serbia ever mention them.

In such a situation the experience of senior colleagues is precious when you have
questions that no book on methodology of teaching English could provide answers. Best
practices proved to be best help not only to young teachers, sharing experience has
always been of utmost importance for me. I hope that some of my thoughts on this topic
might be useful.

Students also teach us how to teach them and I must thank my ex and present student
for their impact on me as a teacher. It is interesting how the students themselves give
quick responses to your efforts to teach them and very soon it becomes obvious that you
cannot approach all the students in the same way, that they have different learning
styles, some of them being classified as special needs.

But first we must be aware of what types of special needs are the most usual in our
schools. The ones that we often meet in our classrooms are: ADD (Attention Deficit
Disorder), ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder), SLD (Specific Learning Disabilities)
such as dyslexia, aphasia or perceptual disabilities as well as physical disabilities,
including vision, speech or hearing problems and each of them requires a specific
teaching response.

Behavioral problems often appear with ADD and ADHD. Well structured class is always
necessary, but with these students, it is a must. Rules and routines are important and
you need to know what to do if a rule is broken. Behavior contracts could be effective
and it is essential to avoid power struggles. It is good to take notes of how a particular
child learns best and provide shorter, smaller chunked time frames for most activities as
well as give hands whenever possible, use engaging activities and limit seatwork. Audio
and especially visual aids are welcome and when nothing works, computer assisted
learning is efficient.

On the other hand students with SLD rarely have behavioral problems; on the contrary,
they are rather shy and have difficulties in expressing themselves either in speaking
(aphasia) or writing (dyslexia). In the first case it is essential to encourage them to talk or
write while they mostly enjoy colouring, matching and drawing activities not only at a
younger age. Singing, reciting and writing in a group as well as playing games are good
confidence building activities. Acting short dialogues and stories are also useful, but we
should not insist on individual performance if a student is unwilling to participate.
Dyslexic students could be discouraged by their low achievements at writing tests, so
they might need modifications of the program. On the other hand, their oral performance
could be excellent and you will find visual and audio teaching material very useful.

Students with physical disabilities usually do not have problems with learning; they even
might be more motivated. But teaching a foreign language to students that have hearing
or vision problems has a number of limitations. In the case of students with hearing
problems the use of audio material and listening exercises are not possible. Then visual
material and writing are more often used and it is good if a teacher knows sign language
if the students use it.

But definitely the greatest challenge is to teach English to young learners without visual
aids. Can you imagine the situation when flashcards, pictures, illustrations, photos,
videos, colouring, matching or drawing is not possible, and that is the case with blind or
visually impaired students. Then audio and tactile teaching material as well as oral
exercises are the only option. But in Serbia there is lack of tactile material and you must
create your own and you can use real objects to explain vocabulary whenever it is
possible. You are forced to use mother tongue more than with other students as
sometimes there is no other way to explain a word or structure. The good thing is that
the blind and visually impaired students have excellent memory and they acquire more
easily. They can even help slower learners practice orally. With young learners it is
useful if a personal assistant is available.
When it comes to reading and writing, knowledge of the Braille is useful, but hardly any
of the English coursebooks at the market have a Braille version. The help of a specialist
teacher as an assistent is necessary at this point. Assistive technology such as screen
reader enables students and teachers practice reading and writing without the help of a
third person or even using the Braille. But to teach successfully the help of parents and
specialist teacher is crucial.

In each of the case, individualization is necessary as the first step and adapting teaching
methods to individual students is essential. Also the support of the peers is very
important. First it is good that all the students become aware of the fact that there are
differences between them and that there is nothing wrong with it. Then all the children
like the challenge of being “teachers” to their friends. Fast learners can get bored if other
students are slower and you must dedicate your attention to them. But if you give them
the task of helping their slower friends, they accept the responsibility with great
eagerness and make your work easier.
All in all inclusion is a serious process and needs well-planned activities. At the moment,
teachers of English are fumbling in the dark and trying to cope with it without any
organized support.
Having all these in mind it seems that this topic deserves our full attention and is yet to
be discussed within ELT issues.


Biljana Pavlović has been teaching English for more than 25 years. She works in Vuk
Karadžić Primary School in Kruševac. Her interests include: CLIL, YL, CALL,TEA and
inclusive learning. Ms Pavlović is active in civil initiatives and she organizes English
courses within the project “Women’s Informational and Educational Centre” for the
Association of Women “Sandglass”.


Venalainen R.& Jerotijević M. (pr.), (2010): Strategije za podučavanje učenika sa
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Retrieved from:

Conroy, P. W. (2005): English language learners with visual impairments: Strategies to
enhance learning
RE:view, v37 n3. Fall 2005

Wu, Y. (1995): Teaching blind children English: material development.

Conroy, P. (1999):Total physical response: An instructional strategy etc,
Journal for Visual Impairment and Blindness.

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