Devising challenges or activities for pupils with SEND is not as straightforward as it seems.
In my experience, I’ve found that some pupils will happily tackle maths challenges or lengthy creative writing tasks for hours on end, but other tasks, especially when they have to be carried out at home, can be a struggle.
Asking parents to provide feedback can also be exasperating for both parent and child. Frayed nerves are not conducive to any family atmosphere in quarantine.
Coronavirus school closures: Remote learning for SEND pupils
However, there are some tasks that seem to work well for almost all pupils, and can help them, and their families, to enjoy remote learning:
1. Concentrate on life skills
Activities such as helping with the housework, gardening, washing cars and baking/cooking not only take pressure off parents to sit and "teach" their children but also provide important family time as they work together to get tasks done.
Pupils are active and learning skills that will contribute to their life skills accreditations on return to school. As such, these activities should not be overlooked as viable and beneficial lessons or "homework" tasks that can be set.
2. Dear diary
Keeping a short diary each day is a great way for pupils to keep writing without the pressure associated with completing a more formal English exercise.
Ask them to include: what they did that day, how they felt, what made them laugh, what the weather was like, etc. This can be a couple of sentences to a full page, depending on their ability.
SEND students are often engaged when a topic is of specific interest to them, so the diary could include recollections of: listening to their favourite singer or reading aloud their favourite book, or writing down the facts they researched about their favourite animal.
The key is that if they enjoy what they’re writing about, this will motivate them to accomplish more.
3. Nature spotting
Creating a spotting sheet on which pupils can record how many times they spot specific birds, spring flowers or other local wildlife on a walk or in the garden is a great opportunity for them to learn about the natural world and chat about what they’ve seen.
They can then add the numbers up and compare them. For example, what did we see the most/least of? If children are able to, they could display this information as a bar or pie chart and calculate the mean, median and mode of their results – a great way to camouflage maths work.
If they become particularly interested in a species, they could do a mini-beast project with descriptions and pictures.
Some helpful resources are available at Wildlife Watch.
Remote learning can be a challenge for parents and students alike, but finding activities that pupils will enjoy benefits everyone in the household.
If more formal learning is causing issues, be prepared to discard this approach in favour of more practical activities such as the examples above to bring the family together and to restore a calm, stress-free atmosphere. Only then can true remote learning take place.
Antoinette Frearson works at a special school in Gloucestershire and is also doing a master’s in education (special education and inclusion). Find her on Twitter at @AntoinetteFrea1