Very hungry learners

25th April 2008 at 01:00
Catering for the diverse skills and needs within a class of pupils who have complex additional special needs is an ongoing challenge for teachers

Catering for the diverse skills and needs within a class of pupils who have complex additional special needs is an ongoing challenge for teachers. Stimulating literacy experiences must be accessible to all.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle has been a favourite with my pupils for many years and I have built up a bank of visual material to go with the story. By re-telling it using pictures and symbols such as fruit and flowers, I am able to support pupils at various levels of skill and understanding.

Acting as caterpillars and butterflies gives pupils opportunities to increase their motor skills in a fun environment. Our youngsters often try to eat whatever they hold, so I provide them with edible "caterpillars", usually in the form of sweets.

Many cannot hold a book or turn the pages easily, if at all, but they enjoy listening to stories and looking at pictures on the whiteboard. Using a PowerPoint presentation of the book means I can increase their independent learning opportunities.

The first time I used it, I simply re-told the story using the presentation, which the pupils loved. During the activity, I noticed increased attention, gesture and even vocalisation, particularly as the caterpillar ate different kinds of foods. One pupil even sat in his seat for the entire story, which was quite an achievement.

The lesson has become a firm favourite, with no end of volunteers to press the interactive whiteboard that navigates the story forward. This simple event has also increased opportunities for gross motor skills practice as pupils willingly use their walking frames to move to the board.

Success was reinforced when, one day during free play, a boy carefully manoeuvred himself away from his walking frame, using the wall for support, and stood proudly pressing the whiteboard. As he watched the story unfold, he shouted with glee and pointed to the screen as the very hungry caterpillar turned into a beautiful butterfly.

I would recommend this use of PowerPoint for other popular books.

Sheila Kerr is a teacher at Redburn Special School in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire.

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