Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Classroom Practice - Effective Homework for Students with SEN: Pedagogy

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Classroom Practice - Effective Homework for Students with SEN: Pedagogy

Article excerpt

With the right approach, homework need not be a disheartening experience for students who have special needs, nor their parents.

It can be a challenge for teachers to set homework that strikes the right balance between time requirement, rigour and benefit. That task becomes even more difficult when setting homework for a student who has special educational needs (SEN). If the student struggles in the classroom, why extend this struggle to the home?

More often than not, an SEN student's homework gets lost or remains uncompleted, and after all the effort a teacher may have gone to in order to differentiate effectively, it can feel as if it is a waste of time. And specialists often comment that parents of children who have SEN usually have too much to manage at home to make a battle with their child over homework effective.

Homework can be useful for SEN students, their parents and their schools but the issues of the three groups need to be tackled individually.

The student

Students across the range of SEN issues can struggle with working memory and organisational skills. Homework often ends up being yet another experience of failure as they try to remember what it is, when it is due in and how to go about it.

Teachers add to the problem as they tend to provide variety in homework. This variety is actually one of the key things that can throw students with SEN off course.

A solution to this problem is to establish a pre- and over-learning keywords framework. Pre-learning keywords for a lesson topic - photosynthesis in biology, for example - will help the student to feel more at ease in the classroom during the next lesson, when the teacher mentions the words to the other students for the first time. Over-learning - reviewing those keywords - ensures that the student keeps up.

The framework could be simply a blank exercise book with a list of keywords at the back, provided from your scheme of work. Circle the words that you plan to introduce in the next lesson and the student will know to look these up online or in the textbook, write them out, make pictures of them or use them creatively according to their age and ability. During the next class, when you ask students what a word means, your SEN student may put their hand up, offering the answer before their peers. This will boost self-esteem and ultimately drive attainment.

The parents

For the parents of children who have SEN, homework can be an experience of frustration, and much of that can be directed at themselves for not being able to support their child effectively. …

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