An update from the Special Needs class in Gweru
August 8 2017

At Mkoba 4 Primary School in Gweru, Zimbabwe, particular support is provided by ALERT and Antelope Park to support the school’s Special Needs classes.  Staff and project volunteers assist class teachers by providing pupils with individual attention during lessons, assessing students' work, and helping to produce effective teaching aids.  Material support is also given, through maintenance and facility upgrades, as well as the provision of equipment such as computers, books, stationery, and sports gear.  To ensure students are given the level of support they need, the class is divided into three groups: learners in group one receive the most support, group two students are of average level, while those in group three are the most advanced.

Recent mathematics lessons have been a continuation of last month’s topic, shapes.  This time, the focus was on identifying the measurements of shapes, for example, a half and a quarter.  Students were tasked with drawing four basic shapes, circle, rectangle, triangle and square.  They then had to divide each one in half and colour in one of the halves.  Next, in groups of three, students were asked to draw the four shapes again, this time dividing them in either halves or quarters.  This proved much more difficult, with the children struggling to differentiate between the two.  After being shown more examples of halves and quarters, a different exercise was introduced.  This time, students were shown a series of shapes and had to identify which had been divided into halves, which had been divided in quarters, and which were whole shapes.  They were able to do this with more success.

Building on the previous week’s achievements, the following lesson focused on fractions.  Examples were written on the board and explained to the students.  They were then tasked with completing an exercise which showed a series of shapes, all divided into quarters, with some of the quarters shaded in.  Students had to write down the parts that were shaded as a fraction, for example, if three parts were shaded out of the four, they would write this down as ¾.  Most answered at least 75% correctly.  For those who struggled, extra support will be given.

As examinations are approaching this term, revision time has been built into mathematics lessons.  For these students, this involves revisiting topics including converting numbers in digit form into words, calculating the value of coins, calculating change, converting cents to dollars and vice versa, and fractions.  The results of a recent exercise covering each of these topics showed that students still need further revision to ensure understanding and application is secure by the end of the term.

In English lessons, group one is continuing to work with picture books.  This time the story was about a teacher and a farmer.  Firstly, students were asked to tell a story according to the pictures, identifying colours and describing the sounds they thought may be heard, for example, a bird chirping.  The children in this group tend to struggle with articulating their thoughts, so initially found it difficult to tell their story, but encouragement gave them confidence to talk about what they could see.  The next exercise involved writing sentences to match the pictures.  As in previous lessons, this highlighted problems with grammar and spelling.  Individual support and lots of repetition will be key to helping these students to improve in these areas.

In group two, a story entitled, “The Vendors” was read out, after which comprehension questions were answered orally and written questions completed.  All students answered every question correctly, showing a great improvement.  They were then tasked with constructing sentences using words from the story.  Again, grammar was an issue with this group too.  These students have also been learning how to use the words; ‘was’ and ‘were’ correctly.  After practicing in spoken sentences first, students were given missing word sentences to complete in their workbooks, for example, “Kundai ___late for school” and “The twins ___ sick yesterday”.

Group three students read “Hide and seek”, a challenging story which contained a lot of unfamiliar words.  As such, they found answering the comprehension questions difficult.  To ensure that students understood the narrative, the book was read again with the teacher stopping at the end of each page to ask comprehension questions and explain any new words.  After that, this more advanced group moved on to looking at how to use the words ‘there was’ and ‘there were’, completing missing words sentences such as, “Yesterday morning _____ a man on the road” and “_____ two girls under a tree”.

About Our School Development Projects

Our aim is to increase the capacity of the schools with which we work to offer higher learning possibilities for their pupils.  All the schools surrounding our project sites are severely resource limited with classes that are over-crowded and lacking educational materials.  Our projects therefore focus on: school building and refurbishment to create improved learning environments; resource provision of educational materials needed to enhance lessons, and teacher assistance to help teachers plan and run lessons more effectively.  All programmes are operated in agreement with the school in question, and with approval from relevant educational boards.

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