New Term, New Skills for Gweru’s Students
October 31 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.

The new school term began with mathematics lessons focused on addition and subtraction, based on the textbook ‘Addition and Subtraction Key Stage 7+’.

Individual students were chosen to complete a series of subtraction examples on the board, before the whole class were given calculations to work out in their books.  The majority answered each question correctly.  Lessons continued using vertical subtraction (subtracting numbers vertically in the ‘ones’ and then the ‘tens’ columns), with most students able to grasp the concept.  This topic will be revisited throughout the term, as a revision tool for more able students and extra tuition for those who aren’t as confident.

In addition, students have been working with larger three-digit numbers, which involve ‘carrying over’ one number, for example: 170 + 460 = 630.  Again, examples were provided on the board before students were given an exercise to complete independently.  As most answered all problems correctly, they were then introduced to the concept of carrying over two numbers, for example: 142 + 278 = 420.  All students achieved 70% and above.

The next lesson focused on telling the time.  Each student was given a clock made from a paper plate as a visual learning aid.  Following examples of different segmentations of time - quarter past, quarter to, half past and o’clock - they were asked to show these times on their clock faces.  Some students needed extra support to do this.  Next, they were shown pictures of clocks and asked to first verbalise and then write down the correct times.  All students performed well in this exercise.

Recent English lessons have looked at homophones; words that sound the same, but have different meanings and spellings.  After being given examples, students had to underline the correct spelling in a series of sentences, including:

  • I hope it doesn’t rain / rein
  • We walked on the beech / beach
  • What would / wood you like?

Having successfully completed this exercise, they were asked to choose five words to construct their own sentences and demonstrate an understanding of each one’s meaning.  Again, they did well with this task.   

In reading lessons, the less confident readers in group one are encouraged to learn unfamiliar words by repetition, listening to and reading the same story several times.  This is always followed by comprehension and spelling exercises to assess understanding and word recognition.  Most still struggle in both of these areas, so extra support is given.  Games such as ‘Hangman’ are also played to increase the children’s vocabulary in a less formal way.  Although group two readers are more advanced with reading and spelling, they still require extra work on comprehension.  

Rhyming teaches children how the English language works, enhancing decoding skills and helping them to make predictions when learning new words.  As such, the students have been learning to pair up rhyming words, such as ‘bull’ and ‘pull’, ‘face’ and ‘chase’.  They found this difficult however, so will spend more time on the topic in future lessons.     

Practical and material support is also provided to the Mickey Mouse Pre-school in Gweru, where children have recently been learning the practical skill of tying shoelaces.  Sitting in a circle, they were shown how to tie a knot and then make two ‘bunny ears’ before bringing them together and making a second knot.  After watching this demonstration twice, the children had a go at tying their own shoelaces.  Some struggled at first but, after more practice, all were able to do so.  To consolidate the lesson, the children then played a relay race game called ‘Tie the Shoe’.  They were divided into teams and those teams were divided up again; half the members had their shoelaces undone and the other half didn’t.  The children whose laces were fastened had to run to their opposite team mate and tie their laces before running back and tagging the next person.  The team who all had their shoelaces correctly tied the fastest were the winners.  The children loved the game and the practice helped them to perfect their new skill.   

To teach the children critical thinking, an exercise to match animals with their shadows was introduced in the next lesson.  Firstly, the children had to identify each animal on a worksheet.  They were then told that they had all lost their shadows and needed help to find them by matching the animal to the correct shadow at the bottom of the page.  Most of the children managed to match most of them up successfully.

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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