New Year New Faces
February 12 2018

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.

The first term of 2018 began with the enrolment of 18 new students into the Special Needs class.

In mathematics, lessons commenced with an introduction to basic addition and subtraction.  Students were given a worksheet to complete independently to determine their entry level of understanding.  Over half scored 50% and above, demonstrating that they understood the basic concept.  Individual attention was given to those students achieving less than 50%.  Following this exercise, students were split into two groups based on ability.

Group one continued work on basic addition and subtraction, with simple calculations amounting to no more than 20.  At the same time, group two students focused on adding and subtracting multiple numbers, for example 3 + 4 + 5 and 4 -1 -1.  All performed well in this task.  When the less able group progressed onto three-digit calculations, around half of them struggled, so were given extra support.    

At the end of the lesson, students were given homework to practice what they had worked on in class.  As well as reinforcing learning, taking work home to complete also gives parents the opportunity to learn more about what their children are doing in school.

In English lessons, the new students started off by taking turns to read a page from a storybook aloud to assess their level of fluency.  After each page, they were asked questions to check their understanding of the text.  Again, this initial assessment helped the class teacher to divide the students into groups.   

In the next lesson, group one students worked on learning the letters of the alphabet.  As the building blocks of literacy, recognising and naming the letters - both in and out of sequence - as well as the sounds associated with each letter, helps children along the road to reading.  To begin with, the alphabet was recited several times in the correct order.  Students were then asked to identify random letters written on the board.  As repetition is key for these learners, they were next given an alphabet chart, from which they were able to correctly recognise each letter.

While the lower group worked on letters and sounds, group two read the book ‘Betty Bear’, with individual students reading a section of the book aloud and answering comprehension questions.  Each learner performed well in this task.

In the following lesson, both groups worked together on an exercise on alphabet recognition, letter identification, and letter formation.  Having demonstrated that they were able to identify specific letters correctly, the students moved on to writing the alphabet in upper and lower case.  Practice was needed, but eventually their technique improved.

Practical and material support is also provided to the Mickey Mouse Pre-school in Gweru, where children aged five and six have been drawing patterns to learn about sequencing.  Being able to recognise patterns is an aid to mathematical skills, such as understanding the logic structure used in algebra.

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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