Small group support enables learners to achieve
June 12 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 decision was taken recently to divide the class into three groups for English lessons, as some learners in the least advanced group of the existing two were struggling to keep up with their peers.  The learners in group one now receive the most support, group two students are of average level, while those in group three are the most advanced.

In group one, flashcards are proving to be an effective way to introduce new vocabulary, using simple verbs and nouns such as ‘play’, ‘take’, ‘apple’ and ‘dog’.  After reading the words out loud from the flashcards, the students were then asked to spell them.  All were able to spell at least half of the words correctly.  As this group takes longer to fully grasp new concepts, the exercise was repeated.   

In group two, the students read a story called “The Dube Family”, each taking turns to read a page out loud.  Reading aloud enhances fluency, strengthens comprehension, and helps students to develop critical reading skills, as well as building their confidence.  After reading the story, the students wrote answers to a series of comprehension questions to ensure they had fully understood the meaning of the text.  Some children had difficulty organising their words to form complete sentences correctly, for example when asked, “What work does Mr Dube do?”, they wrote, “builder did Mr Dube do”.  This demonstrated an understanding of the text, but highlighted the need for additional work to be done on sentence construction.    

The most advanced students in group three read a story called “Who sells tomatoes”.  Their reading was fluent and when asked to answer comprehension questions such as, “Why did people like Mrs Moyo’s tomatoes?”, the majority were able to answer at least 80% correctly.

In mathematics, recent lessons focused on teaching students about currency.  The majority managed to identify the coins used in Zimbabwe, from a dollar coin, down to five cents, as they are familiar with using them to buy sweets, or to use public transport to get to school.  Most were equally as confident when asked to add different coins together, with only two students unable to grasp this task initially.  Allowing them to physically count coins placed in front of them helped their understanding much better.  As with all new topics, this lesson will be repeated in the future to ensure that the students have retained what they have learned.      

The following lesson progressed on to calculating change through subtraction.  Questions were written on the board, for example “I paid 20 cents. The item cost 13 cents.  How much change do I get?”  At first, many students had difficulty subtracting large numbers.  To make it easier, they were encouraged to count up from the smaller number to the larger (for example, from 13 to 20) with the difference equaling the amount of change needed.

Mickey Mouse Pre-School is located in the high-density area of Mkoba, where most of Gweru’s population live. ALERT and Antelope Park provide both practical help, in the form of classroom assistance and material support to this school. 

Recent lessons at the School have focused on developing the children’s drawing and colouring skills.  These activities help to improve concentration levels, encouraging younger children to focus on a project and explore different ways of making marks and different shapes on a page.  As well as being a creative and visually expressive medium, it also develops strength and coordination in the shoulders, wrists, and fingers; all necessary for when a child begins to engage in handwriting tasks. 

In one activity, students were tasked with following a set of simple instructions.  Using a worksheet with seven faces on it, they were asked to draw spectacles on those faces that didn’t already have them and then colour in the hair black.  The majority understood and followed the instructions correctly, however some students needed additional support to carry out them out accurately.  The children were then asked to draw patterns within leaf shapes and their artwork was displayed on the classroom wall.  

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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