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.
In a recent mathematics lesson, the more advanced students were given an introduction to multiplication; an important building block for other mathematical concepts. Examples were provided before students were asked to complete an exercise on their own; a task they carried out competently.
In the following lesson, this group covered addition of two-digit numbers. While the majority of students performed well, some needed further explanation and support to fully grasp the concept. At the same time, students in group one were tasked with identifying numbers and then writing them down in digit form and in words. As recognition of numbers supports the development of counting skills, it was good to see that the group were able to do this correctly.
Repetition is key to ensuring that students in the Special Needs class are able to fully grasp concepts. As such, addition and subtraction were revisited in the next lesson. Recognising that numbers can be broken apart, rearranged and re-formed - called place value - gives students a better understanding of how addition, subtraction, multiplication and division work. This is especially true when students have a sound understanding of what each part of a whole number represents. Tallies were used to demonstrate the concept of place value. Examples were given and explanations repeated several times. To assess students’ understanding, they were given an exercise to tackle on their own. Initially, only half of the students completed the exercise successfully. Following further tuition and examples, this figure rose to 83%.
In English lessons, group two read “Larry the Lion” and “Harry Hippo”. Each student read a page out loud to the rest of the group, before re-reading the book themselves and answering questions about the story in their workbooks.
Knowing the difference between a vowel and a consonant is an important part of learning to read and write. For group one students, dividing letters of the alphabet into the correct category was a manageable task, so they progressed on to creating words out of the letters. Again, they performed well.
Work on the alphabet continued in the following lesson, focusing on letter recognition, formation and spelling. Using an alphabet chart, students had a go at forming the different letters and identified them to the rest of the group. As a practical activity, they then cut letters out of magazines to create their own alphabet in their workbooks. The students thoroughly enjoyed this part of this lesson and demonstrated much improvement in letter recognition. Next, they were asked to read simple words from flashcards, such as cat, dog and egg, and were given a spelling exercise to consolidate the topic. Most students scored 50%. Extra support will be given to those who had problems with this task.
Revision for the whole group will be carried out at a later date, to ensure the students are able to remember and put into practice what they have learned so far.
Practical and material support is also provided to the Mickey Mouse Pre-school in Gweru, where children aged five and six have been learning about the importance of washing their hands. They were taught that, when done properly, hand washing gets rid of germs that can spread disease. After learning the steps and then watching a demonstration, the children joined staff and volunteers in washing their hands - not forgetting between the fingers, under the nails and up onto the wrists; all the places that germs like to hang out! The students were eager to make sure they did it properly and were particularly excited about blowing bubbles.
Hand washing practice certainly came in ‘handy’ later, following a session of colouring and finger-painting during which the class coloured in a drawing from a book and then created their own finger-painted flower pictures.
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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