Posted on 21st July 2023

Teaching the EAL, SEND and LPA nurture groups

3:31 PM, 21st July 2023
Teaching the EAL, SEND and LPA nurture groups

Teaching the EAL, SEND and LPA nurture groups

Written by Hannah Sassoon, Principal Design Lead for Geography Mastery

Teacher reflection questions: -

  • Which is the class you spend the most time planning for?
  • What are the challenges of teaching this class well?
  • What actions are you taking to adapt your teaching for them?

We all have classes who demand more of our time. Usually, these are the groups where there are a range of educational needs. It requires our patience, expertise, and foresight to adapt our practice to teach these students well. It can be the most frustrating and often, the most rewarding.

In this post I’ll be talking you through my journey with a Year 7 class with a high range of needs and how I learned to adapt my practice to teach them better. We’ll start with my student Jay. This is what I imagined was going on for him in January of this year:

Jay has been studying geography for 4 months. He finds the subject hard, and the new ideas make no sense. There are so many new words and complicated questions, and he can’t concentrate. He dips in and out of listening, but rarely is the work complete in his book. Sometimes he ends up getting in trouble for chatting. In Jay’s mind ‘he just doesn’t get this subject’.

Upon my return from maternity leave this past January, I was allocated the Year 7 nurture group. I had taught nurture groups in my old school, but never one where the reading age was an average of 6.5 and 100% of students had EAL. Processing is slow, recall is poor, attention is ‘jumpy’ at best, and of course self-belief is hugely lacking. The result of January’s teaching was quite a flop, the poor book work, the lack of recall, the inattentive behaviour. All together the lack of progress was quite disheartening.

So, I set out to gather more data. I went to observe this class in several other lessons. I spoke with Teaching Assistants who knew the students well. I had colleagues come in and observe my teaching, and I trialled and ‘errored’ a lot of different strategies.

I reluctantly concluded that I had lowered my expectation of this class and dumbed down the teaching. I made assumptions like “Oh this nurture group won’t manage reading. I’ll need to talk them through some slides.” “These students can’t master the lesson vocabulary; I’ll just substitute these specialist terms with easier words.”

The practice I saw made me realise that it was possible for these students do to all these higher-level skills, I just needed to change how they could access them.

With a lot of time and grit, there was a different atmosphere in the room by the summer.

So how did I get there?

I’d say my core finding was: Lower the access whilst maintaining high expectations.

Foundational to this is having absolute clarity on exactly what knowledge you want students to leave the lesson knowing. In Geography Mastery we call these Core Knowledge statements (Figure 1). In this instance I have used the Core Knowledge statements to identify what needs to be front and centre in the lesson, and what students need to know but will find more complex and will require more teacher input.

GM blog Figure 1

Figure 1 - Annotated Core Knowledge for the lesson

Once I have these statements, I can start to consider my adaptation. My investigations showed me how to master 3 techniques:

  • Planning participatory exposition.
  • Preparing ahead for reading in the lesson.
  • Privileging independent practice.

Planning participatory exposition (table and Figure 2)

What I did beforeWhat I do now

Long ‘teacher talk’ exposition

Chunked exposition focusing on Core Knowledge

Relied on slide deck for exposition

Marked up short elements of text to read with students

Images to support exposition

Use of hand signs for different concepts and ideas

Expected students to just ‘remember’ what I said

Students highlight and annotate ideas in text, guided by my questioning

A couple of questions directed at students to check understanding

All class participate in check for understanding e.g. thumbs up, thumbs down. Repeat exposition if not understood.

Preparing ahead for reading in lesson (table and Figure 2 and 3).

What I did beforeWhat I do now

Avoided reading in text lesson

Removed specialist vocabulary

Prepare students for reading by: -

  • - Introducing speed words that we practice before a read to improve fluency
  • - Selecting short pieces of text to read, integral to the lesson
  • - Marking up the text with the answers to questions I will pose (and they will highlight)

GM blog Figure 2

Figure 2 - Planning for participatory exposition and guided reading.

GM blog Figure 3

Figure 3 - Lesson Speed Words

Privileging independent practice (table and Figure 4 and 5)

What I did beforeWhat I do now

One word answer questions

Simply phrased questions, with word banks and sentence starters

Expectations of longer answers

Gave lots of individual feedback

Gave whole-class feedback using student work under visualiser

GM blog Figure 4

Figure 4 – Independent task with scaffold

GM blog Figure 5

Figure 5 – word bank

So how do I put this together and plan a lesson for this class? I would take the following 6 steps:

1. Core Knowledge: Identify what is most important for students to know and what they need to know but will be challenging.

2. Mastery Booklet text: Identify where the most important knowledge shows up in the text. Prepare what student annotation will look like based on guided reading.

3. Speed Words: Identify 4-6 Speed Words that will unlock literacy barriers.

4. Plan my participatory exposition: A combination of hand signs, analogies, definitions, opportunities to rehearse ideas.

5. Check for Understanding: Ask a number of CFU questions (e.g. cold call with thumbs up, thumbs down). Be prepared to immediately re-teach if students have not understood.

6. Scaffolded Independent Practice: Sentence starters and word banks guiding students to answer longer form questions.

Jay has been studying geography for 10 months. He finds the subject challenging but really enjoys it. He is learning new words all the time. He knows all about the geography of the UK, the deciduous forest, the Grampian Mountains and the cliffs at Caithness. He always completes his work and enjoys when his teacher annotates his answers under the visualiser.

Nurture groups take so much time and energy to teach well, but they are so teachable and are deserving of our attention and expertise perhaps more than any other group.

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