We FOCUS on dealing with Learning Difficulties

While we are waiting for our first deliverable of our project, FOCUS, an online data base filled with methods, case studies and best practices for the benefit of foreign language teachers who teach children between the ages of 6 and 12 with learning difficulties, let’s take a brief look at some techniques which have been proven successful.

Firstly, we all ought to know that teaching a foreign language to students with learning difficulties can be a rewarding experience for the teacher, but also an experience full of challenges. Teachers need to approach these pupils in such a way that they adjust to the individual needs of every student instead of expecting students to adjust to their teaching style. In order for this to happen, the teacher needs to take some other very important parameters into account, even though they do not necessarily involve the lesson itself.

At the beginning of the school year, every educator ought to know and understand his students’ needs. The term “learning difficulties” entails a broad spectrum of difficulties, with each one presenting different characteristics and challenges. So, if the educator is ignorant, they can never teach said students effectively.

Secondly, creating a welcoming environment for children, one that can make them also feel emotionally safe, is of great importance. Organizing a classroom in such a way that it enhances the feeling of being included (eg desks placed in a circle), makes every single child feel that they belong in a team. And this automatically encourages them to cooperate and help one another.

However, the most significant parameter to consider is adjustment of teaching material according to children’s individual needs. Teachers should utilize a plethora of multisensory tasks and activities so that all learning abilities are covered.  They should provide alternative exercises of various levels according again to pupils’ abilities. They should also incorporate assistive technologies so that the lesson becomes not only more interesting, but also more easily accessible to everyone. They should use interactive materials to motivate pupils and, finally, they should create an environment through which all students immerse themselves into the targeted language language and they can see it come to life right in front of their eyes.

Only when children realize that they truly do not lack anything, but they just learn differently to the majority, then and only then will there be successes within the classroom and the pupils will be willing to learn. Teaching foreign languages to students with learning difficulties demands patience, creativity and love. In FOCUS, our primary goal is the creation of inclusive classrooms which will make the learning process enjoyable and successful not only for children, but also for the teachers themselves.

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