Supporting the needs of learners with SEND through remote teaching

A few tips follow on how teachers might support students with SEND through their whole-class teaching, while it is through a screen. SENDCOs may want to share some of these strategies in their communication with all teachers or adapt them for individual children. Although these tips are aimed to support the most learners possible, SENDCOs should still consider if individual workpacks, a place in keyworker school or separate 1-1 lessons with a teacher/TA will be more meaningful for children with more complex needs.

Remind students how to learn. Encourage clear desks, no mobile phones in sight and a distraction-free room. Pupils may take this advice or it might provide motivation for a parent in the room to make these changes for their child.

Provide consistency. Start by showing students a bullet pointed list or a flowchart of how the session will run.

Pre-teach vocab. Your first slide might be 3 words that students will come across in their learning, which you have prioritised for their long-term memory. Help students with these new words by providing a definition, the word type, the word being used in a sentence and an image to go alongside it.

The power of a visual. Ensure your slides are not too dense, but that they reinforce the content that students are being taught verbally. As content might be accessed on a mobile, use a large font. As usual with slides, place text on a lightly coloured background rather than on a white background.

Read aloud. Take the time to read the text on your slides out loud, clarifying key vocabulary/explaining new knowledge and pausing where needed.

Deploy your Teaching Assistant well. This will mean getting the Teaching Assistant on the call with you, then at some point putting the TA in a breakout room with the child(ren) who need(s) it, so the TA can help them with their independent practice – potentially reading or scribing, or tutoring the student(s) remotely. Breakout rooms are easy to manually create on a range of platforms.

Consider how to support attention. Keep instructions and explanations short, breaking up teacher talk frequently, i.e. where students need to hold up something they’ve written or enter something brief into the Chat.

Cold call. There should still be an expectation that all students take part, including students with SEND. Ask a question of all students, provide thinking time, then say a name and ask the child to unmute/write in the Chat.

Emphasise the power of trying and failing. More students will take the opportunity not to attempt a difficult question, knowing it might not be checked. It is important to remind students that having a go (and potentially getting something wrong) is a part of learning.

Encourage quizzing. Consider how quizzing can work – they might write their answer on a piece of paper/whiteboard and all hold it to the camera simultaneously; they might be self-marking, they might be entering their answer into the Chat or they might have to open a quiz via a Microsoft Form or a Google form. Either way, quizzing gives you feedback and forces students to engage and to complete work while on the call. Monitor those who are not responding in the Chat.

Support independent written work. Whether through your modelling, sentence starters or writing frames, support writing tasks where appropriate. This will include students having adequate silent time to complete their written work, including extra time where some students would normally have it.

Consider having students’ cameras off at times. It can be distracting for students to see each other while on the call.

Recap. End the lesson with a recap slide.

Follow up with a phone call. Where students are expected to follow up the live lesson with independent work, consider who needs additional support. This might mean a follow-up phone call; it might mean asking your SENDCO if there is a TA who could follow up, to support that child with their independent task or to consolidate the learning.

Report concerns. Where you feel a child is unable to access, doesn’t participate at all or presents with other concerns, report this to the appropriate member of staff – a Head of Year, form tutor, SENDCO or safeguarding lead as appropriate.

Finally, there is the need to be extraordinarily flexible and responsive. Just getting all students on the call, taking a register, managing their right-to-unmute, monitoring the Chat and readmitting students whose internet fails them is a substantial challenge. If teachers can manage the significant challenges of remote teaching and still apply some of the strategies above, we’ll be ensuring students with SEND can still be well-supported during strange times.

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