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Review - Addressing Special Educational Needs and Disability in the Curriculum: MFL



It may not be the snappiest title for a handbook, but John Connor's book, in its second edition, is a very useful read for teachers interested in how to work with SEND students. Whatever the type of school you work in you are certain to encounter students with all sorts of special needs including hearing loss, dyslexia, dyspraxia, visual impairment, ADHD and physical disability. Until recently, if I had wanted to find out about SEND I would have consulted David Wilson's work at specialeducationalneeds.com or Hilary McColl's at at languageswithoutlimits.co.uk, but I can also thoroughly recommend John Connor's all-in-one reference book.

If you don't know John, as well as being a die-hard Everton football club supporter, he has been a Head of Faculty, a local authority adviser, senior examiner, an AST assessor and Ofsted inspector for MFL and SEN(D). The first edition of the book was part of a series "Meeting SEN in the Curriculum, which won a BERA (British Educational Resources Award). John tells me this new edition is much updated.

Running to around 140 pages of large clear print, half of which are in the form of appendices, the five general chapter headings are:

1. Meeting SEND: your responsibility (a reminder of basic statutory responsibilities).
2. The inclusive MFL classroom (including reasons for teaching MFL to SEND pupils, managing behaviour, individual case studies, supporting writing, using technology and producing your own materials).
3. Teaching and Learning (including types of differentiation, learning styles, a good practice guide, evalutaing materials, pair work and learning logs).
4. Monitoring and assessment (including formative assessment, formal assessment, feedback, individual support plans and accommodating individual needs.
5. Managing support (including working with teaching assistants, the care and support of individuals and groups and different ways of allocating time).

The appendices include legislation (including the SEND Code of Practice and the Equalities Act), how to develop a departmental policy, types of SEND, individual case studies and a couple of brief lesson plans for French and Spanish.

John's book is written in a very easy style which teachers will be able to relate to and learn from. His updates have included a reappraisal of the now much discredited learning styles theory, although I notice that he does refer to left and right brain learning, which I thought had also gone out of fashion. The list of types of special need and disability in the appendices is particularly useful, while his advice on MFL lessons includes a good deal of common sense about lesson planning, presenting language in different ways and easing the cognitive load by careful scaffolding. I'm not sure the two brief lesson plans at the end add a lot to the book, but some readers will no doubt find them useful.

The section on working with TAs is also extremely valuable and shows a good deal of experience about this very practical classroom issue. The reality of classrooms is brought to life by the case studies (individual teacher accounts) which sprinkle the text. Heads of Department will find the advice about writing policies invaluable. In the Monitoring and Assessment chapter there is great common sense advice about modelling and clarity of instruction including examples from Spanish and French.

John also gives a good range of examples of how to integrate technology in lessons and provides a list of useful references at the end of the book. I also liked his page (30) which lists examples of good "direct teaching"; directing, instructing, demonstrating, explaining and illustrating, questioning, discussing, consolidating, giving feedback and using plenaries. I like remarks such as "Give examples and remember to say the pupil's name before asking the question, to alert him and give him every chance of providing a good answer. Build in "thinking time", rather than expecting an immediate response."

If I were being fussy I'd say that the sequencing of ideas in the book comes across as just a little haphazard and some readers may appreciate even more detail, but there is no doubting the depth of knowledge, good sense and experience which John brings to his book. I also know from my own limited experience how these things work - publishers provide fairly strict word limits to write to, certainly for teachers who have limited time for extra reading. You could devour this excellent handbook in a long evening and learn a great deal.


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