We’re halfway through the year and our learners have just completed one of the toughest assessment periods of the year. Following these assessments and examinations, we know where the shortfalls are and should now be able to create a plan of action to provide support or intervention.
Intervention does not need to be a daunting task, but should rather be considered as an opportunity to step back, re-assess strategies and use alternative methods to reinforce a concept. How to do that?
- Celebrate accomplishments or anything that learners understood well.
- Then look at the assessments, especially the questions that were most troublesome to your learners. Did they misunderstand key words or the whole concept?
- Examine the question with them, step-by-step, and show them how to answer the question. Point out key words and how you would like them to present their thoughts. When you present questions or instructions in worksheets, point out the importance of catchphrases and the structure of their answers. These could all be deemed important methods of intervention.
Intervention sessions can of course be done within the regular class periods, but also attended once or twice per week after school. Talk to learners’ parents about the reasons for these lessons and perhaps invite them to gain ideas in helping their children at home. With modern technology, you can even share short video clips of explanations via email or communicative applications.
Language intervention practice
Reading comprehension can be a struggle for many young learners. The skill to understand the content of a passage relies on more than just comprehension. It encompasses building blocks such as phonics (understanding the relationship between letters and sounds), fluency (the ability to read accurately, at an acceptable pace and with intonation when needed), vocabulary (the knowledge of words and their meanings) and phonological awareness (e.g. the skill to analyse, synthesise and manipulate sounds in words).
In the Foundation Phase, we incorporate auditory and visual perception to ensure that a learner is able to hear or to see the difference in sounds and words. This might include discerning the initial, medial and last sounds in words, stating which words have the same blends, identifying rhyming words or completing silly riddles with a rhyming word; e.g. ‘The cat sat on a mat….and wore a __(hat).’
Review the sounds and various blends discussed earlier in the year and use those words in your handwriting lessons. Depending on the grade level, review the various blends used to form the vowel sounds, e.g. the sound of A could be written as ai, ay, ei in eight, etc.
Make posters as a group – to add to the classroom wall for reference, and make copies for informal dictionaries. Make a list of words containing each different blend or spelling rule and add additional words as you find them in books. Add tabs on the side of the dictionary – labelling the pages with tabs, e.g. ‘sounds like A’ to make it easier to access.
Use new words (from storybooks, readers, etc.) on a poster and have learners review their meanings or use these words in sentences. Are you aware of any synonyms or antonyms to add? As soon as they have mastered these words, try to find books containing them or include them in your reading comprehension tests. Encourage learners to access the lists of words when writing essays, advertisements and poems.
The 5 Ws (Why? When? Who? What? Where?) are key questions that test the insight of our learners. Some question papers also include questions to test the insight of learners’ more in-depth evaluation (e.g. What do you think? How do we know?). Incorporate these words when reading books together. Stop and ask a question to gauge if your learners are able to answer these questions with insight. This can be done in other languages too.
It would be important to review a number of simple comprehension tests and build up to grade-level work. Websites such as lalilo.com and readtheory.org have free phonological awareness reading comprehension activities respectively. Sign your learners up to have them work through the levels individually – at school or at home.
Mathematics intervention practice
With regards to mathematics, review the skills which learners had trouble with and do so in lower number ranges. Sometimes the greater number ranges could be intimidating. Point out important words that could indicate a required mode of operation. In problem-solving, the question might include words such as ‘altogether’ or ‘the difference between’. Discuss when these words might be used and sort them on posters, categorising the words for each calculation (e.g. plus, add, altogether or minus, subtract). Increase the number ranges when suitable.
Reinforce the value of numbers and where you might find them on a number chart. Use counters to represent the respective numbers, group hundreds and tens. One could even build these numbers with flardcards (different than flashcards). How would you read these numbers or spell the number names? Review whether the number is odd or even and how many you would need to reach the next ten or hundred.
Review the methods required to answer each question. Can your learners order numbers from smallest to greatest or vice versa? Can they use skip counting or do they know the times tables off by heart? There are suitable, free songs to reinforce the times tables on YouTube (e.g. songs sung by Des and Dawn Lindberg).
Now is the time to reassess the problem areas and to find support. Talk to the head of your department and discuss tricky situations with the school support team. Invite parents to a short meeting and share ideas that both them and the school can try to help the child. Continual teamwork goes a long way. May you have a successful term ahead!
About the author:
My Klaskamer by Juffer has been the “go to” blog for Foundation Phase teachers for the past decade. Juffer also has a store on Teacha! with many resources for Foundation Phase teachers and parents, both in Afrikaans and English.