May Gathering: when a school topic becomes a family project

For me, the 2016-2017 school-year was marked with this slogan: A School Topic is a Family Project. Media education, which comprises in itself a blog and project based teaching learning process, gives the learners an opportunity to be creative just in the first years of schooling. The family members also begin to create with the learners. When a learner comes home and says what he/she has learned at school, says something which is related to their everyday life as a live language requiring an answer to make up a dialogue, the family members are automatically involved in this dialogue. When a school topic is brought to the learner’s home in this way, the parents are no longer tutors or strict superintendents trying to check their children’s knowledge and skills acquired at school. Let’s begin with Grade three to give the analyses of my methodological approach.

The vocabulary of the learners of Grade 3 generally consists of the object and people names surrounding them, and the verbs denoting the actions which they do with these objects and people. For example, they learn the verb draw with the noun pencil, the verb read is learned with the noun book, and the noun toy is first used with the verb play. And who do they do these actions with? They are sure to do them with their friends, parents, brothers and sisters. These everyday and chummy topics easily move to the learners’ homes and turn into pleasant family projects.

The third graders’ project of the Southern School “English at our home” caused a great liveliness in their families. The learners could speak about their family members, their flats and their toys in English in front of their parents who had their cameras turned on trying to record their children’s first English speeches. Great is the inspiration in Mane Hovhannisyan’s eyes when she is speaking about their flat. There is cheerfulness in Hayk and Mary’s dialogue, and Gohar Barseghyan has involved her younger brother in her video film.

We can imagine the happiness of their mother who shot the film.  People never forget the things which they loved in their childhood. Ashot Zozanyan, Irine Gyurjinyan and Alex will always remember their first English narration because the video film was shot with their favorite dog, doll, ball, piano and the yellow toy car.

During the autumn holidays I began to carry out an online translational project with the fifth graders of the Western School. The learners translated the short fairy tales composed by their younger schoolmates and published them in their blogs and the school website after I had edited them. The final result of that project was an illustrated media book of fairy tales in English and Armenian.

During the Tumanyan Days the fourth graders read and role played the English translation of the tale Black Kiddy. Then it became a family project. The learners illustrated the tale and recorded the parts of the tale characters with their family members. Luiza Yeghiazaryan with her mother and elder brother, Tigran Grigoryan with his mother, and Anahit Vermishyan with her father created their own films of the tale Black Kiddy.

This year I have introduced the topic Shopping to the fourth and fifth graders using the video lessons of the British Council. The learners began to make up their own situational dialogues on the same topic. This became a project in their homes. In the result of this project the learners with their parents, brothers and sisters created video films of role play games. Here are some of them:

Arev Sukiassyan and Mother

Anahit Vermishyan and Father

Andre Virabyan and his Elder Brother

Seda Hovhannisyan and her Elder Brother

There were some learners whose family members don’t know English, and they had to find creative solutions. For example, Elen Hovannisyan speaks to herself in different clothes and hairstyle. It is a real Rodari approach.

A similar solution has been found by Karina Manukyan.

Mariam Koroghlyan  and Angelina Simonyan have found their Rodari solutions by making their dolls speak.

Eva Sahradyan invited her friends to her place and made her video film with the her parents’ support.

Inspired by the learners’ inspiration I made a video lesson on the topic Shopping in which I show what teaching materials and methods of teaching I use. I have received a letter of appreciation from Addeh Hovassapian, projects manager of the British Council in Yerevan. Taking into account the expert’s opinion and following Lucine Bush’s advice, the head of the foreign languages department of the ED Complex, I have made up my mind to create a series of such video lessons with my students in the period of May-June and during the 2017-2018 school year.

In conclusion, I may say that the primary school learner’s internal motivation gets bigger when a school topic turns into a role play game and then it is taken home and it finally becomes a family project.

Taking more care of the children with special educational needs

Inclusive education

They are in no way guilty that they differ from others in their behavior, mental capabilities, lack of attention, hyperactivity and inertness to surrounding world. They all differ from one another with their special educational needs but they are all united by one and the same thing: they all need a constant attention and a special attitude. I understood this most important principle when I began working at Primary school – garden as an English teacher. At first I wasn’t a success. I thought that it was impossible for them to learn a foreign language, and I concentrated all my attention on ordinary and smart learners. The painful affect of boomerang didn’t let me wait long. New and new learners began following and imitating their behavior, and if I had gone on doing the same thing, my classes would have come out of my control. I turned to the children with special educational needs with all my attention and soul, and everything changed. For example, there is a hyperactive learner in Grade one. He was constantly deviating the learner’s attention who was sitting next to him by making senseless movements, dropping and picking up some small objects, standing up and walking in the classroom. I tried to use the hyperactivity of that boy in the organizational work of the lesson. I began calling him to the computer and asking him to turn on the computer and then open the file of our lesson. During conversations I made him take part in asking simple questions. In a word, he was soon fully involved in all the stages of my lessons. I began praising him for his activeness during the lessons. The result was more than simply positive.          

Another example: I have a learner in Grade 6 with some characteristic features of autism. Last year some lessons weren’t a success because of him. With his inadequate behavior he drew everybody’s attention in class. I compiled an individual syllabus of English specially for him and began paying him more attention: in fact I started to teach him individually. I made him sit at the front desk and gave him assignments according to his individual syllabus. Every day I checked his home assignments and encouraged him by putting good marks in his diary. Now he has entirely changed. Every day he is ready for the lesson and wants to answer the questions addressed to the whole class. He has now developed a responsibility for his lessons, and furthermore, he thinks that he doesn’t differ from other learners.

There is another learner in Grade 6 with some characteristic features of autism. He is very clever, and sometimes he seems to be gifted. At first he was very inattentive during the lessons. He wasn’t listening to me during the lesson. He was always busy with other things. His mother complained about the methods of teaching by saying that teacher of English didn’t give any home assignments. I established an email contact both with the learner and his mother. I sent the home tasks both to the learner and his mother. Now this learner does his home tasks every day and is attentive during the lessons because I very often ask him questions and he is to be ready to answer at every moment. He feels that he has an important participation in our lessons. Compiling an individual syllabus helped one more student to make progress in English.          

When in October I was offered to take part in the British Council online course “Teaching Children with Special Educational Needs (SEN)”, I immediately gave my consent as I expected two important benefits:development of my English language competency in the field of pedagogics and gaining new skills in teaching children with special educational needs.  And I wasn’t mistaken as the course was not intended for the highly specialized personnel at schools (speech therapists and psychologists). It was intended for the currently working teachers who have learners with SEN in their classes, and that was the reason why it wasn’t overloaded with different and, sometimes, even contradicting to each other theories. The course was made up with directing questionnaires and tasks requiring practical approach. The answers to the questionnaires were being assessed. The scores were equal to the number of right answers, and it was allowed to retry answering the same questions and in this way the participant could both find the right answer and increase the score. This principle of assessing the initial knowledge of teachers at teacher training courses doesn’t develop inferiority complex in teachers, on the contrary, it stimulates them to broaden their competence and reinforce self-confidence.                 

Nevertheless, I was particularly interested in Case Study tasks related to the main directions of the course:

1.       Dyspraxia (DCD)  Developmental coordination disorder

2.      ADHD — Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

3.      ASD Autism Spectrum Disorder

4.      Gifted and Talented Learners

5.      Peculiarities of Assessment of children Having SEN

The case Study tasks in this online course suggest that the participants help a particular teacher to solve the problems with his/her particular student. Each Case Study document consists of three parts: a) The teacher says, b) The learner says, c) What solutions to the presented problems do you suggest?

The participant of the course is assessed according to his/her pedagogical approach to the given problem. Below I am presenting my suggestions to 5 Case Study tasks. I want to mention that all my suggestions aren’t only theoretically thought of. I am working according to my own suggestions. I keep contacts with the parents of the children having SEN, and they are all pleased with the results of my work. I hope that my suggestions will also be helpful to the teachers of our Educomplex who have learners with SEN in their classes. Teachers may also suggest their own solutions to the given Case Study tasks and in this way become partially participants of that interesting and important course.

Case Study 1.  Dyspraxia (DCD)  Developmental coordination disorder

Ramon’s teacher says:

«I feel really frustrated by Ramon because he’s so good at English but he just doesn’t seem to listen to anything I say. He’s nearly always late and forgets everything, coming without his book or his homework every day. He is so lazy he never finishes anything, just gives up half way through. His handwriting is so hard to read that it is difficult to mark his work. I know he is gifted at languages but I don’t know how to encourage him to try harder.»

Ramon says:

“I am always getting in trouble at school because I keep forgetting things and losing things. I don’t mean to, it just happens! The teacher tells me what I should do but I only remember the last bit she said and I never remember the first bit. She thinks I’m not listening but I am. It takes me ages to put my things away and change my shoes, so I’m often late. I like English a lot, but when we have to write exercises it makes my hand so tired and I can’t read what I’ve written because I’m so bad at handwriting. Sometimes I have to stop because I get cramp. I don’t tell the teacher because it sounds silly. It doesn’t happen to anybody else – just me..”

Here are the solutions suggested by me:

·         The teacher should have an individual approach to Ramon. During the lesson he should ask Ramon to repeat the idea which has just been said.

·         After having explained something the teacher should come up to Ramon and explain everything to him in a simpler way.

·         The teacher should have an email contact with Ramon’s parents and explain everything o them too.

·          The teacher should make Ramon write the home assignment task in his diary.

·         Ramon should be seated at the front desk in class and always be in the center of the teacher’s attention.

Case Study 2. ADHD — Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Mirek’s teacher says:

“Teaching Mirek gives me a headache.  He is always walking around the class, picking up pens and other things from other pupils’ desks.  He never pays attention and he’s always distracting others in the class with his behaviour. He’s like a spinning top which has been wound up and just can’t stop. I am always having to tell him to sit down, sit still, stop messing about, focus on his own work. He waits his turn and is always calling out in class. He is not rude to me, but can’t start any work on his own, always insisting I stand near him to help him. Other pupils in the class find his behaviour annoying. I want to help him but I don’t know how.”

Mirek says:

“I try really hard in English but the lessons are too long and I can’t sit still, my body won’t let me. I just have to get up and touch stuff, I don’t even know how to stop myself. Sometimes we are allowed to walk around and sometimes we are not. That’s confusing. Sometimes we have fun in English and shout out answers in a game and sometimes we are not allowed. Sometimes when I shout out I get into trouble. I don’t think the teacher likes me because she always walks away from me when I need help. Other kids don’t want to work with me.”

I have suggested the following solutions to this Case Study:

·         During the lesson the teacher should ask Mirek to perform useful actions which require movements: clean the board, sharpen pencils, turn on and turn off the projector, when Mirek has finished to do something, the teacher should praise and thank him.   

·         The teacher should organize a role play game on the text which has just been read and involve Mirek in it.

·         Sometimes the teacher should stop the lesson and announce a short break for physical exercises, and ask Mirek to play the role of the teacher of physical culture.

·         The teacher should send the written text of his explanations to Mirek.

·         The teacher should divide the home task into smaller parts.

·         The teacher should have an email contact with Mirek’s parents.

Case Study 3. ASD Autism Spectrum Disorder

Charlie’s teacher says:

“Sometimes Charlie won’t do the work I give him.  He flicks through the book or just stares straight ahead.  When I ask him a question as part of a class activity he either ignores me or says, ‘I don’t want to tell you’.   He often refuses to join in pair work or group work.  This behaviour makes him unpopular with the rest of the class. I tried to get him to sit nearer to me but he got quite upset and refused to move.   I feel stuck and don’t know how to get through to Charlie.”

Charlie says:

“When the teacher wants me to talk in front of the class I feel bad.  I don’t like it when they all look at me.  Sometimes he wants me to join in and talk with a group or another kid.  I don’t like that either, it makes me anxious.  If we have to pretend to be in a shop or something I don’t see the point.  I like doing things on the computer when I don’t have to talk to someone else.  I like learning new words and how to make sentences in English that way.  I like English because a lot of things on the internet are in English.”

I have given the teacher the following advice:

·         The teacher should understand that Charlie has characteristic features of autism.

·         The teacher shouldn’t make Charlie speak in front of the whole class.

·         Charlie should be given more practical tasks which are not to be unreal. 

·         Charlie shouldn’t be involved in language games which require quick speech.

·         While the rest of the class are busy making up a role play, Charlie should be assigned to do the same task on the computer. In this way Charlie will feel that he is appreciated. And loved by the teacher.   

·         The teacher should use as many visual aids as possible during the game.

Case Study  4. Gifted and Talented Children

Noura’s teacher says:

“Noura is clever but she can’t work with other children and she constantly interrupts and causes trouble. She never seems to listen to instructions and as a result makes silly mistakes. She shouts out answers and doesn’t give others a chance or she says nothing and sits at the back and causes trouble. She is at his best if she is doing something different from the others and she can show off. That is hard work for me, requiring extra preparation and marking. She needs to do the same as everyone else or there is no proof that he has covered the curriculum. Noura sometimes does very little in the class and does not always finish his homework to a high level.  I think she is good at English but sometimes she just doesn’t try.

Noura says:

““I am good at English and I want to be better. Sometimes the lessons are so boring and there is nothing new for me to learn so I play with my friends at the back of the class. When the teacher gives me special work I really like it, I am proud to do that work, but that doesn’t happen often. Sometimes I shout out the answers and my friends laugh and the teacher gets angry and everybody laughs. When I make mistakes I get frustrated.  It is because I can do the work and I don’t check because I know I can do it. This makes the teacher angry as well. She says that I don’t listen. I am not stupid but I do some stupid things and that makes me look stupid.”

What advice did I give to Noura’s teacher?

·         The teacher should make up separate more difficult assignments for Noura.

·         Sometimes Noura can be sent to the reading hall with a list of additional literature so that she could satisfy her interests by self-education.

·         Noura can be seated in front of the computer and be given more challenging tasks.

·         Noura can be given project work to do.

·         The teacher can ask Noura to help the students who are left behind.

·         The teacher should make up online lessons for Noura.

Case Study 5. The peculiarities of assessment of children with special educational needs

Mandisa says:

“I have to do some testing and assessment with my class but I don’t know what to do with the learners with special educational needs. I don’t think they will be able to do the end of term test and I don’t want them to feel demoralised and give up. I want to help them to show what they know but I am worried because my headteacher says I have to give everyone grades to show their progress. I also know that the parents will expect grades in the school reports.

Baruti says:

“I really don’t know how to deal with my new English class. Some learners are really badly behaved and just don’t do anything I tell them. Some never say anything and just look worried all the time. Some are always shouting out and asking for help. I know that there are different levels of ability and I think there might be some learners with special educational needs but I really don’t know how to start helping them.»

I am not going to speak about my suggestions on assessment of learners with SEN. I suggest that the readers of this article write their own suggestions in the “Comments” section. I also expect our teachers’ solutions to all the study cases in this article no matter what subjects they teach: Mathematics,  mother tongue or a foreign language. They are all pedagogical problems. We should remember that they are beside us and they need our greatest care.  


I sometimes used the following sources during the course   


The English language syllabus for inclusive education in the primary school of the “Mkhitar Sebastatsi” Educational Complex in 2012-2013 academic year

In inclusive education each child has the limits of mental growth, physical abilities and sense perceptions peculiar only to him or her. That is the reason why the subject syllabuses for inclusive education should be as individualized as possible. These two English syllabuses are intended for the 5th grade learners Vanik Grigoryan and Sveta Vardanyan and also for the 6th grade learner Gor Oseyan.
The educational environment for the three learners is the same: the teaching learning process is organized in a classroom which meets all the hygiene requirements and is equipped with a computer, interactive smart board and a projector.
Besides using digital teaching materials the text-book “Round-up starter” by Virginia Evans & Jenny Dooley, Longman 2010, is used.
The English syllabus for Vanik Grigoryan and Sveta Vardanyan
The aim — at the end of the school year the learners are expected to get the simplest communicative skills which are usually obtained during the first year of studying English at public schools.
Speech abilities
Speaking and listening comprehension abilities
The learners are supposed to be able to
• understand the teacher’s simple commands: stand up, sit down, read the text, translate, go to the board, come here, go there.
• introduce themselves by saying the first and last names, which school they go to and th place of their living
• describe their day in 5-6 sentences
• show and name the objects surrounding them
Reading abilities
The learners are expected to be able to
• Read and understand the text about which they can speak
Writing abilities
The learners are expected to be able to
• write their first and last names
• copy out the text about which they can speak

The language contents
To recognize the English letters and to be able to utter the English sounds
At the end of the school year the learners should have an active vocabulary of 50-60 words with which they can make up simple sentences.
Nouns- pen, pencil, book, bag, note-book, apple, pear, apricot, orange, water-melon, melon, potato, tomato, onion, bread, water, tea, milk, father, mother, brother, sister, house, school, classroom, table, chair
Verbs – go, come, read, sit, stand, sleep, eat, drink, play, give, take, want, have,
The simplest usages of the verb tenses Simple Present and Present Continuous
Adjectives – big, small, warm, cold, nice, 6 colours
Mumbers – 1-10
Pronouns – personal and demonstrative

Gor Oseyan is only expected to repeat what has been said. The sentences should have very restricted vocabulary.

Ann Ganjalyan