A Typical Lesson

If you agree to your child working with me, what will a typical special education lesson involve?


First of all, my lesson will be customised to your child's needs and based upon assessment of his/her skills and abilities. I work closely with educational psychologists and use their findings (with parental agreement) to build a teaching programme

I don't like jargon but it's important to understand some key words that appear again and again in special education. Firstly, my work is multisensory. That means it works through ALL the senses to make sure that what is learnt, stays learnt. Special needs children often have difficulties with working memory and processing. If you work just through one sense or channel, say, the auditory sense, the chances are that they won't learnt much. By making sure that the student SEES, HEARS, SAYS and even TOUCHES what he has to learn, there is a much better chance that he will retain the material. My teaching is also STRUCTURED, SEQUENTIAL, REPETITIVE AND CUMULATIVE (sorry, more jargon!) In humanspeak that means that I follow a carefully organised programme that moves from simple to more complex ideas, continually reinforces essential facts and rules and doesn't move forward until skills are fully learnt. Finally, I base my programme not only the skills your child needs and their classroom needs, but also on their hobbies and interests. This ensures both interest and relevance - and stops areas such as phonics becoming TOO boring!


The content of the lesson itself depends very much upon your child's needs. Let's say he or she needs a bit of help in all the main areas. This below is not a definitive list of everything I do, but in general I would then work on:


We might start with a bit of VISUAL TRACKING to get the eyes moving in a straight line. That could mean searching a group of lines to find a specific word (e.g. an adjective). We could then practice breaking down multi-syllable words into their components ("WORD ATTACK" or decoding). We might to go over some of the common irregular SIGHT WORDS ("their," "before", "cause," etc.) on index cards (See the Common Sight Words icon). Then we would read a text - either a book from a graded reading series ("Oxford Reading Tree", a book the student is reading or even a story I have written myself for the him). Before we begin, we'll look over the text for clues to meaning and break down any tricky words we can see on the page. Then the student starts reading or we "pair read" together (See the Paired Reading icon). Finally, we might do a few CLOZE exercises where the student fills in gaps in a text with the correct words. This helps comprehension.

Spelling and Phonics

I usually first go over the sounds we have learnt already, getting students to say and write sounds they see on the FLASHCARDS I show them. I might too - if I'm feeling mean - give him or her some dictation to reinforce a weakly-learnt rule. Then we will start learning a new spelling rule. That means getting him to find an example of the spelling a text, reading families of words with spelling in it, listening and tracking for the sound and spelling it. This is reinforced with lots of exercises and games.


Many students have problems with various aspects of writing, especially getting started and developing their ideas. I often start off BRAINSTORMING for ideas with children, using pictures to stimulate their imaginations. I then help them fit their ideas into a STORY STRUCTURE. For beginners, the student will then dictate the story to me. Older students will type it up themselves, working at the same time to improve their TOUCH-TYPING SKILLS. I also work on many othe facets of writing: characterisation, dialogue, description, creating suspense, essays, paragraphing, sentence structure, grammar and punctuation.

Other Skills

There are many other skills that can be crammed into a special ed lesson! For very young students, it might be working on the alphabet and other common sequences; for older students it might be essays and revision techniques. For a dyspraxic child it might be TOUCH-TYPING or fine motor skills, using exercises of my own or those recommended by an occupational therapist. Finally, for a student fighting dyscalculia we might work on memorising those dreaded times tables or learning to break down a maths word problem into manageable chunks.


I do give some homework to reinforce what we have learnt during the lesson and in particular, encourage parents to read with their children as much as possible. However, I tailor my homework load to each child - I do understand how heavily burdened some kids can be with school homework. I liaise very closely with children's teachers and therefore keep abreast of any new areas of weakness that appear.