Until all teachers are trained to teach a range of children in the classroom effectively, the resource room is the only option for schools committed to the cause of education, says Dr Reena Silva Ryall.
The resource room in a school is where learning support is provided for children who have learning difficulties. Many are not aware of what goes on inside the resource room. Learning support for children with reading, spelling or writing difficulties does not include tuition, re-writing of answers done in class or a repeat of explanation of the teaching of the chapter. In order to understand what a remedial programme is all about it is important to analyse the components of a remedial programme. This will help come to a decision as to whether the classroom provides all this and more or whether it is a support that can be optional to schools.
*A remedial programme for a child is individual in nature
Whatever is taught to a child is done not keeping grade or age in mind but rather stage or level or skill at that moment. The plan takes into consideration the child’s approach to learning. Though a child may be taught in a small group the special educator is aware of the individual goals for the child based on the child’s errors. Each child has a file containing extensive observation of the child at work, samples and analysis. There is a plan usually for every three months in place. The child’s progress is documented rigorously and in a qualitative manner.
*Remedial programmes start from current levels of functioning
What is taught is not a take off from the grade based text book or for the purpose of completing the syllabus. It is also not for the purpose of building memory or recall of the curriculum for the exams. The purpose of every remedial programme is to identify where the child is, in terms of skills and abilities. For example, a child at grade four may be spelling grade two words independently, or a child at grade six may be able to do comprehension exercises at grade four level independently. The remedial teacher begins teaching from where the child is. The aim of all remedial programmes is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a child in areas of learning and base goals on it.
*Resource rooms use differential teaching
Though children are often taught in groups, it may appear that they are doing the same topic and the same exercises, or repeating what was done in class, but on closer observation it will be seen that the teacher uses a variety of instructions, a variety of worksheets and a variety of assessments. A single topic is usually taught at at least three levels of difficulty so that children of all levels of functioning get covered one way or the other. Visual, auditory as well as tactile methods are used for all children right up to high school. Even if it is a subject based chapter in Science or Geography, skills like building reading fluency and applying phonic strategies for spelling are essential goals. Comprehension and mind mapping go hand in hand with every teaching.
In the resource room the teacher has the authority to decide how many chapters of the syllabus is manageable for the child. The child need not do the entire syllabus. Some chapters are essential concepts that are required for the next academic level, these are selected. The entire chapter need not be covered. The teacher will rewrite the chapter and modify it such that simpler words are used, the matter is presented in easy reading format such as points, bullets, highlights etc. The questions too can be sifted and direct questions phrased or long answers broken up into short answers. This greatly helps the child in reducing pressure that comes from extensive portions in the textbook and notebook.
*Alternate methods of testing
In the resource room, the special educator knows different ways of measuring a child’s knowledge, reasoning and recall. A question paper when adapted according to a child’s needs often enables the child to do exceedingly well. A child benefiting from the auditory input would do better in a test if the questions were read out as and when the child finishes an answer. A child who needs more time can be given more time without making it seem like a concession. A child who fails in many subjects can be given an oral test to establish the level of knowledge of the child. There are a multitude of ways to test children in a more fair and just way than current classroom practices.
In conclusion, for educational systems that have evolved to incorporate special education training within all teacher training, where differential teaching of one syllabus within one classroom is the norm, where the classroom organisation is such that it accommodates differences among learners there the concept of resource room perhaps is unnecessary.
Given the increase in teacher child ratio in Indian classrooms, lack of policies and guidelines, no means to monitor needs and progress of children performing below the mark it is important that the resource room is recognised as a saving measure for children with learning disorders. The purpose of the resource room is to maximise the potential of the child and entitle children to the same range of experiences their classmates have by keeping them in the class for most part of the day. Until such time that all teachers are trained to teach a range of children in the classroom effectively, the resource room is the only option for schools committed to the cause of education.