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NSW Syllabuses

Supporting students in History with special education needs

The History K-10 Syllabus recognises that students learn at different rates and in different ways. By using the teaching and learning cycle (assessing, planning, programming, implementing and evaluating), teachers can ensure that the individual learning needs of all students are considered and a learning environment is created that supports students to achieve the outcomes of the syllabus.

Teachers should undertake regular and ongoing assessment to ensure students are making sufficient progress and to identify any difficulties they may be experiencing in their learning.

The following figure illustrates one method of planning and programming that incorporates the principles of assessment:

Special education needs outcomes diagram

Most students with special education needs will access learning experiences based on the regular syllabus outcomes and content. However, they may require additional support, including adjustments to teaching, learning and assessment activities.

All decisions regarding curriculum options for students with special education needs should be made within the collaborative curriculum planning process.

When programming for students with special education needs, appropriate teaching procedures and strategies should be selected. Students who are experiencing difficulties generally benefit from:

  • new material presented in small steps
  • additional explanation
  • pre-teaching of expected prior knowledge, strategies and skills necessary for learning new related concepts
  • repeated modelling
  • guided practice
  • extensive independent practice
  • explicit teaching of learning strategies (cognitive and metacognitive strategies)
  • additional teaching and learning experiences at each phase of learning (acquisition, fluency, maintenance, generalisation)
  • instructional scaffolding.

The teaching of History involves the integration of knowledge and understanding, concepts and skills.  

Knowledge and understanding

Students with special education needs may require support and adjustments in order to achieve some or all of the outcomes of the History K-10 Syllabus. In order to understand aspects of the past, for example, some students will need explicit connections between their own experiences and that of the past.

Primary sources in particular provide excellent opportunities for students to gain an understanding of the past, as they provide concrete and visual examples for students to engage with.

Site studies, which are a mandatory requirement in Years 7–10, are also a valuable tool to assist students with special education needs to experience concepts such as change, empathy and significance. Find further information, including a list of suggested site studies for Stages 4 and 5.

Historical concepts

Students with special education needs may experience difficulties understanding historical concepts and will benefit from the use of concrete materials, multiple examples, as well as explicit connections to personal experiences.

Historical skills

Some students with special education needs may require adjustments and support in order to develop the skills of historical inquiry. Students who experience difficulty with aspects of literacy may, for example, benefit from support to read and respond to historical texts as well as communicate their understanding. A range of strategies can be used in order to assist students with special education needs to develop relevant historical skills, such as:

  • pre-teaching of essential terminology with multiple opportunities to use and comprehend terminology in the context of historical texts
  • explicit teaching of reading strategies, such as skimming and scanning
  • explicit teaching of using text structure to gain meaning from texts, such as headings and subheadings, links, graphics
  • use of scaffolds to structure written responses
  • selection of texts at appropriate reading level when undertaking historical investigation
  • explicit teaching of research techniques, such as using key words in online search engines, note taking and summarising.

Years 7–10 Life Skills

For some students with special education needs, particularly those students with an intellectual disability, it may be determined that the Years 7–10 Life Skills outcomes and content can provide a more meaningful program.