skip to main content
NSW Syllabuses

Supporting students in English with special education needs

The English 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.

As students respond to and compose texts, they undertake a number of other integrated and concurrent processes:

  • engaging personally with texts
  • developing and applying contextual knowledge
  • understanding and applying knowledge of language forms and features

The integrated relationship of the objectives, learning outcomes and key processes of the English K–10 Syllabus allows students to use language meaningfully in a range of contexts.

Further information is available about the organisation of content in the English K–10 Syllabus, including text requirements for each stage.

In particular, students with special education needs may require adjustments and assistance to develop specific literacy skills in order to gain meaning from texts, as well as respond to and compose texts.

Suggestions for supporting students with special education needs in English include:

  • supporting vocabulary development through specific strategies such as modelling in different contexts, relating new words to existing vocabulary, using synonyms as well as examples and non-examples of words
  • explicit teaching of active listening behaviours
  • visual and touch cues to facilitate the development of speech-sounds
  • creating a language rich environment
  • strategies to support expressive communication, such as contingent responding, wait and signal, referencing and shaping
  • explicit teaching of phonemic awareness strategies, such as blending, segmenting and stretching
  • explicit teaching of reading strategies, such as skimming and scanning
  • use of comprehension strategies at the literal, inferential and applied levels
  • learning strategies for comprehension, such as summarising, story maps, semantic and graphic organisers
  • explicit teaching of spelling strategies, such as phonological, visual and morphemic strategies
  • instructional scaffolding for text types, such as flow charts, sentence starters and mind maps.

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.

For more information in relation to teaching English to students with special education needs, refer to the following support documents:

English K–6 support materials for students with special education needs