The following section will analyse specific case studies with challenges that ITEps student-teachers have encountered during their Teaching Practices in international, bilingual, and national schools. For each of the scenarios, the authors have analysed and offered their perspective on a specific situation whilst taking into consideration the previously mentioned barriers, as well as their importance in the situation. As a reminder, the learning barriers are all interconnected, and more than one barrier might have an influence on the child’s behaviour and learning. Moreover, there can be other factors influencing their behaviour that were not mentioned in the case studies, further observations would need to be made by the student-teacher or mentor to see if it occurs over time.

Following the analysis of each scenario, some strategies on how to support the child in overcoming the learning barriers and reducing the impact of them will be given, as well as strategies on how the student can be included more in the classroom by providing the support that all students can benefit from. The format in which the strategies are organised is inspired by the response to intervention (RTI) model. The model “has been conceptualised as a multitiered approach to the provision of interventions and services at increasing levels of intensity for students with academic and behaviour problems.” (Shepherd & Linn, 2015, p. 253)


The model is divided into three tiers, which is usually represented as a triangle (see Figure 1). According to Shepherd and Linn (2015), the primary tier targets the whole class which receives high-quality instruction and effective classroom management within the general education classroom. Teachers use differentiated methods to address the needs of students in the classroom, therefore they all have access to the curriculum (Fuchs, Fuchs, & Compton, 2012).

Students who need more support, receive more intensive interventions in the secondary tier. Smaller groups of students, that are more homogenous, get specific support, mostly in the areas of academic, social and behavioural difficulties (Sugai, O’Keeffe, & Fallon, 2012). At this level, instruction is more frequent, intensive and teacher-centred (Shepherd & Linn, 2015).

At the tertiary level, students receive intensive, individualised interventions (Bradley, Danielson, & Doolittle, 2005). Only a small number of students are provided with support at this level. Often it includes the use of individual behaviour plans and functional assessments, and the support is being provided by a special education teacher (Gresham, Hunter, Corwin, & Fischer, 2013).

Flipping  the Tiers for Inclusion

The authors have adapted the response to intervention model by still using the groupings of individual intervention, small group support and whole-class instruction. It has been organised in a way that the support can be provided within the classroom and it gives ideas on how student-teachers can support students who show academic, social, and behavioural difficulties due to encountering different barriers to learning. The strategies are focused on reducing the impact of the barriers on an individual, small group, and whole-class level and the response to intervention model is flipped. This means that the intervention is first being provided for the student concerned to then open up more and more. Strategies are given to support the inclusion of a student in the classroom where they can learn together with their peers while still being provided with support that all children can benefit from.

Case 1: Student A
“A.” is a 6-year-old child attending an international primary school, and the language spoken in the classroom is not the same as the family one, therefore a language barrier is clearly evident. The number of students in the class (126) with just 2 teachers available is overwhelming and is then challenging to have an overview of each student’s needs and interests. The student-teacher placed in this classroom noticed after a week that writing is a big challenge for “A.”. Working one-to-one with “A.” on different tasks made the student-teacher realise that the student was able to form shapes and letters with manipulatives such as play-dough, and copy big forms and letters on the sheet. Although, the home-teacher was not worried about “A.”s needs, since writing was the only challenge the student had to face.
  • Why do you think the teacher is not worried about the student’s needs?
  • Do you think that the classroom size impacts the learning of the student?
  • Do you think the student is able to copy smaller letters? If yes, why? If not, why?
  • Do you think that the language barrier is the only barrier the student is facing? If yes, why? If no, which additional barriers could the student be facing?

The authors analysed the case studies and according to the learning barriers explored before, the child might be facing a physical barrier to learning. This could potentially be seen in the fact that the student “A.” is able to manipulate the letters in a bigger format, but still struggles with writing them on a smaller scale. One of the explanations of this tendency could be a possible vision difficulty and the need to have glasses. However, there could be other barriers or a mixture of barriers that the child could be facing including the big classroom environment where it is almost impossible to attend to the needs of every child, and the lack of language skills.

As mentioned before, physical barriers can be invisible, such as sensory barriers which include visual impairments. Watson, Cantu, and Terry (2017) point out that students with this type of sensory impairment can miss out on crucial information because it is only given in a way that is not accessible to them. As in the case of “A.”, most of the time the materials are adapted to the rest of the class and given in smaller font formats.
The student can be included in writing activities on different levels throughout the following strategies:

Tier 3 Individual Strategy: Visual and tactile window

Observation can help teachers learn whether  a student is facing a challenge and requires extra support or resources, Observations are important, because teachers can better understand the needs of the students and take further actions to help them develop to their best (Sharman, Cross, & Vennis, 2007).

According to “A.”, a big challenge when it comes to writing is to reduce the size of the letters. “A.”, being 6 years old, might just need some extra time to develop that specific skill, but if no improvement can be seen throughout the school year when writing tasks have to be completed by the students, the teacher could offer the student a visual and tactile window.

The window consists of a long rectangular piece of cardboard that has the same width as the letter size wanted. The window will be placed where “A.” should write. This will give “A.” extra support in forming the letters in the wanted size since the cardboard will function as a boundary to the pencil (Heffron, 2016).

Tier 2: Small group strategy:  Developing motor skills through play

According to Cremin and Burnett (2018), playfulness describes an attitude and readiness to explore and discover, and it can be used in multiple learning contexts to develop a variety of skills. A prerequisite to writing and holding a pencil is strength and stabilisation of the wrist. Furthermore, through play, children can develop their fine and gross motor skills and body confidence (Beck, 2016).

The student-teacher in question could give resources the students can play with, making sure the focus is on strengthening their fine motor skills.

The children can then decide for themselves with which one they want to play. Since the classroom is formed by 126 children, it is important to know that small groups of children are possible according to the resources available. Some examples of resources the students can use to play with are the following:

  • Playdough
  • Puzzles
  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Bricks
  • Pasta bracelet on yarn (NEPS, 2015; Sharman, et al., 2007)

Without realising all students will be focusing on the development of their fine motor skills that will help them with their writing skills, and “A.” will not feel excluded. Furthermore, the students will be in groups and active communication will happen between them, therefore “A.” will not only strengthen their fine motor skills, but also their language skills.

Tier 1: Whole Class Strategy: Body Movement

According to Dotson-Rentsa (2016), children find a connection between concepts and action through body movement. Movement increases energy, reduces stress, calms the mind and the body, and memory skills are developed throughout. Considering the aspect of movement throughout a lesson, a morning circle, or as an energiser, the movement becomes intuitive and it can allow students to engage in a spontaneous ‘performance’ while learning important content knowledge (Lytwyn, 2014).

Reflecting on the case study and on the analysis, an example of how to include all students in a writing task without “A.” struggling too much, could be strengthening the concept of top, middle, bottom before starting to write. The concept indicates the position of the letters in lowercase and in order: t – c – p (Heffron, 2015). Before starting to write with their pencils the teacher should ask all students to stand up (if this is not possible, a variation of the activity can be made by sitting down) and match the correct movement to the letter (Vanalst, 2012). Below, the matchings can be found:

  • Top (t, k, h) = arms stretched to the top of the sealing as a ‘tall’ letter
  • Middle (c, o, r) = arms relaxed to the side of the body
  • Bottom (p, q, j) = they crunch down low representing the ‘tail’

Not only “A.’ but all students in the classroom will feel engaged and included in the activity, which will work on relaxing their body, mind, and stress level. Furthermore, it is an activity that unconsciously will stimulate their memory to bear in mind the size of the letters before the writing task.


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Inclusive Perspectives in Primary Education Copyright © 2021 by room305 and Inclusive Education Class 2020-2021 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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