UKEdMag: Top 5 Tips For SEND Teachers by @backpocketteach

By Sarah Helton – This article originally appeared in Issue 48 of the UKEd Magazine. Click here to view.

Here are five very simple things to help make the life of a SEND teacher (or primary teacher) a little bit easier:

  1. Always have a small box of great, but simple resources that can be made into an exciting activity.
    Things that I always have to hand:
    • great books to read
    • a hat – to play ‘Pass the hat around the circle’
    • an interesting bag to play ‘What’s in the bag?’
    • a space blanket – to play ‘Someone’s hiding’
    • a large piece of material – to play ‘Someone’s hiding’ or for all of the class to hold onto and bounce a ball or teddy on it – how many times can we count the bounces before teddy falls off? Can we bounce the ball/teddy to someone who’s name begins with J etc.
    • balloons – to practise blowing and breath awareness work (to support speech development), or to work together keeping the balloon up in the air
    • bubbles – to practice blowing and breath awareness work (to support speech development) and to encourage the children to make requests (asking for more bubbles etc.)

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2. Have a bank of song tunes that you can easily convert into a song for any occasion or topic e.g. have the tune for ‘Row, row, row your boat’ and substitute the lyrics. Here’s a song I’ve just made up to go with a Healthy Eating topic using the tune of ‘Row, row, row your boat’. I’ve written these new lyrics in less that 5 minutes!
Fruit Song (to the tune of Row, row, row the boat)
Apples, oranges, pears and grapes
Fruits they are so good
Eat them up and feel so strong
We all love our food
Other tunes that are easy to remember and good to change the lyrics are: ‘If you’re happy and you know it’, ‘Five currant buns in a bakers shop’, ‘Two little dickie birds sitting on the wall,’ ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’. Use whatever songs you know well and are confident to sing.

3. Remember that teaching is very similar to acting – when you enter your classroom you have to step into the role of teacher, put on your game face and put everything else on hold. We all have personal lives and some days this is easier to do than other days.
As the teacher of a classroom of children and leader of a team of staff a high level of energy and commitment is needed to keep everyone else motivated and on track. If you have this your school day will go much more smoothly.

4. Have a list of ways to fill those odd 5/10 minutes when one activity has ended and you aren’t quite ready to move onto the next (e.g. there’s 10 minutes before assembly or 5 minutes before going out to play etc). Ideas for this list: singing a song, reading a story, playing a game. Point 1 above also helps with ideas for filling these odd times in the day.

5. Remember that one of the joys of teaching is that no two days are the same. The flip side of this is that you will probably never have a day when everything goes to plan. I have always told my teaching assistants that if we have a day when we do everything that is on the daily plan and have no problems/interruptions etc. then this will be a ‘champagne day’. A day when I buy champagne for us all. As yet I’ve never had to buy champagne for the whole class team! We’ve had some wonderful ‘prosecco days’ though!

Pass the hat around the circle
Pass the hat around the circle
Pass the hat around
Pass the hat around the circle
See where it stop

This activity encourages motor skills (passing and putting on the hat) and eye contact (following the hat around the circle and looking at who it stops with).

What’s in the bag?
What’s in the bag?
What’s in the bag?
(Name of child) can you tell me
What’s in the bag?

Have lots of interesting objects in the bag for the children to feel and reach for. This activity and song can easily be changed to use a box, a tin, a hat ….. the options are endless. Change the ‘container’ to challenge the children’s manipulation and dexterity skills, also so that it fits in with your given topic and lesson.

Someone’s hiding
Someone’s hiding
Someone’s hiding
Who is it?
Who is it?
Pull, pull
Pull, pull
It’s (name of child)

Make sure that the child is happy to hide underneath a large piece of material/space blanket. If necessary another child or a member of staff could be under the blanket with them to ensure the feel happy and safe.
This activity encourages timing and anticipation skills, physical skills (pulling the material off) and vocalisations – shouting ‘it’s me’ or the child’s name when they appear.

Sarah Helton @backpocketteach is a SEND Author, Trainer & Consultant, specialising in bereavement, grief and loss. Find out more at

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