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'Many pupils with disabilities are intellectually able. The presence of a disability in itself does not necessarily mean that the individual has special educational needs.'

Effective provision for Special Educational Needs
HMIE 1994

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Additional needs - introuction

English as an additional language


Not all learners who are gifted or talented have additional support needs, but it is worth bearing in mind the following points:

* Not all learners who do require additional support have cognitive difficulties. They span the whole range of ability and some will be very bright.

* The tendency to focus on a single ability or disability sometimes distracts us from the other abilities a learner might have, and these other abilities may include a gift for languages.

* Language learning seems to have the potential (albeit unpredictable) to reach parts of the brain that other subject areas do not reach, so that, occasionally, learners have succeeded in MFL while struggling to succeed in, say, English, or Maths. (For more on unpredictability, see download, below.)

* Some learners of high academic ability suffer from low self-esteem and are very conscious of what they see as their own failings. Sometimes learners in 'top' classes are very concerned about being 'right' and are more reluctant to speak the foreign language than those in the 'bottom' class who may be less aware of their mistakes. In languages it is often those willing to have-a-go who are more likely to succeed. Gifted and talented learners may need help to overcome this handicap.


What additional help might g&t learners need?

Tools that enable them to become less dependent on the teacher and the learning pace of the rest of the class.
(See pages on independent learning, the importance of teaching phonics, prerequisite (especially Dictionary) skills, and capturing language.)

Opportunities that enable and encourage them to work independently of the teacher for at least some of the time. For example:

Choice - so that they can develop their skills while following themes and topics that interest them, both in and out of class. (See pages in the Languages Plus section.)

Activities that allow them to develop and extend their language skills but also their personal skills (e.g. peer tutoring, cooperative group work, group leadership).

Freedom and encouragement to pursue their developing interests and to make contacts outside the classroom that help them to do that. (See pages in the Languages Plus section.)

Please see note on copyright

This extract from Modern Languages for All provides thumbnail descriptions of learners for whom the benefits of language learning were significant but unpredictable. These are real stories, though the names have been changed.

Download extract


[Links last checked 9.3.11 unless otherwise stated.]

A suite of pages from Optimus Professional Publishing:

Gifted and talented learners are not always easy to spot...

Two pages on the links between SEN and 'gifted and talented'
Identifying children who are gifted or talented:

Supporting gifted and talented children:

Enriching MFL

The role of the lead teacher:

Gifted and talented - National Curriculum 
Making the most of the new curriculum to support both gifted and talented students and those with SEN, in languages

The contribution of multilingualism to creativity
A study of recent research into brain function reveals that students could be gaining a lit more from their pursuit of language skills. Find the full report here:

NALDIC: SEN and gifted and talented

The Real Project
Considers how to improve the quality of gifted and talented education for pupils from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds and to respond to the particular and urgent needs of gifted and talented learners with English as an additional language (EAL). You'll need to sign in, but it's free. The introductory page is here:

The Council for Exceptional Children
The Council's definition of Inclusion, and links to pages on a wie range of issues:

The Hertfordshire Grid For Learning
Guidelines for the identification of gifted linguists, plus some lesson ideas.



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