SEND inclusion jigsaw: a teaching strategy for all learners

|5 min read

Editor’s Note:

This is an updated version of a blog post originally published on June 19, 2019.

Up to 1 in 4 learners in your class will struggle with maths. Help support them (and everyone else) with the SEND inclusion jigsaw teaching strategy.

Think about the pupils in your class who struggle with maths. What are the barriers to their learning?

Some pupils have gaps in their knowledge and others might misunderstand core concepts such as place value. Others struggle because they have a special educational need or disability (SEND), for example: a moderate learning difficulty, a speech and language need, or a specific learning difficulty.

Inclusive high-quality teaching is the first step in responding to pupils who have SEND (and those who don’t).

The SEND inclusion jigsaw makes sure planning and implementation meets the needs of all learners, and builds in high expectations for everyone.

What is the SEND inclusion jigsaw teaching strategy?

The SEND inclusion jigsaw teaching strategy looks at lessons like a jigsaw containing multiple pieces. If pieces are missing, the lesson is likely to be incomplete.

When we tackle a jigsaw, we often start by identifying the corner pieces. The corners are the foundations that need to come first — they are the elements we build the lesson on. The piece in the middle of the jigsaw (developing independence), completes the picture and is the final piece of the puzzle.

After all, our aim as teachers is to develop children who are independent thinkers and learners.

What does the jigsaw look like in practice?

The jigsaw diagram below outlines nine key elements of the SEND inclusion jigsaw teaching strategy. It fosters inclusive high-quality teaching for pupils with SEND.

Nine key elements of the SEND inclusion jigsaw teaching strategy

Here are some examples of how you can put each of the elements of the SEND inclusion jigsaw teaching strategy in place to support all the pupils in your class, including those with SEND.

1. High expectations

Learners who struggle with maths often have a belief they ‘can’t do it’ and can develop maths anxiety as a result of this thinking. A good way to tackle this is to set high expectations and demonstrate them in a positive way.

Don’t just tell your learner you have high expectations for them, show them. Set a goal and support the learner to work towards it.

For example, expect a child with language difficulties to use precise mathematical vocabulary and support them by providing visual prompts such as mathematical word mats.

2. Developing relationships and knowing pupils well

Never underestimate the importance of developing positive relationships with your pupils. Make sure you’re well-informed about your pupils and that you know them as individuals. Find out what their needs and strengths are and what interests or motivates them.

For example, at the start of the year, ask your pupils to complete the following statement:

“One thing I would like my teacher to know about how I learn best in maths is…”

The responses can be enlightening!

3. Inclusive learning environment

If you have a maths working wall in your classroom, check that it’s accessible to all pupils. Too much information on a working wall can be overwhelming for pupils with concentration difficulties.

For example, provide a distraction-free space (such as a workstation) for pupils if they need it.

4. Age, interest, and ability appropriate curriculum

Regular revision and repetition of concepts will be useful for pupils who have cognitive challenges. Check that your maths curriculum takes a cumulative, ‘spiral’ approach to learning, where key concepts are revisited and built upon.

For example, a maths mastery approach to the curriculum, can be particularly useful for pupils with learning difficulties due to the way it uses the concrete, pictorial, abstract approach (CPA) to support inclusive high-quality teaching and a deep understanding of mathematical concepts.

5. Quality feedback

To achieve mastery in maths, it’s essential that pupils having difficulty grasping any concept are identified quickly and provided with extra support. When you identify particular misconceptions, be specific, accurate, and clear with your feedback.

For example, say to the pupil,

“You have completed step 1 of the problem but you now need to check steps 2 and 3.”

Provide guidance on their next steps rather than simply highlighting errors.

6. Engagement through hands-on approach

The CPA approach provides the ideal opportunity for pupils to learn maths concepts using hands-on, physical resources at the concrete stage. Some pupils will need to spend longer at the concrete or pictorial stage, or will need to continue having these stages reinforced alongside the abstract stage.

Make sure you don’t remove concrete materials too early when pupils need to carry on using them to secure their conceptual understanding (it is okay for KS2 pupils to be using Unifix!) and know the misconceptions associated with the approach.

7. Questioning and modelling for challenge

Part of the modelling process involves using the appropriate mathematical vocabulary. Make sure you explicitly teach the vocabulary that pupils will need to access the lesson and check their understanding of it.

Pre-tutoring before the lesson can provide a good opportunity to introduce and explain mathematical vocabulary and often gives less confident pupils a knowledge boost!

8. Scaffolding learning

Scaffolding involves using a range of strategies to provide temporary support for pupils, moving them towards increasing independence.

For example, when pupils are tackling maths word problems, you can scaffold their learning by providing visual clues to help them understand the instructions, or by pre-highlighting the most important words within the problem.

9. Developing independence

To encourage more reluctant pupils to independently overcome challenges when they get stuck with their learning, try introducing the 3 B4 Me strategy. Before the pupil goes to an adult for help they must try the following:

  1. Brain (think for themselves)
  2. Buddy (ask a peer)
  3. Book or board (e.g. textbook or working maths wall)

What are the benefits of the SEND inclusion jigsaw teaching strategy?

The SEND inclusion jigsaw teaching strategy doesn’t just benefit pupils with SEND, but allows you to meet the needs of all pupils. Ask yourself, are the pieces in this jigsaw different from what makes inclusive high-quality teaching for any pupil?

The answer should be a resounding no!

Simply put, good teaching meets the needs of all learners and enables all learners to make progress. That’s what makes a really inclusive maths lesson.