Teaching Afrikaans

When it comes to learning a new language, a good curriculum is helpful, but a good teacher is vital. We as teachers and parents alike, might think we know what will work in the classroom, however, we sometimes need to sit back and view our methods, and our understandings, from the learners’ perspective. We are striving to create the best thinking minds by being the best mentor, guide, and knowledge source we can possibly be.

In order to do this, we cannot assume that learners are familiar with the new language we are teaching them. We need to find out what they actually do know – as well as how much they know of it, and then, focus more on any of the language gaps or barriers there may be.

In my experience, from teaching at a special needs school, I have come to realize that the biggest mistake we make as educators and parents, is to think that we are teaching children well enough when we are only teaching them in the language that we are familiar with. We need to pay more attention to the learners’ needs and how they are coping with our methods.

When language is a barrier to learning, I would suggest using images and other visual techniques. These are helpful because children do not easily forget an exciting, visually-stimulating image. We, ourselves, can reflect back to our parents always telling us that we don’t listen, but did it ever occurred to them that perhaps showing us what to do would have been a better option?

Teachers, this is a very beneficial tip to you. Do not always focus on learners’ auditory abilities but focus equally on their visual abilities.  Put up posters in your classroom, show them video clips, make use of subtitles in their spoken language, and let them take part in role play.  Remember – what we do now, is what they will take with them into their future.

As a parent you can use your child’s bedroom as an extension to their classroom by putting up educational posters (topics that are relevant to their current work) as well as reading and spelling aids.

In our country, it is important to be bilingual. We should aspire to knowing the grammar and vocabulary of both English and Afrikaans very well. If, as an educator, you are unsure of your languages, you cannot expect your learners to achieve what you yourself have not.  Learners need to know the grammatical rules in order to apply them correctly to work and therefore they will have structure and build on that.  If they know rules they are more motivated and gain confidence to try and attempt to speak, and write in that language.  We need to make learning a new language as easy and fun as possible, then the learners will want to learn more!

Tips on learning a new language:

  • Firstly, read a lot! Make it fun – magazines or interest articles are a perfect ways to start.
  • Watch television shows, video clips and movies in the language you are trying to learn, with subtitles in your own language on, so that you can differentiate among the words.
  • Surround yourself with people that speak that language, make friends with them and visit their homes as you will pick up words really quickly.
  • Have a dictionary handy.  An English-Afrikaans dictionary is a great investment.
  • Technology- gain access to reading programmes and educational material that will make learning that much easier.
  • If you plan on teaching or having your child learn more than one language – early is the best time for them to learn several languages.
  • Make an effort and stay motivated. Giving up half way through your learning journey is just not acceptable, you need to finish what you have started.
  • Lastly, read a lot!  Reading activates quite a few areas in your brain and is very good for you.
Teaching Afrikaans

Mathematics and anxiety

The question a lot of parents and teachers struggle with is why learners seem to understand mathematical problems during class, extra lessons and during homework, but when writing a test, they struggle. During my years presenting maths extra lessons, it came to my attention that a lot of learners don’t always perform according to their abilities during tests and exams. Learners complained about sleeplessness the night before the test, sweaty hands as well as the inability to recall the work. The development of this anxiety interested me and I decided to do some research.

In an advance technology-orientated society, mathematical knowledge is critical to a variety of existing and up-and-coming career paths. Mathematical knowledge is not only important in technological and scientific studies, but also humanities, social and economic studies. While more learners are needed to take maths as a subject, there is a decrease in learners taking the subject and those who take the subject often perform poorly. Furthermore mathematics reflects the lowest past rate for Grade 12 learners.

Minimum requirements in mathematics


University of Stellenbosch

University of Pretoria

University of the Freestate









Political, philosophical and economical studies




Human resource management




Sport science








Occupational therapy












Consumer science




BSc Agric








x- Course not available/ Maths not a requirement

Variables that influence the avoidance of maths and poor performance in maths include cognitive and personal factors. Cognitive factors include academic background, intellectual ability and learning styles. Personal factors include self-efficacy, attitude and motivation. A personal factor that is increasingly used to explain the avoidance of maths and poor performance in maths is math-anxiety. Learners with math-anxiety often have negative attitudes towards math, often perform poorly in the subject and therefore avoid the subject.

Anxiety is one of the emotional problems mostly associated with mathematics. Sigmund Freud described anxiety as the ego’s reaction to danger. It is the uncomfortable feeling that motivates the ego to avoid danger and therefore decrease anxiety. Anxiety can trigger fear that can build up to a negative physical or behavioural reaction. Math anxiety can be seen as the above mentioned reaction to mathematics.

There are two types of anxiety, namely state anxiety and trait anxiety. Individuals with trait anxiety have a tendency to feel anxious in different types of situations, while individuals with state anxiety only experience anxiety in specific personal stressful situations. Both types of anxiety affect performance. Furthermore, there are more specificicaly catogarised types of anxieties, for example test anxiety and math anxiety.

Math anxiety has been conceptualised in different ways. The most common definition of math anxiety by Richardson and Suinn defines math anxiety as the feeling of tension that hinders the use of numbers and the solving of mathematical problems in the person’s everyday life as well as academic environment. Other definitions focus on the emotional reactions to mathematics. These emotions include fear, discomfort, panic and tension. The anxiety often originates from a lack of self-confidence to do mathematics and leads to frustration and helplessness. While it is good to understand exactly what math anxiety is, it is also important to know how it develops and how it can be avoided.

Children already start forming the base for future mathematical concepts during the first few months of their life. Strong existing knowledge is important for further development of math skills. Before a child can count or do addition they have to construct ideas around maths, that can’t be learnt directly. A lot of these basic ideas are formed by interacting with their environment and the adults in their environment. Ideas that will support formal maths later on are already formed during the first five years. The simplest concept, namely that numbers have quantity associated with it, is a complex relationship that the child must understand. When children go to school this process can often take a negative course, especially for girls.

At this stage, books take over and the focus shifts from the constructing of ideas through the learner’s own mathematical thinking, to the teacher’s methods. Teachers start to focus on repetition and speed to improve math skills. This interferes with the child’s natural thinking processes and leads to negative attitudes towards maths. The focus on repetition and speed also increases anxiety levels. It was also found that learners develop math anxiety as a result of poor performance and not the other way around. Learners perform poorly because of other factors and as they fall behind, anxiety increases.

As described above, math anxiety is a complicated concept and there are many factors that can influence math anxiety. It will be impossible to discuss all the factors, therefore the focus will be on gender, self-efficacy, and value attached to the subject and environmental.

Although girls have the same aptitude for mathematics as boys, they are more prone to math-anxiety. This may be due to the fact that girls experience more trait anxiety than boys. This may in part explain why boys generally perform better in mathematics than girls. Girls and boys’ brains work differently and therefore their approach to learning is different.

Self-efficacy is found to play an important role regarding math anxiety. Self-efficacy is the person’s belief regarding his/her ability to be successful with a certain task or behaviour. It is an important determinantorto wether a person will attempt a task or not. This expectation is also an indication of how much determination, regardless of struggles, will be applied. Learners with high self-efficacy are more likely to generate alternative methods if not successful at first, and cope well with problem situations.

When learners see the importance and value of what they are learning, they are more inclined to be involved with the subject and therefore perform better. An individual that believes that mathematics is a set of rules that needs to be memorised, will face the inability to cope effectively with certain conceptual problems. This is because the person only relies on memorising. This can lead to the development of negative attitudes towards mathematics and cause math-anxiety, trigger existing anxiety or increase anxiety.

A learner’s learning environment is the social and physical environment wherein a learner finds him-/herself. That includes their home, school and classroom. One of the main factor’s of the child’s home environment includes parental involvement. This refers to the parent’s interest and support of mathematics. When a parent is anxious about mathematics or has a negative attitude towards mathematics, this can be transferred to the child.

In conclusion, math-anxiety is a complex concept that is hard to understand. It often develops as the child goes to school and the teachers methods interfere with the child’s natural thinking processes. As the child performs poorly or falls behind, anxiety develops. Anxiety results in the learner performing even worse and avoiding the subject all together. Parents can support their children by modelling a positive attitude towards math and the value of the subject. While parents can’t always support their children with their homework, they can support them by arranging math support or remedial maths lessons.


Meyer, W.F., Moore, C., & Viljoen, H.G. (2008). Personology: From individual to ecosystem. (4th Ed.). Johannesburg, South Africa: Heinemann.

Miller, H., & Bichsel, J. (2004). Anxiety, working memory, gender, and math performance. Personality and Individual Differences, 37(3), 591-606. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2003.09.029

Motshekda, A. (2013). Statement during the announcement of the 2014 National Senior Certificate Grade 12 Examination Results. Retrieved from http://www.education.gov.za/Newsroom/Speeches

Richardson, R., & Suinn, R. (1972). The mathematics anxiety rating scale: Psychometric data. Journal of Counselling Psychology, 19, 551-554.

Mathematics and anxiety

All you need to know about ADHD

What is ADHD


ADHD is a neurological condition related to chemical imbalances in the brain and is closely linked to genetic predisposition and hereditary factors. Previously there was a distinction made between ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Recently the diagnoses of these two have been combined and diagnosed in terms of three main characteristics. These main characteristics include; Impulsivity, Inattention and Hyperactivity [Smith & Segal (2014)]:

Symptoms of Impulsivity in children:

  • Acts without thinking
  • Blurts out answers in class without waiting to be called on or hear the whole question
  • Can’t wait for his or her turn in line or in games
  • Often interrupts others
  • Intrudes on other people’s conversations or games
  • Inability to keep powerful emotions in check, resulting in angry outbursts or temper tantrums
  • Guesses, rather than taking time to solve a problem

Symptoms of Inattention in children:

  • Doesn’t pay attention to details
  • Makes careless mistakes
  • Has trouble staying focused; is easily distracted
  • Appears not to listen when spoken to
  • Has difficulty remembering things and following instructions
  • Has trouble staying organized, planning ahead, and finishing projects
  • Gets bored with a task before it’s completed
  • Frequently loses or misplaces homework, books, toys, or other items

Symptoms of Hyperactivity in children:

  • Constantly fidgets and squirms
  • Often leaves his or her seat in situations where sitting quietly is expected
  • Moves around constantly, often runs or climbs inappropriately
  • Talks excessively
  • Has difficulty playing quietly or relaxing
  • Is always “on the go,” as if driven by a motor
  • May have a quick temper or a “short fuse”

How ADHD can be diagnosed

In order to make a proper diagnosis of ADHD, it is very important to do a thorough Psycho-Educational assessment with an Educational Psychologist. Often children are missed-diagnosed with ADHD because they display symptoms of ADHD. However, there are other factors that may be causing them to display these symptoms like:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Major traumatic life events
  • Psychological disorders
  • Behavioral disorders
  • Medical conditions
  • Developmental disorders
  • Low Cognitive Functioning

How ADHD can be treated

It is very important to follow a holistic intervention plan. This includes collaboration between the schoolteachers and the Educational Psychologist as well as parents during the therapy process. Educational Psychologists work very closely with Occupational Therapists, Pediatricians, Audiologists, Speech Therapists and Neurologist when needed to assist with any other difficulties that need to be addressed. In collaboration with these medical practitioners, medication can be prescribed when needed, but it might not always be necessary or the only treatment option for your child. Effective treatment for ADHD also includes education, behavior therapy with an Educational Psychologist focusing on improving the effects of ADHD, support at home and school, exercise, and proper nutrition.

At home, parents can implement the following: [Smith & Segal – (2014)]

  • Stay positive and healthy parents: when you take care of yourself, you are better able to take care of your children.
  • Establish structure and stick to it: it is very important to set up and follow a routine and structure, as this will provide every family member with guidelines to follow.
  • Set clear expectations and rules: make sure the rules are simple and that they are followed. Children with ADHD thrive on a discipline style utilizing rewards and consequences.

Using Rewards and Consequences [Smith & Segal (2014)]



Reward your child with privileges, praise, or activities, rather than with food or toys.

Consequences should be spelled out in advance and occur immediately after your child has misbehaved.

Change rewards frequently. Kids with ADHD get bored if the reward is always the same.

Try time-outs and the removal of privileges as consequences for misbehavior.

Make a chart with points or stars awarded for good behavior, so your child has a visual reminder of his or her successes.

Remove your child from situations and environments that trigger inappropriate behavior.

Immediate rewards work better than the promise of a future reward, but small rewards leading to a big one can also work.

When your child misbehaves, ask what he or she could have done instead. Then have your child demonstrate it.

Always follow through with a reward.

Always follow through with a consequence.

  • Encourage movement and sleep: children with ADHD have excess energy to burn therefore physical activities will assist in this regard. Sleep is therefore just as important as it allows the mind to rest and in turn improve attention and concentration.
  • Help your child follow a healthy eating plan: a Low GI eating plan fostering sustained energy can show wonderful improvements in your child’s attention and concentration as it assists with keeping blood sugar levels regulated. Insuring that your child eats a healthy balanced diet will contribute to improving their focus.
  • Help your child improve their social skills: this will assist them in making and keeping friends.

In addition to the challenges, there are also positive traits associated with children who have ADHD:

  • Creativity – Children who have ADHD can be very creative and imaginative.

  • Flexibility – Because children with ADHD consider a lot of options at once, they don’t become set on one alternative early on and are more open to different ideas.

  • Enthusiasm and spontaneity – Children with ADHD are rarely boring! They’re interested in a lot of different things and have lively personalities.

  • Energy and drive – When kids with ADHD are motivated, they work or play hard and strive to succeed.

  • ADHD has nothing to do with intelligence or talent. Many children with ADHD are intellectually or artistically gifted.

The things we focus on are the things that will become more prominent. Therefore if we keep on focusing on the challenges, they will become more challenging. Always try to focus on your child’s strengths and support them in improving their challenges!

All you need to know about ADHD

Remedial Lessons vs Extra Lessons


As a remedial teacher I have often been asked what the difference between remedial lessons and extra lessons are. There is a stigma, sadly still attached, to remedial education where parents are nervous to approach it in fear that it means there is a “problem” with their child. Parents will rather send their children to far too many extra lessons, overloading their child with copious amounts of work, instead of first seeking remedial help.

Trying to find a definition of Remedial Education is a challenging feat. Many believe it has something to do with “fixing” a child. Whatever is wrong with the child is fixed in remedial education. Unfortunately children, and adults alike, are not like cars that breakdown and can be “fixed” by a mechanic. We are far more complicated than that. We also live in a society where parents and teachers use a grade system to measure a child’s intelligence or competency. As such, we start to compare children who have learning barriers, with the academic children in the same grade, and find them lacking.

While it is true that we need to educate our children to have competency in all areas of their 12 years of schooling, it is just as true that each child has their own area of intelligence. One child might be artistically brilliant and struggle with maths, while another is top in the maths class and hates history lessons. Some children may even shine outside of school, in sports clubs for example, while at school it is a daily battle to concentrate. No two children are the same. So why then do we expect them to be?

Whatever area your child excels in, or enjoys (maths, art, soccer, cooking, etc) should be praised. We tend to focus on the areas in their life where they do not shine. At all times, as parents and teachers, we need to be calling out and encouraging the strengths in children. Their weaknesses can be overcome, can be improved, can be fixed. However, what sets them apart, and what will most likely always make them happy, is their areas of strength. So before we get into the nitty gritty of remedial lessons, we need to focus our praise onto these well deserving children.

So now, the crux of the matter: the fundamental difference between remedial lessons, and “extra” lessons is the point at which the lessons start. Let me explain using a simple example”

Johnny has difficulties with his grade 4 maths. He is adding correctly, however his subtraction is far slower and full of mistakes.

At extra lessons, Johnny will be given countless grade 4 subtraction sums and will practice them, learning the method of subtraction through practice and will eventually learn to do this with a certain amount of ease.

In comparison, at remedial lessons, Johnny will start with the simplest sums, such as 3-1=2, and slowly work his way up to grade 4 level maths sums. While starting at scratch may seem a time consuming it has three major benefits:

  1. It boosts Johnny’s confidence as he should be able to answer these easy sums with ease. In class he may not be experiencing this ease in grade 4 subtraction, so he will enjoy the feeling of getting the answers right. This immediately grows Johnny’s self confidence, and his enjoyment of maths.

  2. Starting from scratch will help the tutor to be able to clearly find the trigger issue underlying Johnny’s subtraction problem. It may be as simple as the fact that he has never grown out of using his fingers to help subtract, which meant bigger sums were enormously difficult, granted he only has 10 fingers. The key issue, however, may be as challenging as a disgraphia problem – these sorts of issues tend to be overlooked by tutors who are not skilled in remedial education.

  3. In the event that a learning difficulty is discovered by the tutor, such as disgraphia, the remedial tutor is equipped not only to identify the symptoms, but also to adjust their teaching in a manner that can overcome the specific difficulty in the best way possible.

Not all students who require remedial education have the “big, bad, and ugly” learning difficulties. Your child does not need to have a severe dyslexia, tourettes, ADHD, or any other difficulty to benefit from remedial lessons. In fact, if your child does not have challenging learning difficulties then their “remediation” period will be faster and last longer, than it would take in normal extra lessons.

Think of it like this, your brain works like a clock made up of many cogs. These cogs turn effortlessly if they are all functioning correctly. Imagine the smallest cog stops working. The entire system fails and you cannot use the clock any more. However, if the clock is closely examined, every area tested, the clock technician may be able to find the malfunctioning cog and correct the error. Once it is fixed, the clocks works effortlessly.

This is true for remedial lessons. Once the underlying issue is found, and helped, it will have a ripple effect on all the areas that it effects. Let us look at Johnny again.

In extra lessons he practices and learns how to use certain methods and get the answer correct. He may not necessarily understand why it works like that, but he knows that if he follows a certain method he will get the correct outcome. Four years later, when Johnny is learning about algebra and has to deal with variables in his sums, the old trusty methods will fail him. His “cog” will simply no longer turn smoothly and once again he will hate, and subsequently struggle with subtraction.

If Johnny goes to remedial lessons and learns about what subtraction actually is, not only how to subtract, then when Algebra rears its nasty head, he will be equipped with the academic and cognitive ability necessary to analyse variables in a subtraction equation.

In closing, possible the most necessary truth about remedial education, and lessons, is that there is no quick fix. Sometimes, there simply is no fix at all. As each child is different, it may take longer than expected for the tutor to find the underlying error and address it. It is essential that each child is given time and space, as well as good education, to learn. Forcing your child to attend as many extra lessons, or remedial lessons, that you can possibly fit in one week is of no benefit to their learning process.

Repetition does not always bring revelation. Remember that your child is still a child. Their brain is still growing, and they desperately need a childhood. Support them and provide for their every need as best you can, but do not put unfair and unnecessary expectation on them.

Remedial Lessons vs Extra Lessons