The Future of Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

How to adapt a first-grade primer for pupils with special educational needs? An example from Poland

Paweł Rutkowski, Section for Sign Linguistics, University of Warsaw (Poland)

Piotr Mostowski, Section for Sign Linguistics, University of Warsaw (Poland)


This paper is devoted to an educational project that has recently been carried out in Poland. Since September 1, 2014, a new textbook entitled “Nasz elementarz” [‘Our primer’] has been used by first-graders in most schools in Poland. The project is funded by the Ministry of National Education, thanks to which all children receive the textbook free of charge. The textbook has also been adapted for first-grade pupils with special educational needs (deaf and hard of hearing children, children with learning or communication difficulties, children with mild intellectual disabilities, autism and aphasia). This adaptation has been performed by a team of experts in special education, communication studies, sign language and Deaf Culture, Polish studies and applied linguistics, led by Dr. Paweł Rutkowski, head of the Section for Sign Linguistics, University of Warsaw. The goal of the present paper is to outline the methodology of the “Nasz elementarz” adaptation project and to present its main outcomes.

The set of adapted materials consists of the following publications:

1. Adapted textbook for grade 1

The adapted primer (comprising 4 parts: “Fall”, “Winter”, “Spring” and “Summer”) differs from the original with respect to several important features. The differences include (but are not limited to): numerous modifications of texts (serving the purpose of making instructions and readings from the original textbook more accessible to pupils who have difficulties with the Polish language), certain adaptations of graphics (making them more accessible to pupils with visual perception difficulties), and the use of Picture Communication Symbols (PCS) for selected instructions and questions (to be used by the teacher in communication with nonverbal pupils, as well as with pupils with cognitive disabilities).

            2. Book of pictograms

This addition to the adapted textbook consists of PCS charts for each lesson, compiled as a communication tool for pupils with complex communication needs.

            3. Polish Sign Language (PJM) version  

PJM (polski język migowy) is a natural language used by the Polish Deaf community. The “Nasz elementarz” adaptation includes an interactive application on a DVD that contains thousands of video clips in PJM (translations of all instructions and questions, as well as additional signed material related to a variety of topics discussed in the textbook).

            4. Teacher’s guide 

This guide presents an accessible introduction to the methodology of teaching pupils with special educational needs and offers specific comments and suggestions for each page of the adapted textbook.

The “Nasz elementarz” project is a major breakthrough in the history of special education in Poland. For the first time, a textbook recommended by the Ministry of National Education makes extensive use of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) methods and Polish Sign Language (PJM).


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