Tag Archives: parental advice

Working with Students with SEN in the classroom. Some examples of good practice that you, as a parent, could expect to see.

Teaching children with any degree of special educational need is not meant to be a daunting prospect. There are no magic formulas for immediate success but there are a range of things we as teachers can do to make learning for our students something that doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Our job as a teacher is to inspire, educate and motivate and what follows are just a few simple changes that could take place in every lesson.

  • Copying from the board.

    If copying from the board is not a learning activity then it shouldn’t be done. All students would benefit from the information on printed sheets to highlight key points from discussion. Make sure that the most important learning objective is isolated. You probably don’t want your students to get better at copying if correctly labeling apparatus on a diagram is the focus. 

  • Giving instructions.

    When giving instructions, make sure that the volume of instruction is kept to a minimum for each task to assist students who may have poor auditory and short term memory. If instructions exceed 3, they really would be better written down and displayed. This way it is clear what has to be done and when.

  •  Checking understanding.

    After issuing general instructions to the whole class, ask individuals questions to check understanding. Although this may seem obvious, do not ask ‘do you understand what you have to do’? Students will more often than not say yes just to get you off their backs. Get the students to explain what they will do first, and then what next to see that they have comprehended the task and are about to implement the correct strategy. 

  • Setting homework.

    Homework should always be a planned activity and not an afterthought. If it’s planned it can be given at any point in the lesson. The earlier homework is set the more time that students have to make sure it is noted correctly. Leaving homework until after the bell or in the closing few minutes of a lesson is likely to result in it not being done or being done incorrectly.

  • Making progress.

    Make it very clear to each student what constitutes progress for them. Getting one more mark on a test than last time is progress. Students should not be under the impression that they are expected to perform at the same pace and level as the rest of the pupils in the class.

Charting progress to boost self confidence and esteem.

It is sometimes difficult to convince a child or young person that they really are doing well and making progress in school. Being able to appreciate the ‘bigger picture’ is a concept that is hard to grasp and the only way to truly convince young people they are doing well is to find a way to illustrate this clearly. There are many ways that you can demonstrate progress in a child friendly way. On a simple level we can relate this to saving money using a piggy bank whereby progress is clearly seen by a gradual increase in coins deposited.

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Progress stops being made if coins are not continued to be added or regression occurs if money is taken out. The bottom line here is that progress shown in this way is very tangible and visual and can be used as a motivator.

The same principle can be applied to illustrating progress in social, emotional and academic areas of school. Adding sweets to a jar or colouring bars of a totaliser each time a positive behaviour is observed can offer more frequent rewards and avoid issues of delayed gratification. Academically progress can be shown equally as well. The image below demonstrates this.

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So long as results are collected and plotted it is easy to show progress over time. Take the first bar chart for example. This was something I used with an A Level group who were preparing for their AS examination. Preparing for an exam involves practice using past examination papers and mark schemes. The graph shows progress over 7 past papers that were sat, marked and re-sat in the period leading up to the exam. As the results were plotted on the graph, students could see how much more success they were achieving and how at the point leading in to the exam they were achieving 78-80% correct. Having used so many past papers, they also confidentially recognised the format of 95% of the questions answered on the day of the exam and stress levels were greatly reduced.

The line graph illustrates an improvement in reading speeds collected over time using http://www.spreeder.com as shown in my blog post about improving reading speed. Any graphic showing an upward trend will be pleasing to see from all angles and can be used to reassure and motivate young people.

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Getting to know you!!

One of the best strategies I have employed as a pastoral leader and Special Educational Needs Co-ordination is probably one of the most logical. In fact, thinking about it, most of what I do in school is about common sense. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself an expert problem solver, just an experienced one and my learning is based on the rich experience of the students I have had the pleasure to work with. I have always maintained that building a relationship with the young person and their family from the outset is vital to ongoing success. It’s useful to know what the ‘hooks’ are with the young people we work with. Knowing how we can focus the work we set on the interests and strengths of the students rather than devising mundane generic tasks will always help motivation. It’s important to get updates from parents so I invite and encourage regular communication. I look to the parent as the expert when it comes to the young person and the information I gather is key. Any school worth it’s salt will welcome communication from parents so please don’t wait to be contacted by your child’s school. Be proactive and arrange a meeting to share information you might not think is relevant but could actually reveal little gems of information that can unlock massive future potential. Why not make a real impact and send your child’s school a postcard telling them of your som or daughters latest successes or achievements from home?