Empathising with worms

A report in TES about East Ayrshire How to read between the lines  stresses the importance of higher order reading skills in non-fiction texts. ‘Empathising with worms’ is not sufficient but is a result of too much focus on fiction in the primary school, they say.

Fiction and non-fiction comprehension scores of P5s in East Ayrshire have soared in six months, thanks to a new literacy initiative

A literacy intervention programme for P5 pupils in East Ayrshire has seen their reading comprehension scores improve in six months by a massive 33 per cent in non-fiction and 15 per cent for fiction.

It is now being extended to all the council’s primary schools, and Anne Neil, a literacy consultant who devised the programme, is pursuing the findings with other authorities.

Graham Short, executive director of education and social services in East Ayrshire, said the initiative had the potential to close the attainment gap significantly. He predicted that its focus on non-fiction in the middle primary years would have an impact on secondary attainment, particularly in pupils’ writing.


Dyslexia Awareness Week


Next week is Dyslexia Awareness Week. Above is my rolling presentation that some schools use in assemblies or the foyer of the school. You are welcome to borrow it. Let me know if it’s useful.

Here the BDA has ideas and a couple of PowerPoint presentations (purporting to be created by students) that might be of use.

See full size image

Learndirect is offering every household a FREE book to help parents and children children have an enjoyable reading experience during Dyslexia Awareness Week.

They claim that the book is a great way to practice reading skills with your young ones because it makes reading and problem solving a fun time – and because you all read together everyone benefits.

Waterstones is involved and has a ‘Guide to Books for Young Dyslexic Readers’.

TES has 5 articles about Dyslexia that may be of interest.

Learning and Thinking offers ideas for a secondary assembly.

Dyslexia Action has an online lecture on 3rd November from 19:0020:00 where Glenys Heap, Senior Training Principal, Dyslexia Action, will present an overview of the factors related to Dyslexia. The ‘webinar’ will be of interest to parents, teachers and employers as well as individuals who are, or think they might be, dyslexic.

Please make contact if you want any advice from me as to how you can publicise the week. Perhaps I’ll be more organised next year and give a little more notice!

Optometrist Specialising in Children’s Learning Difficulties

Dorothy Crystal is a Specialist Optometrist working in this field. Yesterday about 16 of us (support for Learning teachers, health professionals) were priviliged to hear her talk passionately about her professional interest in children, optometry and learning difficulties.  I shall try to summarise!

In Norway all children with ASN are assesses by optomerist as there is a proven high correlation between learning difficulties and visual problems – 61%.  Hearing assessments follow on from this. 

Children may have problems with focussing, binocular vision and binocular instability.  The latter difficulty can be a big problem as information is processed differently.  Simple daily exercises can resolve these issues in 97% of cases! If a teacher thinks a pupils may be dyslexic then a vision check should be carried out first however it is important to alert the optomerist that the check is requested because of concerns about learning. Should the screening indicate a problem then the child can be referred on to either Dorothy Crystall or the Eye Pavilion.

Visual Stress is the new term to replace Myles Irlen or Scotopic Sensitivity.  It is diagnosed through a proper clinical process.  Children may be tested for this if there is a family history of migraine or epilepsy.  Assessment for coloured overlays used to treat visual stress, does incur a cost of £40. These overlays may only be required for 6 – 9 months

Children with astigmatic problems (wobbly eyes!) may sometimes invert letters in words. The incidence of this is increasing particularly in children of drug abusing mothers. Astigmatism will affect reading however larger print may help. If Astigmatism develops (rather than congenital) then there is a pathological reason, usually a brain tumour.

Teachers can look out for a variety of signs – child covers one eye to read, holds book at an angle, turns head at an angle when reading, rubs eyes , blinks a lot, fine and gross motor problems.  If a child frequently daydreams s/he may be trying to correct blurry images. The history and symptoms provide the biggest clues for the optomerist. When using an Interactive Whiteboard the child should be directly in front of it. Copying from the IWB is usually very difficult for the child.

And of course the earlier the better for assessment – from P1 onwards.

Professional Texts and Teaching Packs


Haddington Library now holds books and teaching packs about ASL. The ones I left there are mainly about Dyslexia and Dyscalculia but also some on behavioural difficulties. The librarians would be delighted if more people availed themselves of the service.

Here is a list of the professional texts and teaching packs I left there yesterday:


around Additional Support for Learning

Ajmal,Y + Rees,I (ed)

Solutions in Schools



Dyslexia and ICT


Boyd, B

CPD: Improving Professional Practice


Boyd, B

Primary-Secondary Transition


Canter,L + Canter,M

Assertive Discipline


Chinn, S + Ashcroft, R

Mathematics for Dyslexics


Cotterell, G

The Phonic Reference File


Craig, F

Conquer Dyslexia (4 copies)


Craig, F

The Natural Way to Learn


Crombie, M

 Specific Learning Difficulties (Dyslexia)


El-Naggar, O

Specific Learning Difficulties in Mathematics


Eyre, D

Able Children in Ordinary Schools


Fawcett, A

Dyslexia: Theory and Good Practice


Fowler, M + Wainwright, T

Maths Words


Green, C

Understanding Attention Deficit Disorder


Henderson, A

Maths for the Dyslexic



Education for learners with dyslexia (2 copies)


Hope Education

Phonic Quest Pack


Houston, M

Dyslexia: In-service training pack


Miles,T + Miles, E

Dyslexia and Mathematics


Mortimore, T

Dyslexia and Learning Style


O’Connell, B

Solution-Focused Therapy


Ott, P

How to Detect and Mange Dyslexia


Peer, L + Reid, G

Dyslexia – Successful Inclusion in the Secondary School


Phillips,M + Phillips,M

Special Educational Needs (2 copies)


Poustie, J et al

Mathematics Solutions Parts A + B: An Introduction to Dyscalculia


Reid, G + Fawcett, A

Dyslexia in Context


Reid, G + Kirk, J

Dyslexia in Adults


Reid, G

Dyslexia: A Practitioner’s Handbook (5 copies)


Reid, G (ed)

Dimensions of Dyslexia Vol. 1 (1 copy)


Reid, G (ed)

Dimensions of Dyslexia Vol. 2 (2 copies)


Russell, S

Phonic Code Cracker



Count Me In: Responding to Dyslexia (Teaching Pack)


Stone,C et al

Beat Dyslexia Book 4



Scottish Book Trust news

1. The Royal Mail Awards for Scottish Children’s Books http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/node/42851

28,000 children have registered already so it is the biggest year yet, and there’s still time to get involved. If your class is already registered don’t forget the deadlines: send book reviews by 30 October and votes by 13 November.

 2. Virtual Writer in Residence http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/learning-and-inclusion/virtual-writer-in-residence

The Scottish Book Trust is delighted to welcome Cathy Forde as their brand new Virtual Writer in Residence, who will be setting monthly creative writing tasks for use at home or in the classroom through to March 2010. You can watch and download her first two video podcasts – live on the site now!

 3. The Book that changed my life http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/thebook/resources

Alongside the Scottish Book Trust  blog, an online library of stories and films of authors & illustrators’ book choices, new Book That Changed My Life resources have been created for schools.

The project is a great opportunity for young people to write a story to share with others. It can also be used to build a real focus on reading around your school. Young people have the opportunity not only to share their experiences, but also to collect stories from their peers, school staff, family members and members of the wider school community.

4. Bookstart in Scotland training days http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/bookstart/training

New information is now available on the Scottish Book Trust website for several upcoming Bookstart in Scotland training events.


How does it feel for teenagers newly arrived in Scotland?

A friend told me about an interesting television programme which they had watched recently. I was able to find and view it thanks to the marvel of the Channel 4 replay service.


The short film “Parliamo Glasgow” which is part of the “Coming Up” series for young film makers,  deals with the difficulties faced by a Polish teenager, after moving into a high rise flat in Glasgow. I feel that in 23 minutes it clearly presents the pressures which young people experience and how they are forced to rely “on the kindness of strangers” – often assuming responsibilty beyond what would have been expected in their home country. 


Some of you may find it rather “naff” but I would thoroughly recommend it everyone.


Click on this link to view the programme on line.




Dyslexia Support Service termly report


My work is very cyclical. Every element of the Dyslexia Support Service has a different emphasis as the session progresses.

I do most of my face to face teaching in the middle months of the school year, while at the beginning of session I tend to focus on assessment and consultation for future planning. The summer term is always busy organising the service development plan for the coming year and completing programmes of study with young people, attending Staged Assessment and Intervention meetings and evaluating learners’ needs for the new session to follow.


This term my principal focus has been on assessment and consultation.


Assessment: Since August, I have been involved in the assessment of 34 children and young people. Each assessment takes between 2 and 3 hours of my time, not counting the feedback sessions to parents and staff. I use the computerised assessments LASS and CoPS and the British Picture Vocabulary Scale to provide a snapshot of learners’ attainments in literacy, visual and auditory processing, phonological awareness, reasoning and receptive language skills. This complements the observable evidence found in class performance to help us construct a picture of a child’s strengths and difficulties. From here we are better able to develop a personalised programme for each learner. Personalisation does not mean individual learning programmes for each child. Instead it means having a ‘deep understanding of both depth and breadth, creating continuous rich learning opportunities that are real and of their world not apart from their world’. (Greg Whitby)

I spent some time making a short movie illustrating the various components of the computerised assessment. At some point I shall learn how to upload this!


Consultation: I have met with teachers from 20 primary schools and 5 of the 6 secondary schools, most of them at least twice. I have answered emails from many, many more! I have spent some considerable and profitable time with 3 teachers new to Support for Learning. This is such a valuable opportunity for us to learn from each other. One has come from another region and brings a wealth of knowledge about different resources which I can then disseminate. The others have recent experience in the classroom and as such provide a refreshing approach to the support role. I can aid their understanding of the processes involved in identifying learners with dyslexia and help them get to know their pupils’ needs more thoroughly. In one school we took some delight in throwing out ancient resources that bear no relation to the reality of learning and teaching today.

It is at these meetings, and those with parents, that we plan any teaching blocks for later in the year. Sometimes I am not directly involved with individual pupils but support school staff to use alternative strategies to engage learners.


Meetings with parents: I have met 12 sets of parents this term, some of them more than once, to discuss their children’s profiles of learning and ways to address their requirements.


Teaching: This term I have only worked with 3 groups of young people. One block was to help an S4 student in making notes on his Physics and English course work as memory aides for exam revision. I used the same techniques of Mind Mapping (with paper and pens as well as Kidspiration and Inspiration) with the P6/7 class in a small school. My 3rd group of 3 P7s needed support in keyboard skills and shortcuts in word processing.


In-service training: In addition to the regular informal training I offer colleagues during consultation I have tried to raise awareness about dyslexia to newly qualified teachers and to the staff of a primary school so far this session. I contributed to  East Lothian’s Literacy Newsletter and attended meetings to take the Literacy Strategy forward for learners with dyslexia.

For my own professional development, I have read a great deal and attended several talks in my own time, and attended the Scottish Learning Festival, to develop my own knowledge and understanding. I joined Cluster Meetings where all Support for Learning teachers come together to discuss issues and learn about new developments.


It’s been a busy start to session as usual. I’m looking forward to the break. I hope all who read this manage to have one too.


Comic Life!

A wee while ago a colleague and I attended a workshop on Youth Participation. Whilst there we came across some software called ‘Comic Life.’  Basically it offers a range of comic templates, links to your photos stored in your computer and you can choose speech bubbles, text boxes and headlines.

I’ve used it successfully with reluctant writers and children with ASN.  Its so easy to use that I haven’t opened the manual yet!  Click on the boxes and the photo resizes to the box, write in the text boxes and speech bubbles and they resize with the text.  Drag into place and hey presto – a very professional comic starring your pupils!!

Comic Life is on the refreshed laptops. Ask IT if you don’t have it. Have fun!

All good things come to an end!

As many of you know I am based in Innerwick once a week.  I don’t have an office and used to sit with my laptop perched on my lap. Some time ago a desk was found for me and set up in a extra classroom.  The schools network was made live so I could access emails on my laptop and other items to make my wee ‘office’ comfortable. Such wee things make a big difference. What a welcoming place!

But now 4 children have enrolled and the extra classroom re-instated. I’m on the move! Now I’m ‘hot-desking’ with the support staff!  Once more the network point has been made live for me and I’m linked to the network printers.  It’s not quite so comfortable but the view is fantastic!