ASN CfE support on Glow

Practitioners like to talk to other practitioners and they do this with increased confidence when what they are discussing is based on successful real life experience. To this end, a new blog is now available to support CfE in primary, ASN and early years settings. It has been set up for people who are working at the ‘chalk face’. Visit the blog to hear what other practitioners have been doing and see the links to other related support and guidance on the LTS website. The blog will be looking at ‘what could I do now and how might I do it’ in a range of areas including:

  • Experiences and Outcomes
  • Tracking and Progression
  • Assessment
  • Reporting
  • Transitions
  • Building Your Curriculum.

Music for all at the Hub

Koby and the Skoog

The Skoog is an exciting new musical instrument with accessibility at its heart.  An instrument designed explicitly for special education to empower those unable to play traditional instruments.  The Skoog is a soft, squeezable object that simply plugs straight into your computer or laptop’s USB port.  Simply touching, pressing, squashing, twisting or tapping the Skoog allows you to play a wide range of instruments, intuitively.  Learn more about it here

You can see Koby Major, age 5, having a brilliant time playing with the Skoog.  Inventor and entrepreneur, Benjaman Schogler, came along to demonstrate how it could be used.  He worked with all three classes and everyone had a go.  Even the very lightest touch can generate a sound.  Some pupils hit the Skoog, some squeezed, some rolled it, Jonathon leaned on it with his shoulder and played the flute.  Using a WOWee one gel speaker, sound vibrations gave another dimension to the musical experience.

Joy, a student in musicology from Greece and on work placement with Benjaman, is going to work with groups of pupils over the next few weeks.  Mark my words, there’s going to be a lot of fun and a lot of music happening down at the Hub!

Dyslexia Awareness Week: Notes from a conference

Dyslexia Scotland has links to presentations from their September conference which are well worth examining. They range from the local to the international stage.

Local approaches:

Jennifer Drysdale – a friend and former colleague – discusses her Workshop for Literacy: a Contextual Approach for successful learning which deploys early identification of core skills development and contextual assessment to enable young learners to read. She uses contexts created around ‘real‘books to create successful learning experiences.

Pam Macdonald talks about a Paired Reading and Phonics programme whose aims are to give basic literacy skills so pupils can become independent in classes; to involve pupils in their own learning and encourage them to be active, analytical learners and to actively involve parents and guardians.

Shirley Illman describes a transition to High School programme.

A presentation from the CALL Centre gives advice on making text accessible. An accessible resource is defined as one that can be used effectively and with ease by a wide range of pupils. The resource can be adapted with the minimum of work for pupils who have a range of additional support needs. Accessible resources could refer to almost anything used in class or at home to support learning.

National approaches:

Dr Laura-Anne Currie links Education for Learners with Dyslexia to How Good is our School and Curriculum for Excellence.

Dr Margaret Crombie talks about the wonderful Assessing Dyslexia resource : ‘Assessment is integral to learning, teaching and the curriculum’. She makes strong links with the HMIE document and CfE too.

International perspective:

Dr Gavin Reid’s presentation focuses on ‘The Decade Ahead; Recent reports and current research’.  He starts with Scotland, and then discusses approaches in the U.S.A., Ireland, England and Wales, New Zealand, Canada and the Czech Republic. All of this is embedded in current theory.

The keynote speaker, Rob Long, talks about behavioural issues connected to learning difficulties.

A very useful set of presentations.

New era for Scottish literacy

 The Scottish Government announces that breaking the long standing link between poverty and poor literacy will be the focus of action to improve literacy in Scotland.

Published on Wednesday 27 October, the Literacy Action Plan – the first of its kind since devolution – includes a range of actions from early years through to employment, aimed at eradicating poor literacy across the country.

Key actions include:

  • Vulnerable families to be targeted as part of the Play Talk Read campaign
  • Curriculum for Excellence supporting literacy from a child’s early years
  • New National Qualifications to support the development of literacy skills
  • More support for workplace learning.

Dyslexia Support Service Annual Summary

Assessment: I have been involved in the assessment of 117 pupils this year and have met with the vast majority of the parents of these youngsters (and about 20 others already ‘on the books’) at least once. This is either at Staged Assessment and Intervention (SAI) meetings or more informally to discuss progress and programmes. These assessments and parental meetings are preceded by extensive consultations with colleagues. Once an identification of dyslexia has been made, we usually meet again to discuss any interventions that may be appropriate.

Teaching individuals + small groups: I have worked with individuals and small groups of pupils on working memory skills, Mind Mapping and note making, MS Word Accessibility and strategies for organisation and planning as part of a transition programme for P7’s over the year.

5 children have helped me begin to evaluate the reading and spelling programme, ‘Nessy’. This is such a rich resource that 3 of the children will be continuing work on it next session. This is partly for their benefit of course, but also to allow me to decide whether I should encourage schools to buy ‘Nessy’ for their struggling readers and spellers. This is one of the software packages I was given with my new laptop: So far we are loving it!

Teaching whole classes: I have taught several classes the basics of Mind Mapping using Kidspiration and Inspiration. I worked with a P7 class on higher order reading skills.


Parents’ Meetings: I have spoken to groups of parents at open meetings and presented an in-service session for a school as part of their Dyslexia Friendly Schools Pledge. The focus was on learning styles.

Dyslexia Friendly Schools Pledge: The Pledge itself has had a re-vamp and is now ready to be incorporated into the literacy strategy for the region.

 In-service training: I have led a group of support for learning colleagues to develop user-friendly guidance for using WordTalk and presented this to a group of practitioners at an event organised by LT Scotland. I spoke at my first TeachMeet (for 2 minutes) on this wonderful resource at the Sea Bird Centre

I have given training sessions to colleagues in 2 secondary schools on interpreting the computerised assessment tool and commented on the reports they have prepared subsequently.

Of course I have attended meetings of the Outreach Service and both Clusters too.

This is an up-dated version of the summaryI posted at the end of the Spring term.

Rich, Cross-Curricular Tasks and Outreach Support

I am very impressed with the cross-curricular tasks being developed in many schools. The thinking behind this type of learning fits well with the process of acquiring English through immersion in mainstream. It offers the chance to revisit language and ideas in a variety of situations, which can only be of benefit to all pupils with additional support needs.

In light of this development the involvement of Outreach teachers may have to change. With increased emphasis on group and peer support it will become more difficult to work pupils individually. The Outreach Teacher should instead be involved in the initial planning stages to suggest appropriate strategies and identify possible areas of difficulty e.g. provide glossaries for key vocabulary, adapt / simplify worksheets, use teacher materials to produce additional support such as listening practice, explain cultural issues. It is more appropriate for Outreach Teachers to be deployed as group leaders than always being linked with one pupil.

Not only do pupils benefit from having more meaningful tasks but there will be increased joint working between schools and outreach staff.

Literacy and Numeracy principles from the SQA

Design principles for the new Literacy and Numeracy qualifications have now been published on the SQA website.

The Design Principles were approved by CfE Management Board on 15 December 2009 and are the blue print for developing National Literacy and Numeracy qualifications. They are also the basis for developing quality assurance and certification systems to support these new qualifications.

Dyslexia Support Service: Termly Up-date

All practitioners in each sector, in each department and in all settings have a responsibility to develop, reinforce and extend the skills which are set out in the literacy experiences and outcomes (Curriculum for Excellence).

Teaching: My remit covers all schools in the region. Therefore I do not – cannot – use my time to teach basic literacy skills, although of course I work with colleagues to support them in meeting the learning needs of individual learners with literacy difficulties. I try to help students learn how to learn better, with the intention that they gradually build up skills which leads to independence. Regular Staged Assessment and Intervention meetings ensure that all learning and teaching is balanced and coherent. At each meeting we assess the effectiveness of our work and build on our knowledge of the child’s needs to plan for the future.

 Many learners find identifying key concepts very taxing. This is especially difficult for some learners with dyslexia who tend to think in global terms – the big picture – rather than noticing the detail (the wood not the trees). This can cause problems when analysing text, whether spoken or read. Mind Mapping is a most effective tool for those learners with visual strengths to plan and organise their thoughts.

I find that teaching a whole class how to make Mind Maps is an effective use of my time. In one school we recognised that two learners with dyslexia in one P3/4 class learnt best through visualisation and the use of images rather than words. We felt that those whose natural style of learning was more verbal, linear and ordered would benefit from the challenge of approaching planning in a different format.

So the class used Kidspiration to prepare a talk to the P1s on Road Safety. After exploring the software they taught others in the class about the various tools (aren’t interactive whiteboards wonderful?). The final assessment was for them to create a Wanted poster of a master criminal outlining the essential things the public should look out for.

Identifying key words is crucial if learners are to progress. The children were repeatedly told that there was no need to write beautifully presented sentences while Mind Mapping. Whether they have taken this radical notion on board is yet to be seen. It always astonishes me that children are so wedded to perfect presentation even when their teachers are very clear that the expectation is of good content not error free writing.

 Three other teaching blocks have also centred on developing note making.

A group of P7s with literacy and organisational difficulties learned how to access text with WordTalk. They listened to texts they found impossible to read but which was at their cognitive level. Highlighting key words was a challenge but when done collaboratively enabled them to make Mind Maps with Kidspiration. These they took back to class as plans for pieces of writing. This work culminated in the creation of an animation about the Solar System – to be processed over the holidays.

I supported another group of p7s in preparing pieces of writing on the theme, Homes of the Future. We viewed a video and designed an estate agent’s schedule describing the technological and environmental aids to support future living. Plans in the form of Mind Maps were put into the class Glow Group and the group used these to write independently in class. I shall continue to work with this group in the new year, not least to consolidate my own understanding of using Glow in a real setting.

A similar group at another school was learning about World War 2. They prepared and delivered a session to the rest of their class demonstrating how to use WordTalk. They now mentor their peers – and their teacher.

A group of P3’s used Clicker 5 to create text from grids about the Ancient Egyptians. I found this a difficult enterprise for various reasons  although the children seemed to enjoy the attention even if they are not empowered to use Clicker independently yet. They were thrilled with the pencils and badges I got from the British Museum. I hope they remember more than these though! I shall return to the school to monitor their progress later in the session.

An individual P5 pupil with significant auditory memory difficulties needed help to focus and follow directions.  He practised listening mindfully, repeating instructions to himself and rehearsing these aloud. He then completed tasks to demonstrate his understanding.

We also worked on creating a safe place (a cave) in his mind to which to retreat when he became stressed. Naturally I spent time with his parents and teachers so that his learning is reinforced at home and in class.

I used a similar approach to work with another 2 pupils in P6 with auditory and visual memory difficulties which caused severe sequencing and organisation problems. This time we identified sources of stress in the morning routine that meant frequent late arrival at school. We made laminated cards and prioritised the morning activities. It took some time to convince the children that watching TV was less crucial than getting dressed! Again, this is a long-term outcome that can only be effective if the child, family and school work together.

The imminence of Standard Grade prelims exams saw me supporting 3 learners with dyslexia who find planning and organising revision a real challenge. A traffic light system helped them identify subjects and topics on which they needed to focus. They made timetables incorporating study as well as leisure time in the weeks prior to the exams. It will be interesting to see whether they achieve greater success as a result of this intervention.

Assessment and Consultation: I continue to use the computerised assessment along with formative assessment to identify needs and design interventions. I have formally assessed and consulted about 25 pupils this term. In addition, I attended Staged Assessment and Intervention meetings with parents and staff for 13 other children.


  • Literacy Strategy sub-group: I am working with 2 colleagues to improve the Dyslexia Friendly Schools Pledge that 5 schools piloted last session. We aim to clarify the language and process of the checklist, make specific links with Curriculum for Excellence, HMIE guidance and current legislation.
  • I liaise with the other literacy strategy sub-groups to ensure ‘joined up thinking’.
  • There is ongoing work with a small working group writing guidance on effective use of the Books for All project.


  • Dorothy Crystal, the optometrist, spoke about her work identifying visual stress.
  • 6 of the 8 modules of the ‘Hidden Dyslexia’ online course completed.
  • Child Protection course.
  • Planning and organisation skills – Occupational Therapy.
  • CfE in practice course.
  • Cluster meetings.

 Once more this has been a busy but fulfilling term.

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.


Assessment for Curriculum for Excellence

Assessment for Curriculum for Excellence

Assessment is a key strand of work in implementing Curriculum for Excellence.

At the Scottish Learning Festival on 23 September 2009, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Fiona Hyslop, announced the publication of the strategic vision and key principles for assessment in Curriculum for Excellence.

The Assessment for Curriculum for Excellence document sets out the Scottish Government’s strategy on how to build on our existing strong foundations of effective approaches to assessment.