Family Literacies: Learning in Scotland

A leaflet about family literacies is now available on the Scottish Government website. The leaflet says parents’ learning helps children’s learning.

Family literacies learning describes work with parents to develop their own literacy and numeracy capabilities so that they can support their children’s learning. It builds on what parents and carers already do with their children, whether babies or teenagers. There is no one definition or way of delivering family literacies learning, and it may take place in a broader family learning context. It can involve working with parents alone, or with parents and children together.

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.

Making Websites Talk

Browsealoud is easy to download and could be a great boon for learners with difficulties reading online.

LTS is currently looking at how the accessibility of Glow can be improved, and a text-to-speech facility could be extremely useful. They are asking us to help to trial Browsealoud 6 within Glow. It will be ‘speech- enabled’ until the end of January 2010. Trial it for yourselves and let them know what you think here.

I downloaded it easily on my work PC and will try it at home on my Mac. So far I find it very user friendly – though perhaps it delays access for a second or 2.
Have a shot!

Scottish Poet Elspeth Murray returns to Glow

Get your Glow log-ins ready because on Friday 22nd January, Scottish Poet Elspeth Murray will take part in her second live Glow Meet with budding young Poets across Scotland.

The event is on at 10am, Fri 22 January and is aimed at S2 pupils and suitable for teachers interested in getting some help and ideas with teaching poetry from a poet in real time. Teachers can take part even if they don’t have a class at this time.

Using Clicker 5 in the classroom

I have long promoted the use of Clicker 5 to support independence in reading and especially writing. But I have reluctantly decided to abandon advising its use. Crick Software claims that,

Clicker is the proven reading and writing tool that helps pupils of all abilities to achieve success in reading and writing. Clicker is used on over half a million school computers and in over 90% of UK primary schools.

 

It is a fantastic resource, although the talking word processor aspect has now been superseded by WordTalk. However, in my experience Clicker is rarely utilised very much at all in classrooms.

Why is this? Well, either teachers are uninterested in supporting their reluctant readers and writers or the software is not user friendly. I don’t think it’s hard to choose which of these options is the most likely.

I have taught many children to access Clicker 5. Sometimes this has been relatively successful. Children can produce pieces of work that are largely coherent, well presented and illustrated without having to spell. It is unusual, though, for the use of Clicker 5 to become a central component of classroom activity independently.

I have been working this term with a group of 6 P3s (7 year olds) on The Ancient Egyptians. (Don’t ask my why this topic was chosen; seems daft to me but there we are.)

I located a ‘Find Out and Write About’ disc that I thought would solve all my planning problems. And, indeed, it is a lovely resource with 3 levels of difficulty, interesting information and clear illustrations.

Unfortunately, there is only one copy. So I did what all of us do, improvised. I borrowed the information – why re-invent the wheel? – to create grids for the children to work on in pairs. I have made many grids over the years but each time I have to re-learn the process. As I, like all teachers, have little time to prepare resources the grids turned out to be less user-friendly than I’d hoped.

I spent most of the first session sorting out the blips. That is, once we had managed to open the software. Just the admin involved took most of the initial lesson: turning the laptops on once they had been located; searching for someone who knew the logins after refreshment; helping little ones type passwords.

Following sessions were a whirlwind of activity with both myself and the support for learning teacher (who gave up her precious preparation time to help me) running between 3 pairs of children helping them to produce at most 8 lines of text. Yes, you read that correctly: 2 very experienced teachers working with 6 7 year olds became frazzled and frantic in five 45 minute sessions!

This is just not practicable in a busy classroom. Differentiating work is essential of course, but when the energy required in providing support far outstrips the end result we have to question whether it’s worthwhile.

I shall still use Clicker 5. The ‘Find Out and Write About’ and Talking Books software are terrific and can be used with small groups to enable them to access stories and produce a considerable amount of writing without having the drawback of poor secretarial skills hindering the process. I will also continue to recommend accessing extant grids available on learninggrids.com. Many teachers contribute their work to this site and they can be incredibly useful.

But I shall be much charier about recommending its use as a resource for class teachers to implement alone. It’s just not possible.

I’d welcome comments on this, colleagues.

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.

 

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.

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.

 

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!