Google Docs for isolated learners

Recently at a CPD session at Knox Academy several teachers practiced using Google Apps together.

One application which is useful in supporting a pupil who cannot be in class, perhaps due to illness, is to paste and send them a Past Paper or other document which they can work on at home. The teacher can type on comments as the pupil is working rather than sending it back and forth as you would with email.

A way for a pupil to keep in touch with peers, is to work from home on a document while classmates type from school. A group can participate together on a Powerpoint or other document from various computers in various locations simultaneously.

One Guidance teacher was eager to put her learning into practice in support of a young man in his final year of school who is undergoing lengthy medical treatments. He can now communicate with classmates and teachers from hospital or home from a lap top and can progress in subjects with a better chance of achieving his potential.

The scope for creating learning opportunities is exciting.

To learn more look at Youtube Googledocs in plain english

Enquire Information packs

Recently I sourced a pack containing all the leaflets published by Enquire, the Scottish Service for Additional Support for Learning

Enquire publishes loads of free information for parents, pupils, professionals and teachers – all of a very high quality.  There are factsheets, Young peoples Guides, DVDs, booklets and leaflets on all sorts of subjects and alternative formats are available. 

  • Involving Children and Young people in Decisions about their Education
  • Round the Table: A Guides to Going to Meetings
  • Going to Secondary Schol and Getting Ready to Leave School
  • Nadias Story
  • Have your Say – teachers notes and film

These are just a few of the many titles and Enquire will send whatever you need and it arrives very quickly.  Everything is also downloadable however the lovely colours fairly eat printer ink!  So why reinvent that wheel when the information is already there.  I have order forms if you’s like one.


Dyslexia Support Service yearly report 2008/09

There have been some mis-understandings amongst parents about the provision for learners with dyslexia within the region this session so I have listed the work I have carried out over the past academic year as the Outreach Teacher in the Dyslexia Support Service. I have:

  • Attended Staged Assessment and Intervention meetings (20 schools, 40 children).
  • Contributed to assessment of and planned for learners who may have dyslexic difficulties (15 schools, 58 children).
  • Delivered formal in-service training for teachers on Dyslexia Awareness; Mind Mapping; Dyslexia and ICT; ‘How we learn to read’ to all secondary schools.
  • Developed planning and organisational skills using Mind Mapping software (4 schools with groups in P6 and P7, whole P6 class).
  • Developed spelling strategies (1 school with P7 pupils)
  • Developed note taking skills (1 school with P5 pupils)
  • Developed visual and auditory sequential memory (4 schools with S1 individual, P5 and P6 groups).
  • Developed writing in Environmental Studies in 4 schools using Clicker 5 with in P3, P5 and P6 (small groups).
  • Exam preparation and revision techniques (1 school with group of S5 pupils).
  • Met with parents in addition to formal SAI meetings (10 schools, 25 parents).
  • Taught Speed Reading courses (2 schools with individuals and small groups in P7).
  • Supported students in accessing the Science and Modern Studies curricula through technology (2 schools with 5 S2/3 pupils).
  • Supported an S1 pupil in identifying strategies used by teachers that help her to learn and using this information to re-write the entry in the school handbook that is distributed at the start of every session.
  • Supported transition from primary to secondary school (2 schools).
  • Trained class teachers to use Clicker 5 (1 school staff).
  • Attended the launch of the HMIE document, Education for Learners with Dyslexia and disseminated its findings.
  • Set up a Glow Group about the service and continued personal development as a Glow Mentor.
  • Supported the Senior Management Team and Support for learning department in a large primary school in deciding on a vision for future planning using Person Centred Planning techniques.
  • Piloted the Dyslexia Friendly Schools Pledge (5 primary schools).

Framework for Inclusion

The Scottish Government announced yesterday that a new initiative in teacher training – the National Framework for Inclusion – aims to ensure better classroom support for pupils with additional needs, such as dyslexia.
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Fiona Hyslop launched the Framework which offers advice to encourage student teachers and qualified teachers to be inclusive in their teaching.

The Framework was funded by the Scottish Government and developed by the Scottish Teacher Education Committee (STEC), the body for the seven Scottish universities who provide teacher training.identifies the values and beliefs, professional knowledge and understanding and the skills and abilities, in terms of inclusive education, to be expected of both student teachers and qualified teachers. A further web-based resource will give support by providing relevant, high quality materials and documentation.

The document proposes under each of the headings (Student Teachers, Teachers, Advanced Professionals) what should be regarded as minimum expectations of teachers at each of the levels rather than as a hierarchical approach to anticipated engagement by teachers.

It aims to place a clear emphasis on the essential role played by the values and beliefs (Professional Values and Commitment) of each teacher in their commitment to the development of inclusive practice.

The Framework Document aims to be comprehensive but not prescriptive. It is question-based to encourage teachers to accept a shared responsibility for researching answers – and further questions – with the support of the web-based repository. It would be good to see staff in schools thinking about these questions in relation to all their pupils.

I really welcome the fact that it promotes inclusion as being the responsibility of all teachers in all schools and has tried to identify and to address the needs of teachers at all stages of their careers. It recognises and emphasises the need for career-long and life-long learning

Standardised tests and Dyslexia

Following on from yesterday’s post, here I discuss the place of standardised tests in the identification of learners with dyslexia:

Once teachers notice a dissonance between expectations of a learner and the actual attainment in reading and writing, they begin a thorough investigation of the child’s learning needs. Frequently, a referral is made to the Dyslexia Support Service: that’s me. We work together to find out as much as we can.

To investigate unexpected delay in acquiring literacy for a learner who has acquired the rudiments of reading, we analyse the miscues when listening to the child read. This is a relatively quick way of ascertaining whether the errors tend to be phonological or semantic. We note whether the child understands the vocabulary of print (front, top, word, sentence, author, illustrator, etc.), whether and how the child uses context and picture cues, what strategies s/he employs when faced with an unfamiliar word.

Also of immense importance is looking at a piece of unsupported writing to compare it with work that has been produced with help. A child once gave me as succinct a definition of dyslexia as I have seen: I can speak 3 pages but only write 3 sentences.This helps us locate the zone of proximal development: enabling us to put supports in place to ensure success. But it also alerts us to potential sources of difficulty by highlighting syntactic and spelling errors. Sometimes we undertake a more formal examination of spelling strategies by using dictations and a diagnostic spelling analysis grid  (Margaret Peters). The more irregular and unconventional the spelling the greater the likelihood of specific difficulties This, perhaps erroneously, assumes the child has developed phonological awareness and been taught phonics, spelling patterns and letter strings effectively of course. To find out more about a child’s phonologial awareness many of us use the Phonological Assessment Battery (PhAB).


We also think about how the child learns, her or his attitude and approach to learning  and early language experience. Any history of input from Speech and Language Therapists is highly significant in any identification of dyslexia or specific language difficulties.

At times we bring standardised tests into the equation. I favour the British Picture Vocabulary Scale to find out how a child’s receptive language compares to others of her or his age. This is by no means an intelligence test but it is a reasonable measure of school success and as such provides useful information. If the vocabulary level is considerably higher than the reading attainment then it is likely the child’s ability is greater than her or his attainments might suggest.


At times we decide to carry out a computerised assessment: we use Lucid software.  This provides evidence of formal literacy skills, visual and auditory sequential memory, phonological awareness and logical analytical thinking. As part of a holistic process of assessment it is a most useful addition, being relatively quick to administer and stress free. Interpreting the results – seen in graph form – takes time but is a worthwhile complement to the battery of assessments already carried out.

                                        lass1lass2  lass3


But even this is not sufficient. Today I gave most of the test to a highly achieving 12 year old.  Her teacher recognised her as an able child; full of sophisticated questions and thoughtful ideas with a significant discrepancy between her oral and written ability. The test indicates that she reads and spells as well as others of her age. Her visual memory is good and her auditory sequential memory excellent. The bald test results show a learner who will cope well with high school and who does not require literacy support. However, it is clear from her classroom performance that she has a specific difficulty, probably of a dyslexic nature, without which she would be achieving a great deal more. Even the Reasoning score is average: a direct contradiction to what we know about her as a learner. Only after furtjher examination of the data is it clear that she took a disproprotionate amount of time to complete all the tests.


Thus, the test does not immediately show that the pressure of time causes her some stress and hence some delay in processing information. She does not lack literacy, phonological or sequential memory skills, mainly because she has worked very hard to find strategies to circumvent her difficulties. It is her speed of processing that hinders her fluent encoding and may delay her reading as she is faced with more complex texts with specialised language. Fluency is not just about speed but about integrating new information into one’s extant knowledge to create depth of understanding.

It would be easy to dismiss her mild spelling errors and slow reading and writing speed. After all, there are plenty of youngsters with considerably more challenges in accessing the curriculum than her. However, she is under some stress and she is becoming increasingly weary, despite the efficacy of her coping mechanisms. It is thanks to her sensitive, conscientious and concerned class teacher that she has been identified as a learner with dyslexia.

What is most important, of course, is what we do about it. But that’s for another day.



What can be counted might not count. What counts might not be countable (Einstein)


A good part of my job is to support teachers in their understanding of how a child with literacy difficulties learns and what provision s/he needs to make progress in reading and writing. Teachers are constantly making judgements about how their pupils are getting on, thinking about next steps and planning adjustments so as to ensure deep understanding. This day-to-day assessment is often disregarded as true assessment by both teachers themselves and parents. Consequently this highly complex and intuitive quality is undervalued. Many people perceive Assessment as being to do with tests and ascribing levels. But how a child acts on the curriculum, the performance of understanding, is the most relevant aspect of ensuring progress. It’s about taking stock of what we know about a child: the whole child and not just the attainment in literacy or numeracy.

This ongoing, dynamic assessment is complemented by transitional assessment wherein we share with colleagues, parents and carers how the child is doing. This isn’t summative. It’s marking a staging post: where s/he is at this particular point in time and noting the direction of travel and how best to get there.

Excellent ipsative assessment examines the broader view wherein teachers strive to clarify how a child understands webs of concepts and how best they can support deeper understanding. Such assessment naturally involves the learner her or himself showing a subjective response to reflect the way what has been learnt affects her or his own methods of dealing with challenges in everyday life. All participate in devising programmes for development.

The most valuable evidence we can gather is from the classroom but we often supplement this with standardised tests that provide norm-referencing as well as diagnosis of specific sub-skills that are hindering expected progress. I shall return to this in another post.

(Taken from my blog,

‘Books for All’

CALL Scotland  recently ran this course in East Lothian – we’re all really enthusiastic and I’ll try to summarise here.

‘Books for All is about learning materials in accessible, alternative formats, for people who have difficulty reading ordinary printed books.

Most people think of Braille and Large Print when they think of alternative formats but in fact there are many more types of accessible textbooks, workbooks, worksheets, assessment and examination papers and other learning resources.

Similarly, it is commonly assumed that the pupils who need alternative formats are blind and partially sighted. In fact, there are many other groups of “print-disabled” pupils who can benefit from learning resources in alternative formats. For example:

Students who have a physical difficulty with holding books or turning pages can benefit from audio books or materials in a digital format on the computer.
Students with specific learning difficulties, dyslexia, or reading difficulties can read material if it is printed in a larger or different font, or on coloured paper, or displayed on computer. Many pupils with reading difficulties can also access information by listening to audio books, or by having the text read out by a computer.
Students with learning difficulties may benefit from simplified language, books printed in a simpler font or layout, or from books with symbols, or from audio books.
Students with hearing impairment may need simplified language, audio books or multimedia resources with signed video.’

At the course we learned about the copyright law and how to use a variety of free software to create accessible materials for our students. Many of these facilities are embedded in Microsoft Word.

We found out how to add comments to text, use document maps and headings, add recorded voice to text and loads more. The Scottish Voice (Heather), WordTalk and sources of free texts made this course really valuable. Now all I need to do is work my way through then CD rom and workbook!

Indicative competencies for teachers of learners with dyslexia

The GTC has provided guidance on the structure and nature of what could constitute appropriate additional specialised knowledge, understanding and skills required of teachers to enable them to meet the specific additional support needs of pupils with dyslexia .

In meeting the needs of these pupils, and in reaching the level of expertise required by the competence, account has to be taken both of the core characteristics of dyslexia as well as the personal profile of each individual child and young person with dyslexia.

The Indicative competencies for teachers of learners with dyslexia

Teachers should be able to demonstrate, through their application of knowledge, understanding and skills:

Knowledge and Understanding of dyslexia

Multi-agency partnership working


Language and communication

Social understanding

Medical / disability related knowledge

Specialised technology/aids

Specific legislation & policy

Teaching and learning

More support ‘needed’ for children with learning difficulties

Holyrood reports that according to a new study Scottish children with learning difficulties are not receiving an appropriate level of educational care and support.

The study by charity Mindroom estimates that nearly a fifth of Scottish school children have a recognised learning difficulty. This would put the figure at around 120,000 affected pupils, much higher than the official figure of 30,000 children receiving learning support.

Mindroom believes that many children are suffering from a lack of expert supervision, particularly if they have disorders on the autistic spectrum. As part of a proposed package of reforms, the charity is calling for greater training for staff and more investment in learning difficulties research.

‘Parents as Partners’

‘Excellent!’ “A really enjoyable afternoon,” “It’s great to see what our children do”

These were some of the many very positive comments made by parents who attended our “Parents as Partners: Supporting Learners at Law” open afternoon last week. Our aims for the session were simple – to introduce parents to the Support for Learing team (in the wider sense), to share some of the games and activities we use, to look at the displays and resources and to encourage pupils and parents to play together. A bonus was to meet parents informally in a relaxed setting.

The room was soon buzzing with chatter and laughter as parents had a go at some games, tried ACE dictionaries, looked at some reading resources and enjoyed the displays of children working together. Laptops were set up with a range of web-based games and activities which proved to be extremely popular. The children joined their parents when classes finished and were soon sharing favourite games and websites with their families – it was delightful to see parents and children having fun together!

The focus was on literacy and Support for Learning teachers had prepared a range of handouts covering reading, spelling, writing, websites and internet safety. Parents helped themselves to these and had an opportunity to ask staff about mind mapping, strategies to support reluctant readers, paired reading and a host of other questions.

The children themselves were very involved in planning this successful event. They enjoyed using mindmaps to make the invitations, choosing their favourite games, acting as guides and having their photos taken for displays. Our in-house ‘paperazzi’ photographers came along too so there’s a lovely record of the afternoon.

Parents and childen were so busy in fact that they didn’t have time for coffee and juice!