Saturday, 13 April 2013

From Acorns - and Eggs

I spent some time over the Easter break finishing off some projects I'd been developing in an on-off fashion over the past few months during spare evenings and weekend afternoons. Sometimes I find little 'complementary ideas' escalate into something of greater importance and scope as I undertake research into them. The piece of work I discuss below is a good example of this and I am excited to see how it turns out within my own setting over the coming months.

I believe 'Philosophy 4 Children' - a standalone subject in some schools - can be used as an approach to our planning and teaching of English, particularly so for NC Level 2 to 3 learners who need to be systematically coached in and given regular opportunity to practice high-level thinking in order to genuinely progress further. For whilst it is one challenge to coach struggling students on how to write a two clause sentence with correct spelling and correct punctuation - it is often a much greater challenge to bring them to a point where they can put their own meaningful content in there. The resources I have developed so far to get me started with this are now also uploaded in full to TES Resources, although I do intend to add more as I use it with my classes.

I find 'P4C' hooks in well to my conceptual & ethical understanding of SEN and SpLD, developed originally in my training as a specialist teacher of dyslexia. The work of dyslexia teaching pioneers Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham in the early 20th Century is something I constantly refer back to. The core principles of their approach state that interventions for students with dyslexia should be:
  • Informed - We should know the strengths and weaknesses of each student, seeking to always address the weaknesses whilst providing opportunities to equally play to strengths.
  • Language-Based - We should use language sensitively and deliberately with students as a vehicle for learning (particularly so for literacy), including innovatively using questioning, developing vocabulary to ensure full understanding and scaffolding talk to move it from the basic to the more sublime.
  • Multi-Sensory - We should routinely seek to draw on a variety of learning styles as a way of including all students, seeking to use them simultaneously rather than in dedicated slots.
  • Structured, Sequential and Cumulative - but Flexible - We should adopt a pacey yet patient step-by-step approach to learning, with sufficient time given to each student for consolidation, clarification and extension - otherwise known as 'overlearning'.
  • Meta-Cognitive - There should be an ongoing constructive dialogue with each student to develop their awareness of how they learn, including recognition of their strengths and their weaknesses.
  • Emotionally Sound - There should be an nurturing learning environment in which each student has frequent opportunities to practically see and genuinely feel success.
The two final principles are arguably more 'fuzzy' aspects which we can sometimes overlook in our relentless pursuit of 'getting the basics right', measured in reading & spelling scores. But in forgetting them, we are perhaps missing a key part of the puzzle.

As always, I would appreciate any feedback from teachers and mentors (and parents) working on similar issues.

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