Category Archives: Literacy

COMING SOON :The Ed Show at the NEC

The Education Show is a firm favourite with many teachers in the midlands and north of England and, sitting alongside Birmingham airport, it attracts staff from Ireland and Europe as well. It offers schools everything from pencils and stickers to high cost technology and is increasingly popular as a source of professional development. Those responsible for special needs will appreciate having time to catch up with the latest products and enjoy some first-rate free training in the Early Years and SEN Theatre.

On the first day of the show, Alison Woolf from Wrexham Glyndwr University, will be talking about Supporting Mental Health in Schools: Counselling Skills and Therapeutic Play Skills Training. (Thursday 16 March, at 3.10pm). It is not only children who struggle; Robert Whitelock, teacher of mathematics at Garforth Academy, claims that 1 in 4 school staff are likely to suffer from mental health issues. With increasing numbers of staff absent through stress it would be a good idea for senior leaders to attend Managing Mental Health – A Resilience Toolkit, at 10.40am Saturday 18th March.

The last 18 months have seen the biggest migration of people across borders in living memory and UK schools are struggling to cope with recent arrivals. On Thursday 16 March at 3.50pm Alison Prowle and Janet Harvey from the University of Worcester will be sharing good practice in their session: Including Refugee Children in Your Setting.

I have just visited Columbia Grange in Sunderland, a special school with an outreach team that also supports 1200 children with autism in local mainstream schools. The number of children with a diagnosis rises year on year. There are two good relevant sessions at the Ed Show: At 15:50 on Friday 17 March, Simon Birch, Deputy Head at Pictor Academy, will be discussing challenging behaviour in a school environment and proving examples of practical strategies while Joy Beaney and Kay Al Ghani, consultants for the Autism Train, will be presenting Creating Autism Champions through developing Peer Awareness at 11.20pm on Saturday 18 March.

The Education Show not only offers seminars but also gives visitors a chance to see the latest resources, ask the suppliers questions, compare the relevant products and even negotiate the best price!

My top five picks are:
1. SSS Learning showcasing their CPD-accredited e-learning courses on stand H81. These cover a broad spectrum of issues, from child protection and child sexual exploitation (CSE), to forced marriage and honour based violence, prevent duty (radicalisation and extremism) and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
2. Dekko Comics stand N95 who used crowd funding to get their comics off the ground. They work alongside Dyslexia Action and Dyslexia Scotland to create comics that help children with dyslexia engage with their education
3. First News, the only UK newspaper written especially for 7-14 year olds, with more than 2.2 million weekly readers on stand N87
4. PIVATS from the Lancashire Assessment Team can help teachers measure very small steps of progress. Talk to them about their latest products on stand GG88
5. Talking Products Limited on stand M10. They provide Talking Tins and talking Photo Albums to encourage young children to talk and express themselves in sentences. They are also ideal for older pupils who need to develop their speaking and listening skills.

The Education Show runs from 16-18 March at the NEC in Birmingham. Visit www.education-show.com to reserve pre-book your entry admission to the show and a seat at any number of CPD sessions, all of which are free of charge

Brain training boosts brain power

Cognition does not sound very exciting but in fact it is the bedrock of learning. Cognition is the ability to plan and organise, problem solve, remember things, and focus, it has an impact on all aspect of peoples’ lives including their ability to learn, cope with everyday situations and their mental wellbeing.

mycogIt is one of those things that is noticeable by its absence for example Gena who turns up with all the wrong things in her school bag. We all do this from time to time but not every day!

I have written several articles about memory. This is another aspect of cognition and changes to exams by the government have put a premium on recall skills, project work and continuous assessment have been phased out in favour of end course externally marked exams. Literacy has become synonymous with spelling and for those pupils brought up on phonic it has proved to be a severe test of an 11 year olds’ memory.

With all these changes and challenges Peterborough City Council are to be commended for turning the tables and putting in the base skills instead of bemoaning results at the end of a key stage.

MyCognition, a leading cognitive assessment and training company, is working in partnership with Peterborough City Council to deliver personalised brain training to thousands of the city’s students and pupils in primary and secondary schools and City College Peterborough.

The three-year partnership, the first of its kind in the UK, will give students and young people in up to 70 of Peterborough’s primary, secondary, further education and special schools access to MyCognition’s online portal.

MyCognition’s science-based programmes work by assessing an individual’s cognitive function and personalising the online training games to focus on and help to improve areas of greatest cognitive need.

Areas covered include:
• Concentration (Attention) – Selectively focussing the mind on one task at a time, blocking distractions
• Speed & Accuracy (Processing Speed) – Ability to perform sequences of tasks with smoothness, accuracy and coordination.
• Calculation & Problem Solving (Working Memory) – Finding solutions to complex problems. Short term storage and the use of information
• Memory (Episodic Memory) – Recall of times, places, and contextual knowledge.
• Planning & Strategy (Executive Function) – Managing all cognitive abilities to plan for the future.

School pupils whose cognitive function scores are low, including many with special educational needs, will be given access to Unique, a personalised programme for children aged 8-18 years with learning and behavioural difficulties to boost their performance in the classroom. The 12 week programme can be used at school and at home and it is hoped that parents will get on board and encourage children to persevere.

As well as working with Peterborough Learning Partnership, MyCognition is currently developing programmes for Claydon High School in Ipswich, Royal Free Hospital Children’s School in London and Notre Dame Primary School in Greenwich.

Iain Simper, CEO, Peterborough Learning Partnership said: ‘As educationalists we need to look beyond subject specific difficulties and address underlying causes which could be associated with poor cognition. We believe that by improving the cognitive function of our students, we are also improving their life chances.’

For more information, please visit http://www.mycognition.comhttp://www.mycognition.com//

Life changing technology

Technology used in the right way at the right time can change lives. it helps people to pass exams and get jobs. it also gives them back their self-respect and independence as this story shows.

Pete Gustin 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taken from All channels open: Inside The Inclusive Radio Revolution first published in Access magazine April 2015

http://www.accessmagazine.co.uk/all-channels-open-inside-the-inclusive-radio-revolution/

 

Beside the seaside, beside the sea

Britain is getting more multicultural but is not quite as exotic as many children seem to think.

A recent survey by Travelodge showed that: ‘ Children seem to be completely clueless when asked to locate popular seaside haunts.’

40% couldn’t locst ivesate Bognor Regis (some think it’s in Europe)

35% couldn’t locate Newquay (some think it’s in the USA)

60% couldn’t locate St Ives (some think it’s in the Caribbean)

Six in 10 couldn’t locate Scarborough (some think it’s in the Mediterranean)

56% couldn’t locate Skegness (some think it’s in the Scottish Highlands)

Travelodge recommends ditching the Sat Nav and getting out maps.

You can see how the confusion starts. Bognor is in Europe after all, although it has a strong UKIP presence which perhaps wishes it wasn’t. Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed in ST Ives and Skegness is obviously where the monster goes on his holidays.

Travelodge surveyed 2,000 British children aged between eight to fifteen years old. This year 56% of families are flocking to the coast this summer. Top holiday destinations include Cornwall, Devon, Blackpool, Brighton and Bournemouth.

It’s a good idea to help children find where different towns and tourist resorts are in the UK but don’t throw away the Sat Nav.

Leaping over the Barriers

‘It was pretty tricky growing up with dyslexia, because I thought I was clever, and I know that sounds like a silly thing to say, but I didn’t think I was stupid. Yet I obviously was stupid because I couldn’t read or write. I seemed like a bright little girl but all that brightness could never come out because I couldn’t spell anything. So the cat always sat on the mat, it never did anything else, and the day was always sunny, it could be nothing else because I couldn’t spell anything else.’

moonSally Gardner is a talented and successful children’s author. She also has dyslexia. Her article in the Guardian is a reminder of the frustrations that face children and young people who don’t make that easy confident leap from hesitant decoding to reading for pleasure.

Stuck in the foothills of reading, they are sophisticates in a land of Lilliputians. They know that tigers can be camouflaged in dense vegetation but for them, ‘the cat always sat on the mat, it never did anything else.’ They are judged on a skill not on their knowledge.

If teachers do nothing else this Dyslexia Week, respect the innate intelligence of children who struggle with reading. For at least a few hours each week let their imagination and vocabulary soar.

Growing the next generation of readers

What is the role of a library in a special school where many young people are likely to have literacy problems? Liz Millett obviously knows the answer. She has just won a School Librarian of the Year Award.

Winner Liz Millett at school
Liz Millett Winner of a School Librarian of the Year Award

Liz works at WeatherfieldAcademy in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, a special school for students aged 7 to 19 with moderate learning difficulties and additional complex needs. Many of the children come from backgrounds where reading is not a priority. She set up the library in 2009 and her role is to make sure that the 3,000 books will fire up the 112 pupils and turn them into enthusiastic readers.

Nowadays there are so many different forms of entertainment that reading for pleasure is not high on many children’s agendas. Liz finds she gets the best results by tapping into their interests so she spends time talking to children: ‘One of my students, a 13-year old girl, improved her reading levels by 23 months in a year. Once I realised that she loved horses I found her collection of horse and pony books and she just ate them up. At the moment I know that one little boy is obsessed with lorries so I pick books out for him.’

Liz has set up a rewards system to motivate pupils. She had built a relationship with Weatherfield’s local public library and adapted the idea of the Summer Reading Challenge. Children are given a set number of books to read and those who persevere and meet the target are presented with a certificate in assembly. There is also an end of term Library Trophy for the most enthusiastic reader.

She tries to encourage parents to enjoy reading too and this can be hard work as some of them have problems with literacy. Like most special schools, WeatherfieldAcademy takes pupils from a wide area and many live up to 20 miles from the school. Liz builds personal connections very slowly and encourages them to email her as the school is promoting an online facility for children and parents to choose books together at home.

The school’s uses the Creative Curriculum up to Year 9. Last term’s topics were ‘Sport and Life’ and ‘Health and Fitness’.  Liz helps teachers to find appropriate resources and creates displays to reinforce topics. She also ensures that each pupil develops information literacy skills to the best of their ability, with colour-coded shelving alongside the simple Dewey system so that pupils can find their books independently.

The School Librarian of the Year award recognises the fact that Liz has made such great progress since taking over the role in 2009: ‘I’ve been given more and more responsibility over the years and I’m always busy but the difference you make to individuals makes it worthwhile.’

 

 

 

The Ed Show Cometh

The Education Show is coming very shortly (20-22 March) and I have to say it has improved immeasurably over the years. Although it is on my doorstep at the NEC in Birmingham it used to be my least favourite show.  I felt it was very unfocused offering everything form sink plugs to robust crayons to school visits and the latest high tehc offerings from computer manufacturers. It is now a lot more fun.

Things I have loved in recent years have included seeing the tallest man in the world folding himself up to get in a lift, seeing Peter André lecturing a group of head teachers about why ‘Education is Very Important’ and seeing a man demonstrating the delights of wok cookery. What with the flashing chopper, hissing oil and sizzle of vegetables it must have given school bursars and staff health and safety reps much to think about.

darawebThis year the Ed Show has gone all cerebral on us. Not the Fonz or a footballer but instead Professor Brian Cox on Thursday. Presumably he will be talking about Life the Universe and Everything and How Things Can Only Get Better. And indeed they will. Because on Friday we have the lovely Dara Ó Briain discussing the importance of Maths & Science.

I have lined up nine seminars I want to cover including Dyscalculia Strategies and Solutions, Introducing Enterprise to Children through Play and Working with Children Who Have an Acquired Brain Injury.

I notice that this year there are 33 exhibitors for science but only 6 for food.  Sadly, the man with the wok has had his day.

The madness that is our current reading policy

tt2We will look back at the reading policy of the early years of this century with amazement and disbelief. Why do we waste children’s time getting them to read words which are not words? The government policy on reading is totally prescriptive, opting for synthetic phonics where letter sounds are learned and blended in order to ‘read’ text. Children are tested on this at KS1 and will be remediated if they have not mastered the art of sounding out nonsense words correctly. So children get penalised for reading -im as him because they are using their knowledge of the English language to make sense of a nonsensical word.

Teaching children to correlate letters and sounds, and to blend sounds into sequences, is decoding. It is not reading. Nowhere in their future life will young people need this skill. Instead we will expect them to read for meaning, read critically and gather inferences from text. So why don’t we teach them these skills from the off?

Durham University researcher Andrew Davis used to be a primary school teacher. His research shows that children who are starting to read when they enter school are actually disadvantaged by synthetic phonics. He argues those well on their way to reading will be bored witless by reading books featuring only words for which they have been taught the phonetic rules in class.

His research can be accessed at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/2048-416X.2013.12000.x/full

The Department for Education is sticking to its policy: ‘Research shows overwhelmingly that systematic phonics is the most effective way of teaching reading to children of all abilities, enabling almost all children to become confident and independent readers. Thanks to the phonics check 177,000 six-year-olds will this year get the extra reading help they need to catch up with their peers.’

Another way of looking at this is that 177,000 seven year olds will discover they are failures at the end of this school year

All this and Jo Brand too

The BETT awards are almost upon us and I can nearly get into my posh frock to join the glitterati at a new venue, the Brewery at the Barbican. This year we are in for a real treat as the awards will be announced by Jo Brand. Even if your company doesn’t win, you are assured of a good night out.jo2I have been looking down the list of finalists seeing who I would like to see win in some of the key categories. This is a purely subjective approach. I am not going to support anything which deals with assessment in any form as I now believe that this is just another way to cosh teachers, parents and children into submission and give them an inferiority complex.

There are many shortlisted products that I know and love. I am running two sessions on Audio Notetaker for dyslexia learners on the Sonocent stand C470 on Thursday at 1.30 and Friday at 2pm and they are on the list for the ICT Tools for Learning and Teaching section. I am of course familiar with all the products in the special needs category and I am delighted to see other old friends such as 2Simple, Twig’s TigTag, TextHelp and the Yes Programme.

But there are many products which I am less familiar with. Here is my top ten to look out for:
1. For early years one good choice would be Rising Stars Switched on ICT, a step by step approach to get young children using ICT in meaningful ways. I like Rising Stars and have written about some of their other products especially their e books.
2. I like the look of TTS Group’s Mini Mobile Phones: ‘Children will delight in developing their language using this set of 6 realistic mobile phones. Colour co-ordinated buttons make for easy use.’ This will at least stop children using their parents’ boring old iPhones. They have also been shortlisted for:
3. The NEW Ultimate Timer, a rechargeable stopwatch with a simple to use, lapsed time function. Anything which saves looking for batteries will be welcome in the classroom.
4. For primary I am going to opt for 3P Learning Reading Eggs a library with over 1,500 eBooks, for specific year groups, as an intervention/catch up tool and to support EAL and SEN requirements
5. Another good choice is Espresso Education – Espresso Coding that teaches students to code and make their own apps to share with their friends and parents. This will help children develop skills for their future working life which so much of the National Curriculum singularly fails to do.
6. For secondary I am going for English and Media Centre’s Arctic Adventure which works on ipads and has authentic video material, images and blogs from the Catlin Arctic Survey.
7. For ICT Tools for Teaching and Learning I like the idea of IGGY ,an online educational and social network for gifted 13-18 year olds from across the world with content for maths, science, history, politics, creative writing and life skills, and a safe environment for students to exchange ideas, debate and learn.
8. It’s a pity FlashSticks won’t be at BETT because the product looks excellent. It combines low tech post-it notes, foreign language vocabulary and smartphones. The notes are colour coded to help with gender recall (blue notes for masculine words, pink notes for feminine words) and a Free App channel means users can wave their smartphone or tablet over any note to call up a quick pronunciation video.
9. Visual Education’s Wordwall lets teachers make easy learning activities for interactive whiteboards. Apparently you pick a template, type in your content and with a few clicks you’re done. Alternatively pinch some ideas from their online community.
10. Finally I am on the look out for good maths resources this year so I am hoping that Jumpido will do the trick. It is billed as: ‘an exciting series of educational games for primary school. It combines natural body exercises with engaging math problems to make learning a truly enjoyable experience.’

If your product is in the running for an award, good luck. If not, then just enjoy the entertainment. I am sure Jo Brand will be very good value.

Pupils to paint a picture with words in the Descriptosaurus Writing Challenge

nltPupils aged 7 to 14 are being invited to take part in a fun new descriptive writing competition from the National Literacy Trust, Alison Wilcox, creative writing expert and author of Descriptosaurus, and publishers David Fulton Books from Routledge.

The Descriptosaurus Writing Challenge is asking pupils to write either a story or a non-fiction description of an event or place – without using any dialogue! Developing descriptive language to communicate effectively is an essential tool across the curriculum. History is concerned not merely with dates and facts, but with describing and interpreting past events. In geography, children need to be able to describe the world around them. In science, they need to observe carefully and then be capable of describing what is happening in an experiment.

The competition will provide teachers and librarians with resources to support the development of children’s descriptive writing skills and will encourage pupils to explore and experiment with descriptive language. The piece of writing they produce can be on any topic, giving teachers the option to either give their pupils free reign to choose what they want to write about or integrate the competition task into a current class topic.

Entries should be no longer than 250 words and will be judged in three age categories:

1. Lower Key Stage 2 (Years 3 and 4)

2. Upper Key Stage 2 (Years 5 and 6)

3. Key Stage 3 (Years 7, 8 and 9)

Alison Wilcox will judge the competition entries alongside Routledge’s editor, and pupils who enter will stand a chance of winning: • For themselves: £50 worth of book vouchers and a brand new tablet computer • For their school: £250 worth of David Fulton/Routledge books, membership to the National Literacy Trust Network and a school visit from Alison Wilcox to run writing workshops for the pupils and training for staff The shortlisted entries will be read by thousands and will feature in a gallery on the National Literacy Trust website.

Susie Musgrove, the National Literacy Trust’s Schools Officer says: “It is so important that young people are equipped with the skills and vocabulary to effectively describe and interpret the world around them (and in their imaginations!). We hope that the Descriptosaurus Writing Challenge will support them to develop these skills and vocabulary, whilst having fun with language along the way.”

Alison Wilcox, author of Descriptosaurus, says: “I am really excited about this competition as I am passionate about the power of descriptive language to enable children to develop the vocabulary and techniques to communicate their ideas and express their individuality. The restriction of the word limit to 250 words should enable the children to focus on their choice of words, and experiment with sentence structure and length to develop their text into something which they are proud to share with an audience.” The competition’s deadline is Friday 8 November – good luck with the Descriptosaurus Writing Challenge! To take part and download the teacher’s resources visit: http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/descriptosaurus