Our summer rota of sharing ideas has been based on literacy and numeracy and both teaching staff and TAs have been sharing their ideas with the rest of the staff. The learning needs of our students means that we have quite a large number of teaching assistants for the size of our school and they play a crucial role in supporting both the social and academic needs of the students who they support. They did use to be called learning support assistants and I’m not sure why they prefer TA’s [if they actually do!] but the reality is that if you summed up all of the roles they played for individual children, there would be far too many initials to describe their role with any accuracy! I’m not a great one for being precious with the names of things and am only concerned with actions and deeds that benefit our learners-my colleagues who aren’t teachers are all action packed super-heroes to me!
Who better to talk about the impact on learning that penny dropping literacy and numeracy moments have than our TAs! In many cases they stay with the same students for the majority of the day [sometimes 5 years!] and they understand how improved literacy/numeracy can help to break down learning barriers. We have 2 special bases in school-1 for students with Asperger’s syndrome and 1 for students with dyslexia-and have built up a wealth of experience in supporting the varying but specific learning needs of an above national average number of students. These are the first ones on my rota!
Before a student begins to write, I always remind them about capital letters, full stops etc. I encourage the students that I work with to check back over their work, checking for capital letters, full stops, commas, etc., and double check their spellings. If necessary I will suggest that I read it back to them, but only if they request me to.
I tend to always take down notes and write my own examples, so if a student doesn’t understand the task that they have been given to do, I will try to explain what I have written down. If there are more than a couple unsure, then I will catch the teacher’s attention to explain again.
I work 1:1 with a student in a year 10 maths lesson and have known (since year 7) that this student needs repetition until he can retain the formula needed to work things out. The maths homework, usually 25 similar questions each week, was a real problem at first and his results were around 9 or 10 out of 25.
When marking homework in class I found the best way to help him was correct any mistakes on the homework sheet. By showing all the stages of working out and writing simple notes of what stages to take to get the correct answer. I tried to do this over and over each week and asked him to refer to the sheet to help with the homework for the following week.
This student now regularly achieves marks in the high teens/early twenties. Maths used to be the subject he found most difficult, but achieving good results has given him much more confidence.
Sarah [Asperger’s base]
During social times in the base the students may choose to do independent reading and some of the students will visit the library. We also have ‘Social and communication’ board games and card games out on display so that students can pick these up and play. This can lead to discussion and encourage them to share interests with each other and with staff.
One example of this is student A who would for a while routinely pick up the General Knowledge quiz and fire questions at me almost every lunchtime. This encouraged his literacy and his speaking and listening and really boosted his confidence being quizmaster. This started as a 1:1 but he has now begun to speak up more in small groups in the base and will even challenge some of the other students during debates, giving his own opinions and he will now sometimes greet me with ‘Good morning Miss’ which is great to hear.
Literacy – using a revision board game to assist learning.
B was struggling to grasp the plot and characters of An Inspector Calls, I had tried various strategies to help such as little character cards and work sheets.
I decided to use a board game of An Inspector Calls to aid his learning and help him to focus on the characters. B understood the board game as the group asked questions and discussed the characters together, which gave HIM a greater understanding of the characters, which gave Nathan extra confidence with the understanding of An Inspector Calls.
When we were reading Heroes, he found it hard to differentiate between what was happening ‘now’ and what a flashback was. He was getting very frustrated, as we went through the book so I made sure that every time we began on a new chapter, B was aware of what had happened and what was happening. I constantly prompted him to reinforce the timeline of the book. This did help B to have a greater understanding of the book.
The only thing at the moment I can think of is An Inspector Calls board game that was from one of the emails you sent. I put together the game for year 10 and 11 revision with quotes, themes, characters and content cards. On the other side of the board was a past exam question with hints and tips on how to answer it with the language devices. The students, I have been told, enjoy them very much and they are learning at the same time. As we are doing different texts in each teaching sets I have since devised Blood Brothers and A Christmas Carol!! During the summer I will be busy devising a Trivial Pursuit poetry game for the students to try and remember the 15 poems, quotes and poetic devices used for their exam. A game for each Year 10 set.
Sara [maths intervention]
In the groups I work with I always ensure the students take turn reading the question, then highlight what they feel is important and relevant and then in their own words describe what is being asked of them to solve.
The work sheet handed to them in the session will concentrate on one particular topic. This provides me with the opportunity to observe if they are managing it. After a period of approx. 5 weeks they are given a summary sheet comprising of several topics, already covered, and their answers are rated red, amber, and green. This helps us to monitor their understanding and ensure that progress is being made, if their target is not met it can then be addressed by the teacher in the lesson.
I work on a one-to-one session with B and I tend to go over work that we have done in English, so most of my notes and sheets originally come from Miss and some that I collect in lesson. The work we would cover is the work we had previously done in lesson, e.g.: work for their GCSE Literature Exam… Of Mice & Men, A Christmas Carol, Blood Brothers and Poetry. I would break it down for him and he would make notes on the characters as we discussed them. I printed off some poems so that we could discuss comparing them like he would have to in the exam but using the same criteria we used in lesson. B needed reassurance that they did understand all points of the Literacy that they would be expected to complete, we used Miss’s scheme of work and tried various questions that could be asked in the exam. My object of my one-to-ones is to reinforce his knowledge of the subject and therefore give him more confidence in himself.
This term the students I support are studying Macbeth with the text in Shakespearian language. They have found the language very difficult to understand so therefore had trouble making sense of the play. To help them understand the language used, I made Macbeth word mats, in alphabetical order, the Shakespearian words in red and the equivalent modern day definition next to it in black. After laminating them they are put on the desks as the class read through the text so they can check for themselves the words they don’t know. It has been interesting to see some of the class being amused by the ‘old’ words and what they meant and they have told me that the mats have helped them to understand the play.
I have also made differentiated work sheets covering the plot, themes, characters and quotes which the students I support, especially those with dyslexia, have found helpful. Some have a word bank at the top, some are to match the point to the correct definition and others are a true or false format. The differentiation means they don’t have to start with a blank sheet of paper in front of them, the correct spellings are given and the writing is reduced to a minimum so they can access the task. One of my colleagues is also using them in her one-to-ones with a student and she has found them of benefit to him to help his understanding.
I have attached (hopefully), a copy of the word mat and some examples of the work sheets.
Learning barrier – weak basic literacy and memory skills due to dyslexia
I use of a variety of multisensory activities and resources (some bought, others ‘tailor made’) to build on and support basic literacy skills which are often lacking in students with dyslexia, and which teachers are not able to focus on in English lessons due to time and curriculum restraints. Dyslexic students require constant repetition and practice using these skills in order for them to become embedded.
- basic punctuation
- nouns / adjectives/ verbs / adverbs
- verb tense
- high frequency / key words spellings
- phonics / spelling board games
- card sorts
- hangman – subject keywords to support and
- memory games
- proof reading exercises
Learning barrier – weak number bonds / times tables
Strategies that work:
- time for calculations
- multiplication square
- finger methods
- working out on paper
- use of ‘Chinese method’
- use number line when working with negative numbers
David’s recall of his times tables is poor, however he does know his 2’s, 3’s, 5’s and 10 times tables, so when he comes to a particular sum that he does not immediately remember I encourage him to find one that he does know and work out the new answer from that.
Eg : The question is 6×7
- David does not know 6×7
- he does, however, know 5×7
- he can add another 7 to 35 (using his fingers) to get to 42
- Supporting my year 7 group, I always remind them about capital letters, full stops etc. in all lessons. I have also encouraged students to pop along to Miss’s handwriting class, which some have done, and I have noticed a difference in their handwriting.
- I always make sure the students know what is expected from them in the tasks set, and repeat or explain the task if need be. I also assist with spellings as and when necessary, but encourage them to use a dictionary.Numeracy
- One of the student’s parents said to me that they couldn’t help their child with some of the Maths homework as they didn’t understand what was meant by ‘mode’, ‘median’ etc. in regards to ‘averages’.
- I have the ‘Usborne Junior Illustrated Maths Dictionary’ at home, so I copied the relevant pages on averages to help them to understand, as this is explained in clear English, giving examples. It is a lower set Maths group and plain English is beneficial for their learning.
- I gave the student the copy, explaining the different sections so that they could understand, and asked them to show their parent the resource so that they would be able to help the student if they got stuck. Hopefully, this in turn will help the student to further their understanding of averages, and also help them to be able to complete their homework, and may also help both parent and student in the long run.
- Since then, in their Maths homework, the student has managed to get all the average questions right, and I asked if the resource was helpful and if it helped them to understand, and they said that it had.
I have found that some of the students I support have responded quite well when working with me in small groups to talk about how they will do the writing activity. They discuss SPaG and how to set the work out. I think talking about it beforehand gives them more confidence to try to do the work independently.
I have worked closely with A in PSD. At the start of the year they were very quiet and unsure of themselves but by sitting near them to encourage and reassure them I feel, has helped them become much more confident and they often participate in class now.
My Magic Moment – Literacy
I am working with year 11 and they have just been preparing for their exams and mainly revising in lessons. At this stage in their school life it is hard for me to make a big impact on their learning and development as they are only covering what they have already learnt. The main achievement I can pick out is that pupil A really struggles with the English reading exam and severe dyslexia is the pupil’s barrier. In preparation, pupil A has done extra reading during morning registration with me to practice his reading and we have managed to find a technique that works really well. Pupil A picks out single words and then uses them as quotes linking them directly to what the question is asking. This is helping with the time constraints in the exam as pupil A finds reading the text torturous and very time consuming.
One of many pupils I support in my class is a girl who is always very reluctant to doing as she has been asked and write her answers down. She loves to doodle throughout the lesson and keeps her head down. Most of the time, to encourage her to complete her work, I write an exercise down expecting her to write an answer. She rarely makes an effort and it makes my job really hard as she is not the only pupil I support.
Anyway, this particular maths lesson the teacher asked pupils to complete a work sheet. The girl was reluctant….and kept on doodling on the white board ignoring what I said to her, ‘here is a choice: you either collaborate with me or I will take the white board away. I suggest you write a sum down, and then write an answer down. While I am writing a next sum down you draw a smiley face on a board for your effort.’ I counted one, two, three and she made a right choice and moved the board away which meant I have won a tiny start battle! We carried on working like that. This strategy of giving her a choice really worked as she completed not just Challenging and More Challenging columns but a half of Superstar material too. She was amazed at her achievement as there was a visual proof of her brilliant work in front of her. The white board had a couple of really nicely shaped and coloured smiley faces in, but most importantly her book and her self-esteem was full too.
The pupil’s in my year 8 set are very lively and keen to learn. In science they are very enthusiastic and try their best with each topic.
Some of the pupil’s take a little longer to grasp new information when starting a new topic but with mine and the teacher’s support they begin to understand. I support the students by breaking down the information for them to access successfully and make sure that they understand before moving on.
They are confident when drawing graphs. They are willing to have a good go. I support them by explaining why it’s important to draw on the lines and evenly space out numbers.
As there are pupils with Dyslexia in this set I find it’s important to support with spelling, but I don’t make it a big issue, as I feel if a pupil is confident with the topic and working well independently, it is important for them to maintain that confidence and independence.
There is one pupil in particular who finds it very difficult to think of his own ideas and will quickly copy someone else’s answer instead of thinking of his own. This is down to his learning need and having lack of confidence accessing his own knowledge of the topic. I support this pupil by asking him gentle questions and helping him to think about what he is being asked. We do arrive at the correct answer with some discussion.
There is also a pupil in my set who has hearing difficulties. She wears hearing aid and uses a radio aid that is worn by the teacher. This connects to receivers that are attached to her hearing aids. I make sure that the teacher has the radio aid for the lesson. I will frequently check that the pupil can hear the teacher and other pupils when the lesson includes some discussion. If any information has been missed I will repeat it to her. It is important for her to access all of the key words in lessons and topics.
They are very good at drawing and love discussion, this aids their learning immensely. They embrace topics that may initially seem to be tricky. They are comfortable with each other as a class and are very supportive of each other.
I work with a student who is very competent in Maths but is often let down by his times table knowledge.
Although he picks up new topics easily and understands the strategies his work is hampered by his lack of basic knowledge and slow recall of Times Tables.
He enjoys puzzles very much so I have been giving him codes to crack that reveal the answer to jokes. He has enjoyed working them out even though the jokes are terrible!
We have been timing him to see how quickly he can find the answers and his time has been steadily improving. This has also shown improvement in his class work as his recall of Times Tables had become noticeably quicker
My input on helping students develop numeracy skills are. I myself requested an exercise book from Miss Filson. As I am sitting my GCSE maths, I find it encourages the students when learning a new topic on the curriculum. This enables both student and myself to learn and build up a technique of how to solve the problem.
I record everything down in my book from the lesson. And talk it through with many of the students, who are struggling, with the learning objective; by having a record of the work in my book, this enables me to revert back to any of the topics that have been covered.
The objective of the lesson, was to learn about solving equations. My input on this lesson; was one of the students needed a partner, I assisted by pairing up with a student. Each pair had a white board and were asked to solve the question; that had been placed on the board. The equations started off easy, but became harder and challenging. The student and I worked out different steps of the equation step by step, breaking it down, we both knew that both sides of the equation had to balance like scales. The student had forgotten how to expand the brackets; this is where I informed the student, by stating that everything inside the bracket had to be multiplied by the number outside the bracket. The student then made me aware of how the inner core of the equation had BIDMAS, so therefore the symbols changed to the opposite (+ = -) & (x = /) and vice versa. After several attempts both the student and I had achieved to master the subject; by interacting and talking through the problem solving question.
Example : 2 x – 4 = – 18
2 x = – 14
(/2) x = -7 (/2) (balance each side)
All students and I had to close our eyes; and raise our hands to see whether:
- Who could do the equation?
- Who could do half of the equation?
- Who was still struggling with equation?
All the students choose which question they had been asked and answered truthfully.
When Miss Filson saw that the students felt confident with the topic, we then all engaged in a mind growth setting activity: called speed dating, here each student was either labelled to be A or B. the person labelled A stayed stationary; whereas B had to rotate around the room, changing a new partner each time. Each student and I were given a printed sheet with equations on to solve. By doing this I found that each person had their own strategies of breaking down the equation, and we learnt from each other by interacting and talking about of how to solve the equations.
All the students by the end of the activity were asked once e again to close their eyes and raise their hand to the questions asked previously. On this occasion all the students raised their hands to say that they have mastered solving equations.
Both students and I found this lesson to be fun. It showed that by going that little bit more by encouraging and assisting each other through this task; that all of the students and I achieved their goal on how to solve equations
I popped into the end of a maths’s lesson to see Jen and both Hayley and Jen were excited to tell me about what had been happening in the lesson! I’m delighted to see Hayley is going to take her own maths G.C.S.E. and Alison Roberts told me she is taking her French G.C.S.E. Helen and Christine have asked to go on signing courses and we have been discussing as SLT, how we can build more time in for vital TA CPD next year. We recognise their value and support and want to equip them with the changing skills their crucial role requires. It is important that they, like the teaching staff, have the opportunities and forum to collaborate and share ideas with each other and to trial and new ideas without fear of failure.