Planning

There are a 3 main types of planning in my classroom:

1- continous provision
I’m lucky to have been given free reign to develop our early years/ early primary class, one of the first things I did was spend a chunk of cash setting up our CP room. We have 4/5 areas that we review and update each half term- exploration, sensory, maths, block play and small world. Each has a planning sheet stuck up with information on how to use the area with each student to help their learning and building towards their long and medium term goals.

2- topic webs
We have a topic per half term – each student has a topic web which includes medium term and long term goals and then lists the things they are doing in each area- communication and language, literacy, numeracy, knowledge and understanding of the world, creative, personal social and emotional, sensory and physical. This planning makes sure that students don’t repeat the same activities year after year and that students get both a vertical and horizontal curriculum.

3- session plans
Each student has a set of session plans. Even in group or paired sessions each student has their own targets. These plans include long term, medium term and short term targets and are filled in by LSA’s who then let me know as targets are reached.

Together the three sets of planning ensure that students make progress and get breadth of study in all areas of learning. It may seem like a lot but a small class and medium term targets that run 6 monthly help to keep workload managable

Advertisements

Don’t say ‘bless’

not being able to speak quote

Bless them’

‘They try’

‘It must be so, um, rewarding’

These are the kind of things many teachers and parents of students with special needs will have heard, people often struggle to think of what to say about the children in my class, visitors gather at the door unsure of how to interact with them, they wonder at the sight of staff spraying a student with a water bottle or gently encouraging them to stand, at adults signing, speaking, singing, using ipads and VOCA devices and flashing every kind of symbol, photo and object to try and ensure students are able to understand where they are going and what they are doing, at the 5 different supported seats arrange in a circle each with an adult in front as we go through our daily sensory story or say hello to our friends, at the tubes and pumps, the walkers and gait trainers lined up outside the door and of course the twiddles, jackets, chewies and other objects that help the students stay calm, focused and ready to learn.

The subtext of these sorts of comments is that my students aren’t really capable of learning, that we’re not really teachers and that schools like ours are simply there to keep students happy and out of the way.

Of course they’re wrong. The students in my class learn, they make progress, they work together and apart. They overcome enormous hurdles and each and everyone is, most importantly, an individual. They have good days and bad days like every other child, they’ll do things at school and not at home just like every other child, the have likes and dislikes, a sense of humour and a mischievous streak. We work them hard each and every moment of they day and they go home exhausted just like every other child.

So get down to their level, speak or sign or sing or wave. Even if they look away, flap, run off or you realise they can’t see or hear you ask ‘how do you like to communicate?’ Speak to them and not to me, say hi, shake hands , ask what they’re learning, what they like to do, whatever they can handle,  because, at the heart of it they are just children are we are just a class and when you can look past all the chairs and equipment, past the devices and behaviours you’ll forget it all and just see the individual.

 

Review- the black book of colours

blackbookofcolours

I received this lovely book for my birthday last month. It’s a nicely sized book which explores colours from the perspective of a child who is visually impaired.

The simple text describes the taste, feel and smells associated with the colour with braille text running above. On the opposite page are raised illustrations of the various sensory experiences described. The book has no colour at all apart from the black background and white text.

index

I would highly recommend this book both for students who are visually impaired and are able to access braille or spoken text and for staff and non-visually impaired young people. It would be a great addition to any school library to help raise awareness of the experiences of colour from a different perspective.

I’m unlikely to use this book with my own class as they are unable to access such complex text and ideas but it has already proved popular with staff and we plan to buy a copy to use in training.

Building class team morale

Working with children with additional needs isn’t always easy, it can be physically, mentally and emotionally tiring. A good staff team can make the difference between feeling like you’re drowning in a sea of to-do’s, paperwork and unfinished jobs haunted by a nagging guilt that things aren’t quite perfect and a feeling that whilst your to-do list does resemble the labours of Hercules you actually look forward to coming into work.

A good team helps keep everyone buoyed up, everyone has less than great days and a team that works well together can support members when they need it and keep learning going even when times are tough. There are always issues in any workplace and every school has its niggles that can bring down staff morale, often these are out of the influence of the class teacher but rather than throw up your hands there are some small ways you can help your team feel valued, skilled and appreciated.

1- Bribery. Yep, bribery is one way I show my team how much I appreciate them. We have our emergency box basically a big plastic box filled with essentials (pain killers, tissues, deodorant, sanitary products, hair ties) and of course biscuits, chocolate and other food are always welcome! Our school doesn’t provide tea and coffee so I buy it for the team- and if I spot an interesting herbal tea or hot chocolate on offer I usually bung that in too!

2- Praise. Specific, timely and delivered in the way that person wants to hear it, and backed up with an email that they can keep in their performance management file! I’m also quick to share feedback that I get from parents and other professionals we often share this at the start of our weekly team meetings

3- Responsibility. Each member of the class team has a specific responsibility that fits their skills- ICT champion who uploads all the photos from the cameras and makes sure I-Pads are charged, an environment person who keeps our messy play area tidy and comes up with exciting ideas for displays and a couple more. Each member of staff is encouraged to push the whole team including me when it comes to their area. Giving staff responsibility helps me but it also gives the team ownership of the class.

4- Knowledge. What is a P-Level? How are targets set? Our team meetings often involve a 20 minute ‘training’ on  topics as diverse as block play, P-levels, early reading strategies, Piaget and Vygotsky and more. Staff that know the why as well as the what are staff that feel empowered and ready to stand up for what they believe is best for the students. This works in the other direction too- key workers are encouraged to share what they know about their students, to input into targets and planning and each week we take one student  and share what they have achieved, what we admire about them and our top tips for working with them.

5- Play together. From team tea out once a half term to birthday celebrations to a 10 minute debrief over a cuppa most nights the team that plays together stays together!