Building Automaticity in Handwriting

Loving this!

The Stable Oyster

English teachers seem to attract a lot of comments about students’ handwriting. Parents are often keen to discuss it at parents’ evenings, often pushing it as a discussion point over other important areas of their child’s progress. Other subject teachers often feel (sometimes correctly) that handwriting is indicative of literacy levels and sometimes (incorrectly) that it’s indicative of academic ability. I sometimes resent the frequency of these comments; literacy is a whole-school issue, yet seems to get dumped at the English faculty door. Literacy is not the same as English Language and certainly not the same as English Literature. I acknowledge crossovers but on a bad day, I feel aggrieved that my subject is reduced, in the minds of some others, to penmanship.

I do see that the need for written fluency in English is perhaps more pronounced than in other areas. I started to look into it: the literature on the physical processes…

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Three things that happen when your autistic child is different at home and at school

Jekyll and Hyde are exactly the words that I used to describe a pupil of mine this week. This is such a powerful article, raising a really important issue. Thank you.

faithmummy

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I am going through a very difficult time with my son. This morning he was carried to his taxi by my husband and myself kicking and screaming. He was stressed, his sister terrified and I was anxious and worried.
I haven’t called the school and asked if he is ok because I know what they will say.
He is not like that in school

Reports from school don’t marry with the child at home at all. In school he conforms, is settled and appears happy. At home he can be violent, unpredictable and highly distressed. This creates some problems for school, home and professionals. The great divide between home and school is a huge challenge and I am not alone in struggling with this.

When my autistic child is different in school it makes parents feel they are to blame.

When the common denominator for the challenging behaviour…

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CHAMPS and the Compliance Classroom

I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for following my post. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for your writing! Powerful!

Ryan Boren

My stomach dropped when I saw CHAMPS at our elementary school. “Eyes front, knees front, closed mouth” leapt off the wall and rose from memory. I was in school in the 70s and 80s. Some teachers were really into table readiness and proper student posture, and some principals thought a paddle made them persuasive. Compliance was the soul of their pedagogy. Those are not fond memories. I was an undiagnosed autistic in a culture without the vocabulary to understand me or help me understand myself. But I understood authoritarians well enough. They are a straightforward grok.

I handled the thoughtless compliance better than many of my peers. I could disappear into myself and hide in almost still silence. The tugging of my hair betrayed my perpetual anxiety and my yearning to scratch my scalp. In the head beneath the scalp I wanted to scratch and the hair I wanted to…

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The ‘Show Sentence’

This is flipping amazing! I tend to model paragraphs or sentences periodically but there is certainly greater magic in the daily. Thank ‘s for sharing!

Tabula Rasa

The Michaela approach to writing about literature involves building up sentences by combining pupils’ knowledge of poetic, theatrical and rhetorical techniques with memorised quotations, memorised facts and academic vocabulary. Through lots of guidance, we are able to elicit some pretty good sentences from the class, before letting them loose to write their own. I call this a ‘Show Sentence’. I do these pretty much every lesson so they get plenty of writing practice.

Below is a demonstration of this approach in action in a lesson. To provide a context, this would take place after they have read, discussed and annotated the text, and have memorised key quotations. I would most likely be scribbling this on the whiteboard as they go.

Year 8 (lowest set) Lesson: Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Teacher: “Fair is…?”

Pupils [chanting in unison]: “…foul and foul is fair: hover through fog and filthy air.”

Teacher: Super! Which techniques does…

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Marking in Perspective: Selective, Formative, Effective, Reflective

Loved this! Marking is about formative comments NOT grades! Cheers to moving kids on and closing gaps!

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Marking in Perspective: Selective, Formative, Effective, Reflective

Context and Motivation

I’m feeling relieved, smug and virtuous because I’ve just marked some books. It feels good because a) it was overdue and, hence, was having that ‘albatross’ effect; b) for a change I am looking forward to going into my class tomorrow without feeling guilty and most importantly c) because I feel like I’ve renewed a connection with my students’ learning in a way that is hard to do any other way; I’ve done something worthwhile which always feels good.

To be absolutely clear, I am a Dylan Wiliam devotee; you won’t catch me doing marking slavishly because someone tells me I should or because it looks good; I only do marking if I think I need to – and this only if I think it will make a difference. I expect my staff to have the same attitude. I’m convinced…

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SENDT: Autumn Awakening

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It’s been a while since I’ve written about my journey. Yet, I think of my students almost everyday. I think of what makes them sad; I think of what makes them happy; I think of what I can do each day to assure their progress.

I listen to the news, always with an ear for them. I’m always trying to find out something new that I can share and enthuse them with. In class, I tell them “we’re a team” and after saying this, Mr Cheeky announces: “No, we’re not a team. We’re a family!”

In them, I see the circle of life. The better I am with them, the more strategies I use, the more I learn, the more I am able to guide and grow my own little man into the person I want him to be. There are so many fruits to this symbiotic relationship of teacher and pupil, tutor and tutee.

Regardless of politics, boohoos and tears, they are the highlight of my teaching career. Their commitment to progress, their undeniable resilience in the face of endless anxiety gives me courage. Their very presence forces me to reach beyond myself and encounter new and exciting ways of teaching; being at peace; experiencing joy!

SENDT: Autumn Awakening

img_6487It’s been a while since I’ve written about my journey. Yet, I think of my students almost everyday. I think of what makes them sad; I think of what makes them happy; I think of what I can do each day to assure their progress.

I listen to the news, always with an ear for them. I’m always trying to find out something new that I can share and enthuse them with. In class, I tell them “we’re a team” and after saying this, Mr Cheeky announces: “No, we’re not a team. We’re a family!”

In them, I see the circle of life. The better I am with them, the more strategies I use, the more I learn, the more I am able to guide and grow my own little man into the person I want him to be. There are so many fruits to this symbiotic relationship of teacher and pupil, tutor and tutee.

Regardless of politics, boohoos and tears, they are the highlight of my teaching career. Their commitment to progress, their undeniable resilience in the face of endless anxiety gives me courage. Their very presence forces me to reach beyond myself and encounter new and exciting ways of teaching; being at peace; experiencing joy!

Building Readers – A Post-secondary Perspective

As Secondary English Teachers our heart is often on inspiring our students to engage with the texts being studied. In this regard, I believe we have been highly successful but when it comes to teaching a child how to read, we simply do not know how to do it. Segmenting and blending for us are linked more to our Sunday Night Baking Sessions rather than to ways that we can teach our kids to read. This must change!

In the paper entitled ‘Reading: The Next Steps’, Nick Gibb points out that in 2009, only 1 in 10 of those who failed to reach a Level 4 in Reading were able to go on to attain 5 good GCSEs. We can not ignore the reality: if our kids can’t read, their chances of success are severely limited.

So we must build readers in our classrooms, we must lift our struggling readers from the fringe and place them deep into the mix of things.  To take this from talk to reality, it is incumbent upon us all to:

  1. Learn systematic synthetic phonics
  2. Offer 20 minute synthetic phonics lessons to all students on a ‘Level 3’ or below in our schools
  3. Utilise synthetic phonics activities as starters in mixed ability and lower attaining groups (so teach the sounds, link to key words and then ask students to apply this by using the key word in the lesson)
  4. Train our high attainers to teach synthetic phonics to their peers
  5. Utilise written spelling tests on a weekly basis
  6. Model the segmenting of words when writing on the whiteboard
  7. Ask your students to read aloud and to sound out and blend words that they might find difficult

Unless we do this, it is undoubtable that our students will continue to be left behind. We can not afford to let this happen. Additionally, de-stigmatising the use of synthetic phonics in our secondary schools is also crucial, which is why it is essential to use it in our starters and make it a regular part of classroom practice.

Bon Voyage!

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An Old Post on Synthetic Phonics

Is your child that 1 in 5? Studies show that only 84% of 11 year olds achieve a Level 4 in Reading. That means that 16% of Britain’s children will have difficulty recognising relatively simple words on a page and even when they are able to pronounce these words, they might misunderstand what they have read. Is there any wonder then when these same children express a hatred for reading? How much pleasure do you experience when something that seems so effortless to others is a struggle for you? Yet everyday these children struggle to understand these words around them and often times, they fail.

In response to this, the UK Government has embraced the teaching of synthetic phonics. This is a method of teaching reading whereby children learn the sounds of letters and letter combinations before being taught how to combine them to form words. The reliance on this method came about through a study of 300 students in Scotland who were taught using this method and as a result obtained a reading age up to 3 years above their peers. It must also be noted that these students did not show a significant improvement in comprehension and perhaps there lies one of the key concerns about this method. It must also be said that the UK government chose to base its entire approach to Reading on a study that happened only in Scotland rather than throughout the UK. Is it right to have a one size fits all approach to reading? Do we all learn in the same way?

Of course there are other approaches to reading such as analytical phonics where children are taught whole words and then later analyse their constituent parts. It must be said that students are taught to read these words within the context of meaningful text. The reading of a word is therefore not done in isolation, it is immediately connected to the other images or words around it. As a result, there is an implication that this method fosters the development of children’s comprehension skills as it is asking children to use clues in order to arrive at an understanding of the text. For many, this type of phonics is seen as a method that has failed even more of Britain’s children due to the fact that in 2001 when it was blazing in its glory, 25% of students were not achieving a Level 4. Therefore, regardless of our reservations, synthetic phonics seems to be reaping better results. Many would even go further to highlight that even boys tend to do better when using this system of reading. For once, they are not lagging dreadfully behind the girls.

Yet even then, reservations abound. This is not because synthetic phonics doesn’t work but because Ofsted now sees it as the be all and end all of teaching reading. Ofsted has made it crystal clear that primary teachers ‘must’ demonstrate a clear understanding of this process. The government is so serious about this approach that six year olds now have to sit a systematic synthetic phonics test. Already some of these youngsters are being labelled as failures when it comes to reading. Or rather, they are already feeling the pressure of preparing for reading exams at a time when they should be enjoying the journey of reading. It is this one size fits all approach which bothers me. Surely analytical phonics still has a place. Surely some students flourished through this method. If not, 75% of the Nation’s children in 2001 would not have been a level 4 or above in English. Therefore, the government must recognise that individuals learn in different ways; that the same approach does not work for everyone. Yet, I must admit that if every teacher is aware of this approach and uses it well, it is less likely that a child will fall behind if they have to move to a new school. There is also a sense of consistency, the idea that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet which makes the playing ground of Literacy Education, a fair one.

 

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