This month’s #blogsync is about making and showing progress in my classroom. The short and simple answer to the question ‘how do I make progress ‘ is ‘with difficulty’.
As readers of my twitter timeline and posts will know my class are SEN. Very special learners. Many have Profound and Multiple Learning Diffuculties (PMLD) and others have Complex Learning Difficulties (CCLD). They attain at P3(i). Some are higher but it is this group I am discussing in this blog.
As with all children my class have to make 3 levels of progress over a key stage. These are P Levels rather than National Curriculum levels, but for some of my children they may as well be GCSEs. That said, the children work incredibly hard and battle against the odds to make progress.
So how to help them make progress and then show their progress. Differentiation is the key. This has been hotly debated on #ukedchat. Some teachers say differentiation is unnecessary and all will make progress through expert teaching. I’m no expert on differentiation in mainstream so I had little to contribute to the debate. In SEN differentiation is everything. 10 children equals 10 lots of differentiation. There is no grouping them together. Every single child has an individualised pathway and complex learning objectives are set to match their individual needs.
When teaching I tend to stick to the old fashioned three part lesson. This decision has nothing to do with the whims of Ofsted. If they banned the 3 part lesson I would still do it because its best for the children. Lessons are structured to last 45 minutes and our teachers have the freedom to choose how to fill that 45 minutes. I know my children can concentrate generally for 10 minute bursts. Therefore I introduce the lesson with the objectives and teach them a general overview of the lesson. I make it as light hearted as possible and as personal to them as I can to ensure their interest. After 10 minutes I send them off to do their individual work. This is where my wonderfully talented teaching assistants come in. Prior to each lesson I work with my TAs and explain what each child must achieve. For some this may be just a single word answer. Others might have a couple of sentences to order on a clicker grid. The point I am making is that each TA knows the objective set, knows how to teach that child and which tools to use. Most of my TAs help with planning the lessons so they have complete ownership and understanding.
After a further 10 minutes I do a mini plenary. This allows the children to have a little rest and allows me to check that everyone is on track. This is important for the 2 who are working independently. We have a small celebration and assure ourselves that we’re doing well. I take photographs throughout the lesson and post them to Evernote ready for assessment. We continue in this fashion until the final 10 minutes.
Next comes that all important plenary. I work around the room and check that all children have progressed in their learning. Many of my students use high tech devices to aid speech. Sometimes a non communicating child will need to use their communication aid to give a simple one word answer. It often takes all their physical strength to lift their head and use it to operate a switch to give an answer. This may take several minutes, the world seems to stand still while we wait. The children are incredibly supportive of each other’s learning and wait quietly. But when the answer comes and it is correct we celebrate that child’s achievement as though they had won the lottery!
It’s important to remember that what one mainstream child achieves in a single lesson may take several years for my children to achieve. We never give up. The key is determination. I have that in bucket loads and my children have even more! In answer to Ofsted’s rapid and sustained requirement I will say the following. Rapid, it is not! Sustained, hopefully! On that day and at that time the child achieved their goal. We celebrate every single achievement no matter how tiny because for my children all achievements are major.