All entries for October 2011

October 22, 2011

questions on dyslexia….

So, I've been continuing my reading for my masters assignment which is going to be on the misconceptions and negative connotations associated with dyslexia and the impact of these on the self-confidence, classroom contribution and subsequent achievement of dyslexic pupils. I'm really interested in SEN and dyslexia in particular because it is the most common of the learning disabilities (estimated to affect 4% of the population but ranging between 0.05% and 30% in different schools) and yet very little is actually known about it. Many neurologists have suggested theories of causes but I've come to the conclusion that no one really knows. What I do know is that eight out of the ten books I've read so far refer to Dyslexia as a learning disability and it is defined as a disability by the 1993 Education Act. For this reason, many pupils are reluctant to admit they have dyslexia because they fear they might be labelled as being "stupid" or "lazy". Pupils also reported feeling agressive, frustrated and depressed as a result of being discouraged by psychologists and educators who considered themselves to be realistic, or put under pressure by over ambitious parents. These secondary emotional problems were rarely mentioned by the authors as being a symptom of dyslexia but have been shown to be a block to learning. Many dyslexics also develop coping strategies which allow them to go through everyday life, often masking their symptoms, but these become compulsive behaviours and do not actually facilitate learning. For example, learning the alphabet song helps many to remember the sounds of letters but they then struggle to recite the aplhabet without singing the accompanying song. I am not dyslexic but I know that I remember telephone numbers, pin numbers and account numbers by saying them in a rhythm and struggle to recite the numbers without that rhythm.

The word dyslexia is built from "dys" meaning 'difficulties' and "lexis" meaning 'written word'. However, dyslexia presents as many symptoms which are specific to individuals and varied in severity. This makes diagnosis and treatment difficult. I do question whether treatment is the correct word to use here because some argue that dyslexia is not a disability but rather a gift and should be reclassified as a "difference in ability". R.D. Davis wrote an interesting book called "The Gift of Dyslexia" which identified eight basic abilities shared by all dyslexics which, if not oppressed, result in higher than average intelligence and extraordinary creative abilities:
1. They can utilise the brain's ability to alter and create perceptions;
2. They are highly aware of the environment;
3. They are more curious than average;
4. They think mainly in pictures instead of words;
5. They are highly intuitive and perceptive;
6. They think and perceive multidimensionally;
7. They can perceive thought as reality and
8. They have vivid imaginations.

These children often expressed talents such as walking before learning to crawl, remembering events perfectly, and "just knowing" the answers to complex algebraic equations because they could 'see' the numbers and calculations. The author has identified over 200 trigger words which some dyslexics struggle with because they have no pictorial representation (e.g. the, go, leave, do) and so they can't visual the sentence in their mind. However, the author also pointed out that there are numerous great minds that also had dyslexia such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Walt Disney and Winston Churchill. In fact a tv reporter was quoted as being surprised that so many people could be so intelligent "in spite" of their dyslexia! Although dyslexia may hinder a child's literacy and/or numeracy abilties, it has absolutely no effect on intelligence and often the pupils understand the work in class but struggle to record it in their books. Pollock and Waller interviewed pupils on what they struggled with and what was helpful in class in their book "Day-to-Day Dyslexia In The Classroom" and found that students struggled to copy off the board if there were too many words, weren't allowed enough time for writing and spelling, felt ignored, felt under pressure when required to read aloud and couldn't work if they were shouted at. However, the pupils found it helpful when teachers were kind and understanding, revision notes were tape recorded, they were not rushed, they were allowed extra time to plan and check work and if they were allowed to answer questions orally rather than written.

In my belief it is very important to eradicate these misconceptions of dyslexia because all too often the label is attached to people with varying effects. Some parents have been blamed for using dyslexia as an excuse for a child which is failing academically, although really they are perfectly capable of learning but it just needs to be facilitated in a way which is applicable to that individual. Some parents push their children too much, with extra tutoring sessions and homework, because they believe that the child is going to have to work extra hard to keep up with his or her peers whereas they may be excelling is some areas and perhaps too much importance is placed on literacy and numeracy. These children may begin to associate heavy concentration (and the resultant headaches) with reading and writing and learn to hate such activities. I have noticed when reading through some IEPs (Individual Education Plan) that some children have been noted as being exceptional athletes or artists or enjoy music and drama and I believe it is our responsibilties as adults to use these IEPs when we plan our lessons. After all, they're not written just to sit in a plastic wallet in the bottom of some drawer. Some pupils have been known to blame every mishap on their dyslexia and live their live entirely free of blame rather than accept their condition and work with it. Some educators and professionals may discourage children from attempting to achieve their aspirations to 'protect' them from disappointment.

Needless to say, I think we've barely scratched the surface of Dyslexia but I'm finding my research incredibly interesting!

October 17, 2011

the glasses that defied gravity

I had a fabby day today. Was organised to the point of being obsessive. Got all my photocopying and resources for the entire week sorted. Had a lovely lesson with my fantastic year 7s who I LOVE because I can pretend to be an awesome teacher with them and they believe it and do whatever I ask. I wore heels today too which only added to my height, and thus my authority. Problem is, from such towering heights, the teeny weeny year 7s are almost invisible to the naked eye. But I didn't step on any which is a bonus in my book. I also made a little lesson booklet containing seating plans and class lists (complete with homework dates, book collections, holiday dates and a space to record who I give learning points and red marks to each lesson). I also recorded all the SEN data for the pupils in my classes. I led three starters which very nearly almost stayed within the allocated time (I'm getting closer!). AND..... I had a Tesco's finest double chocolate chip cookie for lunch.

Then, just when I was patting myself on the back and reaching towards my yummy scrummy ultra delicious mars bar (my own personal learning point) disaster struck.......

we had an OFSTED meeting.


With great difficulty, I wasn't particularly clued up on the whole OFSTED inspection malarkey anyway but this presentation only plunged me deeper into the confusion pool. All I know is that it's changing, we think. I tried to listen, sir, honestly I did. But the lady giving the presentation had her glasses balanced precariously on the very tip of her nose and, being a scientist, I was fascinated by what magical forces were keeping them there. I thought it must have been glue or other such sticky substance, but then she took them off, with no apparent difficulty, so that hypothesis was disproved. They say that necessity is the mother of invention but I saw no obvious use for those glasses other than keeping the tip of her nose snug. Anyhoo, that distracted me long enough for me to completely lose track of the colour-coded and cross-referenced diagrams flashing up on her presentation. Then when I caught snippets of dialogue such as "this is not as important as the last but actually very important...", I waved goodbye to any hope of remaining concious. It just made me think that this woman, and many other professionals are training us to be effective teachers, and yet I feel like I want to peel off my own skin just to have something to do! I have noticed that with boredom comes a drive to find something to do, and the resultant activity is usually disruptive. There has been no greater eye-opener into the importance of producing engaging, energetic lessons that are chunked into bitesize open activities which are mainly pupil-led and extend the more able pupils. If there was one thing that I learnt today it was ALWAYS KEEP THE PUPILS ENGAGED AND THINKING or else risk having a lot of caged chimps to control. Oh, and get to grips with OFSTED inspections!

October 15, 2011

crazy week

Blimey! I am pooped!

It's been a pretty full-on week. I've been playing alot of netball this week but that's not why I'm tired. It's nice to have the netball to let off steam and just run around like an idiot for a couple of hours (that's valuable therapy for me). I'm pooped because this week I've had a crash course in real-life teaching. Due to illness my mentor has been off for a few days at the start of this week and the end of last week. A cover supervisor was available to cover all her lessons but suggested to me that I lead the lessons, as she wasn't trained in science. Eager to please I jumped at the chance and ending up teaching a full day of five lessons; four of the classes I knew and one I did not. I thought it would be a good chance to test to my classroom management, particularly with the new class.

I struggled.

But i survived.

Needless to say there are areas that need improvement. We had a particularly good, and very interesting, lecture on classroom management the day after. Did you know that the area of the brain responsible for matching actions with consequences doesn't even start to develop until approximately eight years old and in most people will finish development at about 21 years of age? However, the area of the brain responsible for the flight or fight response develops, and reaches maturity, much earlier. So when pupils are around year 9 age (13-14 years) and all the teenage hormones are starting to kick in, they are mostly unable to link an action with a consequence, and hence get into trouble for it. E.g. a boy punches another boy and then wonders why he's got a detention and probably tries to blame the other boy. It is our responsibility as teachers to develop this link between actions and consequences and strengthen it as much as possible. When we discipline the pupils we must always give a verbal warning which will clearly state what will happen if the pupil doesn't change his or her behave and then offer the student a choice as to which behaviour to display. If the warning is not heeded then the teacher must give out the appropriate disclipline with a definite reminder that the pupil was responsible for his or her own actions and must now face the consequences for said actions. All the while the teacher must be non-confrontational and to the point, this is known as "assertive discpline". My problem is that I am too woolly when it comes to giving directions, warnings and then handing out punishments. For example, in one lesson this week the whole class were muttering and fiddling and shuffling and generally being disruptive but this one boy at the front was consistently turning round and talking over me and the other pupils so I gave him a verbal warning. This verbal warning was clear but I then warned him another few times before eventually recording his behaviour in his planner. He, quite rightly, pointed out that the rest of the class was talking also and was as difficult as possible for the whole lesson; so much so that in the end I had to remove him from the group work entirely as he was distracting the other pupils in a determined effort to get them disciplined also. This whole lesson could have been managed in a much better way. Firstly I should have stood at the front of the class and almost created a funnel between me and the door so that as the children came into the classroom they could only come in one at a time and they would have to respect my space and I could stop any uniform offenders. This would have immediately marked the classroom as mine and the fact that they were coming into my space where I was the one in charge. Secondly, I need to not be happy with second best. I need to clearly state my expectations and not rest until I get them. This particular class are a lively bunch of very nice kids but they're very loud and not particularly polite when it comes to general social skills. I needed to clearly state that I expected absolute silence suring the register and that they should be writing the words into the bingo sheets. They needn't call out but put their hand up and wait for me to finish the register if they had any problems with the task they had been set. Any children talking during the register, no matter how quiet, needed to be warned and this warning followed up if their talking continued, even if this means handing out multiple red marks. Once they understand that I mean business it will get alot easier and I will be able to be more lenient but this bunch of scoundrels need very firm boundaries to lean on. I've also realised that I need to be more organised with my papers. I aim to free a space on the desk at the front of the class for my resources, lesson plan, register, seating plan and a sheet to keep a record of red marks and learning points so that I can a) keep track of the repeat offenders and little superstars and have a quiet word at the start of the next lesson and b) remember to actually hand out the red marks and learning points before the kids leave the classroom, which I've forgotten to do on numerous occassions! I need to take more control of the class as they leave the room also, and not just let them be dictated by the bell. I can use this as another reward system by letting the hard working and quiet pupils go first. So, watch out kids, Miss Roberts is getting tough next week! I also learnt from that one lesson of year 9s that kids can't be trusted! I had done this lesson a week previously with a bottom set year 9 class. It was a revision session consisting of four, ten minute activities which the groups rotated round. The previous lesson had been sufficient in that the majority of the kids stayed on task and actually worked hard on the activities. I had been free to roam around the classroom and extend some of the more able kids. However, my time-keeping was appalling and some of the activities were too short so that kids werenot kept occupied for the whole 10 minutes. Or rather, they were kept perfectly occupied using rulers as light sabers. The second time I did this lesson I changed one of the activities and had a countdown timer on the board. Foolproof. But actually the activitity I changed was now too hard and required me to devote all my time to the group struggling with this activity. I also put the answers to each activity in envelopes next to the activity, so the pesky kids just opened the envelope and copied the answers! Also, who knew that the countdown timer didn't just work on thought alone, I actually had to press the button! Crazy! So yes, all in all, I learnt alot from that lesson. I think that particular class needed a much more structured revision lesson. My plan would be more suited to a higher ability group.

On a final note, if a cover supervisor thinks it would be a great idea for you to take on all your mentors lessons for that day, politely decline even just one lesson so you can get that goddamn assignment done that's in for that Friday!!!

October 01, 2011

happy as Larry and all his jolly friends

Today my Mum spoke to a parent of a year 7 pupil from my school. I had spoken to this pupil and her mum at open evening recently. They said that I had been really nice and welcoming at open evening and the pupil thought I was "a well good teacher".

I'm going to treat myself to a Mars Bar.


October 2011

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  • As usual, observations of the kids we work with are spot on, and beautifully put! And what a wonderf… by on this entry
  • I think it's bad spelling!!! :–p by on this entry
  • Once again, Miss Roberts, you have me in stitches! If you ever decide you want out of teaching, you … by on this entry
  • I totally agree with you about behaviour 100%. I couldn't have put it better myself! by on this entry
  • There's a lot of chocolate support going on here.. and why not. really enjoyed your blog on dyslexia… by Jane Freshwater on this entry

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