In a recent article I wrote about the challenges of providing differentiated learning within a Key Stage 2 classroom. Not being a teacher myself, this has been a really interesting learning process for me, especially, as my own child didn’t experience effective differentiated learning in Key Stage 2. So with teachers not being adequately trained on dyslexia and SEND, I wanted to find strategies that I could share in this post which I hope could be helpful.
So once again I have done an internet search for strategies that work in the classroom for delivering effective differentiated learning to KS2 pupils ( years 3 to 6) with dyslexia and other SEND.
Interestingly the strategies I have found seem to sit in two different categories 1) Self-Management as a teacher and 2) Time Management.
Self-Management as a teacher.
Personally I believe that teachers have to be commended for the tough job that they have. They often have to manage large classroom sizes of a mix of children with a range of needs (not just SEND needs but also social and emotional) and are required to be able to monitor a bunch of metrics for each child. Many teachers work late into the night to ensure that they are up to date with paper work, lesson plans etc. So often parents can forget the person that is behind ‘the teacher’ who will be experiencing the high levels of stress that comes with working within our UK education system.
So it is so important for a teacher to be able to manage stress (state management), their time (time management) and resources.
Here are some strategies that I either recommend or have found that could be useful in terms of self-management.
1) Manage your perspective on your class.
Most teachers enter the profession with the objective to teach and make a difference to the children in their care, but the requirements that our education system placed upon them can so easily distract them from that objective. I remember my wife taking up the job of being a teaching assistant and when I asked her about what she liked about her job she told me that she liked that it felt like she was the one doing the teaching and it was the teacher who seemed to have the role of class manager jumping between the varying needs of the children in class.
When we set out to do one thing but get bogged down in something else we can start to lose confidence and motivation perhaps because the stresses and strains have resulted in us taking a new perspective on the class. Maybe we are starting to feel that we are not being the teacher that we set out to be?
If teachers are to effectively differentiate then they need to focus on what they set out to do in the first place and if it doesn’t work out the first time, then they should allow themselves a bit of love and acknowledgement of how challenging it can be to work in the education system and continue to remind themselves of their original objective.. The nature of the role of a teacher is that they too are still learning how to meet the needs of the pupils in their classes. This is an ongoing process especially as classes change every year.
If you are able to take a ‘birds eye view’ on what’s happening in the classroom this is by far a much less stressful perspective on what happening and what’s more, sign’s of poor behaviour become useful communication tools for what needs are presenting and how they should be met.
2) Don’t plough on regardless if your differentiation strategies are not working.
This is a tough one. You will have likely have spent a lot of time and effort preparing materials for your differentiated teaching and you will likely be quite attached to them and at the very least you probably don’t want to spend all that time and effort redoing them if they don’t have the desired impact. So it may be tempting to just keep going with a nagging feeling that something needs to change but you feel like you simply don’t have time.
If you are ‘hearing’ that nagging voice, it is probably your intuition advising you. After all you really care about what you are doing. If something is not working, change it. Ultimately you will put less time and effort into changing something than ploughing on with a strategy that doesn’t work and the consequences that come from dis-engaged children.
This tip comes from Ross Morrison McGill on his Teacher’s Toolkit website and he makes a great point. From my perspective this sounds like the issue is about how the planning is set up in the first place. If as a teacher you are able to work with resources that make differentiation easier then this is going to make implementing changes over time easier.
3) Be armed with knowledge and understanding about Dyslexia and SEND.
Yes, of course you will have a SENCO in your school who will be trained in supporting pupils with dyslexia and SEND. They will (hopefully) have the training and knowledge to advise you as a teacher on your differentiated teaching strategies but life just isn’t that simple and you will need to have the right information to hand that you can use to support your differentiated teaching strategies.
The British Dyslexia Association is a great resource for knowledge on teaching children with dyslexia and they have a wealth of training that they can provide.
In my discussions with teachers over the years, the concept of time is always a huge challenge when lesson planning, then when you have to add layers of content for differentiation this can also add to challenges with time management as well as fatigue and stress.
One of the challenges to providing differentiated curriculum content is getting one’s hands on the content and then formatting it appropriately for the class.
There are now software packages available that can simplify the process, make the delivery of differentiated learning more effective and save lots of time for teachers.
Sue White from Widgit is an ex-SENCO and told me that “Teachers may often try to produce (or should do) easily accessible texts for children – this may be simplifying passages from published materials or their own resources – These texts can be copied into Widgit Software and symbolised automatically – this is much faster than creating from scratch.
There is also a whole range of simplified curriculum based materials (mainly Primary) that can be purchased (and personalised if required) without having to go hunting for information e.g Simplified information books on Anne Frank, Winston Churchill, The Vikings, The Romans etc”
Find out more at https://www.widgit.com/resources/curriculum/index.htm