Our latest blog post, which focuses on dyslexia, has been written for us by Dr Gavin Reid. Dr Reid is an award-winning author who has written numerous books on dyslexia. You can find the accompanying resource here.
‘Dyslexia is a processing difference, often characterised by difficulties in literacy acquisition affecting reading, writing and spelling. It can also have an impact on cognitive processes such as memory, speed of processing, time management, co-ordination and automaticity.
There may be visual and/or phonological challenges and there are usually some discrepancies in educational performances.
It is important to recognise the strengths, which can also form part of a dyslexic profile and they may need support to be able to utilise these strengths.
There will invariably be individual differences and individual variation and it is therefore important to consider individual learning preferences as well as the education and work context when planning and implementing intervention and accommodations’ (Reid, 2016).
It is important for all teachers to have some knowledge of dyslexia – it can be a misunderstood term as there are a number of myths about the characteristics of dyslexia that can mislead teachers and parents. Although there are still debates on dyslexia there are some key factors that are widely accepted and can have an impact on classroom learning and teaching.
Dyslexia is essentially a difference/difficulty in processing information (Reid 2016) and challenges involving short-term memory, long-term memory and speed of processing can have a significant impact on the learner with dyslexia. Although literacy is the key area of difficulty other factors such as those above can have an impact, even after the student’s literacy skills improve.
Environmental factors are also important and a positive and relaxed learning environment can make a difference to the individual with dyslexia. When I asked some learners with dyslexia what being dyslexic means to them they responded in the following way:
The main points that we as teachers need to consider are:
It is also important to recognise their strengths – this is essential to boost the learner’s self-esteem and also to identify the most appropriate strategies that can be used by the teacher. Usually, this will be the visual or kinesthetic modalities. This means they need to see and experience the new learning. It is important to ensure that they are provided with a structure – this is extremely important for written work. Essentially we need to ‘enable’ the students with dyslexia and to help them access their skills and abilities so they can fulfill their potential.
References: Reid, G. (2016) Dyslexia: A Practitioners Handbook 5th edition. Wiley.
Further information/ useful websites
Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre https://www.helenarkell.org.uk/
Computer and software information www.iansyst.co.uk
British Dyslexia Association (BDA) www.bdadyslexia.org.uk
Written by Mike Gershon, this blog post explores growth mindset and how we can help to foster it in our students.
Why do some students feel they will never get any better at a subject? Why do some learners believe effort has no value and that no matter what they do things won’t change? And why do some pupils seem to have an irrational fear of failure and of making mistakes?
It could be down to their mindset. That is, the fundamental beliefs they have about themselves and what it is possible for them to do. Your mindset is like the foundational thoughts underpinning your actions and the way you think about yourself and your experiences.
Carol Dweck’s work on mindset suggests there are two specific types – growth and fixed. A growth mindset begins from the central premise that intelligence, talent and ability are open to change. They can go up or down. A fixed mindset starts with the premise that intelligence, talent and ability are static. You get what you’re given and it can’t change.
Students may have one or other of the mindsets, or a combination. For example, a learner might go into a PE lesson believing they can get better and that hard work will help them to do so. But then they go into an English lesson and take a very different view, believing that ability here is innate – and that they are not in a position to improve.
A growth mindset tends to be beneficial to learners for two key reasons. First, it makes them more likely to be resilient, to persist in the face of obstacles, and to see effort as a path to mastery. Second, it makes them more likely to enjoy learning and to see it as a non-threatening experience.
Of course, learners with a fixed mindset can and do succeed – often to great heights. But they are also more likely to be put off by obstacles, to avoid challenges and to see mistakes and failure as dangerous or threatening. All of this can sometimes mean they enjoy learning less.
You can promote growth mindsets in a number of ways. The best place to start is by looking at the language you use in the classroom. Does your language reflect the belief that intelligence, ability and talent are open to change? Or does it unwittingly imply that they are in fact fixed?
Phrases such as ‘you’re brilliant’, ‘that’s so clever’ and ‘another smart answer from you, well done’ may be given out with good intentions, but they can send a message to the learner that there is just something about them which causes them to be successful.
A better option is to focus on the processes students have used to get to where they are. So, for example, instead of saying ‘you’re brilliant’ we might say ‘the way you kept focused on the task and found a method which works for you was brilliant – keep that up in the future.’
This subtle shift means we focus our praise on the processes students have used, the decisions they’ve taken and the effort they’ve put in. This reinforces the central growth mindset premise – that intelligence, ability and talent are open to change. It’s the first step to fostering a growth mindset classroom for all your learners.
See our related resource on growth mindset in the classroom.
In our latest blog post, Sue Cowley writes about the effective use of differentiation, with practical tips and teaching strategies.
When you consider the range of experiences, knowledge and skills that the students in your classes have, it seems obvious that you would need to differentiate for them. One student might be a high attainer who frequently reads for pleasure at home; another might struggle with literacy and never open a book out of choice. Differentiation is also a requirement of the teachers’ standards in England – we must ‘know when and how to differentiate appropriately, using approaches which enable pupils to be taught effectively’. But differentiation is also an ethical and practical consideration – if there is a child in your class who is brand new to English, it would be morally wrong to do nothing to try and support them, and they would learn nothing in a lesson without at least some differentiation taking place. See this resource for some strategies that you can use to support learners with English as an additional language.
Differentiation has come under fire in recent years, perhaps mainly because of the potential for a negative effect on workload. The idea that differentiation means creating different worksheets for different children in every lesson clearly has a serious time implication for teachers. But I would argue that, rather than seeking to abandon differentiation, we should instead challenge preconceived notions of what differentiation ‘must look like’. We need to take back ownership of the term, and celebrate the myriad of ways in which teachers adapt learning for their students, to make it clear that effective practice is not only (or even mainly) about differentiation by task.
Differentiation is essentially good teaching – a process of adapting to and being flexible with learners, and an approach that can sometimes be so subtle that it might not be apparent to the untrained eye. It is about the moment when you choose a particular student to answer a question, because you know her confidence needs building and she has her hand up for once. Or that time when you take your knowledge about a student’s interests and create an anecdote around that interest, to better engage him with the learning. The first step to differentiation is always about gaining knowledge – who your learners are, what skills, knowledge and experiences they already have, and how can you support and utilise these through your teaching. You can find five top tips for finding out more about your students here.
Interestingly, differentiation is not just about teaching and learning, it extends to classroom and behaviour management as well, particularly when you are building relationships. It is that moment when you decide that a firm, direct approach will work best for one child, and a quiet word, gesture or look will work best for another. When you know who needs boosting up and supporting and who needs challenging or a firm push in the right direction. To my mind, differentiation is one of the most highly skilled aspects of a teacher’s practice, and it is one of the key ways in which we build relationships with our students. When we demonstrate that we care enough to adapt to the people who are sat in front of us, then we reclaim differentiation, as the flexible, responsive approach to teaching that it really is.
Read more about differentiation and get practical and time-saving strategies for effective differentiation in Sue’s new book, The Ultimate Guide to Differentiation.
With so many unseen texts in the new GCSE and an emphasis on challenging texts from KS3 upwards, it’s becoming all the more important for students to unlock the meaning of unfamiliar words on their own.
To prepare students for this daunting experience, you might be looking at the patterns that exist in English. In our latest guest newsletter, Victoria Honeybourne and Emela Milne devised a prefix and suffix slider to support students’ learning of these essential ‘parts’. Their newsletter and supporting resource is here.
If your students need some practice in recognising common patterns including negative words, then the resource Making negative words draws attention to common prefixes that perform this role.
If, on the other hand, your students are ready to face more complex words, then Work out the words might be more helpful.