Saturday, 22 November 2014

Inclusive Learning part two (Inclusive Learning) by Dyslexia Dublin  © 2014
We need to really take a long look at the way we formulate strategies for early reading skills… we cannot put the cart before the horse any longer.  In the early platforms of learning we put teachers under huge pressure with big class sizes and this stretches them to the limit.  Why can’t we reshape the provision and increase resources at this early stage?

If children are going to learn to master these early skills, this is paramount.  More attention can be applied to important areas like speaking and listening skills, which is such a critical part of early literacy skills.
Children need to develop and improve fine motor skills if they are to even hold a pencil or pen correctly; many with dyspraxia struggle as it is to write long sentences.  I can remember seeing children in my own classes, both Junior and Senior shaking their hands back into life and again looked upon as being simply disruptive.  Even in my early days of teaching I used to witness this, albeit in a more discreet manner than in the days when I was taught.
Looking at what makes those with dyslexia and dyspraxia struggle with language is the huge variation in the sounds within words.  Many are fine with ‘Cat…Sat…Rat’, however the introduction of multi-syllabic words such as ‘Church…Nurse…Enjoy’ really need time to explain. Some are strong believers in teaching whole words and that is fair enough; however, we need to look at the sheer bank of words that we expect people to learn and indeed words they will have to learn when there is no one around to explain that word or the way it’s constructed.
Children and adults with a learning need have many ways in which they subconsciously circum-navigate the learning process.  The brain is an extremely effective power house in all of us and well capable of learning new things; in fact much of what I learnt was through teaching myself in the manner which I could understand.  One thing I mention over and over again is the need for at least 35% of the population to overlearn.  Why?... well it’s not just dyslexics that have problems within the learning environment, there are many with slow processing like those with dyslexia and those with short concentration spans such as those with ADD and ADHD.
Does overlearning cause frustration?   No… we need to introduce a variety of stimuli to get across the required subject material.  Given the resource and the class size, this will be such a buzz for teachers and an all-round win win with fully engaged students.
Indeed, many educational and neurological researchers recognise that the biggest problem for those adults and children with dyslexia is not so much their condition, but recognition of conditions within education and indeed on into employment.  The current education system is so dependent on the ability to memorise both facts and figures and the need to meet certain milestones at young ages in order to meet standards in the curriculum and this leads them to lose confidence, self-belief and the willingness to keep on trying with in the school setting.
Another thing I have mentioned is making parents an equal tutor, not an extra tutor and this can be achieved by linking homework directly to the work done in the day… certainly in the early years. We can also look at keeping the subjects for homework separate on different days, so children don’t get confused with subjects crossing over and this is known to improve retention. So many parents tell me that their children score highly in the Friday spelling test only to forget the spellings the following week as they rehearse for the next Fridaytest. This can be seen from poor test scores in set tests and end of years SATS, STen, Drumcondra, etc.
If we look at all those brilliant builders, architects, painters, chefs, musicians and actors that all have some type of learning need, ask yourself the question… how did they manage that?  How were Mozart and Leonardo Da Vinci well beyond their years in creativity?  They taught their selves through overlearning and, without realising it, their brain adapted to a different way of processing than that of the normal linear route.
Why can’t we reduce class sizes down to say 10-12… half the size they are and when the children have built these valuable skills, then we can then introduce them to larger sizes.  We will very quickly start to see quality wins over quantity and, in the long run, have a much less disruptive classroom, brighter students and a more effectively employed workforce… not to mention less disaffected, more connected and less vulnerable adults.
It is well researched and statistics back up the fact that many of those disaffected end up on the wrong side of the law… this cost as well as that of non-taxpayers will far outweigh the cost of increasing resource to early years.  We need people with long term vision to see this and move it forward.

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