Special Education Expo July 2013

Yesterday I presented at the  Special Education Expo, which was organised by
SERU. As usual there were some great workshops at the Expo. My session was called ‘Bringing the Australian Curriculum to Life in my Classroom.’ Some people who attended the session requested copies of my  and the planning proformas that I talked about. I have attached them here ( Room 8 AC planning proforma term 2 completed draft,  AC planning proformaa[2] draft,  AC planning proforma A4 horizontal)but making the powerpoint (Bringing the AC to life July 10 final for blog )into a ‘Show’ so no one can fiddle with it means that you can’t see my notes. So, trying to condense 90 minutes into a quick blog post:

My class at Adelaide West Special Education Centre  has 7 students in it – these are not their real names! Of the seven:

  • All have complex communication needs. Only one is to any extent verbal and her vocabulary is roughly equivalent to an 18m-2y old
  • 3 have a diagnosis of autism and additional disabilities
  • 2 have learned to walk in the last two years but need ongoing input around their physical development. 1 is unable to weight bear independently and is supported in sitting and walking using equipment
  • All students have Negotiated Education Plans (NEPs)  which include at least one communication goal. Additional goals around developing physical skills and academic skills are individualised. All NEPs are discussed with parents who know that their children are not working to the age level achievement standards of the Australian curriculum

Because all the students at Adelaide West  are not working to age appropriate achievement standards within the Learning areas of the Australian Curriculum, we use the General Capabilities as a significant part of our planning. The students NEP goals sit within four General Capabilities – Literacy, Numeracy, Personal and Social and ICT. As illustrated in the slide called The Students, all of them have literacy skills on the Australian curriculum literacy continuum between 1a and 1d and are working towards 1a in Numeracy. As the extended Personal and Social Capability has not yet been published, our learners are working towards the Foundation level skills in this area – which is extremely important to all students but particularly so for students with disabilities.

The session was designed to illustrate the planning process that I used for a term 2 unit of work on ‘Houses and Homes.’All classes at Adelaide West are implementing the ‘Four Blocks to Literacy’ as I discussed in a previous post so texts for Guided reading were chosen to reflect the topic and lead into Learning Area lessons. The ten texts for the term are listed with Science and History activities are listed on slides 18 and 19.

I began with the Learning Design Model as developed by Teaching and Learning Services at DECD.  This comprises 6 questions intended to lead to in-depth thinking about curriculum planning. The questions do not necessarily have to be considered in a linear fashion so I thought about them in this order: ‘What do they bring?’ ‘What might the intended learning look like?’ ‘How might I assess their learning?’ and ‘How do I engage, challenge and support the learners?’ Then I looked at the Australian Curriculum Scope and Sequences for History and Science. This answered the first question: ‘What is the intended learning?’ and I moved on to designing the learning plan.

Because all of the students’ learning goals are based in the General Capabilities, I devised a planning proforma which incorporates each learning area under the umbrella headings of the four Capabilities. A completed proforma for the Houses and Homes unit is attached as is a blank proforma that you are welcome to use if you find it useful.

Because Reconciliation week and the lead up to NAIDOC week all fell in this term, there was a big focus from week 5 on around the importance of place for people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin. We are fortunate to have a relationship with students from Ocean View College who prepared a Reconciliation week activity to carry out with our students as part of this.

The section of the presentation that talks about what happened in the classroom has lost a lot of its impact without pictures of the students. Generally I had planned rather too much for the available time! (But I find I always do that!)  I found that much of the work around using photographs needs further development for this group of students. However, work around the books, You and Me: Our Place by Leonie Norrington and   led to some good learning. We took lots of pictures of ‘Our Place: Adelaide West’ and related this to the place in the book. After moving on to Bronwyn Bancroft’s book ‘Why I love Australia we went to the beach (which is very close to the school) and this too led to some good opportunities for writing for our students.

This is a very short version of my session – if you have any comments or need any more information from me please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Literacy and the Australian Curriculum for students with additional needs

I spent four days  last week with the inspiring Jane Farrall. Jane is working with all the staff at Adelaide West Special Education Centre to support the implementation of Four Blocks to Literacy. I am always impressed with the preparedness of the school staff to take on and try new ideas and it has been a pleasure to see evidence this week of the work that is happening in our classrooms to improve the students’ literacy skills.

For me, the best part of Jane’s visits are the professional conversations that her input stimulates. I love hearing from my colleagues about the achievements of students in literacy and communication – whether it is watching video of a girl who has a very limited range of communication waiting to indicate the letter  ‘s’ with her head switch or reading the expanding spelling abilities of some of our more conventionally literate students.

It is always hard finding time for in depth discussion of student achievements and the teachers’ planning that led to those fantastic  ‘learning moments’ but I always come away wishing I could do more of them. I am hoping that this blog can help with this by developing discussions about my teaching practice through other peoples’ comments. This way, people can give their input at a time which suits them and we can indulge in quality reflective dialogue (I hope!)

I am currently working on the challenge of using the Australian Curriculum to deliver teaching and learning programs that meet  the needs of our students, who have complex communication needs and need significant curriculum adjustments. As the specific literacy work that Jane is facilitating for our students shows, many students who don’t necessarily have clear modes of communication have knowledge and understandings that we don’t  always give them credit for. So I believe that the Australian Curriculum offers us the chance to ensure that we extend their knowledge in areas that other students of their age experience at school. But we have to keep their unique and individual needs in mind while we do it. So, this being National  Reconciliation Week, my class will be working on the importance of Place to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by considering the importance of our place (the school site) to them first and reading the beautiful book ‘You Me Our Place’ by Leonie Norrington and illustrated by Dee Huxley. We’ll also take part in an activity led by students from Ocean View College – as they use the space right next door to us they can help the students in my class to see that others can join us in our learning space to have fun and learn together. I am looking forward to seeing the learning that students develop through the week. If anyone else has used this book with students with additional needs and have any activities to share or, alternatively, have nay other Reconciliation week activities to share, I would love to hear from you.