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.