Final Report of our Observations during School Visits in S.Wales

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1 Final Report of our Observations during School Visits in S.Wales This is a reflective account of our experience and feelings after visiting various schools in Swansea and Newport, South Wales. The early years of reception class to junior school brought a lot of memories of our own childhood days at school. Among our first impressions while observing dyslexia friendly schools, we saw many happy faces coming to school everyday in this lovely warm environment. We were impressed with a certain kind of relaxed and confident atmosphere that gives the feeling of belonging to a big happy family. Coming to school was like a celebrity rather than an every day tedious rigid school schedule. One of the main reasons for this is due to the multi-sensory teaching that is emphasised across a wholeclass and whole-school approach. Teachers and teaching assistants in dyslexia-friendly schools are encouraged to understand the various difficulties pupils face and provide appropriate teaching styles to minimise if not avoid these difficulties. Going to school in a dyslexia friendly environment means a Big Happy Family celebrating diversity and sharing multi level abilities. Dyslexia Friendly Schools - Observations in Wales page 1

2 As Mike Johnson, Lindsay Peer, and Sylvia Phillips suggest, Understand that dyslexia-friendly teaching makes classrooms more inclusive,(dyslexia Friendly Classrooms: a professional development package, 2001) To enhance sharing and to ensure use of full potential, the classrooms are structured in an informal way where the pupils can choose the best environment that fits their learning style. The focus of learning in these classrooms is shifted from the teacher to a child centred one. At this early age when the children choose their own ways of learning they feel accepted and valued as members of this classroom. Their own contribution gives them an experience of confidence and self-worth which will then foster autonomy. According to Erickson s psychosocial crisis of toddler hood if autonomy is Dyslexia Friendly Schools - Observations in Wales page 2

3 not fostered it is resolved by the negative crisis of shame and doubt. (Erikson, 1963) The feeling of autonomy which was very evident in these children, increased their self esteem and self confidence necessary to help them succeed in what they do. This will in turn continue to foster a high self esteem cycle. The children learn from an early age how to take responsibility to find their own ways of learning by choosing from the various strategies that the teacher provides. This will also emphasise the children s strengths, which is an important tool to enhance full use of one s potential. We have seen informal learning through fun and play where team work is very much encouraged. This gives the children an opportunity to learn how to share not just their knowledge but also learn from sharing experiences. Dyslexia Friendly Schools - Observations in Wales page 3

4 Sharing makes children appreciative of their differences and uniqueness that enriches their concept of diversity. Classrooms that practice a child-centred approach, allow sharing of experiences and team work is encouraged. The respect for each other s uniqueness that is fostered helps to prevent negative thoughts such as fear of failure. They learn how to accept mistakes as milestones to reach their final goal. Because of the high self-esteem that these children develop together they are encouraged to try again if the outcome does not satisfy the required goal. Hence in team work fear of failure is replaced by empowering all participants to use their potential to the full. We have seen this work when at an early age children are using creative thinking and mind maps to work on problem solving projects in class. Dyslexia Friendly Schools - Observations in Wales page 4

5 This child-centred approach of learning also empowers the child to take the responsibility of the learning. Perhaps this is why children were very motivated to learn. From experience in the local scene a lot of mothers complain that their children do not enjoy school and see it as a forced ritual that everyone has to do. We could see how these children could not only take responsibility of their learning but also how independent they become from their superiors. On the other hand this team work fosters interdependence which is perhaps the major ingredient for inclusion to reach its aim. We have seen the way learning support assistants and teachers facilitate the classrooms together to encourage the children through this interdependence and encourage shared support rather than one to one. Dyslexia Friendly Schools - Observations in Wales page 5

6 We were also impressed by the motivation these children have to go to school. They do a lot of outdoor learning which they call Forest school. This helps the children learn about the environment and how science facts can be applied in practice. They take learning with so much enthusiasm that they will let nothing come in their way. The amount of rain I have seen surely would put off most of our activities in our local schools but they are prepared for any kind of weather. They surely believe in where there is a will there is a way. In the picture below, the teacher explains the rules of the forest and the pupils learn how to make a safe fire in the forest so that no harm is done to the environment or oneself. Lower right Grace is helping the children to sharpen the sticks in a safe way according to the instructions by the teacher (lower left). Dyslexia Friendly Schools - Observations in Wales page 6

7 While the children wait for their turn, Sue (below right) is having a go at toasting marshmallows on the sticks sharpened by the children. Having fun is also about leaving the place clean and tidy for anyone who would want to use it after them. If we had to take up this idea in the local scene we could teach the children how to appreciate the various beaches since we have no forests. We could teach them how to make safe fires for our summer BBQs. Of course part of the outdoor education is to instil in our youngsters a respect for the environment which means tidying up before leaving the place. Recycling was also part of multi-sensory teaching. Below are various ideas to learn about recycling. This also encourages scientific curiosity. Dyslexia Friendly Schools - Observations in Wales page 7

8 Creating gardens from recycling materials Dyslexia Friendly Schools - Observations in Wales page 8

9 Fruit skins are collected for compost making. Dyslexia-friendly teaching provides lots of visual and kinaesthetic learning that improves memory and organisation of thoughts. Dyslexia Friendly Schools - Observations in Wales page 9

10 Dyslexia Friendly Schools - Observations in Wales page 10

11 Emotional literacy is learnt during circle time (PSD) to enhance self-awareness and build self-confidence. The teacher above is showing the children the different ways to express emotions. They also learn how to deal with certain emotions like sadness and frustration. Unexpressed negative feelings will manifest in negative behaviours and lack of motivation to learn. Story time is not just a reading lesson but also a time for action and drama. Moreover it should encourage permanent interest in and enjoyment of literature and poetry. Dyslexia Friendly Schools - Observations in Wales page 11

12 Above we can see how the teacher is involving the children in the story (The Three Little Pigs) through her actions. On the right the children are acting out the story through their own actions. Write Dance is another way of helping children gain coordination and handwriting skills through actions and music. This provides a medium through which children practice movements required to develop gross motor & fine motor skills. Whilst this experience was much more than an awareness program, it proved that learning can be fun and everybody can Dyslexia Friendly Schools - Observations in Wales page 12

13 benefit from an appropriate supported environment. Although dyslexia-friendly teaching does not aim at class teachers to work on a 1:1 basis with pupils with severe dyslexia, it will enhance the value of the specialist 1:1 teaching necessary in such cases (in the local scene by SpLD service) and enable these pupils to maintain the use of the skills they are developing. Thus our project aims at helping schools to enhance the acquisition of knowledge, skills, understanding and attitudes of pupils, by encouraging and developing each child to attain maximum individual potential in all areas of his/her education. (From left) Grace Camilleri, Susan Gatt, and Debbie Avington, teacher advisor, Education Effectiveness, who was our main host in Swansea S. Wales. Dyslexia Friendly Schools - Observations in Wales page 13

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