Mum, I don’t want to be different!

Attending Secondary School

It was my sons first parents evening since starting his secondary school and, like all the other parents, I was looking forward to finding out how he was getting on with his studies but also how he had settled into year 7.

He doesn’t attend our local school, instead he travels to the next borough. His older brother had attended the same school and he wanted to follow in his footsteps and go to the same school. My son started school in year 7 whilst his older brother was in year 11 – his final year at school.

Dyslexia screening

Although, I had appointments with his subject teachers I really wanted to talk to the SENCO.

Back in junior school – year 4 – I had been told by his optician that he was showing signs of dyslexia after they had done an intensive eye test on him. I had mentioned it to his school, but nothing was done about it as his reading age was beyond his years.

In the first couple of months of starting secondary school they put the children through a few tests including dyscalculia and dyslexia screening. I was eager to know the scores because of the previous test he had done, but every time I called the school I was informed that the results wasn’t through yet. A few months had passed and I received a letter from the school regarding the results. It had come back that my son was showing signs of dyslexia and they wanted to put him into intervention groups to help him with it. Of coarse, I wanted all the help he could get so he started to attend a special programme called Alpha to Omega and had extra Literacy lessons.

The struggles

As I mentioned before, you couldn’t fault my sons reading. At the age of 11 he has a reading age of a 17 year old. You could have a very intelligent conversation with him and his choice of wording would be very detailed, he was articulate and detailed. He would use a wide range of vocabulary when explaining things to you but this was not evident in his writing.

He struggled with his handwriting, spellings, taking more than one order, tying his shoe-laces, confusing his direction, forgetfulness and mixing up letters and numbers, such as ‘b’ and ‘d’ and ‘9’ and ‘p’.

He found it hard to get to grips with the times tables, recalling the days of the week and months of the year in order and remembering mathematical facts.

Learning to adapt

As the years have gone on, my boy has learned to deal with it himself. He has been persistent and resilient in his learning. He would choose the easier way out when it came to writing – simplifying his sentences omitting difficult words with easy words.

He wears his watch on the left wrist so he knows which is left and right, without it he can be lost -literally!

We have spent years practicing his times tables and we spend at least an extra hour a week just going over sums. He has learned to love maths and this has helped him.

He is given chores around the house to do, telling him to do one thing and following it with another order. For example; asking him to go upstairs to find a book and to put it back in another place.

Back to Parents Evening

Even though we have always believed him to show signs of dyslexia we have never actually been told by someone in education that he does have it.

My son has been attending two sessions a weeks for the past 4 months in school, missing out on subjects that he really enjoys to get the extra support in specific areas of need.

As we sat down with the SENCO and she went through his scores from the tests taken earlier in the year.

Mild in Dyslexia

Scored very low in Dyscalculia

We sat and talked about his struggles or signs and she agreed that he needs extra support, but what has been given to him may need to be at the next level as he says he is finding it too easy within the group.

Dyscalculia test

We are not sure that the results reflect his ability. As part of the test he was asked to answer by pushing the right or left button for the correct answers but obviously not being able to identify his left and right didn’t reflect the true answers.

SENCO have agreed for him to sit the test again in October with the new year 7’s coming up into the senior school and this time they will label the buttons with L and R to help him.

I don’t want to be different

It was the first time that my son had been told he was dyslexic and had dyscalculia. We had discussed it before but it had never been confirmed by a test.

As we walked out of the school, my son turned to me and said

“I don’t want to be different!”

My heart broke.

I told him that he isn’t different. He is still him. Nothing has changed.

I reminded him that we are all different and that the world would be a boring place if we were all the same. We all have something that makes us different from one another, but now we can work on his as we now know what he is struggling with.

Nothing changes for us, we will keep encouraging him to achieve and we will keep on spending time with him going over his spellings and times tables.

I understand that he just wants to fit in with his friends, that he needs to feel secure and safe within his environment. He reassures me that no one is picking on him for attending interventions, but it’s just painful to him to finally hear that he has different educational needs to his peers.

It’s time now for him to shine as now he is receiving the support that he deserves. I have reminded him that he has already acquired and developed skills to get him to where he is now. He is already in top set for Maths and English. We just need to be positive about this, I want him to know that it’s Ok to be different!

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Fishing For Phonics

Keep Phonics Fun

Learning to read can be tricky. Phonics is recommended as the first strategy that children should be taught in helping them to read and write.
It helps children hear, identify and use different sounds that distinguish one word from another in the English language.

Once a child understands what sound is linked to a letter they can then begin to blend them together in order to read or spell a word.

With a little creativity teaching and learning phonics can be fun, by keeping the whole process fun it will help the child to become engaged more. Phonics can be educational and fun.

There are lots of ways to keep phonics fun and different including

  • Hunting for letters
  • Using magnetic letters to form words
  • Using bricks to make words
  • Bury letters or items in sand or rice
  • Use a paintbrush and water outside on the pavement to write down letters and words
  • Unlocking phonics sounds with a padlock and key
  • Matching the beginning sounds to items
  • Silly soup
  • Sorting baskets – each basket represents a sound. Place objects into the correct basket

What is Fishing for Phonics?

Fishing for phonics can be done in many ways:

You can hide items or letters in a water tray and children can use a net to fish them out.

Print out letters or pictures and place a paperclip on them. The child can use a piece of string with a magnet attached to the end.

Or you can use the Fishing Game

Fishing for Phonics

Place the sounds or words that the child is working on on the underneath of a fish.

Phonics on fish

And just as you would play the game normally, using a rod, catch the fish. When you catch a fish the child has to say the word or sound that they have caught. If they get it wrong, correct them and then place it back in the game to be caught again.

Catching fish to say the sound or word

If they are catching words, then ask the child to put the word into a sentence. This helps them to retain the information of what they have learnt.

This game also teaches children about turn taking and helps to develop their fine motor skills.

This game can be differentiated depending on what the learning objective is. It can also be used to teach number bonds or times tables.

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Young Driver Experience – A day to Remember

Could you imagine learning to drive before the age of 17?

At Young Driver, a center that gives children from the age of 10 an opportunity to get behind the wheel and experience driving with a qualified instructor. Children can learn to drive at one of the 60 UK centers where they are taught in a specially designed training area. The training area includes; sharp bends, mini round-about, parking spaces, traffic lights, and junctions.

Young Driver follow the Driving Standards Agency curriculum, which means that what 10 – 17s learn at YOUNG DRIVER is exactly the same as they will learn on the road at 17. The children are given a Drive Diary to record their progress and this is one of the most important parts of the programme – moving forward is the aim!

Their personalised Drive Diary charts individual progress and current level of driving and is completed by the instructor after each driving session. The instructor talks them through it and explains where they could do with some more help or whether they can progress to the next step. The Drive Diary can be given over to their driving instructor when they begin their official lessons at the age of 17 and the instructor will then know what their experience level is.

 

My son, who is 14 years old, was lucky enough to be invited along to the Bluewater Center to experience for himself what it is like to drive a car. The center itself, is situated within the blue car park at Bluewater shopping center. There is a section of car park outside that is specifically designed for a  beginners’ zone, that has a full road system with traffic signs, road markings, junctions and parking zones. In this way it encourages responsible driving.

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As soon as we had arrived, he was called up by his instructor and taken along to the car that he would be driving. Before he could turn the key he underwent a safety check and was taught how to use the mirrors, signal and when to manoeuvre. He had full control over the steering wheel and pedals, however the instructor had pedals that would over power his if an accident were to happen. He started off slowly, to get used to the feel of the steering and clutch. Not long on the road and he was soon snaking in-between cones and maneuvering the car into a figure of eight in the parking lot. Whilst, he was driving he was continuously given advise and constructive criticism from the instructor. He spent 60 minutes out on the road, building up his confidence and learning some important skills of control and responsibility. He now knows how to drive safely and properly, putting him leaps and bounds ahead of other 17 year olds.

His instructor was fantastic, professional and made him feel safe at all times.

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Since his experience, he has become more road aware and is definitely more confident and prepared for when he can hit the road.

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We made a video of his experience

My son certainly left with a big smile on his face and is now eager to get behind the wheel.

I would highly recommend the experience for any young child who wants to get ahead of their peers and become a much safer driver. A very valuable and worthwhile experience.

30 minute lesson – 10-17yrs – £34.95

60 minute lesson – 10-17yrs – £64.95

To find out more about the experience or to make a booking, head on over to their website www.youngdriver.com

We was given this experience for the purpose of this review.

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Learning Outdoors: Free Gruffalo Teacher’s Pack

Having my own children and especially working within a school has made me realise that keeping children on task at such a young age can be difficult, it is hard to keep children engaged especially those with a short attention span. Taking lessons outdoors can engage children keeping them motivated. The experience of an outdoor lesson becomes more memorable and at an early age children learn through play.

The Forestry commission have launched a free downloadable Gruffalo Pack for teachers, full of activities based around the popular Julia Donaldson story The Gruffalo. Aimed at Early Years, Foundation stage and Key Stage 1, the activities are designed to be taken outdoors, aiming to encourage children to explore the nature world in the forest. All the activities have been designed to be used outdoors, in your local woods, park or school grounds.

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“Following Forestry Commission, England’s research, 83% of teachers said they’d would like to participate in more outdoor learning if it was more accessible. FCE looked at what prohibited teachers from teaching in the woodlands/ forest and how they could overcome these barriers to increase the ability of schools to teach outdoors when they wish to do so. The result, The Gruffalo’s teachers pack”

The Gruffalo Teacher’s Pack aims to teach learners about forests and how they are looked after for the benefits of people and wildlife. It has 4 sections:

1. Introduction: Scene setting

• This section will enable learners to get to know the Gruffalo story, the characters and the forest environment.

2. Programme 1 – Explore and discover the forest

• EYFS – Understanding the world; Mathematics;
• Geography KS1 – geographical vocabulary; geographical skills; place knowledge

3. Programme 2 – Design, make and evaluate

• EYFS – Physical development; Expressive arts & design
• Design & technology KS1 – design, make, build, evaluate

4. Programme 3 – All about animals

• EYFS – Understanding the world; Communication and language
• Science Year 1 – animals, humans, senses

Each section is full of ideas and tips and set out as a lesson plan that you can follow. Each section has a conclusion at the end, what you have investigated and what you have learned about living things. Covering areas of EYFS, curriculum linked. In each programme there are ideas on what you can talk about and also hands on activities. They are easy to follow and full of information, you will also receive the activity sheets to go along with each activity.

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The benefits of outdoor learning

  • Taking lessons outdoors engages and motivates children
  • Makes the learning more real by putting the subject into a context that they can grasp
  • Nurtures creativity and the imagination
  • The experience becomes more memorable, it becomes a hands on lesson
  • All children benefit from the lesson regardless of language, SEN and level of learning
  • Aids personal and social development
  • Being outside, children become more aware of the environment around them.
  • Widens their vocabulary and becomes more confident
  • Engages children with a short attention span

After reading the story to children in school and my own children, we took to the outdoors to make a story map of the Gruffalo. We followed the hands on activity from programme 1, to explore and discover the forest. The curriculum links for this part are mathematics and understanding of the world and it covers KS1 geography. We had to find a flat area and by using 4 big sticks make a frame. Using natural materials that were found from within the surroundings, we recreated the map.

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The stone is the mouse. Turn left and you reach the Fox’s underground home, go straight up and you come to the Owl’s tree, turn right and then you at the Snake’s logpile house and then comeback down to the Gruffalos cave.

We used twigs that had fallen to the ground, moss from the floor, leaves, bark from the trees and stones.

The children loved running around and working together to create their map. They were engaged and worked as a team, discussing what they should look for and what should represent the items in the story. As they were creating the map they retold the story how they remembered it, becoming familiar with the scenes and the forest around them.

After we had made the map we then went on the look out for any signs of the gruffalo and the other characters.

Learning about the forest and the environment becomes so much easier if you could explore it.

To get your paws on the Gruffalo Teacher’s Pack visit http://www.forestry.gov.uk/gruffaloteaching

We was sent a copy of the pack and the book for the purpose of this review.

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Unlocking phonic sounds with a padlock and key

My little one is 4 years old and currently learning his phonic sounds, he is doing really well and is beginning to master his individual sounds and blending them together to read simple cvc, cvcvv words. We are now moving on to learning digraphs and vowel digraphs, which are two letters that make one sound, eg. sh, ch, th, ph, ai, ow, ee.

Making a game out learning is fun and can really engage the child .

We have made  a simple little game up, using padlocks and keys.

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Place a picture on the padlock and then add the beginning sound onto the key. So it could be a picture of an ant and then add the initial sound on the key, which would be a. As my child is learning jolly phonics in school I used the pictures from the jolly phonics sound card. This way they can not only recognise the sound but also the picture. Using name tags I wrote the sound on and attached it to the key. The pictures need to be fairly small to fit onto the padlocks.

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This game is fun to play and easy to make. Children can play for hours unlocking the padlock, not only learning and recognising sounds but also working on their fine motor skills.

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You can use the padlock idea for number bonds, equations and words.

Hope you have found this post helpful 🙂

 

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