Teachers seem to be constantly worried about doing things that the inspectors will like/ will approve of. We recently had a course with the PDST in my school and the facilitator shared the view that if you can justify what you are doing – then you are the professional and should do it.
Obviously we should always follow best practice to ensure that the children get the most out of the lessons. We need to provide appropriate planning, evidence of assessment and differentiation, a child friendly environment with suitable displays and resources and our teaching needs to employ a range of methodologies to cater for the needs of different children in our classrooms.
To keep up to date with best practice keep an eye on the PDST website, watch and learn from student teachers who may be working in your classroom – chat to them about their training and opinions on different things, courses in your local education centre, podcasts etc. Your colleagues and teaching friends are also a brilliant resource – I find having a chat with a colleague/friend about something thats not working in my classroom or about new ideas is a brilliant way to learn from one another and talk through things too!
One size doesn’t fit all
Every class is different – there are different dynamics, behaviour issues, additional needs, learning styles, backgrounds, facilities and support all need to be considered when thinking of activities that are best suited to your class. For example – some of the activities I’m planning with my class this year wouldn’t work with my class last year as both classes are very different!
It is virtually impossible to differentiate to suit the needs of every single child in the class during every single lesson. Therefore it is important to use different methodologies, materials, groupings, support etc. on a weekly basis in each subject area. When it comes to Maths – I find there is usually a greater need for differentiation (than in any other subject) – sometimes I use maths partners (same ability), maths groups (mixed ability), focus groups (same ability – usually children who are struggling) etc. I think there needs to be a few different strategies and methodologies used and it shouldn’t always be the case that the children are in same ability groups and the ‘weaker’ group are withdrawn by the support teacher. (Again this goes back to best practice – yes it is sometimes necessary for the children who are struggling to work in a smaller group with the class teacher/support teacher using concrete materials or moving at a different pace but this should not be the case every day for every Maths lesson.)
New SEN Model
I know it’s not really a new model anymore as it has been implemented in schools over the last 2 years. However, when the new model was spoken about first there was a fear or expectation that the support teacher would no longer withdraw children from the classroom as best practice was that the support teacher supported children within the classroom environment. I do notice a change in the model (from the way we used to operate support in my school) and the support teachers are definitely in class more (which in my opinion is really brilliant) but there is still a need for some children to receive support outside the classroom – some children need this both academically, socially and sometimes just need a break from the busy classroom environment. Again it boils down to what is best for the children and what works well for them.
Think Through Things
If there is something in your teaching/classroom/school that is working well – why is it working? If there is something that you’re not entirely happy about – change it slightly to suit better. Don’t be afraid to change things to best suit the children in your class.
Last April (2018) we had a Maths inspection and it went quite well. In the lead up to the inspection there was understandably a feeling of dread/stress/worry around my school. I took some time to type out the groupings in the class (and why we used them), the approaches we used (and why we used them), the way that the support teacher worked in the classroom (and why we chose that way.)
It immediately made me feel so much better as I had it written down in front of me why we had chosen to do things in a certain way with this class. (Then when I was asked about things during the chat after the lesson observation – I could justify what I was doing and why.)
My classroom (Some things I do and why)
These are two things that I do in my classroom that the children get huge benefit from but from the outset may not look like good activities for the children to do.
Most of the time the children in my class are in charge of the art displays. Technically displays are the responsibility of the teacher/SNA but I find that the children really benefit from being in charge of the display. Why do I do it? (Usually takes 5-10 mins at the end of a lesson)
- The children love it – they take great pride in looking at the finished display!
- It gives them a chance to look at and appreciate the work of their classmates (looking and responding in art)
- Following instructions
- Using initiative
- Working with a pair or in a small group
Laminating/Cutting out resources
While I (or my SNA) laminate the resources – the children usually cut them out and organise them into folders. (Usually takes 5-10 minutes every 2-3 weeks)
- Gives them responsibility for the resources (they take ownership of them as they have spent time cutting and organising)
- Interested – their interest is often peaked when they see the resource they organised in use.
- Fine motor skills – cutting and organising into plastic pockets/ folders.