This e-bulletin suggests some strategies for teachers and TAs to use in supporting children across the curriculum in their revision and private study
SENCO Week - Helpsheet 21.pdf
The exam season is upon us, and you may well be considering revision support for groups of SEN pupils. However, a more effective approach is to teach them explicitly how to learn and remember what is covered in lessons on an all year round basis.
Download Helpsheet 21 for help with this.
Support for SENCOS
Study skills has become a bit of a ‘catch-all’ phrase for anything to do with learning in school, revision, exam techniques, etc. Closely linked to ‘metacognition’, or ‘learning how to learn’, it is an important area and yet it can be overlooked for pupils with SEN. How often do we actually sit down with a student and ask him or her what helps them to learn and remember something? Helping them to develop good study habits and take some control over their learning can make a powerful contribution to their achievements in school, with an accompanying improvement in self-esteem and confidence.
A specific lesson, or series of lessons on ‘how to learn’ may be an appropriate way forward – some schools offer this as a lunchtime session but this approach may not attract those pupils who really need to go! An alternative is to persuade teachers to incorporate some generic approaches into their lessons, supported where possible by a TA, or to set up regular small group sessions outside the classroom. Here are some starting points which can be shaped for use with all ages of learners:
How well do pupils listen? Get them to practise listening to a short description or explanation and then repeat what they can remember. If this is difficult for them, practice can help some pupils to improve – you can give them lists of numbers, or play games like ‘I went to market and I bought’ with them. They can help themselves by making notes, using a dictaphone, or asking the teacher for a copy of their notes or what they write on the board.
Reading for information
When pupils have had to work hard to reach even basic levels of reading, the analysis and understanding of text can seem a step too far! Obviously, though, this is very important. See www.ltscotland.org.uk/studyskills/5to9/index.asp for interactive activities and ideas.
Help them to:
- use the contents page and index – which chapters/pages should they read?
- get a feel for the chapter/passage by reading it quickly (skimming, scanning)
- highlight any unfamiliar words and find out what they mean
- ask themselves: Do I understand it? If not, read again or discuss with a partner
- identify the key point of each paragraph – use a highlighter pen to pick it out
- sort out:
- the facts
- examples and illustrations
- the author's own ideas/opinions.
Reading and understanding questions and task activities is an important feature of effective study and this can be a minefield for all pupils. Practise reading questions, maths problems and task instructions together. What is required? What will a correct answer or successful piece of work look like?
Reading books is only one source of information; the internet is also a much-used source nowadays, but simply using a search engine can be overwhelming for some pupils. They can easily get sidetracked and waste time on collecting facts that are irrelevant or inaccurate. You might direct learners to a specific, reliable site – this will save time and be more likely to achieve the expected outcome. Help them to define exactly what they want to know. A simple table like the one below can be really helpful – with feedback in the plenary as well as during the fact-finding activity.
|What I already know
|What I want to know
|What I found out
Remembering and recording
Making mindmaps, notes, tables … Pupils need to know a range of strategies for recording information in a way that is easy to achieve and easy to access.
Help them to:
- use titles, subtitles and bullet points
- underline key points in red or with a highlighter
- produce a summary list/table
- develop their own shorthand
- record and link ideas and information in spidergrams or mindmaps
- label diagrams or photographs to convey information
- use mnemonics to aid remembering. For example: Ohm's Law – ‘Virgins Are Rare’ (Volts = Amps x Resistance); the continents – ‘Eat An Aspirin After A Naff Sandwich’ (Europe, Antarctica, Asia, Africa, Australia, North America, South America). Get pupils to make up their own.
Explaining/showing what you know
Allowing children some choice in how they respond to a task and show what they know (have found out), understand and can do often results in a better outcome than the traditional piece of prose writing. How can we get them to think about what they have heard/read/found out about so that they do more then merely regurgitate facts? Evaluating the learning, and taking it up to the next level should be a priority for all teachers. Think about asking:
- How are you planning to do this? What will you need?
- Why did you decide to start like that/do it that way/include that…..?
- How did you reach that answer/decision?
- How do you know?
- Why do you think that?
- Is there another way/reason/point of view?
- How many ways can you..?
- What if/if not?
- Can you think of a more powerful/interesting/unusual word to use here?
- How do you think it feels to be…?
- What do you think happens next?
This e-bulletin issue was first published in May 2009
About the author: Linda Evans is the author of SENCO Week. She was a teacher/SENCO/adviser/inspector, before joining the publishing world. She now works as a freelance writer, editor and part-time college tutor.