Francesca Barrett is an SEN teaching assistant. She has written a guest post below, detailing her reading and writing experience with SEN students.
For some pupils simple tasks like reading and writing can be a difficult one, especially if they come under the umbrella ‘Special Educational Needs.’ These pupils are the ones that require a little more help in certain areas of their learning, with reading and writing high on the list. Dyslexia and dyspraxia are two specific learning difficulties that affect the way in which a pupil learns to read and write. These difficulties can affect some pupils only slightly, with others really struggling in their learning. Their confidence and self-esteem become seriously affected and motivation is lost, but with a huge amount of encouragement and praise pupils can slowly overcome these challenges.
Many primary schools reward pupils for achieving different reading levels and for a pupil who had trouble reading this can be very disheartening. The others pupils are three levels ahead and change their books every two days, whilst they still have the same book they had last week. It would be a good idea to device a different reward scheme for those who are struggling with the possibility of time reading aloud to the teaching staff rewarded as part of the scheme. For very young pupils who are just starting on the reading path, books with built in sounds are a great too and will help them link a letter shape with the sound it makes. Flash cards and picture cards are also highly successful, as a pupil who can pronounce a word will be able to see which letters make up that word.
For older pupils allowing them to listen to an audio version of a set book as they read along is extremely beneficial. They will be able to see how each word is pronounced and the possibility of skipping large chunks of texts will be limited. This is particular useful when dealing with complicated or challenging books such as Shakespeare or a language book. The use of a laptop or computer for homework or essays will alleviate any worries pupils may have due to bad writing skills, ineligible handwriting and spelling mistakes. Pupils will be able to concentrate on the content without added pressure to turn out a presentable piece of work. Although most software offering a spell check, it would be a good idea to encourage pupils to use a dictionary so they can compare their spelling and the correct spelling. Advising them to keep a small notebook of any words they have had trouble spelling will help them remember the correct way to spell these particular words.
When preparing worksheets, adapt them to include text that is easily understandable, relevant images and uncomplicated diagrams and check that all pupils can work from them. Example hand-outs are also a great tool for a pupil who struggles with putting things in order i.e information or stories, which can make essays and coursework difficult to complete. If struggling pupils can see examples of how their work should be set out this will be a great benefit to them. Even taking the time to show them how to rearrange information they have gathered and turning it into a piece of work that is easily readable and flows well from paragraph to paragraph can be all they need. There are so many things, big and small, a teaching assistant can do for a pupil who struggles with reading, writing or both, but whatever they do will be one step closer to that pupil overcoming the challenges they face. Reading out a question in a way in which you know that pupil will understand means they will be able to answer that question the same as the rest of the class. Taking the time to show them examples, or sitting with them whilst they complete their work will give them the reassurance they need and make a huge difference to their learning.