Below I have shared what I feel are SOME useful tips for you to instil and make habitual in your teaching repertoire to ensure all of our students can fully access and thrive in their learning.
Your experience will have shown that students may struggle with many aspects of a classroom environment, mostly this is dependent on their individual need(s), however, in my opinion the 4 areas they may struggle with most could be; (in no particular order!)
So what can we do about it? How can we support…
I have shared slides I use to deliver CPD in these areas. Bear in mind in a training session, you can talk and explain items. Where I have left a question mark after a tip it is because I feel these are totally dependent on your class/students as to whether the tip will work!
Now, some of you will immediately be offended by the font, Comic Sans! Get over your snobbery around it, it is a very readable font.
Also, notice the ‘damage’ that underlining a word does… Underlining on PowerPoint slides goes through lower case letters. It therefore makes it harder for some students to recognise certain letters and therefore, read. Embolden words and change the colour to emphasise certain items, that should be enough. It is the same problem with using CAPITALISED WORDS too..
When presenting text to students, indent it, double space it. Allow for annotation and therefore give them space to do so. Ensure ruler line guides or ‘finger reading’ is being carried out by ALL your students. Have your text under the visualiser and model the ruler/finger reading. Also ensure there is a structure for highlighting is in place for ALL students. Make it a common task in all of your lessons. Model it.
If a student can’t access 95% of the context of what they are reading, it will become ‘useless.’ Pre-teaching of keywords/concepts/idioms/information is therefore vital. (@HuntindonEnglish.)
We use a Standardised PowerPoint in our lessons, which has a word bank on every slide. We use these in our questioning, or writing and our explanations. The aim is to ensure that students have access to the vocabulary, are reminded of it and can use it.
Notice, how a different colour background, affects the colour of your font. Also, notice how numbering your points is FAR more effective than using bullet points! It is much clearer when taking feedback to ask whether number 3 is finished then saying have you done x, y and z.
Ensure that your instructions are repeated back to you by students before they begin a task. Do they understand what you have asked them do, how long you have given them, why you have given them that time and what is expected of them in that time?
The language you use, how you use it, when you use it and when you do NOT use is it vitally important in breaking down barriers. Rather than saying, try your best, say, work hard and the result of hard work will be the completion of this task. Instead of saying, why haven’t you started your work, say, can I help you get started…
Use the subtitles and transcript features on websites, such as Youtube! Here is a website detailing how to get more out of any videos you watch!
Is this colour better? Have you played around with your background colours? Does it depend on the lighting in your room? Have you sat at the back of your classroom and seen what the view is like for some students?
When writing ensure students are seated in the right position; feet on the floor, backs against the chair. Are you left handed students in a comfortable seat, do your students with a physical disability have an adjustable desk?
To help with writing and understanding, I always feel it is a better use of time giving students definitions of words and asking them to find synonyms of the defined words. Then how about a game of synonym bingo!?
When writing do be mindful of what I refer to as the ‘Blue Peter’ effect. Which is…
…Here is a toilet roll, an empty fair liquid bottle and some glue… here’s one I made earlier… A SPACESHIP!
Nobody, ever figured out how the presenters actually did it.
This is the same thing in our lessons; here are the keywords, sentence starters and some key information… here is one I made earlier…A PERFECT answer, now make your own!
It is better to ‘walk the talk,’ explain the process of why you are writing what you are. I always handwrite under my visualiser, in my own exercise book per class.
Remember that presentation in books can easily be improved by asking students to space out their work and by providing the right paper/exercise books to write in/on!
PLEASE do not use writing as a punishment; some of us teachers have to use writing in their lessons, daily, and if it is threatened as an alternative to ‘other tasks’ it does not help us!
As Mary Myatt talks so passionately about, ‘writing floats on a sea of talk.’ Allow students time to explore what they might say, how they might say it…Making sure you provide enough time for students to think of their responses!
Also do ensure that if you say you will go back to a student, or ask them a question in a minute; do so!
There are other issues we may all also come across in the classroom. You will find students who may for example display the following issues, how often, depends on your context/cohort.
Here are some further tips based on various guidance I have read. The below tips are mainly aimed around students diagnosed with ADHD. However, it is fascinating how much of this applies to all of our students!
There are lots of suggestions above, however the one that is often overlook is ‘Route of attention.’ What comes in the way of your students before you get in their eye line/sight. What are the potential distractions in your lessons? What can you do about it?
I love a student that is overactive! Maybe, because I think I was/am one of these students. My top tip is use this student to your advantage, give them responsibilities, tasks and jobs to do. Keep them busy and free yourself up! Remember giving a student a lanyard to wear matures them by around 25 years!
In order to fully support all of our students help their organisation with ensuring the visual information you have reinforces and supports what you are asking them to do.
Overall… build their self esteem.
To download my entire Presentation, click here—> ‘Breaking down barriers in the classroom – effective teaching and learning strategies’
I hope it is of use to you… Do get in touch if you would like me to deliver some CPD for you. This is a very basic summary!