How Do We Figure Out What Makes A Difference?

Although we still have a few days left, my mind is drifting to the next school year. I love the summer holidays; every year they are a chance for me to look at my students with fresh eyes, think about how far they have come and about the skills they still need to learn the following year.

Of course I do that at annual review time too, but it always seems different over the summer. Then, I am not doing it because someone else is saying this needs to be done, on set forms that someone else thinks are the right ones. Instead I am doing it purely for pleasure, to gain a better knowledge of my students, to inform my teaching and to ensure that they learn as much as possible.

I’m a bit (well ok maybe a lot) obsessive about it. It takes me a long time, but for me it’s worth it. I enter each year knowing exactly where they are at socially, linguistically and emotionally. I know their strengths and I know which areas may prevent them from learning as effectively as they could.

The forms I use are ones I’ve culled over the years from a variety of places; some are exactly as they were when I got them, whereas others I have made adaptations to so that they work better for us and our students. Firstly I do a strengths and skills inventory. I like to start by celebrating what they can do, what they’ve achieved and therefore can build on.

Then I look at what we need to work on, using a modified Underlying Characteristics Checklist. This really helps me to determine individual skills my students need to learn from 90 different learning related elements. They’re Autism specific, but in reality they work for students who find things challenging for many different reasons. Once I’ve identified the skills to work on, the exciting part begins.

The Ziggurat is my favourite form ever!!! And believe me, usually you practically have to drag me to paperwork. This form is different though; it makes you think about every aspect of your teaching and the child’s learning and how you can ensure progress. Plus added bonus (for me, not my other half) is that usually the things I decide to do involve laminating (not being the tidiest person in the world, I usually leave a trail of small plastic bits everywhere I go).

I love these forms because they allow me to break everything down into small parts, and small parts are great because they feel manageable. It takes away the feeling of ‘they just can’t do it’ and makes you think ‘yes, I know with help they can get this.’ And as a teacher wanting to make a difference, the feeling that you can do something to change things is a fantastic feeling.

So, if you fancy a challenge this summer, and have one or more students that you just can’t figure out how to move forward with, why not give this a go. I promise you, it really is worth it.

If you want to go full steam ahead there is lots more information and video tutoring about how to use these forms on the Comprehensive Programme Planning section of http://www.autisminternetmodules.org (It’s a fantastic website, with some brilliant free training on it).

But for those of you who need something a bit quicker, why not just take a look at the UCC and the Ziggurat. Jot down 5 or 6 skills your student needs to work on at the top (The UCC will help with this). Then think about two or three things you could put in place to help each level of need (the Ziggurat Model Pyramid will help you). Underneath each section write the skill that you think the things you’ve put in place will help. Hey presto, you have a plan of action.

I know it sounds scary, and I also know that paperwork is a pain. But this is a different kind of paperwork. This is paperwork that will get you somewhere. I promise. Go on, choose a student, give it a try….

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