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Speech and Language in the Classroom

The Blog

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Visual Timetable Top Tips

A visual timetable is a plan of the day in pictures or symbols. It represents the routine of the day, in the order in which it will happen. Visual timetables are a part of many primary school classrooms, as they are great for supporting understanding of the routine of the school day for the whole class. But are you making the best use of your visual timetable? Here are some top visual timetable tips!

1. Your visual timetable should be placed on a wall at the child’s eye level. It is important that the children have access to the timetable, and can refer to it when they need to.

2. Make sure your visual timetable is accessible, so don’t put it on the wall behind a desk or cupboards.

3. Go through your visual timetable at the start of every day, making it clear if there are any changes to routine that day.

4. Be prepared for a change in routine: if you are doing something different today, make sure you have a symbol to represent it. This can be as simple as a line drawing, or ask one of your pupils to draw one for you. Or keep a question mark symbol handy for unknown or undecided events!

5. Refer to your visual timetable throughout the day. Before you start an activity, and when the activity is finished.

6. When an activity is finished, ask a child to take that symbol off the timetable and put it in a ‘finished’ box. This way everyone can see at what point along the timetable we are.

7. Ensure your pupils are part of the process. Involve them in making your visual timetable at the start of the year (cutting, sticking, drawing). (You can always replace these later on, but this is a good way of introducing the symbols to the whole class).

8. Where possible involve the child in selecting the symbols and putting them on the timetable. This gives you the chance to explain and discuss expectations as you go along. The child should be able to see clearly the breaks and rewards.

9. Your visual timetable can be used to practice the language of sequencing. For example, First we have maths. Next we will do reading. Last it’s home time.

10. Visual timetables are meant to be simple. Stick to key points. It is better to use a shorter timetable that does not cover everything rather than one crammed full of information.

11. The best timetables are those that the child can use to develop some measure of independence. They should be able to see for themselves what they need to do.

Sarah Wall, Speech and Language Therapist

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Friday, 16 May 2014

Help your pupils ask for help

Independent kids

Increasing the independence of pupils is important to help them complete tasks, and become responsible for their learning. Pupils may struggle to recognise that they need help, tell you they need help, or tell you what help they need (ask for appropriate help).

Here’s two ideas you could try out in your classroom to support your pupils in asking for help.

1/ Use red, amber and green flash cards for pupils to show whether or not they have understood. This can be used across key stages with individual pupils or the whole class. When you have given the class an instruction, ask the pupils to place a card face up on their desk, to show if they need extra help.

Red: I don’t understand and I need help -- Amber: I have some questions -- Green: I understand

Encourage pupils to show you or tell you if they understand by using these cards. They could place them on the corner of their desk for you to spot as you walk round. This will increase pupil responsibility for their own learning, and pupil awareness of their understanding.

A school I visited recently use coloured paper cups instead of cards, and they say they work really well. I love this idea! The children stack the cups on their desk (red, yellow or green cups).

2/ Use Help Me cards

Using ‘Help Me’ cards, pupils can be taught to recognise why they don’t understand something or can’t complete a task, increasing awareness, independence and responsibility for their own learning. ‘Help Me’ cards are simply a series of cards which represent what the pupil is finding difficult, for example ‘the words are too hard, you spoke too fast, it was not clear’. Using the system helps pupils learn what it is about the situation that is difficult and how to ask for help appropriately, for example

“The words are too hard. Can you say it in a different way?”

Try putting these cards in the middle of each table so pupils can grab them easily. They can be used individually with children with SLCN, so you could make up a keyring of the cards for the pupil to carry around with them.

These two approaches represent types of Visual Support which can be used in the classroom. Read more on Visual Support here...

I hope you enjoy trying these out in your classroom!

Sarah Wall, Speech and Language Therapist.

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Friday, 9 May 2014

Teaching prepositions the fun way!

An understanding of concept vocabulary, including prepositions, provides the foundation for learning. Knowledge of these concept words is essential for following instructions, problem solving, learning to read, engaging in conversation, and participation in most activities. Knowing these words is vital for getting along at school! Some children struggle to learn concept words. We talk more about the importance of concepts in our magazine article here.

Here’s a fun idea to teach prepositions which can be shared with parents. All you need is your child’s favourite character toy (e.g. Batman, Peppa Pig, My Little Pony, Scooby Doo, Spiderman…..) and a plastic cup or two!

Following the child’s lead and commenting on their play, you can model the prepositions 'on, under, in, above, below, in front of, between', etc. You can then go on to ask “Where is Batman?” ("Under the cup!")

I came across this idea on Twitter. Read more about this activity here… (there’s lots more activity ideas here too!)

I love this idea, as it is encourages letting the child lead the play, commenting on their play, and they can enjoy playing with their favourite characters! Simple, but effective!

Another idea…

We get a lot of questions/calls/emails asking how to teach pronouns (he, she, her, him, his, hers). We provide some activities on our website. However there’s nothing better than teaching in the child’s natural environment. Characters can be used to teach pronouns using the same strategies as above: follow the child’s play, comment on what is happening, and emphasise those pronouns. Using a male and female character, comment on what they are doing. For example, “He’s climbing up the building”, “She’s driving the car”, and the occasional question “Is the bag his, or hers?” etc.

Sarah Wall, Speech and Language Therapist

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Friday, 2 May 2014

New video - unsuspected language difficulties

We support the RALLI campaign and we mentioned it in our last magazine, The Link Issue 2.

This new video presented by Professor Dorothy Bishop, another video in the RALLI series, discusses hidden language difficulties, and why they can be difficult to spot.

"The bottom line message is that we need to be alert to hidden language disability" D.Bishop

Dorothy Bishop tells us about some striking research which found that 4 out of 10 children who had been referred to Child Psychiatric Clinics had a Language Impairment that had not been suspected.

We talk a lot about the difficulty of identifying comprehension (understanding of language) problems in our Language Link training. We discuss the importance of checking understanding of language and identifying these hidden difficulties early so that these pupils can be supported as soon as possible.

RALLI - Raising awareness of language learning impairments.

Sarah Wall, Speech and Language Therapist

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