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Literacy information from the SRB
Many of our children need to practise many more times than most other children in order to make progress as they often struggle with their working memory or have joint attention, listening and/or focusing difficulties. Things need to be 'overlearnt' or are quickly forgotten, they need to be very secure and the scaffolding gradually and slowly removed! That said they can make good progress and will seem to all of a sudden reach that point when it all clicks into place and they are away. I have outlined below some of the ways we scaffold for literacy areas, e.g. Colourful semantics, phonics, overwriting, toolbox tools and Talk for Writing.
This can be looked up on Google. Sentence structure is colour coded, based on Subject/Verb/Object (SVO) sentences. We start with very basic simple sentences using the words 'It is a ...' and linking this to their phonics sound each day. 'It' is coloured orange, 'is' is coloured yellow (and may be in a diamond shape), whilst 'a' is green to match the object of the sentence. Full stops are white.
At first the children learn to arrange the cards in order by colour, read their sentence back, copy it and then segment (soundtalk) a CVC word for the days sound. Initially heavily scaffolded, the scaffolding is gradually withdrawn. Once they are secure with their first sentence (which may take months!) they move on to 'I can see a ...' then 'He can see a ...', 'She can see a...', They can see a...', 'He has got a ...' 'She has got some ...' and so on changing one high frequency word at a time. The children each have their own set of words and they choose whether they need to use them or not.
Phonics is particularly challenging for our children who are often unable to articulate the sounds they need. We assess the children on entry and then regularly throughout their time with us. We then teach what they need to learn. Sometimes we may need to repeat Phase 2 with all children, but we will expect them to work at different levels within this - it may be that they need to learn to recognise and say the sound, it may be that they need to use it independently in their writing. Alternatively we may run 2 or 3 groups at different phases according to need.
The children will be encouraged to use actions for all sounds, either the Jolly Phonics actions that many are familiar with from home school and which we do use, or the actions used by the speech and language therapists – ‘Cued Articulation’. We use both types and the children tend to mix and match too, finding the ones that work for them. We are fine with this - if they start using different actions please don't worry. Again you can Google this for more info.
Often the children find blending sounds a real stumbling block and patience is required whilst they practice repeatedly. Constant modelling takes place using “I say / you say” during which the children are trained to listen first. However, once they have secured the process of blending, they usually make good progress.
Daily practise of name, letter and number formation takes place, 'overwriting' yellow pen. The starting point is a red dot and the direction of travel is shown with a small line. This takes place in Key Skills time each day, is often given as a next step that they can do independently, and is also followed up in homework. The more automatic the physical actions become for forming the letters or number, the less processing space will be required to think about what the hand is doing. This frees up processing space for the child to think about the content of what they are doing.
Each child has a toolbox (laminated picture of) and different tools are assigned for different purposes e.g. 'sound saw' for using initial sounds, screwdriver for full stops, ruler for finger spaces etc. The children self-assess each piece of written work against their toolbox tools in addition to their Learning Journey (objectives). When something is secure, they get the relevant tool (laminated picture of) to add to their toolbox.
Talk for Writing
We use ‘Talk for Writing’ regularly in the SRB with the ‘Imitation’ stage being of most significance for our children. The text is read to the children and together a text map, with supporting actions, is created to aid the children in retelling the story. These are usually much more detailed than would normally be the case as the children need prompting to remember so many words. The children will then have a copy of the text map and the text to learn in their homework books. Regular practice takes place in class until they can retell the text, using actions to support. This might take some time but it provides a very useful template for them to practise speaking in sentences, making sure they say all the words in the sentence. Depending on the time taken to reach this stage, the children will practice sequencing the text before continuing to the later stages of ‘Talk for Writing’ when ready.