Monday, 17 September 2012

App-ropriate Social Stories

There are numerous social skill intervention programs around to help foster the development of social behaviour, encourage friendships and build confidence. But how many of them are effective for our children with SEN?

Most are designed to be all light and fluffy, fun and stimulating. But are children able to transfer the skills learnt in a discussion, play or story about a teddy bear and his friends, into real life situations? Do these sessions actually fulfill the requirement? In my article Literally Relevant Literacy I highlighted the importance of creating engaging literacy activities, featuring the children themselves. Utilising their experiences, memories and schema to encourage greater engagement with the task, in turn providing more labels if you like, under which to store their new information.

The same can be said for developing social skills. Surely 'Sammy' is more likely to engage with a story about him and his friends, in his school or his house, playing with toys they recognise and use regularly. I would suggest that this method would make it more likely that 'Sammy' will associate the story with his own life and transfer the knowledge into real life.

I've discovered another wonderful ipad app that makes it unbelievably easy to do just that! Book Creator is available for download at just £2.99 from the itunes store. It's easy to use interface allows you to use your own photos and words to create the story you want. You can even add music or a voice over. Use photos of everyday situations or encourage the children to think about the story beforehand by asking them to act out the scenes. Click here to visit the itunes store.

Today's technology is putting relevant material literally, at your finger tips.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Clicker 6 - The ipad route

How many of you have used and fallen in love with a Clicker product somewhere along the line? I first started using the software back in the days of Clicker 3 and it has gone from strength to strength since then with each new release.

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Although this week after a Clicker 6 update I found myself lost in despair at the lack of a Clicker app for the ipad/tablet generation. I searched and searched but could not find so much as a whisper of an app release. Then I found it, cold hard confirmation from Crick software themselves. An ipad app would require a complete rewrite of the software due to the differing logistics of the operating system. So after quick sulk, I busied myself with some exciting laminating!

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Also this week I discovered a trial app and software package that promised to transform teaching methods, by unleashing the teacher from the chains restricting him to the front of the classroom, where he regularly  blocks the view of the whiteboard and performs the Latin head-bob dance to avoid the projector. Doceri is currently available as a free download for both your ipad and your computer (laptop or desktop) and provides the power to control the whiteboard and access your computer from the ipad! But why would you want to do that? It has long been known that an effective teacher interacts with his class not his whiteboard, but how can you effectively do that stood at the front of the room? How can you see what all of your pupils are doing? Bring in the ipad and you are free to wander around, view pupils work, keep them on task, motivate them and keep them on their toes. You can hand over control to your pupils with ease, simply hand them the ipad.

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Doceri allows you to create animation, slideshows, interact with webpages and access all other tools installed on your computer. You can even take a photo with your ipad which will instantly appear on the whiteboard screen, or record lesson explanations to replay 1:1.

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It has been an exciting week and just when I thought it had finished, I put 2 and 2 together in an epiphany of technological mathematics. Would Doceri let me access Clicker through the ipad!? My theory was correct, and much more than that, I believe the use of Doceri and the ipad with Clicker actually enhances the whole experience. Those that are familar with Clicker will know that you can create drawing opportunities within the grids, where children are asked to draw a picture of themselves for example. A window similar to that in Microsoft Paint pops up, now many will know, creating a life like image in these drawing programs is no easy task when faced with a mouse or tracker pad for control. Cue ipad!! Used with a stylus the ipad offers more accurate and controlled mark-making, leading to a more enjoyable and less frustrating experience for the child.

The ipad again comes out on top when interacting with word grids, allowing much faster selection of words, eliminating the robot like sound that can be produced when using a mouse. This smoother, more life like speech pattern can only lead to a stronger comprehension of,  and association to the language used. Of course learning computer skills are mandatory in todays world so continue to encourage typing and mouse control but mix it up with some ipad interface for a really interactive experience.

Download the Doceri app and desktop client here... But I warn you, don't do it on your weekend off or you'll never get the washing done!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Teaching Letter Formation

I've further embraced the ipad generative landslide and searched high and low for, what I consider to be the best apps designed to encourage correct letter formation.

Fun and games has got to be the way to encourage children to become writers, develop a passion for writing and foster literal skills. Add a stylus to your ipad for further possibilities

Coming out on top has to be Letter Formation Phonics... It's fun, easy and highly visual. It displays the correct formation whilst allowing extra features such as snap shots and word creators. The computer generated voice may tire adults eventually but children seem to engage well with the futuristic qualities, and it's great for encouraging blending.

Touch and Write is now available for free! It has a handy word bank which makes it ideal for learning to form names, or even weekly spellings. You can change your writing tool and paper type, creating a visual feast for visually stimulated children. The only downside is the lack of British voice... It's no biggy though, turn off the sound and provide your own praise!

Alphabet Tracer not only provides the option of British voice but also provides the British Sign Language finger spelling. It's a little bland in comparison to the above apps but useful all the same.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Literally Relevant Literacy

It's so difficult to wind your head around abstract ideas

Learning something completely new from page one. Imagine just about getting to grips with one topic when suddenly, it's changed to something new, something completely alien again. How frustrating must it be. Imagine then, what it must be like for our children, constantly changing topics, methods and goals.

It doesn't have to be so. Careful planning and suitable preparation can ensure that all learning activities, all opportunities and all experiences are utilised effectively to promote active engagement and achievement.

A common topic for the early years stage is that of the seaside. By ensuring children actively experience a glimpse of the topic for themselves, all learning activities can be tailored specifically to that child's prior knowledge and understanding. A must for children with Special Educational Needs, where first hand experience, repetition and engagement are key to gaining knowledge and understanding in  any given topic. The scale of experience varies greatly, from a day spent playing on the beach, a trip to an aquarium or a bucket of sand and water, each of these provide ample ammunition for personally tailored learning experiences.

Use photographs, props, smells, textures and tastes to elicit a response, spark a stimuli and engage the learner, creating not just knowledge, but memories to support it and foster commitment to memory.

Think of it this way... It would be really hard to learn to play a musical instrument without having the instrument in the first place.

Build on a memory, make a dream.

New Resources added

Take a peek at our downloadable resource section..

Royalty free Letters and Sounds tabletop words (Stage 2)

Ever get annoyed with using huge flashcards? 

Here I have created a set of easy to store, easy to use, Letters and Sounds Stage 2 word cards. They are royalty free.... that means no distracting logos or emblems....

Use alongside the sentence builder grids for fun and versatile activities.

One more thing, smaller flashcards means more fine motor skill refinement... We like that!

Visit the downloadable resources section for more free goodies.

Monday, 4 June 2012

The Wave Project

The Wave Project is a voluntary project offering the opportunity of surfing to children and young people with learning difficulties. 

Surfing is a way of life here in Cornwall, the freedom and exhilaration of the sport should be available to everyone and thanks to the volunteers at The Wave Project it's becoming more accessible and inclusive.

On Friday 22nd June The Wave Project have organised Surf Challenge -  the UK's fist surf competition for people with learning difficulties. Come along to Fistral Beach, Newquay and show your support.

For more information or volunteering advice, visit their website at

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Learn to dress dolls

Inspired by a special young ladies button conquering evening...

When I was young I had a doll, affectionately named Ben, he was one of my favourites, but he came with his very own outfit complete with button, velcro, zip, shoe lace and buckle, all designed to help children learn how to dress themselves and encourage independence.
Dress me monkey from

I had a search around and came up with this website, they are not exactly the same but the principle is the same.... I think every foundation stage should have one of these little beauties!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Fostering emotional development with The Transporters

These fabulous episodes of The Transporters are designed to foster emotional development and awareness in our children with Autistic Spectrum disorders, however I don't believe there is a child out there who would not benefit from an episode full of these likable characters. 

The episodes are available as both British and American versions, so you can ensure you choose the right locality for your classroom. Not only are they rich with emotional content but there are also lessons about colour and number.

Visit The Transporters website for more information.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Social Skill development

Have you ever tried using puppets to develop social skills and empathy?

Children love your silly voices and animated face as you tell a story using the puppets, but at the same time they really engage with the characters, making it a fantastic time to help them understand the feelings of others.

There are plenty of training courses available that provide you with scripts to use in your role plays, but I find it best to spend 10 minutes making up your own. That way you can choose situations and scenarios that are relevant to the children in your care, creating further engagement and ultimately better understanding.

The stories do not need to be complicated or full of drama, it is important to ensure that the appropriate emotive language is used, accompanied by the Makaton signing if necessary, it can help to have an extra adult for this.

Here is an example that I have used:

Jack and Jill are playing with Jacks toy. Jill throws it down and breaks it. Jack reacts by becoming sad. Discuss with the children how they know Jack is sad, how can they look out for people who are feeling sad at school? Why do they think Jack is sad? What can Jill do to make Jack happy? What can they do if their friends are sad? Do they think Jill meant to break Jack's toy or was it an accident? How do they think Jill is feeling? Jill uses the children's ideas to cheer Jack up and resume playing.

Emotive language - Happy, sad, upset, sorry, worried, pleased, miserable, concerned, excited.

Keep sessions short, between 4 - 6 minutes. Long sessions risk the loss of the children's attention and an unresponsive audience. It helps to remind children of Jack and Jill's situation at play times to encourage the desired behaviour.