Thursday, November 23, 2017

I believed !

As a visual learner I have often been attracted to visual quotes and slogans.
As we head into the crazy season for teachers where deadlines and paperwork take over and we often wonder why we wanted to be a teacher - I thought I would share some of my favourites.

Well done for surviving another busy long  year - Hang on in there for a few more weeks.
AND Remember together we make a difference for our tamariki.

To my Manaiakalani colleagues I thank you for sharing the journey with me.
To my incredible colleagues at Sommerville, I thank you for the passion and dedication you put into each day with our special kids.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Language and learning disorders

Learning disabilities are believed to be closely related to a past history of developmental language disorders. Learning disabilities are concerned with abnormal development of verbal and/or written expression and reception. Therefore, the early detection of these disabilities prevents later educational and social consequences.

Check out this very interesting article

Developmental Milestones in Normal Language Acquisition

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

My Inquiry - My story so far.

Alternative Assessments for Students with Additional needs.

As part of my on going Inquiry into appropriate assessment tools to use with students who have additional needs I have investigated the following tools.


 (cost to purchase or may be available RTLB)

I have tried these assessments with a range of students at Sommerville special school and several students within the Manaiakalani schools.
These assessments have given more detailed assessment information for students who can not be assessed using standardised school assessments.

Narrative assessment, Expanded Framework and Bracken - school readiness are all recognised assessment with the Ministry of Education. These assessments cater for students with very complex learning needs.

The Developmental Writing scale and Developmental Spelling assessment were recommended by 


Dr Sally Clendon PhD Univ North Carolina Chapel Hill

Senior Lecturer in Speech and Language Therapy, Massey University NZ.

I have found that these assessments are very informative for establishing what the  student  can do  and what their next learning steps should be.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like some more information.

Raising Student Achievement Throught Targeted Action

How do I know that the programmes , professional development are making a difference?

When making changes within a school around curriculum development , assessment and student achievement I think we need to look at four important areas:

  • What do our students need, what we doing for our students?
  • What do our teachers need, what are we doing to help our teachers?
  • How are we supporting our Whanau to be on this learning journey with us?
  • What is our assessment data telling us?

I am responsible for Literacy and Numeracy across Sommerville Special School, including arranging professional development and gathering school wide data.

I wanted to review  what actions we are taking and who was responsible for what areas. This has proved to be very insightful and allowed my to review and plan for the future. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Visual strategies for learning

Visual supports.

Visual supports enhance the communication process. Many students are at a disadvantage because they lack the ability to communicate effectively. Children with autism and other communication disorders struggle on a daily basis to comprehend auditory messages.

These students may be able to process auditory messages but at a much slower rate. These students may just start to understand what is being asked of them and then the person moves on to a new request.

Meanwhile the student is left trying to make sense of the first request. The teacher might see this as noncompliance and punish the student for not being able to process language at a “normal” speed. Visual supports enhance the auditory message by providing visual cues to the student.  The visual supports can remain long after the oral input has stopped.

Student who have developmental or language delays benefit from additional visual support.
Visual supports also work well for students who are learning English.

What are visual supports? 

  • Visual supports can come in the following forms:
  •  Body language (e.g. facial expressions)
  •  Natural environmental cues (e.g. printed materials such as signs, signals, logos, & prices) 
  • Traditional tools for organization and giving information (e.g. calendars, schedules)
  • Specially designed tools to meet specific needs (e.g. individually made subject sequence charts or behavioral/classroom expectations) 

Why use visual supports? 

  • Teach skills 
  • Teach  strategies 
  • Modify environments for maximum learning 
  • Support memory
  • Support vocabulary

Classroom rules and routines

Social skills 


 Topic language 

Augmentative and alternative communication(AAC)

Augmentative and alternative communication(AAC) is an umbrella term that encompasses the communication methods used to supplement or replace speech or writing for those with impairments in the production or comprehension of spoken or written language.

AAC includes all of the ways we share our ideas and feelings without talking. We all use forms of AAC every day. You use AAC when you use facial expressions or gestures instead of talking. You use AAC when you write a note and pass it to a friend or coworker. We may not realise how often we communicate without talking.  
People with speech or language difficulties may need AAC to help them communicate. Some may use it all of the time. Others may say some words but use AAC for longer sentences or with people they don’t know well. AAC can help in school, at work, and when talking with friends and family.  

Types of AAC

Do any of your students have difficulty talking? There are options that might help. There are two main types of AAC—unaided systems and aided systems. You may use one or both types. Most people who use AAC use a combination of AAC types to communicate.  

Unaided Systems  

You do not need anything but your own body to use unaided systems. These include gestures, body language, facial expressions, and sign language.  

Aided Systems 

An aided system uses some sort of tool or device. There are two types of aided systems—basic and high-tech. A pen and paper is a basic aided system. Pointing to letters, words, or pictures on a board is a basic aided system. Touching letters or pictures on a computer screen that speaks for you is a high-tech aided system, some systems have voice output.

New Zealand Sign Language

Alternative assessment - Bracken School Readiness Assessment



Developed by early childhood experts, this readiness assessments help you evaluate early literacy, language, and academic skills to determine whether kids are on track for school success, and enable you to identify youngsters for whom early intervention may be appropriate.

I have been carrying out this assessment on a range of students who have additional needs. The RTLB service use this assessment as part of their screening criteria for High Learning Needs support for students who can not successfully complete standardised test eg JAM, Running Records etc.

I have found this assessment very useful for students with communication needs. As the resource provides visuals to use for the assessment students who have limited oral language can point to the correct answer, this allows me to assess their knowledge without restricting them due to their verbal output.

Several of our students at Sommerville use AAC Augmentative and alternative communication(AAC) as a way of communicating with others. This assessment allowed me to assess their early maths and literacy skills including alphabet, colours, concepts of size and shape etc.

With two students it allowed us to create a whole new maths programme for these students as we have a better understanding of their knowledge and what their next learning steps should be.

For two other students who are completely non verbal, they could demonstrate their knowledge through using their AAC and pointing , where other assessments have been to complex or frustration for the student.


I would like to take the visual principles and easy access of this assessment resource and adapt other assessments we use better meet the needs of our students.