Self esteem and motivation can be a big issue for students who have spent years struggling to keep up with classwork. Teachers seldom recognise how much effort is going into surviving each day. Positive feedback becomes less and less as teachers focus on the shortfalls. These students become more self-aware and know that many of their peers regard them as not being clever.
Every lesson has its pitfalls. To start with have you remembered all the equipment for the lesson? Then during the lesson, you might miss a key instruction, find the pace too fast, not process the visual information from the board, not be able to read a word in a text, mishear a word or not understand new vocabulary. These children often have challenges with working memory, auditory processing or visual processing. They may also have difficulties with organisation, vocabulary, slow processing and the physical process of writing. How can we level the playing field and offer discrete support in Senior School?
Google classroom is an excellent way to discretely supporting students with dyslexia, ADHD and other learning difficulties. Working memory difficulties, slow processing and auditory processing can be supported by pre-teaching via Google classroom. Students can be given access to key texts or information to read prior to the lesson. Relevant video clips can also be posted. This means that when they come to the lesson they are already aware of the content which makes it much easier to tune in and follow what is being said. During the lesson they can also have access to bullet points or visual prompts in front of them that can guide them through the lesson and keep them on track if they lose focus or miss a teaching point.
Having parts or the whole of the teaching slides in front of them on their own laptop also helps those with visual processing difficulties. The font or the colour of the text can be altered to make it easier to read. In a classroom situation if all the children are using their own laptop, Google classroom makes it is possible to personalize what each child sees without it being obvious that the child has something different. It is possible to set up scaffolded worksheets with sentence starters or word lists for those who find written tasks challenging. Charts, labelling pictures and fill in the blanks texts are great ways for students to show their understanding while reducing the amount writing required.
Less discrete but helpful are text readers where the computer reads the text. This is particularly useful for longer texts or texts with a lot of technical language where fatigue may mean that a dyslexic student loses the meaning of what they are reading as all their energy in decoding. Headphones could be used here or it could be used only for homework tasks.
Voice to text could also be used for longer writing tasks that would be very laborious for a dyslexic learner or those with handwriting difficulties. This allows the student to focus more on the content of their writing than the physical process of writing and spelling. Studies have shown that speed and efficiency of handwriting can make the biggest difference to the quality of content and composition of written work.
For students with ADHD, access to pre-teaching can greatly improve their focus and engagement during lessons. In addition, questions that the teacher intends to ask them could be posted on their laptop prior to the lesson or at the beginning of the lesson. This way the student can listen out for key information that will help answer the question. This again helps focus during lessons.
Another area of potential source of embarrassment for older students can be feedback from the teacher. Often this is done very publicly within the classroom. The teacher may comment on spelling errors or lack of punctuation. They may mention that the student hasn’t written enough or there is not sufficient detail. With Google classroom teachers can give feedback through comment boxes alongside the work and other students need not be aware of personal feedback given to each student. The teacher can highlight where a sentence needs to be edited or improved and give hints to guide the student. They can use different colours for different types of editing – spelling, punctuation, better vocabulary choices. For children with learning differences it is best to just focus on one aspect within each piece of work. Not only is this type of feedback more discrete but most students respond better to this type of constructive advice. They can act on the advice and he end result should a piece of work they are proud of which could then be shared with the class, improving self esteem.
Google Classroom and Google Docs are versatile tools which benefit all students but can make a tremendous difference to those with learning differences.
The writer is Helen Trethewey, Primary Inclusion Coordinator, Kellett School – The British International School, Hong Kong, Hong Kong.
Ms Helen Trethewey is an experienced Learning Support teacher and Inclusion leader who has worked in the UK, Brussels and Hong Kong. She is passionate about the education of Dyslexic students and their early identification. She is skilled in identifying and assessing dyslexia in young children and devising effective intervention plans. Helen has worked in Primary school education for 24 years and has 15 years experience in Inclusion. She regularly provides staff training on dyslexia and related topics like working memory and visual difficulties. She has a blog called Twice Exceptional which supports parents and educators of children with Learning differences.
At EduTECH Asia, Helen Trethewey will be presenting on Using Google Classroom to support students with dyslexia, ADHD and other learning differences. Join her on 5th November at 11.20am at Suntec Convention Center, Level 3.
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