Virtual Learning and SEND Support!
Across the world, lockdown measures and physical distancing have severely impacted schooling and, like the rest of the educational world, I have moved my lessons online. As a specialist teacher providing one-to-one support for struggling maths students, this has been a steep learning curve.
Multi-sensory learning has been my mantra for twenty years and here I am teaching in a representational mode at best! On a positive note, there are some great resources out there for online working. I love the teacherled.com dice that have a wonderful auditory clunk as they turn – these are great for number pattern recognition, number bonds and practising times-tables. Also, Twinkl has some excellent resources, games and maths mysteries.
It has been a good time to reinforce known concepts and this is what most schools have been concentrating on. However, my recent experience has shown me how difficult it is to explain new concepts and to assess new students through online teaching.
For instance, trying to explain fractions to students who have already developed an aversion to the word, and when the portcullis in their brain slams shut at its very mention, is extremely difficult without concrete resources, feely bags and physical games.
When I start to work with a new student I need to know not only what they can and cannot do mathematically, but also the reasons for their strengths and difficulties. Do they have the underlying knowledge that the concept is based on, and do they have co-morbid SpLDs that can make numbers difficult for them?
When working virtually, I cannot examine a student’s fine motor skills or carry out a basic gross motor assessment for signs of dyspraxia. It is hard to gauge body language for signs of tension or judge working memory levels. It is difficult to drill down to judge their levels of understanding – you cannot ask them to demonstrate a concept using blocks etc or push too hard when asking for an explanation when they are remote. The focused games that we would normally play during an assessment aren’t possible to do online and general games, on this occasion, are not helpful.
So, for me, social distancing has confirmed and strengthened my belief that SEND maths assessments need to be qualitative and personally interactive.
A diagnosis of dyscalculia needs standardised tests but in order to understand the right/wrong answers that such a test provides and, most importantly for me, to plan support lessons, I need diagnostic information to understand a student’s mathematical profile. You can find out more about the DANS set of qualitative assessments for students with maths difficulties by watching the recorded version of her recent webinar.