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.

Image from 
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!

Image from 
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.

Image from
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.

Image from
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.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

New resources added

New resources added to the printable resources section.

Magnetic Literacy

Encourage your children's literacy development by filling your fridge with these high frequency words. 

High frequency words
Not only will you help to foster an enjoyment in literacy development but you will also be reinforcing there sight vocabulary, ensuring they recognise the high frequency words in different formats and context then that which is presented to them in their reading books.
Fridge magnets for literacy

My daughter loved to leave messages on the fridge and eagerly awaited a reply from the next kitchen visitor, it only takes 10 seconds to do but these activities really move their language and literacy comprehension forward, without seeming like a literacy task at all.

You can also buy magnet 'shopping list' words... Why not ask your child to help write the shopping list by asking them to find the word bananas etc..

Click here to visit The Fridge Magnet Shop.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Rewards and Sanctions

Ever wondered why we encourage children to work for stickers? Urge them to display acceptable behaviour for extra golden time? Or show caring and supportive attitudes for certificates?

 B. F Skinner developed the system of "token economy," originally designed for use in prisons and mental institutes. The inmates were required to display appropriate behaviours and complete necessary chores, in return they would receive tokens that could be traded in for luxury items, such as cigerettes or playing cards.

 This system relied heavily on Skinner's operant conditioning theory, he believed we are more likely to repeat a behaviour when there is in a place a positive reinforcement, the tokens. Fast forward to today and you will see heavy similarities to the methods practiced by Super Nanny... Positive reinforcement being plenty of praise, and punishment being the naughty step.

 The psychology of behaviour is fascinating stuff and a brilliant way to understand the behaviour, of not only your SEN children but all children.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Motor work activities

A lack of motor skill refinement can really frustrate a child who is trying to achieve a task or target. 

By providing controlled activities you can help them develop fine motor skills and build confidence. The activities do not need to be target based but more about having fun, learning what fingers do and sharing experiences. The opportunities for learning are endless, bring in numeracy, colour or conversation skills for a multi-faceted learning experience!

1.) Hide small objects in playdoh.... Kids love Playdoh, we all know that, but it acts as a brilliant resistant material to help build muscles in the fingers and hands. Hide beads or coins inside fist sized lumps and encourage the children to search for the treasures. They could make piles of like items, by colour or size. Then swap over, let the children enjoy burying things for you to find. One of the things that I have noticed, is that children with reduced motor skill ability struggle to make round balls out of Playdoh or similar materials. Help to develop this skills by having a ball race! Make as many balls as you can and lay them side by side to make the longest run, enjoy counting your balls and working out the difference :)

2.) Beading.... Girls will especially love this one! Use laces of different thicknesses, beads of different shapes and sizes and get beading. Create bracelets for friends or family. Encourage team work by working in pairs. This activity really helps develop hand-eye coordination and is fab for developing pincer control.

3.) Finger and cotton bud painting.... Let's get messy! Have a ruless painting session (just cover your best sofas first!) Use fingers and hands to paint words or pictures. Develop finger control by using small items, such as cotton buds, to make marks with. Sensory seekers will love this opportunity to explore textures.

4.) Counting songs.... Putting down one finger at a time is harder then you may think. By engaging children in counting songs such as 3 little monkeys, you will be helping to develop digit isolation, strengthening fine motor skills. Other good songs include Tommy Thumb and 5 fat sausages.

5.) Lego.... brilliant for pincer control, force and helps with the identification of shapes and colours. Use large or small Lego pieces to suit ability and age. Build towers, form names or buildings to enhance hand-eye coordination. Lego is a brilliant way to foster sharing and manners, encourage conversation and discuss their builds.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Facebook page

Hop over and join Special Educational Matters on Facebook. 

It's the best way to stay up to date with our latest postings and resources. We re-post articles from our associates that we think you will be interested in, so you are always in the know

Motor skills development for iPad users

As promised here is my first educational iPad recommendation. 

Dexteria motor development
  Dexteria by BinaryLabs features specific activities developed to help promote the development of fine motor skills. The iPad has a wonderfully sensitive touch screen, making it highly usable. 

Through the use of engaging activities children will be unconsciously fine-tuning their hand-eye coordination, fine-motor skills and, when engaged in conversation about the task, language skills as well. 
Sample activity for fine motor skill development

Activities include finger isolation, for either hand, stoke development and finger control. The app also records progress and time spent practicing. Even very young children will enjoy these activities, feeling much more like a game then work, you shouldn't have any trouble getting youngsters engaged with the task.

Stroke development and letter formation
The app is available on both the iPad and iPhone. Click here to visit the app website and download.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Name grids

Some children begin school already  knowing how to write their name, some do not. For some it is the first real hurdle they will face in their school life and can become a stressful experience. Use these guides to help build confidence in letter formation, spelling and pencil grip, in a fun and accessible way.

Example name grid
I've added a set of three name grids to the printable resources section. To make the most out of these, print all three on A4 paper, write the desired name in the appropriate font (the best colour for tracing over, I find, is grey). Laminate each sheet so they can be used over and over again. Encourage the child to trace over the letters of their name before attempting to copy it free hand in the space provided.

Start off with the largest font and only move on once confidence has been gained in letter formation and spelling. For added practice, print off and laminate an extra copy to send home, children will love to demonstrate how well they are doing to their parents. Build their confidence by photocopying the sheet, for them to keep, when they have done well.

Click here to visit the printable resources section.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Communication methods

More and more children are being diagnosed with speech and language difficulties, ranging from mild impediments to total language delay. Luckily they are so many wonderful methods of communication being developed and added to, we are well placed to help foster the development of their speech and language skills.

Makaton - Makaton signing and symbols are becoming more and more popular and is now a recognised form of communication in all corners of the UK. Their website provides advice and guidance on the implementation of signing, free printouts and an online shop to source all your Makaton needs. As a child's language and comprehension develops they may begin to drop the signing, only using it for new words and phrases. By teaching the class Makaton signing, through the use of rhymes and songs, you will enable Makaton users to communicate fully with their peers. Visit the Singing Hands website for inspiration.

PECS - The picture exchange system serves as a communication platform for children who struggle to communicate. In order to receive the desired item or activity the child must first exchange the correct picture card. This system eliminates the pressure children may feel when trying to express their needs and desires, leading to more confident communication. Visit the PECS website for more information.

The Quia website has a comprehensive list of activities and exercises to help develop phonological awareness and pronunciation.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Modern posting

Look out world I've given in to technology... I am now the proud owner of an iPad! Proud and slightly confused that is.... Never the less over the next few weeks I will undoubtedly be delving deeper into the technological abyss to see what educational must haves I can dig up for this little beaut....

So far I've stumbled across some great baby pacifiers, panic searching the apps forum for something to keep a wriggly Ten month old still whilst mummy conducted operation nappy change. I have also found some great tools to help with my university assignments and organisation so I'm sure there are some great apps for the age range in between.

Stay tuned ipadders!

(I wrote this post using my iPad )

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Team Teach

For the last two days I have attended a Team Teach training seminar, and although a lot of what was taught comes as nature to me, I met people and heard stories that really opened my eyes.

Team Teach are responsible for providing schools and services with positive handling techniques and training but the emphasis of the training is on developing your deescalation skills, minimising the risk of physical intervention being required and helping to build consistent and positive relationships between staff and pupil.

Dynamic situations with volatile pupils could, at least some of the time, be avoided if all staff were provided with deescalation training as a matter of course. The behaviour of some staff in schools is, in itself, a catalyst to further poor behaviour or crisis and it' the children and young people we work with who suffer the consequence of poor behaviour management by adults.

Visit the Team Teach website here for further information and training opportunities.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Inspirational Parenting

Every so often I come across somebody who consistently amazes me with their selflessness. Hayley is one of those people.

Making waves in the blogging community, she has set out with a goal in mind, to change peoples perception of learning disabilities. Her honest and inspirational blog is reaching out to people all over the world and now her gorgeous daughter, Natty, is set to take the modelling world by storm, already snapped up by two high flying clothing companies, it seems the offers will come flying in!

Not only is Hayley responsible for creating a fantastic network for parents and educators of children with Down's Syndrome but she also tirelessly devotes herself to preparing learning resources for Natty to use at home and at school, and Natty's progress speaks for itself.

Featured in The Sun newspaper today it seems the only way is up!! Click here to read the article.

Truly inspirational parenting and proof that there is never a bench mark. Take a moment to read Natty's amazing story by visiting


Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Numeracy footstep fun

I've created a footsteps number line which you can find in the printable resources section.

There are so many varied and fun games to play with this resource. It's a wonderful visual aid to learning number order. Put your thinking caps on and create interactive games such as sit on odd numbers and hop on evens. Simple activities can be turned into wonderful learning experiences for our visual and kinesthetic learners. Use activities such as placing the correct amount of bricks or toys on each number, to develop number awareness. How about placing the right number of counters on the toes for a little fine motor skill refinement?

The number line runs from 0-10 and features foot step prints to aid motor skill and balance.

Visit the printable section for more useful resources.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Government plans to scrap Ofsted Satisfactory grade

Controversial plans to do away with Ofsted's satisfactory category for schools have been reported in the news today, with stiff opposition from some unions. Ofsted have recommended a category of "Required Improvement" in place of the satisfactory award, stating that satisfactory did not highlight the need for improvement in schools awarded such a status. 

As far as I'm concerned this can only be seen as a positive, I'm from the era of pushing all pupils and schools to achieve at their best, so making improvements to schools and staff seems only a reasonable and logical sequence to follow. Time after time I have heard teachers moan about Ofsted standards, paperwork and workload, all things that were in existence before their qualification, certainly for the recently qualified.

I do love to come across a teacher or teaching assistant who accepts "It comes with the job."

                                     Click here to read the story in full.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Interactive whiteboard whizz

Up, up and away! Today the children in my class LOVED playing on these space games I discovered. They are so versatile and can be used with the mouse or (in our case) the "White Board Pen" (said with an air of authority!) They were easily accessible to every child in the class and encouraged working in teams or pairs, which opened up endless opportunity for discussions about size, colour, and direction.

Space Hunt
Click here to play the Space hunt game. The aim of the game is to navigate your space craft around a series of space rocks, collecting the fuel on your way!

Alien Teleport
We also tried out an alien abduction game, we had to order the aliens in the pattern they arrived, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, giving them the appropriate rosette. The children really loved this one and worked brilliantly in pairs, discussing and debating about the order of arrival! Click here to play Alien Teleport.

It just so happens that these games fitted in perfectly with our space topic! See the printable resources section for more space themed classroom freebies!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Brain boost

Brain boosting fun
Are you a parent wanting your child to achieve at their best? A teacher determined to create a class of brain boxes? Or do you want to help a child develop a positive relationship with learning?

If the answer is yes to any of the above questions check out this fab link.

Got To Dance Magpie audition

Magpie Dance provide dance classes for adults with learning disabilities and their carers. View their audition for the popular television show below.

Magpie perform on Sky 1's Got To Dance 

To find out more about the work of Magpie Dance or to make a donation, visit their website here.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Pupil teacher contracts

Encourage pupils to take responsibility for
their own actions  with a behaviour contract.

I've already written a post about behaviour contracts for primary aged children (click here to view) but here is a little article, from TES, about implementing contracts for older children.

Take a look

Sunday, 8 January 2012

New resources added

New resources added to the printable resources section.

Click here now to view!!!

Punctuation comics

Children are rewarded in SAT's for the appropriate use of punctuation but it can be difficult to teach the appropriate use for each. Yesterday I was in the grip of writing a piece for my coursework when I couldn't, for love nor money, work  out if my semicolon was in the right place.... I stumbled across a fantastic little site, perfect for years 5 and 6 in the run up to Sat's.

How to pause - The Oatmeal
The Oatmeal use cartoons and comedy to define the appropriate use of punctuation, if it works for me it'll work wonders for our KS2 children! Click here to take a look at their comic strips.

Keep an eye on the printable resources section, I'll upload my punctuation pyramid soon.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Hi tech teaching

The development of technology available for use in the classroom is astounding but from what I've seen so far, slow to filter through in primary and infant schools. It would be fantastic to push these mod cons into all classrooms and promote active engagement. This post provides links to all the latest releases concerning the latest breakthroughs in interactive learning.

Education iPad
Learning with the iPad has been improved with a series of apps designed with the sole intention of interactive and inclusive learning. The iPad helps improve motor skills and is accessible and adaptable to most. The iPad features fast internet browsing capabilities making it a fantastically resourceful study aid. With its ability to download E-books gone are the days of lugging bags of heavy books around. The slim compact design means there is ample desk space in even the smallest of classrooms. Visit the website here for more information.

Plasma screen technology
The interactive plasma screen is a technical alternative to the already widely implemented interactive whiteboard. The immense amount of software and hardware available to support the plasma package makes the system completely inclusive and the team at Inclusive Technology provide advice and guidance for a range of disabilities. Click here to visit their article database. With a range of material from early years to secondary and even college age, the plasma screen is surely to become a must have for every classroom.

Nowadays a lot of games consoles are creating games using the body as a controller. Creating a more active gaming nation. What about using this creativity in the classroom? Using the body to engage in interactive learning? KinectEDucation are doing just that, connecting with kinesthetic learning. Take a look at the following related blog for the latest developments