Children starting school is a daunting experience for all parents! Whether you are a fully-fledged school runner or this is your first time, you may have noticed that all children develop differently! Are you worried about the start of the academic year? My learning folders work well and will be of great benefit to your child. Having had the opportunity to work with a wide scope of children including those with additional needs, I believe they can benefit pre-school children at all stages of development.
Have you come across these labels?
Global development delay,
English not the first language,
Special educational needs,
Needs additional support
IEPs (Individual Education Plan)
Have you ever had any of these worries?
"My child is behind his peers"
"I am unsure they are ready for school?"
"How will someone teach my child?"
"Will my child feel left out?"
"They Won't sit still. They hit, Bite & lash out."
These are all valid concerns but it WILL be Ok! Listen to...
I have been working with children since 1998 (quite a long time, if I say so myself)!
I remember one year, during my time teaching a new year-one class of thirty, I was told that I would be getting two new students! It wasn't so bad, I suppose, as I was used to teaching a full class. However, these two children also had additional needs and extra support in the school during that time was limited.
One of the children had Global Development delay, which is when a child takes longer to reach certain developmental milestones than other children of the same age. Because she had a statement, funding was set aside for her. This meant she would be supported full-time by an additional adult. The other child (let’s call her Sarah), did not have a statement so no additional support was provided for her.
Sarah had just turned five, was summer-born, English was not her first language and she had special educational needs (possibly autism).
How was I to teach her? How could I make sure that both children felt included? On top of that, I was expected to continue with regular classroom and behaviour management and make sure that all thirty-two children were learning.
These were all valid concerns.
"Don't worry", I was told by management, as they had decided to offer her some additional support, but they informed me that it would take a while to find a suitable person. As the weeks went on, my main focus was trying to encourage Sarah to sit still, not to put things in her mouth, not to hit or bite the other children and possibly even, play alongside the other students in the class - She was having none of it! She would scream and throw things, she would put her head inside the water tray to try to grab the toy fish with her teeth (which posed a big health and safety risk) and she'd escape from the class at any opportunity. She did try to communicate with me but I, unfortunately, found it difficult to understand her.
What was I to do?
I knew that she had a love for rubber animals and she preferred to be alone. I'd often find her hiding in the tightest spaces she could squash herself into, and she'd be looking through books but would lash out if any other children came near. I'd sometimes give her a pile of books and observe her, and she'd surprise me each time as she'd sit by herself flicking through them, page after page, repeating it with every book in the stack. This showed me that she COULD concentrate for very long periods of time when SHE was in control of the activity. How could I use this to interest her? Would I be able to teach her how to read and help her learn some English words?
I'd spend weekends, researching the best ways to help her and to try to find a way to teach her something... anything! All this was on top of lesson planning, marking and all the other admin tasks that the average teacher has. I stumbled upon a website that explained how children with certain special needs were being taught to read through using matching activities and learning folders! The more I researched, the more it became clear to me that Montessori activities seemed perfect for her.
That was it!
I knew what she needed and could not wait to get back to school to start! She was eventually offered 25 hours of support per week, which was very well-needed! The learning support teacher and I, worked together to bring the idea of the learning folders to life. The learning support teacher spoke the same language as Sarah and used to say that my ambitious approach was contagious. She was excited too! She'd prepare all the materials and I kid you not, within a few days, Sarah was able to sit still for 5 minutes at a time to do tasks that she had NOT chosen! Within a few short weeks, this increased to 20 minutes of independent work, which was absolutely brilliant!
Sarah was able to learn the letters in her name, the letters in the alphabet and she also learned some English phrases in a few months, so she was able to communicate her needs! The learning folder was her starting point and we'd use them with her for everything - maths, English and for topic words. This was the start of a brilliant adventure and it is why I am so determined to develop more learning folders in every area and for every year-group, as learning folders really do work! I knew she could learn - all children can learn anything using this method... and your child can too!
Now, some of you may be thinking; why am I telling you all this? Others may be able to relate straight away.
At the end of year one, children in the UK have a phonics test where they have to read a set of words to check their phonetic ability. If they read 32 out of 40 correctly, they pass. If they don't pass, they will repeat the test in year-two. During my review meetings concerning Sarah, I had to convince the head-teacher that Sarah should enter. I always set high but reachable goals for them. She did the test and read 9 correctly out of 40. I almost cried when I heard that! Yes, she didn’t pass the test but for her own stage of development that was an incredible achievement! And by the end of year-two, she passed!
Having worked with children since 1998, I can vouch for this style of learning! Sarah is now 13-years-old, reads very well and has lots of friends