Teacher Kate Friedwald explains how careful and consistent presentation of visual information and classroom organisation supported by technology is designed to foster independent learning in Felix, a student with dyslexia. Felix and his mother Julia discuss the benefits of Kate's approach.
Felix is a student with dyslexia, and he likes to have his learning set up in a way where he can be independent. So I’ve set up my classroom and my learning programme in a way that every student can access the information in a way that meets their needs. I’ve got a visual timetable set up, it’s in a format that he prefers that he can read. There’s also, when it’s writing time, lots of visuals to help with planning, to help with recrafting.
We use our interactive whiteboard in a visual way in the mornings, and I leave, even though it’s got writing on it, I leave it in the same format so he gets used to recognising the letters and the words and what they mean.
It’s actually helping with his reading, as well as helping him to be independent and know what to do.
So I think that planning his day or knowing what’s happening is a great structure, yet there’s freedom within that structure.
Felix learns well alongside others, so learning to use his IWordQ app has come from a peer, it hasn’t come from me, he’s been taught by another student, Daniel, on how to use that. Felix, he’s really in touch with his iPad, he understands it, it’s his world. So quite often he gets a lot of motivation out of the fact that he can now use his skills to help other people on their iPads, whether it’s across research, across downloading apps, whatever it is Felix is good at it, and it give him just this boost in saying “I’m a good student, I know things”.
He’s just more confident, and he just wants to learn more, and he’s more engaged and he comes home and shows us what he’s doing and, yeah and I think because he’s happy, you know, his learning is much better.
The "must do/can do" concept that we use in Room 1 means that Felix has a list of requirements that he must do each day. He must do a reading activity, a writing activity, and a maths activity. It gives him more time to work on maths if that’s what he needs to work on more at the time. It gives him also the opportunity to choose what it is he’s going to learn for the day, and he can base that around his interests, whether it be on his iPad or not.
I definitely think that because Felix can plan his own day he has more control, and I think that’s important for a child with learning challenges, because they feel so lost.
I have this thing called "Must do/can dos" which is much easier. The teacher doesn’t tell me what to do in that particular order because on this you can just see what you need to do and then do it in whatever order you want to. If there’s something that needs to take more time then I can do that first.
So with a lot of the work we do here in Room 1 (a lot of it is) I give feedback through Google Docs. Sometimes with Felix, with that feedback, I think he may struggle to read it and I don’t want him to have to go through the effort of listening to it, because other students are reading theirs. I have more-one on-one time to allow me to actually sit down with Felix, ask him how he is going across the curriculum areas, and help him to understand where he needs to go next.