Using Checklists To Develop Independent Learning Skills In The Classroom
In this time of cuts to services, education staff are increasingly expected to know how to support children with a wide range of difficulties, often taking them outside their education profession and into the world of Speech and Language Therapy or the world of Occupational Therapy. For example, in an average class of thirty, there are likely to be children with some of the following difficulties:
- Difficulties processing sensory information, which makes it hard for children to look, listen and concentrate
- Attention and listening difficulties
- Delayed understanding of language
- Delayed use of language
- Memory difficulties
- Social communication difficulties
- Auditory processing difficulties
I could fill the rest of the page with this list. We are all becoming more than our jobs, we all have to learn about other associated areas. Teachers, Teaching Assistants and Individual Needs Assistants, I salute you because I really do know how hard your job is, and I have nothing but respect for you. Each child is unique, and while school staff strive to enable them all to succeed in the education system and reach their potential, this is not easy.
The Journey To Independent Learning
Speech and language therapists and teaching staff share a common goal; we want children to take responsibility for strategies, goals, advice and learning so that they can start to help themselves. We may not know what further cuts the government is planning to make to speech and language therapy and education, but we do know that as all of these children grow up, they won’t be able to rely on adults to help them throughout their lives. It can be hard to get the balance right between how much help to give and how much help to reduce – perhaps sometimes you have to dance between the two depending on the subject, the day, the child, etc. The main thing is that if you are reducing adult support, you are enabling the child to help themselves more, so that you are starting them on the journey to becoming more independent as learners.
Strategies and Support In The Classroom
Checklists are an extremely useful tool for developing awareness of your aims and the child’s aims, and helping you work towards achieving these. They can help you to:
- Systematically work through areas of difficulty and areas that need support
- Measure progress and record outcomes
- Involve the child, by making the work you are doing a joint venture between the adult and the child.
1. Classroom Checklist
Click here to download the checklist.
This checklist is for teachers, teaching assistants and individual needs assistants to complete in order to monitor the support they are providing for each individual child. It covers broad areas of support in the classroom, e.g. Is he/she sitting at the front of the carpet to reduce distractions and to help him/her concentrate?
How to use to use this checklist:
Use the list to check support given in class and to make sure you are giving the best support you can give to a child.
2. Checklist of skills to develop independent learning
Click here to download the checklist
How to use to use this checklist:
This checklist is to be completed by teaching staff with input from the individual child. The checklist is divided into three parts:
- Active Listening Skills (this means the ability to recognise when you do need help or repetition or when you need to try another way to do a task as you are not succeeding. These skills are vital to be an effective independent learner).
- Social Interaction Skills (showing interest in others, keeping conversations going, staying on topic, etc.)
- Learning Vocabulary (raising awareness of what a learner needs to be able to do in order to learn new words)
Focus on one area at a time, e.g. if you are focusing on active listening skills, observe the child to see if they have these skills or not, or if they can use them with support. When you have identified the ones they need to learn or need support with, decide which ones you are going to focus on first. Some children will be able to cope with more than one, e.g. you might decide to work on teaching them to repeat key words so that they can remember what to do, and to work on asking an adult to repeat information. However, some children might only be able to work on one area at a time. You know the children that you work with and you can base your decisions on your knowledge and experience of the child and the classroom.
Make sure the child knows and understands what skill you are working on. Get them to rate whether they think they are using the targeted strategies to help them think about their learning and how to help themselves.