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How does differentiation work in practice?

(5 Posts)
supermum98 Mon 13-Jun-11 22:56:01

My ds. has MLD and is statemented for 30hours TA support in MS and is in year 7. I feel the only way he can survive in MS is if I give good support from home. The school seem reluctant to send notes home daily, so I can do overlearning with him. When I do occasionally get notes home, ie. asked to have them in hols. the quality of notes is poor and not accessible to him.
I do get weekly learning targets, so there is transparency though not immediate enough to reinforce close to lesson.

The question is, what do most schools practice? Do the TA's take a comprehensive set of notes as per any other child in the class and then differentiate afterwards, highlighting key points/mind maps etc? Or do TA's generally differentiate notes as they go along in class? I seem to be struggling to get laptop into lessons, mind-mapping going and they don't seem to have used many cloze worksheets. What part should the teachers play in differentiation and how do I check it is working well?

Also I found out shock horror that when he misses class, as he frequently does for appointments, there is no system in place for him to get hold of the notes as per the other children, who are expected to fill in. I question whether they are taking his education seriously. Certainly doesn't sound like equal opportunity.

Anyone out there with experience who could share advice?

IndigoBell Tue 14-Jun-11 01:05:49

It's up to the teacher to differentiate, not the TA. The teacher should tell the TA what she wants her to do.......

I'm not sure what you mean about taking notes.... I don't think school these days is about listening to the teacher and copying down what they say..... It's all interactive and group work and discussions and....... (If you're in the UK)

Does the school use streams or sets? Is he in the bottom set or in a mixed ability class? Does he attend all of the classes that everyone else does?

I'm assuming with a dx of MLD he is very far behind. Do you know what level he is working at? Or what level he was at the end of last year?

I would think he needs a reduced timetable (for example not doing subjects like French), and then in those free periods a TA should do overlearning of maths or english with him........

Sorry, I don't really know how your school works, or what your child needs.....

Do you know that there is a system in place for other children to find out what happened when they were absent? I would have thought there was no system and it was up to them to ask their friends........

zzzzz Tue 14-Jun-11 10:45:18

Just seconding the fact that it is the Teachers job to differentiate work, and that the TA should only be working under her direction.

My son has language issues so slightly different, but we have copies of what is going to be taught each week so we can pre-learn useful vocabulary and basically give him a "heads-up" so he has more chance of following class discussions/topic work. We also have a book that goes back and forth between the TA [he has 1.1] and me which says what he did each day and any problems.

I think you could just work along side school if they are not able to help more and follow your own shadow syllabus. We do about an hour after school a day and ds is 6.

tabulahrasa Tue 14-Jun-11 13:50:32

yep teacher's differentiate - if pupils are expected to prepare their own notes and your son isn't capable of that, then the teacher should have something in place for him.

A TA preparing his notes for him isn't really a fantastic idea, that just means the TA learns the subject not your son.

It sounds like you're talking about pupils doing work on sheets which then serve as their notes as well, I'd expect your son to have a different set if he's not able to do what they're doing

working9while5 Tue 14-Jun-11 20:36:52

In reality TAs do a huge amount of - if not most - differentiation at individual level in secondary school. I haven't worked in any secondary school so far where this isn't the case, and I work in a wide range of different schools. Some have more teacher time than others, but the majority still have a lot of their work in and out of class delivered by a TA.

In the secondary school I work in, TA's do take notes for students which are then used to plan individual sessions e.g. they take down the content of the lesson and draw e.g. word maps/visuals etc which they involve the student/the students at the table "their" student is on in developing. They will also take those students for withdrawal for overlearning of these areas and to deliver interventions which have been planned by either a teacher, a speech therapist or an Ed Psych. Other strategies are also taken into lesson e.g. visual prompts to participate, colour coding cards for syntax etc and managed by the TA, the teachers rarely manage to refer to or use these in whole class teaching although where they "like" a strategy they will tend to use it more e.g. most of the teachers in one school I work in do a word of the day slot focusing on word meaning and sound and do segment syllables. One in particular really supports mind maps.

My experience is that in practical terms there are a great many teachers don't even know the first thing about what the individual student with SEN is capable of and their support person is often much better equipped in terms of knowing the student, even if it is wrong that the most vulnerable students receive their education from the least trained. Support staff tend to have the most "hands on" experience of how to implement interventions so are not to be scoffed at and although ideally they are supported and their work is co-ordinated by a teacher who is able to differentiate at the right level, it's not my experience that where the teacher hasn't been involved that there are necessarily poorer learning outcomes for the student.

On the other hand, if it were my child, I would want to know that TA had NVQ Level 3 and was literate with GCSEs of their own. That sounds harsh, maybe, but I do see some support assistants with literacy difficulties that really struggle to support.. but then, they only get paid about £6-8K a year so it's hardly surprising that the people who do the job often haven't had the best educational experiences: although there are some people just in it for the love of the kids/flexibility, few people would take the job on if they had the training to get a better position. Having said that, I train all of my support staff in ELKLAN Speech and Language Support for 11-16s (NVQ3 equivalent level, OCN accredited) and some of them have really developed, sophisticated understanding of strategies and how to adapt them. It's harder to make changes with teachers although we do try, try and try some more.. but there is often a lot of resistance to even basic things e.g. like supplying vocabulary lists in advance and so it's all about persistent nagging for the material and co-ordinating with trained TAs to do the differentiation.

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