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How to deal with low literacy levels in mixed sets

(36 Posts)
physicskate Sat 17-Nov-18 13:51:27

Illiterate students in mixed ability set - ta suggested I give the whole class colouring in for the whole lesson as the literacy levels of 5 pupils is low or non-existent (literally can't write their names). But obviously this disadvantages the kids with measurable literacy levels (some seemed quite able to analyse data too!!).

It was my first lesson with this group and now I'm left scratching my head... How the hell am I meant to introduce essential vocabulary?? I can't conscionably 'dumb it down' enough to inhibit the progress of the majority... How can I test these kids?? Not sure how to differentiate this... it's year 7 science.


OP’s posts: |
madvixen Sat 17-Nov-18 13:53:07

How on earth do we have kids in year 7 who are illiterate? I'm not a teacher but this baffles me. Surely having them in a mixed set can't be doing them, or any other children, any good?

spaghettipeppers Sat 17-Nov-18 14:02:33

Are they EAL or do they have ASN?

What technology is open to you? Can you record yourself speaking (iPhone voice memos etc) so they can listen to content?

I would simplify the content of written work as much as possible, and perhaps colour code key vocabulary.

monkeysox Sat 17-Nov-18 14:11:04

Group them with the t a.
Differentiate red Amber green tasks.

noblegiraffe Sat 17-Nov-18 14:15:16

The TA suggested you give the whole class colouring in because that’s all these kids can access? confused

These kids should not be in the classroom, they should be in a serious intervention programme until they are ready to join mainstream. It’s a waste of their time.

If they can’t write or read anything then you need the TA to read for them, discuss things with them verbally and record their responses.

physicskate Sat 17-Nov-18 14:24:30

She said it's pointless her writing anything for two of them because they could never read what she's written. I agree with her on that one.

No eal, just dyslexia and 'mild sen' is the info I was given for the two who can't read/ write at all.

I've already simplified the language for the whole class to read/write (except for new essential vocabulary like haemoglobin, plasma, etc...).

I have no idea why they're in mainstream... it was suggested the parents had insisted. I just don't think I can do anything for them and then because they can't access they get bored and chatty and the entire class suffers and gets off task...

It's a losing battle methinks. I wanted to do more than just babysit while their teacher is off I'll (at least until Christmas) but I'm not even sure I can do that!!

Oh and there's one ta for the class (2 can't read at all and the other three have the reading age of 7 year olds...). I have no idea how the two of us scribe for 5 during a test!! And monitor the rest of he class too...

Oh it's going to be a headache!!

And then there's the kids at the other end of the spectrum!!

'Set up to fail' are the words that spring to mind... not sure if is me, the kids or both??

OP’s posts: |
physicskate Sat 17-Nov-18 14:26:42

Oh and no tech. Couldn't even get the speakers to work.

OP’s posts: |
noblegiraffe Sat 17-Nov-18 14:30:59

She said it's pointless her writing anything for two of them

It’s not for them though, it’s as a record of work done, so that you can see where they’re at and if you need to have something to mark.

Are SLT happy with them having a completely empty book?

If you’ve just started teaching them, what did the previous teacher do? What do other teachers do?

Charley50 Sat 17-Nov-18 14:34:56

Can you move to a classroom with tech? Can they use reading software, and dictation software? Watch videoes to review what they learn? Label diagrams with the first letter they can fill in the rest? I agree that the TA should work with them as a group.

physicskate Sat 17-Nov-18 14:38:12

I've spoken to one other teacher who has them. She seems as lost as I feel. She said any practical work is far worse as they don't follow instructions and are often dangerous. Even with short verbal instructions/ diagrams etc... she said 'it's impossible to differentiate adequately for the class.' I want to go and observe, but she's got a student teacher who seemed anxious at the thought - which I understand but find a bit frustrating nonetheless...

I don't have to mark their books grin just tests and google quiz homework which are self marking. I obviously go through the answers to class work during lesson. But if they haven't even read the questions, let alone written the answers... oh it feels hopeless!

OP’s posts: |
physicskate Sat 17-Nov-18 14:41:05

Charley- that might be doable. Will need to check as I've only been at the school 2 days and don't really know what else is available!! I have seen computers. I don't know what software options they have though.

It sounds worth a go if the ta is up for it too!!! I don't want to just abandon these kids to her though!! It seems like more than her remit...

OP’s posts: |
noblegiraffe Sat 17-Nov-18 14:41:58

What does the SENCo say that teachers should be doing? What are the strategies on their learning plans?

Y7 catch-up funding should be spent on them - are they receiving any literacy intervention?

physicskate Sat 17-Nov-18 14:46:20

Unfortunately, I don't even know who the senco is!! Won't be able to find out until Monday... I'm doing this supply job as a favour for an old colleague (a friend of a friend of the hod) before my (out of teaching) job starts!! It was a bit of a rush job!!

OP’s posts: |
MyShinyWhiteTeeth Sat 17-Nov-18 15:01:27

Can you get them some tablets and get them watching resources on the subject?

Handouts where they produce cut out models of body organs etc.

Team quiz where children work together with verbal answers?

noblegiraffe Sat 17-Nov-18 15:05:37

There should already be strategies in place for these kids after a term of Y7 so worth finding out what these are first before putting too much work in on alternative tactics. Although you’d expect the TA to know what they are so perhaps there’s a reason this job has come up!

juliej00ls Sat 17-Nov-18 15:55:59

This isn’t that unusual. If no tech then encourage the very weak students to draw pictures. Then get them to tell you what the pictures mean to them in scientific terms as much as possible. Annotate the books to identify the science they know encourage support them to write whatever they can. Science is an important opportunity for them to work in teams, share equipment and problem solve. I would make sure that success in these areas was also noted for all but especially these student. Speak to your HOF for further help.

physicskate Sat 17-Nov-18 16:46:42

Thanks Julie!! That's quite helpful!

I've previously been in independents, and while I've had some kids with lower literacy levels, never this number in a single (mixed ability) class! I've been spoilt... but also I think part of my teaching style is to lead from the front (oh how indies love spoon-feeding)... so this is quite a new (but not totally unwanted) challenge - and because it's part-time I actually have time to think about this sort of thing!

OP’s posts: |
MsJaneAusten Sat 17-Nov-18 20:54:24

Are two actually illiterate, and three with reading ages of seven year olds (as in, do you have the data showing this?) or is this your interpretation of them? I ask because I'm quite often told by teachers in other subjects that "X is illiterate" or "Y can't read", then I show them X or Y's English books and they go a funny colour. X or Y usually can read and write, but they quite like pretending they can't!

I don't say that as a criticism, but do check their SATs/CATs scores and ask the Library or English department if they do Accelerated Reader and - if so - what is their reading age?

Other than that, I agree with PP, plan your lessons for the highest ability, then differentiate for the rest. That might mean drawing, match up charts, card sorts etc. Good luck!

physicskate Sat 17-Nov-18 22:34:04

This is what I was told by the other teacher who teaches this class and who I spoke to about them. I haven't had access to their system, and so do not have the raw information, but their literacy levels were very low - I could tell that from the single lesson I've had with them.

The two cannot read not write their names. They could not write the title for the lesson. The others can handle very simple words but sooooo slowly - and I mean not 'normal year 7 slow' - but that I think I can work with to some extent.

This is definitely going to be an interesting few weeks!!

OP’s posts: |
junebirthdaygirl Sun 18-Nov-18 07:28:02

Could they work in pairs when recording? So each of those has a buddy to write but but must orally discuss together first. Children with dyslexia are often orally bright.
I work mostly with dyslexic dc and find it difficult to see how they got this far not being able to do anything. Usually their spelling might not be correct but they would have a good stab at it.

Fizzyhedgehog Sun 18-Nov-18 12:45:37

I've got a mixed Year 1-4 class and for Science, they tend to work together. They've recently researched and created posters about volcanoes. My youngest ones can't really read yet, some of mine can only read in one language (we're bilingual) so struggle with some of the resources, others can read and write in both languages. The little ones got pictures to cut out, colour and order. The next stage up was a volcano picture that needed labelling. They also had a two-page text about volcanoes in one language and a short fact sheet in the other. Additionally, they were allowed to research online and take notes. Together in their groups, they chose the resources they wanted to use and created their information poster.
It worked well for them. Lots of talking. The older ones took on the writing. The younger ones did most of the colouring. However, everyone in the group was able to tell me about their volcano at the end.
We don't really have much technology. There are two old desktop computers at the back of my room. No IWB (I've got a blackboard and a flipchart) or Wi-Fi.
Does that help?

physicskate Sun 18-Nov-18 12:58:40

Maybe - but the level of info that they need and specific vocabulary doesn't always suit independent research and making posters... but could be a tool to use with them?? Haven't tried teaching electricity through poster work before!!

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shouldwestayorshouldwego Sun 18-Nov-18 13:17:55

Are they allowed to use phones? Could you have them at the front either voice recording or filming you on their phones? They can then revise the content at home.

With experiments they might need step by step instructions rather than all at the beginning. Could the TA help them in a group together while the other one circulates?

They obviously need SENCO plan and probably some technology thrown at the issue, plus intensive intervention groups.

Fizzyhedgehog Sun 18-Nov-18 14:14:30

Electricity is also a KS2 topic (both in Y3 and Y6). Perhaps not at that level but it could be a way in. There should also be resources available. Pre-teach the vocabulary/ have the TA support the language needs.
Do they have to be able to read or write the words? It wouldn't really be appropriate or make sense, if their literacy skills are that weak. Focus on them being able to talk about it and use the words in their explanations. The TA or someone else can scribe or they could tape themselves.
Doesn't all have to be posters but a collaborative approach might work.

Charley50 Sun 18-Nov-18 14:19:11

If they can't write their own name that suggests something other than dyslexia.
Science is very visual so diagrams and posters makes perfect sense.

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