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How can inclusive environments enhance children's learning opportunities?

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Beccie Hawes: Flexible strategies to support all learners

Often, in my advisory teacher role, I have the privilege to sit and observe just one learner in a lesson. It is a really special thing for me to do as I get to learn about how they learn. I am able to intensely focus on their strengths, strategies, independence and engagement and share in the magic moment when something just clicks and they discover something new. I also have a valuable opportunity to offer ideas about changes that will make a difference to how we can help them develop their future learning.  

In doing this, I have started to notice that many of the children face barriers to classroom learning that mean they often have the hungry minds for subject knowledge and understanding but difficulties with task organisation, maintenance and completion skills and actually showing us their learning in a written, traditional format. It’s the learning approaches and how to demonstrate what they know that can pose so many difficulties.  

One of the tiny humans that I recently observed explained: ‘Honestly, I do want to do the work and I do want to be clever. It’s just that it is so hard to remember what to do and remember what the teacher says and the classroom is so busy and fast. I just get all jumbled up and have to work harder than everyone else to do the same thing. It’s hard for me so I just give up.’ 

So what do we do to help? Is it about a set menu of things or more about a buffet of flexible resources and strategies that our learners can choose from? 

A quick Google tells us that the definition of the word buffet is: a meal consisting of several dishes from which guests serve themselves. Buffets offer choice; the chance to take what you need when you want it and then go back for more. Buffets are all about possibility and the chance to satisfy your own wants and needs. Arguably, this is a very transferable idea for learning to learn in the classroom.  

Rather than telling our pupils what is available to help them and when they need to use it, we could offer a buffet of resources and strategies that link to self-monitoring and regulation. This would empower our pupils to satisfy their own hunger for learning. It could look something like this: 

Step one – recognising that you are hungry

This is in essence self-monitoring – recognising that you need something to help satisfy your learning needs. 

Step two – satisfying your hunger

This is where our learners can visit the ‘learning to learn buffet’ and choose what they need, when they need it. It could include an amuse-bouche of engaging and supportive resources, such as Talking-Point Recordable Buttons to help hold instructions, key facts, ideas and sentences. Or a selection of delicious sensory snacks to aid regulation and concentration and tempting visual aids and task slicing tools to support task place keeping… whatever our pupils need! 

Step three – recognising that you are full

Our learners will become full of discovery and learning as they fill up with knowledge in their lessons. They will recognise what works for them and use this in and out of the classroom. 

Using this approach as the perfect learning buffet menu is powerful as our pupils will become empowered self-advocates knowing how they learn best. This will breed independence and confidence. 

Who doesn’t want a satisfied hunger for learning? 

Article written by Beccie Hawes:

Beccie has worked in all aspects of Special Educational Needs including mainstream, additionally resourced provision and specialist settings. She has extensive experience as a SENCo, Inclusion Manager, Lead Local Authority SEND Advisory Teacher and has set up and led an inclusion advisory service. Beccie is currently proud to be the Head of Service with Cadmus Inclusive part of Cadmus Services, based in Walsall. This service has a national reach and actively supports schools with all aspects of providing a high quality education for vulnerable learners. Beccie is the author of ‘The Complete Dyslexia Toolkit’ and co-author of ‘Getting it Right for SEND’ and ‘How to Create the Perfect Partnership with Parents’. Beccie also writes the national Ebriefing: SEND Bitesize. She has developed a number of educational resources to support learners with educational needs which schools across the UK have purchased and use. Beccie remains very ‘hands on’ in the classroom and is passionate about being at the chalk face to support teachers and children to think differently for a brighter tomorrow.

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