Mrs Harper, Head of DLS (Dyslexia and Learning Success) at Bethany School, gives the latest thoughts from her department and why the Extraordinary People project is one of her favourites.
Dyslexia and Learning Success Department teachers work hard to build positive, long lasting and trusting relationships with the pupils. We start this process with our first topic for Year 7 full time learners. The Extraordinary People project is one of my favourites as it incorporates a good proportion of ‘silly’ along with a fair sized chunk of transferable skills. It is specifically tailored to be easily accessible and achievable meaning pupils can feel proud of their (mostly) independent work.
By making this first project ‘simple’ means there is headspace and time for informal discussion, as a group or among tentative new friends, and allows for informal observations by the teachers. During this precious time, we can guide and nurture the settling in process, ease anxieties, support friendships, discover struggles and tackle misconceptions. Pupils quickly relax, and so, let their guard down to openly talk about what they find difficult, how they prefer to learn, what support is of help and what is not.
Make a Mini Me (the silly bit)
The first questions we pose are, what are you terrific at, what are your hobbies, what greatness have you already achieved? This will be forever cast in wire and ModRoc statues. To begin with we tackle the design process; making rough sketches, drafting ideas, sourcing appropriate props or materials to make them. This involves skills in problem solving, and the tricky to master, time management verses complexity! When the making begins, pupils must listen and follow instructions, organise their resources, work effectively in a shared space with shared materials and efficiently tidy away.
Design an All About Me Poster
Here is the opportunity to tell us about family and friends, what irks and what ignites. We use this to gain the pupils perspective on past experiences of support and most importantly, what support works best so we can factor this into future lessons and strategies across the school. Information must be saved and then displayed in a sensible way. This leads us nicely onto some essential IT skills. By recognising their own strengths, the hope is they will be enthused to take risks and be willing to stretch and challenge themselves across the curriculum.
Pupils also carry out a research section to champion someone extraordinary who has struggled but succeeded. Information about this person’s life must be carefully selected to ensure it is appropriate and factual; it must also be referenced. This admirable hero will sit alongside the pupil to act as an inspiration for their future selves. To further challenge and extend pupils, we scaffold
a letter to their extraordinary person in the hope they will reply; we are ever optimistic so watch this space…
It is a privilege to have this time to get to know these extraordinary people. This really is one of the best teaching experiences in the school year for me.