Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Beginning of our Journey....Step 1

Muritai School has been a member of the 4D for Schools Programme since 2008. When a school joins the programme they are under an obligation to develop and implement a policy within a certain time frame. This policy sets out how we will provide for our dyslexic students. 

Muritai School is one of the first schools in New Zealand to have written a policy and is now busy putting the structures in place to implement it throughout all our classrooms. Click here to see Muritai School 's 4D status

The 4D Schools programme is designed to support new thinking on dyslexia in the Kiwi classroom, and help teachers take the simple steps necessary to ensure dyslexic students harness their potential.

This blog will endeavor to explain the steps we as a school have taken so far, and will plot our continuing progress as we embark on our journey to become one of the first Dyslexia Friendly schools in New Zealand.

To mark Dyslexia Action Week 2009 some of New Zealands most respected music industry figures came together to produce a single to raise awareness and understanding of dyslexia.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Initiating the Process....Step 2

In 2008 Muritai School joined the 4D for Schools programme -  Based on principles of empowerment, collaboration and change, the revolutionary 4D programme was designed in consultation with international dyslexia expert Neil Mackay. It provides access to a national and international framework of learnings, insights and advice which can both make life easier in the classroom for teachers and improve learning outcomes for students.

Professional Development Stage One
In June 2009 I attended the 4D for Schools Dyslexia Introductory Workshop here in Wellington. It was run by Neil Mackay and it provided a fascinating insight into how "if we get it right for dyslexic children, we get it right for all."

Neil's book "Removing Dyslexia as a Barrier to Achievement" proved a fantastic resource when I put together and delivered a workshop on dyslexia for all staff here at Muritai School. (I will talk about what this presentation involved in a future posting).

Working as a classroom teacher in the UK I have had some experience supporting children with dyslexia and since then I have always had a real interest in working with children with Learning Differences. Neil's workshop provided useful information and tips that inspired me to share this knowledge and understanding with our whole staff.

Joining 4D for Schools and attending the workshop marked the start of our journey to become a dyslexia aware school and  is where our progress began to gain momentum..

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dyslexia Presentation to Staff....Step 3

Professional Development Stage Two

Following the Neil Mackay conference in June I began my own journey of research, reading and thinking around the area of dyslexia and how it is approached in schools internationally.
In November 2009 I had gathered enough information and developed a deeper understanding of dyslexia which enabled me to put together and deliver a presentation to all staff at Muritai School. Much of this information was gleaned from Neil Mackay's book "Removing Dyslexia as a Barrier to Achievement".

 The presentation included short activities designed to give teachers an insight into some of the problems that our dyslexic learners face on a daily basis. 
The presentation followed this format:-

Introduction – why are we here today?
¢What is it like to be dyslexic?
¢What is dyslexia?
¢Recognising dyslexia and deciding to intervene
¢So a child is dyslexic – now what?
¢Providing for different ways of learning
¢Our policy – the way forward

The presentation was quite detailed and lasted for several hours. Teachers were provided with a copy of the PowerPoint presentation to refer back to of some of the important facts about dyslexia that would aid their day to day teaching of dyslexic learners.

Overall the presentation proved invaluable as a way of providing staff with a basic understanding of dyslexia and how to begin to notice and make adjustments for our dyslexic learners in the classroom. It provided a great "launching pad" for discussions about what should be included in a whole school policy. 
Staff later completed feedback forms about what was most useful and what more information and guidance was needed to really get the process of becoming a dyslexia aware school moving. This staff feedback was extremely useful when I began writing the draft policy.

I ended the presentation with this video of a song that I became familiar with as a teenage.  This probably marked the starting point for me in wanting to become an educator, specifically to work with children who find learning an uphill struggle.

Slide 2

Monday, October 11, 2010

Useful Discussion Meetings....Step 4

Prior to drafting a Policy for Dyslexia to use at Muritai School I arranged several "discussion meetings" with both parents of dyslexic students and representatives from SPELD in our area.

The idea behind this was to get as much supporting information and viewpoints as possible from all of those people involved with the learning and well being of our dyslexic students. This would then enable us to gain a well rounded perspective of what was and was not achievable in terms of what could be included in a policy document and more importantly, what could feasibly be put into practice throughout our classrooms.

Parents offered insights into what had/had not been done well in the past and what we could do to make the changes that were needed to make their child's school experience as positive as possible. Discussions with SPELD representatives highlighted how vital consistency between themselves, schools and parents was if a dyslexic child's learning was to be the best it could possibly be.
Factors such as screening tests and assistive technology were discussed which proved very useful when adding these areas into a draft policy.

Overall, these discussion meetings were invaluable. They proved how important open channels of communication between everyone involved with a child's well being are if awareness of dyslexia is to be achieved.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Drafting a Policy....Step 5

With much information and feedback taken into consideration it was time to sit down and draft a policy. The guidance on 4D for Schools website was extremely helpful. 

 A copy of the draft policy was then submitted to the school's management team, The Board of Trustees, The Ministry of Education and 4D for Schools for review. You can read the final version by clicking here.

With the policy now ready to put into action, Muritai School became only the second school in New Zealand to receive the  Level 2  4D for Schools mark.

Level 2  recognises that a school has both a policy and strategy in place and is in the process of implementing these.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Finding a Platform to Keep Channels of Communication Open....Step 6

The next, and possibly one of the most important steps was to find an easy and consistent way to communicate to teachers, parents, children and other outside agencies. It is all very well having a policy written and ready to use but if everyone involved in working with our dyslexic learners are not aware of what the policy involves (including the children themselves) then it will not work.

With time for staff meetings swallowed up with a plethora of different issues it was clear that a different and more readily accessible platform for communication was needed. This came in the form of The Learning Den blog, based around the Learning Support programme here at Muritai School.

The Learning Den Blog
The purpose of this blog is to provide lots of useful information and links that can be used by students who are part of the Learning Support programme and their parents and teachers, both in the classroom and at home. It has direct links to this blog about our journey as a school to become dyslexia aware, many links to information about dyslexia and also a link for parents and the wider community to access our dyslexia policy (a requirement to be a part of the 4D for Schools Programme).

The Learning Den is also a place where teachers can access and share ideas about making adjustments in the classroom to support our dyslexic learners. It is also fully available to students who can listen to the posts if they want to and feel that they are part of the support system that is being put in place to help them be the best that they can be.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Seminars with Laughton King....Step 7

Professional Development - Stage 3

Our staff have so far gained a much better understanding of our dyslexic learner's needs through the professional development they have received to date. We are now in a position to begin the process of putting our policy for dyslexia into practice.

Stage 3 of our Professional Development was a first hand insight into what it is like to be a dyslexic learner. We were lucky enough to have Laughton King come and present a seminar to the staff here at Muritai School and a few weeks later he came back to run a seminar for parents. He was excellent and provided us with a much deeper understanding of the psychological and emotional effects of dyslexia.

Click here to read the Learning Den blog entry about Laughton.