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.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Road to Dyslexia Aware Best Practice....Step 8

Professional Development - Stage 4

The next step was to touch base with teachers at a whole staff meeting and talk through the dyslexia policy and how we might begin on our journey to implement it in the classroom. We talked about the policy in terms of taking "small steps" and broke it down into four areas to tackle -  first, next, then and last.

Three areas that we aim to cover first are:-
1. Using information from the 4D for schools website and other information I have put together a resource for each classroom teacher that will aid them in "noticing" their dyslexic learners and then "adjusting" for their needs in the classroom:-
2. Begin to use Fawcett/Nicolson Dyslexia Screening Test  in Term 3 2010
3. Set up a Learning Support Forum made up of a member of staff from each syndicate. This forum will meet termly and provide a way in which to ensure consistency throughout the school in our approach to becoming fully dyslexia aware.

This meeting provided a great opportunity to rally the troops!

Learning Support....

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Neil Mackay Dyslexia Conference - Auckland.... Step 9

Professional Development - Stage 5

At the beginning of June myself, our Principal and Deputy Principal attended dyslexia workshops in Auckland, organised by 4D and led by dyslexia expert Neil Mackay.
This incredibly powerful video set the scene at the start of his workshops. 
It really makes you think about how important it is to reach all of our children by teaching in ways in which they are able to learn if they are to grow up to be self confident adults.

The first of the two workshops was "Interventions - beyond great teaching, un-sticking the 4%." This course was intended to extend the knowledge and skills of participants who already have a background in meeting the needs of dyslexic learners and focussed on the needs of the 4% of dyslexic students with significant issues for learning. The workshop gave ideas on how to develop effective interventions for students who have failed to respond to “notice and adjust” strategies in the classroom.  It was particularly pertinent in terms of the new National Literacy Standards, especially with regard to keeping learners at the centre of decision making and building individualised and personalised responses to dyslexic type learning needs.

A range of phonic approaches were covered including the use of “sound buttons” to support the initial teaching of word building and blending, together with strategies to move from the synthetic to the analytic and on to whole word and “context based” approaches. Kinaesthetic approaches to teaching reading and spelling were addressed, along with ways to support dyslexic learners to “show what they know” via alternative evidence of achievement.

The second workshop was "Leaders - creating change through vision and empowerment." It was great to have our Principal and Deputy Principal attending this workshop as a whole school approach to becoming a dyslexia friendly school really needs to have the full backing and understanding of senior management. 
The focus of this powerful workshop was on how to use the principles of Dyslexia Aware best practice as a simple cost-effective vehicle for school-wide improvement in order to inform and enhance teaching and learning for all students. Topics covered included monitoring and tracking, differentiation and seeking alternative evidence of achievement within the context of the Vision and Key Competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum. Strategies to recognise and build on current best practice were presented alongside auditing techniques. The workshop took a  wide-angle view on how to create whole school change that is driven by vision yet owned by all staff. There were some interesting leadership insights and gems from the founder of eTime, a business success story driven by a passionate and seasoned NZ Principal who has helped countless NZ schools embrace 21st century teaching and learning.
This has been one of the most valuable steps for us so far as it marks the point at which our journey to become dyslexia aware begins to take on whole staff ownership as we move forward.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Beginning to implement a dyslexia policy - are you already doing it?

Before we really get to work on implementing our dyslexia policy here at Muritai School I have started to do a "stock take" of good practice that already takes place in order to further document our journey.

Just by looking back over our classroom blogs I am blown away by the amount effort that goes into planning visual and kinesthetic activities that really work for our children with dyslexic type learning needs and the resulting work that is the end product.

Take a look at these links from across the school to get a really good idea of some of the fantastic examples of how it really is possible to "get it right for all" children. 

New Entrants - investigation through hands on activities

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Destination in sight...

Over the last two years Muritai School have been working hard to develop our knowledge and understanding to put policies and strategies into place to become a Dyslexia Best Practice school - the first in New Zealand.

We look forward at the beginning of December, to welcoming representatives from 4D for Schools to Muritai for our verification visit. We will be assessed against 4D criteria to see if we will indeed become the first Dyslexia Aware Best Practice school in the country.

It has been a long but rewarding journey to get to this point. It has been a lot of hard work but the process of completing it has led to a deep understanding of our children with dyslexia and dyslexic learning type needs. We realise, as a whole staff, the importance of "getting it right for dyslexics" as a means of "getting it right for all" and that one size definitely does not fit all.

Over the next two years we will continue to work to embed the best practices that we have in set out in our written policy and started to implement in our classrooms. Our journey continues as will the blog posts as we carry on helping our children to be the best that they can be.

What has been the most important factor that has made this journey possible so far? Great communication and fantastic team work. Thanks Muritai staff you are a very special bunch!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Muritai School - The First Dyslexia Friendly School in New Zealand

 After two years of hard work and an incredibly rewarding journey, Muritai School has become the first school in New Zealand to be recognised by the 4D for Schools programme as being Dyslexia Friendly.

4D believes that Muritai has been "an important benchmark in NZ for how 4D perceives a 4D Best Practice School to be, in terms of current practice and policy for Dyslexia."

We are absolutely thrilled to have reached this point but it is the journey itself that has opened many eyes.

The importance of whole school involvement and ownership when taking the Dyslexia Best Practice journey cannot be underestimated. We have discovered that the journey itself often proves more valuable than the end goal in terms of providing a deeper understanding of what really works. 

The journey to becoming Dyslexia Friendly has given Muritai a valuable opportunity to examine what we teach and how we teach it. It has shown us how consistency of methods and a shared understanding of how one size does not fit all is the key to unlocking the barriers often put in place by dyslexia. In turn we have found that unlocking these barriers for some has the knock on effect of providing alternative directions and insights for all.

Now that we have reached the goal of becoming a Dyslexia Friendly school the journey continues. We have set out an action plan for the next two years with goals that are both manageable and achievable. Most importantly the action plan offers many diverse opportunities for learning for our dyslexic learners and all of their fellow students.

This is how the next year at Muritai School is shaping up:-

We are now well into term one and our focus this term is recording. By looking at two areas within this focus we will be ensuring Dyslexia Friendly classrooms continue to develop. 
These two areas are :-
1. Teaching staff and students how to use Buzan Mind Mapping techniques effectively
2. Investigating and trialling adaptations to standardised assessments to give our dyslexic students the best chances to show what they are capable of achieving.

If you are interested in Mind Mapping, take a look at this post on the sister blog to this one, The Learning Den blog :-

Good luck with your own journeys in becoming Dyslexia Friendly! 

Monday, January 11, 2010