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.
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.