Autism Awareness: How aware are you?

world-autism-awareness-day-vector-9417568Alongside my teaching at Sixth Form, I lead a small team who are dedicated to developing teaching and learning, staff wellbeing and CPD in college. Part of our vision for CPD this year is to offer staff a selection of lunchtime sessions ranging from ‘managing workload’ to ‘wellbeing in the workplace’, which staff sign up to depending on areas they wish to develop. This week we were extremely lucky to have a specialist practitioner from the Inclusive Education Service within North Yorkshire to speak with staff about Autism Awareness.

Here are the highlights…

Students who have autism often:

  • Are good visual learners
  • Have good rote memory
  • Work best with routines
  • Have strong interests
  • Pay attention to details

However they might struggle with:

  • Delayed processing time
  • Distracted by seemingly irrelevant details
  • Understanding language and its meaning (often taking a literal approach)
  • Difficulties using and interpreting tone, inflection and volume
  • Unable to generalise learning skills
  • Difficulty reading social situations
  • Often struggle to understand what others are thinking and feeling.

How can you support a student in your class who has autism?

  • Focus on the Visual: Incorporate visual activities into your lessons, write activities and instructions on the board, use visual structures like planners or tables to help organise their thoughts and focus attention.
  • Routine: Be conscious of changing seating plans or sudden changes with routine such as an activity that involves moving around the classroom- if you know this is going to happen, speak with the individual student the previous lesson so they are prepared.
  • Idioms  – speak literally: avoid using idioms were possible (I use these far too much!) e.g ‘put your head in the sand’, ‘off the top of my head’, ‘on the right track’, ‘bookworm’, ‘brainstorm’.
  • Group Work: Be conscious about group or paired work, be mindful about who you put them in a group with and provide extra support with the change of routine and social interaction.
  • Too much stimuli: students with autism often have difficulty processing sensory information so be aware of asking them to look and listen at the same time or write and listen (such as with a PowerPoint) or look and speak…give them processing time. Also be conscious that colour, texture or touch can be overwhelming…e.g. check if things like PowerPoint backgrounds are okay.

This of course only offers pointers to consider when teaching students with autism. As Lorna Wing OBE (leading founder of the National Autistic Society in the UK) says “If you have met one person with autism…you have met one person with autism.”

Autism-Awareness.jpg

For more information, ideas, resources and research linking to autism check out: National Autistic Society and Autism Education Trust

 

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Silent Discussions on Social Media!

so.pngThis school year I have thrown myself down the rabbit hole of reinventing the subject. One big area of development is through using social media, especially FB and Twitter as part of students’ learning. The spin off bonus from using a public forum = lots of promotion!

op20blogtoonparkerStudents’ lives are in-severable from the internet, their mobile phones are an extension of their arm and often now an extension of their personalities. It is the way they see the world. Rather than approaching this reality through the tainted view of an older person, who is stuck in their ways of ‘put your phone away’, ‘have a proper conversation’ or ‘social media is ruining teenagers’ – why not adapt to the undeniable changes of the millennia generation? With this in mind, what better way of promoting learning and satisfying students’ need to use their phones, than combining the two things… discussions with FB/Twitter.

Things you need:

  1. A FB page and Twitter page that students can join.
  2. School/ College permission to use social media in lessons.
  3. A way for students to access FB/ Twitter during lessons.

Setting up a discussion:

  1. Post a question that is relevant to the topic area being discussed in class. I often post between 2-4 questions over FB and Twitter, to give students a selection to engage with.
  2. Set ground rules- this is very important:
    • No memes
    • Full sentences – no one or two word replies
    • Use scholars and evidence to back up your points
    • Students do not have to join if they do not feel comfortable
    • This is a public forum therefore other people can read and join in with the discussion – do not use swear words, offensive language or display anything that may be misinterpreted.

Note: as the creator of the FB/Twitter accounts you have the power to delete/ block any students who are incapable of following these rules.

3. Sit back and enjoy the discussion (and silence).

Example from Facebook:

FB

Example from Twitter:

twitter

I highly recommend you give it a go. Not only does it develop students’ essay writing skills – they are formulating arguments in a way that doesn’t seem like work, they are learning different views from each other and there is a paper trail they can refer back to at a later point. It is also a fantastic way for other students in the wider community to experience what Philosophy is like, in a way that makes sense to them.

Let me know how it goes if you try it 🙂

Please feel free to join in any of our discussions posted on (or advertise to your students):

FB and Twitter

Just in case you are interested in other ways of using mobile phones to promote students’ learning, here is an earlier blog I wrote “Put your mobile phone away!”: Are you Kidding?.

If you would like more ideas of ways to promote Religious Studies see: Fourth Subject Choice – Will this be the end of R.S?

Homework – who is it really ‘work’ for?

Anyone that knows a teacher, knows they have a shadow that follows them everywhere. That shadow is marking. A teacher is never far from another essay to examine, book to mark or piece of work to score. I’ve been marking between 100-150 pieces of work every fortnight for the last ten years, mostly on an evening or grabbing the odd five minutes here and there but rarely at college (otherwise when do you plan, prepare resources and answer an endless stream of emails?) However, this blog isn’t about marking because I accepted many years ago that it is just part and parcel of the job. It is an essential to ensure students’ progress, learn from their mistakes, develop their technique and understanding and recognise their current working grade. No, this blog is about homework or the lack of it.

Now at school, teachers have detentions whereby students complete the work that should have been done at home. At college you hope your students have learnt those life lessons and therefore do their homework. The problem is what happens if they don’t do it or at least can never remember to hand it in? The answer – more time is then spent by the teacher chasing up those students, asking for it, reminding them, sending emails, contacting parents…there must be an easier way.

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First Year Exam Paper Breakdown: Philosophy POE Question

I love deliveries from new spec text books to stationery. Today’s delivery: philosophy exam papers from the new spec exams (first years). Here’s a break down of a student’s answer for the question on Problem of Evil.

Assess the claim that natural evil has a purpose (30)

OCR marks given for student’s answer:
A01 15/15
A02 14/15

From reading the student’s answer there are a few noticeable points:

The structure is very clear and simple with an introduction, four main paragraphs and a conclusion.

intro aug 1.jpg

There are three simple things that make this introduction work. The first is the student uses the word ‘natural’ 3 times and ‘purpose’ twice. This shows that they are directly linking their essay to the question immediately (it is also a good way for the student to really clarify what the question is asking of them). Secondly the quote grabs the reader’s attention immediately. It is a short yet relevant quote from Augustine which the student then links into the question with a ‘this means’. Thirdly the student introduces the other key names involved Hick and Irenaeus. This makes it clear to the reader that they will be involved in this answer.

The four main paragraphs have a very clear theme and structure

Continue reading “First Year Exam Paper Breakdown: Philosophy POE Question”

Are you a discussion ‘Log or Hog’?

I love planning my summer term lessons because it is the time to re-connect with your subject and take your students down a journey of interesting tangents and topical themes, that the new spec AS content just does not give time for. So my plan for today’s lesson was a selection of engaging discussion questions with a hard hitting documentary. I wanted my students to discuss their views on the topical issues surrounding evil such as – are people born evil? Does upbringing determine behavior?  This would then be linked to the James Bulger case and relevant links made to new spec materials of Behaviorism, Freud and Problem of Evil.

Continue reading “Are you a discussion ‘Log or Hog’?”

“Put your mobile phone away!”: Are you Kidding?

Some educational institutions have a  very clear rule: no mobile phones in lessons.  I’m not disagreeing with this. What I am doing is taking a reality check. Students are literally… 13557800_1416481335035387_4218592803150921702_n

So rather than wasting time as a teacher constantly telling students to put their phones away or students thinking harder about how they can read their latest message without been spotted rather than the lesson itself (by the way teachers know the book tilt to cover the phone or the interesting light up lap stare – who are you fooling!) why not use mobile phones as part of the learning?

Continue reading ““Put your mobile phone away!”: Are you Kidding?”