Category: Education


Sometimes we fail to connect with our students. We can see on their faces that they are not tuned in to what is being taught. Often these are the students who are disruptive in class or the ones who seem to drift off into some very creative daydream. Sometimes their parents tell us that they’re bored.

English: A bored person

Image via Wikipedia

Ok, so, let’s look at that. It’s true there are times when they are bored.

Think of times during your education when you felt that boredom. Sometimes it might have been an overwhelming heaviness and tiredness that made it so difficult for you to focus and learn. Times when you fiddled with things, distracted the person next to you (a bit like the young man in the picture), wrote yourself notes, doodled, talked behind your hand to someone else, or maybe you thought about all the things you could be doing instead of sitting through this terrible class.

Why was this? Why were you bored?

Apart from the possibility that you or your students hadn’t been getting enough sleep or that there could be something going on at home that makes it difficult to focus, there are a couple of other reasons I wanted to think about today.

Remember those parents who say their child is bored? Have you noticed that they are the ones who often are concerned that the work you are giving them is too easy?

In the learning context there are two possible reasons why students could be exhibiting boredom –

  • it is quite possible that the student does understand the work already and it is indeed too easy;
  • on the other hand, work that is beyond a student’s understanding is frustrating, can lead to anxiety and a shutting down into boredom.

At the in-service mentioned in my last post, Rhonda Filmer said, “Success is not boring!” And yes, what she says is true. This was said in defence of the possibility that students could become bored with repetition.

Rhonda was talking about the difficulties experienced by students who have dyslexia. They need specific teaching appropriate to whatever type of dyslexia they might have.

There are two main types:

  1. Children who have difficulty learning because of auditory processing (sound-based) problems. These children usually cannot hear vowel sounds in particular. Their writing reflects this. They are usually considered to be visual learners and need to be encouraged in these visual strengths; and,
  2. Children with visual processing issues, who require auditory means of learning.
  3. To complicate matters further, there are some who have difficulty retaining information through both channels. These children will not have the benefit of having either strength to help them. They will need support using a multi-sensory approach.

Rhonda told us how important it is to train those children who have sound-based problems to first of all realise that words are made up of smaller sounds (phonemes) and, then to help them relate this knowledge to letters that make up printed words (the rules of phonics). This is where some of the work done with these students can be perceived to be tedious by some and perhaps “boring”.

But as Rhonda said, “Success is not boring.” We have ourselves experienced pleasure and satisfaction when something we have worked on or practised for a long time finally “clicks” for us. Yes, we may have experienced frustration and even boredom learning the skill or concept, but maybe we have to accept that boredom is part of the journey.

If we stop something because it has become boring we may never achieve what we could have. We need to keep our eye on the goal and encourage our students to do this as well.

Let’s not be afraid of that little word “boring”. It might be part of the process.

What do you do when you’re bored?

How do you react if your students tell you they’re bored?

Next post, I will talk about some other strategies that can be used to help children who have the various types of dyslexia.

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Visual-dyslexia

Image via Wikipedia

          NO!                         YES!

School’s back!

And it’s Staff Development time!

Last week I was privileged to take part in an in-service led by Rhonda Filmer. Rhonda is the Principal of Twice Exceptional Educational Consultancy. She is passionate about quality education and, in particular, the needs of students who are both gifted and learning disabled.

We learnt last week, that gifted students can also be affected by the above two learning disabilities and how it is as important to identify and support gifted students with these issues as it is to identify and support the average and below average student.

But first let’s look at some statistics:

The “Report to the Hon Bill Shorten, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services” presented in 2010 by the Dyslexia Working Party has made a distinction between “instructional casualties” and “people with dyslexia”.http://www.dyslexiaaustralia.com.au/DYSWP.pdf

There will always be some children who find it hard to read, not all are dyslexic. There are children who need and respond to ‘’systematic and explicit instruction” implemented early in their education – they are the “instructional casualties”. People with dyslexia are those 5-10% who are not helped by this systematic and explicit instruction. They need more support of a different kind. Dyslexia cannot be cured, but people with dyslexia can be assisted to function more comfortably.

Gifted people who have learning disabilities like dyslexia experience even greater frustration than others. They know that their intellectual capacity is greater than they are able to express in reading and writing.

We, as teachers, know it too. We see those students who make the mental leap, who easily make connections. Often they dominate class discussions with insightful comments and additions others have not thought of. But, in time, many of them lose confidence in themselves. They start doubting that they really are as clever as they are. And they clam up…or get noisier…or are happy to accept average marks, when really their intellectual capacity is greater.

It must be exhausting trying to keep up, trying to read, struggling to write. One gifted child said to me one day, “It’s hard to write. I have the words I want to say, but I don’t know how to write them, so I have to find easier words that I can spell.” She can’t get on paper the great ideas she has because she has dyslexia. She has to compromise. We don’t always recognise the giftedness in these children, especially in the quiet ones and the ones that are willing to compromise just to get the work done.

If 5-10% of the population have dyslexia that means you probably have at least one student in your class who is dyslexic, and maybe has ADHD and is gifted as well. Do you know who it is? And what you can do to help?

As I have been driving around during our summer school holidays, I have been interested to see the signs outside schools.

Some are really clever and some are just giving information. It makes me wonder who decides what will be put up and what type of person they are. It’s interesting to think about what the underlying message might indicate about the school.

  • Some have phone numbers telling you who to contact if there seems to be some problem with the school buildings.
  • Others tell you the date the teachers will return and when the students return.
  • Others give you a little cheery thought to send you on your way.
  • Some boast of their successful students.
  • Some are wishing farewell to teachers or students who are moving on.

But there has been a sign I have seen outside a few schools that has intrigued me more than the others, telling everyone that “Quality teaching resumes here on 30 January”. When compared to the other signs, it’s as if the only place to go for “quality teaching” is to these few schools. We might question just what goes on elsewhere.

So what is Quality Teaching? The NSW Department of Education quality teaching model is focused on pedagogy and has identified three dimensions that contribute to improving student outcomes – intellectual quality; a quality learning environment; and, significance. You might like to read up more about it on the DET website. https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/proflearn/areas/qt/index.htm

But quality teaching as described in the quality teaching model isn’t restricted to public schools. (This link takes you to a Youtube Video by Ken Robinson, which is really thought provoking.) Having worked in both public and independent schools, I have found a commitment to the above three dimensions by many teachers. Those teachers who work at developing their programs to include the three dimensions have great and exciting classrooms to be in.

Students are the focus of quality teaching, rather than the content being the focus. Quality teachers get to know their students well. They know the syllabus well and adapt to suit the needs of the individuals in their classes. A quality teaching program will not be the same year after year, it goes beyond the “basics” to stretch students to achieve beyond what is expected and to encourage them to think for themselves.

Here we are at the start of a new school year. Do you think the call that we hear from many about going “back to basics” is in conflict with the philosophy underlying the concept of quality teaching?

Is this going to be a new beginning for you?

If you are going to try something different this year to stretch yourself and your students can you share with us? I would love to know and encourage you in your endeavour.

And the winner is … Reading!

 

If you could teach only one skill to the students in your class, what would it be? The answers to this question asked by eSN Today led to an article last August, that listed the ten skills educators considered to be the most important.

http://www.eschoolnews.com/2011/08/11/ten-skills-every-student-should-learn/

And, probably unsurprisingly, at least to me, number one on the list was reading. What was surprising to me was that there were other skills people consider to be more important than reading! Check out the above link to see what other skills are on the list.

Now while I agree that reading is the most important skill of those listed, what I think is even more important and what I would wish for each of my students is that they develop a LOVE of reading.

The SKILL of reading is necessary for success in just about every subject area. Proficiency in reading leads to proficiency in spelling, a solid understanding of grammar and language, well developed comprehension, increased vocabulary and improved writing skills. It is a foundation to good literacy skills. It is a means of developing a wide general knowledge.

The LOVE of reading can give all that and much more.

  • Lovers of reading enjoy the comfortableness of curling up with a good book on a rainy day (or cloudy, cold, sunny…well, any day really).
  • They can escape from the craziness of the world around them and dive into another world created by someone else.  It is the ultimate form of escapism.
  • Fiction lovers meet new characters who they may love or hate, and many become friends that they want to know better.
  • They can use their own imaginations to create pictures of the characters and settings (…how many times have you seen a movie of a book only to come away knowing it was not the way you imagined it to be and therefore it was all wrong?)
  • They get excited when the next book in a series or the next book by a favourite author is released.
  • They can explore new worlds from the comfort of an armchair.
  • Non fiction lovers delight in learning more about the real world, its mysteries and beauty.
  • They can choose what, where and when to learn/read and pursue their own interests.

I know this list is incomplete. What do you think?

Are you a lover of reading? What would you add to the list?

Or maybe you would consider another skill more important to be on the top ten list. Let me know.

(Incidentally, I don’t necessarily think a reader needs to be highly skilled in reading to be a lover of reading…but more of that in a later post.)