Blog Archives

Sixth Form Curriculum – meeting the needs of all students

Over the next couple of months I will be deep in the process of adapting our sixth form curriculum, for the special school I work in, with the aim to enable our learners to be better equipped with the skills they need to be able to either transition successfully to college, work or become more independent and able to access services post 19.

The biggest challenge, is meeting the needs of all the students ranging from PMLD, ASC, SLD and MLD, which also presents us with an opportunity to devise a curriculum that is flexible and that interchanges between different routes.

What will this look like? How can we ensure that all learners have a personalised timetable to meet their needs as well as fitting in with the resources available at the school? What are the important skills that SEN students needs to fulfil their potential? These are the questions that I will looking to provide answers to and am interested in others views on this, so feel free to contribute and any comments would be greatly appreciated.

Tech Ideas for SEN

The purpose of this post is to explore some of the technology that myself and some of my colleagues are hoping to implement in our school over the next year.  We have set up an ICT working group with two aims. The first is to explore cost effective ways of using technology to create engaging and creative uses of ICT. The second is to explore new technology and see what potential it may have for SEN learners.

The discussion started with an introduction to some of the ideas we have come across in the last couple of months.

Po-Motion Interactive Floor and Wall Software: 

A cost effective way of creating your own interactive floor and wall display. All you need is a projector, computer, web-cam and the Po-motion software. This is free software  (UPDATE  – since writing this the software is no longer free – cost around £20) that is available for download from the link above.  We have trialled this in classrooms already and are looking to add it the sensory room next. Will blog more on the progress of this as we get started. Below is a video explaining how Po-Motion works:

Raspberry Pi

The original idea for using Raspberry Pi as a cheap solution came from Julian S. Wood (@ideas_factory). He blogged about using the mobile version of the Chrome operating system: Chromium OS to turn old laptops and netbooks into Chromebooks. He also mentioned using Raspberry Pi for this. An excellent idea and something we are looking to do to recycle our old laptops.

QR Codes

QR codes are similar to barcodes and enable you to link websites, videos, recordings etc. to a code which can be read with a webcam/smartphone/ipad to take the user directly to the content. What I like is that is provides a cheap solution to those students who are unable to type web addresses but can navigate sites once they are on them. I have already experimented with using these in our Life Skills curriculum which you can read more about here.

3M Camcorder Projector 

Again I first saw this being demonstrated by Carol Allen (@caroljallen) at the Teachmeet SEN held in Leicester in February.   We already use flip cameras in the school which are great as they provide instant feedback for students with simple interface that the majority of our students can use. The great thing about this camcorder projector is that you are able to project a 65” screen onto any surface. This is great for showing groups of students their work instantly without any fiddling about for wires and transferring files to the computer.

Swivl Camera Holder – 

This is a camera holder which takes a flip camera or an iPhone. Originally designed for bloggers to film themselves, the Swivl base automatically follows a receiver to ensure that you are always in the shot.  Since first seeing this in January, more people are seeing a use for it in education. One of the uses we are looking to use it for is assessment as you could attach the receiver to a student and the camera will automatically follow that student and allows you to continue teaching the lesson. Another use could be to film videos for Flipped Classrooms.  They have also created a site dedicated for education

Microsoft Kinect

Having already seen some excellent work from Ceri Williams (@ceriwilliams) on the use of the Kinect in Special Education – I have been intrigued about the potential for it in the classroom.  A colleague of mine Keith Manville (Linkedin Profile) has done some excellent research into potential uses of the Kinect which include motion capture and augmented reality.  You can view his presentation below –

The use of augmented reality is something that I can see have a huge potential especially with the use of sensory stories. Imagine when a student points the iPad at the a picture in the sensory story and that picture comes alive in front of there eyes. If you want to see for yourself the power of AR have a look at the following websites and download the corresponding apps:



Microsoft have now released the Windows version of the Kinect and there are developers out there who are creating some interesting applications for the device. KinectEDucation is one site that has a community of developers specifically for education.  This is an area that I am quite excited by and look forward to keeping you posted on this.

I would be very interested in hearing from other professionals who may have already trialled the some of the ideas from this post and hope the post has got you thinking about the potential that new and existing technology can have for SEN teaching.

How much is that?… QR codes to help SEN Learners with money

Since Teachmeet Brighton last week, I have been thinking of ways that I could incorporate QR codes into my life skills curriculum. I wanted to use them to support students in developing their life skills and this week I have started to use them in our Meal Preparation Lesson. As part of the lesson, students have to compile a shopping list, checking to see what ingredients we already have from the recipe sheet and writing down the items they need to get individually from the supermarket. In the past we have given them an amount of money that would cover the costs of their items, but I wanted to give them more responsibility for this task.

This is where the QR codes come in……

For each item on the recipe sheet I have created a QR code which links to the supermarket website for that item. This gives the student an up to date price for their items which is quick and easy to access. Using a webcam, QR scanner software on a laptop and the QR scanner on the iPad, students are able to quickly find out how much their items cost. With this information they are able to decide how much money they need to take with them and select the appropriate coins themselves.

With the introduction of the QR codes I hope that the students will take more responsibility for their own understanding of the cost of items and apply their learning of the value of money and apply it in a practical way that will help them become more independent in an important life skill.



Assessment of Life Skills – How?….

Since teaching a Life Skills curriculum, I have always questioned how we go about recording students’ progress to allow me to track this more accurately. What is it that we are trying to measure? What would we like our students to achieve from their lessons? As the curriculum we deliver is quite unique, I have yet to come across any guidance regarding subjects we teach apart from accredited vocational qualifications.

For the last 3 years we have been measuring students’ progress on the level of support that they receive throughout the lessons against specific lesson objectives. So for example for meal preparation we would give a grade for “knowing what equipment I need for a task” with one of the following grades:

S+ – 1-1 support

S – some support

I – Independence

I+ – Independence with confidence.

UPDATE 01/11/13

Since writing this post, we have changed the criteria to make it clearer for students and staff to aid the assessment process. The criteria we use now are:

S+ – 1-1 support

S – some support

S- – little support/guidance

I – independent work.

We felt that the distinction between independence and independence with confidence was difficult to judge and that by including support minus this allowed us to clearly assess students on the progress they had made.

In addition to these grades we write qualitative statements detailing milestones they achieve in the lesson and any other info that is relevant and adds value to the grades. Though this has been a step forward from previous assessments, I still felt that tracking students’ progress over the course of three years was difficult and wanted a more quantitive way of doing this.

Since September, I have been trialling a system that gives the students a score based on how independently they achieve the lesson objectives. I have initially used this system for meal preparation where the objectives are repeated for each different meal they create. Each grade has been assigned a score ranging from 1 for S+ to 4 for I+. Grade boundaries have been set for the different levels of support based on these scores. Below is a spreadsheet which shows the lesson objectives which are linked to our competency framework. Each objective is given an overall score which is then added up to give an end of unit grade. The grade boundaries are adjusted accordingly for students who may have missed a week. Also to put people's minds at rest, I focus on two objectives a week but students have opportunities to do the other objectives as they are part of the lesson. (Don't try to cover 10 objectives every lesson!!)

Over the course of the term this system has allowed me to successfully track progress made by students. It also ask gets me to ask questions about those students who might not have made asgood as progress as expected. At the moment my TAs and I are responsible for the assessment of students and we have discussed in depth what each grade would look like for each objective. The next step is to write level descriptors so that this can be shared across the department.

I understand there are some flaws to the system –

  • Students might not be able to demonstrate every objective each lesson.
  • At present, the system is very objective and still based on the assessors’ opinion until grade descriptors are written down.
  • Is it fair to give an average score of their grades, where students might be making more progression towards the end of the unit (though the skills are transferred for each unit, so not as worried about this one)

I know the system is not perfect, but at present it seems to be working. It has given me a much better understanding of the progress that students make across the year so far and I believe will be useful when tracking progress over 3 years. I would be interested to hear how other SEN 6th Forms are tracking students’ progress in Life Skills and how they go about assessment.

Thank you for taking the time to read and please comment on the post – all feedback is greatly appreciated.


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