Including All and Aiming High

By Robinson, Jo | NATE Classroom, Autumn 2010 | Go to article overview

Including All and Aiming High


Robinson, Jo, NATE Classroom


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Inclusion is a subject very close to my heart. I have a great belief that all pupils will achieve more when challenged, that all too often pupils of low ability are given dull and boring exercises to complete and this is matched sometimes by low expectations from the teacher. Providing age appropriate material that is within the right ability range is quite challenging for the teacher. Pupils are usually extremely aware that they are behind their peers and this in itself provides many difficulties for us as class teachers. I have the firm belief that the right book can hook pupils to motivate and inspire them to achieve beyond all expectations. What follows is a unit of work I planned for a below-average years 3 /4 literacy class that ranges from writing levels of 1C to 2B. It was the class teacher, not myself, who took the class and used the plans and materials.

As you might expect, this class has a high proportion of boys. I had already embedded the concept of whole quality texts (the narrative, non-fiction and poetry units were pushed through one book per term) and needed to introduce a book that would engage, motivate and yet also challenge them. I didn't want to choose a book that they could read easily instead I wanted to see if by choosing a book that was age appropriate they could still access it and be motivated to write.

Dinosaurs seemed to be the common theme which interested the pupils so after some research I decided to use Dinosaur Trouble by Dick King-Smith. I find this author writes witty and exciting novels which appeal to children of this age, so with that in mind off we went!

Firstly, to enthuse the pupils about the book, I encouraged the teacher to look at the front covers and use the five Ws to ponder questions. Our technician had made some great visual aids in the shape of star fans, which positively support the children. The pupils mind-mapped around the pictures of the front covers and this simple exercise ensured that they quickly became absorbed with what was inside. This particular class has pupils with limited English as they have just arrived in the country but the teacher was amazed at the high level of immediate interest. I was delighted at this positive start and continued with renewed vigour with our joint planning sessions.

The unit involved writing character descriptions so I encouraged the teacher to use drama as a prelude to any writing. My experience of working in a special school has taught me that pupils need to visualise and talk about a book before writing, and drama is fantastic tool for this. Before starting any book I always make small picture fans that include the book cover and some of the characters. I find that spending time making practical visual prompts makes the lessons more interesting and engaging for these all pupils and especially pupils who need that extra support.

Simple activities engaged the class: for instance, freeze framing certain scenes from the book. Pupils were then placed in pairs or groups to discuss what they thought the character was doing and why. Pupils asked the 'frozen' characters if they would be so kind as to answer their questions. Thankfully, they agreed! (These are very willing pupils who do love to please and enjoy an element of humour in their lessons!) This automatically led on to hot seating various characters. Interestingly, the pupils felt able to be the characters who were hot seated. For them to feel so confident was brilliant as pupils in this class often lack the much-needed courage to simply have a go. In doing these activities the class teacher was quite simply amazed with the quality of their oral language. The pupils were engaged and asked thoughtful questions and the pupils in role responded with equal enthusiasm. This had great impact on the quality of their writing; they wanted to write, were extremely motivated and not afraid of making a mistake. …

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