Reflecting on knowing students and how they learn and planning and sequencing effectively in a special needs context.








In my professional placement at a special needs school, I was working with students with multiple disabiltes and the main aim was to foster communication and independence. Under the guidance of my mentors, I familiaried myself with each of the ILPs and key learning area goals for each student. I also became familiar with the profile of each student which gave me insight into how to plan and implement lesson sequences that will lead to the outcomes of increased communication and mobility. Theme based ‘big idea’ learning was adopted where by the theme of growing was embedded with in all key learning areas. For guided reading a big book narrative on the story of a tadpole that changed into a frog was converted into PPT and shared daily- with sound effects, role play and enthusiastic acting to maximise meaning making. Students were moved transfered from their wheel chairs to their standing frames for the session as standing is vital for the optimum functioning of body organs. The concept of lifecyles of a frog were explored through a PPT ‘Book on growing‘ for science and for writing, students used aphabet aids and their core vocabulary of yes and no to write, with the assistance of a scribe, about the changes in a frog lifecycle. Gross motor session followed and students were transfered and assisted through a circuit that allowed for the three stages of the frog cycle to be role plaged allowing the student to practice their phsio excercises. Next the students had to move into their working chairs to a  container of warm sago which simulated frog eggs for their sensory play session and for practicing writing the letter of the week. The sensory experience was continued with tasting and eating of sago custard and tacos. The letters R and T were learnt using art, craft materials that provided sensory learning experiences all within the theme of growing. Care was taken to include plenty of opportunites to grasp- pouring jug handle, gluestick, pva bottle, spoon. Grasping is the foundation skill of independence- which will later lead to grasping a fork, toothbrush, a handle to sit up and stand up.  As with the philosophy of conductive education, every learning experience was embedded with the goals of mobility and independence and it was ensured  that each student was treated with respect, as it was assumed that their silence and difficulty with speech was not a reflection of their capacity to understand  concepts or their ability to learn.


Reflection: Word consciousness PD 3rd April 2014




  • PD about expanding vocabulary and  word consciousness.
  • Children today have limited vocabulary, around 1000 words, if exposed to rich vocabulary then increases to 3000
  • By year 3 the gap increases- concept of social justice embedded in building language effectively for students
  • Words are the building blocks for communication, have hidden and multiple meanings- the word ’round’
  • When you can not communicate – use other means- often inappropriate
  • Need to- actively throughly explicitly marinate students in vocabulary
  • Word consciousness: awareness of a word, exposure, awareness of many meanings of the word, appreciate new words, try out new vocabulary
  • We learn new things by practice, modelling, encouragement- takes time
  •  We learn new words by hearing it 7 to 10 times
  • Word and world knowledge are linked
  • Use Investigations in early childhood settings to explore words
  • Ideas to promote word consciousness and to build vocabulary:
  1.  Use Rich texts- texts rich in vocabulary
  2. Deconstruct good texts and replace words
  3. ‘Anamalia’ book- find words and adjectives and put on  post it note- then on a leaf on the word tree- surround with leaves of synonyms. Have an advert tree too
  4. Speaking and singing- change words
  5. Stick wordles up on wall- new subject, new words, new concepts
  6. Word wizzes- spot the rule
  7. Word necklaces, others use that word in a sentence for the whole day
  8. Word hunting: look for words, adverbs, adjectives
  9. Fishnet word catcher in writing books
  10. Post words around- charts, flip books
  11. WOW- new word- academic or book language- discuss and actively use
  12. Word ladder- Better and better word- quality of word improves up the ladder
  13. word of the day covered up- guess, think pair share, discuss, put up on wall
  14. Dead word for the day- use a better word
  15. Skim journal writing for common words- the- discuss how to change commonly used words and phases

Reflection: Tony Attwood PD 27th June 2014

On the 27th of June I attended a workshop by Tony Attwood and gained some amazing insights into the world of students with Aspergers. Below is my personal concise meaning making relating to the world of students on the spectrum:

  • imagesEmbrace difference to make a difference.
  • Too much grey confuses children with ASD.
  • Massive anxiety and limited job opportunities these days for students on the spectrum: manufacturing gone- biggest problem and barrier for students on the spectrum- we really need to teach social skills even more- contemporary jobs require social skills.
  • Problem solving curriculum- difficult – have to choose activities- causes anxiety.
  • Choices cause anxiety- put elements of structure- sequenced readers are an example.
  • Structures for friendships- don’t just throw them in the play ground- scaffold social encounters.
  • Time timer app- helps self regulation- just as some students need glasses.
  • Social stories need to explain why its important to do a certain thing.
  • DSM5- no more Asperger’s syndrome- replaced name ASD level 1
  • Girls usually diagnosed in high school
  • Explosions and meltdowns can calm the system
  • Anxiety always prevalent- thus students with ASD can become controlling- controlled environment, less anxiety.
  • Special interest becomes anxiety thought blocker
  • Difficulty with learning others and OWN emotions
  • Sharing causes anxiety- lose control of situation when you share
  • Introvert, police, extrovert: girls with Aspergers take on a persona
  • Drama classes socially acceptable way of learning social skills- imitation, acting
  • Teachers tend to only have a male concept of Aspergers- not girls
  • Barbie dolls- play helps to decode social situations
  • Many people with Aspergers in gender clinics- issues with identity
  • The concept of ‘social exhaustion’- need to recover in solitude
  • Neurotypical: people energise you.  Aspies: people drain you- may need to be alone, but not lonely-need time for  emotional repair, time to analyse situations
  • Bullying and teasing major cause of depression for students with ASD
  • Acute loneliness- cause of depression- neurotypical walks away while the student with ASD left alone- again and again.
  • True ratio- boys to girls   2 :1
  • Different way of learning- extremes, distinctive style- snooker players- many on the spectrum: Angles, visual, no need for social chit chat or eye contact
  • When there is no motivation- can’t get them off base
  • Either Visual: Engineering –  learn by silent demonstration- show them and shut up- may look not listen, or may absorb by listening without looking and participating- thus picture worth thousand words, best curriculum may be on I Pad, computers.
  • Other group Verbalisers– hyperlexic- high verbal IQ- little professor- identify more with adults, better with written language, poor at spoken instruction, need one clear voice with no background noise, need more processing time- tend to focus on detail- over focus
  • Need closure- cannot stop a task midway
  • Really important- focus on girls too, many are undiagnosed- tend to be overlooked.
  • ‘Skins’ underneath clothes (like bike shorts)- no ‘flapping of clothes feeling’ -this helps with tactile sensitivity
  • One in five face difficulty reading- thus have difficulty with comprehension and ‘reading between the lines’- fix this early before school refusal sets in. Perceptions of self and others as well as cognitive elements(academics) are part of school refusal
  • Weak central coherence- narrow focus- 3 letters seen on a page at a time
  • Tend to have only one way of approaching the task- train (ASD) vs 4 wheel drive + who can help me (Neuro typical)
  • Tend not learn from mistakes, thus punishment does NOT work- need to know- what TO DO. Practice what to do.
  • Need to have plan B- and practice it- facilitate memory and application- do it straight after the event
  • Relaxation and meditation vital- helps control anxiety. High anxiety may lead to self medication later on- drugs, then crime to fund drugs.
  • Tend to give up quicker to end the intensity of discomfort- such a deep and negative emotion- thus teach coping strategies
  • Correct mistakes – to point an error- teach socially acceptable way- so that these errors do not become social barriers.
  • Tend to have phobic reaction to mistakes, so do not try at all- mistakes make you look ‘stupid’, they have high expectations of themselves- cannot risk looking ‘stupid’
  • Model how you cope with frustration- think aloud- model how you learn from your mistakes
  • When you are calm- you are smart- you make good well thought out decisions thus emotional management is vital. When you are facing high anxiety and about to have a meltdown, you are in survival mode.
  • Research indicates people on the spectrum have brain structures heavily geared towards ‘survival mode’ situations and less neural pathways to the frontal lobe emphasis- a brain structure which assists in executive decision making, organising, what to say when, how and judge its appropriateness for the context.
  • Can’t see big picture- see in isolation, see detail- great at art- anime- self image often reflected through art.
  • Huge superstitious logic- ‘Aspie rules’ such as 3 blue cars seen- so it will be a good day, no one will bully me.
  • Motivation- not to please others, but to lead to completion without errors; special interest, intellectual vanity- so say- “that shows me how smart you are”- carries more meaning than happiness- “I like that”
  • Successful Teachers of students with ASD- either have super social intuition are caring and nurturing or are a bit Aspie themselves- they teach the social skills required to succeed in life; are empathic, respect everyone, they see the ‘heart’ of their students.
  • Various types of auditory sensitivity- stays as a life long problem- have to learn to manage it.
  • Concept of tactile defensiveness-thats why some students with ASD toe walk-provides rhythm, haircuts- sensory aversive experience, deep pressure- can be comforting and may reduce anxiety, thus always assess sensory sensitivity- can explain behaviour problems.
  • Mindset that seeks difference- some can’t have two textures of food together- avoid force feeding
  • Try gradual desensitisation- try borderline foods first, encourage and reward and build on this.
  • Lack of sensitivity to pain and temperature- be careful- check after falls- may not realise they have  broken limbs.
  • Olga Bogadisha’s book on sensory sensitivity- has diagnostic test at back- a tool to determine sensory sensitivity.
  • Social skills vital- TEACH THEM- continually work on social skills- explicitly teach, generalise, maintain
  • Set social skills homework for all kids- Board game- ‘Socially speaking’
  • Do not make social skills only verbal- draw, write, visual, stick figures, role play.
  • Create social skills club
  • Challenging behaviour: Mannerisms have a message- when language is hampered, inappropriate behaviour or unconventional mannerisms may be the only means of conveying a message.


Golden Nugget: Know your students and how they learn. 

Reflection: Interactive white board PD

Interactive white board training: Notes

Without engagement there is no learning.
Significance- think beyond, know your students
Intellectual quality- know what you teach
It- technology- can’t teach they are tools- we, the educators are the builders
Make the rules about using technology explicit. Explain them
Have visual timetables in high school on smart board -animated icons from google as rewards in front of name. Engages student IWB works as reminder. Move names around for rewards
News time on smart board to listen, communicate. On smart board 2 layers -rubs off to reveal 5 Ws
How to show up names -smart notebook
Clone pic then go to arrow on side then fill in transparency
This helps to get rid of white background
Make bees and flowers interactive to show how pollination happens
Make the interactive tools with the kids -saves time and develops sense of ownership and engagement
Reverse teaching -learn with the students
Interactive games -make card then paste images, no need to resize you can use this as a memory game, add gimmicks like claps, try again. Really simple but really engaging. Great reward like drums
The template is called ‘pair’ in picture gallery icon search

Look into lesson activity examples. Lots of interactive lessons

Gallery essentials has activities in subjects
Word conundrums activity with clues and pictures
Interactive activities can be repetitive but interactive and challenging and thus engaging
Use shapes at top to create bee like activity group one and not the other. Helps students put things back
Direction activity interactive instead of sheet. Direction of boat in relation to continent
Reading time activity – handy due to repetition
Use analog to have concept of time. Paper plates then number matching on clock face. Then drag numbers on clock face
Use sheets and IWB in complement with each other to cater for learning styles
Then put minutes on the side of clock face first in 15 mins then in 5 mins
Use 5 to six slides for whole semester
Scaffolded learning then clock face with words
Script concepts -repetition is the key in special ed
The clock is available in the gallery. Interactive multimedia
These activities are recyclable
‘Clarkroad money program’ teaches to value the dollar not cent value
Teach the concept of more so for $ 2  10 teach to give  one more- $ 3
On board -make up amount using coins
Then catalogue a list on IWB and prove it on the smart board
IWB makes it better reusable and recyclable
Click on picture and right click   Infinite cloner
Make ties- salvation with infinite cloner. Can put words, numbers, alphabet at top students canwrite name or sight words, graph blocks- interactive

iPads can connect to smart board. Read a story free from apple store
Prologue to answer questions
Drop the chicken app
Collective participation in iPad individual games

Reward time on smart board or iPads are great rewards. One hour sessions.

Reflections:Technology curriculum

tech pic

Learning activity 1 narrative

 The activity carried out in Scratch relates to the digital technology curriculum (ACARA, 2014).

Content descriptor  4.5:

Implement simple digital solutions as visual programs with algorithms involving branching (decisions) and user input.


 Implementing programs that make decisions on the basis of user input or choices such as through selecting a button, pushing a key or moving a mouse to ‘branch’ to a different segment of the solution.

The first activity carried out in Scratch was to program simple command sequences making the sprite move, dance to different sounds and change colour and then repeat the command sequences. This allowed curricular implementation of a visual program through basic commands, allowing the user to adjust degrees of clockwise or anticlockwise movement and amount of movement of the sprite through number keys.  In addition, the user makes decisions to program the spite in different motions, sounds and looks, often duplicating the commands; all using mouse clicks.

On reflection of this new learning experience, the importance of computational language was high lighted, as vocabulary and concepts like sprite, command sequence had to be comprehended and applied. The application of this activity could be in the designing of a creative story and in middle primary mathematics when applying knowledge and skills relating to location, direction and angles.


 activity 1

activity 1.1 

 Learning activity 2 narrative


The second activity carried out in scratch relates to the digital technologies curriculum (ACARA, 2014).

Content descriptor 6.7

Implement digital solutions as simple visual programs involving branching, iteration (repetition), and user input.


Planning and implementing a solution using a visual programming language that requires user input to make selections, taking into account user responses.

The second activity carried out in Scratch built upon skills of repeating command sequences and understanding the conceptual language of computational thinking. The activity required the skill of problem solving to create regular polygons. The activity linked to Technology Curriculum in that user input via number keys and mouse clicks allowed for movement, direction, sketching and repetition programming to create regular polygons.

Trying to create a house sketch was quiet challenging, as it required a combination of digital technologies and mathematics skills through knowledge of applying command sequences in the right order with understandings of angles and direction. It took a few goes of trial and error before a house was finally created.

This activity has application potential in a higher primary mathematics classroom particularly for students with a disability such as cerebral palsy whereby holding a ruler and pencil at the same time is difficult, yet required when drawing polygons for geometry.

activity 2


 Learning activity 3 narrative


The activity carried out in Scratch relates to the digital technology curriculum (ACARA, 2014).

Content 6.7:

Implement digital solutions as simple visual programs involving branching, iteration (repetition), and user input


Planning and implementing a solution using a visual programming language, for example designing and creating a simple computer game involving decisions and repetitions, suitable for younger children, that requires user input to make selections, taking into account user responses.

The third activity carried out in Scratch was to etch a sketch and to program a simple car race game. The activity required manipulation of the pen by changing size, shape, thickness and colour. This tool could be used in art classes for digital sketching thus catering to multiple intelligences. The creating of the car game required a background track and a racing car sprite to be designed. Then a series of command sequences were devised using repetition and user input determining the direction and amount of steps to be moved forward or in reverse for the racing car to reach the finishing line. The racing car game would be a good activity to use in a year six classroom to fulfill the above aims of the digital technology curriculum.

activity 3


cativity 3.1

Lessons learnt


Lesson learnt. (2013). [Image]. Retrieved from here


The lessons I have learnt this session of professional experience have been invaluable.

Firstly, I have come to realize that we need to connect students to their learning in a manner that self motivates them. We need to seek their specific needs, find what makes them tick and use the most appropriate tools that foster a connection to the learning. Essentially we need to as Ira Socol suggests, make schools a tool shop where students use the tools that best suit their learning needs.

Secondly, we need to acknowledge that once TPACK alignment fits perfectly, as it did for the science lessons, the results produce deep learning, quality products and a level of engagement and motivation that is unsurpassed. As Postman (1998) suggests, for today’s youth, technology is mythic and learning through technology is natural and effective for them.  The contrast of history book work compared to science web based publishing was evidence of the fact that it is we the educators that require the paradigm shift and need to base learning through tools that are natural and mythic for our students.

Thirdly, my own ICT education needs to continue if I am to have effective solutions when we hit a technological hurdle in the class. I will need to keep up with developing my PKM so as to meet student  needs and ensure the process of integrating technology is a seamless process.

Teaching Science: Successful and not so successful



The advantage of the learning experience though teaching history was that I got to know  my students and ensured that their particular needs were taken into account for the  science sessions. The CPF framework was considered in its ability to transform learning by engaging content knowledge to pedagogic knowledge of constructivism and language based conceptual awareness to the most appropriate tools, a web based inquiry launched through a web page on my blog. As displayed in lessons four and five, students were first explicitly instructed in the basic conceptual understandings related to the electromagnetic spectrum, digital citizenship- acknowledging the work of others and cyber safety, the use of pseudonyms when publishing on the web.

My mentor had given be flexibility with regards to the science lessons of week three. I was asked to cover the concepts relating to the Electromagnetic spectrum, as an extension of the science unit on energy. I was given five lessons to deliver the content, have a inquiry based summative task and assess and report using a rubric. I was to also embed ICT general capability aspects of digital citizenship and cyber safety in the lessons. I had though about and planned aspects of these learning experiences after my pre practical meeting with my mentor and my mentor approved of these so I felt I was better prepared for teaching the science lessons. As my planning indicated, I had given thought to the context and meant to use the TIP model to provide ICT rich experiences that engage the learners. I used my blog web page to launch the inquiry task and for students to publish their work.

The success of this task was evident in the deep engagement demonstrated by the students. With in two days they had all produced work evident of deep learning and high standards. Through the last lesson- five, sharing and synthesis of work loaded on the web page through the smart board worked as an opportunity to learn through peers, engage in a sense of collaboration and enjoy success as a group. There was vibrancy, an air of self-motivation, a commitment and drive to deliver quality artifacts and bridges were built between home and school as students showed their work to their families. Students engaged in deep learning as they learnt from expert sites like NASA and enhanced not only their research skills but their ICT capabilities of gathering pictorial information, graphics and images. In addition they learnt referencing according to the guides provided.  All this positivity further enhanced my relationship with the students, as they were seeking my reaction to their work and displaying a sense of pride in their accomplishments.The success of the web based inquiry was in sharp contrast to the “boring” history lessons and allowed me to reflect upon what works and does not work for this particular context. As per the CPF framework, I had the distinct feeling that ICT had been integrated in a manner that had transformed learning. The outcomes of deep learning, access to expert knowledge from NASA, the opportunity to collaborate and share work and the use of tools that students were self motivated and comfortable to employ all with in the space of two days suggested that learning had been transformed in a manner no previous learning experience had matched.

The not so successful part of the web based inquiry was the limited time that each student had to load their work on the web page and the lack of better solutions on my part to solve the issue. Images and graphics had to be individually loaded and could only be done one at a time. The students wanted to forgo their lunch break so as to load their work, so keen were they, however my mentor banned that in favor of nutrition, a wise call at that.  The solution was for me to gather all the USBs and load them as  linked work as time constraints and students needing their USBs back called for a quick solution. Thinking back, I wonder if Edmodo or Wix may have been better alternatives to using my blog web page as platform. I used my blog as I have a sense of ownership to it and as a paid blog it would not limit the students upload of images and graphics. There would have to be a better way of posting students work on the web rather than a linked document. I felt disappointed given the effort and eagerness the students displayed, they deserved a better solution than just linked work.

Teaching History: Successful and not so successful


History. (2013) [Image]. Retrieved from here

Student samples from lesson one:






In my pre practical meeting experience with my mentor, I thought I may have had greater flexibility with planning the lessons, however student bookwork was to be part of their assessment so the history lessons had to follow a particular format and I changed stance from planning ICT rich experiences from the onset to trying to integrate ICT tools that could enhance learning of a pre existing format. As such, I was starting from the learning then integrating ICT around the content  to create quality-learning experiences as per the metaphorical Edu-Doggy.  These were my first lessons in the year six class, just as I was building rapport with the students and establishing behaviour management protocols. Backwards design by Wiggins and Mc Tighe (2003) was employed and the lessons started with the learning intention explicit as per the schools policy. Through out the professional experience, I embedded the use of my personal blog site for many of my teaching and learning experiences as I have a sense of ownership with my blog and it allows me access lesson plans in a variety of settings in the school, so long as there is internet access. I would display my lesson plan on the smart board and embed the texts that contained the inquiry questions and zoom in on areas that related to the learning at the time. My mentor applied this pedagogic strategy often and would have unit plans on the smart board to show students what learning they had covered and where their learning was headed.

Reflecting upon the history lessons, the success lies in the fact that there was a distinct effort to ensure that ICT was integrated as tool to enhance learning and not just as a substitute for traditional tools. In the first lesson, I used a voki to synthesise the learning intention, engage and motivate learners and connect with the students on a personal level through the content of early democracy in Athens. The second lesson included videos, images and quotes from the internet which allowed for ICT to enhance curricular goals and be used for affective means to keep learners motivated. By the third lesson, I had integrated ICT in almost every aspect of the lesson; using text from the Internet, My place videos from Scootle, images, photo of the Apology to the stolen generation from the front office and narrative videos from the stolen generation. For all three lessons there was a high level of essential content retention and ICT appeared to have enhanced the learning experience. As per the ICT general capability, ICT had been used to gather information (ACARA, 2013) and with regards to the CPF framework, ICT had been integrated as a learning tool for curricula and affective purposes.


The not so successful aspect of the history lessons revolved around the fact that the year six students still found history boring. Although they stayed focused and completed their work and displayed a high level of content retention, they continued to write the word ‘boring’ next to the history slot on the displayed timetable, every single day that history was placed on the timetable. The lack of meaning making was a need for this particular context which could have been innovatively solved through ICT, however the alignment of content and pedagogic knowledge to technological knowledge in this regard failed to fulfill this need. By employing dialectical thinking (Danielson, 1992), deliberate contemplation to understand the situation and generate solutions, led me to think that the lack of meaning making and consequential boredom experienced by the students could have been resolved had I approached the lessons from the perspective of school being a tool shop (Socol, 2013) where by the appropriate tool is picked for the task, for the moment and for the need. Though I aligned my TPACK to the content task, the moment and the mentors format of the lesson, I did not contemplate enough upon the students need to feel engaged in the content of the lessons and make meaning and feel connected. Had I involved some reflective input from the students after the first lesson, I would have had a better understanding of their needs and have looked for ICT tools that were more appropriate to their needs. By the last history lesson, I had started to embed narrative style tools, like the testimonies website to create a personal connection with the students, however, it may have been too little too late.