The following guide outlines the principles and organisational work involved in running a Workshop. It covers how to structure and timetable the session, the learning principles underpinning the work and individual educational plans (IEP). It also gives a sample programme for three student groups who attend the Workshop: early primary, late primary and secondary. The Coordinator runs the Workshop within the scope of this guidance.
Key Teaching and Learning Principles of Classes
The Workshop takes place once weekly and therefore cannot deliver a full literacy programme, as would be the case in school. The Workshop offers teaching in accordance with sound educational theory and best practice for learners with dyslexia. These approaches include multisensory teaching, a highly structured literacy programme that is explicitly sequential and cumulative, involving logical, progressive, small steps with opportunities for over-learning, repetition, recapping and reinforcement.
The Workshop strives to balance the needs of the individual with the benefits of group tuition. The hallmarks of a Workshop are specialised teaching, commitment, understanding of the child’s needs and difficulties, empathy, encouragement, trust and collaboration.
All work covered in the Workshop must focus on developing literacy and cognitive skills, meta-cognitive skills as well as confidence and self-esteem.
There will be a range of abilities in each group. The tutor’s role is to plan and differentiate the teaching and learning activities and approaches taking into account, as far as possible, the individual’s and the group’s needs. The Workshop offers a unique opportunity to help the child to understand his/her own learning strengths, preferences and weaknesses. Differentiation of the teaching and approach is crucial.
Group and Co-operative Learning
A key principle of the DAI Workshop is cooperative learning where students learn from each other and thus gain both learning and social skills. It is more fun to work together than alone and it can aid motivation, confidence and self-esteem. Exercises, which require each member of the group to contribute and cooperate, e.g. problem-solving exercises, are used. The plan for each group, takes into account the individual needs within the group.
Assistive technology is used across the curriculum to support and develop literacy skills and as a means of facilitating students more readily access school work.
Confidence and Self-esteem
The Workshop aims to build self-esteem, develop trust in the teaching situation and show the student that they can learn. The students feeling relaxed with the tutor is key to achieving this. The Workshop offers a great opportunity to the students to share fears/troubles and to realise that they are not alone. Some may feel one of a minority because of their experience in school. Conversely, the non-judgemental approach taken by tutors in a Workshop can build confidence and lead to an improvement in learning.
Learning Strategies and Metacognition
The only kind of comparison that takes place in a Workshop is with one’s own previous level. Students are involved in setting goals and checking that they have attained them.
An important feature of the Workshop is helping the child to develop an awareness of how to approach learning tasks i.e. strategies and skills. These explicitly taught and students, from the youngest group onwards, are trained in efficient ways of learning. In addition, time is given over to facilitate students ascertain their individual learning preferences. The more the learner becomes aware of what s/he is doing, how s/he is learning, the more independent, competent and confident s/he will become.
As far, as is possible the tutor tailors the teaching and learning with the following in mind:
• Take nothing for granted, check what the pupil knows automatically; fill the gaps.
• Ask the pupil how they prefer to approach a task.
• Get to know how they feel about themselves and about their difficulties.
• Use sight, touch, hearing and movement to reinforce memory and facilitate learning.
• Show them how to reflect on the task, e.g. talk through how they have done a task, so that they begins to recognise patterns and rules.
• Give them exercises which involve applying rules and patterns.
• Avoid rote learning apart from sight words which can be personalised and meaningful and the alphabet sequence.
Individual Educational Plan
Each student has an Individualised Education Plan (IEP) that includes the main difficulties/challenges, priority areas to be addressed, and an evaluation of progress
The students are divided into groups (5-7 students) based on age or class in school. The following is a sample of how these groups could operate; each group has:
- One session on reading
- One session of writing/spelling
- Two sessions covering group specific work that may include the following:
- Oral language development
- Handwriting and fine motor movements
- Knowledge of direction
- Visual processing such as discrimination, tracking and sequencing
- Metacognitive skills to heighten the student’s awareness of how he/she learns, e.g. ability to self-correct, self-question, recall, store in memory etc.
- Keyboard/typing skills/Assistive Technology (AT) skills
A Workshop runs for two hours, once-a- week, over two terms, starting mid-September and mid-January. The average length of a term is 12 weeks.
Each student has a Student Portfolio of work for, e.g. copies, worksheets, etc. This is made available to parents at the end of the term/year and will give them a sense of progress made. The Portfolio can go home with the students at the end of each year.
At the end of each term, the tutor takes part in parent-tutor meetings. Tutors consult with other tutors throughout the term to get a rounded overview of the child’s work and progress to inform these meetings.
In addition, at the end of the year an on-line, anonymous evaluation is sent to all parents/guardians by the National Office, asking them 5/6 basic question about their experience of the Workshop and for comments on what worked well along with suggestions/ideas on improvements. The parents/guardians are asked to complete this survey but, with their permission, we would encourage the students to complete it too. The results of the survey will be used to improve the quality of the Workshops.