Meeting 9 of the Inclusive Science Education group (ideas to take away and try)

Background

The inclusive science group is made of interested educators from all phases and sectors who have an interest in teaching students who have additional support needs or special educational needs. It is organised by Rob Butler from the ASE and Jane Essex (ASE and RSC member), who both have an interest in this area of science education. Membership of this group is open to anyone, and attendance at the meetings is optional. Notes taken during the discussion will be shared with the whole group. You can join by filling in the form at https://www.ase.org.uk/ise

Meeting 9

This meeting was first of two meetings on the same theme. The first meeting was intended to share good practice that could be taken away and tried in your own setting. The follow-up meeting will ask teachers to share how that went.

Rob opened the meeting by reminding those present of the importance of consistency in all aspects of teaching. Consistency in dealing with behaviour, either in the way you deal with it or by using a seating plan (seating plans can change for different activities) so that learners consistently sit in the same places (or the places you want them to sit in) Teachers who aren’t consistent often have trouble with behaviour, but also more anxious and neurodiverse learners know what to expect rather than experiencing anxiety where the teacher is not consistent.

Routines and organisation are a part of a consistent approach. Having a routine for practical activities is good for all learners and removes anxieties/ambiguities over who does what when getting things out or putting equipment away. Organisation is keeping your equipment in clearly defined places (maybe labelled) so that learners know where to find them)

Many learners don’t like uncertainty and familiar, predictable routines remove some of their worries about science. One of the participants went on to explain how she structured her lessons to have three familiar components with a corresponding symbol on the screen. Clear signposting within lessons, maybe with timing (when transitions happen, for example from talking to doing) so that learners know what is coming and when an activity/lesson will end.

Jane reminded us that we can learn from our learners if we are open. We can all feel anxiety on occasion and can help us understand how they feel. Jane put together guidance for her colleagues at Strathclyde which she is willing to share if you get in touch. Academics, who weren’t used to working with learners with additional support needs, learned a lot about teaching and several have changed the way they teach as a consequence. Attendees reminded the group that listening to learners about what works is never a waste of time (many schools include this in pupil profiles).

Another delegate shared a technique that worked with dyslexic learners. Introducing the BBC Bitesize video on monoclonal antibodies which contains a lot of information and terminology that can be difficult to assimilate. The teacher wrote key points on a mini whiteboard and asked the learners to draw pictures to show the key facts but the learners still didn’t get it (but was nearly there) The next stage was to use a physical model to act out the stages of injecting a mouse to get antibodies produced.  To complete the learning cycle, our teacher played the video into Google Docs (works with Microsoft Office too) to get a transcript of the video, and then highlighted the key words in bold and asked the learner to read through the text. The learner was asked to summarise the key points into a revision card. From being unable to understand the video at the start, the learner had a good grasp of key points. This helped removed the barriers associated with auditory processing. Having two devices makes the process simpler, and although it might sound relatively low tech you get better results by playing on one device and recording on the other. Another teacher had experienced success using voice memos on devices can help capture student thoughts and ideas when they have difficulty writing. 

The same tools can be used by learners to dictate text when they have difficulty writing (they can even dictate punction, for example full stop) There is another useful feature in Word if you go to review and read aloud, word will read back what you have written which can be useful when proof-reading or preparing a talk. 

Practical work was discussed, one attendee told the group that you need to be brave and do lots of practical work, but be aware as it takes a while to get used to doing, or for the teacher to learn the adaptations needed, but it did lead to better learner with their learners. Sensory gardens with scented herbs and bee-friendly plants were good for outdoor learning.

One teacher spoke about her learners not being able to picture themselves doing practical activities. The teacher gets them to tell her what to do and she acts these things out, sometimes exaggerating the things are wrong, and this seems to have helped learners to picture what to do and iron out mistakes.

One of our delegates couldn’t be there in person but sent several resources and ideas including a video on Makaton for all learners, a simple symbolised worksheet for recording findings and an open invitation to engage and share on Twitter (link below)

One delegate spoke about a family member who struggled with uncertainty and knowing what is going to happen can help our neurodiverse learners. Resources like Books Beyond Words can help with engagement. There are lots of good resources linking stories to science including those on the Ogden Trust website and story books written by Jules Pottle (the Molliebird and Jasper the Spider)

Learners in one of the schools had difficulty accessing the science lab because it is different to the other classrooms, both in terms of what it looks like, what it’s like to be in there and how it smells. Trying to make the science lab more like the other classrooms in the school has only had limited success. One teacher suggested putting sensory activities in tuff-trays that will engage and entice them in, so they feel comfortable in the room (ideas include water play, magnets, connecting things, Duplo) Another teacher did something similar with a friction ramp and different surfaces for learners to engage in science play. Photo frames that let you record sound clips could also get them in to the room and starting to engage in learning.

The next meeting

The next meeting will be a chance to discuss some of the things you have tried and how these went in a supportive group. A reminder will be sent out closer to the time – so get experimenting with your classes.

Links

BBC Bitesize on monoclonal antibodies https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zt8t3k7/revision/1

RSC – making the most of practical videos https://edu.rsc.org/ideas/how-to-make-the-most-of-practical-videos/4013131.article

Makaton for all learners https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aT3xUdgkWP0

Books beyond words https://booksbeyondwords.co.uk

Sarah Bearchell on Twitter https://twitter.com/SarahBearchell

A  great resource highlighting the importance of making Instructions really clear & easy to follow – https://twitter.com/MissReeeves/status/1313587567137370113?s=20

British sign language glossary http://www.ssc.education.ed.ac.uk/BSL/

Lynne Castle works in a special school in London and she has tons of ideas on Twitter. Here is a video of her in action at BeTT https://twitter.com/i/status/1506732963895169027

Explorify Zoom in and Zoom out activities https://explorify.uk/teaching-support/using-explorify/top-tips-zoom-in-zoom-out-activities

Membership

A reminder that by being a member of the ASE that you support our wider advocacy and charitable work. You can find out more about membership by clicking the link https://www.ase.org.uk/membership