Specialist Experience and Skills
As a specialist qualified SEN tutor/ teacher, I have taught in many alternative educational settings including museums, hospitals, PRUs, Special Schools, libraries and people’s homes. I have experience of adapting the curriculum to meet the specific needs of the student and I develop personalised resources and creative learning techniques to help students engage in tasks. I am passionate about incorporating life skills and social skills into everything that I teach and building the confidence and self-esteem of my students. I am a patient, easy-going and flexible person but also focused and d... Read More
As a specialist qualified SEN tutor/ teacher, I have taught in many alternative educational settings including museums, hospitals, PRUs, Special Schools, libraries and people’s homes. I have experience of adapting the curriculum to meet the specific needs of the student and I develop personalised resources and creative learning techniques to help students engage in tasks. I am passionate about incorporating life skills and social skills into everything that I teach and building the confidence and self-esteem of my students. I am a patient, easy-going and flexible person but also focused and determined to get the best out of myself and out of my students, when it comes to my work.
My skills and experience teaching children with writing resistance
Children resist writing for a number of reasons- because they think faster than they can get words down on a page, because they find it uncomfortable to hold the pencil, because they find it difficult to keep their handwriting neat on a page etc. It is important to not block ideas and trains of thought by focussing on getting them down on a page in a very traditional way. Expression is the main thing, and it can be recorded in such a variety of ways. I encourage children to respond to the learning objective rather than the presentation of the work initially, and help get the ideas out, to enjoy the activity, celebrate the child’s responses and ideas coming forth; keeping the flow of thought recorded, whether on a voice recorder or through scribing, which the child can then use as a support to scaffold their own written work. There are a number of small adjustments teachers and tutors can make that help also such as providing extra time for tasks, allowing the use of an audio recorder in class, and individualised handouts so there is less to copy by hand. In order to overcome resistance to writing, tasks can be differentiated using “circle the answer” or fill in the blank” or “highlight the answer” responses rather than requesting the student to reproduce text from a board, screen or page of writing. I think it’s a case of trial and error, seeing what each student responds to well, perseverance and making the efforts as fun, varied and as un-tedious as possible, with, as always, lots of praise and a goal or end point in sight.
My specialist experience teaching English including phonics, reading, writing and spelling:
I trained as a primary school teacher in London and worked across London primary schools before specialising in SEN teaching. As a result, I understand the mainstream curriculum for English, reading, writing and spelling.I am a trained Phonics teacher and Reading Recovery teacher but also have experience teaching students with dyslexia, language delay, problems, word and letter recognition and understanding of words and ideas. I have taught children who speak English as an additional language and may speak up to three languages at home. Choosing literacy projects that the student will engage with and working through specific gaps in learning as well as finding creative games for learning spelling and purposeful, rewarding literacy activities, is very much a part of the way I teach. I am a huge fan of books and love introducing learners to lots of different styles and genres, helping them discover something they love. I have seen my students progress hugely, improve their vocabulary, expressive language, writing and comprehension skills when given the time, encouragement and the learning material that they find engaging. Patience, attuned, responsive teaching tailored to the student and their learning style and interests is of huge benefit.
My specialist experience teaching handwriting ( including handwriting for children with dysgraphia) :
When teaching handwriting I group letters with similar shapes together so students can practice making the same movements, building muscle memory before moving onto another set of letters. Many of the students I have taught in the past have had problems with their fine and gross motor skills and with producing handwriting as well as other daily tasks like typing and using a mouse, tying laces or work that involves attention to detail and drawing. I have used a variety of techniques to help varying from assistive technology to drawing and shading exercises, physical hand exercises and multisensory activities. I look at pencil grips and see if I can find one that works better for the student and look at tools recommended by OTs such as a slanted clipboard for writing, highlighted paper, bumpy paper.
My skills and experience supporting children to complete their homework/ supporting students to develop their independence:
Independence is crucial for building self-esteem and confidence. One way to build independence is having faith in students and agreeing on something they can be responsible for, e.g.: putting away their things after a lesson, completing a piece of homework or doing a specific job around the house each week. Secondly, supporting, talking through or visualising how they can manage their new responsibility well, and lastly, lots of praise when they successfully manage that responsibility.
My skills and experience helping children to engage in learning.
As well as ensuring learning is fun and in line with a child’s specific interests and passions, I have a variety of techniques to help my students stay engaged. When giving assignments, I only give out one task at a time and break longer work into smaller tasks. I often use a visual or written schedule, so the student knows where they are throughout the day. I believe movement breaks can be really useful and a way to expel excess energy after a focussed period of working on a task.
I believe in and establishing a structured and proper learning environment, so my student is motivated and encouraged to focus at set times of the day. I avoid distracting stimuli and make sure there is a suitable lead into transitions so that my students are never unprepared for the next task or stage in the day.
I give instructions clearly and concisely and I make sure that my students understand what I have said and what they have to do. If they have difficulty understanding, I can break tasks down and patiently work through, explaining step by step and encouraging comprehension so that they feel eager to take over and work through tasks independently, equipped with the skills they need. I never rush students, but I do maintain a pace so that learning is interesting, and they progress well.
When it comes to behaviour management, I avoid criticism and ridicule and praise any and all cooperative behaviour immediately. I encourage positive self-talk by reminding and then asking students how they feel about their achievements. This boosts self- esteem and the 1:1 conversation is also a good way to improve social skills.
My skills and experience planning and delivering fun and engaging sessions for KS1:
I like students to look forward to their learning and for it to be fun! As well as teaching in KS1 in schools, I have taught in museums such as The Science Museum and The Tate Britain developing fun, interactive and multi-sensory experiences for all types of learners. I have presented animated, engaging Science shows and helped students respond to and access different areas of the curriculum using the artworks and the environment around the Tate Britain. I organised talent shows and arts day in my previous role as a teacher in a special school and we sang many songs throughout the day to mark transitions. Singing, dancing and movement was especially important for the students who had limited language. Movement breaks are a huge part of my teaching process and I find when students get a chance to move and express excess energy, they are happier to focus on learning for a focussed period of time. I like to plan lessons around the national curriculum but also the learning style and a theme or subject matter that the child is interested in. My lessons are paced well and involve a range of activities to boost engagement and motivation. I am a voice of encouragement and keep a student on track with the promise of breaks, rewards and variety as part of their learning, as well as focussed work.
My specialist experience teaching Maths: Maths seems to be a subject that generates anxiety in more people than any other subject in school and life. Some people become maths phobic, which may or may not be a consequence of dyscalculia and avoidance of maths is very common.This avoidance can be total, or maybe restricted to certain topics, for example, 'I don't do fractions'. A child will withdraw from involvement in maths if they do not experience success at a level that is both meaningful and encouraging for them as an individual. Teachers and parents have to provide opportunities for the child to experience meaningful successes. I am an empathetic Maths teacher and know that when Maths is broken down and explained logically, slowly and then re-taught before moving on in the next lesson, it can become an enjoyable subject. I use games and technology to teach Maths and try to incorporate maths into other subjects also, so the practical application of numbers becomes second nature. For example, Maths can be put into practice, using measurements in baking, using money in the shop, following a schedule and looking at the time etc. Having a positive approach to the subject is the first step as well as making it fun, relevant and accessible through a variety of ways and for many different learning styles.
Continued… My specialist experience teaching Maths (specifically children with dyscalculia) : Students that I have taught with dyscalculia have had difficulties with number sense, including subitising, symbolic and non-symbolic magnitude comparison, and ordering. Maths classes and activities can seem like an insurmountable task and can affect a students’ self esteem. As a teacher I make accommodations to help students with dyscalculia and make learning easier. I talk through or write out maths problems, presenting the information differently so that it becomes less intimidating and possibly more accessible. Writing a maths problem out in words can help students see the relation between the various elements, organise the information and bring them closer to a solution. Drawing a maths problem can work in a similar way, helping a more visual student see links and concepts which can bring them to a solution. I also break problems down into steps so that, say, if a problem contains addition followed by division (to find an average, for example) we do the addition step first and then the division part, taking time over each section. That way, a student can get to the halfway point of a problem, at least. If the whole solution depends upon prior knowledge which has not been retained then this can be revisited for each step.This prevents overload and stress and gives the student a coping strategy for solving problems. If they can break a problem down into its various steps it’s a good start. Another way to make Maths concepts less abstract is to use concrete materials and props- measuring cups, rulers, counters. I also apply maths to everyday life, so that it is seen as less intimidating and a skill that the student already uses. 'How long does it take to walk/drive to school?' I include estimating as well as precise answers as it is an important skill and the answers are 'close, bigger, smaller, not that close' as compared to 'right' and 'wrong'. When giving instructions and assignments I create separate worksheets for word problems and number problems, I highlight or circle key words and numbers on word problems and allow extra time on tests. I give step-by-step instructions and have the student repeat them, use visual aids or manipulatives when solving problems. Learning materials are important. I help students who are unable to organise their work on paper, for example, to line up columns of numbers by showing them how to use squared paper where the squares are sized to suit the individual. I use mini whiteboards to reduce the impact of negative evaluations on motivation as wrong answers can be erased easily before a second attempt. I use an extra piece of paper to cover up most of what’s on a math sheet or test to make it easier to focus on one problem at a time. 1:1 tutoring needs to generate success and be low stress and purposeful so I do not ask that children do complete maths tasks or mental arithmetic quickly as this can be very demotivating for students with dyscalculia. Children may have very weak short term memories so they may not remember instructions or sequences of information long enough to perform the steps in a calculation. I ensure short, frequent review sessions to keep information fresh and applicable for each new task. I make review resources such as cards and diagrams to run through in each session. As an example of how I approach tutoring with those working as a KS1 level of Maths, I would work on identifying consistently and accurately small quantities, linking these to the symbols/digits. I would try sequencing objects in size and use seriation and classification games. Counting forwards and backwards, in ones when young and later in twos and tens is a key skill and sets the foundations for addition and subtraction. I would demonstrate the counting with objects such as chunky counters and link quantities to the symbols and consolidate lots of appropriate vocabulary such as,'add one more, take away one' and the key question, 'Is it bigger or smaller?'
My experience boosting a student's confidence and self-esteem: Praise is important and it becomes more meaningful when it helps students appreciate their own individual achievements, when it is specific. I am a teacher who believes in positive reinforcement and celebrating each student’s achievements and contributions. I have seen time and again how specific praise can help motivate a student and know that self-esteem comes from working hard toward a goal. I am specific (and never unrealistic) about what I expect so that students know what they have to achieve and are motivated to work towards this. I then teach students to look back at their own efforts and become aware of the work they have put into meeting a goal. In this way, young people learn self-praise and begin to see themselves and their abilities in a positive light. My teaching style is very informal and creative, and I give students space to share their opinions and preferences with me. I am always open to suggestions from them and discussing interests with them. Their opinions are valid and important and need to be heard. 1:1 tutoring offers the perfect opportunity for this and improves self-esteem.
My skills and experience teaching children with SEN (including Downs syndrome and autism):
I have worked long term with 16-19 year olds in a school for young people with moderate intellectual needs, including Downs Syndrome and autism. When working with students with ASD, I take into account their sensory needs- from the light, sound, heat in a space to the type of desk and chair they may need, resources they prefer to work with or routines they like to follow. Once students see this effort and begin to enjoy lessons, they generally appreciate it, feel safe and trust is built up over time. As well as teaching in schools, I worked in students’ homes with their parents on whatever the children needed most, whether it was academic help, help focussing on daily tasks like getting dressed or going to bed, with transitions or with their self-confidence. Students that I have thought with Downs Syndrome have responded particularly well to praise, heaps of enthusiasm and lots of humour. Making jokes and sharing jokes together can be the behaviour management technique that works best. Also, some of my students had phobias such as going on public transport, eating in the canteen or being around certain other children. Working together with students to overcome such barriers and lead more flexible, independent lives is such a huge part of why I am a teacher. Performance, singing, dancing and theatrical expression has been a favourite activity of some of my students with Downs Syndrome and talent shows or performances were always fun to orhgaise and participate in!
I am very patient and calm, and I pay keen attention to students’ sensory preferences and to things that have the potential to cause my students distress. I believe structure and routine; especially visual timetables are key to a calm, trusting relationship. It limits anxiety by letting each student know what is planned for them for the day and when transitions will happen. It’s also a contract or agreement between teacher and student. It gives the student certain autonomy and independence as well, as I am always open to discussions or suggestions for what should be on a visual timetable.
My skills and experience teaching children with speech and language delay/ disorder:
Every student with SEN or ASD is unique and it is essential to get to know each child’s preferences and needs. I use simple, concrete language when interacting with my students. Each person has their own way of communicating however, which may not necessarily be verbal. Setting up a means of communication is central to building a relationship with my students who have SEN. Along with verbal cues, I use communication apps, PECS but also certain songs, objects of reference, visual cues, personalised timetables, personalised social stories, timers etc. I have also used Colourful Semantics for teenagers with Downs Syndrome and have found that it helps with reading as well as speaking. Colourful Semantics is a targeted approach to support children with their sentence building and to teach them about sentence structure. I personalise the Colourful Semantics kits so that the content is relevant to the students’ everyday lives and interests. For example, I include photographs of people in their lives, of them, of their favourite things. They then build sentences around these images or action shots. Colourful semantics works really well for lots of different children and young people. In particular, it can be useful for children who: Show real problems with putting sentences together. Confuse the order of words within sentences. Miss out verbs (action words) or key information from sentences. Have a tendency to start a sentence, trail off and then try again. Always use the same types of sentences.
My specialist experience teaching children with processing challenges: I recap and revisit learning concepts and approach them in various creative ways, so it doesn’t get monotonous, moving on when the learner is ready to. The time and 1:1 attention and focus mean that processing in tutoring is often faster than in a classroom and students will see their own progress, which then has a positive effect on their confidence and self- esteem.
I believe routines and visual timetables are really useful so that the student knows what we will cover each session and consult the board if they have forgotten. If they think they will find a certain topic or activity challenging, I will suggest how they might like to do to break it up or what they may enjoy as a reward afterwards. This type of openness is possible with 1:1 tutoring, and I like the student to take ownership over their learning and reflect on what they might find tricky and what would encourage them to focus.
Finally, I believe in and establishing a structured and proper learning environment, so my student is motivated and encouraged to focus at set times of the day. I avoid distracting stimuli and make sure there is a suitable lead into transitions so that my students are never unprepared for the next task or stage in the day. I give instructions clearly and concisely, maintaining eye contact when giving instructions and I make sure that my students understand what I have said and what they have to do.I break tasks down into segments of time depending on the needs of the child and will incorporate movement breaks or activities that are creative, kinaesthetic or visual depending on the type of learner I’m working with. I have used visual schedules in the past where an activity is taken off the schedule and placed in a “finished” box once completed which is very satisfying for the learner, just like tick lists are for grown-ups, I guess!
Explaining step by step and encouraging comprehension means students feel eager to take over and work through tasks independently, equipped with the support they need.
My specialist experience teaching children with memory difficulties:
As with processing, there are a number of small adjustments teachers and tutors can make that help those with working memory needs, such as providing extra time for tasks, allowing the use of an audio recorder in class, and individualised handouts so there is less to copy by hand. Tasks can be differentiated using “circle the answer” or fill in the blank'' or “highlight the answer” responses rather than requesting the student to reproduce text from a board, screen or page of writing by which time their train of thought has been lost. I think it’s a case of trial and error, seeing what each student responds to well, perseverance and making the efforts as fun, varied and as un-tedious as possible, with, as always, lots of praise and a goal or end point in sight. Trouble expressing yourself isn’t part of working memory needs, so it’s important to not block ideas and trains of thought by focussing on getting them down on a page in a very traditional way. Expression is the main thing, and it can be recorded in such a variety of ways.
When giving assignments, I only give out one task at a time and break longer work into smaller tasks and using timers. I often use a visual or written schedule, so the student can refer back and remind themselves what they are working on throughout the day. I never rush students, but I do maintain a pace so that learning is interesting, and they progress well.When it comes to behaviour management, I avoid criticism and ridicule and praise any and all cooperative behaviour immediately. I encourage positive self-talk by reminding and then asking students how they feel about their achievements. This boosts self- esteem and the 1:1 conversation is also a good way to improve social skills.
My specialist experience teaching children with working dyslexia:
When students have to focus so much on transcription, it can get in the way of thinking about ideas and how to convey them. Again, there are a number of strategies and tools to work around this. Breaking a task down into chunks is very useful. At secondary level, looking for keywords in a question, highlighting them and then compiling a list of tasks that need to be carried out and how much time it will take. Graphic organisers are used widely in primary schools and come in digital forms such as apps or websites as well as worksheet form. They are a useful way for students to organise their thoughts. Like the bones of a speech that people write on flashcards before delivering it, students can organise their thoughts before writing them or recording them. Students who can think faster than they can write or type on a keyboard, may benefit from using a dictation app. Using dictation tools is a skill in itself and students have to use full sentences and punctuation. For this reason, it’s recommended that they start with a rough outline, like a graphic organiser or a set of prompting images, before beginning to dictate a piece of text, so that they can keep their train of thought. Timing is important so that students don’t feel rushed or pressured through a task. Having the correct amount of time to break everything down and address it in sections is key.
My skills and experience developing trusting relationships with children with SEN and anxiety:
Last year, I worked with students who did not attend mainstream school due to SEN and mental health problems associated with anxiety and depression. Some students were diagnosed with ASD as well as high anxiety and depression. Students were taught in a range of locations- an educational setting in small groups as well as individually either in their homes, local libraries or mental health facilities and hospitals, depending on their circumstances and what they felt capable of. The goal was to work up to attending classes each day in an alternative educational setting. Some students were working towards their A levels or GCSEs whereas others were tentatively starting to engage in learning and academic work again after a long period outside of school due to anxiety. It is essential to be an understanding, consistent and encouraging presence with young people with additional needs or anxiety. My style has been described as low arousal which involves a calm, patient demeanour and over time, allows for light heartedness and expression of humour both from students and teachers. I have found this gives young adults space to express themselves and be heard without becoming overwhelmed. I have a range of holistic techniques to help with anxiety that I make part of the learning process- breath work, stretching, reflective writing and meditation time. Tools such as stress balls and quick communication cues to express how they are feeling are also something I work on with my students. Developing coping and de-escalation and self soothing strategies are an essential part of learning for young people with anxiety. When this has been established academic work can begin and flourish. While fostering an atmosphere that is a bit more open and flexible than that in a classroom, I build up to the academic tasks at hand. I let young people know what is expected of them in sessions, what we will work through and hear or read through their thoughts, opinions and feedback in each session. I believe wholeheartedly in positive reinforcement and recognising each student's efforts and successes.
My skills and experience working with teenagers and young adults:
I make an effort to get to know each individual student, weaving their interests through lessons and building up a range of topics we can talk about or debate. I find out what personal goals and life skills they would like to acquire that can be attained through their academic work. What I have found is that young adults want to gain certain life skills that complement their increasing independence in the world outside of school. 1:1 tutoring offers the perfect opportunity to work towards these goals and bring life skills into the learning. When the learning becomes relevant, purposeful and applicable to their lives, this helps young adults personally, and I find students are more motivated.