Reynalds Cross remains committed to enhancing the communication skills of our pupils. We have a focused communication strategy which is monitored by our Governors. The main strands are:
Attention and Listening
There is much evidence for the benefits of a structured teaching of good attention and listening skills in all learning environments. A pupil’s ability to listen and focus on what is expected of them is the pre-requisite to any learning. Reynalds Cross has a consistent approach to helping pupils learn these essential tools. Fun activities to help sitting, listening and looking skills are developed by the communication team for teachers to deliver as a starter to lessons. In addition, our pupils experience becoming ‘quiet’ prior to lessons and assemblies. The ‘quiet minute’ has proven successful in helping pupils get ready for lessons but also helps them to know what it feels like to become quiet. Staff can more than successfully request a pupil to be quiet during lessons when learning is required.
We are a school which prides itself on possessing Makaton™ communication status. Adults using signing supports a total communication learning environment. Signing is a skill which we have been committed to in helping all adults become more capable signers. Confident adults will help to develop confident young people. Although not all pupils require signing skills, we have developed a whole school strategy which offers a variety of strands that is fun for both pupils and staff. We are proud of this.
- We have developed a list of core vocabulary that we request all staff to be able to sign confidently. Each class has a book of these signs which is especially useful for new staff. These books are also available for parents to develop their signing skills at home. A video of pupils and staff signing plays in reception incorporating this vocabulary. Some of the target vocabulary focuses on helping adults to communicate with pupils, whilst some target functional words we think our pupils may want to know, eg ‘more’.
- Reynalds-Cross has installed the Makaton™ App My Choice on all classroom iPads. Access to instant signs is now available in every lesson and many signs have video support which pupils love watching. In addition, we have developed topic specific ‘grids’ which provides a useful tool for showing pupils (and staff) the signs for pertinent vocabulary.
- We are very excited about the development of signing videos. As with the core vocabulary, we have developed videos to focus on targeted vocabulary. These bespoke videos include people from the pupils’ classroom signing. This fun slide show can be used to start a lesson and can act as an ‘object of reference’. Most importantly, it allows for the repetition which is necessary for learning any new skill.
- You may have seen our treasure hunt books which consist of five books located throughout the school; vocabulary is adjusted for special events. Pupils have fun talking about and practising the signs as they walk around school. The communication team supports classroom staff in taking pupils on the treasure hunt – you might hear staff signing ’we’re going on a treasure hunt, we’re going on a treasure hunt…we’ve got to find a sign….we’ve got to find a sign’.
- All assemblies have a signer to help ensure immediate access to signs. This also helps pupils understand that signing can be used in all settings and encourage.
- Reynalds-Cross is fortunate to have a Makaton™ tutor: Jane Bellion. Courses are regularly offered to both staff and parents/carers.
We are aware that it takes time for adults to learn signs and we are always happy to help parents develop their signing skills.
Our staff are skilled in all areas of learning but we want to empower our staff to feel confident in developing general communication skills.
Staff training is ongoing and has covered areas such as speech development and phonological skills for developing reading; developing receptive language skills is also a key area of focus. Specific skills are also taught, eg using PECS effectively, My Choice Makaton™ App and delivering effective lessons by adjusting key word levels.
Furthermore, our strategy to develop a strong team of communication advocates is gaining momentum. A group of LSAs with responsibility for Communication within each class (known as Communication Advocates) meet regularly with the speech and language therapist to work on their personal development goals. These staff are also allocated individual pupils as case studies, with all learning being shared within the group.
We are currently trialling a method of gaining our pupils’ ‘voices’ so that we can better understand what they want; we can then respond appropriately. We are also looking to develop a consistent school wide model to highlight all pupils’ skills and abilities. This model is being developed with the NHS speech and language therapy service. Hopefully, the pupil profile can then be used to follow progress. Both long-term and short-term targets can be developed in conjunction with a speech and language therapist.
Parents are paramount in developing communication skills and we continue to work closely with parents by being available at all Parents’ Evenings. We enjoy providing training, so please let us know if we can help you further.