Ark is a network of high-achieving, non-selective schools and one of the country’s top-performing academy groups. We run 31 academies in London, Birmingham, Portsmouth and Hastings, educating around 17,000 pupils.
I work across all of our primary schools, and my role is to raise awareness of literacy difficulties such as dyslexia. This involves school visits, training school teams and screening and assessment, with a focus on ensuring that everyone can recognise the signs of dyslexia in the classroom and, most significantly, what they can do as classroom practitioners to meet those pupils’ needs and help them to succeed.
We have found Clicker to be one of the most powerful assistive technology tools to implement in the primary setting with children experiencing reading and writing difficulties. The program addresses a lot of key areas and is particularly effective when used to support reluctant writers and children with weak ‘writing stamina’.
We initially trialled Clicker at one particular school in our group – Ark Oval. The trial went so well that we now actively promote its use in all 19 of our primaries. Hayley Francis is the Assistant Head at Ark Oval; here are her thoughts on the impact Clicker has had on learning at her school:
We originally had Clicker on five of our computers, but almost immediately we realised how greatly it would benefit many of our pupils, so we moved to a whole-school Site License. Negative attitudes towards writing were becoming a bit of an issue at the school – Clicker has really helped to change this. Once you’ve cracked that, a lot of other learning objectives become much easier for pupils.
One of the biggest hurdles our children face is having the confidence to put their ideas on to paper. Clicker enables all children to consider themselves as writers. The support features, such as the variety of Clicker Sets, predictive text and being able to hear back what they have written, enable children to extend their ideas and truly surprise themselves with what they are capable of producing.
We use Clicker as part of in-class interventions, and also when children write up ‘finished’ pieces of work to encourage them to reflect on what they have written and identify any errors. Our teachers also use it to create word and picture banks that they print off to support children’s understanding even when they don’t have access to computers.
Clicker has really helped our boy writers in particular. We have quite a few boys who hate writing and their ideas just seem to get lost; if you mention that they will get to use Clicker, they are really excited to write and the amount they produce is just amazing.
Seeing a child struggling with writing is a horrible thing – Clicker gives them the tools they need to succeed, all on their own!”
Our schools are using Clicker at varying levels; some are concentrating on particular cohorts, others like Ark Oval are using it to support literacy development across the school. In general, it is used to help children who experience any form of literacy difficulty and those who would ordinarily find recording their ideas on paper challenging. We’ve also been experiencing a lot of success with it in our schools’ ‘Big Write’ sessions.
We use Clicker with all age groups; it’s great for everyone from our older struggling writers to our much younger children. One of the key reasons for this is the bank of free LearningGrids resources you get access to when you buy Clicker – these are really fantastic. They encompass all aspects of literacy with speaking, listening, reading and writing activities on topics ranging from ‘The Three Bears’ for our youngest children to ‘river landforms’ for those further up the school. It is such a time saver for busy teachers to be able to just search for resources to support whatever topic they are working on and start using them straight away.
Clicker really does make a difference. The most significant outcome we have witnessed is the increase in the children’s writing confidence and stamina. They can generate so much more work when they are not having to concentrate on their handwriting, line spacing, spelling…all those different aspects of the writing process that were holding them back. It’s so exciting for me to see someone move from producing one or two sentences a session to four, five or more, all in a relatively short space of time.
We rate Clicker so highly that we have included it as one of the key recommendations on our ‘Drive for Literacy’ website, which we use to capture all our good practice and point other schools to effective activities and resources to use with their pupils.
We have also appreciated the support Crick Software has provided – I’ve attended events where it’s clear that they understand the needs of teachers, the time restrictions they face and the importance of collecting feedback for product development. They have run a number of training sessions at our schools which have been really well received – to have such an enthusiastic and knowledgeable trainer come in and show us how we can apply what the product does to our particular settings has been genuinely inspiring for staff.
Clicker is a big part of the Drive for Literacy focus at Ark schools; we will continue to promote its reach across the network and really embed its use in day to day teaching. We are looking into recommending it as part of the access arrangements for certain children at the end of Key Stage 2 SATs, and making Clicker available in schools utilising iPad devices.
To sum up, Clicker is a great tool that enables all pupils to work independently with a network of support at their fingertips. Get in touch with Crick Software and see it for yourself!