I am a class teacher and head of English and Maths at Oaktree School, where we have around 98 students with special needs. I teach Key Stage 3, in which there are students with moderate to severe learning difficulties.
We have a lot of students for whom reading and writing are massive hurdles. No matter which class – from Key Stage 2 up to Sixth Form – they all struggle somehow. A big difficulty for many of them is their fine motor skills. This makes it really hard for them to make progress – they know what they want to write but they can’t as they don’t have good letter formation, for example, which seems very unfair to me. This is where IT comes in handy.
Our Headteacher was keen to start using some form of IT to help the students, so I attended a Regional Training Day with Jordan in London to learn all about Clicker 7. I could straight away see the possibilities and help that it would offer our students. We decided to purchase the Site License and also the Widgit Symbols to work alongside it. We use these symbols a lot when communicating with the students that cannot access words, so it’s really useful to have this extension. This was paramount for me; for some of our students, letters are almost like another language.
I really enjoyed the Regional Training Day; when I was back at school I recreated the training day with the staff! It was a great way to teach everyone about Clicker 7. Jordan even sent me his script over, which was so helpful.
One of the new features in Clicker 7 that we use a lot is the Clicker Board. We use this to discuss with the students what happens in different environments of the school. For example, we will have ‘Classroom’ in the centre of the board, and ask students to come up with ideas such as ‘speaking’, ‘listening’ and ‘working’. Or ‘School Hall’ with activities such as ‘eating’ and ‘P.E’. It’s a great resource for the students.
Even the teachers are using Clicker Boards for assemblies now! The staff have been very receptive to the implementation of Clicker 7, I’ve not had to work hard to motivate them to use it at all.
We also enjoy using the different writing support sets, for example Sentence Sets and Connect Sets. These work really well for the students; having the structure in place and having to just select the cells makes it so much easier for them to create pieces of writing.
The realistic speech feedback tool is a big hit with the students too! All of the children, including those with severe special needs, love typing words or names into Clicker to hear it be read back to them. They find it awfully entertaining! If they are having fun with literacy, that’s fantastic.
When I consider the positive impact that Clicker is having, there’s one particular student who comes to mind in my class. Tom* was a very reluctant writer when he joined our school. Before joining Oaktree, he would only read We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and he wouldn’t write at all, as he was too concerned he would make mistakes (this is a fear he picked up whilst at mainstream school). But with Clicker, being able to customise the program so much gave Tom the confidence to have a go at writing. We turn on the picture support so he knows that if no picture comes up with his text, he has made a mistake somewhere. But I do tell him that as long as I can read it, he doesn’t need to worry too much about it. When Clicker reads his work back to him and it sounds right, that gives him the confidence to keep going! It’s fantastic, Tom has gone from writing very simplistically to wanting to write lots more.
I’ve had a lot of success in my class with Clicker; instead of just writing one word, students will generate whole sentences. Some students struggle with a qwerty keyboard due to the letters being upper case – they cannot see the correspondence between upper and lower case. So, the rainbow qwerty keyboard in Clicker is a fantastic addition! The standard computer keyboard is no longer a problem and they can write whatever they want.
The best thing about Clicker, simply, is that it puts the fun back into writing, even for students who really struggle with it. It gives them such a boost in confidence!
*name has been changed.