Eglinton Primary School
The school Eglinton Primary School (Co Londonderry, Northern-Ireland) is a medium-sized (218 pupils) village primary school. The class of teacher Ms Mc Kendry is a mixed ability group, aged 6 to 7 years.
The class culture/atmosphere is one where all the pupils are focussed on doing well and progressing, with generally strong support from parents.
There is no grouping strategy across the whole class or curriculum, but for reading and maths, the pupils are grouped based on ability in that respective area of the curriculum. The grouping is actioned by table, with pupils of similar reading level working from a table with other pupils of similar ability.
Devices available throughout the 7-class school are:
- 32 Chromebooks
- 10 iPad Airs, for youngest classes, out of a total of 30 across the school population of 218 pupils
Every classroom has a touch-based interactive whiteboard, which is used extensively. There is Wi-Fi throughout the school.
Furniture is a cluster of desks arranged in squares, with eight places set at each cluster. Pupils spend time at different clusters for different tasks, not always sitting beside the same classmates.
The pedagogical vision of the course is simply to assist every pupil to achieve the target set across Northern-Ireland for pupils in the same school age grouping, but also to achieve their personal best.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PRACTICE
There are two ways that mobile devices are used for learning:
- A bought-in accelerated reading, called Accelerated Reading, programme, and
- in progressing through the ICT curriculum laid down for all Northern Ireland primary schools.
- pupils are initially assessed in teacher planers to identify more able children (MAC). These work on stretching reading and vocabulary skills.
- the pupil reads a text to suit their ability, chosen by the teacher, following pupil assessment by See-saw tool to assess reading level
- Use an Accelerated Reading app to, by question (10 off) and answer, gauge level of comprehension the pupil has of the book, thereby gauging progress in reading
- Then selects next books at appropriate level for the pupil to select to read
- Process is recycled.
If the pupil’s progress is good then they are stretched, if less than expected they keep reading at same level or get additional support.
This accelerated programme has brought definitive benefits. The school had 33% of pupils underachieving in reading. Over 2 years of the accelerated programme, this has shrunk to 12% underachieving.
The system also allows parents to connect to see what their child is doing, what book(s) they are reading and how they are progressing.
The school has delivers a Using ICT (UICT) curriculum that is mandatory across all Northern Ireland primary schools. UICT has a well-defined specification of tasks to be achieved and progressive levels of achievement. Mrs McKendry uses mobile devices to allow the pupils to work with a degree of independence through well-defined tasks that will allow achievement of tasks. The structure for the work to be completed and the support resources mean that able pupils can, when finished initial tasks, progress onto additional tasks that stretch them individually. There is a target to achieve the UICT curriculum at level two by the end of year 3. If a pupil in Mrs Mc Kendry’s year 2 can progress to Level 2 in year 2 then this will be facilitated, though the availability of the mobile devices and the support and guidance of Mrs McKendry.
Children who do not reach the expected levels in reading are put into a “boost” group that gets together once a week. In this group, there is a focus on their specific area of difficulty and different strategies are used to help them. The class teacher takes this group for 1 hour to focus on progressing the difficulties, whilst the rest of the class join a class taken by another teacher to work on with tasks allocated to them.
The learning materials are a mix of procured, bought or obtained from central public-funded support agencies, and developed by Mrs McKendry. The mobile devices are available for individual pupils to work though defined tasks at specific time slots in the class timetable.
For both elements that demonstrate support for differentiation there are learning materials to meet pupil needs. For accelerated reading, there are materials to stretch the more able pupils, as well as material to provide additional support for the less able.
As referenced in the second example cited above, differentiation is achieved by differentiated outcomes developed over creative tasks. These tasks are part of the UICT curriculum. This curriculum has many elements and levels, spanning over the 7 years of primary school. The structure of the programme is clearly laid out by Mrs Mc Kendry, with tasks cross-referenced to the specification of the UICT curriculum, in her role as ICT coordinator. This make it easy for teachers and pupils throughout the school to continue approaching additional, higher end tasks when they have finished a previous task.
Thus, the more able pupil is challenged to achieve more by stretching themselves, through undertaking tasks that have scope for more than one level of outcome or final product. As part of the learning, the pupils who complete the higher-level ICT tasks share their completed work with classmates, thus developing communication skills, whilst adding the knowledge of their peers.
ICT lends itself to a wide range of additional skill development, including higher-end resource development using tools for working with text and audio-visual digital assets.
To achieve process differentiation more complex tasks are issued, to stretch the MACs, with some specific but limited explanation first. The tasks are selected such that they facilitate a wide scope for developing practical skills without a significant element of teacher intervention. For the teacher, the ease of ability to set further challenging tasks for the MACs is built into the prepared task specifications. These are available on the school-wide network in advance of actual need, easing the transition by a pupil from the standard task set to the whole class to further task for a MAC.
For accelerated reading guidance and coaching are undertaken part by device and part by teacher. The device gauges progression in reading and signposts next steps. Where there is some difficulty in doing the actual work the teacher will intervene. For pronunciation, teaching is through linguistic phonetics and where that doesn’t work a key words approach is used.
In the case of the UICT work, there is demonstration by the teacher, with practice on the mobile devices the means by which pupils get to develop skills, by creating digital content to a specification.
In both cases assessment is clearly built in to the work. The accelerated reading work produces a clear indication of progression through the end of book test and subsequent scoring. There is a target score of 85% for each test, with achievement of this score being specifically noted, supported by recommendation for progression to a more challenging next book.
Appropriateness of teaching technique is determined by the learning outcomes. So, for example, in the case of a LO that is focussing on developing a skill, the teaching technique will involve explanation and demonstration. Other type of learning outcome will also be the main influencing factor in determining the teaching technique.
Achievement of the learning objectives are clearly evaluated by:
- For accelerated reading the end of book test score and recommendation of progression to a more challenging book
- For UICT, further practical tasks issued, assessed and cross-referenced
Evaluation method is the same for all pupils.
There is greater success for the MACs as they gain a higher level of reading ability. The school reading capability has gained overall over a period of 2 years, from being 33% below the national reading ability on average to being 12% behind. The relative progress of MACs, average pupils and low achievers has improved. Whilst there are no specific metrics for the MACs their accelerated progression contributes to the school’s overall improvement
The pupil’s readiness, interests and learning profile are all addressed with the differential approach, both with the accelerated reading and ICT work. In both kinds of activity, they clearly must show progression at one level before they can progress onto further levels. Reading progression is based on understanding vocabulary.
ICT exercises allow the pupil to typically have a little demonstration before getting down to actually applying skills. At times some supportive intervention is required by the teacher, but often the pupils are able to work out for themselves how to apply software functions without extensive tuition or demonstration.
For both types of activity, the pupil’s interests help to motivate. They can pick books of a suitable level from a selection, based on the genre of stories they prefer. For the ICT work they are typically given a brief to use advanced functions to create some digital content, the subject matter of which the teacher strives to reflect the interests of the pupils.
The key shareholders are: teachers, Principal, ICT Coordinator, parents (they can log onto the Accelerated Reading system and see the reading progress of their child), classroom assistants, central educational support organisation (setting the UICT framework in conjunction with schools).