Speaking and Listening (Communication)
At The Avenue School, functional communication is at the heart of all curricular and non- curricular activities. Activities are designed so that pupils are engaged and motivated to participate, and a ‘Total Communication’ approach is adopted.
Pupils’ attention and listening skills are supported in communication-friendly environments, where distractions are minimised and understanding is supported by the use of real-life objects, photos, symbols and Makaton signing as appropriate. The Attention Autism approach also supports the development of attention and engagement.
Pupils are also given frequent opportunities to make choices and share their thoughts with others. Whilst some pupils are vocal communicators, others require the use of an Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) system, which may include the use of objects of reference, Aided Language Stimulation with communication boards and/or communication books, Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display (PODD) books, the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), Makaton signing, or high-tech Voice Output Communication Aids. The Avenue School aim to ensure that each pupil has a functional method of communication in the classroom and beyond.
Class-based staff work closely with The Avenue School large, in-house Speech and Language Therapy team to ensure that pupils’ communication goals are targeted and reviewed regularly, and embedded into learning and communication opportunities throughout the school day. Progress in functional communication enables The Avenue School pupils to achieve a greater degree of independence and encourages stronger self- esteem, to support them as they become young adults, as well as giving them a way of communicating what they are learning.
Reading for Enjoyment
The use of high quality books within the reading curriculum is at the heart of The Avenue School’s approach to engage and support children to become motivated and independent readers. The Avenue School believe that if children enjoy sharing books and reading, they become better readers.
The texts that we use at The Avenue School enable pupils to develop knowledge of a wide range of books, authors, illustrators and genres. We explore books as a whole class focus through a range of creative approaches involving talk, drama and visual representation. The books provide children with experience of the rhythms and patterns, vocabulary structures and ideas in written language that they can draw on in their own writing.
The selection of books for the classroom plays an important part in the development of an effective reading curriculum thus The Avenue School have a selection of multi-sensory books for the pupils who cannot benefit from ‘mainstream’ books. These books can be enjoyed without being understood as they are told interactively through voice and emotion rather than words and pictures.
Early Reading and Phonics
The Avenue School believe that systematic, high quality phonics teaching is essential for pupils to become proficient readers and writers. At The Avenue School, we use the Letters and Sounds phonics programme which meets the criteria for high quality phonic work. To support the teaching of the sounds, we use ‘Jolly Phonics’. The Letters and Sounds phonics programme helps us to adapt our teaching to the range of pupils’ developing abilities. It helps us to make sure that all children make progress at a pace that benefits their enlarging capabilities.
Letters and Sounds is a six-phase teaching programme. Phase one fosters pupils’ speaking and listening skills as valuable in their own right and as preparatory to learning phonic knowledge and skills. The Avenue School start teaching high quality phonic work (phases 2-6) at the point we judge pupils are ready to begin the programme, and we use a range of multi-sensory activities where pupils can recognise letters by touch, sight and sounding out simultaneously. To help pupils progress from decoding words to reading fluently and for pleasure, The Avenue School use fully decodable reading books aligned to Letters and Sounds (Collins Big Cat Phonics for Letters and Sounds).
The Avenue School teaching of reading is built on the achievements and strengths of our pupils, and we have high expectations for every child. The Avenue School use the PM reading scheme which is developed to build reading skills through gradual progression. The scheme provides pupils with lots of small, achievable steps as they begin to read so they enjoy the process. Each new level within the reading scheme introduces new things and practises the skills and knowledge learned in the previous levels.
Although The Avenue School use the reading scheme, we strongly believe that pupils should be enjoying other books alongside this, at school and at home. Reading high- quality books is the best way to encourage a love of reading.
At The Avenue School, pupils have access to a variety of mark-making/writing tools and have the opportunity to develop skills in mark-making and writing at all levels. The Avenue School believe that learning to make marks and write should be fun, so that pupils are more motivated to participate and engage in (pre-)writing tasks. The Avenue School work in a stimulating writing environment with displayed and celebrated examples of pupils’ own writing and opportunities to use writing in play activities.
At The Avenue School, pupils take part in a variety of activities designed to improve their gross and fine motor skills (e.g. core strength; postural stability; strength and stability of shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers; effective use of both hands; finger individualisation) to support them in learning to write. Pupils often start with mark-making; they are offered opportunities for independent mark-marking throughout the day, using a range of tools (e.g. marker, paintbrush, chalk, crayon, etc.) and in various media (e.g. tactile trays). This can support the development of both their interest in and motivation for writing, and also the skills required to do so.
Pre-writing strokes required for letter formation are introduced using the ABCBoom! multi-sensory approach to handwriting, through a variety of engaging activities. Pupils learn about the various strokes that make up letters in developmentally appropriate ways. They experience the direction of the strokes in lots of multi-sensory ways (e.g. pictograms, associated sounds, experiencing the direction of the strokes with their whole body, etc.).
This is the foundation from which they can begin to learn to write, and places emphasis on practising pre-writing strokes with large arm movements and in different media, before moving to pen and paper tasks. As a pupil’s confidence and skills develop, The Avenue School aim for them to produce neat, legible writing, and we offer many varied opportunities for pupils to write throughout the day.
The Avenue School have an agreed letter formation method to support consistency in the development of writing across the school. The development of fine motor and writing skills is supported by our Occupational Therapy Team. The Avenue School acknowledge that it is also important for pupils to develop skills in typing when appropriate in terms of their profile of skills.