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 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. We aim to ensure that each pupil has a functional method of communication in the classroom and beyond.
Class-based staff work closely with our 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 our 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 about their 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. We 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.
The books we select provide children with experience of the rhythms and patterns, vocabulary structures and ideas in written language that they can draw upon when expressing themselves through verbal, pre-verbal or written communication.
Early Reading and Phonics
We believe that systematic, high quality phonics teaching is essential for pupils to become proficient readers and writers. At The Avenue School, we use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds revised phonics programme which meets the criteria for high quality phonic work. This 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.
Little Wandle is a five-phase teaching programme. The Foundation Phase fosters pupils’ speaking and listening skills as valuable in their own right and as prepares pupils for learning phonic knowledge and skills. We start teaching phases 2-5 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, we use Collins Big Cat Phonics for Little Wandle Letters and Sounds revised.
Our teaching of reading is built on the achievements and strengths of our pupils, and we have high expectations for every child. We use the Collins Big Cat Phonics for Little Wandle Letters and Sounds revised 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 letter sounds/ phonemes and practises the skills and knowledge learned in the previous levels.
Although we 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. We believe that learning to make marks and write should be fun, so that pupils so that pupils are more motivated to participate and engage in pre-writing tasks. We 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 supports the development of both interest and motivation for writing, as well as the skills required to write.
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, we aim for them to produce neat, legible writing, and we offer many varied opportunities for pupils to write throughout the day.
We 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. We acknowledge that it is also important for pupils to develop skills in typing when appropriate in terms of their profile of skills.