By Kate Ruttle, series editor of Target Ladders
As a practising SENCo, I frequently have conversations with class teachers along the lines of:
Teacher: What can I do with Brandon? He can’t read!
Me: OK. What can he do?
Teacher: No, what I mean is that he can’t read.
Me: I understand that, but what is he able to do that is relevant to reading? What does he know about letters and sounds? Can he read any words? Can he read a simple text?
Teacher: I don’t know. All I know is that he can’t read and I need something to do with him in my lesson.
Conversations like this developed into the Target Ladders series. The writing process clarified for me that many colleagues don’t have a good understanding of the skills development children need to build on in order to make progress. Teachers are aware of the fact that a child can’t fully participate in their lessons and doesn’t have the skills the teachers want them to have, but they don’t always know what the child can do.
This led to some detailed work, finding out exactly what childen like Brandon could do. Before we did this work, his teachers knew that he couldn’t achieve well enough to join in with their lessons, so they differentiated, planned and provided easier work for him. The problem was that the work they planned was based on a deficit model: Brandon can’t read very well so we’ll give him some easier work. The work may have been easier, but it was still too hard for him so it didn’t address his learning needs or impact on his behaviour.
Now, the planning for Brandon can be based on an affirmative model: We know that Brandon can now read single-syllable words with long vowels and his current target is to read two syllable words, so we’ll give him a reading text that focuses on those skills.
The Target Ladders range of books present lists of developmental skills children need to acquire in the order in which they need to be acquired, accompanied by activities and strategies which can help children achieve them. Each book has over 200 small-step targets which help to move a child on from high-level-Special-School-Pupil to an appropriate level for the end of primary school (from about P4 to around a level 3A/4C in the previous National Curriculum levels).
The series is written especially for the non-SEN-specialist teacher and supports them at every stage of the Assess, Plan, Do, Review cycle which is the backbone of the new Code of Practice:
- Assess: Target Ladders books help the teacher to identify what the child can do in various aspects of learning which are grouped according to a range of different SEN.
- Plan: The books include a template for a Record of Progress upon which targets, success criteria and review dates can be recorded.
- Do: In addition to suggesting activities and strategies to help the teacher to plan for the child’s needs, the books contain a simple monitoring sheet which can be used to assess ongoing progress towards the targets.
- Review: The Record of Progress sheets have space for the review session to record progress towards the targets, before the Target Ladders are used again to identify the next target.
Under the new Code of Practice class teachers have increased responsibility for understanding and monitoring each child’s progress, and in identifying their barriers to learning. The Target Ladders approach supports them in doing this in a straightforward, accessible and non-threatening way. See here for more information on the Target Ladders series.
Kate Ruttle is the series editor for Target Ladders and the author of Target Ladders: Dyslexia and Target Ladders: Dyscalculia. She is a SENCo, primary deputy headteacher and Lead Practitioner for Inclusion in Suffolk.
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2015 edition of SEN Magazine.