Learning and teaching resources for some are the images of large, print, classroom textbooks with small type, outdated information, and content that covers the extent but not depth of a subject. But learning resources are more than that. They are tools that helps teachers to teach and learners to learn.
Teaching maths and creating resources in a prison can present a real challenge. Teachers are not allowed use USB sticks, interactive whiteboards and even usage of laptops is very limited. Things like measure tapes, can become a weapon, and are not allowed into the classroom. That leaves very little for teachers to use. Ability to create something out of nothing becomes a real skill.
Every week, new learners are allocated to classes, depending on their levels and abilities, or simply because they cannot mix with other learners. Those learners with complex educational needs, work alongside their peers with help from learning support staff. All new learners complete a diagnostic assessment that determinates what level they are at and highlights areas of further improvement. This is communicated back to learners where their individual learning plans are created, together with weekly learning and behavioural targets. Additional information regarding their learning preferences are further educational needs are also recorded.
Getting learners attention and retain it can be very hard, so eye-catching resources are the key to the success. Very often, there are learners with different abilities or needs, so good differentiation is extremely important. Resources in each class can vary from entry level 1 to L3.
Resources should be effective, efficient, affordable and accessible for all learners.
Effective and accessible resources enable teachers to determine by whether they support their learners in achieving the expected learning outcomes. For example, notebooks with cream paper were purchased to support my dyslexic learners. All learners were issued the same book to avoid alienating those with dyslexia.
Resources should also be affordable, so teachers can deliver high quality lessons with resources that can be used again. To illustrate and present measurements in maths, I ordered a few items that can be reused in different lessons: measuring spoons, measuring jag and small kitchen scales. All of this to help my kinaesthetic learners to learn best. Another example includes activity cards, power point presentations and posters.
It is important that all resources are well-organised, so those who need to use them, can. For example, all resources that are used for practical demonstrations, are looked up in cupboards in the classroom, where the rest of resources are places in alphabetical order in the designated cupboards in the office. This helps not only to organise the classroom better but also reflects all health and safety policies.
There are many different types of resources that can be used during the lesson. It is important for teachers to recognise that learners cannot learn from one type of material alone and supplemental resources should be used to help teachers to differentiate instruction and engage those learners who, for whatever reason, need enrichment beyond the core classroom material.
Resources can be divided into two categories of learning: formal and informal. For example, resources for the formal learning must consider reading, language, developmental, and ability levels, include relevant assessments and contain full teacher guides. In addition, they should also be accurate, evidence-based, objective-driven, and designed to engage learners and teachers. They should be aligned to state, district, and curriculum standards. Informal learning resources, on the other hand, should still adhere to quality content and design standards as well as providing a meaningful education experience. Here, various projects could be mentioned, such as ‘Let’s build a house’ or ‘Running a coffee shop’.
Teachers can use many resources, starting from lesson plans, memory aids, PowerPoint, worksheets, various books, quizzes, activity sheets finishing on handouts.
In my work environment, I use a variety of worksheets, games, activity cards, incorporate PowerPoint presentations and use a whiteboard.
I would usually introduce worksheets to my learners after completion of the starter activity which is differentiated for all three levels (entry 1 to 3) and following presentation of topic on the board. A few exercises would be normally presented on the board and worked together with learners to refresh their knowledge before worksheets are given to them. The worksheets would be differentiated depending on my learners’ abilities. Some learners would require shorter version than others. For those, whose English is a second language, I often use simpler vocabulary and incorporate pictures to help them to understand. For dyslexic learners, I would normally use coloured paper, such as pink or provide them with appropriate overlayer. For those learners, who work towards L1 or 2, the worksheets would contain a problem-solving type of activities.
The advantage of this type of resource is that they are accessible to all if differentiated properly. They can be cost effective as they can be reused, and they are relatively quick to create. The downside of worksheets is that if used too often, they can become boring and can disengage learners from learning during the lesson.
Activity cards are an interesting alternative to a typical starter activity. They can be used by one learner or a group, great for learners who prefer kinaesthetic learning style. Cards are made from colourful paper to enhance the learning experience and can be cut in different sizes. Learners would be usually asked to put cards in order or in pairs, depending on the task or a topic of the lesson. Also, for those learners who do not speak very good English or experience memory problems, I have created cards that contain main words from vocabulary that they should learn or have a picture of a mathematical symbol or a shape and have written a quick description. An advantage of this type of resources is that is cheap and quick to create but should not be used too often as this could cause boredom in learners.
PowerPoint presentations usually contribute to my lesson and are great source of additional information for those learners whose preferred learning style is visual. It is used to support the learning and teaching process. They are designed to attract and maintain learners focus of different learners. I would use the presentation after working on the board or as a starter activity. They will be usually up to 12 slides and will not contain too much text. The main points will be highlighted with bold or ballpoints and headings will be used for structure with only main fonts such as: Verdena, Arial or Calibri. Backgrounds will be usually the same in each slide to avoid confusion in learners, especially those with dyslexia. The same as on the whiteboard, I use three main colours for fonts: black, green and orange. I would use them to differentiate levels of difficulty for learners with different abilities. Graphics or images from internet are relevant to the topic of each lesson and will usually have their source written on the bottom on the page (copyright).
The main advantage of the Powerpoint is that they can bring an element of fun to the lesson but should not be used as the only resource during the lesson.
The next important tool of my teaching is the whiteboard. I would use it to write the learning objectives, smart targets for each learner, so each person knows what needs to be achieved by them at the end of the lesson and illustrate and explain a complex problem. Different colours of pens are used to highlight different levels of difficulty for learners. I would make sure that the view is not obstructed, and eye contact is maintained. However, the whiteboard can distract learners focus if previous working is still on the board, so cleaning should be after each task.