5 ways to support SEN pupils with edtech

Sponsored: Rory Dixon, Year 3 Teacher at All Saints HwB Primary School, discusses the benefits of using edtech to aid SEN pupils.

One of the biggest challenges with teaching SEN pupils is finding ways to support them without making them feel ‘different’ or somewhat marginalised. Pulling SEN pupils to the peripheries of the classroom for additional support can be counterproductive by decreasing pupils’ self-esteem and planting a seed for a disconnection with their desire to learn.

As teachers, we’re constantly looking for ways to tailor teaching to support SEN pupils and allow them to flourish as more confident and engaged individuals. For me, edtech has been a crucial development in allowing me to really make a difference with SEN pupils, and this is why we do the job we do.

In class, I have several SEN pupils, some who are dyslexic and some that display autistic tendencies. Both dyslexia and autism are highly varied and can present themselves in a multitude of ways, but I’ve been able to adapt my lessons to meet the pupils’ needs using edtech.

At the front of the classroom we have an ActivPanel, an Interactive Flat Panel Display (IFPD) which proves beneficial in engaging SEN pupils in lessons, and here are five elements which support this:

1.    Backgrounds

For dyslexic pupils, background colours can make the world of difference, many dyslexic pupils often struggle with interpreting black text on a white background, which by default tends to be the standard colour format for most materials and resources. Some dyslexic pupils often say it seems like the letters are moving. There are apps out there that allow you to change background colours so that the dyslexic pupils can see the text more clearly, each child has a preference but yellow seems to be the most popular choice in my class, even for non-dyslexic pupils. We use ActivInspire software on the ActivPanel where we can change the background and font colours in a multitude of resources to whatever we want them to be, or even use overlay tools. 

2.    Templates

Another challenge for lots of dyslexic pupils is distinguishing and writing the letters p, b, g and d. ActivInspire software or apps in the app store, allow me to pull up handwriting templates. Pupils can use a stylus to follow a marker and develop muscle memory of letter formation. Pupils can even manipulate the letters afterwards, physically with their fingers or stylus to correct them. These transferable skills make letter formation much easier when we are working on paper-based activities. 

3.    Games

Phonic game apps are fantastic for helping pupils to learn sounds. We use the Phonics Play app on our panel where pupils have to shoot particular sounds out of the sky and each time they hit one it makes the sound of the letters. Being able to make a connection between the letters visually and the sounds through a fun activity is engaging and helps the pupils to better remember phonics. 

4.    Connectivity

Laptops, iPads and other tablets have become a key tool in teaching digital literacy. Being able to connect all of these devices to the ActivPanel using cloud-based ClassFlow software has allowed for a whole new level of interactivity and feedback in my lessons. I can send out tasks to all of the pupils, they are then able to write or create visual answers and send them back to display at the front of the class. Each child is able to use whatever tools they feel most comfortable with, whether they be templates, backgrounds or other apps to create something to answer the task question. This means every pupil has an equal opportunity and choice of tools to use, having the upmost confidence in the answer they are preparing. 

5.    Timetables

Organisation and structure in lessons is important for every pupil, but especially for those with autistic tendencies or who have challenges with memory. It can be difficult for these pupils to stay engaged and on task.  As a class we use an app called Visual Timetable on the ActivPanel, it’s particularly beneficial for SEN pupils to plan out the class agenda. They take ownership and pride in doing so, and this helps to reinforce what tasks we are working on and when, further engaging the pupils in class. There is a constant visual reinforcement on the panel at the front of the class which we all use to plan our day. 

Technology is an enabler in the classroom for all pupils to access an array of tools and resources and transforms teaching and learning. The tech gives me the opportunity to integrate the above elements into my lesson planning, to support and engage all pupils without having to single any child out. We support numerous ways of learning in class and recognise that every child learns differently and has a preference as to how they learn best. By recognising these differences and being able to tailor lessons to support everyone, we can ensure that every pupil has the opportunity to meet their full potential and an increased confidence.