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Overcoming Learning Difficulties in Children

The Kingshurst Junior School Experience

Kingshurst Junior School caters for children aged between 7 and 11 (Key Stage 2) and is situated in North Solihull in the West Midlands. The school is part of Excellence in Clusters and receives DfES funding under the Behaviour Improvement Project. Under the leadership of its forward-looking headteacher Mr Jeff Darby, the school has become recognised as a Centre of Excellence. It has been awarded a Charter Mark for Public Service and Beacon Status for curriculum innovations, especially in the fields of whole brain learning, Neuro Linguistic Programming and Learning How to Learn.

Kingshurst Case Study Kingshurst School prides itself on its efforts to overcome its childrens' learning difficulties with Mr Jeff Darby stating, "We believe that each pupil has ability and that given the right techniques and strategies each learning problem has a solution."

One such technique is through the use of the voice recognition and reading package known as KeyStone SpeechMaster, which incorporates Dragon Naturally Speaking technology. When used to aid children create written documents, the teachers reported marked increases in the childrens' confidence in both written and verbal skills. Employing this technology has even motivated previously uninterested pupils to work in this highly interactive environment.

Kingshurst Case Study Emma Elliot (left), a learning advisor at the school, claims "It's all about engagement and ownership. The children enjoy working this way. They are constantly making their own choices, expressing their own ideas and critically, learning how to apply knowledge." Several teachers have reported unexpected improvements in behavioural problems among some pupils. Emma Elliot suggests, "Some children no longer seem to get frustrated now that they can express themselves and participate in their classes."

The SpeechMaster package is also being used in conjunction with other technologies that the school has at its disposal. Kingshurst use a mind-mapping program, where children plan out projects by speaking their ideas aloud directly into the program. This increases their familiarity and vocabulary by using words and terms that they would otherwise have difficulty in spelling and therefore avoid. The children then, at a click of a button, swap to and from Microsoft Word to write the written element of their projects. This has been highly successful, allowing the children to concentrate on planning what they want to say and forming the structure of the written document without losing any of the content.

Kingshurst Case Study The school's classrooms have also been fitted with the latest whiteboards and teachers are using SpeechMaster as a teaching aid. They ask children questions then dictate the answers which are displayed on the board, all in a clearly typed and correctly sized format. This removes any difficulties the children have in reading poor handwriting and allows them to receive a printed document of their answers, alongside the questions asked, at the end of their lesson.

The children have adapted to using KeyStone's SpeechMaster voice recognition and reading system very easily and quickly. The children either read out the short training stories provided or else they used the screen speaker option and simply repeated back, phase by phase, the story as it is read out to them.

Kingshurst Case Study The training process takes the format whereby a teacher trains a small group of children and then they themselves train other children under the supervision of the teacher. Emma Elliot reports, "The training was really painless. The children who acted as trainers enjoyed the responsibility it took no time at all and the other children responded well to instruction from their classmates."

SpeechMaster is a highly versatile and flexible piece of software that can be used in many different ways in a classroom. No longer is it just in the special needs domain. Children in mainstream schools have now been proven to benefit greatly. Children can use this package as a complementary tool - alongside the keyboard and mouse. Emma Elliot states, "It's up to the children to choose which aspect they favour. If they don't like or have difficulty with a certain part of it they soon adapt their own working practices. Technology is part of their everyday life. It is easy to understand why they take to and enjoy using KeyStone SpeechMaster as enthusiastically as they do."

Kingshurst Junior School - (0121 770 3192)

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