13 November 2020

8 General Guidelines

1.   Help the learner to be aware of the length of paper in terms of sections, questions and duration of the paper.

2.   Help the learner to plan time-use for examinations using the examples below as a reference.

3.   Practice full paper for each subject with the learner at least thrice before the actual examination.

4.   Work out the recommended time for each section or adopt the examples below if relevant.

5.   Record actual time needed and then adjust the recommended time to suit each learner’s needs.

6.   Teach learner how to use extra time granted to them as part of access arrangements. If you are unsure of the extra time given, please check with relevant school authority. Generally, the extra time of 25% of the whole paper duration is provided. i.e. 15 mins extra for a one-hour paper.

7.   Through error analysis and together with the learner, agree on the top three most common errors/ most “waste-marks” errors and focus on these three errors during the checking process. It helps to be very specific about the errors and we should avoid using generic terms like “grammatical errors” or “careless mistakes” because that can include too many kinds of mistakes. Instead, be specific about which grammatical error you are referring to e.g subject-verb agreement/ irregular verbs. Always remember, if you want the learner to spot everything, they will spot nothing.

8.   Some learners might have difficulties staying on task even during examinations. For these learners, it also helps to associate task progress with a concrete image. For example, in the Primary 4 Maths Booklet A, a student can keep track of his progress by drawing one part of any figure with 4 parts. At the end of the paper, he/she would have a completed rectangle. For a paper with 6 sections, the learner can keep track of his progress by drawing one part of any figure with six parts e.g. a stick man. At the end of the paper, he/she would have a completed stick man. Some learners find it especially beneficial when task completion is made more concrete this way.

Download the Complimentary Exam Time-use Guide (PDF 773KB)

By Rebecca Shalinah, Associate Lecturer 

Spelling can be a task that many students avoid as they find it challenging to cope with due to the several errors that they make.

One of the reasons why students make errors in their spelling is due to the fact that some letters may sound alike but the students have to make the right choice of letter to spell the word accurately. One such example is the /s/ sound. There are 2 ways to make the /s/ sound; letter ‘s’ and letter ‘c’. So when a child is asked to spell the word ‘city’ for instance, they may end up spelling it as ‘sity’ since both are pronounced exactly the same way. This is where students need to know the spelling rules in order to make the right choice of letters and spell independently not just by guessing or memorising but rather through logical reasoning. The soft ‘c’ rule applies for the above example.

Soft ‘c’ rule 

Letter ‘c’ makes the /s/ sound when it is followed by letters ‘e, i or y’. In order for students to remember this rule, ‘Elephant In Yellow’ is introduced to them!eiy

Using an image to represent a rule would allow students to better visualise it and retain it in their memory. There are many other spelling rules that can be taught to students explicitly which will help them to spell more confidently and accurately not just by guessing or memorizing but through logical reasoning. To find out more, join us at the ‘Coping with Spelling’ workshop conducted by DAS Academy.

Click Here to Download Full Article

The dyslexia-friendly index for Parents
Take this quiz to find out how dyslexia-friendly your home is:

CHECKLIST YES NO 
1 I talk to my child about dyslexia and about people who have dyslexia.    
2 I have attended at least one dyslexia talk/course for parents.    
3 I practice reading with my child at home.    
4 I help my child find ways to work around his or her weakness caused by dyslexia.    
5 As far as possible, I supplement verbal and written information with pictures, diagrams or manipulatives.    
6 I break down the school's weekly spelling list into bite-sized components, with revision spread across the week, instead of expecting the child to master the entire list in one day.    
7 I break down words in the weekly spelling list into chunks and point out unique features in the words.    
8 I help to ensure that worksheets (especially reading comprehension tasks) are printed only on one side.    
9 I provide clear and direct instructions in a bite-sized manner.    
10 I have routines to help my child get his work done.    
11 I inform and communicate with my child’s teachers about his or her learning needs.    
12 While I am sensitive to my child's weaknesses, I am also keenly aware of his or her strengths and I provide support to develop those strengths    

 Total up your scores and check how dyslexia-friendly your home is!

'Yes' Responses -General indication 
9 - 12 [Your child is well supported to maximise their potential]
5 - 8 [Your child is generally supported but will benefit from more support]
0 - 4 [Your child may find it challenging to cope with an SEN. eg. Dyslexia]

Take a short and simple quiz to learn about how dyslexia-friendly your school is!
For Educators, use the checklist below or click here for the interactive form.
The dyslexia-friendly index for Educators
Take this quiz to find out how dyslexia-friendly your practices are for students with Special Educational Needs. 

CHECKLIST YES NO 
Overall School Environment  
1 The stall vendors use clear fonts and pictures in their food menu.    
2 There are clear signages for the main venues in my school. e.g. general office, canteen, toilets, school hall.    
3 My school organises regular SEN awareness training for the staff.    
4 There is a special needs department in my school.    
5 There are planned sessions in the yearly school calendar to discuss SEN matters.    
6 My school is supportive of access arrangements during examinations.    
7 My school is supportive of day-to-day accommodations whenever the need arises e.g. availability of disco seat, high tables for students who focus better while standing    
8 The learning support personnel and his/her role in the school is made known to all new teaching staff during the staff induction day    
9 Heavy subject periods are placed in the morning, whenever possible    
Classroom Environment  
10 As far as possible, I supplement verbal instructions and explanations with pictures, diagrams and/or manipulatives.    
11 I ensure variety (visual, verbal, kinaesthetic) and levels (Bloom’s Taxonomy) in my learning objectives.    
12 I use figurative language selectively and follow up with an explicit explanation.    
13 I simplify instructions and avoid unnecessary information overload.    
14 I make it a point to check for understanding after giving instructions.    
15 I leave important information on the board long enough for students.    
16 I make a point to ensure worksheets/ slides are not cluttered.    
17 I print comprehension text and questions such that students do not need to flip over to refer.    
18 I highlight challenging key curriculum words, break them into parts/ syllables and provide strategies to remember them.    
19 I practice having a group read aloud to the class, instead of having a single student read.    
20 I take steps to make spelling tests more friendly for students    
21 I offer students personal choice in the demonstration of their knowledge, through a variety of questions, a variety of platforms etc.    
22 I have the learning support personnel present in periods which require support    
23 I highlight students who might have SEN to the learning support personnel in a timely manner    
24 I work together with the learning support personnel to support students with SEN in my class    
25 I allow time for movement between activities.    
26 I use specific colours for specific information on the board.    
27 I use a font of at least size 12 and ensure that it does not have extending features called “serifs” at the end of strokes e.g. Calibri instead of Times New Roman.    

Total up your scores and check how SEN-friendly your practices are!

'Yes' Responses - General Indication
19 - 27 [Learners with SEN in your school are well supported to maximise their potential.]
10 - 18 [Learners with SEN in your school are generally supported but will benefit from more support.]
0 - 9 [Learners with SEN in your school may find school life challenging.]

By Senior Lecturer, Sylvia Foo

It is often said that you can tell which era a person grew up in from the music he/she listened to or the shows and movies he watched. I remember telling my student about my favourite television series, Little House on the Prairie when I was in secondary school.

My student wrinkled up her nose in disgust that I actually enjoyed watching the adventures of three sisters growing up on a farm in the American Midwest in the 1870s and 1880s. Some of her comments included, “Where got fun running around on a farm and countryside?”, “You mean they had to make their own games? No computer, right?” and the mother of all comments, “Wah, if I have to play like that, I will go mad. Better study instead.” My student’s comments about the nature of play a long, long time ago are perhaps typical of the modern era where digital games play a prominent role in the play or leisure diet of our children and students. Even adults in public transport are hooked on their small screens, pressing furiously away to get higher scores on the latest Candy Crush or Minecraft instalment.

Don’t get me wrong. There are benefits of playing online and mobile games. Digital games have the power to stimulate curiosity, imagination and encourage the use of logic to solve problems through puzzles and riddles. But like any other diet, it is good to vary our children’s menu of games so they get a balanced intellectual, physical and social development. A diet of predominantly fast food is not healthy even if that fast food has less salt and sugar or is fried in olive oil.

Adding traditional games to your child’s diet of play is one way to increase the variety and promote the development of important skills. I consider traditional games to be those that do not involve computers or high-tech gadgets. They can be simple and inexpensive such as Hopscotch, Five Stones, Pick-Up Sticks and Cat’s Cradle (The Patterned String Game). Traditional games can include board or word games such as Monopoly, Chess, Scrabble, and Cluedo as well as card games like Happy Families, Old Maid and Snap. There are today newer versions of traditional games in toy stores such as Uno, Rush Hour, Jenga, Twister, Pictionary and Hedbanz.

HOW DOES PLAYING TRADITIONAL GAMES BENEFIT YOUR CHILD?

Firstly, some traditional games require physical movement, unlike digital games which are primarily sedentary in nature. A common concern of parents is that children are not getting enough physical activity because they already spend a lot of their time at the table doing homework and studying for tests and examinations. Moreover, some dyslexic children may have problems with their physical dexterity and coordination or they may have ADHD.

Traditional games that require physical movement provide increased opportunities for dyslexic children to jump or stretch and even improve their hand-eye coordination. They also give the ADHD child a chance to train his focus and decisionmaking while having fun. A game like Pick-Up sticks requires an ADHD child to learn to concentrate and control his impulsivity as he decides which is the better stick to pick up. This is unlike playing a digital game which can overstimulate his senses.

Secondly, traditional games can stimulate your child’s brain through logical thinking and strategy the same way that digital games can, but without him being exposed to scenarios that are excessively violent. Games like Rush Hour can help your child to visualize how he can move the red car forward in as few moves as possible. Monopoly teaches your child to be careful with how he spends his money and to make good decisions. Cluedo helps your child to look for clues to make deductions. Looking at context clues is an important part of inference, a higher-level reading comprehension skill.

Finally, traditional games can help your child to improve his communication and social interaction skills. Digital games often require the player to interact only with the game itself. There is little need to connect with others. Playing traditional games requires children to spend time with their parents, siblings or friends without a virtual medium. They develop the intangibles such as learning to ask questions politely, taking turns, following the rules of the games, showing empathy to players who lose and control their temper when they themselves lose. Most of all, happy memories are created as children with a bond with their parents, siblings, and friends over traditional games. Satisfaction is gained from being together in the spirit of fun and during the lively banter. There is no need to keep increasing one’s score on a game to have a sense of enjoyment or achievement.

There is room for both digital and traditional games in our children’s play diet. How is the balance to be achieved? A good way to look at it is to first consider how much family time we have given the nature of life in a fast-moving and stressful society. It then becomes important to ditch the small and big screens regularly and return to playing traditional games with our children during family time. This will make the limited time we have with them more emotionally fulfilling as relationships are built and strengthened.

References: Michael G. Rayel, MD. Parenting 101: How Can Traditional Games Benefit Your Child?
Simple as That Blog - The Benefits of Simple Play Traditional Children's Games
Read it in FACETS: Let Your Child Play

By Associate Lecturer Siti Mariam

.....with Reading Comprehension?

Students, both with learning difficulties and without, who have yet to develop automaticity and fluency in reading are likely to struggle with reading comprehension. This is especially so for students with dyslexia. These studentshave difficulty focusing on the meaning of a text when most or all their mental energies are directed at sounding out the words in the text. Besides that, students with learning difficulties may struggle to hold the information that they have just read, long enough in their memory in order to act on it.

One way to help these students remember what they have just read is by getting them to create mental images in their mind as the text is read. This helps to clarify the text in order to aid understanding as well as promote active engagement with the text. Visualization is in fact, one of the strategies shared in the DAS Academy’s ‘Developing Comprehension Skills’ workshop, and is a technique that has been found to improve reading comprehension. Keen to find out more? Sign up for the ‘Developing Comprehension Skills’ workshop to explore other strategies to help your child/student with their reading comprehension.

.....with the Basic Operations in Mathematics?

math operation
Not understanding the concept of regrouping? Forgetting to add the ‘0’ when doing long multiplication? Long division a nightmare? Do all these scenarios sound familiar to you? How can you help your child/student comprehend why regrouping is necessary? How can you ease the long multiplication process for your child/student? How can you help them remember the steps to the long division? The ‘Supporting Your Child in Mathematics’ workshop by the DAS Academy will give you an insight on why students with learning difficulties struggle to understand certain mathematical concepts as well as equip you with alternative strategies to help students with the four basic operations.
.....with Spelling?
spelling

Spelling can be difficult for some, but it is particularly a challenge for students with learning differences, especially those with dyslexia. In spite of being capable in other areas, and having the same amount, if not more, of classroom instruction as their peers, students with dyslexia still have trouble remembering the letters in words due to their inability to analyse and remember individual sounds that represent them. Not only that, considering that words can sound alike but spelt differently, these students also have difficulty picking the right letters to spell such words. Through the ‘Understanding Phonics Instruction’ workshop and the ‘Coping with Spelling’ workshop, participants will pick up strategies to help these students with letter-sound correspondence as well as rules to guide them in their spelling. For example, recognizing that the letters [dge] makes the /j/ sound and that the word ‘badge’ should be spelled as such and not ‘baj’, due to the spelling rule for the letter [j].

By Senior Lecturer, Sylvia Foo

I was a Secondary Two student when the first Star Wars movie was screened in 1977. George Lucas unleashed a phenomenon when he introduced movie audiences to Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Darth Vader and that almost pseudo-religious Jedi knight benediction, "May the Force be with you".

Won over by this genre of movie, I waited with bated breath for the next two installments in the then Star Wars trilogy. I was aghast when Darth Vader revealed he was Luke Skywalker’s daddy turned bad and like everyone else, I cheered when the bad daddy overcame the dark side in him to destroy the evil Emperor and rescue Luke.

Many years have passed and the initial Star Wars trilogy has expanded to include prequels and sequels to the delight or dismay of hardcore fans. Nevertheless, it is the original movie that is the inspiration for my present article because it left such an impression when I was a teenager who was struggling with puberty and self-doubt.

At the beginning of the movie, the ship transporting rebel alliance leader, Princess Leia, is captured by a much larger Imperial ship. As the rebel fighters prepare to defend the princess against capture by the superior imperial soldiers, you can almost sense that they are going to fail miserably. They were slaughtered but their resistance managed to buy precious time for Princess Leia to hide the plans of the Death Star and a holographic recording in R2-D2, the droid.

So some good did come out of this failure. We need to try to find the positive when things go wrong so that we can move forward and try again.

On route to the planet Alderaan, Obi-wan Kenobi teaches Luke Skywalker how to use the lightsaber, the galactic version of a sword. Luke is mocked by Han Solo for his clumsy attempts at swordplay. Han Solo is also highly sceptical about the power of the Force. Obi-wan Kenobi encourages Luke to persevere and he manages to learn to wield the lightsaber effectively even with his eyes covered by the visor of a helmet.

Success comes with perseverance and practice. Not everyone will be on board with what you are doing but like Luke Skywalker, having a supportive mentor or teacher can help speed the learning journey.

On the Death Star, Luke, Han set and Chewbacca set out to rescue Princess Leia while Obiwan Kenobi goes to disable the tractor beam so that the Millennium Falcon can escape. Both tasks are accomplished and the motley band manages to get away from the Death Star in the Millennium Falcon to the rebel base on the planet Yavin.

Success comes more easily with some planning and consideration of one's strengths and weaknesses. Obi-wan was a much better choice to disable the tractor beam because of his superior Jedi powers. Imagine Chewbacca trying to lend into the shadows while sneaking around the heavily patrolled Death Star.

However, the escape from the Death Star has its price. Obi-wan allowed himself to be killed by Darth Vader to ensure the rest could getaway. 

Success often comes at some kind of cost of sacrifice. That sacrifice can be in terms of working harder and longer at something you are not good at and giving up the time to have fun.

In the final battle, the rebel alliance wages a desperate attempt to destroy the Death Star. They have to make an assault to knock out the main reactor of the powerful space station before it obliterates the planet Yavin. The rebel assault squadron consists of a small force of x-wing fighters, one of which is piloted by Luke Skywalker. It is Luke who eventually fires the proton torpedo that triggers the destruction of the Death Star. If we look at Luke’s profile, he is very far from being the professional battle-scarred pilot. He is a young farmhand and relatively new to fighting in the galactic civil war.

It is interesting to note that George Lucas, the director, and writer of Star Wars faced challenges in 1973 when trying to find a Hollywood studio to fund the writing and production of his initial storyline. He approached several Hollywood studios but they rejected his project because they found the storyline unconventional. It seemed to be in the science fiction genre but it also had elements of fantasy and adventure. Eventually, Lucas managed to get the head of 20th Century Fox to support the writing and production of the film. The rest is history. According to the Guinness World Records, Star Wars remains the third-highest-grossing movie of all time.

Being different from having a different idea can lead to success.

A person with dyslexia is different in the way he or she learns but that difference can be positive too and lead to much success. Maybe among our man learners with dyslexia is an original and creative thinker who will one day produce a worldwide phenomenon to top the success of Star Wars. I look forward to that.

Read it in FACETS: What Star Wars Taught Me About Success and Failure

By Senior Lecturer, Sylvia Foo

One of my dyslexic students was an avid doodler. His worksheets were often filled with spontaneous drawings of whatever caught his imagination or fancy at that point in time. I am sure parents (and other teachers) would identify with the horror I felt when I discovered that margins and empty spaces of learning materials became an artist’s canvas. In my opinion, doodling was simply a distraction. That student has since graduated and I have begun to see doodling in a more positive light, especially if it helps reluctant writers. We just need to channel the doodler’s energy and artistic works into meaningful creativity. Learners with dyslexia can be reluctant writers but otherwise take to art and drawing with enthusiasm. Why not harness what dyslexic learners prefer doing to help them see that writing can be fun and creative too? When you catch your child doodling, do not berate him for being distracted. Instead, ask him what that doodle means and see if it can be a springboard for writing.

Doodles can be an expression of imagination; a story may be in the making. Even if the doodle has no potential to be a narrative, you may want to get your child, when he is free, to transfer that doodle to an empty exercise book. That exercise book can become the doodler’s special notebook and canvas where he not only doodles but he can also write one or two sentences on his drawing. Encourage your child to use that notebook when he has the urge to doodle. A story may be woven in time. Another way doodling can help with writing is when your child is stuck and he cannot seem to get his creative juices going. Getting him to doodle may remove that writer’s block and start him thinking about possible storylines. It is worth noting that some research has indicated that doodling, contrary to popular belief, can also be an aid to increased memory and focus. Doodling is a common strategy employed to counter daydreaming. In 2009, psychologist Andrade asked 40 people to monitor a 2½ minute voice mail message that was dull and rambling. Half of the group doodled as they did this while the other half did not. There was a surprise memory test after the call. The doodlers recalled 29% more details from the call compared to the non-doodlers. The science here seems to indicate that doodling requires enough mental energy to help the brain to focus. There is clearly more to doodling than meets the eye. The next time you catch your child doodling, rather than reprimanding him, look at the circumstances in which he was spontaneously drawing. You might see an opening for encouraging creative writing or even better learning for your child.

References: Andrade, J. What does doodling do? Applied Cognitive Psychology.2010; 24(1), 100-106.