SEN Language We Should All Use: ACQUISITION


Interventions use a range of terms to describe levels proficiency. This series titled SEN Language We Should All Use proposes the use of four key descriptors to rate proficiency and attainment in a set of skills be it reading, maths, writing, behaviour or any other academic-based activity.

The goal of this series is to develop a degree of uniformity in reporting on pupil attainment, as well as identifying interventions and principles for teaching these pupils.

Why is it important to know their stage of learning?

Knowing a pupil’s stage of learning gives an unambiguous basis for:

  1. Knowing when to increase task difficulty or accelerate learning content

  2. Knowing what and how to teach students, including how to provide feedback

  3. Knowing how to maximise teaching time

(Burns, Riley-Tillman & VanDer Heyden, 2012)

How do I know if my student is in the ACQUISITION stage?

They are typically: 1) hesitant and 2) consistently incorrect (less than 93% accuracy without support). This is referred to this as frustration level. This is what it looks like:

Learned Helplessness

It is vital for teaching in this stage to be appropriately faded so students to not develop “learned helplessness”. This happens when students learn that adults in their classroom/home will do things for them if they are too difficult and thus learn to develop a sense of helplessness due to the eagerness of the supporting adult. Learned helplessness can also develop when a student repeatedly experiences failure. Learned helplessness is associated with mental health difficulties and overwhelming feelings of powerlessness.

Intervention examples for ACQUISITION STAGE

You will quickly recognise this is not an exhaustive list of interventions, but is instead meant to point in the right direction for three key skills:

Reading: letter sound/decoding knowledge, sight word reading, comprehension

  • Precision teaching of words, phonics sounds, phonological awareness

  • Direct instruction (modelling) of skills following the “My turn – together – your turn” script

  • Lightning Cards for phonics and sight words (a.k.a. Incremental rehearsal - video below)

If a student is acquiring reading skills, instructors should provide immediate feedback to ensure students do not rehearse incorrectly. Texts should be simple, basic, and supported with pictures to help make sense of the words.

Spelling/Writing: handwriting, sentence writing, organising/writing longer pieces of work

  • Look, copy, cover, check

  • Say and stretch modelling

  • Rainbow writing of words

  • Copying letters for letter formation

  • Writing frames/scoresheets to help organise writing (see Resources Page)

If a student is acquiring spelling/writing skills, instructors should select a specific skill to focus on in a session to ensure near perfect practice (over 93%)

Maths: acquiring any basic maths skills (counting on/back, place value knowledge, four basic operations)

  • Lightning Cards for maths facts including number bonds and times tables. The above video demonstrates this using words.

  • Follow a CPA teaching model (Concrete - Pictorial - Abstract) with heavy focus on precision teaching using concrete resources and representational support models (see Resources Page)- adding using concrete resources, place value mats)

Next week we will look at different interventions for the Fluency Stage of learning, including a few interventions and ideas. This is often looked over for a number of reasons, but is important for our students to develop proficiency in their learning.