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17 hacks that work in a SEN classroom

Posted by Bernie Callanan on Saturday, 5 January 2019
Bernie Callanan
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Teaching in a SEN classroom is very much a process of trial and error. Where some strategies prove a success in some classrooms, in others they can be a complete bust.

Over the years working in SEN, I have gathered a fair number of evergreen classroom tricks and tips that require no additional planning time.

Here are my tried and tested classroom hacks that improve levels of understanding for all students in your classroom and are transferable from SEN classrooms to mainstream.

1. Whiteboards, pastel-shaded backgrounds. It is estimated 60% of primary aged students experience Irlen Syndrome during this period. Irlen Syndrome is related to visual stress. It is increased with the stark contrast of black text on a white background. Pastel-shaded backgrounds reduce contrast and the stress caused, helping students increase speed, and accuracy when reading, whilst also reducing their levels of tiredness.

2. Whiteboards, box text. This allows students to compartmentalize the information being processed, aiding organization of thought.

3. Whiteboards, keep them simple. Less is more when it comes to processing information on a whiteboard.

4. Dual coding. These means have visuals with text, especially keywords or themes of the lesson. The theory is that visual learners are better able to access lesson material in the same way verbal learners might if both the picture and written word are displayed together, increased levels of stimulus for all learners.

coloured pencils

5. Displays. On side walls and back walls only; displays around the whiteboard can distract learners (especially those with ADHD, ASD, and Dyspraxia) from the lesson content.

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About our Community Expert


Bernie Callanan


Over 10 years of SEN experience in a number of settings. Developed whole-school approaches to ensure students with SEN are catered with the support they need.

Placing the student with SEN at the heart of all decisions made regarding their education, whilst liaising with all stakeholders involved.

Bernie is our education expert who provides SEN related content.

Topics: SEND


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