Fountaindale School deliver their curriculum through play. This approach relies very much on the inventiveness of the practitioner to create sensory learning opportunities, which utilises appropriate mobile technology to reinforce learning. The use of sensory stories as a teaching tool is embedded in everyday classroom activities.
A class of nine semi-formal learners, all wheelchair users with varied levels of cognitive disabilities, are taking part in a lesson about volcanos. All learn better with enhanced multisensory stimulation, with a strong focus on developing communication skills.
Their learning is delivered through the vehicle of an individual and specifically scripted sensory story, which takes place every Monday at 11am and is repeated weekly, in an expanding series of events, which builds upon the story week by week. It is designed to revisit areas of the curriculum previously taught and to remind the pupils of concepts they have experienced in previous lessons. An interactive learning wall illustrates the concepts taught and provides a focus for pupils to engage with.
The story develops over the term, expanding in length and complexity as the pupils learn more concepts. The script of the sensory story is set and the sequence does not vary, which enables the pupils to get to know each part of the story and to begin to predict the next part of the sequence. New concepts are introduced within this familiar context.
What are the key features of this approach?
- The sensory story is unique to the specific curriculum elements the class are learning
- The story is multisensory and is appropriate to meet the varied learning styles of the pupils
- The sensory story is carefully scripted and follows the same sequence, adding new concepts within this routine
- The sensory story is represented in the classroom by a multisensory ‘learning wall’
- Repetition of key concepts within a familiar learning routine reinforces learning for pupils over a greater number of learning opportunities
- The sensory story is also referred to throughout the week’s lessons and specific parts are revisited on a day to day basis
But how is technology used in the classroom for these curriculum sensory stories?
Gathering around the teacher and the learning wall, the pupils experience the sensory story which is told by the teacher, supported by a team of skilled classroom assistants. The technology used in the sensory story is prepared and within reach before the story begins. Relatively simple technology, such as a microphone to give the pupils’ a voice, is very effective and creates an enthusiasm in the pupils to participate: ‘who wants to shout it out?’
The key feature of the technology used here, is that it is not being used just for the sake of using technology. It is used to enhance the story and reinforce its concepts. It is used to create impact and drama – to be irresistible for pupils to engage with learning.
It does not feel as if it should not be there. Each carefully chosen piece of technology brings an extra dimension or a reinforcing tool not available to the teacher in any other way.
It does not play a central role – if the technology fails, it is not a problem, because it is a part of the story, not the key tool or delivery system.
Care is taken to make sure that this is a multisensory story, not just a sound and lighting experience. So, in addition to the visual and sound technological effects, specific experiences have been identified, created and are offered to enhance the pupils’ tactile, gustatory, olfactory, vestibular and proprioceptive sensory skills.
Fountaindale School use sensory stories as a vehicle for increasing the number of opportunities for pupils to revisit their learning, by the use of repetition of key concepts within a familiar learning routine. The technology used is not the key focus of the story, it is used to reinforce concepts and embed the learning. The technology used is simple and really effective. And because the technology is kept simple, it works!