How good are you at identifying your strengths? Go on then, list five things that make you a fantastic TA. Done it?
Now think about the areas you need to develop. Not so easy is it?
It’s important to be constantly updating our knowledge and skills but if we are blind to our own development needs then how are we to make a start? Some schools don’t even carry out appraisals on support staff. It’s easy to feel dejected. Why bother?
I believe training is important. It’s vital for our development but it doesn’t have to be formal. Training courses are great if you are lucky enough to get on one, but informal CPD is good too. Reading a magazine article can be just as useful as sitting in a classroom and being taught. There are some fantastic resources on-line just waiting to be discovered by us and used in our work with the children.
Learning Support Magazine is a prime example of how on-line materials can be used for CPD. It’s really easy to browse through the magazine to find the information you need. Past issues have covered just about every subject you can think of, from how to support children with communication difficulties to how to produce stunning displays. Just check the index and go to the relevant issue. Click on the cover to read the magazine. It couldn’t be easier.
Websites can be useful. Try typing Primary resources in your address bar and see what pops up. One of my old favourites is Woodlands Junior School which has great links to games and activities.
But there are dozens of great sites to look at. Don’t take my word for it. Have a google for yourself and see how much you can learn.
In a few days time the kids will all be back at school for the start of the summer term This is my favourite term of all. The children are settled into their routines and the teachers and support staff are now very aware of each child’s particular needs. We have had the chance to observe the children at work and we are well aware of each child’s strengths and their preferred style of learning.
Most people agree that active learning is the best way to learn. Gone are the days of learning facts by rote. Recall of facts may once have been needed in order to pass tests, but they aren’t much use in daily life. After all, when will I actually need to recite the names of the rivers of Yorkshire?
Thinking skills, the ability to solve problems and to reason, and the ability to analyse facts, are now seen as far more useful for children in this day and age. One great way to do this is to constantly ask questions. ‘Why did that happen?’ ’How can we prevent…?’ ’What if…?’
In the eighties, an Australian called Tony Ryan developed this even further by creating different ways to encourage critical thinking. In his book ‘Thinkers Keys For Kids’ he explains how to encourage children to become thinkers. He recommends activities that can be used to get children into the habit of analysing information, solving problems and interacting with information to form conclusions.
I used to regularly use ‘Thinkers Keys’ as starter activities. When children came into class at the start of the day or after lunch, there would be a thinking activity written on the board for them to complete. My favourite one was to give them an answer, for example – The Rain Forest. They would have to think of five different questions that could only have the rain forest as the answer. Another popular activity was to find different uses for an object, for example – Find ten different uses for egg boxes.
There are loads of other ideas on his website. Well worth a look.
I’ve pasted a link below, but you could just type ‘Tony Ryan Thinkers Keys’ into the address bar.