Sunday, 1 December 2013

Communicating with your TAs (#TMEpsom)

Last Monday (25/11/13) I attended the 2nd #TeachMeet held @glynschoolepsom (my previous school). After hosting #TMSurrey last year, I was able to relax this year and enjoy #TMEpsom that was hosted by Guy Jones @questionbeggar.

As part of the event, I decided to present on how we go about communicating with our TAs/HLTAs. I only presented for about 2 minutes and so I hope by writing in more detail about this here that some unanswered questions will be answered.

My presentation at #TMEpsom was really simple and revolved around the purple folders we use for each of our classes where we have TA/HLTA support.

I have one of these folders for each of 4 of my classes where I receive regular support for the students in my class.

The folders are managed by my TAs and they update the folders if/when we run out of daily sheets, when IEPs are updated and class details change. As a teacher, all we have to update in the folders are our seating plans and our schemes of work for that module/topic etc.


Each of my purple folders contain the following information:

Class List with all SEN details highlighted
Students Photos
Seating Plans
Schemes of Work
Current Levels/Grades for students on the Code of Practice
A Daily Tracker for teachers/TAs to fill in
IEPs
Reading Levels and other relevant data on the students

Before each lesson I have with the class, and when TA/HLTA support is given, I fill in the teacher part of the daily tracker sheets. The daily tracker sheet is a simple table with 3 columns, 1 for the date, 1 for the teachers' instructions for the TA and 1 for the TA's feedback. All I write in the table is the date/period of that lesson and then how I wish my TA/HLTA to support me with the class in that particular lesson. This consists of a few sentences explaining what we're doing that lesson, with whom I wish them to work (or withdraw from the lesson to work with in a small group) plus other details as necessary.

At the start of each lesson the idea is that my TAs pick up the folder for that class from my desk and look at what I have written on the daily sheets for that lesson. Then, at the end of the lesson, they fill their part of the daily tracker sheet in by commenting on how the students they worked with progressed that lesson and comment on any other things they picked up on in the lesson. This could be that certain students did/didn't complete certain activities, whether they noticed students struggle on a particular concept or had a common misconception etc.

The great thing about the purple folders is that it allows me to communicate with my TAs without having to find those 5-10 minutes in between lessons or after lessons to catch up on what you'll be doing or how things went; too often in the past I have tried to have these conversations at the start/end of lessons and rarely had the time to really let my TAs know what it is I'd like them to do or how the students they were working with got on.

By using the purple folders I now see, prior to each lesson, the comments from previous lessons and the progress of those students my TAs/HLTAs were working closely with. This then feeds into my planning for subsequent lessons and it may be that I ask my TA to work with other students they noticed didn't do so well in previous lessons, or take certain students out to catch them up on work they may have missed out on or need further support with. It also means my TAs can see what it is I want them to support me with before the lesson rather than having a couple of minutes notice of what they're expected to do. And, when there is a class where I am supported by 2 or 3 different TAs/HLTAs, they can be informed of how those students they are to work with have progressed in previous lessons.
Another thing I like about the folders is that I have all the class' IEPs and details of their particular SENs to hand. Usually these details are kept on the school's shared drives and finding such information can take a while. This way, the details are there when planning each lesson and they can easily be referred to when planning new activities and ensuring I am using particular overlays on ppts, grouping certain students together, changing seating plans and making sure those students that need to be sat in particular places can be etc etc.

The purple folders are something my school have been trialling since the end of last year, I believe, and so they are something I have been introduced to this year. As such, getting used to these have taken some time and remembering to fill them in as soon as possible for my TAs to access has taken time to get in the routine of doing. We have found some problems with them based around the fact that my TAs still don't always get enough notice prior to lessons as to what they need to be doing with the class, especially if they are asked to take a small group out. The prior warning needed for doing these 'withdrawls' means the TAs need time to prepare resources perhaps, or just find a room/space they can go with the students they are being asked to take out and work with. So, in addition to the folders, if I know I'd like my TAs to take certain students out I try to e-mail them the day before the lesson (at least) so they have time to prepare.

The folders are working to improve the communication between my TAs and I and they provide great evidence of the support and provision we are giving to certain students and my classes in general. If anyone whats any further information about our purple folders then get in touch by commenting below or contact me on Twitter @mrprcollins

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