If, like me, you dread homework and the thought of helping your child with exam revision brings you out in a cold sweat, I hope we can help. Having struggled to help my dyslexic dd through school, I decided that a new approach to resources was needed for our SEN children. Oaka Books was born out of frustration with an education system that was not working for my dd.
We have worked with teachers and SEN specialists to create over 60 curriculum based topic packs that really do help engage and encourage struggling pupils.
As parents, carers or teachers, we know the difficulties SEN children face can quickly become demotivating and result in low self-confidence. No-one wants to feel as though they are the only one in the class who simply can’t keep up or just doesn’t ‘get it’.
Oaka topic packs help children gain a positive and rewarding educational experience:
- Oaka Digital allows pupils to work at their own pace within the classroom or at home. It never tells them they are wrong, it always rewards effort.
- Engaging, interactive 3D models and activities bring learning to life in ways that reading from a book cannot for children who prefer kinaesthetic or visual learning.
- Quizzes have two levels to give pupils a pictorial prompt all with the aim of helping them to achieve a good result. Let’s face it, we all love to do well!
- Oaka Topic Packs are clear and concise and short enough to retain interest. Pupils are not ‘put off’ at the sight of a big text book.
- Active Learning Games and maps help pupils memory recall when it comes to exams and tests as well as understanding concepts, causes and consequences.
- Our topic packs contain all the key information for KS3 revision. It is not ‘dumbed down’ to match a low reading age; it is the same information, presented in a very different way.
The SEN spectrum is wide and varied, which obviously makes life tricky for publishers to hit the right note. We, therefore, have to pitch our products somewhere in the middle to try to help as many people as possible. For those at either end of the spectrum and for whom we are not quite right, we apologise. For those who have found our resources hit just the right note, thank you for using us and we are thrilled to be making a difference to your children’s lives.
We’ve put together these notes to help explain the design of Oaka topic packs. As far as we are aware, they are the only curriculum based resources designed specifically for our SEN children.
Specific learning differences fall into five main areas that we have tried to address in the development of Oaka topic packs:
Visual and Auditory Discrimination:
Learners have trouble decoding the letters and words on a page or screen. They find the fine lines of the text hard to identify differences in the letters. Letters are often written back to front.
Auditory discrimination means that the learner struggles to hear the difference between separate sounds of words or the subtle differences in similar sounding letters.
How can Oaka Help?
Oaka’s layout is clear and concise. Pages are divided into sections. Each section is numbered. Sentences are short and bullet points are used. Illustrations highlight each key point and provide a visual prompt for memorising details.
There are several different typefaces that many dyslexics have found to be helpful. Generally, sans serif fonts are considered easier to read. For children, we believe that a font that has a rounded ‘a’ is preferable to ‘a’.
The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) has done some research into fonts. Although nothing was conclusive, there was a general feeling that the following should be considered when selecting fonts for dyslexics:
- Good ascenders and descenders,
b, d, f, h, k, l, t, and all capitals; g, j, p, q, y.
- b and d; p and q distinguished, not mirror images.
- Different forms for capital I, lowercase l and digit 1.
- Rounded g as in handwriting. Most liked rounded a, although perhaps some felt that it may be confused with o.
- Letter-spacing, e.g. r, n together rn should not look like m,
(‘modern’ may scan as, or sound like, ‘modem’.)
We, therefore, chose to use Comic Sans for much of the body of our packs.
It meets all dyslexic ‘likes’ except mirrored b and d.
- b, d, f, h, k, l, t, and g, j, p, q, y
- b, d, p, q
- Capital I, lowercase l, digit 1.
- g, a, o
- r, n, rn
Compare: Ill, boat, modern.
a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0.
We also use predominantly dark blue text on coloured backgrounds. Just moving away from black text on white paper makes reading so much easier on the eye, whether you are dyslexic or not!
Special Educational Needs pupils often have very good long term memories. They may be brilliant at remembering information that many of us would have long forgotten. However, short term memory recall can be tricky. This can cause problems in just getting words from the whiteboard onto paper. The time it can take for note taking often means that SEN pupils get left behind or do not complete their work, all of which impacts on self-confidence.
Poor auditory short term memory:
This can result in children not being able to follow instructions and certainly struggling with being given more than one instruction at a time.
It can also manifest itself in an inability to remember the sound of a letter or word, making writing the word harder or impossible.
How Can Oaka Help?
All Oaka Topic Packs give the key information, being covered in class, in a clear, concise format. This enables users to work at their own pace but still cover the information required for each specific topic.
Without this ability to work more slowly, SEN pupils will often find that they have completely missed large chunks of topic information which means they not only lose confidence but they do not have the necessary base to move on to more complex information at GCSE.
A Multisensory Approach
Oaka Topic Packs give learners a structured, multi-sensory approach to each topic. Within each paper based pack, pupils will have a topic book to read (with a reading age of 10yrs 6 months for our KS3/CE packs) and good readability where difficult words are phonetically spelled and repeated.
Secondly, there is a Write Your Own Notes book which mirrors the Topic Booklet to give a visual prompt with illustrations. There are blanks to fill in and word banks to help if necessary. The format means that SEN pupils can complete a task independently and gain a sense of achievement. More able pupils will complete the booklet quickly and can then be given extension work.
Thirdly, there is the Active Learning Game or Map. This comes complete with 42 Q&A flashcards for sciences, geography and French and character cards for history. Pupils then have the chance to practise retrieving the information they have learned from their memory. This helps move the details from their short term memory (where many struggle) to their long term memory.
Oaka Topic Packs give pupils the tools they need to continue revising topics throughout the year so they are not left with pressurised revision before end of year exams. Being able to do well in exams, while not the be all and end all, improves self-confidence. Let’s face it, we are all motivated when we do well!
SEN students often find organisation challenging. This can then impact on their learning in terms of time lost and stress.
It may be that they struggle with the left-right organisation of text or with the organisation of their ideas which results in very little making it onto paper.
How can Oaka Help?
Each Oaka Topic Pack is laid out in the same format. Once a pupil has used one of our packs, they will know how each of them works so will feel immediately comfortable and confident.
Each pack starts with a glossary of the key words and terms for that specific topic, complete with images relating to the words used later in the pack.
The pages are all divided into sections and sections numbered to help pupils make their way through the booklet. The Write Your Own Notes booklet is a mirror of the Topic Booklet so it is easy to find information.
Keeping information in topic specific, colour coded booklets makes it much easier for children to locate relevant information.
Oaka topic packs offer support to pupils in different ways:
Our paper based topic packs enable pupils to write key words using a word bank to help them.
Oaka Digital, our online resource library, enables pupils to use a drag and drop facility. This means they do not need to use handwriting skills to complete work. It also utilises keyboard, mouse and fine motor skills to move boxes on the screen. Incorrect answers will not work and pupils just have to try again. There is no negative pressure. Positive completion of each task is given a reward message.