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Professional Learning Workshops

Start Smart Tasmania offers high quality professional learning, tailored to suit the requirements of the school or centre. Our focus is on upskilling educators (teachers, teacher aides and early childhood educators) with strategies that promote strong oral language development. Below is a selection of workshops on offer, however please contact us to discuss your needs. A workshop can be developed as needed. Professional Learning Workshops are charged at $300p/h.

Dyslexia 101

This full day workshop gives a thorough overview of how to cater effectively for students with dyslexia and related literacy learning difficulties.

Part 1 explores the facts and figures of dyslexia - definition, characteristics, cause, diagnosis, prevalence, and co-morbidity. Most of the day is taken up by Part 2, which is based on the science of reading, and outlines the most effective interventions for helping these students become fluent readers and confident spellers.

Part 3 discusses appropriate adjustments for students in the classroom, including text-to-speech and speech-to-text options. There is also discussion of the impact that literacy learning difficulties has on students’ mental health and well-being.

Executive Function: Understanding and Adjusting

Executive function is the latest buzz term in education, but what is does it really mean? We unpack this and examine each of the executive functions in detail. We explore how executive dysfunction, particularly working memory impairment, presents in the classroom and outline screening tools to consider other factors that may affect learning. What makes this professional learning session different to so many others, is the strong focus on classroom adjustments. The highly interactive, one-day workshop provides opportunities for Teachers, Teacher Assistants and Learning Support Coordinators to experience some of the challenges students with executive function difficulties face, and take away a resource bank of strategies and adjustments to use in the classroom.

Unpacking a language assessment

Have you ever spent hours poring over a language assessment for a child in your class, only to remain unsure as to exactly what it all means? We define the frequently used terminology, and look at the measures used to identify strength and weakness that contribute to a diagnosis. We review the key language areas and how difficulties in these areas might present in the classroom, as well as the importance of each in classroom learning. Through the use of case studies, we look at how a student's presentation on language testing is reflective of learning or cognitive difficulties.

Vocabulary intervention

Recent research tells us that vocabulary is the single biggest predictor of academic and occupational success. This gives an imperative - consideration of vocabulary teaching as part of all curriculum areas for all students. The challenge is, with an area so voluminous, how do we select appropriate targets that are cross-curricular and have maximum effect on student learning. Based on the principles of the Robust Vocabulary Intervention approach (Beck, McKeown & Kucan), this workshop discusses the best vocabulary targets, why they work most effectively and how to embed this into classroom practice. Opportunities for follow up are available to support you in developing vocabulary targets relevant to your students and context and to facilitate effective implementation.

Communication Strategies for Students with Additional Needs

For many of our students with additional needs, communication is a key component of their difficulties. Learning how to adapt our own communication style and adjust our classroom environment are key strategies to successfully engaging these students. This practical workshop discusses a range of strategies that can be implemented to simplify verbal interactions and promote communicative success. These strategies are particularly relevant for educators working closely with students with learning difficulties.

Preschool Communication Workshop

This workshop shows educators how to screen young children for speech and language difficulties and then develop simple intervention plans to treat basic difficulties that have been identified. Markers for onward referral to speech pathology are also considered.

Using Technology to Adjust for Students with Learning Difficulties

Classrooms are diverse places, and catering for students with a range of learning needs can be challenging. This workshop explores a selected range of applications and extensions that enable all students to access the curriculum and demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways. All featured apps run best using the Google platform and, in most cases, are free.

Speech Difficulties in the Classroom

A workshop designed to introduce educators to the range and complexity of speech difficulties with which children may present in the classroom. We discuss how speech develops, when to worry about a child' s articulation skills, a typical sequence of intervention for correcting speech difficulties, and strategies that can be incorporated into classroom interactions to both support these students, and further develop their speech skills.

Understanding Receptive Language

Many of our students with additional or specific learning needs have difficulties understanding what is said to them and what they read; they have receptive language difficulties. This workshop explains what receptive language is, how to tell when a student has receptive language difficulties, and strategies you can use to simplify language and modify your classroom interactions to better engage these students. An integral element of this workshop is the addition of a personal video coaching session, where one of our facilitators will visit you in your workplace and record you working with students. We can then review the videos together to discuss the effectiveness of the strategies you have utilised.

Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness (PA) skills are the building blocks for developing a 'sound' strategy for literacy acquisition. In this workshop we discuss the four key PA skills children need to support phonics, look at the sequence of development of these skills and cover strategies and activities to promote this learning. We also have some time to look at, and share resources that might be useful in the classroom context.

Voice Care for Professional Voice Users

As an educator, your voice is one of your key assets. Constant voice use, particularly over classroom noise, places you at risk of short or long-term problems with your voice. Voice problems can present as a husky or croaky voice quality, recurrent period of laryngitis, constantly losing your voice or that feeling that you have 'something stuck' in your throat. This workshop covers the anatomy and physiology of voice production, how and why as an educator you might have issues with your voice and discusses practical strategies for taking care of one of your most important resources.

Four Easy Ways to Incorporate Oral Language into the Literacy Block

Effective oral language skills are an important precursor to the development of written language (reading and writing). While oral language permeates all activities in the classroom, from the giving and receiving of instructions, to narrative planning, it can be useful to specifically incorporate oral language activities alongside written ones. The best time to do this is in your designated literacy block. Four activity themes are discussed - phonological awareness activities, barrier games, newstelling and post-text oral language activities. We also have the opportunity to share resources and texts that support oral language in the classroom, as well as spend some time sharing other ideas for highlighting the connection between oral and written language.

Levels of Questioning

Questioning is one of our most effective tools for promoting active learning in children. The right question, at the right time, supports children's understanding and encourages them to analyse what they have heard and take their learning further. Based on Marion Blank's four levels of questioning, this practical workshop covers the four levels, discussing the underlying themes of the questions in each level as well as naming up the questions that reflect those themes. We discuss how to adapt activities to incorporate these questions to maximal learning effect and spend some time developing questions at each level to accompany activities from your own context, be these oral language activities, texts or readers you use frequently or something entirely different.

Developing an oral language mindset in your early childhood classroom

While oral language lays the foundation for the reading and writing skills children will develop as they enter and progress through school, it is important to consider that oral language is actually a life skill. Our students will use oral language in all aspects of their education, in the classroom as they connect with their peers and teachers, but also throughout their lives as they grow into adulthood. It is not only our means of surviving everyday (asking for things at the shops, getting directions to where we need to go) but also the vehicle for social success (and the happiness that interaction brings) and social-emotional health. Layering all classroom interactions with oral language is key to developing not only this life skill, and of course sound learning skills, but all other skills dependent on good talking and listening.

This series of workshops and coaching sessions takes participants on a journey to consider how to overtly and covertly include oral language targets into all elements of classroom interaction. We look at gathering, interpreting and using data to give a clear picture of the oral language proficiency of the learners in your classroom. We use a skills development hierarchy to pull apart commonplace activities in your classroom to determine the degree of oral language proficiency required to succeed in these activities. We discuss the use of oral language as the key scaffold to learning for students at all stages in their academic and social development, and the development of specific oral language strategies and activities to promote learning in the various curriculum areas.

 A key element of this course is the provision of time during sessions for planning, and the in-class coaching and support, to encourage participants to implement and evaluate the strategies discussed. Our aim is always to build on what is already happening in your school or centre, your setting, your classroom.