Special Needs North;Exhibition Preview
Fun with figures
Sweet Counter has some attractive new mathematics games that are good value for children in both mainstream and special schools. A teacher in a school for children with severe learning disabilities particularly liked The Cafe (pound;16): 10 favourite foods with prices between one and ten pence, useful for arithmetic that relates to the children's real lives. Sun Flowers (pound;16), with sets of flowers that can be bunched with a split pin and put in vases, would be good for many children (although it was uninteresting to some boys). The two-dimensional vases were a bit fiddly - containers that stood up would be better for some. The Train Times game (pound;12) was excellent for counting and multiplication (boys liked it). It has trains to be pushed through a tunnel with between nought and five people in each carriage - particularly good for children confused by the nought times table. All the games come in generous sets, with durable wipe-clean items.
Stand 23 Tel: 0973 152064
Plans made easy
IEP Writer is friendly software designed by a teacher for writing individual and group education plans. There are three databases, for literacy, numeracy and behaviour, which can be bought singly for pound;55 or together for pound;115. It's an excellent package that offers both ready-made phrases, and the opportunity to put in your own words without difficulty. A primary head said it was ideal for people who want to try out a computerised system, but do not have access to, or cannot be bothered with, one of the more complex administrative packages for special needs co-ordinators, and a good bet in this year of funds for computers in education. Stick it in your PC and get going right away, without having to spend days learning the system and creating files. Both Jersey and Galloway and Dumfries authorities have bought it for all their schools.
Learn How Publications Stand 47 Tel: 0181 886 2262
Copperplate for all
Handwriting for Windows is a quick and easy way of letting you see, and print out, any text on screen in attractive, even handwriting. It lets you choose from several styles, with the correct letter joins for each. (pound;25.53 single user, pound;42.53 for site licence).
Kath Balcombe Educational Resources Stand 17 Tel: 01743 356764
At between pound;140 and pound;180, Lego timetabling may seem expensive. (The price is dependent on how complicated your lesson organisation is.) But special needs departments with elaborate arrangements for support teachers and assistants are finding it very useful.
Modulex, a spin-off of Lego widely used for planners in business, has developed a module for special needs co-ordinators. The system consists of an A3 sized board like a Lego base, and coloured wipe-clean tiles (enough to have a colour for each faculty in a secondary school). Smaller tiles can be added to show priorities, and there is a space for messages at the bottom. The board can be displayed in the staffroom and can be easily photocopied and circulated to staff.
A secondary special needs co-ordinator commented that the board is very quick and easy to use, and makes instantly visible the cover needed when staff are absent and the balance of support across departments (which has reduced complaints from the subject teachers). The distributor, Overview Planning Systems will visit schools, and can to some extent customise the system to suit a school's requirements.
Stand 31 Tel: 01422 845773
Write with pictures
Clicker 3 (from pound;80 for single user) from Crick Software, another company set up by a former teacher, was a prizewinner at this year's BETT educational technology show held at Olympia. It has a talking wordprocessor, and lets you write with pictures as well as words. There are ready-made grids that teachers can give children, or they can set up special grids with words they want children to practice. Wordbar (pound;50) is Crick's new software for older primary and secondary pupils. It's good for subject word lists and general spelling help, and speaks out the words. It works with any wordprocessor.
Stand 50 Tel: 01604 671691
Spin-it (pound;7.95) is a "magic E" game from Crossbow Educational, another small enterprise run by a practising teacher, that went down well with Year 5 special needs children and their teacher at a Midlands primary school. It generated a lot of talk about words and motivated children to reach for dictionaries. It is simple to play, with straighforward rules and five cards, each with 16 words, which offer a lot of possibilities for language and general vocabulary work.
Wordbuilder (pound;9.95) created a lot of loud excitement and useful discussion on words and their meanings. The game could be extended to further tasks, such as making sentences using the words, or listing similar rhyming words.
Stand 18 Tel: 01785 660902