Delivering school interventions for a generation of tech-savvy pupils calls for a new approach, says Nicola Hankey, teacher and SEND co-ordinator at Ludworth Primary School…
The children in today’s classrooms have grown up with technology and can’t imagine life without tablets, apps and emojis. They form part of Generation Z born in the early 2000s or later, and are true digital masters.
Unlocking the potential of Generation Z pupils with SEN presents new challenges, and while there is no one size fits all solution, here are some of the strategies I have found to be effective.
1. Build a dream team
Harness the power of digital communications by sharing information with the people involved in supporting a child. Your dream team should consist of the parents or carers, teachers, the SENCo or intervention teacher and of course – the child.
Send regular updates to keep the team informed, and ensure everyone is pulling together towards the same goals.
2. Listen to the pupil
Generation Z pupils are encouraged to be independent thinkers, so try involving the child in making decisions and setting targets. I sometimes use a smiley face questionnaire to ask questions like, ‘Do you enjoy working in pirate club?’
For some children with SEN, emojis may not be the ideal solution. Voice-activated software that records their views might be a better option and ties into their love of tech.
3. Boost confidence
On the whole, Generation Z thrives on praise and rewards, and helping children with SEN to recognise their own strengths is essential.
Always explain what the praise is for, such as learning a new word, or trying hard with their reading. Build confidence in pupils with SEN by asking them to help with a classroom task, or recommend a book to a classmate.
4. Make school interventions interesting
Shorter attention spans are a characteristic of Generation Z, so it can be more challenging to keep these pupils on task.
Technology helps here as it speeds up essential activities. For example, we use eye-tracking software from Lexplore to assess progress in reading before and after an intervention, which only takes a matter of minutes. And an app or online tool often provokes less anxiety in children with learning difficulties than pen and paper.
5. Get out and about
Although tech has a vital role in educating Generation Z, there’s a tendency to overdo the screen time, so venturing outdoors provides a fresh perspective on learning.
Activities such as gardening club or forest school motivates children to work together and explore new experiences. All pupils can benefit from outdoor learning with the help of specialist resources and equipment, such as adapted trim trails with side rails to help children balance more easily, or wheelchair-friendly pathways.
One child may not respond to an initial support plan that has worked for 10 other children, and it can take time to find the key to unlocking their learning. However, by trying out new tools and approaches, you will find something that works for them.