Last year, the unit was a sea of paper. Giving out books is risky. For many of our students, their first reaction upon seeing a challenging piece of work or making a mistake is to rip up whatever they are doing. They work so hard and make so much progress that losing the history of that always seems too much of a risk.
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I therefore usually resort to paper, which once complete gets stuck in books and marked. Even this though is not without its challenges. A blank piece of paper is frightening for lots of my students, so a printed sheet with their personal objective and a writing frame for those who need it seems to work better. That is until the photocopier decides to print something not quite properly! My students are masters of perfection and can be guaranteed to spot the evils of the dreaded machine if it dares not to print perfectly straight by even a millimetre. A smear of ink where it shouldn’t be, a line that doesn’t print as it should, a picture that isn’t quite the right colour can all cause trauma. The machine and I have words on a regular basis but somehow he doesn’t quite get the message, that when it comes to my students accuracy really does matter.
So this year I’ve sacked him. He simply isn’t worth the trauma. This year in Key Stage Three we are going virtually paperless. We’re going to save our work on the drive (do not get me started on memory sticks, they too are meltdown inducing temperamental pieces of kit; they are also far too easy to snap in half, throw out of windows and hide up your jumper), I’m going to plan it on the drive, differentiate it on the drive and mark it on the drive. The computer you see knows how to be accurate, its lines are always straight, the colours look like they should and it’s too big to stick up your jumper. It also is much loved; ripping up the computer would result in no computer to play on at break, even were it possible it simply would not be worth it.
Now going paperless isn’t for everyone, it wouldn’t for instance work for my year 11 students, they need to maintain their handwriting speed in preparation for their exams. It’s also something that because of resources won’t be possible for everyone – it certainly wouldn’t have been an option for us last year. So, what easy differentiation can everyone do?
It’s simple (maybe), be kind to the photocopier, be kind to yourself and be kind to your students. If there’s a student in your class with autism and you’ve photocopied a sheet check it over first. Make sure it’s as straight as you can humanly possibly achieve and that the ink is as even as possible. I know at times it’s easier said than done (believe me I really do know), but carefully scrutiny can save a multitude of meltdowns, it’s well worth the extra few seconds at the dreaded machine…