SEE part 2- The PEER Cycle
In the previous post, Daniel Downes, Teacher of VI, looked at the rationale for the SEE approach. This follow up post is a description of the PEER cycle which is our method of squeezing every drop out of a sensory experience.
Although the PEER process has been described sequentially here, the real intention is to create a cycle which is kept in motion by the child’s own motivation and by new questions which arise throughout (one topic leads to the next). The long term aim is to provide all children on the teaching caseload with some experience of each of the 22 global areas as identified in the previous post.
Four key stages: Preparation for learning, Experience, Evaluation, and Reinforcement.
Stage one- Preparing to learn
At the start of each term, a suitable theme is selected and a SEE target is set for all children on the regular teaching caseload. As the SEE approach has developed, we have found it useful to have a longer term theme such as ‘transport’ which can then be made up of several different experiences such as transport on snow, on water, in the air, on roads etc.
Unpicking what a child already knows is useful for planning the experience in the next stage and should not be influenced by what we think a child knows, (a four year old blind child recently corrected me telling me that dogs actually have two legs not four, this was somewhat of a surprise given that this child has a guide dog with four legs!) We can explore existing concepts by completing a KWF grid (know, would like to know, found out). For younger children or children with multiple needs, it is useful to ask parents what experience their child has had with the given topic. As mentioned earlier, the experience should not be seen as an add-on to other areas of the expanded curriculum. As such, the other areas of intervention should be intertwined with the topic as far as possible. A child may use computer or tablet skills to research the farm, or may listen and try to identify animal sounds or a tactile learner may be encouraged to match animal textures for example. A parent’s group for younger children provides the ideal opportunity to offer a different theme related sensory activity each week. If the theme is the farm, children may like to explore the smell and texture of hay or materials that resemble different animals.
Services are becoming increasingly accountable and the pressure to demonstrate progress is growing. An important aspect of the preparation stage is to record the baseline which makes it much easier to show progress made during the evaluation stage.
Stage two- Experience
The experience is the most important stage of the cycle as it presents the opportunity to utilise all sensory channels, creating a powerful learning experience which is difficult to imitate within a classroom. This stage is usually based around a visit or experience related to the chosen theme. Examples may include a trip to the farm, a ride on a steam train, a visit to an airport/market/cafe or a tour of the Guide Dog training centre. Although the developmental outcomes should largely be organic, in order to ensure accessibility, it is essential to plan general learning outcomes and activities. For example, if the theme was ‘the farm’ very young children or those with multiple needs may just be required to obtain a new experience using each sense. This could be recorded by parents/carers by answering questions such as, ‘have I heard a new sound today?’ Older children might be expected to take pictures of certain features of the farm to answer questions such as ‘what stops the cows from walking around the farm freely?’ Activities like this can provide direction towards key concepts such as gates and fences without limiting free exploration.
Where possible it is often useful to integrate other areas of the additional curriculum such as using a computer tablet, reinforcing self advocacy/ social skills, or by creating a treasure hunt with clues produced in Braille.
One of the most useful activities has been to encourage children to create a ‘journey stick’ during the experience. The idea is that children are given a stick to attach objects that they come across throughout the day. The children can then use their sticks to recount their journey to their friends. A variation of this is to create an experience bag which is the same idea but the child fills a bag rather than a stick.