Basic Skills: Literacy and numeracy resources for adults, ESL, special needs

A huge library of age-appropriate resources for young adultscan be accessed at skills All resources  are all linked to specific levels of the UK Adult Numeracy and Literacy Core Curriculum. Thank you so much for the wonderful sharing available here!

BBC Skillwise  Fabulous site, All free English and Maths for adults.   English and Maths skills for work. Maths includes numbers, percent, calculations, measuring, shapes, graphs.  Videos, worksheets, games and assessments to level 1 (which is workplace entry standard).  English resources include reading, writing, grammar, spelling, speaking and listening.  What is great about these resources is they cover the basics in an adult style so are great to use with learners with disabilities without appearing childish.

Literacy resources : Skills

Numeracy resources : Skills

Vocational Numeracy Online is a resource for students in vocational education and training.  Relevant and meaningful numeracy resources for young adults which focuses on numeracy skills for occupational use. For example it includes numeracy relevant to the automative industry, business, community services, construction work, food and retail, manufacturing  and engineering, tourism, sports and recreation.  Undoubtedly meaningful and relevant learning for 21st century learners.

Unfortunately the last time I checked for this resource I could not find it.

Apps for Ipad

Education is becoming more and more exciting as a result of new technologies. Computers continue to revolutionize education and anyone who has seen what is available in the way of educational apps is sure to agree that it really is a great time to be a student!  There are numerous apps for education and it can be a little overwhelming in deciding how to find them and what to use.  There are many apps to support special needs learning as well as literacy, numeracy, languages, social skills and so on.  I must say, that there seems to be an incredible number of apps for younger learners.   After that, although there may be apps to support learning (such as text to speech), I am seeing a lack of resources for older students with learning difficulties.  No doubt the market will continue to evolve.  Below I’ve listed some of my favourite places to find educational apps.

Special Needs Apps for Kids (SNAPPS) is an amazing site made up of a community of parents, teachers, doctors and therapists sharing information on how they are using apps with special needs kids. This is an easy to navigate site drop down menus to enable search for specific needs.

Special needs apps for kids


 Smart Apps for Kids  Lots of apps on here are free for trial – usually for a limited time – usually an hour or two.  A great way to look at apps before purchasing.  Most of them do seem to be for younger children.

Appitic: This is a directory of apps for education by Apple Distinguished Educators (ADEs) for teaching and learning.  The site is easy to navigate and is extremely well organised under key learning areas as well as categories for Blooms Taxonomy and Multiple Intelligences.

Apps for children with special needs: alphabetical listing and information about all suitable apps

Ipad curriculum: is a great site which will enable a search for suitable app via subject, grade level, price and Blooms Taxonomy. A comprehensive review is given for each app.

Apps in Education: apps categorized under KLAs with great reviews.

Apps for literacy support Spectronics comprehensive list of apps to support literacy.

Ipad and Ipod resources for education: comprehensive listing of apps according to subject area.

Spectronics apps for education: Spectronics blog of Australian, NZ and many others.

Ipads for learning: Apps categorised into subjects for easy searching.

Gerry Kennedy, Spectronics, Ipads in SEN, is an excellent read with tips and ideas for using ipads in special education.

Difference Differently – embracing diversity

Difference Differently is a fabulous teaching resource developed by the Together for Humanity Foundation.

The site has been developed for Australian  teachers and students to promote diversity.  There is no doubt that in an ever-increasing globally connected world, we all need to be able to interact with people of diverse cultures and beliefs.  Difference Differently provides curriculum resources across  English, History, Geography and Civics and is aligned to the Australian Curriculum, supported by the Department of Education and Training and supports the objectives of the Melbourne Declaration.      Resources include personal stories, media reports, contextual information, online forums, quizzes, interactive activities and reflection tasks.  Activities are interesting, stimulating and challenging.

Modules are available for both primary and secondary students across subjects mentioned above and include topics such as Thinking Globally, Defining Identities, Who Can be Australian? Mapping Diversity, Many voices.  You can view a demo of the site here. To get full access to resources, teachers need to register themselves and their students.  The site is set up so that only  teachers have access to their enrolled students.   It includes teacher resources and teaching strategies.  Teachers can also clock up PD hours by taking the Teacher Diversity Program offered.

A fabulous resource, spread the word and promote diversity in Australia.


Tildee is a fabulous tutorial creating tool that I came across on Larry Ferlazzo’s blog site. Larry used David Mearns Tildee, The Plight of Too Many Pooches as an example of how Tildee can be used as an educational tool.  It is very easy to use for example, insert a video and then take screenshots of scenes in the video and attach questions.  Especially great for ESL and special needs learners.   Larry has so many amazing tools I can’t keep up with, but this is one I have definitely checked out and used. You can create your own tildee really easily – I have just created one on the Industrial Revolution.


Commonsense Media

Looking for suitable age appropriate resources across the age range  –  books, movies, apps, websites, games: Commonsense media provides a database as well as advice and reviews.  Saves a lot of hunting around.

Stories alive

Moonbot studio has created the coolest e-book (ipad app) with their vision of futuristic books and stories: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore ($4.99).   With 30 awards for this creation,  the app is a mixture of animation, film and reading that come alive (touch the screen as you turn the pages).  With several other projects in the making by Moonbot, they sure are  leading the way in e-books of the 21st century.   Also included with the app is a video story of the book and a video of how the book was made.   In an age where reading hard copies of books is lessening, this story reawakens the value of books and story telling.  A superb literacy app for reluctant readers of all ages, which captures, entertains and enthralls throughout.  I can’t wait for future releases.


The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore Trailer from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

Another of my favourite e-books (for older readers) is Byooks The Adventure of the Speckled Band (Sherlock Holmes) ($1.99) which again uses animation to bring the story alive by incorporating pictures, animation and sound. As the pages are turned, the reader’s immersion is heightened with graphic enhancements.  With text-to-speech embedded, the story can be enjoyed by older readers to  experience the enjoyment of story-telling.  Byooks have also released another e-book, Little Fear which is free!

Film and TV teaching resources

Everyone enjoys watching movies and adding multimedia to the classroom is a great motivator.  Using movies as a teaching tool generates interest and enthusiasm and 21st century learners spend more time connected to media than ever before so why not join them!  Spreading the power of great movies has been a goal of The Heartland Truly Moving Pictures and the National Collaboration for Youth, and in collaboration with the Finding Inspiration in  Literature and Movies (F.I.L.M.) Project, they have devised free curricula based on Truly Moving Picture Award-winning films to promote  positive messages and life-affirming themes for young people and designed  to encourage reading and watching quality content, provoke thought and exploration of valuable and important themes and issues, and inspire participation in theme-based activities.   Free F.I.L.M. Curricula has resources for movies such as Flipped, How to Train Your Dragon, My Sister’s Keeper, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Bridge to Terabithia, Freedom Writers, Everyone’s Hero, Flicka, Saving Shiloh, Ramona and Beezus and more.  It also has a guide for developing resources for other movies and books: Teaching with Movies: A Guide for Educators and Parents. Great resources and ideas for identifying teachable moments in movies and sharing them with students.

Another useful and helpful site e is ‘Based on the Book’, a resource for finding books by genre, year or title that have been made into a movie.

Free movie scripts available at The Internet MovieScript Database, and Drew’s Script-O-Rama.

Thanks to Marvan Glavac, How to Make a Difference for forwarding this information to me.

In updating this post I am adding  EnhanceTV which has a plethora of teaching resources (many of them free for download after free joining) for TV and film content.  These are available via Screenrights, the not-for-profit organisation that licenses educational institutions to copy from TV. Nearly all schools, TAFEs and universities in Australia have a Screenrights licence. For more information on the licence, visit or email

Metro Magazine, Australia’s media and film magazine, again, have a number of study guide resources for film.  They are linked to the Education Shop which has additional resources for sale.

Managing Challenging Behaviours

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Having attended a PD by The Centre for Applied Behaviour Analysis recently, many of the suggestions and advice offered by Geoff Potter, were wonderfully inspiring and it was great to see what a long way we have come in recognising and respecting the dignity and rights of individuals with disabilities.   I am sharing some of the highlights of the session especially for those who work either with adults or students with special needs.

There are of course students with varying degrees of special needs support, emotional and behavioural disorders, learning difficulties and life imbalances, all of which contribute to how they react, respond and relate to peers, teachers,  the demands of school life and other life situations as well as beyond school life. Many  teachers also experience challenging behaviours in students without disabilities, so some of the strategies here can be applied in the general classroom also.

Punishments will not change the behaviour – the behaviour will return when the punishment ceases. This has been proven over time when such treatment as electric shock used to be given to deter individuals from doing the wrong thing – it stopped them at the time but when the treatment ceased, the behaviour returned.

Reactive Strategies

In designing a reactive strategy there are a number of observations and questions that need to be assessed:

  1. What does the behaviour look like?
  2. What precedes it?
  3. What are the consequences?
  4. Cycle?
  5. Course?
  6. Strength?
  7. Frequency?

Every student with disabilities should have a positive behaviour support plan with reactive strategies identified and antecedent control where needed.  The student concerned should be involved in the data collection process to assist with developing strategies to help them.

The purpose of a reactive strategy is to  solve the incident as quickly as possible and safely as possible.

Antecedent Control

The best reactive method is not to have an incident in the first place.  Antecedent control strategies involve the removal or elimination of events, objects or situations that may “set-off’ the behaviour problems should be described including persons, times of day, demands, demand styles, etc. to help avoid triggering the behaviour. A list of the suggested preventative procedures and reactive strategies can be made up – a list of “do’s” and “don’ts.” An example of antecedent control  is: an adult with II became paranoid after hearing about shootings on the news.  Don’t let him watch the news. Write this into a supportplan.

Key to antecedent control effectiveness:

  • Events that cue the presence of the challenging behaviour
  • Events that cue the absence of the behaviour identified
  • Events that cue the absence of the challenging behaviour presented systematically
  • Interrupt the behaviour: redirection, stimulus change etc.
  • Proximity Control: go up close (if safe) and tell them you understand.
  • Facilitate communication: “let’s go and have a cup of tea and talk about it.”
  • Instructional Control: give an instruction to do something.
  • Humour: use humour, funny masks, do something silly etc.
  • Facilitate problem solving: ask for their advice.
  • Facilitate relaxation: give them the relax cue.
  • Active Listening: its special value is when people have strong emotions one major value is that since it is non-directed non-judgemental and it does not serve to further escalate already difficult situations involves reflecting back to the person “the message that they are sending.”  Scenario: someone is screaming close to Mary. She appears to be upset is looking at the person screaming, she is holding her ears and staring at the person screaming. Response: “Tom’s screaming seems to be bothering you. It looks like it is hurting your ears!”

When people begin to show signs of agitation frustration, and they show the early signs of escalating to more severe behaviours, every effort might be taken to determine the problems, and to encourage them to express themselves. Specific questions that might be used include:

Do you have a problem?

Do you need help?

What is wrong?

Counter intuitive strategies

These may run counter to common sense in what many of us believe is appropriate in a support plan for somebody who has severe and challenging behaviour. However, counter intuitive strategies can be powerful in their abilities to avoid or to get rapid control over an escalating or potentially dangerous situation.

For example a man with II would always request a cup of coffee when going past the particular coffee shop. Attempts were made to redirection and refuse him would escalate to physical aggression. The best option is to assist him to get a coffee when he asked even if it meant him having four or five cups of coffee on going out.  To counteract the potential of reinforcing his challenging behaviour in this case by providing the coffee, rules were put into place. The coffee was made available to him and other times in other environments to negate the relationship between aggression and the coffee at a particular coffee shop.  He had a proactive support plan which included specific strategies to teach him to cope with not being able to have a coffee when he went past coffee shop such as relaxation training and covert positive reinforcement imagery training.

There were accurate data collection systems in place to evaluate his progress on his proactive plan.

Stimulus Change

At the time of incident, or when the person is beginning to escalate, the introduction of a novel stimulus or unexpected events may interrupt the course of the escalation.  However, this strategy has limited use and the effect is only temporary. The more often the same ‘novel’ event is used, the less effective it is. For this reason people need to have a wide repertoire of novel things to do and to say they need to remember that one method may work two or three times, but be wary. It is used. These are strategies that can be used to help reduce escalation.  The following have been used on adults in care so not essentially appropriate for school use.

Examples include:

  • Pretend to faint
  • Hooter sound or other unexpected sound
  • Pretend you can smell smoke and go outside to have a look
  • Start singing or dancing
  • Drop a handful of cash on the floor
  • get down on the floor and start searching for something that’s been dropped e.g. contact lenses
  • School appropriate stimulus change:
  • Send student to office with a dud note

Managing Stress:

Symptoms:  Abusing others, tiredness, over reaction to others

Techniques to reduce stress – anyone with challenging behaviour should be taught a relaxation strategy as a coping skill

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (practice until it becomes natural to say  ‘relax’ and person is able to apply)  (there is a book on the CD)   (Note: don’t use this technique with people with cerebral palsy – tightening muscles can cause a spasm). Model and teach the technique (see handbook Relaxation Methods, G Drive).

The goal is to achieve an involuntary response – person doesn’t have to think about it when you say ‘relax’.  They know what it means and can apply it whenever needed.

(A good tip is to use lavender oil in a spray mist bottle to induce relaxing environment).

Alternative strategies can be used with those who don’t have the cognitive capacity to respond. For example, an autistic person may respond better to deep pressure brushing – brushing with a hairbrush.

It is important when designing reactive strategies to be built into a support plan to maintain records to identify progress.  Data collection is an important step in the process to identify the effectiveness of strategies built into support plans.  It is also important to record the incident severity to be able to determine progress or success.   If a strategy is not working, it needs to be changed.  All stakeholders should be aware of what support plans are in place.

Favourite worksheet sites and graphic organizers

Connecting with other educators via a professional learning network means that teachers have so much more access to great resources than in the olden days without the internet! I’d like to thank two of my favourite worksheet sites as they save teachers so much work in preparation. which covers a range of subject areas including grammar, maths, language, goal setting and behaviour contracts.

At super teacher worksheets. there are a superb collection of maths, grammar, reading writing, phonics and puzzles/brainteasers worksheets.

The above resources are generally primary school resources, though I find them very helpful for students as revision or for those with learning difficulties or ESL students.

Interactive graphic organizers

Printable graphic organizers

General, sorting, graphs, charts, storytelling, KWL, Venn Diagram and graphic organizers

Free Worksheets at

Primary Resources  Free Worksheets & PPts on range of curriculum topcis

Great resources, worth  bookmarking.