Monday, May 4, 2020

News: Funding boost spells good news for children


Thousands of children across the North are set to benefit from free access to a new teaching programme developed in Rotherham which can help them develop confidence through spelling at home.

Michelle Lockwood is one of thousands of teachers across the North who has committed herself to going the extra mile in these extraordinary circumstances.

Working as a teacher at St Bernard's Catholic School in Rotherham, Michelle developed an innovative programme called Spelling Beats which can keep children engaged and learning. It has been created with support and funding from SHINE, a philanthropic organisation that backs educational projects and teachers in the North to innovate in their practice and scale-up new ideas.

Spelling Beats uses gaming elements and catchy beats to engage children of all ages in learning how to spell. It allows them to step into the role of a DJ to learn the rules of spelling in a fun and engaging way.

Michelle, who has taught at schools in Barnsley, Rotherham and York, came up with the idea for Spelling Beats after realising just how many children have gaps in their spelling skills in primary school. They carry this through to secondary school and they don't have the opportunity to catch up.


Michelle said: "During the self-isolation, parents will be pulling their hair out and, while they'll want to encourage home learning, they'll also have to battle against other distractions.

"Students will quickly tire of dry, worksheet-style home learning so we need to help them continue to make progress. Spelling Beats is a perfect solution, as it's both engaging and educational, and children will be happy to use it. They’ll be having fun, whilst learning at the same time."

Thanks to additional support recently granted by SHINE, Spelling Beats can now be accessed free of charge by schools serving the most disadvantaged pupils in the North. Qualifying schools will receive a free subscription lasting until September, giving their pupils access to the full Spelling Beats programme throughout this time.

The game combines vibrant high-end graphics with original catchy music tracks in genres including grime, dance, reggae, hip hop, RnB and rock. It also utilises the latest developments in artificial intelligence to draw on a vast database of words covering the whole primary national curriculum for spelling, plus a wide range of secondary subject specific keywords. Unlike other spelling programs, which children can find simplistic and repetitive, Spelling Beats has been developed in conjunction with students and teachers to ensure children of all ages find it relevant and engaging.

The project has been a labour of love for Michelle. She explained: "Having worked in both primary and secondary schools, I found that spelling was often an area of weakness for children, which affected their wider confidence and attitudes, especially towards writing. Conventional methods of teaching spelling can sometimes be perceived as boring, so I wanted to develop an innovative project to turn that notion on its head."

Spelling Beats website

Images: SHINE


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