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Quest Model Bilingual School

Quest Model Bilingual School is a Wits Centre for Deaf Studies Four Year Pilot Project.

This language enrichment program aims to equip our pilot group of Hi Hopes Graduates with age appropriate literacy and language skills on par with their hearing peers, whilst researching the process and the impact of the various assessment tools used, in turn directly impacting the development of the model.

The following aspects are incorporated into the model:

Bilingual Model

Both SASL and Cued English are treated as home language. A unique model in SA where in most Schools for the Deaf SASL is taught as Home Language and English as the First Additional Language through writing. . It is currently both very challenging and rewarding as much of the material used has had to be, and is still being developed and adapted for specifically to meet the needs of our learners. The focus is on language enrichment across the curriculum in both languages and in meeting the needs of the children where they are - holistically.

Multi-Level Classes

A successful approach to teaching, especially when working with small groups. Quest Bilingual Model School Learners are currently in Gr 1 and Gr 2. One of the benefits noted is how the younger ones are enriched and the older have opportunities for reviewing or better understanding work they have already been exposed to. Additionally peer teaching has started coming into play. Some transformational schools ascribe their success to using multi-level classes. Maria Montessori, amongst others, comes to mind when using this approach with special needs children.

UDL- Universal Design of learning

Access, Engage , Express.

Learners need to be able to access information according to preferences (whether through visual modality of SASL or Cued English, or through oral) and learning styles ( whether visual, auditory or a kinesthetic learner), adapting the material, where possible, according to their strengths, and engage through activities designed to facilitate learning with meaning and understanding by tapping into the child’s natural curiosity and creativity about the world around them, developing a love for using `why, what, how, where, when and what if...’ whilst learning, by asking them challenging questions using the Socratic style of teaching. We allow them to express in whatever modality they choose – `voice and choice’ is given where children can display learning using SASL, Oral, or Cued English, through Drama, Art, Projects, Demonstrations or other assessment tools. UDL is Personalized Learning at its best. A celebration of learning in a `classroom of one setting’. `If a child cannot learn the way we teach them, then we must teach them the way they learn’.

21st Century skills

Dr Tony Wagner – co director Harvard’s Change Leadership, in his book called `Global Achievement Gap’ describes this term as `that which Schools are teaching and the skills children need to learn....known as the `4 C’s’: Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking and Communication. We at Quest are aware of the need to teach these skills as a matter of importance and make a conscious effort to do so where-ever possible in conjunction with Habits of the Mind, and Blooms Revised Taxonomy and Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences.

Habits of the Mind

Sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action, reap a habit. Sow a Habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reach a destiny – Anonymous.

There are 16 habits of the mind – Persisting, Managing Impulsivity, Listening with Understanding & Empathy, T hinking Flexibly, T hinking about T hinking (Meta-cognition), Striving for accuracy, Questioning and Posing Problems, Applying Past Knowledge in New Situations, Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision, Gathering Data Through All Senses, Creating – Imagining – Innovating, Responding with Wonderment and Awe, Taking Responsible Risks, Finding Humour, Thinking Interdependently and finally Remaining Open to Continuous Learning. All of the above are woven into the daily school routine whenever and wherever possible. Blooms Revised Taxonomy (remember, understand, apply, analyse, evaluate, create,) Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical, Visual-Spatial, Musical, Bodily- Kinaesthetic, Interpersonal, Intra-personal, Naturalistic & Spiritual). Again the emphasis is on trying to work with each learners individuals strengths.

Blended Learning

Blended learning can be defined as a rich mix of learning interventions which takes place off and online. Only one theme per term is presented to the children but is done in great depth and pitched to be challenging but not overwhelming for the children. Our approach is holistic in nature in that it values creative arts at the same level of importance as Mathematics, Science and Language. IT is embraced as a valuable tool to be used when it adds to what the teacher has to offer. You Tube, Teacher Tube, Zearn, Scratch Jr & Skype are all resources that we have access to thanks to the fact that our classroom is WiFi enabled. One of its greatest strengths is that it facilitates `team teaching’. We have a very flexible approach to the use of staff in the classroom. The head teacher, SASL teacher, and teacher assistant often work together with all the children on the same lesson sharing their expertise and knowledge to the benefit of all. There are also times when the grades are split so that more specific grade appropriate instruction can take place. STEAMLITE is a term we use to describe our Language Across the Curriculum Approach to theme work. It is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Maths, Language Individual strengths, Themes and Enrichment.

Genius Hour

Every Friday, for about an hour, the children are exposed to fun activities designed to extend, enrich and challenge them without fear of failure. These activities are conducted either by parents, teachers or experts in their fields. To date the children have done the `Spaghetti Challenge’ (used marshmallows and not string), made balloon powered cars, tested solar bottle lights, constructed bridges out of out of paper strong enough to hold coins, experimented with surface tension - floating a needle, done practical activities related to why we have high and low tides, working example of the water cycle, how to lay bricks, tested lung capacity using a home made Spirometer, learned about de Bono’s Thinking Caps, lateral thinking activities, how the heart works (pigs heart used in demo), experimented to show how a stomach digests foods, demo dissecting a sheep’s eye and solving `River Crossing Problems’. This list is not of all the Genius Hour activities, but just highlights the range of what the children have been exposed to so far this year.

Makers Space/Tinkers Corner/Loose Parts

Children learn by doing. Creating spaces for children to create, invent, have fun and explore freely whatever passion they have in a multi sensory environment without fear of failure is one of the greatest trends in education. Play is the work of children. Maker Spaces allow curiosity and creativity to come together in a special way. We have a Maker Space in our classroom but are presently collecting material along with odd bits and pieces to it to make it truly a place where children can `lose themselves ‘ in their quest to change the world with their inventions.

Authentic Assessment

A form of assessment in which children are asked to perform real world tasks that demonstrate a meaningful application of acquired knowledge and skills. Be it in the form of performance based activities, portfolios, teacher observations, group tasks or self assessment. This involves deeper learning and learning to mastery, also known as competency based learning. Children are tracked according to where they are in their learning journey, and what interventions or scaffolding would be required to help them reach the next level. We believe `less is more’ in that we want them to have a full knowledge and understanding of what they have been exposed to before moving on to new work. We use CAPS as an overview with respect to our programme but also focus on the I.B (International Baccalaureate) Scope & Sequence for the relevant grades. The I.B. programme has consistently proved itself as an outstanding educational model internationally. (See sample attached...work in progress to find best means of recording assessments)

Parental Communication & Commitment

Parents of Quest learners are committed to our programme and have taken a more proactive role in the running of the school. Parents either assist with programmes, fund raise, assist with transport, do Genius Hour activities or whatever else is required of them. A variety of WhatsApp groups have been formed to facilitate all of the above. Through an App called Seesaw parents are kept updated daily on what takes place in the classroom, and encouraged to comment on what they like. Seesaw is also a means of being able to celebrate progress being made through the use of photographs and videos, so that parents do not have to wait for quarterly reports to find out how their child is progressing. All parents are encouraged to learn SASL and Cued Speech. We have a no homework policy at the school but encourage the parents to use this time to connect with and enjoy their children, focus on interacting with them in face-to-face communication to further enhance language development in meaningful and relevant ways. Go to the beach, take the dog for a walk, play games, cook together, read a book together - celebrate childhood!

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