Primary and Secondary School Learning Support

Primary School Teachers

Chad WOOD (Department Leader - Room 213)

Wendy SILBERBERG (Room 220)

Patricia KELLEHER (Room 201A)

Julie GHARIB (Room E30A)

Michael LAMM

Emilija NIKOLOVSKA

cwood(at)vis.ac.at

wsilberberg(at)vis.ac.at

pkelleher(at)vis.ac.at

jgharib(at)vis.ac.at

mlamm(at)vis.ac.at

enikolovska(at)vis.ac.at

Secondary School Teachers

Philosophy and Beliefs

Learning Support Services has its philosophy rooted in the VIS mission statement, which aims to: empower all of our students to be successful and responsible learners in a nurturing and diverse community. In harmony with the ideals of the IB learner profile, VIS recognises all students’ individuality and diversity.

  • We believe in challenging students to realise their personal potential for excellence in an inclusive and supportive environment
  • We believe in nurturing confident, responsible, reflective, and independent lifelong learners
  • We believe in embracing diversity as an enriching resource and unifying force in our school

The goal of Learning Support Services is to enable students to:

  • Become empowered and lifelong learners who value their strengths and recognize and understand their individual needs in order to work towards their potential.
  • Develop skills and strategies that will enable them to become independent and successful individuals who are able to advocate for their needs.

Difference and diversity are central in IB World Schools where all students enrolled in IB programmes should receive meaningful and equitable access to the curriculum.

IB Standards and Practices (2014)

Follow this link to read the IB Standards and Practices. For Learning Support in the Primary School, we want to highlight the following statements:

  • A:9 the school supports access for students to the IB programme(s) and the philosophy.
  • B2:8 the school provides support for its students with learning and/or special educational needs and supports their teachers.
  • C1:6 Collaborative planning and reflection incorporates differentiation for students’ learning needs and styles.
  • C3:10 Teaching and learning differentiates instruction to meet students’ learning needs and styles.

At VIS we aim to provide meaningful and equitable access to the IB curriculum for the students we are able to serve and to provide a range of strategies to support all of our students. These include differentiation, accommodations, and modifications (see below).  

Learning Support Overview of Services

As the  School’s mission is to provide high quality education for international students includes meeting special educational needs or identified learning differences (where possible) the School accept students whose educational, social, emotional and physical needs can successfully met in our programme. An additional fee for Learning Support services may be charged.

Learning Support services are available to students in the Early Learning Center through to Grade 12 and include, where possible, early intervention strategies. We embrace the IBO's updated terminology of 'inclusive education' and, as a School, we use the term ‘learning differences’ in place of 'special needs.' At the present time, Learning Support at VIS is able to cater to students who are intellectually capable of meeting curriculum and assessment standards and may need accommodations and/or modifications to demonstrate their achievement.

The programme is dedicated to fostering the intellectual and emotional growth of students. It is intended to provide assistance to students whose learning differences require additional support and strategies to maximise success. The goals and strategies that are put in place to support students are evaluated throughout the year with the teachers, Learning Support staff, students and parents working in partnership.

Specific In-School Services 

Learning Support is a programme designed for students who have been identified as requiring an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) or an Accommodation Plan (AP), which may include modified/alternative learning expectations and/or accommodations. An ILP or AP is developed either when a student enrolls at VIS with diagnosed learning differences or when there is a recommendation resulting from a referral process within the school.  When the referral process begins at VIS, the VIS educational psychologist will provide screening services, and results will be used alongside other data, to determine appropriate support. This support may be offered in the classroom or in a Learning Support Skills Lab, by a Learning Support teacher or by an educational assistant. In addition, in the Primary division students may be provided short-term Learning Interventions.

VIS believes that differentiation is important as “students are at different stages of learning, have varying levels of competence in the language of instruction, have various learning preferences and may have relatively stronger areas of cognition. Students benefit from the use of a range of resources in the classroom”.

The IBO defines differentiation as “the process of identifying, with each learner, the most effective strategies for achieving agreed goals.”

Differentiation does not change the learning goals, however, it changes students’ learning experiences, allowing them to experience learning success.  

Differentiated learning is an expectation at VIS. Teachers can and should differentiate for all or any of the students in their classes as appropriate regardless of whether or not they have identified learning support needs.

Students who have an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) or Accommodation Plan (AP) will have access to testing accommodations on internal summative assessments and external examinations. Accommodations do not alter the standard that is being assessed; they accommodate the individual needs of the student so that they are able to effectively show their learning based on the same criteria as other students.

As assessment criteria are not being changed, the accommodations provided are not recorded when reporting results, except on some standardised tests.

Accommodations can fall in to four key categories:

  1. Presentation Accommodations: print size/layout change, reader, text to speech software, calculators, electronic translators
  2. Response Accommodations: scribe, note-taker, speech to text software, word-processor, respond on test booklet, spelling and grammar devices, graphic organizers
  3. Timing and Scheduling Accommodations: extended time, frequent breaks, multiple testing sessions
  4. Setting Accommodations: change of room or location in room, earphone or headphones, study carrels.

More detailed explanations from the IBO for Diploma Programme students can be found in this document: Candidates with assessment access requirements.

Modifications are implemented when differentiation, accommodations, and the levels of Learning Support VIS is able to provide are not adequate for the student to be able to meet the standards expected of them in a particular subject. This could be because of an identified learning difference.

Modifications involve a change to the standard that is being assessed. In these cases, the curriculum offered is modified and aligned to an individual student’s current level of achievement either in all subject areas, a single subject or a specific area of the curriculum, to reflect their individual learning needs.

Decisions to modify the curriculum are not taken lightly, will involve a Learning Support Audit of Individual Needs and will be reviewed with the Senior Leadership Team at the bi-annual Re-Admissions Review. This level of support requires significant discussion and agreement with parents. Final approval for giving a student modified grades must be given by the Section Principal. When modifications are implemented, this will be reflected in official reports and transcripts.

In-Class Support in the Primary School is generally the first response to supporting emerging learning needs. The Learning Support teacher assists the teacher in differentiating lessons and supports students by teaching and coaching the development of skills for identified needs such as attention, behavior, motivation and collaboration in line with the Individual Learning Plan (ILP).  In the ELC through Grade 1, In-Class Support can also be provided to help students who need more individualised assistance in achieving developmental milestones.

In-Class Support in the Secondary School is put in place where students need individual or small group support in specific areas of the curriculum. The Learning Support teacher collaborates with the subject teacher to develop differentiated or modified learning experiences and/or assessments to support individual students’ needs in line with the Individual Learning Plan (ILP).

Skills Lab in the Primary School provides a higher level of support and includes a combination of in-class and more targeted and specific support in a Learning Support classroom.  Programmes are designed to develop general learning skills and/or skills specific to reading, writing, or mathematics as a foundation for further learning.

Skills Lab in the Secondary School provides a higher level of support and may include a combination of in-class and more targeted and specific support in a Learning Support classroom. Programmes are designed, for example, to develop general learning skills and/or skills specific to reading, writing, or mathematics as a foundation for further learning. For some students timetabled lessons called Content Mastery form a part of their Skills Lab Support.

In order to support students before In-Class and Skills Lab support is needed, learning information is used to identify students who would benefit from targeted instruction. These students work with Learning Support teachers for a shorter period of time on targeted goals, usually in the areas of reading, writing and mathematics. If expected progress is not made, further support is determined by the Student Support Team.

The School may determine that a student requires an individual learning assistant (ILA) when, students are unable to meet curriculum standards without modifications to the curriculum and with the on-going support that has been provided.

Individual Learning Assistants are VIS Staff members who serve in learning situations for an individual student who requires more than five periods per week of support. Parents pay for the costs of these staff members.

Related In-School Services

The counselling programme is designed to serve and assist the unique needs of international students and their families. While addressing the social and emotional needs of students, our counsellors also act as a bridge between teachers and parents; working to create an environment where every student will have the tools they need to be successful. School counselling helps address concerns that may be interfering with student learning and assists students with developmental and situational type problems.

VIS counsellors provide services to students through individual counselling, group counselling, mediation, classroom guidance, and consultation and coordination with parents and school staff. Counsellors assist students within a range of areas including transition difficulties, emotional regulation, social issues and relationship building skills, communication, self-esteem and motivation, anxiety reduction, identity development and coping with traumatic events.

Students requiring on-going therapies are referred to outside professionals in Vienna. The counselling department maintains an up to date list of these people. Individual meetings can be set up with the counsellor and periodic parenting talks are also offered throughout the school year.

Counsellors offer consultation with parents to support their child’s social and emotional development and wellbeing within the school environment.

At VIS, the educational psychologist provides assessment and consultation services.  The educational psychologist will use a variety of formal and informal assessment tools, including observations of students in the school setting, as well as academic, cognitive and behavioral screening assessments.  The educational psychologist will provide assessment services for students, to determine if they would benefit from enrollment in the Learning Support programme. The results of these assessments will be used to design strategies and interventions specific to a child’s individual learning profile, which will be implemented in the classroom, and included in the child’s Individual Learning Plan (ILP), as appropriate.  The educational psychologist will also provide consultation services to teachers, including advising teachers on interventions and instructional strategies, and recommending changes to the learning environment that may positively influence a child’s development. The educational psychologist also provides consultation services to parents, including facilitating understanding of psychoeducational assessment results, and of any related recommendations for how to support a child’s learning and social-emotional development in the home setting.

The Educational Psychologist is a member of the Primary and Secondary Student Support Teams (PSST/SST) and regularly consults with multi-disciplinary teams to determine the best provisions to support a student’s development.  
 

Sensory Room - E2: The VIS sensory room is a specially designed room which provides a range of sensory stimuli to help engage the senses.  This room is primarily used for students in the ELC, grade Primary and students who have identified sensory needs. The sensory room is an area for students to de-escalate their senses when they are overstimulated or to stimulate their senses in order to help the student prepare for learning. At times, an Occupational Therapist will use this room to provide therapy for students with identified sensory needs.

Benefits from the sensory room:

  • Sensory Stimulation – promotes reacting and interacting with the student’s space and senses
  • Enhance Learning through Play – following on from this, sensory stimulation can engage different areas of the brain, helping children absorb and retain more information and better meeting the needs of the individual
  • Improve Balance, Movement and Spatial Orientation - Sensory rooms can help develop users’ visual processing abilities as well as their fine and gross motor skills, facilitating day-to-day living.
  • Tackle Problems With Behaviour - Sensory environments can provide a moment of comfort and calm for overactive and distressed students, and helping inactive individuals to feel better engaged. This improves focus and prevents users from getting the urge to ‘act up’.

Primary Skills Lab - 201a, 216, E2: Skills Lab in the Primary School provides a higher level of support and includes a combination of in-class and more targeted and specific support in a Learning Support classroom.  Programmes are designed to develop general learning skills and/or skills specific to reading, writing, or mathematics as a foundation for further learning.

Benefits of the skills lab:

  • Learning is solidified with repetition, reinforcement and consistency in instruction
  • Develop social, emotional, behavior skills
  • Develop Approaches to Learning
  • Work on ILP goals
  • Monitored Progress
  • Less Distractions

Outside Services

Speech and Language Therapists have specific knowledge and skills in communication and are important members of a multi-disciplinary team that works in collaboration with the Learning Support team members and other teachers as an outside service funded by parents.  

The role of a Speech and Language Therapist is to identify, evaluate and treat speech, language and communication differences.

Areas of Support may include:

  • Speech Difficulties → production of sounds, pronunciation of specific words, and vocal fluency (stuttering, etc.)

  • Language Difficulties → understanding spoken language; following directions, expressive language (word retrieval, the construction of sentences, the expression of ideas, needs and wants); auditory memory for words, sentences and conversational speech; understanding written language; reading spelling and writing difficulties.

  • Voice and Resonance Difficulties → voice quality; voice pitch/volume (too high, too low, too soft, too loud)

A Speech and Language Therapist may observe a student in class first and then decide to undertake a full evaluation of the student if therapy is recommended. Therapy can take place in school.

 

Occupational Therapists (OT), also known as Ergo Therapists, work with students with physical, sensory, perceptual and learning difficulties to help them overcome obstacles that may interfere with their ability to function within their home, school and community environments. Occupational Therapy is an outside resource funded by parents.  

An OT works on areas such as gross motor, fine motor, coordination, handwriting, attention and concentration, and activities related to daily living, such as dressing and feeding.

Young children learn mainly through play, and OTs use play in their therapy to improve skills for functioning in the school and home environment.

Occupational Therapy intervention may involve:

  • Student observations and individual therapy in VIS’s sensory room
  • Parent/ school meetings
  • Occupational therapy recommendations for home and school.

A Social Thinking Programme is provided by a counselor/autism specialist at VIS and is funded by parents. Students who engage in this program follow a specific social thinking curriculum either individually or with other students to improve their social competencies. Social thinking is the process of interpreting information within a social context and understanding the other person(s) experience from the interaction. By better understanding the thoughts, emotions, beliefs, dialogue, action, and intentions of ourselves and others, one is able to better understand the behavior and actions of others and know how to respond for each situation.  

 

In some cases, additional information about a student’s learning profile is needed in order to make decisions about how best to support his or her learning at school.  In addition, an up-to-date comprehensive psychoeducational assessment is required by the IBO in order to support requests for accommodations on exams. At these times, a recommendation may be made for a student to have a diagnostic psycho-educational assessment conducted by an outside professional.  The educational psychologist and learning support coordinators maintain an up to date list of external practitioners able to offer diagnostic assessments.

 

Referral Process

The purpose of the referral process is to identify student needs which require support in addition to the differentiation offered by all teachers. The referral process begins with a referral from the classroom teacher, Student Support Team (PSST/SST), parent, and/or the student.  

If the referral process is initiated by a parent or student, the class teacher can fill out the online referral form. When concerns about a student’s progress have been identified, the referral pre-check will be considered before submitting the referral.

LS Referral Pre-Check:

  • Have you (teachers) used differentiation strategies (for at least 8 weeks) for academics, social skills, emotional development, and/or behaviour?
  • Have you consulted with other teachers (ESL, Counselor, German, Grade Level Leader, Lang./Math Coordinators, PE, Music, Art, past teachers)
  • Spoken with the parents about your concern?

After differentiation strategies have been implemented within the classroom with fidelity and parents have been informed of the concern, the teacher can fill out the LS Online Referral. Consult a LS team member for assistance with the referral form.

The Primary Student Support Team consists of, but is not limited to the:

  • Deputy Principal
  • LS Department Leader
  • LS Teacher
  • Class teacher
  • Grade Level Leader
  • Counselor
  • Specialist Teachers
  • Educational Psychologist

The Secondary Student Support Team consists of, but is not limited to the:

  • Deputy Principal
  • LS Department Leader
  • ELA Department Leader
  • Grade Leader
  • Counselor
  • Educational Psychologist

The detailed referral process is outlined in the Primary Referral Flow ChartSecondary Referral Flow Chart.

Student Support Team Meetings

The Student Support Team (SST) meetings are another avenue that could lead to a referral.  The Student Support Team meets with every Primary grade in four phases throughout each academic year.  The purpose of each phase is for the Student Support Team to review any students of concern and to collaboratively develop differentiation strategies to implement within the classroom.  

If differentiation strategies have been implemented throughout the phases, the SST may decide to follow through with the referral process.  

Individual Learning Plan (ILP)

An Individual Learning Plan (ILP) is a collaboratively written document directed by the Learning Support (LS) teacher. The ILP is a plan for students with identified learning differences or needs that will help them get the most out of their education at VIS. The LS teacher will gather input from the student, class teacher(s), parent and any other relevant parties to identify specific goals for student.  The ILP outlines the student’s current level of ability and provides a framework to ensure the student can access a meaningful curriculum. The ILP will provide a progress report towards the student’s goals at the middle and end of year. The document will be reviewed annually and recreated at the end of each ILP cycle (review ILP process).

  • Students admitted to VIS with an ILP or an identified learning difference will continue to receive the necessary supports provided within the resources the LS department is able to provide.  The new ILP will be drafted after the student has been enrolled in VIS and the LS and classroom teacher have time to determine the needs of the student.
  • Students with identified learning needs who without the appropriate accommodations are unable to reach grade level expectations. This decision can be determined by the Student Support Team in conjunction with the student’s parents.
  • Students who require modification to assessments, curriculum, or timetables (including content mastery)
  •  
  • Contain a meaningful educational program outlining specific, measurable goals and strategies to best achieve those goals
  • Outline what the student can currently do
  • Be age and developmentally appropriate
  • Focus on strengths and potential
  • Clearly indicate responsibilities
  • Annually reviewed
  • Individualised and based on a student’s needs and aspirations.
  • Outline how progress towards goals will be measured
  • Provide mid and end of year progress updates on goals

The ILP is a confidential document and only provided to the teachers who actively support the individual student. The official signed ILP is kept in the LS confidential files. Additionally, confidential reports are also kept in the LS confidential files. These include but are not limited to: PsychoEducational Assessments, Speech and Language Evaluations, and OT Evaluations. The Learning Support Team is responsible for managing the students learning support confidential files and making sure the file cabinet is locked when not being used.  Teachers in direct contact with the individual student can view the files in the learning support office.

Students with ILPs or APs will receive an updated screening assessment of academic skills every three years.  The purpose of this assessment is to provide updated information on a student’s areas of strength and need, and to inform decisions regarding the support a student receives.  Screening assessments may include reading, writing and/or mathematics tasks.

Audit of Individual Needs

The Learning Support Audit of Individual Needs  is completed on two separate occasions. First, when a student has applied to VIS and the LS Department Leader needs to determine if VIS can provide the appropriate resources to ensure the student has a meaningful education. Second, when the LS Department Leader needs to determine if VIS has the capacity to continue meeting the individual needs of a student already enrolled at VIS.  When necessary, this document outlines the current level of ability and describes the necessary supports that would need to be provided in order to ensure a meaningful education for the student. This document is shared with the Senior Leadership Team and reviewed at the bi-annual Student Review Meeting.

Differentiation: VIS Differentiation Resources and Examples

Accomodations: More detailed explanations from the IBO for Diploma Programme students can be found in this document: Candidates with assessment access requirements.

Modifications: Decisions to modify the curriculum are not taken lightly, will involve a Learning Support Audit of Individual Needs and will be reviewed with the Senior Leadership Team at the bi-annual Re-Admissions Review. This level of support requires significant discussion and agreement with parents. Final approval for giving a student modified grades must be given by the Section Principal. When modifications are implemented, this will be reflected in official reports and transcripts. A table showing examples of, and the differences between, modifications and accommodations can be found here: Modifications vs. Accommodations.

Learning Support Audit of Individual Needs

Additional Admissions information can be found here for the LS Department:

Referral Process: The purpose of the referral process is to identify student needs which require support in addition to the differentiation offered by all teachers. The referral process begins with a referral from the classroom teacher, Student Support Team (PSST/SST), parent, and/or the student.  

If the referral process is initiated by a parent or student, the class teacher can fill out the online referral form. When concerns about a student’s progress have been identified, the referral pre-check will be considered before submitting the referral.

LS Referral Pre-Check:

  • Have you (teachers) used differentiation strategies (for at least 8 weeks) for academics, social skills, emotional development, and/or behaviour? VIS Differentiation Resources and Examples
  • Have you consulted with other teachers (ESL, Counselor, German, Grade Level Leader, Lang./Math Coordinators, PE, Music, Art, past teachers)
  • Spoken with the parents about your concern?

After differentiation strategies have been implemented within the classroom with fidelity and parents have been informed of the concern, the teacher can fill out the LS Online Referral. Consult a LS team member for assistance with the referral form.

The Primary Student Support Team consists of, but is not limited to the:

  • Deputy Principal
  • LS Department Leader
  • LS Teacher
  • Class teacher
  • Grade Level Leader
  • Counselor
  • Specialist Teachers
  • Educational Psychologist

The Secondary Student Support Team consists of, but is not limited to the:

  • Deputy Principal
  • LS Department Leader
  • ELA Department Leader
  • Grade Leader
  • Counselor
  • Educational Psychologist

Primary LS Referral - Online Form

Primary LS Referral - Hard Copy

Secondary LS Referral - Online Form

The detailed referral process is outlined in the Primary Referral Flow Chart /  Secondary Referral Flow Chart.

Individual Learning Plan (ILP): Primary LS File Cover Sheet - This document should be included as the front sheet for all LS confidential files. Accommodations offered for assessments and in class can be found following these links:

Students with ILPs or APs will receive an updated screening assessment of academic skills every three years.  The purpose of this assessment is to provide updated information on a student’s areas of strength and need, and to inform decisions regarding the support a student receives.  Screening assessments may include reading, writing and/or mathematics tasks.

The ILP Review Cycles: There are two ILP Reviews Cycles, depending on the level of the services being provided to an individual student is follows a cyclical process and can be found here:

For students with mild to moderate needs:

For students with more intense needs: ILP Review Cycle including special programmes and 1:1 support

Links to the Primary and Secondary ILPs can be found here:

In the Primary Skills Lab we offered many Research Based Intervention Programs. Information on these programs can be found here:

  1. Edmark Reading Program

  2. Word Shark

  3. Number Shark

  4. Read Naturally

  5. SRA Corrective Reading

  6. SRA Expressive Writing

  7. Model Me Kids Social Skills Development

  8. Just Words

Approaches to Learning

Learning Support Roles and Responsibilities