Priority Learning Units (PLUs)

There are six Priority Learning Units (PLUs) at the heart of every L1LP. These PLUs explicitly identify and develop the key areas of learning needed to prepare the students for their future lives. Though presented as self-contained units when used as part of a learning programme these PLUs interconnect and overlap. The order in which the PLUs are presented is to assist teachers who are planning for L1LP and L2LP students.
Communication, language and literacy
Numeracy
Personal care and wellbeing
Being part of a community
The arts
Physical education
Each PLU is described in general terms, followed by  a summary list of the main elements of each PLU set out in a table.
 Each PLU is divided into elements and these elements have a number of associated learning outcomes which specify the knowledge, skills and attitudes students can demonstrate they have learned (see p. 23 for learning outcomes related to a PLU). The learning outcomes are presented in a sequence, reflecting cognitive demand, though not all students will progress in a linear fashion.
The learning outcomes developed for L1LPs are broadly aligned with the indicators at Level 1 of the National Framework of Qualifications (see Appendix C). The unconstrained nature of the learning outcomes facilitate differentiation upwards or downwards as required. Although teachers have the highest possible expectations for the students they teach, not all students have to achieve every PLU or indeed every learning outcome. The learning outcomes chosen for a student to work on are ones that the teacher identifies as being achievable and realistic, given the individual student’s abilities and gaps in learning. They may also take considerable time to make progress on a learning outcome. Though some learning outcomes indicate that a student may need adult support to achieve the outcome, the aim is always to support the student towards as much independence as possible.
As each student is on an individual learning journey, a progression continuum has been developed with seven pathways of progression and descriptive indicators accompanying them (see p. 20). The continuum assists teachers, parents/guardians and students in keeping track of and understanding the journey the student is making and where they are on that journey. The continuum is set out in seven pathways—experiencing, attending, responding, initiating, acquiring, becoming fluent, and generalising—and for each of these there is a descriptor outlining what is involved at that pathway.
Along with the student’s IEP, the progression continuum supports the teacher in planning for next steps in teaching, learning and assessment. The support material planned for the L1LP Toolkit will further assist planning, offering examples of how other teachers have developed L1LPs for their students.
Learning in L1LPs will largely comprise of learning outcomes from PLUs. Apart from the PLUs, a second curricular component—which L1LPs have in common with all junior cycle programmes—is the short course. Short courses relate to and can support the learning outcomes of the PLUs. They are curricular units developed to focus on a particular area of interest to students of junior cycle age. Level 1 short courses will also share these features and will provide students with access to as broad a range of curriculum areas as possible. Initially, the NCCA will develop a small number of short courses for use by schools. However, schools will also be free to develop their own following a template and guidelines developed by NCCA. Short courses may, in time, be developed by other organisations. Schools can decide on the short courses most suitable for their students – they may be subject-based or they may be thematic and cross-curricular in nature. They should always focus on topics that are age-appropriate for junior cycle students and on areas of interest to the students involved.
Students should be facilitated in applying their learning from one situation to another at every opportunity. This ensures that they consolidate their skills. Although repetition is essential to these students, learning should take place in varied learning environments in order to maintain student motivation and to judge whether a student is able to generalise his/her learning.
In planning for teaching, learning and assessment for a student undertaking a L1LP, a process similar to that for planning L2LPs is recommended. The following are the main features of that planning process:
  • The student’s needs at the centre as informed by her/his areas of interests and the student’s IEP as well as reports from parents/guardians and other professionals who work with the student.
  • The application of the L1LP guidelines to the student’s needs.
  • The use of PLUs and their relevant learning outcomes for that student.
  • The use of short courses and other curricular material to facilitate learning and provide a broad curriculum.
  • The identification of teaching approaches to areas such as communication, language and literacy development for these students.
The plan for gathering of evidence of work undertaken and learning achieved by the student.
See Figure 1 below for a visual representation of this process.
 
 
 

PLU 1: Communication, language and literacy

Communication underpins all learning and is fundamental to the capacity to transfer learning. Communication and language form the foundation for all other PLUs. Learning in this unit covers both verbal and non-verbal ways of receiving and giving information. Language development requires social interaction between the student and a communication partner. Some of the students in this cohort may first need to be alerted to the fact that they live in a world outside of their own body. Communication for these students can be enabled and progressed with aids like augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), e.g. visual and object cues, verbal prompts, facial expressions, gestures, sign language (such as ISL), electronic devices, Braille (or Moon ) and the written form. Through developing communication skills students enhance their social interactions and improve their self-esteem.
Students undertaking L1LPs should be exposed to a broad literacy experience. This definition of literacy includes multi-modal literacies encompassing spoken, printed, visual and digital literacies.

Students learn about

Students should be able to

1.. Developing communicative relationships
  1. 1.1

    Indicate awareness of sensory stimuli in the learning environment

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  2. 1.2

    Establish consistent patterns of attending to stimuli/personnel/activities in the immediate environment

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  3. 1.3

    Engage in an activity requiring joint attention with one or more people

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  4. 1.4

    Demonstrate turn-taking with a communicative partner

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  5. 1.5

    Show awareness of and/or use tone, body language, gestures, pace, vocalisations and volume to impact communication

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  6. 1.6

    Initiate communication with a familiar adult and peers

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  7. 1.7

    Engage in and enjoy a meaningful exchange with a communicative partner

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2.. Understanding
  1. 1.8

    Show recognition of personal and/or standardised objects of reference

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  2. 1.9

    Respond to verbal and non-verbal cues related to familiar communicative routines

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  3. 1.10

    Attend and respond to increased vocabulary in text

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  4. 1.11

    Consistently respond to familiar factual questions

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  5. 1.12

    Show signs of anticipating next steps in a familiar activity when presented with a stimulus

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  6. 1.13

    Predict outcomes for a familiar or unfamiliar story or event choosing from a range of possible outcomes

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3.. Exploring and using
  1. 1.14

    Clearly indicate preferred objects and/or activities and refuse non-preferred items

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  2. 1.15

    Request repetition and/or more of and/or change of objects or events

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  3. 1.16

    Make a request and/or express a need, verbally or non-verbally

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  4. 1.17

    Participate in the sharing of a familiar or personal story, activity or event

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  5. 1.18

    Communicate to express feelings verbally or non-verbally

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  6. 1.19

    Express interests and opinions through a range of verbal or non-verbal communication methods

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4.. Reading
  1. 1.20

     

    Illustrate signs of engagement and enjoyment with stories, texts, poetry, funny or favourite reading material

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  2. 1.21

    Choose and handle books, demonstrating familiarity with book-handling skills

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  3. 1.22

    Show recognition and understanding of symbols, signs, logos, familiar words, letters or visual representations of items

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  4. 1.23

    Seek meaning from combinations of signs, symbols or text for enjoyment or practical purposes

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  5. 1.24

    Read a book, magazine or other text with understanding

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  6. 1.25

    Recall a story read or personal experience using objects, marks, gestures or vocalisations

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5.. Written expression
  1. 1.26

    Show enjoyment while making marks and or texts, and use gestures, sounds or words to focus attention on these, showing signs of understanding that texts carry meaning

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  2. 1.27

    Engage in/with mechanics of mark-making exercises to create a form of text according to ability, using motor or eye-gaze skills as appropriate

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  3. 1.28

    Explore a variety of implements  and surfaces  for creating texts

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  4. 1.29

    Place marks, signs, symbols or texts in the correct sequence and/or with the correct orientation to infer meaning

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  5. 1.30

    Use signs, symbols or text to share experiences, thoughts, opinions, preferences with peers with growing confidence

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PLU 2: Numeracy

Everyday activities provide genuine opportunities for mathematical discovery—from matching cutlery items to pouring drinks and from coordinating clothes to preparing ingredients for cooking. As with all learning, activities related to this PLU need to be varied to allow for multiple ways of representing concepts, expressing understanding and engaging. The more practical and related to everyday actions or tasks the context is, the more enabling they are. Opportunities to use digital technologies in the classroom can further develop students’ learning.

Numeracy is fundamental to daily living. The skills acquired through the Numeracy PLU translate across school, home and community life. Students undertaking L1LPs should be exposed to a broad numeracy experience. This unit is broken down into six elements; awareness of environment, pattern and sequence, developing number sense, shape and space, measures and data, and time.

Students use their senses to investigate, discover and explore objects and people using the concepts of shape, measure, time, pattern and sequence. Students need to experience a mathematically-rich environment. A key aspect of learning in this area is in supporting students to participate in real-life situations where the use of mathematics is relevant.

Students learn about

Students should be able to

1. Awareness of environment
  1. 2.1

    Discover and explore a range of objects/stimuli

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  2. 2.2

    Investigate objects/stimuli in motion

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  3. 2.3

    Recognise and/or show preferences for objects/stimuli

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  4. 2.4

    Recognise and/or show preferences for objects/stimuli

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  5. 2.5

    Recognise objects/stimuli that are the same and/or different in one or more ways

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  6. 2.6

    Participate in cause and effect activities

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  7. 2.7

    Explore the concept of object permanence

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2. Pattern and sequence
  1. 2.8

    Explore pattern through a variety of sensory experiences

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  2. 2.9

    Observe patterns in the student’s environment

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  3. 2.10

    Engage with language, objects, symbols, signs and stimuli associated with ordering and sequencing which forms part of the student’s daily routine

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  4. 2.11

    Participate in activities where the aim is to repeat patterns

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  5. 2.12

    Recognise and/or anticipate familiar activities or routines with predictable patterns and sequences
     

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3. Developing number sense
  1. 2.13

    Participate in counting activities

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  2. 2.14

    Explore and use familiar numerals

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  3. 2.15

    Explore the relationship between sets and numbers

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  4. 2.16

    Experiment with differences in quantity and the language associated with it

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  5. 2.17

    Explore the concepts of addition and subtraction

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4. Shape and space
  1. 2.18

     Experiment with the movement of body parts in the immediate environment

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  2. 2.19

    Participate in activities where the language of movement and position is used

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  3. 2.20

    Explore the features and properties of 2D and 3D regular and irregular shapes through a variety of sensory experiences

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  4. 2.21

    Recognise and/or identify shapes in the immediate and local environment

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5. Measure and data
  1. 2.22

    Investigate objects and language in relation  to measurement

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  2. 2.23

    2.1     Participate in everyday activities associated with measurement in the student's environment

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  3. 2.24

     

    2.1     Participate in a shopping experience or in an activity where real money is used functionally

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  4. 2.25

    Participate in recording and displaying number and/or familiar data

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6. Time
  1. 2.26

      Engage with language, objects, symbols, signs, stimuli or activities associated with times of the day and/or days of the week

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  2. 2.27

      Explore language, objects and stimuli associated with significant personal and cultural events in the student’s life

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  3. 2.28

    Participate in activities/actions that are used to transition from one event to the next or to show the passage of time, waiting or turn-taking

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  4. 2.29

    Use instruments such as timers, visual timetables, objects of reference or clocks functionally

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PLU 3: Personal care and wellbeing

In undertaking this PLU, students become aware of their own bodies, develop an understanding of routine bodily functions and take as much control as possible of their personal care and wellbeing. Care is something that is done with students, not to them, thus every care routine is an opportunity for learning, for involvement, and ultimately, where possible, for independence on the part of the student. They learn that they are valued for who they are. They are offered the chance of empowerment (making choices), increased self-esteem and as much autonomy as possible. Emotional and physical wellbeing are also enhanced through learning about food and nutrition as well as how to express feelings and stay safe in a range of contexts. Students identify and value their own skills and talents and learn to celebrate them.

Students learn about

Students should be able to

1. Self-awareness
  1. 3.1

      Demonstrate awareness of their own body

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  2. 3.2

     Show awareness of self in the immediate and/or wider environment

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  3. 3.3

       Recognise their own features as being unique to them   

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  4. 3.4

      Demonstrate awareness of their own abilities and skills such as self-help skills or kindness to others

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  5. 3.5

    Exhibit perseverance and the motivation to develop and improve personal abilities and skills

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2. Personal care and hygiene
  1. 3.6

     Co-operate with adults who provide daily support

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  2. 3.7

     Participate in personal care routines

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  3. 3.8

      

     Indicate personal care needs or ask for help verbally or non-verbally

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  4. 3.9

        Make choices related to personal care

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  5. 3.10

      Complete personal care tasks independently

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3. Food and nutrition
  1. 3.11

    Use the senses to explore different types of foods

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  2. 3.12

    Show preferences for foods

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  3. 3.13

    Communicate hunger, thirst and messages such as ‘more please’ or ‘no more’ when being supported to eat and drink

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  4. 3.14

    Use eating and drinking utensils

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  5. 3.15

    Participate in preparing food

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  6. 3.16

    Demonstrate basic hygiene procedures around food

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  7. 3.17

    Follow safety rules for using kitchen equipment

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  8. 3.18

    Participate in making healthy snacks

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  9. 3.19

       Plan, shop for and prepare personalised healthy food (with support if necessary)

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4. Emotioanl wellbeing
  1. 3.20

       Express some feelings consistently (with or without intent) so that a familiar adult can respond appropriately

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  2. 3.21

    Show interest in the feelings expressed by others and react appropriately

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  3. 3.22

    Use coping strategies to self-regulate  

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  4. 3.23

    Show interest and enjoyment in being with particular peers or familiar adults especially while engaging in hobbies and extra-curricular activities

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5. Phydical wellbeing
  1. 3.24

    Use the body to have an effect on objects in the environment

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  2. 3.25

    Move to improve gross motor control of the body

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  3. 3.26

    Practise fine motor control for self-help

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  4. 3.27

    Participate in activities to develop a healthy lifestyle

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  5. 3.28

    Identify preferred physical activities

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  6. 3.29

     

    Demonstrate enjoyment of co-operating with peers in team games and group activities

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6. Personal Safety
  1. 3.30

    Accept appropriate attention from others

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  2. 3.31

    Differentiate between familiar and unfamiliar people

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  3. 3.32

    Object to inappropriate attention and/or show awareness of another person/people who can help if uncomfortable in a situation

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PLU 4: Being part of a community

This unit enables students to develop positive relationships with others in their community, whether that community be their family, school or the wider community in which they live. The core elements of socialising requires a process-based way of teaching. In this context, this PLU offers opportunities for students to spend curriculum time learning outside of school and to further work on the processes of communication they develop in the PLU Communication, language and literacy. They have opportunities to contribute to and participate in their community, use the facilities within it safely and appropriately, and to take care of it.

A key aspect of learning in this area takes students out into their communities. Supporting students who find change and transition difficult is essential here. Developing social scripts[1] for the students in advance, accompanied by photographs and/or audio or video recordings reduces anxiety and reassures them by making the unfamiliar less so. Some students find social interaction particularly challenging so where collaborative work or socialising with others present difficulties, they should be allowed to work in parallel with or alongside their peers and not forced to participate

 

[1] Social scripts describe the physical environment students will visit, and include details of what the excursion will involve. They are often written in the first person, e.g. When we climb the steps to the entrance I will be able to leave my bag in a room, where it will be safe until I get back.

Students learn about

Students should be able to

1. Relating to others
  1. 4.1

    Express contentment in the company of others

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  2. 4.2

    Acknowledge unfamiliar people

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  3. 4.3

    Show enjoyment from an interaction with another person or other people, and show a desire for it to continue

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  4. 4.4

    Respond consistently to familiar people

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  5. 4.5

    Indicate/choose preferred companion(s) for different activities

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  6. 4.6

    Communicate an ability to connect people with their roles

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  7. 4.7

    Engage in supported activities on daily life skills

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  8. 4.8

    Be a member of one or more groups in or outside of school, actively participating where possible

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  9. 4.9

    Communicate ideas of what it means to be ‘a friend’

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2. Using local facilities
  1. 4.10

    Participate appropriately in using different areas/rooms in their immediate environment

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  2. 4.11

       Visit and participate appropriately in using facilities in their environment

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  3. 4.12

    Demonstrate knowledge of where familiar items are stored/located in their environment

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  4. 4.13

    Make choices when using facilities

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  5. 4.14

    Show respect for items belonging to others and use them appropriately

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3. Transitioning between environments
  1. 4.15

        Show recognition of being in familiar places

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  2. 4.16

    Respond with curiosity to unfamiliar environments

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  3. 4.17

    Co-operate in preparing for and transitioning to a new location

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  4. 4.18

    Actively engage in transitioning to a new location

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  5. 4.19

    Respond to cues (visual, verbal, gesture, sound) to locate familiar places

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  6. 4.20

    Indicate a desire/request to leave a group or go to another place

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4 . Being sfae in the community
  1. 4.21

    Gain attention from an adult if feeling unsafe or uncomfortable

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  2. 4.22

    Communicate ‘No’

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  3. 4.23

    Move/remain near to a carer/guardian when in unfamiliar places

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  4. 4.24

    Observe rules of safety in different environments

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  5. 4.25

    Show recognition of places and people in the community who can help us

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5. Contributing to the community
  1. 4.26

    Respond to positive reinforcement from others

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  2. 4.27

    Behave appropriately in familiar routine or special events and where possible play their expected role within it

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  3. 4.28

    Show awareness that actions have consequences

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  4. 4.29

    Participate in the care of the immediate and local environment

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  5. 4.30

    Engage in a task or job in the community

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PLU 5: The arts

This unit covers the three areas of visual art, music and drama. Students are exposed to a rich and varied range of experiences using all of their senses. They are creatively engaged in learning and have opportunities to express their emotions, reactions and imaginations as an individual and as a member of a group. Due to the strong visual, auditory and tactile aspects of each of the three elements, students with visual and hearing impairments are included fully and successfully in learning. The arts can support all students in making sense of the world around them.

They learn about their own cultural heritage and traditions and that of others. Students are exposed to the work of artists, musicians and to the world of theatre and performance. Through the retelling of contemporary and historical events which become familiar, students become more secure and relaxed in their surroundings.

In all three elements an emphasis will be placed on experiencing, exploring and creating. It should be noted that the process and journey of creation is as important as the end product/performance.

Students learn about

Students should be able to

1. Visual art
  1. 5.1

    Explore and experience a variety of mark-making tools, media and materials, surfaces and techniques, including using parts of the body

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  2. 5.2

    Show interest in coloured light, colour in the environment and in art materials

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  3. 5.3

    Look at and handle natural and manufactured objects with different textures, shapes and patterns

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  4. 5.4

    Gather, explore and use 3D materials (new and recycled)

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  5. 5.5

    Participate in creating art work based on real or imagined stimuli

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  6. 5.6

    Use visual art to communicate, including the creative expression of emotion

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  7. 5.7

    Work independently and/or collaboratively to produce a piece of art

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  8. 5.8

    Observe, appreciate and/or react to the work of self and others, including the work of famous local or global artists

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2. Music
  1. 5.9

    Identify the source and direction of a sound

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  2. 5.10

    Listen and respond to a wide range of sounds and music (environmental, body percussion, vocal, instrumental, digital, technological, from a variety of traditions and cultures)

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  3. 5.11

    Respond to the elements of music (pitch, pulse, duration, dynamics, structure, timbre, texture, style, tempo)

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  4. 5.12

    Experiment with creating vocal sounds

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  5. 5.13

    Use parts of the body to make sounds by moving on/through a reactive environment[1]

     

    [1] Reactive music adapts to a listener and their environment by using built-in sensors, e.g. camera, microphone, touch screen. In this way, listeners become part of the creative process.

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  6. 5.14

    Explore and use a variety of sound-making equipment

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  7. 5.15

    Participate in choosing and/or making appropriate sounds for stories, events and celebrations

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  8. 5.16

    Participate in group music-making activities

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  9. 5.17

    Create short pieces of music using relevant digital technologies

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  10. 5.18

    Link sounds to pictorial representations

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  11. 5.19

    Play an uncomplicated tune on a chosen instrument

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3. Drama
  1. 5.20

    Show an awareness of being part of an audience

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  2. 5.21

    Explore and react to props, costumes, actions and sensory stimuli in a dramatic context

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  3. 5.22

    Participate in the re/telling of contemporary/ historical/cultural events or stories through interactive games and/or dramatic activities

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  4. 5.23

    Show an awareness of being part of an acting group

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  5. 5.24

    Co-operate or work alongside/in parallel with others in making, choosing and using props, costumes and sets

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  6. 5.25

    Work independently or collaboratively to produce a rehearsed piece of drama for an audience

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  7. 5.26

    Express and/or identify emotions in a dramatic context

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PLU 6: Physical education

Physical exercise and movement improve concentration, mood, sleeping and eating patterns. The ability to work as an individual, to develop personal skills and to work as a member of a team, are important aspects of PE.

The usual considerations apply when teachers are planning their students’ PE learning activities. Issues such as safety, as well as students’ medical and physical needs all need to be taken into account. Recommendations from a multidisciplinary team may need to be sought in choosing equipment and movement which are appropriate for students’ needs.

At the beginning and end of each PE session, warm-up and cool-down periods which are important for anyone about to engage in physical exercise can be especially beneficial in awakening the senses before the lesson begins and relaxing the student, both physically and mentally, before returning to the classroom or moving on to other learning activities. Along with the recommendations from the multidisciplinary team mentioned above, advice about what is required for some students who need their limbs moved for them will be helpful. It is also important to note that the starting point for some students will be to tolerate the acoustics/smells/temperature of PE environments.

It is important that a positive attitude to a healthy lifestyle is promoted. Reflection on the amount of time students spend on physical activity, as well as on their dietary habits informs programmes that will provide the greatest benefits. Health-related physical activity that includes cardiovascular exercise where possible is vital to develop fitness levels, where it does not compromise underlying health conditions. Some students need motivation to engage in physical exercise. It is important that the reward offered should equate to and be adequate for the amount of effort required of the student.

The development of gross motor skills (the ability to control large muscles of the body for sitting, crawling, walking, running and other activities) and fine motor skills (smaller actions such as grasping a ball, holding a bat, picking up a bean bag) are important because they underpin not only learning within the PE PLU but other Level 1 PLUs. It should be noted that no particular equipment is necessary for developing gross motor skills.

Fundamental movement skills (FMS) are the foundational movement patterns that involve various body parts. They can be broken down into three categories—locomotor skills (running, hopping, swimming); balance skills (keeping the body in one place but balancing in different ways); and object skills (kicking, throwing, pushing). FMS are developed as the student participates in the PE PLU.

Students working on L1LPs should be given many opportunities to experience the fun, enjoyment and social aspects of physical exercise. In this area their sense of team and their participation as team members are desirable outcomes.

Students learn about

Students should be able to

1. Movement skills (athletics/gymnastics)
  1. 6.1

    Move whole or some body parts (arms, head, track with eyes etc.) voluntarily

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  2. 6.2

    Move whole or some body parts to explore immediate environment

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  3. 6.3

    Move purposefully/with intent

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  4. 6.4

    Develop consistent movements to have an effect on equipment or in response to a stimulus

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  5. 6.5

    Refine gross motor skills, supported by equipment where appropriate

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  6. 6.6

    Refine fine motor skills, supported by equipment where appropriate

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  7. 6.7

    Move whole body or individual limbs in a range of directions and at different speeds[1]

     

    [1] In some instances this may include controlling the speed of a wheelchair.

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  8. 6.8

    Become aware of sensory signals as prompts for movement

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  9. 6.9

    Participate in activities which promote cardiovascular exercise and fitness

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2. Co-operative activity (games)
  1. 6.10

    Participate in physical activities in parallel with/alongside others

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  2. 6.11

    Engage in an activity requiring joint attention with one or more people

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  3. 6.12

    Explore equipment and/or elements of traditional and invented games or sports in circuit activities

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  4. 6.13

    Participate in games with one or more people

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  5. 6.14

    Show awareness of, or interest in, being part of a team

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  6. 6.15

    Support and/or play sports for enjoyment as a member of the community (Special Olympics, representing class/school team etc.)

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3. Creative movement (dance)
  1. 6.16

    Observe the movements of another and attempt to copy or imitate with sight of self in a mirror[1]

     

    [1] The ability to achieve this without sight of self is a later developmental step.

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  2. 6.17

    Move whole or parts of body creatively in response to stimuli

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  3. 6.18

    Develop awareness of pathways and directions of movement[1]

     

    [1] In a straight line, around cones/markers in a zigzag direction, etc.

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  4. 6.19

    Link two or more movements to create a sequence of movements

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  5. 6.20

    Interact with another/others to create co-ordinated movements

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  6. 6.21

    Move with control/poise showing awareness of others and the environment

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  7. 6.22

    Express emotional response to stimuli through movement

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4. Aquatics
  1. 6.23

    Explore water in different situations and environments

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  2. 6.24

    Enter and exit swimming pool safely

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  3. 6.25

    Tolerate and adjust to water moving over body

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  4. 6.26

    Explore the effects of water buoyancy on self/others and other objects/floatation devices

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  5. 6.27

    Move through water in different directions—forwards, backwards, sideways, jumping, using swimming strokes etc.

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  6. 6.28

    Practise breath control—blowing and holding breath

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  7. 6.29

    Float on back and front in water

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  8. 6.30

    Move on the flat of the back through water

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