If you follow me on twitter, you will have read recently that I have started a Practitioner Enquiry course at Edinburgh University. As part of the course we have been asked to stat keeping a learning journal to document our progress in the in the course as well as focusing up thinking.
The article above writes that keeping a journal in the form of a blog is a good idea, so I am going to use think-pair-share as my learning journal from time to time.
This week I have been doing a lot of reading in preparation for the next session at University next week. A lot of what I have been reading is still very much in my conscience as I have very recently finished my PGDE. Having the opportunity to revisit these theories/theorists (Piaget, Vygotsky, Bruner) has allowed me to think deeply about my last 2 years teaching and how relevant these theories are. I still have a lot of reading to do but I am enjoying getting back in to the swing of things with academic reading.
The focus of my enquiry is going to be Literacy and writing and how technology can improve/enhance the process. I have started very tentatively with this in my class, using the basic principles of Big Writing along with simple word processing packages to get the children used to the basics of writing with technology. The children have responded very well so far and are saying the main reason for their writing improving is that they don’t have to worry about hand-writing. I am looking forward to getting more in to this to see what effect a range of technologies will have on a low attaining group of writers in my class.
I have been trying to get the children in my class to look to others for ideas and collaborate more than working completely in isolation. One way that I tried to achieve this is by introducing ‘Magpie Minute’. This is a really easy concept that involves the children walking around to look at other people’s work to then pinch a good idea for their own work. This is set up to be a supportive part of the lesson where the children can freely share and take ideas that they can then make their own.
Sometimes children can get quite upset about sharing their ideas, particularly in a subject like maths where there is the feeling that people are just copying answers, but dealt with sensitively and used appropriately I have found magpie minute to have a hugely positive impact on the learners.
I have a picture/button on my Smart notebook slide that when pressed makes a loud magpie sound, at that point the children get very excited and go off in search of some ideas they can ‘borrow’. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
I have been reading and listening to a lot about Coding in schools and teaching children how to code. There are so many advocates of this and I wanted to dig a little deeper to see why. I am not a coder but I love computers and I wanted to see what skills children would develop if they got involved In coding.
I watched this video and was pretty convinced. Teaching code encourages problem solving, maths, teamwork, divergent thinking, creativity and more. These are all skills that I value and want to foster in my children. But where do I start?
Scratch was a website/programme I had heard a lot about so I went and had a play on the site myself. Eventually I managed to work out some of the controls and after a while I was doing really well, just by exploring and fiddling about. I thought this would be extremely powerful to introduce to the class so I did, pretty much the next day. It didn’t matter that I did not know how to use the software, I could learn along with them.
I gave the children the computers and the website with the challenge of making the Scratch cat move. I was blown away by the response. The children were solving the problem collaboratively, using trial and error, persistence, linking to work we had done on navigation and shape. It was amazing. By the end of the lesson 2 children had figured out how to write the code that meant if you pressed the right and left arrows the cat moved accordingly. Without any direct instruction!
I will keep you informed of my programming escapades but I think I am a convert already. The children were motivated and engaged from the outset and all went home and tried it there too. Success.
Have you used scratch? How did you progress the learning? Do you use any other platforms?
After a CPD session at school last week I have had a focus on Problem Solving with my class. We have been learning how to work systematically, which has been a very rewarding and challenging process.
The difficulty I have found has been building the children’s stamina when it comes to working through a problem systematically. Several of the children understand the importance and can articulate the benefits of working to a system, yet more often than not the problem becomes too alluring and they dive right in to it, completely disregarding the carefully crafted system.
I dont see this as being a massive problem and we are very much in the early days of tackling the individual problem solving skills. I really just want to foster the spirit of resilience when it comes to problem solving. This is where children get to be most creative with their maths and really explore number so any engagement is great. I think with time they will increase stamina and see that working systematically may sometimes take more work but is actually much easier in the long run.
The last thing to say is that I have been using a puppet who I have named problem solving Pete. He likes to jump head first in to problems and makes loads of mistakes. This is great because it allows me to play the misconceptions back to the students and they can see the error in his ways. They love telling problem solving Pete that he is wrong.
I would love to hear your thoughts on problem solving, and any activities you have used with your class.
The idea of ‘flipping’ your classroom is a notion that has built up a lot of interest in Education dialogue recently. The idea is essentially to give out homework which covers the direct instruction element of the class. This is mostly in the form of videos explaining a new concept. In theory this frees up time for exploring the concept and building on that knowledge in class.
I will now explain why I love this idea but also the reservations that I have and the challenged I think I would face.
Firstly I think the prospect of reducing direct instruction time in class is an excellent t idea that puts the student at the centre and allows for more learning time and less teacher time In class. The less I talk in class the better. Flipping the classroom would free up a large portion of time for me to act as the ‘guide at the side’ rather than ‘sage on the stage’. I would be working as a mentor who is there to respond to children’s questions rather than impart knowledge. This would potentially rid us of the problem of children being stuck on homework tasks after school and having their parents have to teach them a concept, sometimes in different ways to the way I teach.
I am very enthusiastic at the shift in pedagogy that flipping your classroom suggests. However…I do have anxieties.
Technology is something I am very comfortable with, as such I regularly engage in the use of ICT in my classroom and my class are IT literate. Despite this, there are some of the children in my class who do not have access to computers at home. This would make it difficult for them to watch the videos at home in order to come to class prepared for the lesson.
Even if there was one child in my class who didn’t have access, this would be a significant issue.
The second concern would be finding time to create these videos. I find it difficult enough as it is trying to teach, plan, mark and eat/sleep so adding extra time commitments does not fill me with confidence.
I am very excited about this idea but am still at the stage where I am unsure about how plausible it is. There are several success stories which you can read here, which inspires me. I just want some answers to my concerns before going flipping mad!
I was reflecting on the teaching and learning that was going on in my class and I was trying to come up with a way that allowed the children to reflect on and actively seek to improve their learning. I didn’t have any time left in my timetable with all the other curricular requirements, but I wanted it to be something that the children could do little and often. And so Target time was born.
The children are now all very familiar with the concept and love the opportunity to master a target. I love to ‘gamify’ elements of my classroom so I challenged the students to collect three stamps for a target, when they get three it shows they have mastered it and can move on.
This seems to be having an impact so far and children are improving and becoming more confident in areas they were not before. It also provides a productive task for those 2 minute periods that previously would have been filled with chatter after break and lunch. But most importantly for me, it is showing the children that they can take control of their own learning and work on something that is hard.
I am very interested in the concept of ‘Gamification’ and think that when I am more confident in the basics of my teaching practice I will try to embed some of the strategies in my classroom. This video is a great example of someone who has successfully implemented elements of Games Design in his classroom to motivate and engage his pupils.
Recently I have been contemplating how best to get the children in my class to reflect more on their learning and consider how to move their learning forward.
After a recent CPD session as part of my induction year I understood that self evaluation is one of the key strategies to successfully raise attainment for pupils. This understanding has driven me to try various ways to encourage this thought process amongst the learners in my class.
I wanted to share one way that I have tried to do this. After evaluating my practice I was aware that my plenary sessions were an area that I needed to focus on, and this is a perfect point to have the children self evaluate and consider next steps. With this in mind I introduced the ‘Next Step stand-up’ in my class. This is simply an A4 sheet of paper with two foot prints printed on it. The children are given the opportunity to discuss next steps with a partner at the end of a lesson and then I ask a few children to join me at the front of the class for the ‘Next Step Stand-up’ where they stand on the steps and share what they are going to do to take their learning further.
This has been incredibly valuable and motivating for the children. They love it because it is fun and a bit different. I want to take this further by recording the children when they are saying their next steps. This would give us a visual record which we could refer back to check progress in learning.
My class are well aware now that I love a pun. A child was taking too long to untie his laces and I jokingly shouted at him for being ‘Knotty’, when we were teaching about measure and weight I couldn’t stop my self from telling my children I couldn’t ‘wait’ to start. The intended response is never far away, the children groan and tell me my jokes are rubbish which only makes me more happy.
Anyway, one of these jokes has actually turned in to something rather powerful. I noticed that children in my class were not linking their learning as readily as I would have liked, so I tried to address this by stressing the importance of building a connected view of their education. One (particularly able) child, started to get very good at linking his learning. In typical bad joke fashion, I named him President Linking for the day. He loved it, and I noticed other children trying to link their learning so that they too could become ‘President Linking’. I now have President Linking cards made up that I hand out to children who I feel are making an effort to think about how they can connect their learning, and it is working a charm!
Here is my President Linking cards if you are interested.
very tired…but happy!
Well…first of all, it’s been a long time has it not? The last post was just before starting my probation year and that feels like it was only yesterday. However this was in fact 3 months ago. I can’t believe how quick it has gone and how tired I am, but I am having the time of my life. Never have I worked so hard and enjoyed a job so much. I wanted to share some of the things I have learned about the probation year so far.
Work life balance
People will talk to you about the “work life balance” that you should be keeping. I went in to the probation year with these words ringing in my ears, convinced that I was not going to let it take over. How naive! The truth is, and I wish someone had told it to me, there is not such thing as work life balance. Not in the first 3 months anyway. The probation year will take everything out of you, you will be working till 10pm every night and in again at 7am in the morning. However, if you are like me, this wont matter because you will love your job and you will be working these hours because you want to do the best you possibly can. If you go in to this year with your eyes open, realising how much work it will be, saying goodbye to weekends and expecting to never sleep, you will be doing yourself a massive favour.
You will be working in a school full of established teachers who know what they are talking about and can draw on years of experience. Listen to them, watch them, do as they do. But as well as learning from experience, I think it is so important to make your own mistakes. I know this sounds cheesy, but it’s true. You need to try things so that you know what works and what doesn’t. I tried a lesson the other day that fell on its face, but at least I had tried it. Now I chalk that up to experience and move on. great learning experience.
Get involved in the wider life of the school
I have started taking the football team at my school and it has been great. It has allowed me to form relationships with other staff members and other children in the school. I am now becoming part of the school, rather than just the probationer teacher. Use whatever talent you have and just go for it, start a club or help at an existing one, I promise it will be good for you and it will also show that you are willing to get involved with the school.
That’s all my thoughts for just now as I have to get back to planning for next week. Let me know if you are doing your probation year now or you will be soon. It would be great to have a chat. Also, if you are an experienced teacher, I would love to hear from you too.