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.
It is now 4 weeks until the first week of term and I am excited, nervous, anxious, worried, ecstatic, sleepless and extremely happy all at the same time. I can’t wait to start teaching but there is something incredibly daunting about the first couple of weeks. What do I actually do? Will the class like me? Will I be a good teacher? I don’t have a class teacher who has set up all the routines and rules, there is nobody telling me what to do. It’s just me. I wouldn’t have it any other way but that doesn’t mean I am not nervous.
I have spent a lot of my summer so far looking for things I am going to do in these first few weeks to build a sense of community and get the children actively involved in exciting and motivating learning opportunities. I thought it would make a nice post if I listed a few of the I plan to do in the first week. If you have any comments I would love your feedback.
My life in a shoe-box
One of the first things I want to do with the children is introduce myself. I think a major part of teaching is building relationships, and I want to start by letting the children know what type of person I am and what kind of teacher I am going to be. I plan on having a shoe-box prepared with some intriguing objects that explain a little bit about me (running medal, magic tricks, favorite film, favorite food etc.). I will use these as props for introducing myself, this will be a great listening task for the children too. I will then hand out photocopies of the outline of a basic shoe box, and have the children decorate their box and draw the items they would put in to introduce themselves.
Design a birthday card
This is another lovely task that I found on Tes (in fact if you click that link, you will get 50 ideas!). At some point in the first week the children will design a birthday card. I will keep these for the year so that I have a batch of birthday cards that I can use to give to children as and when their birthdays come up. This is such a nice and personal way to see the children work in a creative task. I also like this activity because it has purpose, the children will see that the work they do has long term consequences.
I will make up Bingo Cards that have 3 rows of 4 statements (things like “Someone who has a cat”, “Someone who got on a plane this summer” etc.) The aim of the game is to be the first to fill your bingo card by going around the class asking people questions to fill the spots with names that match the statements. I wanted to include a task in the first week that focused on speaking and listening skills.
This is just a quick post with some of my thoughts, I may post a follow up after week 1 to let you know how these activities went.
Having just graduated last week I can’t shake the feeling that after an incredible, roller-coaster-like year, the real fun is only just beginning. I am so very excited (60% of this is probably nervous excitement) about having my own class for a whole year, but before I get carried away about looking wistfully in to the future, imagining what kind of teacher I am going to be, I thought now would be a pertinent moment to reflect on the year that has just passed. One area I feel I have developed most in this ear has been my ability to reflect, so I am going to flex that muscle and wax-lyrical about my experience and how I feel the year went.
Firstly, I just want to say that the PGDE has been the toughest, most tiring experience of my life, but I would also say it has been one of the most rewarding. The course has dramatically changed my outlook on education and I feel I have progressed to a point where I am a confident, well-informed educator as a result.
One of the main reasons for enjoying the course so much is the fact that there was a strong theoretical aspect underpinning everything we did. This helped me to fully appreciate all of the practical experiences I gained throughout the year. I now have a strong appreciation of learning theory, educational psychology, developmental theory, theory relating to assessment and pedagogy as well as a whole host of other theories that I engage with on a daily basis. I feel that having this theoretical grounding has helped me be a better teacher and I will do all that I can to keep up to date with developments in theory and research.
The PGDE in Edinburgh structure the practical experiences as 4 placements, starting with nursery then early years, middle years and finishing with upper. I felt that the way we progressed through the placements was perfect and when we reached our last placement, taking control of the class for 3 weeks, on our own, I was more than ready for the challenge, and was actually reluctant to hand the class back to the teacher at the end. I feel that the practical placements have provided a supportive and encouraging environment that has allowed me to take risks and try new things as well as becoming fully confident with what it takes to be a teacher. I would not change the practical side of the course at all, I know there are those who would disagree, but for me it was a great experience.
On day one of the course we were split in to colour groups, and little did we all know that we would be stuck with each other for the rest of the year. Fortunately, I was in the Red group, and was together with some fantastic people that I will definitely continue to be friends with long after the course is finished. I think the social element of having great people to bounce ideas off, support each other and just have a moan every now and then has been a huge part of getting through the course. Having a group of colleagues like this is a resource I will draw on throughout my teaching career. Sharing and exchanging ideas has been a great way to progress as a teacher and I will continue to seek out new ways to build on this network of teachers I can draw on and have a professional dialogue with.
With my reflections coming to a close I feel that I can now permit myself to think about the teacher that I was when I started the course and the teacher I am now. I have grown and developed in a professional capacity so much over the year, and feel that the PGDE has allowed me to reach my potential. I think the PGDE is an interesting course because you progress so far so quickly that it all goes past in a bit of a blur. However, it is only now on reflection, that I can take a step back and appreciate it for what it has been. I feel that over the next few years I am going to continue to learn an awful lot, and truth be told, I never want to stop. I enjoyed the academic rigor of the course so much that I am already looking at Masters and doctorate courses. Dr. Moir has a great ring to it!