Busy Bees

I’m tidying the course paperwork lying in piles on the floor around my desk (moving more like a sloth than a bee), and found this scribbled note of a simple game to play, probably with fairly young children, anywhere with a bit of space:
The children move around as ‘busy bees’; on the cue to stop they have 5 seconds to show with their body something beginning with letter [..]. I think this would be good for learning to move safely, stop on cue, freeze, and be physically expressive.

Right, that’s one piece of paper that can go in the recycling. Back to it…


June 30, 2009 at 6:00 pm Leave a comment

Animated poetry

Just had two transition days with my new class. Can’t recall ever being as scared as I was on Thursday morning, but I loved it! Really excited now about next year, but know I’ve got to try to put planning aside for a bit and not be a workaholic all summer. And with that resolve… I found this nice animation of Jarvis Cocker reading London by William Blake on the BBC website, which got me thinking we could animate some poems as a good ICT/comprehension and art and design project…

June 20, 2009 at 8:18 am Leave a comment

Getting organised – part 2

Writing my presentation reminded me of at least one more crucial thing: I need to find really effective ways to keep the learning intentions and success criteria in mind throughout all lessons. The interactive whiteboard is good, especially, as I discovered toward the end of my last placement, if you add a sound effect to draw attention to the page, but when I have another visual stimulus for the lesson on the board, the LI and SC are then hidden. I’ve seen classrooms with a separate dedicated whiteboard for the LI & SC, and I’ve heard of children copying them down at the top of any written work. I’ve also heard of teachers making laminated cards for self-directed activities. Again, perhaps my new school will have an established system, but if not, that’s another item for the list.

June 2, 2009 at 9:22 pm Leave a comment

Getting organised

Exciting times – I should be working on my presentation but can’t stop thinking about next year and having my own class. I have some jumbled thoughts on organisational points, which I’m throwing down here in an attempt to clear my head and get on with what I should be doing…

Things I would like to try next year:

  1. Personal project – simmering extension activity on subject of child’s choosing.
  2. Highland Literacy Project approach to literacy (or similar – need to find out school’s approach).
  3. Soft starts – thinking skills activities, or task related to day’s learning (challenge will be to keep coming up with these, could perhaps rotate from a menu).
  4. Personal sketch books – children to use to try out different techniques and materials and plan their artwork. Can use as extension activity, but also give time in art lessons.
  5. Reward system based on learning behaviour – I want to reward effort more than “getting the right answer”. Again this depends on the school’s system, but could include earning extra break or Golden Time for prompt settling down to listen or work? Also ‘Secret worker/walker/…’ – randomly chosen names monitored and rewarded or given advice on their behaviour at a particular time.
  6. Visual feedback on learning behaviour, eg a noise level chart as suggested by Bill Rogers, or ‘beat the creature’ as suggested on this page of classroom management tips. Actually, there’s loads on this page I want to do – will spend another day going through and prioritising – I’m guessing it’s not a good idea to try to do everything at once?!
  7. Learning logs and focus on skills of self-evaluation.

All of this needs more thought, but if I don’t get this presentation done I won’t be allowed to try any of it…

June 2, 2009 at 5:40 pm Leave a comment

Managing mental maths

Just wanted to make some notes on two different approaches to mental maths tests. In both my last and current placement the teacher facilitated around 15 minutes mental maths practice at the start of each maths lesson, and set a mental maths test at the end of each week. In my last placement, this was a written test, with 20 questions to answer in two minutes, all on one times table. The teacher marked the answers and noted the scores on a record sheet. If a child scored more 18/20 or more they could move on to the next times table the following week. The teacher encouraged them to think of it as a challenge to themselves, not a competition with others.

In this placement, the mental maths test is given orally (children write the answers), with 10 questions for each maths group (3 groups). The teacher calls out the answers and the children mark each others’ papers. Then they have to read out their score so the teacher can note it on the record.

In both cases, the teachers have found a considerable improvement in children’s mental maths from their approaches, so much respect is due.

Personally I would change the second approach so the children were not reading out their score – to me this aspect makes the whole thing competitive, which I think the research on formative assessment suggests is not helpful. The second approach is fine for those who do well in the test (which is actually most of the class most of the time) but, i feel, liable to humiliate and discourage those who don’t get as high a score as their peers.

May 2, 2009 at 4:47 pm 2 comments

Hanging on

One of our lecturers gave us some good advice the other day, in the form of a quote I can’t now find. It goes something like this, “To survive in times of great change, stick to a few key principles and hang on.”

I thought I might have a go at identifying what key principles I want to hang onto when I’m into my probation year…

[1] Respect all learners and all learning
fostering a supportive, inclusive community, valuing diversity and recognising what children bring to the classroom

[2] Continuing professional development
continue to evaluate my teaching, using this blog and a critical incidents file to reflect on my practice and identify ways to improve

[3] Positivity and solution focus
without taking away from point [2], focus on what’s going well, what the children are achieving, and bring that positivity to my teaching

[4] Assessment for learning
involving all the children in their learning and development, sharing learning intentions and success criteria and making sure feedback is:

  • good quality
    grounded in the idea that everyone can take a next step in their learning
  • Is that enough to be going on with?

    April 1, 2009 at 1:13 pm Leave a comment

    Careful what you wish for

    On my last placement I found myself getting stressed when it took ‘too long’ to get the children’s attention. On reflection I realised I wanted an attentive hush to descend immediately when I used one of the agreed signals, but this is not how people behave. One of our lecturers pointed out how frustrating it can be for people engaged in group work to be stopped by the teacher, and at the very least it’s respectful to give a short warning – he suggested something like, “Can I have you back in 5-4-3-2-1”.

    Watching adults as learners, we do many of the things we find frustrating in pupils: in uni there are countless instances of talking when the teacher is talking, skipping lectures, doodling and fiddling with objects, going off topic in group work, not listening to instructions…

    I think there might be a tricky balance to find here: I’ve no doubt I need to work on my skills in maintaining learning behaviour, and I don’t intend to do that by lowering my expectations of what pupils can achieve. However, I’m resolving to monitor my expectations more carefully from now on – I think time pressure and other stressors can lead me to having unreasonable expectations, which lead to more stress! In future, I’m going to check more carefully: what’s my issue, what’s their issue, and what’s outwith all of our control.

    March 22, 2009 at 4:00 pm Leave a comment

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