Sunday, 25 August 2019

Welcome Aboard

This past week on Edutwitter, I have seen a few posts about advice for newly qualified teachers. There is a lot of sensible advice out there which is great. I thought I'd like to write a post from the other side of the coin so to speak. During the course of my teaching career, I have met many newly qualified teachers and obviously was one myself! I have been thinking about some ways that us more experienced teachers could help newly qualified teachers settle into life at their schools.

All NQTs should have a mentor and if you are a mentor, hopefully you have already been in contact with the NQT you are mentoring in whatever way suits you both.

Show the NQT a friendly face on day one.

Bob down to their classroom and say hello.

Ask them if they need anything.

Offer to make them a brew.

Make an effort to talk to them in the staffroom. Include them.

Find them a mug if they don't already have one.

Check any NQTs are familiar with school routines such as assembly times, duty rotas etc. It will be one less thing for them to stress about.

At the end of the first day/week, ask them how it went. See if they need help with anything.Sometimes, people can be reluctant to ask for help so it may be useful to offer it first.

I was lucky that as an NQT and in other schools I have been new to, I have been treated very kindly and I try to pass that kindness on when I see new staff joining the school where I work.

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Teachers I'd Like To See Teach

Ever since the very early days of my EduTwitter experience, I have connected with teachers who I would love to see in action.. I have learned so much from them online. EduTwitter is often a great place to pick up ideas and resources thanks to the many people who generously share.

When I began attending CPD events, I began to have lots of interesting conversations about how different teachers approached their practice both in a practical sense and in their teaching styles. The Primary Rocks phenomenon has increased my learning in this respect exponentially. The other week, I started to think about specific teachers that I would love to see in action in their own classrooms. The following are just some of those. There are many others.

Sophie Merrill @MissSMerrill
I would love to see her deliver an art lesson. Her ideas are truly inspirational with incredible outcomes from the children. Another good thing is that I feel that other teachers would go away from the lesson thinking 'I could have a stab at that'.

James Theobald @JamesTheo
I have really enjoyed reading James' blogs for a while now. Expertly written and often with a dash of well-timed humour, they always make me think and have regularly challenged my thinking. I am sure I could learn a lot for my own teaching of English by being in his lessons.

Rhoda Wilson @TemplarWilson
Rhoda is the first person I came across who was teaching whole class reading. Her ideas and resources that she has shared freely long with her knowledge of books is something to behold. I have used her resources in my own lessons but I would love to see them delivered by the expert.

Paul Watson @Glazgow
I met Paul at Primary Rocks in 2018 after his epic train journey from Glasgow. What he doesn't know about primary Science teaching isn't worth knowing. He is also a very humble, generous and all-round lovely fella. I would love to see him in action. I can imagine him having the children eating out of the palm of his hand.

Ben @bbcTeaching
Ben is a music expert and this is a subject that I am not very confident teaching. Therefore, I would love to see it taught by somebody like Ben who I know would do it justice. I am sure I would pick up lots of ideas.

Graham Andre @grahamandre
Graham is someone who I just enjoy being around. His sense of humour and joy for life is fantastic to see. The children he teaches clearly adore him and he cares about every single one of them. He has regularly shared masses of resources for free for a long time now.

There are many teachers that I would like to see teach computing lessons so it is impossible for me to choose just one. These would include (this is not an exhaustive list) : Lee Parkinson @IctMrP, Tim Head @MrHeadPrimary, Colin Grimes @MrGPrimary and any of the rest of the amazing 20 goto crew  - you know who you are!

Throughout my own education, Geography was my favourite subject and it is what my degree is in. Therefore, I would love to watch Mark Enser @EnserMark teach Geography lessons as he is a true expert. He even wrote a book about it.

Finally, my good friend Rich Farrow is a man who knows the history curriculum inside out and I just love listening to him talk about history so I would definitely like to see him teach it!

There are many, many more teachers that I have connected with that I would love to see teach and I am sorry to those that I didn't include. I do believe that we can learn so much from each other if we are open to it.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Using The CPA Approach In Subjects Other Than Maths

When I first started teaching, there were some excellent maths teaching resources that came with the National Numeracy Strategy. These included the supplement of examples which is an excellent document. Another, was the Models and Images. This provided examples of how you could represent mathematical concepts in different ways. Therefore, when I first became aware of the CPA (Concrete-Pictoral-Abstract) approach to the teaching of maths just over a year ago, it reminded me of documents like Models and Images. Having worked on applying the CPA approach in my own teaching over the last year or so, I have really seen the benefits with children being more secure in their mathematical understanding across the ability range.

This got me thinking earlier this summer about a CPA approach in other subjects and what this might look like. Anyway, if you are interested, here are some of my ideas (I don't claim any of them as original - just the musings of my barely adequate mind).

Concrete : Conducting a practical experiment.
Pictoral : Look at images/video of an experiment and discussing results/conclusions.
Abstract : Looking at data/results from an experiment and drawing own conclusions. Or planning an experiment that has been devised to answer a given scientific question.

Concrete : Visiting a site on a school trip or having a person/company in to do a workshop in role.
Pictoral : Looking at images from the time period studied to learn about it, draw conclusions etc.
Abstract : Reading texts about a particular event or talking to the children about it.

Concrete  : Visiting places e.g a river.
Pictoral : Studying maps, looking at images/videos that demonstrate geographical processes e.g. rivers
Abstract : Reading texts about rivers or talking to the children about them.

Concrete : Playing the game/sport
Pictoral : Watchng videos/images of how the game/sport is played.
Concrete : Planning own games/activities.

Concrete : Visiting a place of worship
Pictoral : Watching videos/looking at images of places of worship/religious practices.
Abstract : Talking to the children about them or reading texts about them.

Concrete : Drama, Mantle of The Expert investigation, attending/observing real-life event.
Pictoral : Using images/film to inspire
Abstract : Using texts to inspire writing, giving children text openings to work from, completely independent writing.

Anyway, just a few ideas that may be useful.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

SATs - What Is All The Fuss About?

I have been thinking about writing this post for a while. Year 6 SATs are a massive deal for primary school - the results are used as one way of judging the effectiveness of a school by people such as OFSTED. It seems that a lot of schools are also making them a big deal for children too. This has led to worrying stories about Year 6 children getting stressed and anxious about them. As I am sure anybody would agree, that isn't good.

Where does this stress come from? Is it something that is filtered down from the teachers because they are feeling the pressure. They know the impact a 'bad' set of results could have on their own performance management (if that is one of their targets). They also know that the results matter for the school. It could affect what category OFSTED put the school in and all the ramifications that come with that.

Is it pressure from the media? There's usually a few stories about SATs on the television news or in the papers.

Is it pressure from parents because they want their child to do well because they have been given the impression by someone or something that it will affect the life chances of their child?

Is it pressure created by the school due to all the pre and post SATs events such as booster classes and after SATs parties and trips? What about the other year groups that work just as hard but don't get a trip/party? Does a Year 6 child really work harder in SATs week than in a normal teaching week?

Imagine a child that was feeling the pressure from ALL of these places. That is a lot for a child who is eleven to handle.

What about if we didn't tell them? What if we just gave them the tests on the day and didn't mention any kind of significance. I like what @shinpad1 (Sinead) said on Twitter about how they call them puzzle books with their children. No big deal. Just do them and move on. If the children receive high quality teaching throughout KS2 then there should be no need for booster classes. I realise this may be an ideal world but are we going about things the wrong way?

I'm not advocating a particular stance but I do worry about the pressure that SATs puts on our children and whether we can alleviate it by going about things in a different way.

Thanks for reading and I'd be very interested in your thoughts.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

The Power of Pre-teaching

The Power Of Pre-teaching

Differentiation can be a thorny subject amongst teachers, SLT and inspectors. There is not enough of it, it's not really matched to the abilities of the pupils, we shouldn't be doing any at all. This post is not about a rationale for differentiation, more about a technique that I have found useful to support the less able.
By pre-teaching I mean teaching a one or a groups of children the concept to be taught in an upcoming lesson before they encounter it in said lesson. This may be done just before the lesson, say during assembly time or it may be done the day before. This will depend on the concept and the children who are involved.
Essentially, the idea is that it gives children who are not as confident with the subject matter a bit of a headstart when the lesson happens for the rest of the class. It is different from flipped learning in that the concept is taught before the lesson rather than the children being exposed to the concept through a video or other resource that they access themselves.
I have seen it work wonders for children's confidence. Only last week, a Year 5 pupil who struggles with an aspect of grammar was taught the concept half an hour before the lesson started in a small group situation with the class teacher. When this child was faced with the work in the lesson itself, he literally and mentally rolled his sleeves up and powered on with it.
Obviously, pre-teaching can't be done all the time but it does offer another way of helping those children who may find it difficult to master certain concepts. If nothing else, it should give them the confidence to approach the lesson feeling that they have a chance to succeed.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Top Ten Tips For Being A Playground Hero(ine)

Playground duties are probably not high on a teacher's favourite things to do list. Well, they are certainly not high on mine. Maybe it's just me. However, they are a useful opportunity to observe the social skills of children in your school. If you are lucky, you may see all ten of the following top tips happening. If you don't see any or only a few, start searching TES for job adverts. Or instead, think about how you could help the children in your school display more of them. I believe that if these seemingly simple things are happening in a playground near you, your school is likely to be a happy place.

1. If you see someone wandering around on their own, go and ask them to join in a game you are playing.

2. Wait patiently for your turn to use any climbing equipment.

3. If you are hit by a flying object, give the person who made it fly chance to apologise.

4. If someone is hurt, help them to get help.

5. Take part in group games but be clear about the rules before you do.

6. Speak to everyone you come across kindly.

7. If someone bumps into you, give them chance to apologise.

8. If you cause an object to fly and it hits somebody, apologise.

9. If you bump into somebody, apologise.

10. Share the space you are in so everyone can play their games.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Getting Ready For September

Edu-Twitter and teacher Facebook groups are awash with photos from teachers' classrooms that have been prepared for the new academic year. While I admire their dedication, I do worry about when they switch off. Having said this, I have seen several very useful ideas on Twitter and far be it from me to tell anyone how to spend their summer.  I am barely coming out of the end of term fog that descended on  me as I crawled to the end of the summer term. I also realise the irony of wondering about when teachers switch off while writing a blog post about teaching.

For what it's worth, I wanted to share how I intend to prepare for the new year in September in case it may be of use to anyone else.

I spend some time in the summer holidays thinking about what routines I need to put in place with my new class at the start of the year. These don't vary much but I think it is important to reflect on them and tweak them as it is such an important thing to get right. In the first few days of September, I will try to get these firmly established as it saves so much time later.

This is something that I think about a lot. I have tried various systems for organising resources and seating. I have tried rows, groups, pencil pots, having nothing on the tables at all. Which method I have used has often depended on the class I am getting rather than just using the same system every year. I try to aim for minimum movement and minimum distractions in order to maximise lesson time. This year, I am going to try having plastic zip wallets for each child with all the resources they may need. I'm also going to make bound booklets of resources for children to help themselves with their writing. Both of these ideas were ideas I saw on Twitter.

My displays will be minimal to start with. I will add to them as we do the work in class. I am not a fan of word walls. Often the words are too small for the children to read anyway unless they go up to them which goes against my minimum movement ethos. Secondly, if they are single words out of context, they are pretty useless anyway. I have seen word walls with lots of conjunctions on them that are of little use as an aid for the children as it doesn't have them in context. If a child wants to use 'because' from the wall and you have to explain how it is used then it defeats the object of it being an independent resource. All of this is why I prefer the bound booklets of resources as the children have them to hand and they can read them. You can also differentiate them if necessary.

I am going to spend time reading both children's books that I want to use in class and one or two 'teacher' books. It is my choice to do this and I enjoy doing it.

Apart from a short meeting with my year group partner at some point, that is all the preparation I intend to do for September. I would like to start the year re-charged and ready to go. We all prepare in different ways, do what works for you.