Sharing ideas and all things ICT… I am a Y2 teacher, AHT, ICT subject leader and mum

Archive for the ‘Curriculum’ Category

Leading on learning

circle-of-hands

Punctuating what seems like a very long term was a well planned opportunity for schools in both Westbury and Warminster to merge and become inspired.  Held at Kingdown School in Warminster (and very hosted at that), the final day of the term was an INSET crammed full of interesting and inspiring workshops but to start was a keynote speaker, who, until that day I had not heard of, but from that day I will not forget!  Alison Peacock is the headteacher of Wroxham Primary School in Potters Bar, and has taken her school from failing to outstanding by arguing that grouping by ability actually holds children back.  Alison and her staff have removed the limiting beliefs  about fixed abilities and fixed futures and has instead become a listening school.  Listening to her speak resonated with many of my beliefs about children.  She spoke with passion and humour especially with her encounters with the current Education Secretary!  A video was shown about all the great things that were happening at her school, including the double decker bus that is a library in the playground!  But more poignantly were the children who spoke with great authority about their learning, challenge and love of school.  Included in the video was an exuberant teacher called Mr Davy who enthused me, and what’s more he was the teacher leading my final workshop – couldn’t wait (especially as others had seen him earlier in the day and were singing his praises!) What a great start to the day.

My first workshop was ‘Challenging learners in Maths’ ran  by two secondary teachers from our local secondary school, Matravers.  Many useful ideas were demonstrated that could be adapted in any year group classroom, such as the ‘So what…’ cards giving a statement such as ‘1 pair of socks cost £1.50’, the children would then think of questions like ‘How much would it cost to buy socks for a spider?’ etc etc.  Good for talking maths and collaboration.  Another idea was having laminated hexagons where the first one said ‘Multiples’ and then the children have to think of other maths areas that link.  These are then written on separate hexagons with the aim of creating a flower but more importantly understanding the different connections.

The second workshop was ‘Inspiring independent learning’ with Alison Peacock who has just written a book called ‘Creating learning without limits’ following research completed at her school.  She spoke of key dispositions such as empathy, generosity, emotional stability, inventiveness, openness, persistence, questioning and humility.  In pairs we then recalled a time when we had encountered these dispositions and how we dealt with them.  An interesting reflective process although I would have loved to hear more about how she changed her school around continuing on from her fantastic keynote.

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Finally, the workshop I had been really looking forward to ‘Good to outstanding’ by Steve Davy a teacher from Wroxham Primary School.  Steve spoke with enthusiasm and an obvious love of his subject when he described the thematic and creative approach to learning that he instils in his classroom.  His frenetic approach was hard to keep up with at times but the amount of content he packed in to 45 minutes was astounding!  Peppered with humour and anecdotes and the odd request for Ritalin only made his presentation more endearing.  Lots of ideas how to incorporate grammar into all year groups were provided and I can’t wait to bring them into my classroom too!

Overall a very inspiring and creative day that provided not only great workshops but also the golden opportunity to share professional dialogue with other colleagues.  I hope we have further opportunities to work as a broader cluster as it is a valuable way to congregate and learn.

Wiltshire ICT conference October 2013 Inspire Create Teach

On a roll now so creating the second post of the evening – better late than never!  A couple of weeks ago as a celebration event to signify the end of the Inpsire Create Teach project ran by Wiltshire ICT team, a conference was held at Center Parcs, Longleat.

The keynote speakers were both entertaining and informative and set the scene for what was going to be a fab day for all involved.  We were the first cohort of the project which is now involved with cohort 2 and as we had completed the project were asked to present seminars of a topic of our choosing but realting to the project.  I anticipated that many would select a journey approach and I was keen to do something a little different but just as relevant.  For me, the most important dawn awakening was to surpass the motivational and engagement pull of technology (specifically the iPads we were using) and concentrate on the pedagogical underpinning that I believed was necessary to ensure deeper and more meaningful learning.  My Prezi was called iPadagogy – integrating iPads tomake learning relevant, ,meaningful and contextual.  It is below for you to peruse and enjoy (hopefully!)  The conference itself was great, opportunities to be with like minded people who wanted to share and help each other is always a brillliant incentive.  The event was and has always been very well orgainsed and was a real pleasure to be part of.

Maths across the curriculum – stories!

Some time ago, the idea was muted about teaching maths through stories.  At the time, I wasn’t sure what this would look like other than a tenuous link to a story book that you may have in your cupbaord or book corner.  More recently I have come across a super book written by the Devon Primary Maths team called Story Maths – using picture books in the primary classroom.  It does exactly what it says on the tin……  Some fantastic story books and a myriad of suggestions how they can be used for the different blocks, themes and year groups.  A very comprehensive collection of ideas.  I bought a copy fully ready to embark onusing some of these suggestions.

Each book selected has a:

  • synopsis of the story
  • themes listed from the framework
  • suggested activities and key questions
  • suggested resources
  • possible cross curricular links
  • suitablility for which year groups/key stage

Updates to follow – but so far, so good.

Following a search for further ideas on how to incorporate maths across the curriculum, I came across some fab sites which did just this.

www.livingmathbooklist.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/multiplication – books link maths to literacy

http://www.cfbt.com/lincs/primary,nursery,specialeduc/mathematics/planning/crosscurricularmaths.aspx

http://motivate.maths.org/content/resources

http://nrich.maths.org/thismonth/all/2010/06

At last! A chance to use GBL in the classroom!

After a manic few terms, at last an opportunity to get stuck into some more GBL has presented itself. Since moving to Y4 in September, I have been searching for a Wii game to use in my guided reading and writing sessions (last year while in Y5, I used My Word Coach).  I think I have found the perfect game – Margot’s Word Brain on the Wii.  It has five main games like, wordsearch, word mine, a sort of scrabble game, a crossowrd maker and a game similar to Boggle.  These allows all ability children to particiapte fully as you can find, search etc 3 – 6 letter words. We tried it out in class today and it went down a storm.

I was amazed that last year 28 out of the 30 children in my Y5 class had a Wii, and this year is no exception either.  This makes life very much simpler as the children view learning using the Wii as a treat PLUS they are all so very good at using the controls etc.  They can certainly teach me a thing or two…

So, the plan is now to utilise Margot’s Word Brain in daily sessions to improve word finding skills, vocabulary and have fun to boot!

We’re also using Wild African Safari as part of out Stories from other cultures literacy unit to enhance writin of settings and character descriptions.  See previous posts about how we used it previously.

Let the games begin….

Magic Weaving – Why do I need a teacher when I have Google?

Today, over 300 teachers and heads got together to hear an internationally renowned  speaker, Sir John Jones. It was one of those rare INSET days that didn’t fail to inspire all who listened.  Sir John is a key advocate of the need for a major paradigm shift in the philosophy of education. His common sense approach, supported by a clear understanding of thescientific theory of teaching and learning made for some challenging thoughts.  Sir John challenges teachers to reignite their passion for teaching by reminding them of the influence they have over the children they teach, reminding them of the importance of their profession, and ways to reignite their passion for teaching.  Many statistics (sometimes shocking ones) were sprinkled throughout the day, mainly to provide that knee jerk reaction that makes you reflect on your impact on these children in our care.

He challenges us to be ‘water thinkers’ and not ‘rock thinkers’ as water always wins!!  We were asked if you had to choose one of the following: knowledge, skills or attitude to give the children that would change their lives, which one would it be?  Withour exception, we answered attitude yet education is primarily about developing knowledge.  Our curriculum is about the transmission of facts and knowledge and testing memories.

We were then taken through the history of education, brief and to the point.  About how having 30 children in a class stems from the number of soldiers in a company that could be controlled by a sergeant.  Having a fortnight at Easter came about due to lambing, and six weeks in the summer from harvesting – yet we still adhere to these traditions despite our children not being required to help with these seasonal activities.

Sir John said if we were to read The Times every day for 7 days, the avarage person would learn more about theirr world than was learnt throught the 19th century – technology has a huge part to play in the way we view our world.

Taking the place of the 3 R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic) are the increasing values/skills R’s, like resourceful, reasoning, reflective, responsible and resilience. These skills are vital to the acquisition of knowledge, and how this
knowledge applies to life — even, or especially, in subjects like Science, or
mathematics. Take resilience, for example, if children don’t get maths, the way round is not to teach more maths.  The key to improving maths is not giving up when you’re stuck.

Sir John has written a book — The Magic Weaving Business.  In which he reminds teachers of how important they are in the lives of young people.  He gives us the message, “The good news is, the teacher makes the difference. And the bad news is, the teacher makes the difference.”

Many anecdotes are referred to throughout the day.  He was once asked, ‘why do I need a teacher if I have Google?’  He went on to explain that another student answered this searching question by saying that she was going to university to study history because she had a passion for history.  This was due to her teacher not teaching her hisgtory BUT  she taught her the love of history.

There are many factors whic influence a child’s learning, direction, ambition and achievement — poverty, the breakdown of the family, the neighbourhood, etc BUT if you come across a teacher who is a magic weaver, then it can be life-changing!

We know that teachers make a difference.   Ask anyone to name five people who have
influenced their lives and you’re sure to find a teacher among them.  We were reminded of who inspired us to teach and have we ever told them so?  A recollection of a teacher tracing his old teacher aged 90 via email with the opening ‘You won’t remember me?’  The old teacher replied having attached a photo of his student and recollecting him very well.  A following email was sent three days later explaining that the old man had died, but had done so happy with the knowledge of his impact.  This indeed was a touching and emotional account.  I immediately thought of my teacher Mr Gordon Banks who had done the same for me when I was 10.  I wish I had had the opportunity to have told him how much he had meant to me…

A poignant day, full of laughter, joy, reflectiveness, hope and emotion.  Probably the best INSET day I have had the priviledge of attending.

Enquiry Based Learning – encouraging problem finders!

Well, I’ve finally found the time to post my first post of the new academic year.  As I have got the class blog all  up and running with my new class, I was champing at the bit to get cracking!

Over the summer (mainly due to a change in year group and topics/themes), I have tried to embrace the enquiry based learning approach, especially to history.  Having planned an outline of where I wanted to go, I have then given more emphasis on the activities which will allow the children to make better and more meaningful connections.  I’d hope I had always done this but by asking the children what they wanted to find out about Invaders and Settlers really opened my eyes to what interests them.  I assumed (wrongly as it turned out) that the children would come up with fairly predictable ideas but how wrong I was!  They gave me a varied and greater breadth of enquiry which certainly fired me up.  From these initial ideas (which we used post it notes to record), I devised activities that I believe will deepen their thinking skills and expand their capabilities.  This ideas of planning together really enthused the children too as they were involved with not just the learning process but the planning one as well.  This ownership is just the beginning in our creative  learning journey.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, Ewan McIntosh‘s ‘Problem finder’s not problem solver’s’ analogy certainly struck a chord with me and I wanted to incorporate much of what he said into my teaching practice (wherever possible).  I’d be lying if I didn’t say it takes more time and organisation but hopefully the experiential learning that occurs will be the reward.

Image from http://virtualinquiry.com

All new upgrade to Textease

Following the ICT conference yesterday, I realised that we currently have a very old version of Textease but the good news is that we were advised that we could freely upgrade to the newest version which has more options, better photo banks, animation, sound recorders, timeline and ideasmap together with many of the earlier problems ironed out.  Look for Lightbox in the programs menu as this is now what it comes under.  By linking to the site http://www.textease.com/resources/ will give you video demos, walkthroughs and top tips for all its applications.