Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Hosting a Christmas market in your classroom

In my last post I discussed the European Christmas Skype conversations that my class had taken part in and this work fed into a week creating a European Christmas market in our classroom.

Learners were inspired by trying to be the most successful stall with two small prizes available for the best looking stall and the most money made at market. The work that nearly all of the learners put in was fantastic thinking about persuasive language, product placement and the literacy and numeracy skills that underpin enterprise work.

There were stressful times where it felt as though we wouldn't get everything finished however the learners were helped by wonderful support staff who also really bought into the idea and helped learners to make craft, cook cakes and decorate their stalls.

Many parents commented on the success of the market from what they could see on the actual day and when the money was counted by the learners the found they had made £131.10 profit an amazing achievement!

The market was a success and it worked in our school environment with our learners however i do feel aspects would not be transferable to other educational environments. Learners were given a lot of freedom and some learners could have abused this if it was not for the group leaders and support staff i had available.

I would however encourage other staff in education to think about hosting a Christmas Market as the enjoyment and excitement it generated in the learners which was channeled into their work was immense.  

Friday, 28 November 2014

The use of Skype in the classroom at Christmas

One of my focuses this year has been on helping the learners to experience a variety of cultures and early on in this academic year I spoke to my headteacher about a plan for a European Christmas Market.

Using both the etwinning website and Skype in the Classroom I managed to find 6 schools interested in Skyping with my class to talk about Christmas. The idea being to allow learners to research items for their Christmas market by talking to children from that country. 

The Skype conversations have been fantastic experiences especially singing with other schools from around Europe. However it did take a lot of work to organise and hopefully I can re use the links i have forged in this project in future projects. 

I did find that my learners were not really able to use the schools as a form of research in unstructured conversation due to the language barrier. If i was to plan the conversations again I would perhaps focus more on more of a show and tell rather than just a tell. Seeing items and pictures brought in and completed by learners throughout Europe was interesting and avoided difficulties in translation.

Friday, 14 November 2014

How should remembrance be taught in primary school?

The underlying focus of this week has undoubtably been on Remembrance but it is a topic that is difficult to deliver to primary school children.

Firstly it can be over glamorized with learners thinking that war is “cool” and not thinking about the emotional costs involved and the lasting impact that war has.

Secondly it can become overly depressive with learners getting upset remembering loved ones they have lost.

Therefore I have tried to deliver the topic in a balanced manner focusing on the costs of war, giving thanks and an understanding that we need to think about both sides in any conflict.

This week the lessons I delivered focussed upon the importance of remembrance and learners listened well to my own thoughts and were happy to share there's. I believe the learners give extra weight to my thoughts in this area due to my involvement with the army reserve.

On Tuesday afternoon learners practiced their handwriting by copying out Ode to Remembrance however only some of the learners were able to understand the words and the message they conveyed.

One thing that the learners did do which worked well and which I will do again was to record a short sentence from the learners on their thoughts or remembrance. This video was very effective and although learners found the technical issues amusing they showed some great maturity in their thoughts.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Effective strategies for teaching numeracy

The focus of my thoughts in school this week has been numeracy. With assessments, a course and a chance to observe another teacher in this area all taking place. 

In terms of assessments it was interesting to find the success in mathematics that can be had by some learners with poor reading skills when questions are read out for them. Potentially this should be the way all learners are assessed in maths as ability to read does not effect practical maths skills. It was also disappointing to find some learners greatly underachieving in tests when their work in class is much better it is imperative to find out what it is about tests that is stopping these learners showing their true potential.

The course i took part in was hosted by GWE and focused on numerical reasoning. The three key things i took away were,

1) RUCSAC approach to problem solving (read, underline, choose, solve, answer, check)
2) Identifying 10 different problem solving strategies (see below)
3) Using numeracy as the starting point for cross curricular and thematic planning.

Today i was lucky enough to work with @davidleighevans some fantastic work on STEM and numeracy that will stick with me and the learners for some time to come!

So to summarise what I have learnt this week is that to be effective in teaching numeracy it needs to be fun, it needs to be used throughout the curriculum and learners need to learn how to develop their own problem solving strategies.

Friday, 3 October 2014

What is the value of an adventure club in school?

Wednesday saw the long awaited start of an adventure club after school. The buzz the learners created around this was great but also made me quite apprehensive. Would the learners enjoy the club as much as I hoped? Would it add value to the learners extra-curricular education?

The start of the session went well with learners happily contributing thoughts on what they would like to do in the sessions and also responding well to my suggestions...especially making hot chocolate with my Jetboil

There was also a "wow" moment which always puts a smile on my face when I showed learners my webbing and they enjoyed thinking about what equipment it would be good to have in the pouches.

We used Google Maps to recap basic map reading and then looked at a map of the school before going outside and doing some basic orienteering.

Thankfully one of the parents told me that the learners had loved the club the morning after. Success! :-)

Friday, 26 September 2014

Using Pie Corbett in the classroom

So this week the learners have spent time completing work through the Pie Corbett story telling technique and it has been fantastic.

The learners were showing a lack of creativity with their sentences and I was aware of the technique however I was slightly intimidated by it. It has been so easy to use and the learners have all benefited not just in their creative writing but in their confidence and they genuinely seemed to be having fun as well!

The learners are now using the creative language used in Pie Corbett as a scaffold for writing their own stories and some really interesting ideas are coming out!

Friday, 5 September 2014

How does it feel to return to school after first year of teaching?

Although i still had the compulsory pre-school nightmares that the learners wouldn't listen it was with some relief that I re entered my classroom for the second year of my teaching career.

 It has been great to already have a strong working relationships with nearly all the learners I am teaching this  year. There are 2 new learners to get to know which is interesting in itself but it definitely helps with planning when you know the levels, interests and characteristics of the learners you are teaching before you enter the classroom on day 1 of a new year!

Friday, 25 July 2014

What have I learnt in my first year in teaching?


So my first year in teaching has come to a close and this post is an opportunity to reflect on the lessons learnt and recall some of the key experiences that I have had.

Lesson 1 - There is a lot of work to cover

The amount of time I took over the first topic in maths was unnecessary and I quickly learnt to keep things moving. This is where effective mid term and long term planning come into play and I hope to plan more effectively over the long term next year.

Lesson 2 - Christmas is chaos

I didn't notice during my PGCE because I had a year 3/4 class who had to learn some songs to support year 5/6 but little else. Last Christmas I had to try and get every learner up on stage saying a line, dancing, singing and by the end of it I felt like Andrew Lloyd Webber! A fantastic experience and lots of good learning opportunities but my plan's were ripped to shreds with the Christmas related activities being completed.

Lesson 3 - The MEP is hard work (really hard!)

I think everyone who started the Masters in Educational Practice was under no illusion that it would be a lot of work however the amount of time that you need to devote to it is greater than expected. It is key to manage your time effectively and prioritise however the content has generally been interesting and the professional development is good.

Lesson 4 - Join a union

Although I joined all the unions during my PGCE I saw them as sort of an insurance policy in case things go wrong. This is not the case they are so much more giving members an opportunity to discuss and bring to the media and governments attention issues in education. They are also a great source of professional development and networking. The ATL conference I attended over the Easter holidays was a great learning experience and gave me the opportunity to talk about pay on stage in front of at least 200 other teachers and teaching staff!

Lesson 5 - The summer term is not a breeze!

My previous experience of summer has involved sports day's, trips out and playing rounder's in the sunshine. Although all of that happened again and was as always great fun this year I also had reports to write! These took at least 30 minutes each for 29 learners and seemed to hang around for ages as we added in attendance and results from the LNF tests. I enjoyed writing the reports it just took a long, long time to complete!

Friday, 11 July 2014

What is the value of learner centred behaviour management?

Last Friday we sat all the learners in KS2 down and asked them to think of all the problems that they faced in the school day. Lots of them mentioned that they felt unsafe on the yard and that they felt as though they were often being called names and hurt be each other. We then asked the learners to come up with a number of solutions to their problems. The solutions suggested included a new approach to problems on the yard, a ban on play fighting and a new thoughts box (where learners can post happy or negative thoughts knowing that the staff will read them). The important thing was that these solutions were suggested by the learners themselves and therefore they have ownership over them. It is their responsibility to put these into practice and monitor them.

After the first week of this intervention it is difficult to tell how well the new strategies are working. Certainly there have been no major incidences this week however the idea is not to tackle major incidences but to improve overall behaviour of all learners.

Your thoughts on this approach to behaviour management are much appreciated.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Can I teach an outstanding lesson every day?

Can I teach an outstanding lesson every day?

A little while ago an experienced teacher mentioned to be what may be a trade secret..."try and teach one outstanding lesson every day and the rest will fall into place". Recently I have been trying to incorparate this idea into my planning making sure the learners make progress in every lesson but also doing my best to teach one lesson every day I am proud off.

This week's lessons have included at one end of the scale a successful maths lesson where learners showed high levels of engagement in a well differentiated outdoor lesson learning about angles. To a science lesson today where the starter didn't really take off and although the learners did make progress I wasn't proud of the overall learning that took place.

Twitter is a good way of posting ideas down and getting excited about one lesson a day (yes we should be excited about every lesson but is that possible...) and posting about what I am looking forward to in the school day. 

I hope to teach more outstanding lessons next week! 

Friday, 27 June 2014

How many hours are there in a school week?

How many hours are there in a school week?

This question is one that seems to change from week to week and month to month. This last week has seemed like the longest week of my NQT year so far! From rehearsals for a musical to attending meetings and first aid staff training the week has been full and I'm not sure where the hours have come from...needless to say there is still not enough.

Currently I am completing reports for my class (quite an enjoyable task as it's my first time writing them), trying to make sure I fulfil all the qualified teacher standards and hoping to get started on the third module of my Masters. All of this work to do without even thinking about entering the classroom and educating the learners!

The funny thing is though I'm not really complaining about the workload, in fact I rather enjoy having a lot to do...it makes me feel useful. This post is more of an observation that in teaching there are times when the week is short and other times when the week never really seems to end! This is perhaps the reason why teachers look forward to the Summer holidays. 

Friday, 20 June 2014

How do you write a high quality school report?

How do you write a high quality school report?

With only four weeks left till the end of my first academic year as a teacher my thoughts and spare time are currently filled with report writing.

This is the first year I will write reports and my only real experience of reports thus far is the one's I received! I can rememeber that I used to be excited about opening my report as they were generally quite good and it was important to me that the feedback given was an accurate representation of what I had achieved over the year. 

In writing reports this year I am planning to do the following things,

1.) Update all learners score on INCERTS so that they have targets related to the national curriculum standards.

2.) Look at each learners report from last year as a clue to how to write reports this year (last year there was no complaints from parents).

3.) Write a personalised statement for each area of the report. I did this on parents evening and felt the information I gave was accurate and representative.

4.) Avoid copying and pasting.

5.) Get all reports proof read by the other more experienced KS2 teacher in order to avoid any unnecessary errors being sent out!

Any other tips greatly appreciated! 

Friday, 6 June 2014

Is singing in school important?

Is singing in school important?

One of the big events for my school this half term is the Ruthin Festival where learners will be performing Queen songs. They only have a couple of weeks to practice to be ready to perform to around 100 people. So I plan for the learners to sing everyday in preparation.

The learners seem to genuinely like the songs they are singing which is a bonus however they are far too quiet at the moment and need to raise their volume. I have previously identified a weakness in my ability to deliver music and singing lessons so it was good to observe a music specialist earlier in the week. I believe the key in getting children loud and confident is to sing loudly and confidently yourself and if you do that the competence should come.

A few months ago I observed a teacher at a different school and she said that children should sing every day. I would say that at the moment we only sing when we have a performance to prepare for. Certainly singing is a good way of remembering and a secondary school language teacher I know still sings with his Year 11's. Perhaps I could build singing into the timetable as a daily welsh practice before lunch or before the end of the day.

Your thoughts appreciated...

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Should we reward learners behaviour with an end of term party?

Should we reward learners behaviour with an end of term party?

I like many other teachers have recently become interested in the homework menu. Learners select the homework task they wish to tackle and in the case of the menu I used, select the difficulty based on a Nando's hotness indicator. When I gave learners the homework menu 8 weeks ago I stated that if they completed a homework every week and at least 2 extra hot homework's they would be rewarded with a Mexican style party.

The quality of the homework before using the menu was high but I believe the quality and quantity has improved due to its use. Nearly all the learners completed the 8 homework's including at least 2 extra hot ones. The only learners who did not complete the required amount were learners from backgrounds where it is difficult to complete work at home. This in itself brings issues as it would be morally wrong to not allow these learners to enjoy the party even though they have not completed the required task. I considered spending time at lunch helping them complete homework however decided against it for now.

Last Friday was the day of the party and after a morning of lessons I donned my poncho and sombrero and following their lunch break welcomed the learners into a Mexican classroom. There was a lot of excitement generated with learners answering the register with "Ole!" and "Arriba!" while I remained in character throughout. I set out three different areas including dancing, art and craft and party games and asked the learners to remind me why we were having a party.

Naturally due to the learners enthusiasm and my own the party was quite loud and I hope that it didn't prevent our headteacher from completing any work. I do however feel that on balance there were a number of skills developed through the party as well as showing learners that if they work hard it will be recognised.

What do you think? Are party's a good idea as a reward?

Friday, 16 May 2014

How to survive a residential school trip!

How to survive a residential school trip!

So we finished the tests on Tuesday and thankfully the reasoning paper was a breath of fresh air with some of the learners actually enjoying it. Wednesday arrived and it was time to get some real fresh air in our lungs as I took 11 learners to Glan Llyn in Bala.

I had been before and was confident that with the lack of behaviour problems in class, taking this group of learners would be a genuinely positive experience for all involved. 

One of the learners decided to test this within 5 mins of arriving scrawling a threatening message towards one of our pupils across his bed frame. I actually shook i was so disappointed with the learner and made him sit by himself during lunch and wait outside the staffroom during the staff briefing that followed. I told him I would decide his fate during the briefing and asked him to look at the beautiful Welsh scenery he was surrounded by and consider if he wanted to be here. Thankfully this seemed to be a fit punishment as he tearfully asked if he could stay after the briefing and his behaviour was fine for the rest of the trip.

Glan-Llyn is a great place to take learners and give them some opportunities to develop through adventurous activity and being away from home while also improving their ability to speak Cymraeg. The only other unpleasant incidences during the trip were a couple of learners who felt homesick. Thankfully I was able to talk a year 6 boy round and one of our teaching assistants talked a year 6 girl into staying and they were both the better for it.

I would definitely take learners away overnight again and would say the key strategies to making residential trips successful are,

  • Giving learners enough activities that they are tired and ready for bed at the end of the day
  • Having a male and female member of staff at the least
  • Giving the learners some freedom to develop on their own in a safe environment
  • Having fun!

Any thoughts I would as always be interested to hear them.


Friday, 9 May 2014

Emotional roller-coaster of testing

Emotional roller-coaster of testing

This week has been all about the tests in reading and maths with Monday and Tuesday spent trying to revise key areas where the learners were weak. On Wednesday it kicked off with the reading test and I was pretty pleased with the performance of my class. Thursday was the procedural maths paper and today we have completed a maths investigation to try and keep focussed ready for the maths reasoning papers after the weekend.

Although only a four day week I have ended the week feeling run down and in desperate need of some time to recuperate! As a teacher you always want the best for your pupils and this empathy leads to real emotional highs and lows when marking their work.

Some of the learners have attained high marks others have done as expected and a few have under attained. As mentioned in my previous post for some learners the tests are a waste of time as they were unable to engage with the material in any way.

On Thursday there was a real learning experience for me as a teacher. I was annoyed with the learners in my class who had made silly mistakes in the reading paper. In order to try and avoid a repeat in the maths paper I brought this to their attention in the morning docking 1 minute of golden time. This led to one of my learners finding it very difficult to engage with the maths paper as she was too upset to concentrate. With hindsight bringing up anything exam related is more likely to lead to more stress than increased concentration.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Why are we returning to a culture of testing?

Why are we returning to a culture of testing?

Last year I had a limited experience of the new literacy and numeracy tests which take place in May for every year group in Wales. I was required as a trainee teacher to entertain half the class while the other half completed the test and then swap.

This year and in reality this week I have had the full testing experience with the initial worry being whether the learners have covered the curriculum in sufficient detail within my lessons. Thankfully after completing a number of practice sessions this week I feel the learners I teach (currently year 3 - year 6!) are almost prepared for the assessments next week and will be fully prepared before the first papers are given out on Wednesday.

The question is whether this testing culture (which seems to have returned along with the addition of the numeracy reasoning paper this year) is healthy for primary school children and children in general? 

Is it in the best interest of learners to complete a standardised assessment which better displays their ability to complete exams than their ability in literacy and numeracy?

There are a number of learners in my care who will struggle to even complete the assessments. Am I doing my duty as their teacher by giving them material that is far too difficult for them? 



Friday, 18 April 2014

Why is a union conference important?

Why is a union conference important?

So after returning home from my first union conference and catching up on all my favourite programmes it's a good time to reflect on why a union conference is important.

The best thing about conference has been discussing education and educational policy with educators from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences. All of the people I spoke to were passionate about education and this creates a real positive buzz around the job that I love.

I have doubled the number of twitter tweets on my account. Twitter was a great tool for informally discussing educational policy and seeing the thoughts and experiences of educators not on stage.

It was a great experience for me to walk on stage and talk about teacher pay in front of the largest audience I have ever spoken to and being at conference has been great for CPD.

Finally it has been difficult to find teachers willing to let me come in to see them teach. Thankfully I now have the contact details of 3 educators willing to allow me in to their classrooms but also willing and excited to come and visit mine. Which can only be a good thing for the learners in our respective classes.

I would encourage as many educators as possible to take a real interest in what their union does. Go to branch meetings and make a real effort to attend next years conference to help #ShapeEducation.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Easter Holidays

How can we make the most of the holidays?

Its been a long old term so it was a great relief to wake up this morning and realise I've got a 17 day break from the classroom!

I love teaching and I love my job however it is always good to have a break in order to evaluate what happened in the last term, recharge the batteries and prepare for the next term.

Over the Easter break I hope to achieve the following things,

  • Attend the ATL conference and make the most of the professional networking opportunites.
  • Read the two remaining topics of the masters module and start writing my assignment.
  • Fully update pupils levels on Incerts.
  • Prepare quality mid term plans for the next half term.
  • Chill out and relax!

If I can achieve all that then it will have been a successful break and I can look forward to the start of next term.

Friday, 4 April 2014

How can we engage learners on school trips?

How can we engage learners on school trips?

So it's almost here an opportunity to get learners out of the classroom for some real world learning.

On Thursday I alongside other staff from school will be taking 29 KS2 learners to a power station to learn all about electricity. 

In my short career in education so far I have been involved in taking learners on a number of trips which have ranged greatly in terms of level of engagement and indeed the level of learning.

In order for a school trip to be successful I believe the following criteria should be met

  • Staff that are passionate about where they work
  • Learners being able to ask questions
  • Real world application for the learners
  • Opportunities for kinaesthetic learning
  • A sense of fun

I hope that together with the staff at the power station we can help ensure this criteria is met to ensure a rewarding experience for the learners.
The Plan

So it is important that next week the learners feel a sense of excitement in the build up to their school trip. It would be worthwhile getting the learners to think of questions that they would like answered about power and I need to ensure that all staff are clear on the format of the day in order to spark the learners interest. As always other ideas are welcome...

Friday, 28 March 2014

Perfect Parent's Evening

What is a perfect parent's evening?

Is there a definitive answer to this question?

I will be meeting parents next Monday for the second formal parents evening of my teaching career.

I have previously been involved in parents evenings as a teaching assistant and trainee teacher but find meeting parents on a 1:1 basis slightly daunting.

I am desperate to give constructive feedback without offending, I want the meeting to be a positive experience for pupil, parent and dare I say it myself.

The last parents evening was satisfactory but I felt that I needed to prepare something to give weight to my comments.

The Plan

So for Monday I plan to use INCERTS to give parents an indication of their pupils skill level within class and what skills they will be pursuing as they progress in their lessons.

I also plan to have two statements relating to their general behaviour and manner in class.

Their books will all be up to date and marked and a new display will be on the wall along with the newly created school website on the IWB. Any other ideas would be welcome...