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?