Category Archives: T&L

Ideas for the 1st week back… 5 quick activities to do outside.

So here we are guys and gals, it’s almost here.

The new year beckons and teachers are trying to reset their collective body clocks, shake of the cobwebs and fire up the work laptops.

alarm-clock-smash-o

You might be starting a new year, class, age group, school or role but what remains the same is getting the children back in the right mindset, enthused and engaged in the excitement and challenges ahead.

The weather is usually reasonable in early September and hopefully your pupils will be all still full of having spent the Summer, damming rivers, climbing trees, digging for treasure and sword fighting with sticks (even if it was only on MineCraft!)

Here are 5 ways you might take children outside to find out a little more about them and what they can do, as always not trying to be clever.

Find your limits if you aren’t a regular goer outside, but what children do and how they behave when you take away the walls will tell you a lot about them.

  1. Playlets

Give them some sticks, leaves, litter, stones and stumps (perhaps a few puppets if you are inclined) and give them a scene or story title to improvise. writingexercises.co.uk/story-t… It’s fun and can be challenging. Getting children to collaborate. Tell them they can include any props they can find.

  1. Read stories and poems

Just take it out of the classroom, perhaps most common thing done outside. Reading poems about nature under trees and sitting on a tree stump can help generate powerful language. Obvious really. Write a poem, line or verse in the soil perhaps – will it be there tomorrow? Hang them on the fence or over the wall, passers by might read them.

Nature's Way - Heidi Campbell

Nature’s Way – Heidi Campbell

  1. Alphabets

A great one for EYFS/KS1 especially, but I’ve found that KS2 enjoy the challenge too. Make the alphabet from what they can find. Size doesn’t matter but creative thought does. Take photographs and print a fabulous natural alphabet for the classroom. Looks good and it is theirs.

  1. Place Value and Numbers

Draw boxes on the playground and use as PV grids. Use any small manipulatives, shells, stones, beads etc to fill the boxes, making numbers. Children can see the quantity in the box and how it has a position, then you can add another above or below and create moving calculations. Children will have that physical connection and see how the number combine and begin to deal with the principles of exchange when there is more than 10(0) – now what?

  1. Go and plant something

On the first day. Go and plant something. Suggestions could be Garlic, Lamb’s Lettuce, or if you want a year’s project, Delphiniums will flower in Summer. What a lovely way to close the year, with the flowers planted on Day 1. Dependent on your green fingeredness! The masses of learning potential from growing flowers, fruit and veg is enormous.

Delphiniums

Delphiniums

But you knew that!

Comment more ideas you have for ‘Starting Outside’.

Well Being – The need for selfawareness

Wellbeing – we have all heard the phrase and are often reminded to consider it.

I have read a few blogs about it recently:

@tstarkey1212‘s – Balance (The 1st EduBlog I ever read)

@mrheadcomputing‘s:

My Own Worst Enemy Pt1

My Own Worst Enemy Pt2

There are others, they are popping up because it is half term. Teacher’s ‘Me Time’ – yeah right!


I am not sure where this post leads – to be honest it is a bit of a brain dump. So please don’t hate me if I draw no conclusions or solutions. There might be some advice, but I suspect I am advising myself more than trying to help others!

I am, I suspect, a workaholic. I am reasonably confident that many teachers are. They just use words like ‘professional’,  ‘committed’ and ‘driven’ to hide behind. I like to think I am these things too. I should be. But when is enough truly enough?

Not all that long ago I think that I found that point.

I didn’t look after myself properly. Slept little. Snacked badly. Drank to much coffee (in my own opnion). I worked. Literally all the time. Did it make me better? I don’t know.

I DO know that I got into some really bad habits. Over preparing, 2nd guessing myself – 3rd guessing sometimes!

What I do works, however I am not sure that all the extra made a real difference.

We all know about workload: planning, marking, assessment etc. etc. it is a burden but one we have to bear.

So, I suffered.

Tiredness, exhaustion, stress, depression, alienation from family and friends. No-one’s fault but my own ‘commitment’.

My family suffered. They lost me. Evenings and weekends evaporated. We didn’t do things together because I was ‘too busy’.

I am a workaholic and I have a problem.

There I said it.

I have forced myself to slow it down, stop it or do a little less, but the danger of a relapse is always there and it won’t be going away anytime soon.

gifsoup.com

gifsoup.com

How do you:

  • Teach full time
  • Lead a school
  • Senior Lead across 2 schools
  • Subject lead 3 subjects (one is Maths)
  • Support colleagues
  • Stay creative and interesting
  • Have a young family
  • Live a family life

Perhaps the key to my problem is the order of the list?

I have as many hours as everyone else and as many days. A little extra at the end of the month is great, although it won’t bring back lost days out, bedtime stories missed, bathtimes avoided (the little person’s not mine!), glasses of wine and conversation with my wife.

I think that my point here is to watch for the signs – I didn’t.

Have a break.

Rest.

It isn’t enough to not work on a friday night – to sit down to watch NCIS instead and be asleep before the 1st grey fade, then shouted at for the next hour for snoring too loud.

en.wikipedia.org

en.wikipedia.org

It isn’t enough.

There must be time out – find it or you cannot and will not last the course.

If I hated my job – I would stop. The problem is, that actually, I don’t.

theoverthinker.org

theoverthinker.org

What have I done?

  • I have a cut off time – 3am in BAD, 10pm is BETTER.
  • I make better lists, ones that I can realistically complete – prioritise.
  • Bedtime is sacred (again, not mine, the small one’s)
  • I tweet – Hardly a hobby, but it is something I enjoy.
  • I do things for me, that I want to do. Even if they are ‘work’ related – they are mine!

My advice to you?

Be careful. You do not have to commit body, mind, soul, guts and glory to your class.

Be happy, be healthy, smile, laugh and be ready for them – they’ll love you. If you aren’t, then you’ll lose them forever.

All too often I read motivational memes like:

I am a teacher. What’s your superpower?

or

Teaching is my superpower!

It isn’t.

It IS a very important job – perhaps one of the most important. But you are not super human.

If I was Superman – teaching is my Kryptonite.

g8ors.blogspot.com

g8ors.blogspot.com

My downtime, rest and regeneration? That is the source of my power. That is my sun.

Like Superman, if I only have kryptonite, I become weaker and lose that power.

All superheroes have their weakness or breaking point (except He-Man, but that’s another blog!)

Know your limitations.

Remember that if you don’t look after yourself, then the job will not look after you.

giphy.com

giphy.com

The machine keeps turning.

Thanks for reading.


Please forgive errors!

This has been a tough write and sharing is even more scary.

Mike

The #CultureBox Experience – The story so far…

I had been scrolling idly through my Twitter timeline one evening and stumbled across a tweet from Amjad Ali (@ASTsupportAAli) using the #culturebox with a link which I duly followed as it had perked my curiosity.

The link led me here:  http://cheneyagilitytoolkit.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/culturebox.html

(or somewhere close!)

An opportunity to link with another school somewhere in the world?

That sounded exciting and I signed myself up immediately!

Time passed and I eventually discovered that I was unlucky – the odd man out so to speak, the only teacher not to be paired up with another school (to be fair, my potential partner school had pulled out.) I was disappointed but happy to wait until the next opportunity…until I received a Tweet from Amjad, offering me a pairing with Brett Salakas (@MRsalakas), one of the top names in #aussieED, the massive Sunday morning twitter chat… I was delighted to accept!

Brett Salakas #aussieED

Brett Salakas
#aussieED

I honestly don’t think I could have been paired with anyone better.

It has already opened my eyes to new technologies. I had my first ever Google Hangout chat with Brett, and spend an hour laughing and chatting about our schools, jobs, different contexts, sharing information about our classes, teaching philosophies and more. Brett came across as an eminently likable and engaging character, who I not only shared a great deal in common with but we also look ever so slightly similar!

Perhaps the biggest lesson for Brett was what was to become our catchphrase “Don’t say Bloody!”

In Australia, an innocent word used by teachers, adults, pupils and children alike, in the UK a swear word, albeit a very mild one. That one gave us a giggle!

Speak No Evil! pixgood.com

Speak No Evil!
pixgood.com

We realised that the only disadvantage of our pairing was the timezone difference: 9-10 hours (depending on daylight savings). It was highly unlikely that the children in each school will ever get to meet each other. The UK school day starts at around 6pm for Australia and the Australian day starts at 11pm.

We decided that this shouldn’t stop us as we were too excited to get started and do some live broadcasts to each others schools. Especially Brett – he was literally buzzing with excitement and to be fair it was infectious. If the children couldn’t meet each other, they could certainly meet us!

I set my class a piece of homework: #CultureBox

This got them thinking about their own culture and that of another country – the children were as excited as we were.

I put a display in a shared area of school:

#CultureBox Display

#CultureBox Display

Hangout 1:

We set a date and time to have Brett link up to our school, but the time zones cursed us and unfortunately he missed the call.

He may or may not have been asleep! (Curses Time Zones!)

After a stream of apologetic DMs on Twitter, Brett was forgiven and we tried again a few days later this time at the start of our day.

Brett was fantastic!

We chatted for a bit and spoke of time zones, animals, Aboriginal history, British Colonization, Christmas tradition in Australia, as many children in my class thought the whole of Australia go to the beach!

#AussieEd Blog – Brett’s reflections on the 1st CultureBox meeting

It was a great experience for me and for them.

When it ended they wanted to know when we would be doing it again!

It wasn’t long.

Hangout 2:

My class had been learning about traditional tales and fables and other short stories, so we used another live link for Brett to share a ‘Dream Time’ story about Tiddalick the frog:

What a great experience – tales shared from another country, literally as far away from them as you can go without leaving the planet!

Even more exciting this time was that the Hangout was recorded live and streamed to YouTube – Brett felt his nerves let him down and he removed the video – he shouldn’t have.

#AussieED blog – Brett’s reflections on our 2nd CultureBox meeting

Hangout 3:

My turn followed a week or so later once the Aussie kids had returned to school.

It was my turn for a late night!

At 11pm Hangout went live into Brett’s classroom – delightful children – we had a great chat and a laugh too. The conversation and questions that came at me were almost identical in content to the questions my class had asked – if Culture Box teaches me nothing else it is that children are the same wherever you are!

WatsEd Live to Sydney

WatsEd Live to Sydney

It is not often I find myself without something to say, but I was genuinely lost for words when the link up started – such a cool thing to do. The children nursed me through and by the end we were mimicking each others accents and discussing farming, weather, food, hobbies, all sorts of stuff.

I with my ‘cultural’ cup of tea and digestive biscuit in hand!

We discovered:

a) The children didn’t know what a Badger was

b) The children didn’t know what a Yorkshire Pudding was (!)

and

c) I sound weird to them. (Fair enough – I sound weird to everyone!)

The chat ended with me being left with a challenge… share and traditional english poem, and discuss the features and why I chose it.

That’s going to be a tough one… but I am looking forward to it!

Oh, and the class told me they “had a bloody great time!”

I told them I had done too, and that if I said that to my own class I’d be in LOTS of trouble – they thought that was bizarre!

 

Now we are in discussions with our children to think what we can put into a parcel to send to Mr Salakas and his class that sums up ‘Being British’, their homework activity gave a few thoughts. It will be great to share a real life #CultureBox!

 

To those who dreamed the idea up Amjad and Maggie @madgiemgEDU – thank you. You have opened a window on the world to my class and hopefully a class in Australia.

You have linked me with a teacher who is an all round nice bloke and given the children I teach a chance to meet him too.

I can’t wait to keep the project moving!

UPDATED POST – Literacy Shed Conference – Lincolnshire

Superhero Poetry Ideas

This will prove to be the single most niche blog post ever written.

But I have never been one to let that kind of thing stop me!


sploid.gizmodo.com

sploid.gizmodo.com

A shout out to the #geekteachsquad came out last night from:

A range of suggestions were made.

  • Adverb poems – starting each line with either the same or different adverbs
  • Simile poems
  • Tele-Stitch from @redgierob

I had never heard of that one – but gives a great opportunity for creative and challenging sentence/phrase writing.

 

Personally I went for Superhero Limericks:

My ideas (of which I am rather pleased as they were written very quickly) are here:

 

Hulk/Bruce Banner

The once was a Dr called Bruce,

Got zapped by Gamma “What the deuce?!?”

His muscles did swell,

He screamed ‘What the hell!?’

What’s worse he’s the colour of spruce!

 

Thor

There once was a Norse God called Thor,

He fought, what a terrible bore,

He could control lightning,

Which Loki found frightening,

Though his hammer he feared even more.

 

Iron Man/Tony Stark

There once was a rich bloke named Stark,

Who’d build weapons up for a lark,

His suits were all iron,

He could even fly ’em,

That eccentric rich fella Stark.

 

Wolverine

There once was a man named Wolverine,

He wore leather jacket and jean,

From his hands came sharp knives,

He had lived many lives,

James Howlett, the great Wolverine.

 

Superman

There once was a man called Kal-El,

He was from Krypton and Earth as well,

He was fast as a bullet,

A Freight Train? Could pull it!

Metropolis was where he did dwell.

 

What Superhero inspired poetry ideas have you or could you try with your class?

Key Instant Recall Facts for Mathematics (KIRFs)

Very grateful to Michael Tidd (@MichaelT1979) for this post.

I have used KIRFs in my school for just over a year – I will be adding my personal experience of their use and impact to this post very soon.

I think they are excellent!

Watch This Space!

Ramblings of a Teacher

I am a massive fan of drilling and practice for children who need to learn number facts. And the reality is that that’s all children. Whether it’s the earliest number bonds, or the prime numbers, the new curriculum is very clear that fluency in these areas underpins much of what else is done in mathematics – and it’s right to do so, in my opinion.

Key Instant Recall Facts (Y2 example) Key Instant Recall Facts (Y2 example)

I was, consequently, thrilled when the documents below were sent to me by Jo Harbour (@joharbour) of Mayfield Primary School. As a maths subject leader she has taken the time to set out a programme of teaching and learning to secure those essential number facts that runs from Year 1 through to Year 6. Beginning with the basic number bonds to 6, and developing to the knowledge of equivalent fractions and decimals by the end of KS2…

View original post 143 more words

Twitter EdChats – #CupofTeaCPD Trilogy Part 3(ii) The End?

This is it – the end of the line … The final part of Part 3 of the #CupofTeaCPD Trilogy. Like the last Harry Potter films, I had to spin out the last bit for maximum effect!

In #CupofTeaCPD1 I explained why I think teacher should be on Twitter.

In  #CupofTeaCPD2  I gave my Top 10 tips for starting out with Twitter.

In #CupofTeaCPD3i I looked at trying to collect Twitter EdChats. It was Pokemon-esque attempt – “Gotta Catch ’em All!”

In this blog #CupofTeaCPD3ii, you will find the list of edchats collected.

Thanks to all contributors:

@gazneedle

@MRsalakas

@mrkempnz

@educationbear

@gtchatmod

@goodman_ang

@WatsEd

@tim_jumpclarke

The Google form is still open at: #CupofTeaCPD3

Please feel free to add any further chats to the list.

I will then update this blog post.


 

Here is the list, hopefully there is something for everyone. Enjoy.

 

Chat: SLTChat

#Hashtag: #SLTchat

Moderator: @SLTChat

Based: UK

Date/Time: @TeacherToolkit

 

Chat: ukedchat

#Hashtag: #ukedchat

Moderator: @ukedchat

Based: UK

Date/Time:

 

Chat: AussieED

#Hashtag: #aussieED

Moderator: Rotational Host (@MRSalakas)

Based: Australia/New Zealand

Date/Time: Sunday 8:30pm AEST

 

Chat: Asia Ed Chat

#Hashtag: #asiaED

Moderator: Rotational Host

Based: Asia

Date/Time: Slow Chat – one question per day

 

Chat: What is School

#Hashtag: #whatisschool

Moderator: @mrkempnz & @candylandscaper

Based: Global Chat

Date/Time: Thursday 7pm EDT / Friday 9am AEST

 

Chat: PrimEdChat

#Hashtag: #primedchat

Moderator: @educationbear

Based: UK

Date/Time: Wednesday 8:00pm – 8:30pm

 

Chat: gtchat

#Hashtag: #gtchat

Moderator: @gtchatmod

Based: USA

Date/Time: Fridays 7/6 C (US)/Midnight UK and 3rd Sunday 4/3 C (US)/21.00 (UK)

 

Chat: New Teachers 2 Twitter

#Hashtag: #nt2t

Moderator: Rotational Host

Based: USA

Date/Time: Saturday 2pm

 

Chat: EduTweetOz

#Hashtag: #edutweetoz

Moderator: Rotational Host

Based: Australia/New Zealand

Date/Time: Slow Chat – one question per day

 

Chat: Primary Rocks

#Hashtag: #primaryrocks

Moderator: @redgierob / @gazneedle

Based: UK

Date/Time: Monday 7pm-8pm UK Time

time fo dat

 

Still trying to track down:

 

Chat: Headteacher Chat

#Hashtag:

Moderator:

Based:

Date/Time:

 

Chat: Behaviour Chat

#Hashtag:

Moderator:

Based:

Date/Time:

#CupofTeaCPD Reference Point

I place this here for your attention and viewing pleasure!

Nine teachers who tweet – alot.

Artwork by Gaz Needle

Artwork by Gaz Needle

Thanks Gaz – I think this is great.

We need a statistical update for this based on experience and specialism.

The “Geek Teacher Squad”

Here to help you with your needs!

Cup of Tea CPD

Extrinsic Rewards Feel EPIC! by @gazneedle

My Twitter friend and colleague @gazneedle got here first – but I want to add my thoughts on his post:

Friendly Neighbourhood Teacher – Extrinsic Rewards Feel EPIC!

#CupofTeaCPD

I created that phrase and if I am honest, I am really quite pleased with it! It pops up now as a known #hashtag when I type it in. I did that.

As I have said before, back in April I didn’t ‘get’ Twitter, what it was, what it did, how it worked, none of it.

Now here I am, in September, nominated by my peers on Twitter via @Ukedchat as one of the Top 100 UK educators on the Social Media platform. How bonkers is that?!

Now, I am a realist.

In the big picture, it doesn’t mean a lot, but to me it is a really special moment. People who I don’t know, think what I have to say is useful and they like it enough to say something about it. I didn’t even know there were nominations or I would have made some!

So, like Gaz, I saw the notification on my Twitter feed and saw some friends getting excited: @gazneedle, @redgierob, @grahamandre, @bryngoodman so I followed it back to this tweet:

https://twitter.com/gazneedle/status/508296924659974145

And there we all were sitting proudly on #Ukedchat Magazine’s pages.

You get a badge and everything!

I was quick to add it to my page, because I want to see it! I told my wife who smiled and said “Well done!” (She doesn’t do social media and thinks I am wasting time!)

I now have a badge, and a link and I feel incredibly proud.

I have just over 700 followers and think, like Gaz, if this is how a 36 year old man feels, about being told he can share a little gif file, how important is it that we reward the children we teach?

We all, as human beings, like to be made to feel special, valued or important. It is why headteachers walk into classrooms and make a positive comment – it makes us more productive people.

It isn’t about the big things, it’s the little comments that make them proud, send them home with a smile or make their parents realise that their little person has done something special – those things count.

I feel rather like the jolly geezer in my opening animation – I suspect that I might be overselling it, but I feel good and I want people to know that!

To whoever voted for me – thank you, that minute spent has made me a very happy tweeter.

Maybe there is something to this Twitter thing – I think it might just catch on!

Your Friendly Neighbourhood Teacher

Baby Smile Should I be this happy?

It took me until I was 18 and in university to realise that I had to ask if I didn’t know what someone was talking about so I have grown to not feel ashamed to ask ‘stupid’ questions or admit that I am ignorant on a topic.  This blog isn’t about the merits of extrinsic rewards in the classroom as I haven’t read in depth any research about it, but it’s about today’s experience.

As I was twittering with the telly on in the background, I saw that @ukedchat had published a list of the UK Ed Chat community’s favourite UK educational tweeters

I scoured the list for anyone I knew and was delighted to see @bryngoodman on there (it was alphabetical order) so I tweeted him that he was on there. I was genuinely pleased that a nice chap like Bryn, who freely shares…

View original post 269 more words

Twitter EdChats – #CupofTeaCPD Trilogy Part 3(i)

Part 3 of my #CupofTeaCPD Trilogy – It has been long anticipated by some!

So here is Part 1 of Part 3!

In #CupofTeaCPD1 I explained why I think teacher should be on Twitter.

In  #CupofTeaCPD2  I gave my Top 10 tips for starting out with Twitter.

Part 3 is going to be about really taking the opportunity to get the best out of Twitter and creating genuine, personalised professional development.

Improving knowledge and understanding of the up to date issues of education nationally and internationally. Taking the opportunity to discuss with colleagues globally.

How to do this?

Twitter Chats

In Part 2 of the trilogy I made reference to Twitter Chats and how interesting and useful they can be.

#CupofTeaCPD Part 2

“4: Use #hashtags

There are so many #chats to join in with. These are 30-60 mins of VERY intense tweeting about specific topics.

  1. #ukedchat
  2. #edchat
  3. #education
  4. #behaviourchat
  5. #SLTchat
  6. #headteacherchat
  7. #MLTchat
  8. #aussieEd
  9. #usedchat
  10. #whatisschool

The list goes on.

Many of these have the discussion topics chosen by the users. These all have an appointed day and time, so if you are prepared, you are good to go.

When you tweet to start with, include these #hashtags in what you say, people who follow them will get to see what you say and may well follow you or reply.”

rocketpost.com

The education chat on twitter provide contributors an opportunity to share ideas and practice with other educators. Contributors include teachers, leaders, inspectors and consultants – all offering answers to the proposed questions/themes. It is fast paced, hectic and tough to follow at times! Definitley a need for a Twitter Client like HootSuite or TweetDeck (@gazneedle).

I have been involved in several chats but more often I miss them as I don’t actually know when they happen, or I am too late and am out of the flow and find it hard to jump in as it can be tricky to find the initial questions.

There is a clear schedule – #aussieED and #whatisschool, which usually trend globally, are on a Sunday. (I think!)

But there are lots that can be checked out. Individual states in USA have their own and they welcome overseas teachers to jump in and contribute. There are several in the UK too.

So, my project for the next couple of weeks is to try and find out what happens when and who is in control!

I will then use this to catalogue a timetable of @Twitter #edchats and post it here.

This will hopefully be a useful resource that can be added to and amended over time.

Please fill in the Google Form below if you know of a #chat and add it to the list.

I have given the ‘option’ to rate the chat – don’t feel that you have to.

It might be a way to help people prioritise the chats they want to get involved with.

Thanks everyone!

How to ensure impact with blogging! By @ICT_MrP

I know that I have done this a few times, but not only do I want this blog to be useful to other others, but I also want it to be useful to me.

If that means collecting together interesting, useful and/or thought provoking ideas then that’s precisely what will do.

Over time there will be a balance between shared and original materials.

This post was shared on 31-8-14 on Twitter by Lee Parkinson (@ICT_MrP) from his blog:

http://mrparkinsonict.blogspot.co.uk

I liked the ideas in the post and wanted to put it somewhere that I wouldn’t lose it!

This seemed a sensible place!

Thanks to Lee for the idea – Something that I can store away and introduce later this term.

@ICT_MrP has a fantastic range of resources for innovative and creative ways to use tech in the classroom.

Hope you like it – and please visit the original post.


How to ensure impact with blogging!

The idea behind children blogging is simple – give them a platform to write for a real audience and this provides a purpose to write. When children have a purpose, it impacts on the quality of writing.The most difficult part for teachers trying to encourage children to blog, is to create an audience for children to write for. There are a few websites teachers can sign up for an use to really help build an online audience:

100 Word Challenge –  Simply an amazing way to promote and showcase children’s writing. Each week a prompt is given which the children need to write a blog post of 100 words about. The post is then linked from your blog to the 100wc.net website where it can be seen by the thousands of schools, teachers and children that visit the site each week. A group of willing volunteers have the busy job of trying to comment on as many posts as possible. As the site now gets around 1000 entries a week they are crying out for people to help comment on children’s work. I think a lot of Secondary school teachers should encourage their students to comment as it is a great way to really promote themselves as responsible digital citizens. As a class we sometimes will do the 100 word challenge as a lesson, look at children’s examples from around the world before having a go at writing their own.

Quadblogging – Created by David Mitchell, this termly project groups your blog with another 3 schools from around the world to create your quad. The idea is to then have a focus school for that week with the other schools visiting and commenting on work on the site. A really great way to ensure children’s writing is seen and commented on and also teach children responsible use of the internet.

Lend me your Literacy – If you are not blogging but want a way to have your work seen and commented on, Lend me your Literacy can provide that service. They will come and deliver a day with a class, publish all their work on their site and promote it so it receives comments from people all around the world. Within the package they will also publish other examples of work throughout the year to continue to inspire children to produce quality work.

Using these three tools will definitely build an audience and light up the globe on your blog. However they can’t guarantee that every post that the children write will have feedback and be equally valued. It is comments from people outside of the classroom that has the biggest impact on children’s work. Therefore creating a way to guarantee comments will create an encouraging environment throughout the school.

This idea originally came to me from Mr Osler and Miss Gardner who had the idea of recruiting a group of parents to ensure every child’s work is commented on. I thought this was a great idea however for maximum impact, I didn’t want the children to suspect it was parents commenting, instead other special visitors who were ‘experts’ at writing. And so the “Guardians of Grammar,” was created.

The real identities of the GoG will remain anonymous, they are only known as their literacy superhero alter egos. Their mission, to leave no posts on the Davyhulme Primary Blogs without constructive and useful feedback.

How we set it up – A simple Google Form was set up for parents to sign up with an email. I then created log ins for each parent so they can comment under their new superhero identity.

Thanks to twitter I was able to acquire a number of superhero names that can be used (thanks to Bryn Goodman@JwjmcdonCeltic Hippie, @RedgieRob,  @AlanPeat and @InspiredMinds for all their suggestions) here are some you could use:

  • Razor-Clause.
  • Adverbigirl.
  • Capit-Al.
  • Admiral Adjective.
  • Professor XYZ
  • The Red Margin.
  • Inverted Commander
  • The Vocabularmy.
  • The Determinator!
  • The Ellipsis of Evil
  • The Credible Hulk
  • Wonder WhatHappens aka Paige Turner.
  • Night-Vowel.
  • Diction Harry.
  • The Forward Slasher.
  • Grapheme Girl,
  • Dr Digraph,
  • Captain Complex,
  • The Modal Master
  • Comma Bomber.
  • Director Speech
  • The Fiction Phantom,
  • SpagMan.
  • Doctor DotDotDot aka Eric Ellipsis.
  • Optimus Time Connective.
  • CinderSpeller
  • The Ascender,
  • Colonel Colon,
  • The Guardian of Grammar,
  • Metaphor the Merciless
  • Agents of Alliteration,
  • Aunti Nim,
  • Meta4,
  • Ben Pen.
  • Captain Noun-sense.
  • Verbot.
  • The Full Stopper
  • Subordinate Mariner
  • The Dark Determiner
  • Dash
  • Subordinator,
  • The Comma-dore,
  • Super-lative.
  • The Eraser.
  • Alliteration Boy
  • Preposition Man
  • The Comma Chameleon
  • The Magnificent Metaphor Man
  • The Terrific Tenses Woman
  • Kid Flashback
To make this even better I sent all the superheroes this link for them to create their own SuperHero Avatar – Click Here.
It was important to inform the children about these superheroes who were now visiting our blog. Where were they from? Who are they? Why were they visiting our blog? These questions filled the children with excitement to get writing. When it was revealed that these superheroes find excellent pieces of writing to reward and comment on. This has filled the children with enthusiasm to have their writing seen and commented on by real superheroes!
As for building connections with parents and involving them in children’s learning this has been a great tool to use. By all means try it! But make sure that the parents can be trustworthy enough to keep the GoG a secret!

Life without Ofsted

A friend of mine (catatonic34) and also a friend of the author of this post directed me to this and I thought that it needed sharing.

So here it is!

This post, in it’s entirety, is taken from:

susanwalter7942.apps-1and1.net/life-without-ofsted/

Susan is currently Deputy Head of Primary at Garden International School in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She believes passionately in education; making learning relevant, challenging and exciting for all learners, children and adults alike.

Enjoy


Life Without OfSted

The one thing I’ve not missed whilst being out of England this year, has been the constant cloud of Ofsted.
The constant cloud of Ofsted.

It’s not been there.

 

I’ve been working under a clear, sunny, Malaysian sky, and I love it.

I’ve not been able to move from under the cloud completely though as many of my friends, both teachers and parents, in England have still been in its shadow.

This blog therefore is for all those teachers and parents who, like me, just know there has to be a better way.Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 8.29.18 AM

When I was an exchange student in Kansas, I came across the character called Pigpen from Schulz’ Charlie Brown cartoon. Pigpen was a rather down-trodden, weary character who was always followed by a cloud. Kansans particularly related to him due to the unpredictability and harshness of their weather which meant they, like him, often felt they had a constant cloud companion.

As a teacher in London,  I often thought of Pigpen when Ofsted was mentioned in meetings; the metaphorical clouds would appear above everyone’s heads and block out the sun. You get the picture? Now hold it as I describe what I feel the impact of the constant cloud of Ofsted is:

1. Everything becomes subordinated to the Ofsted report

Everything.

If a school doesn’t get a good report everybody loses. Everybody is tainted. School leaders, teachers, students, parents. Everybody. De facto.

The stress this puts on schools adversely affects everything, as school leaders and staff prioritise time and other scarce resources to Ofsted preparedness in the knowledge that this is the metric by which they will be judged should an inspection occur. As inspection dates become more imminent, notices containing key facts and reminders start to appear in staff toilets and above the sink in the staff room. These messages are reiterated in parent news letters and notices with the uncomfortable feeling of ‘you should already know this‘ about them. Individual students suddenly move from being children with their own specific needs and uniquenesses to being 2% in attainment data. And if that ’2%’ is a level 3 in Year 6 then they are all of a sudden not doing well enough. Let’s do more booster maths, more booster writing, more spelling and grammar practice – and of course do less of everything else that might just motivate that child to come to school more ready to learn, or that rewards the exceptional progress they have made since joining the school in Year 4 with no English at all!

The constant cloud is moving closer…

 

2. An excuse culture is created and re-enforced

Do as I say – not as I do.

This must be the one phrase or type of behaviour guaranteed to most quickly destroy adult authenticity, and with it trust, in the eyes of students.

Therefore, when students see schools seemingly prostituting their ethics and standards as they prepare for and pander to criteria they don’t necessarily believe, it’s not surprising they ignore the rhetoric and decide they can pick and choose too. I know that sounds really harsh, but it is true. If children are reminded what to say and how to say it when an inspector comes to visit, then what is that telling our brilliant young creative thinkers and independent inquirers?  These qualities are great everyday in the classroom, but the message has gone out loud and clear that when it really matters, repeating the party line is actually more important.

I am beginning to feel more and more like Pigpen…

Life’s not fair

OK it’s a fact, but we all know how much time and energy we all spend coaching, comforting and cajoling students to arm them with the tools to overcome the fact that life is not fair and not use it as an excuse. Ofsted reports are in danger of actually institutionalising the excuse though as we see some schools with strong cohorts achieving expected attainment levels with satisfactory progress outperform those with weaker cohorts whose students soar but have not yet quite made the attainment grade seen as ‘average’ by the time they are eleven. Let’s not even start the argument about the additional support given everyday by school staff to children from poorer backgrounds and more challenging circumstances just to get the children to a point where they are at least ready to learn.

 

3. The collapse of common sense

One of the most frequent comments teachers make about the joy of working with their students is their unbridled, untainted, uncompromising, honesty and enthusiasm. They tell it like it is. When they get it they get it. And they do get it! They realise early that when Ofsted come to visit a game is being played and that they have a role to play in that game.

Some know that they might get two unexpected days at home to help with their ‘behaviour choices’, others need to remember what their brand new maths target is and that if they say the right thing to the visitors, they will probably get an easy merit. They get that their unique, inspired, and individual opinions and ideas are not trusted. Not to be shared. They get it. Our kids are smart.

Tragically, I know of a school who won a days visit by Frank Lampard, Chelsea hero to some and England hero to many more – an inspiring role model to most primary aged boys and girls. Anyway, the day that he was available to visit the school, there was already a trip planned to the local park so they turned Frankie down. They turned him down because the school trip had more academic value than a kick about with one of the top England players at the time. Come on! Common sense is being squeezed out here. I can’t say that was because of Ofsted, as I am sure that any inspector worth their salt would see the value in such an opportunity, however in the school’s panic about results and attainment levels, a football day did not fit into their plan.

 

SO HOW HAS IT BEEN DIFFERENT WITHOUT THE CLOUD?

I like to ask questions. I ask lots of them. The biggest difference I have experienced in my new life without Ofsted is the answer to most of these questions.

‘We do this because we believe it is best for our students!’

It is as simple as that.

No cloud. Just an intrinsic motivation to do the right thing by our children.

It means that we have the freedom to look at exactly what we want our students to achieve, and decide on how best to support them in that achievement. I was, and still am, so excited about this that I did not immediately factor in however, the immense responsibility that comes with that freedom.  There is no government intervention.  Just us.  Brilliantly liberating but actually quite a challenge to ensure we really do get things right.

Without the extrinsic model imposed by the ever changing Ofsted framework, we can actually focus everything on what we believe is best for our students. No sudden additions, changes or u-turns, but a school defined purpose and clear direction.

Lucky you I hear you shout.  Well yes!

A year ago, I might have just been talking about the exciting opportunities to choose what to teach and how to teach it; the benefits of having specialist music, art, PE, MFL, Learning Support and EAL teachers; the opportunity to continue to develop our own unique curriculum which is relevant to our international cohort. All pretty reasonable I think.

Today I still believe all those things are hugely important but there is a catch.

When a concerned parent comes to me and asks me how I know that our curriculum is going to equip their child with the skills, knowledge and understanding they will need for the future I relish the opportunity to highlight all the unique opportunities we offer our students. I talk about the curriculum content and our approach to holistic education, and then move on to the detail of their child’s individual progress and well being.

A year ago I believed that this would be enough but sadly it is not.

I am now beginning to understand the immense responsibility that comes with our freedom from Ofsted.

Much as I am respected in my professional capacity, I am after all, only one teacher who thinks they know what they are doing. Many of our parents want much more than this. And as a parent, I actually understand that.

So, without the dictat of the UK government, league tables and the ongoing ‘validation’ of Ofsted, we seemingly have little to go on at the Primary level here.

Except that we do.

 

1. Responsibility not subordination

We take full responsibility for the choices we make at our school.

We choose to teach the National Curriculum of England and Wales in the most part, not because we are told to, but because the content for the core subjects is good and we believe it is the best for our students.

We choose to use externally validated tests to measure student’s potential and actual attainment. I can’t believe that after never being a fan of SATS testing, I am now saying that we need these tests. But we do. We use them to support our teacher assessments and demonstrate that we are setting appropriate challenge and supporting progress for all of our students.

We choose to publish our academic results on the school web site too. There are no league tables published but our parents have a way of working that out for themselves when they want to.

We choose to do these things, not because we have to, but because we believe that external, trustworthy benchmarks are important, and because they give parents the validation they need.

 

2. Ensuring common sense becomes common practice

We might not have Ofsted, but competition and common sense dictates that we ask for external feedback and find ourselves a critical friend to ensure that we are on track and remain focussed on our key purpose which is: ‘To educate the youth of the world to take their productive place as leaders in the global community.’ A big ask and again, a reminder of the responsibility we have taken on.

We choose to be accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) to both endorse and insure the quality of education we provide, and to support our ongoing school improvement planning process.

We also recognise that going it alone is not always the best choice, so value our collaborations with many other schools in the area. We choose to affiliate ourselves with:  Association of International Malaysian Schools (AIMS), East Asia Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS) and Federation of British International Schools in South East Asia (FOBISSEA) to give our students and teachers the opportunity to engage with, learn from, compare and compete with others from similar schools.

External validation and engagement, however, is not enough to instil common sense and reward those who use it. That can only come from our students, teachers and parents. They can’t do it by themselves though, so we support them with constantly reviewed systems and support mechanisms.

For example, teachers are setting next steps targets for their students, assessing learning and monitoring children’s progress and attainment every day in our classrooms and we get to share that with parents during only three parent evenings and an end of year report.  We are about to introduce a new reporting procedure which will proactively share this information with parents every half term, with the next stage formally bringing the students into this process too. This type of ongoing review and change to internal school systems will ensure we continue to make common sense common practice.

 

3. No excuses

There are none.

Do as I do.

That is what we say to our brilliant young creative thinkers and independent inquirers, and as teachers, we have to ensure that we model these qualities everyday in our classrooms and around the school. It is not always easy, but our message has to be that the development of the key learner skills every day really does matter, and that means we have to take risks in our teaching and give the children constant opportunities to share their ideas and thoughts freely and without judgement.

So, there are no excuses. We can’t blame Ofsted. We have the freedom to choose and we need to take on the responsibility that brings with it.

 

So my Malaysian skies are Ofsted clear, but I fully recognise that we have ourselves put in place many of the external validators that Ofsted bring in the UK,  but there is a difference.

Our motivation is always ‘What is best for our students now?’  ‘How can we improve now?’

Not ‘When is our next Ofsted due?’

It is not always easy, but there is no cloud.

The ‘Crazy Professor’ Reading Game

I leave this here for you to look at and consider.

I wonder what you think…

I was part of a Twitter chat recently that was looking at way to teach/encourage reading.

Several ideas came up:

  • Extreme Reading,
  • Read Around the World,
  • Reading Races and so on.

It reminded me of this:

I first came across the Crazy Professor Reading Game (Chris Biffle), when I was trying out some Power Teaching ideas in 2008-09.

If you haven’t come across Power Teaching it is a Elementary School teaching style from America relies heavily on Learning Styles.

(Please don’t hit me! **Ducking for cover**)

preparingyourfamily.com

preparingyourfamily.com

Look up Chris Biffle and Chris Rekstad.

I tried it out a few times and did have some success with it. Children certainly enjoyed it and they did want to play.

I was thinking about giving it another go.

I am not sure I would use the format used by Rekstad in the video, but I would go along with the core principles.


The 4 Stages of the Crazy Professor Game

STAGE 1:

Read your text using as much expression as is possible

STAGE 2:

Read again using lots of expression and physical gesture

STAGE 3:

Teach Your Neighbour – Summarise your reading to your partner, show you understand what you have read.

STAGE 4:

Crazy Professor vs Eager Student: The ‘professor’ gives an excitable summary, being expressive and asking the ‘student’ questions. Meanwhile, the ‘student’ listens attentively, answers the questions and encourages the ‘professor’ to give more and more  feedback.

hpotterclass.wikia.com

hpotterclass.wikia.com


Pros:

I can see how this might aid children’s comprehension skills

I can see how the use of expression and gesture might encourage enjoyment

I can see how the paired feedback and questioning would support mutual understanding of the text

I can see how this might be one way of teaching a whole class reading session.

It allows for differentiation of text to higher and lower levels

It would allow the teacher to join in and work with whichever group of children were the focus for that session.

It  would quickly show those children who might need help, or are being passive.

Cons:

How sustainable would playing the game be?

Could it lead to genuine and significant progress in children’s reading?

Would this just lead to children shouting out stories?

One to try in the new term perhaps.

Could be great for reading comics, including speech which might then lead to drama and performance.

I really would like your thoughts to be added to the comments section:

Pros and Cons of the Crazy Professor Game.

If it was that awesome wouldn’t we all be doing it?

Another Review Game – “Beachball Baffler”

Again, this is not originally my idea but I have adapted it from an email I received years ago from Classroom Power.

It’s a fun one and I thought I would share!


In addition to Memory Football, I suggest you try Beach Ball Baffler as a reward that children work for.

All you’ll need is a beach ball or Balloon (Balloon Baffler).

Here’s how to play:

  1. Throw the ball toward the class. One (or more people) bounce it into the air.
  2. While the ball is in the air, ask a short question, “What is 4 times 4?”, or “What is the capital of Brazil?” … any question you wish (It can be helpful to have a list in front of you so you don’t have to think them up)
  3. The class must answer the question in chorus before the ball comes down.
  4. Then the ball is batted into the air again by the next person … you ask another question … and so forth.
  5. The goal is to see how many times the ball can be batted into the air before either the ball hits the ground or a fair number of the class aren’t answering or are giving a wrong answer.
trainingtobealifecoach.com

trainingtobealifecoach.com

To increase the tension:

The class only gets three tries (their goal is to break their previous best class record)

Increase the difficulty and interest in the game by posing harder questions

Wait until the ball is drifting down before posing a question (and thus your students have a shorter time to answer)

Have half the class volley the ball to the other half of the class, etc.

Introduce the idea of levels and keep making the game harder and harder.

Beach Ball Baffler could last for months!

One final note:

If anyone complains about anything, your score keeping, a classmate’s failure to hit the ball, anything … it automatically reduces the number of hits earned.

So, for example, the class kept the ball in the air for 10 hits … but Rick complained about Dale’s miss-hit, Carl said that Maggie never answers a question and Carole complained that the ref, you, weren’t throwing the ball properly… those three complaints reduce the score to 7 …”

live4liverpool.com

live4liverpool.com

This one can be a lot of fun.

It can be use effectively in nearly any subject area, with any age group and can be a great way to reinforce learning, vocabulary or key points of a lesson.

For additional change ups you might substitute a large balloon if you are in a smaller or younger classroom

Make sure you have spares for either a balloon or a beach ball!

gifsoup.com

gifsoup.com


 

This is a really quick simple game that makes for a good plenary activity, mini-plenary to re-invigorate if needed, or for a maths starter game. Practicing multiplication tables… you can come up with many uses I am sure!

It is so easy that children could run it themselves, or even as a small group task with a balloon.

So, there you are ‘Beach Ball Baffler’.

Have fun

There are lots of crossover rules with Memory Football too.

Adapt it and make it fit your own purpose!

 

Knock Knock! Who’s There? Reality! – Preparing to be an NQT.

Have I got your attention?

It has been a while seen I was an NQT, but I have worked with a few and mentored several successfully along the way.

I still feel like this as I get ready to start a new year, I always will. I think if I ever stop feeling like this then it is time for me to consider my options! It should be a time of nervous excitement. You are keen to impress (aren’t we all?!). You don’t want to mess it up. Don’t worry you’ll do something daft early on! Just ask around the staff room – if anyone says they never did anything they look back on with their palm firmly on their face, is a liar – keep your eye on them! (I’m kidding – that’s probably just the ambitious DHT!)

There are lots of blogs out there now about how an NQT should get ready for the start of their first term in teaching – and lots say the same kind of things, some are painfully obvious and if you needed to be reading a blog about then perhaps it is a bit late.

So, you’ve done your training, through whatever programme. You have a certificate and a photo of yourself in a funny hat! I have one too!

Me & Mum June 2000

Me & Mum June 2000

Now you’ve got it – what are you going to do with it?

I am going to throw together 10 things that I would recommend. It isn’t perfect. I haven’t spent hours thinking it through. It is just my thoughts on some things you might be well advised to consider. But you already have haven’t you!

There are wiser people than me who will, without doubt, add to or change this list and they might well be right, but this one is mine and I stand by it. If you want to argue, then please argue nice! I might end up agreeing with you!

Here we go…

10. Displays 

Plan it out on paper or in your head.

What do you want?

Where do you want it?

Where will it be seen?

What do they need?

Can it be accessed?

And other such important questions.

Is it interesting? Will they like it? are good ones too!

Make sure things which you display are clear, purposeful and useful.

I have to be honest here. I really don’t like a ‘SparkleBox’ or ‘Twinkl’ classroom!

Those resources have their place but please, they are not a panacea – just because they have it, doesn’t mean you have to have it on the walls and windows!

Don’t be afraid to be a little bespoke – make some things yourself and if you do use commercial printed resources – please trim the logo off. It’s a classroom not an advertising hoarding!

Remember to celebrate learning as well as support learning. I was once part of a meeting in a school which was having some issues with their results, we were all discussing how to develop the environment for learning and it was very late on before someone (me) asked whether we should celebrate children’s success. It was deemed really important, so I asked why it hadn’t been mentioned?

I like ideas like this:

thoughtfullysimple.blogspot.com

thoughtfullysimple.blogspot.com

Just keep it fluid – always adding more, it builds a portfolio of things a child should be proud of. (Helpful at parents’ meetings too!)

Another idea I am considering trying out is a graffiti wall.

Cheap wallpaper and children can record thoughts, questions, ideas, images suggestions – anything they like. It just needs to be purposeful, even if it only is to them.

adventuresofroom129.blogspot.com

adventuresofroom129.blogspot.com

9. Use of Space and Seating

There is no hard and fast rule about how to arrange the furniture.

All the methods of arrange tables have their pros and cons. Groups, Rows, Horseshoes, Single Islands or a flexible approach where you move them around for different purposes and different lessons.

I apologise for stating the obvious, but ensure that whatever you have there is room for the children to move and that there is room for you to get to them. If you are zoning your room, then make it clear to children by how you use labeling, resource placement and space. Have you got an area for reading? Maths? A puzzle or independent extension?

Open space is also important – Y6 children CAN sit on a carpet, they are still children, not grown ups.

Have yourself a seating plan.

Where do you want children to be? Tell them, show them and as time passes you can modify it to improve it.

If you are going to group children in lessons, have a plan for who sits where and when. If there is going to be more flexible grouping then again have a plan for how it will work. Doing it on an ad hoc basis will just create more work in the long run!

8. Labels – By hand, by computer or just Buy?

I assume that like most teachers, your class room will be labelled to within an inch of its life!

That’s fine – but how are you going to do it?

Will it be, or does it need to be multi-lingual? It is a good way to show everyday vocabulary.

Are you going to hand-write them? Is there a correct style and letter formation you should use?

(Although it is important that children see different fonts and forms over time of course!)

Are you going to type them? Is there an agreed font?

There is always the option to buy them pre-done! Check on eBay!

empoweredbythem.blogspot.com

empoweredbythem.blogspot.com

7. Your Desk – Are you having one?

If you do, be sure that you don’t build a barrier.

It may seem obvious but I have still seen it done, indeed once upon a time I did it myself. Although this isn’t me, the teacher here has built walls to hide behind (whether they sit here is lessons or not, like a little bolthole), be open not defensive.

teacherweb.com

teacherweb.com

I think it is important to maintain a small space that is yours, even if quite quickly it disappears under piles of paper, sticky notes, marking, lists and other such things. You need a place to put your things. Children do, why shouldn’t you?

To the left hand side of  a focal point (IWB/Screen/TV etc.) is most common and seen as a position of control, the right hand side is seen as less formal. I read that somewhere, see @TomBennett71 I think. Mine is on the left of my IWB. What matters is that there is somewhere you can call ‘home’. If you choose not to have one, or your school has a policy where you don’t have desks for teachers. Consider where you will be putting things you need quicker than in a cupboard or a box.

6. Planning – Know what is expected of you – before you go nuts!

This one is a no brainer.

Are there agreed set formats everyone has to plan on?

If not, what exactly do you year leaders or SLT require in terms of planning?

It should be a pretty fluid document really, so how are you annotating and using this to move learning on?

(OK? Do you feel confident in egg sucking now? Good!)

Make sure you have the Long Term Overview – if you are being left to make it up for yourself, someone has missed a job! Especially in these changing times!

Remember, you are planning for the children, not the Head – s/he isn’t in your class as a learner – but if they are – make sure they’d have a great learning experience!

starfishmoccasins.wordpress.com

starfishmoccasins.wordpress.com

5. Know the policies/Behaviour Management

I once worked with a ‘Policy Writing Policy’ – Yep, you read that right! We try not to speak of it and it was ‘unofficially official’.

There will be so many policies that it will be next to impossible to know all of them inside out, but you will need a working knowledge of all of them. So, start with the Key ones:

Behaviour Policy: See Point 2 below.

Teaching and Learning: How should things look? Planning expectations should be in here too.

Marking and Feedback: How much? How often? 3 Stars and a wish? Pupil reflection etc? What does marking look like in your school? It is important to get this right.

Internet/Web Access: What can you do and what can’t you? What can children do and what can’t they? Blogging, use of Social Media should all be in here, if they aren’t ask about it.

If you are getting these ones right, you’re probably on the right track!

silsschools.org

silsschools.org

4. The 3 Rs: “Roles, Responsibilities and  Routines”

@MrsPTEach puts this one really well here: Classroom Management – My tips for NQTs

She is absolutely right, that the early development of a clear routine will help you enormously. It will take some organizing to start, but will be well worth it in the end. No amount of repetition is too much if they get it right without you asking them!

And I quote:

“Routines – For certain parts of the day, having routines mean you don’t have to spend a lot of time dishing out instructions.  It takes a bit of time at the start of the year but it is worth it.  End every lesson the same – I choose for them to tidy, put books away and stand behind their chairs. This gives me an opportunity to extend any plenary activities and continue questioning those who are ready to go.  It makes it easy for children to leave as chairs are already tucked in.  It’s a small thing which makes life easier for me.  In the same way, they know what to do when they walk in the door in the morning … We have routines for lining up, collecting and handing in homework, using the laptops and handing out books and work.”

and

“Jobs – make them work harder than you. Give over time (5 minutes a day) for children to do jobs. Handing out letters, jumpers, writing tomorrow’s date on the board, sorting the timetable, tidying and locking the laptops, stacking chairs, tidying tables and picking things off the floor. That 5 minutes will save you 50+ minutes at the end of the day tidying, sorting and organising and will mean you can put your time into assessing and re-planning. If, throughout the year, you find yourself doing the same meaningless thing over and over, simply add it to the jobs list.”

I have been a little naughty in lifting this section, but if I didn’t there would the risk of being accused of stealing it, when I would just have written the same thing – there are more very good tips on classroom management on Jo’s blog: http://www.mrspteach.com/

stefaniesjourneyintoteaching.blogspot.com

stefaniesjourneyintoteaching.blogspot.com

3. Get connected – inc. Twitter/Blogging

You are reading this, that tells me that you have started.

To be honest, I have covered this before on this blog.

Why should Teachers be using Twitter? Cup of Tea CPD Part 1

How to get started with Twitter – Top 10 Tips Cup of Tea CPD Part 2

Finding the best teachers to follow on Twitter

Make sure though that you connect with your colleagues too – make sure that you talk to them and make the most of what they know. They have the inside track on the children you teach. You are all there to make things better for everyone, you can’t do it on your own and the rest of the staff can’t do it without you.

I once worked with a new teacher who tried to work in isolation. They didn’t really join in with the staff, despite encouragement and open doors, they found it hard. They weren’t interested in the advice that was being shared. They came round eventually, but it made everything a little uncomfortable for everyone.

2. Consistency

I was just in the process of writing this section on this post and this appeared on my Twitter feed from @LearningSpy (David Didau)

www.learningspy.co.uk – Back to School Part 1 – School Rules

While his approach is from a Secondary point of view and mine is Primary – I agree almost entirely with the message! David’s key points are: (Read his blog for expansion!)

                        1.  Know the school rules and stick to them.

                        2. Never let pupils sit where they want.

                        3. Use agreed consequences fairly and consistently.

                        4. Never let pupils work off punishments

                        5. Make 3 phone calls every day – talk about progress not behaviour

There are apps/websites such as Class Dojo, which can help. I will be trying it out this year.

However you intend to use and apply rules and expectations – BE CONSISTENT!

There will (hopefully) be a set of agreed and applied expectations, the children will know them (unless you are in YR perhaps). You need to know them, older children will expect you to know them and if they think you don’t, be sure they will try to change them and you will find it harder to get them back again.

The old adage is: ‘If you say it, mean it’.

If you are keeping someone in from break for 5 mins, then don’t do 10 (It is your break you’re wasting!).

Please don’t say: “I’ll let you off this time.”

queenbeeberta.blogspot.com

queenbeeberta.blogspot.com

1. Don’t be too prissy!

Relax.

Don’t be uptight!

Remember, children make a mess, just make sure that you make them responsible for tidying it up again.

Your classroom will look amazing at 0830, but by 1047 it might not be!

Don’t worry, it’s all good!

Children need to feel comfortable in their space to learn and that is why you put the effort in. The trays and books are labelled. The reading area is stocked with fun and interesting materials, perhaps some comics too!

You have put the time in and you’re ready.

Enjoy it.

Even though we all know what the pressures of teaching today are like – it is still the Best Job in the World!


 

Well, there you have it!

10 things to do, think about or reflect upon before you start.

As I always say:

“Is it perfect?” No.

“Is it without fault?” No.

“Am I an expert with professional research to prove any of this leads to success?” No.

I am a teacher and Senior Leader with 15 years of experience.

These things help me and have helped those I have shared with before.

By all means share and leave your comments, feedback, additional ideas in the comments section.


Additional (20-08-14):
It is fab and you can download it free here
or as a free eBook here

 

 

As the Premier League Starts! A Game for the Classroom – Memory Football!

Not originally my idea but I have adapted it from an email I received years ago from Classroom Power.

It’s great fun and as it is rather topical, seems a good time to share!

footballold.wikia.com

footballold.wikia.com


This game can be used at any level and you can use ‘Memory Football’ to recap any subject material.

Your class will love the game so much that you could even use it as a reward for good behaviour.

Purpose:

Like football, Memory Football is played between two teams.

The purpose of the game is to score goals.

Goals are scored by quickly answering questions posed by the referee.

 

Rules: There is only one rule in Memory Football. Keep The Referee Happy. You’re the Referee!

refarbiter.wordpress.com

refarbiter.wordpress.com

Equipment:

An IWB or Wipe Board, a marker and a set of short answer, often one word, review questions that you have created. You will be reading the questions from this list; arrange them in groups from easiest to hardest.

trainingtobealifecoach.com

trainingtobealifecoach.com

The Set Up:

Draw a horizontal line, near the bottom of your board. Mark off the line in 11 equidistant vertical marks. The horizontal line stands for a soccer field; each end of the line is the goal; the vertical marks divide the pitch into units.

Place a marker under the vertical mark in the middle of the field. The marker is the ball.

(This could easily be created in SMART or any presentation software.)

How To Play:

Divide the class into two teams.

(We’ll use boys against girls, but it could be right side of the class against left side, etc.)

Each team chooses the other team’s captain.

To start the game, the captains stand face to face at the front of the room. You pose one of your review questions and, just as in “Family Fortunes”, the captains slap their hands down on a desk as quickly as possible if they know the answer.

The captain who is quickest, gets the chance to answer.

If they are right, his/her team gets the ball. Otherwise, the opposing team’s captain gets the ball.

Assume the girls’ team wins control. Picking one player at a time, ask review questions to the girls’ team.

If the player’s answer is correct, loud, fast and with an energetic gesture, that counts as a “strong kick.” Advance the ball, the marker, almost a full hash mark down the pitch toward the boys’ goal.

If the answer is correct but too quiet or slow or doesn’t have an energetic gesture, then that is a “weak kick.” Advance the ball a short distance toward the boys’ goal. If the girls’ answer is wrong, shout “Possession Lost!” and now the boys’ team gets a chance to play.

If you like a rowdy classroom, encourage teams to cheer when the ball is going their direction and groan when it isn’t. Thus, every time the ball moves, you’ll have cheering and groaning.

simplytelevison.wordpress.com

simplytelevison.wordpress.com

Use the following to add excitement to Memory Football:

Tackle!

Whenever you, the Referee, want to reverse the direction of the game, shout “Tackle!” This means the other team has suddenly gotten control of the ball. Of course, you will shout “Tackle!” whenever you want to generate an intense amount of excitement … like when one team is very close to the goal and just about to score.

Foul!

Whenever one team or the other misbehaves in the slightest, complains about the ref’s call, anything, you shout “Foul!” As the Ref, you then have three choices. You can award control of the ball to the opposing team; you can move the ball up or down the field, penalizing one team or the other; or, most exciting, you can declare a Penalty Kick.

(Encourage teams to cheer or groan as appropriate.)

Penalty Kick!

Move the ball to the first mark in front of the opposition’s goal. The attacking team chooses a kicker, usually the team captain. The defending team chooses a goalie, usually the team captain. Goalie and kicker face off in front of the room, like the initial kickoff. You ask a question; the player who slaps a hand down first gets first try at the question. If the goalie is first and correct, the penalty kick is blocked. If the goalie is wrong, the penalty kick scores. If the captain is first and correct, the penalty kick scores. If the captain is first and wrong, the penalty kick is blocked.

If a goal is scored, the scoring team shouts “Gooooooaaaaalll!!!” like Andres Cantor, the famous Mexican announcer.

Free Kick!

Often in football, neither team is in control of the ball.

When you shout “Free Kick!”, anyone on either team can answer.

Fire questions at your students; when one side gets several questions in a row correct, point at them and say, “You won the Free Kick!”

Then start giving questions to individual players on the winning team.

Read The Ref’s Mind Free Kick!

For hilarious excitement, say, “I’m thinking of a key concept we covered. Free Kick! Read my mind!” Both teams shout answers at you, energetically covering enormous quantities of revision material … give them hints as you wish.

Award control of the ball to the team that reads your mind, or, failing that, that has the most attempts at reading your mind.

Your strategy:

You will use an enormous number of review questions in Memory Football; thus, it is important to have a list so you can keep the game moving along quickly.

You can use any question, addition, subtraction, division, multiplication, national capitals, key concepts from science, names of characters in stories, anything.

Keep the ball moving up and down the field.

Make the game as exciting as you wish by shouting Tackle!, Penalty Kick!, Free Kick! or Read The Ref’s Mind Free Kick!.

 

Never let one team get more than one goal ahead of the other.

Give the weakest players easier questions; stronger players get harder questions. If you like award answers that are particularly good, or where a child does particularly well a “very strong kick.”

Play for only a minute or two every few days.

Make your class work hard to earn the right to play Memory Football.

If you use it infrequently and briefly, the game will be a tremendous motivator for positive in-class behaviour.

 

Think about that.

Your class is working as hard as possible to earn the right to revise what you have wanted them to learn!


It is a simple game, good for plenaries and intermediary times like lining up.

Easy to adapt and change around for different outcomes.

Hope it’s useful.

Home ‘Work’ or Home ‘Learning’? or How I tried to get past the ‘I forgotters’

Homework.

minion homework

I know, I shouldn’t use that sort of foul language here!

As always there are the usual arguments:

  • How much?
  • How often?
  • How old?
  • How long?
  • Spellings, or not?
  • Worksheets, or not?
  • Online?
  • What about those that won’t?
  • What about parents who won’t help?
  • Should it be independent work?

I could go on, but you get the idea.

I was fed up of giving homework that didn’t get done, was done badly, was done in the car on the way too school the day after it was supposed to be, was lost or forgotten.

“Then Mike, the homework you were giving them was rubbish, that’s why they didn’t feel it was necessary to put the effort in.”

I hear you cry.

You’re probably right, it probably wasn’t very interesting or it was a bit repetitive (some schools use a scheme based homework), or perhaps I didn’t feedback to them very well, so perhaps I wasn’t taking it very seriously either. Put all these things together and what have you got?

Simply, those children that do their homework do it, those that don’t don’t and the rest do it if they can remember or are reminded enough times. I needed a change.

I had 6 main intentions:

I wanted homework to be:

  • Purposeful
  • Challenging
  • Interesting
  • Timescaled
  • Something for the family to do together (up parental engagement)
  • Something that was linked closely to what the children were doing in school.

The first thing I did, although not overly imaginative, was to give a project to the children, build a Viking Longhouse:

They had 4 weeks to do it – as you can see from the images, yes there was a range, but there was a 100% return rate.

It had appealed to children and their families. It was different and it gave them something they had to plan and consider (Oh, and I suspect there was just a tiny bit of competition!). We produced some great descriptive writing and instructional texts, they became a village, which we mapped and used as a story setting – it linked and they loved it!


For the next term’s project I wanted to push them a bit harder, to try and get a little more range of work produced.

I wasn’t sure where to start so I googled it! (Because lets be honest, that’s what we do!) Simple really.

What I found was this: http://www.primaryworks.co.uk/Category/Thinking-Skills

I liked them and so I bought them, not overly expensive and even though they weren’t exactly what I was after they were the model for and inspiration for what came next. The termly ‘Home Learning Project’.

I won’t show full examples here (copyright and all that) but I will show small parts.

Each sheet gave a variety of tasks split into different areas:

Thinking Skills

I am no lover of the ‘Learning Styles’ debate, but in this case it does provide a nice range of differing types of task, the rationale behind the homework project is that children have to do something from all the areas. (They can’t just build stuff or paint a picture!!)

I had a tinker, edited and changed a few things around in order to create a wide variety of activity, came up with a set of rules and expectations and produced the following: (Selected examples from projects on ‘Coasts’ and ‘World War II’)

Thinking Skills4

Thinking Skills2

Thinking Skills6

Thinking Skills5

The expectations I created were as follows:

Thinking Skills3

The children found this approach to their homework really interesting. They liked the element of choice, they could do what interested them, rather than what was prescribed. Parents engaged in the idea because their children did.

There was an end product, that they knew would be displayed and compared with others. It was a project book, that built over time, linking their own individual work, with class work, the class work fed into the homework and it was all simply ‘joined up thinking’!

I liked the fact that there was an end date, there was time, children had to manage time over a longer period.

This was time clearly communicated with parents and regular reminders could be sent.

It was successful. Very successful. Again 100% return rates. During my time at that particular school, 4 ‘big terms’ I had 100% return on homework projects in my class, this included an improvement on returns in spellings and greater levels of home reading too. Since I left the school, it has continued the model and it is still successful.

I have used similar models in 2 other schools since then, and have had similar success rates.

There is always likely to be 1 or 2 resistant ones at first, but once they see others buying into the idea, they soon get involved.

This alongside the more traditional homework activities has changed this:

into this:

Below are a few more of the ‘creations’ made as part of the projects. These tasks are always appealing, although not essential. I will add more images of some of the project files and scrapbooks later.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There is always plenty of opportunity for children to talk about their projects during the process, where they are upto, what they’ve done, what they have left and if they have had any extra ideas that aren’t on the original sheet (that’s allowed too!).

Children often share what they’ve done, why they did it and what they have learned as a result. Parent’s do the same. How much they have enjoyed working with their children. I have had boys who have visited granny and learned how to knit, sew and patchwork, girls working in the shed with dads and granddads building models out of wood, polystyrene and plastics and they have LOVED it!

Not a perfect system by any means, but one which has proved to have some great results for me.

Any comments and thoughts welcome through comments.

 

What books should a child read before they leave Primary School? The Results!

I recently posed the question to Twitter and Facebook – What books should a child read before they leave Primary School?

The response was incredible – over the next 4 days, I received almost 200 suggestions for books people would recommend for children in EYFS, KS1, LKS2 and UKS2.

Thanks to everyone who added books to the list, re-tweeted and shared the links.

It wouldn’t be here without you

For the rationale behind the request, rather than write it again read here:

What books should a child read before they leave Primary School?

 

You can download the book list here:

Recommended Books to Read before you leave Primary School

The most popular repeated submissions were:

Goodnight Mr TomMichelle Magorian

Image from Amazon

Image from Amazon

SkelligDavid Almond

Image from Amazon

Image from Amazon

The GruffaloJulia Donaldson

Image from Amazon

Image from Amazon

We’re Going on a Bear HuntMichael Rosen

Image from Amazon

Image from Amazon

The TwitsRoald Dahl

Image from Amazon

Image from Amazon

Wonder R J Palacio (6 separate recommendations and the most suggested)

Image from Amazon

Image from Amazon

There is naturally a great deal of room for discussion here.

This list is not meant to be taken in any way as my opinion for core or supplemental books as part of any curriculum. It does however suggest some possible books for class reads, some obvious, perhaps some less so – I know that it has given me some different ideas.

Please feel free to comment if you have any additional books or thoughts on the list as it stands. It is shared in its original form, the book types and age recommendation come from the people who offered the books – not me.

Feel free to disagree!


Update (21-08-14):

Scholastic have produced a set of resources, hints and tips for Supporting reading, including recommended book lists:

Scholastic – Read Every Day

Books for 5 and Up

Books for 7 and Up

Books for 9 and Up

Books for 11 and Up

Books for 13 and Up

Thanks to @gazneedle for sharing.

 

Using Skype in the Classroom by @goodman_ang

This post is taken directly from: http://globalmoorside.blogspot.co.uk/ by @goodman_ang

Direct Link: Mystery Skype

I found it very interesting and as I had been thinking of ways that I could both use much more tech in my practice and include video calls such as Skype, it was just what I needed to read.

This is the comment I left on Ang’s blog:

“What a genius idea!
This will be something I definitely want to trial next year.
The children in my class have very narrow horizons and this will give them opportunities that will create real awe and wonder.”

I am sure Ang won’t mind me sharing here, I have made copious links back to her original work!

Hopefully like-minded people will find this similarly useful.

If you have any thoughts, please comment either here or back on the original post.

Mike


Thanks to @MrLTeachesU I have just signed up to Mystery Skype. Below are the instructions sent to me for how to get started. I’m looking forward to trying this with my class in September. I envisage it will encourage geographical discussion and problem solving. I’ll update on here when we’ve tried it.

Almost all the connections were made through education.skype.com. Start by signing in with your Skype username, then click on the magnifying glass (do not enter anything in the search field). From there you can search for Skype in the Classroom lessons by subject, age group, etc.

Here are links to some of our favorite Skype in the Classroom lessons:

http://goo.gl/PLb56h (Amazon Rain Forest explorers. 2014 National Geographic Explorers of the Year)

http://goo.gl/DGHxzf (Live from Antarctica)

http://goo.gl/in7lNV (Has designed movie posters, packaging, etc. for Disney, WB, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Nickelodeon. Also designed the back of the California state quarter)

http://goo.gl/A3qiB7 (Teacher in Kibera Slums, Nairobi, Kenya. Largest slums in Africa. Due to the time difference we were only able to Skype with the teacher from his 12’x12′ house, but it was live and still very impactful for my students.)

http://goo.gl/Uxf9Og (“Night Zoo Keeper.” Story-teller from the UK)

http://goo.gl/IqKJp0 (Fun lesson (with music) on telling time)

Most of our connections were made through “Mystery Skype” sessions:

 

MYSTERY SKYPE:

In case you are unfamiliar… Mystery Skype is a game played between two classes where the objective is for each class to deduce the location of the other by asking a series of questions.

I’ve attached a document that pretty much spells out the way we like to run our Mystery Skype sessions when they are live. However, we do not always have the opportunity to do them live due to time zone differences. It’s also a good idea to clear the guidelines ahead of time with the teacher so there’s no confusion.

When we cannot do them live, we have used Skype’s Video Messages (Free, just “right-click” on the person’s username and select “Send Video Message”), YouTube using a private link (Called “Unlisted” in preferences), Vimeo, or just recording a video with a cell phone and emailing it directly. Technically this it is no longer a Mystery “Skype” if Skype is not involved, so some like to call them “Mystery Location.” However, since we did use Skype for about 90% of ours, I just stuck with the Mystery Skype name.

When we do recordings we follow a different format. For these, we use “Clues.” For the Clues format, we give clues about our country. These should not be too easy, but not too difficult either. They should require the person on the other end to do some research, but not extensive. Some examples are: Our country borders 2 oceans. We are the 3rd largest country in the world. We are in the North-Western hemisphere. The puma is a native of our country. Our national bird is the bald eagle. We have a separate list of clues for California as well.

I hope this helps get you started. I did this for the very first time this past school year and we ended up Skyping with people in all 7 continents, 45 different countries, and 18 different states!

Again, please let me know if you have any further questions. I’d be glad to help! And I look forward to Skyping with you and your students in the coming school year!

What books should a child read before they leave Primary School?

It pretty much goes with saying that Reading is an essential life-skill.

As teachers it is always a focus and something that we endeavour to ensure that all children have access to good quality texts and we encourage them to read regularly.

The New Curriculum states:

The overarching aim for English in the national curriculum is to promote high standards of literacy by equipping pupils with a strong command of the written and spoken word, and to develop their love of literature through widespread reading for enjoyment. The national curriculum for English aims to ensure that all pupils:

  • Read easily, fluently and with good understanding
  • Develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information
  • Acquire a wide vocabulary, an understanding of grammar and knowledge of linguistic conventions for reading, writing and spoken language
  • Appreciate our rich and varied literary heritage
  • Write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences
  • Use discussion in order to learn; they should be able to elaborate and explain clearly their understanding and ideas
  • Are competent in the arts of speaking and listening, making formal presentations, demonstrating to others and participating in debate.

And to be fair much of that sounds quite reasonable.

There are several debates I really don’t want to start in this post and will try to avoid them:

  1. What is ‘good’ reading?
  2. How should reading be taught?
  3. Who is more responsible for reading, Home or School?
  4. How much should children read? and all age related themes.
  5. Individual Reading vs Guided Reading vs Shared Reading
  6. Fiction, Non-Fiction or Poetry? Which is most valuable?

There are more, but as I am not discussing those, let’s move on!

So with all the controversial stuff aside; I would like this blog post to be a point of discussion.

What books do you think a Primary School child should have read or have been read

or shared before they leave Primary School?

I have set up a Google Form to collect this information, which you can find at the end of this post.

Please add as many books to the list as you like.

Just one, a collection, your personal favourites. Any books from any time, modern or classic, it doesn’t matter.

Context:

About 7 or 8 years ago, a colleague and I sat down and wrote a list (we kept it to Fiction) of some of the books we thought were must reads.

The list was split into 3 sections:

  1. Younger Readers/Simple Picture Books
  2. Books for all
  3. Books for Older/Stronger Readers

This was all quite loosely sorted, lots of my other school colleagues argued, it didn’t matter – the discussion was useful! It was never designed to be a complete list, nor was it that because a book wasn’t on the list, I didn’t a) like it or b) think a child should read it.

This was suggested to me, at one point and I explained that it was impossible to write a list of every book ever written that a child could/should/must read.

They calmed down when I said they didn’t HAVE to agree with me.

It wasn't quite this bad! www.visualphotos.com

It wasn’t quite this bad!
http://www.visualphotos.com

As teacher’s often do I proceeded to spend a small fortune at car boot sales, second hand book shops and on eBay, buying the books on my list, in order to create a Class Library of recommended reads. I know I shouldn’t, let’s not go there, but I have a problem with books – they just sort of find their way (legally) home with me! I have too many, if that’s possible, to fit in my study and they have filled sections of my loft too!

Anyway, the children (Y6) devoured them!

Some had never seen ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ (Can you believe it!?), some actually cried when I read them ‘Dogger’ for the first time. When I showed them Rik Mayall’s portrayal of George’s Marvellous Medicine from Jackanory (You have to love YouTube!), they were transfixed by a genius StoryTeller at work.

GMM1GMM2

I will bravely share that list from 2006 here.

Do you think it’s a fair list? Is there anything obviously missing? Anything you consider undeserving?

Please use the Comment Section to discuss.

Title Author
Dogger Shirley Hughes
Elmer Tony Ross
Each Peach, Pear, Plum Allan Ahlberg
A Gift from Winklesea Helen Cresswell
Flat Stanley Jeff Brown
George Speaks Dick King-Smith
The “Happy Family” series Allan Ahlberg
Owl Babies Martin Waddell
Not Now Bernard David McKee
3 Little Wolves & the Big Bad Pig Helen Oxenbury
The Little Mole Who Knew It Was None Of His Business Werner Holzwarth
Green Eggs and Ham Dr. Seuss
The Trouble with… Babette Cole
The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark Jill Tomlinson
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eric Carle
Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf Catherine Storr
Stanley Bagshaw Bob Wilson
The Mousehole Cat Antonia Barber
Handa’s Surprise Eileen Brown
The Patchwork Quilt Valerie Flournoy
Fungus the Bogeyman Raymond Briggs
Little Wolf’s Book of Badness Ian Whybrow
George’s Marvellous Medicine Roald Dahl
The Giraffe, the Pelly, and me Roald Dahl
The Piemakers Helen Cresswell
Follow That Bus Pat Hutchins
Diary of a Killer Cat Anne Fine
Grandpa Chatterji Jamila Gavin
The Worst Witch Jill Murphy
Bill’s New Frock Anne Fine
The Iron Man Ted Hughes
The Magic Finger Roald Dahl
The Owl Tree Jenny Nimmo
Krindlekrax Phillip Ridley
The Fib and Other Stories George Layton
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Other Stories Roald Dahl
The Terbulent Term of Tyke Tiler Gene Kemp
Whizziwig Malorie Blackman
The 2000lb Goldfish Betsy Byers
The Fox Busters Dick King-Smith
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl
Matilda Roald Dahl
War Boy Michael Rosen
How the Whale Became & Other Stories Ted Hughes
The Happy Prince Jane Ray
The Guard Dog Dick King-Smith
The Clothes Horse & Other Stories Allan Ahlberg
Boy & Going Solo Roald Dahl
Charlotte’s Web E.B. White
The Midnight Fox Betsy Byers
1001 Arabian Nights Geraldine McCaughrean
Stig of the Dump Clive King
The Butterfly Lion Michael Morpurgo
Kensuke’s Kingdom Michael Morpurgo
Treasure Island Adapted by Chris Mould
101 Dalmations Dodie Smith
5 Children and It E. Nesbit
Moondial Helen Cresswell
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe C.S. Lewis
The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame
Carrie’s War Nina Bawden

In the meantime, please make a contribution or two to the Recommended Booklist on the Google form.

I will publish the list once there are enough to share.

Many thanks.


 UPDATE: (07-08-14)

After a discussion with Pie Corbett and Brian Moses on Twitter this afternoon I was directed to this resource:

Talk4Writing – Literature Spine

Collated by Pie Corbett, it is a scaled sequence of possible reading by Year Group.

A useful reference piece I thought.