Blog Archives

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’.

My nominations for the Edublog Awards 2014 #eddies14 –

The Edublog Awards is a community based incentive started in 2004 in response to community concerns relating to how schools, districts and educational institutions were blocking access of learner and teacher blog sites for educational purposes.

The purpose of the Edublog awards is promote and demonstrate the educational values of these social media.

The best aspects include that it creates a fabulous resource for educators to use for ideas on how social media is used in different contexts, with a range of different learners.

(from: http://edublogawards.com/about-the-edublog-awards/)

This year’s nomination categories are:

  • Best individual blog
  • Best individual tweeter
  • Best group blog
  • Best new blog
  • Best class blog
  • Best student blog
  • Best ed tech / resource sharing blog
  • Most influential blog post
  • Best twitter hashtag
  • Best teacher blog
  • Best librarian / library blog
  • Best School Administrator blog
  • Best free web tool
  • Best educational use of audio / video / visual
  • Best educational wiki
  • Best educational podcast
  • Best open PD / unconference / webinar series
  • Best educational use of a social network
  • Lifetime achievement

(From: http://edublogawards.com/about-the-edublog-awards/)


I would like to share my nominations here.

I haven’t nominated in every category but I have in most.

My Nominations for the Edublog Awards 2014:

 

  • Best Individual Blog

http://michaelt1979.wordpress.com

A seemingly endless supply of resources for curriculum and assessment. Michael has the ability to post excellent commentary of the issues of the day.

 

  • Best Group Blog

http://educationechochamber.wordpress.com/

The task of collecting blog posts from around the web and maintaining this mix is challenging, yet always a good place for interesting and thought provoking read.

 

  • Best New Blog

https://friendlyneighbourhoodteacher.wordpress.com/

@GazNeedle is developing a really useful blog sharing his thoughts, ideas, experiences and reflections

 

  • Best Class Blog

http://davyhulmeyear5.primaryblogger.co.uk/

Lee Parkinson’s class blog leaves me in awe of the fabulous experiences he shares with his class!

 

  • Best Ed Tech / Research Sharing Blog

http://mrparkinsonict.blogspot.co.uk

Again Lee Parkinson, his knowledge of new apps and tech is second to none. As is his willingness to share it.

 

  • Best Teacher Blog

http://www.mathematicshed.com/index.html

Graham Andre’s site is a resource which grows on a daily basis. Along with his good nature and keenness to collaborate.

 

  • Most Influential Blog Post

http://michaelt1979.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/primary-curriculum-resource-pack/

I would love to know just how many schools have used Michael Tidd’s resources in developing their own curriculum and assessment?

I know that I did!

 

  • Best Individual Tweeter

http://twitter.com/ASTsupportAAli

Twitter Coaching, Culture Box, his Agility Toolkit, Teach Meets – Amjad is involved in what I consider some of the best of Twitter.

 

  • Best Hashtag / Twitter Chat

#primaryrocks

The first Primary focused edchat on Twitter – Mondays 8-9 pm UK time.

Getting bigger and bigger each week!

 

  • Best Free Web Tool

https://padlet.com

One I have only recently started to use – but it is a mightily impressive collaboration tool.

 

  • Best Use of Media (Video, Podcasts, etc.)

http://www.literacyshed.com

Rob Smith’s multimedia site is a vast archive of video resources for every possible occasion and purpose.

I wonder what we did before it!?

 

  • Best Educational Use of a Social Network

http://www.aussieed.com/ #aussieED

The network of educators from Australia has grown into a global brand now. I feel privileged to be a tiny part of that network. It’s high level blend of innovation, collaboration and education is very impressive.

 

  • Best Mobile App

Alan Peat’s Exciting Sentences

One of the best apps I have ever used in a classroom.

Alongside its partner Pupil Edition, Exciting Sentences can have a dramatic impact of pupil’s writing.


Make your nominations here:

EduBlog Award Nominations

Thank you for reading, blogging and tweeting.

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

Are you a Pit-Pony or a Show-Pony?

normsteachersblog.com

normsteachersblog.com

As I drove home from another meeting that ended at 6pm – I reflected during my long drive, on something that was said on the 1st day of term.

A colleague of mine, whom I respect greatly and who is a high quality teacher (avoiding the the grade there!), had been to visit a school which was graded ‘Outstanding’ by OfSted as part of her CPD.

She said how she was greeted by the HT, who quickly after told the visiting teachers – that her staff were not ‘Show Ponies’, but were ‘Pit Ponies’.

They were hard working staff who delivered everyday for their children.

My colleague felt that this was a great mindset and a proven methodology for success. I can see why, it sounds great but let’s consider this analogy in an Education context:

My school is RI and has it’s problems, we are a tough, hard working staff, who are committed to making the improvements that we need.

The Pit Pony:

Pit-pony

  • Works hard in unpleasant conditions
  • Beaten and mistreated
  • Undervalued
  • Need to be able to churn out performance/quality is less important
  • Failure results in punishment and possible abuse
  • Made to do more work than is healthy
  • Given just enough nourishment to survive
  • Little support/training
  • Works until facing a cruel death in the workplace
  • Little rest or chance to regain fitness

 

The Show Pony:

ShowPony

  • Protected
  • Supported
  • Given the best of everything
  • Under pressure to perform/expected to be the best
  • Held up as an example of the best of its kind
  • Failure results in care, attention and training
  • Trained to the highest most exacting standards
  • Coached, groomed and developed professionally
  • Given time to rest and recover/best of care

So,  based on this analogy, it is best to be a Pit Pony?

The pit pony is the model of success and excellence?

Pit ponies worked hard and did their best in the very worst of situations, day in, day out and this is something to be respected. But it isn’t sustainable.

A show pony can have a long, successful and healthy career – when that comes to an end they are invariably used to create more excellent show ponies.

The news that 90% of teachers have considered leaving the profession in the last 2 years do to excessive workload surely damns this idea.

I like working hard, I want to work hard but every week I am spending less and less time, NOT working. My family are seeing less and less of me and I am seeing less and less benefit. (1% pay rise? £1 a day extra?) Thank goodness I’m not in it for the money.

I find myself working longer hours, having more meetings, giving me increasingly less time to actually do the job!

Is all the work I am doing getting the best out of me?

Work hard and work smart, they say.

OK, but that’s Show Pony mentality.

A Pit Pony would work hard and then work harder.

I have my PPA and Leadership time (2 x 1/2 days a week) and I am both very grateful and lucky to have it, but it is full and there is always more to do!

Perhaps this is just a blog at the end of a long day. But I think I would really thrive given the chance to be a Show Pony for a change.

Which you you rather be?

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

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!

 

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.

 

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!

Tweachers – My advice for starting out with #CupofTeaCPD Trilogy Part 2

I am quite happy to accept that I wasn’t the first. But since I posted my blog on why Teachers should use twitter, it seems that everyone started sharing theirs and to be fair everyone who has, pretty says the same thing.

It all equates to my new favourite phrase “Cup of Tea CPD”.

So, here are my Top 10 things to do if you are going to start up with Twitter. They are in no particular order, they are the things I have done and while I am no @TeacherToolkit or @LearningSpy or @LeadingLearner – I am pleased with my first forays into the whole chasm of Social Media.

10: Choose your identity carefully.

Choose a good handle, this is the name people will remember and associate with you.

Keep it short and memorable, it might be your name or what you do or stand for.

Be careful. I made two mistakes with mine: @WatsEd.

Firstly that is very close to ‘Wasted’ and secondly I have now lost count the number of people, who have assumed my name is Ed.

9: Make sure people can see you.

If you keep the ‘egg’, then it will put people off, add a profile picture, it need not be your face if you think it might scare away the internet (don’t worry though I haven’t been shunned for showing my face).

It will help your case if your profile looks real and human. There are a lot of fake accounts out there and if you want to make Twitter work for you, then be ‘present’.

8: Write a bio.

You have 160 characters available to you to say who you are and what you do or share some thing personal. Pets and children are popular, so is job title, hobbies and interests – whatever you like. This gives your follows and followers a chance to open dialogue with you and find common ground.

https://twitter.com/WatsEd

twitter.com/WatsEd

7: Choose your 1st 10 – 20 follows.

This bit is really important.

What do you want to get back from your exploration into the Twitter Jungle?

Pith Helmet on, rucksack and supplies at the ready, machete in hand (OK, perhaps not). Off you go.

Here are some people who would be good to get you started…

  1. @WatsEd (Well, I had to put me!)
  2. @redgierob (Rob leads at the Literacy Shed site)
  3. @grahamandre (Graham runs the Numeracy Shed site)
  4. @ICT_MrP (for all things iPad and Computing)
  5. @InspiredMind5 (Comics in Literacy and wider learning)
  6. @MichaelT1979 (Michael does a fantastic job with Curriculum 2014 resources)
  7. @LearningSpy (David Didau – a man with his finger on the pulse of education today)
  8. @alanpeat (Alan is an author and creator of brilliant iOS apps ‘Exciting Sentences’ & ‘Pocket Punctuation’)
  9. @bryngoodman (ICT leader/writer and knowledgeable fellow)
  10. @Mr_SJS (Teacher and author of ‘The Penguin Pig’, see @PenguinPigStory)
  11. @TeacherToolkit (Most followed teacher in the UK – a man who knows what he is talking about – T&L/Leadership)
  12. @SeanHarford (HMI and Ofsted’s National Director for Schools Policy)
  13. @BeyondBehaviour (Steve Russell tweets about Behaviour Management/Strategy)
  14. @rivierabenson (Chris teaches in France and tweets teaching and learning)
  15. @ICTmagic (Martin shares endless links to useful, interesting and addictive websites for learning)
  16. @ASTsupportAAli (Amjad talks leadership, SEND, English and TwitterCoaching)
  17. @gazneedle (Gary tweets Literacy and Maths – Primary AHT)
  18. @DeputyMitchell (Blogging/Quadblogging and EdTech)
  19. @TomBennett71 (Tom is ‘A Teacher who Writes’ ITT and Behaviour inc. TES)
  20. @beingbrilliant (Andy Cope is an author and happiness expert)

Well there is a selection of 20 – pick and choose – look at the lists of followers and follows and you will soon pick up a healthy list.

thecripplegate.com

thecripplegate.com

6: Contribute – Be brave & Say something

It is like writing when you were little. What shall I write first? How shall I start?

Say “Hello!”

Tell the world it is your first tweet – it doesn’t matter.

Have a look through the people you follow’s timeline – RT things you like, favourite things you really like. Reply to the things that interest you, ask a few questions.

If you say nothing and just lurk on the periphery then you will get nothing out of Twitter, if you want  it to work for you, then you need to put a little something in. You’ll get some feedback.

Be seen.

Talk about what interests you, what you want to know more about, reflect on your own practice, ask for new ideas.

Use images and infographics – share useful things that you have on your computer, links, youtube videos. The better the range, the more interesting you will be to prospective followers.

Join in with other people’s conversations – they won’t mind (I haven’t upset anyone yet by butting in!) If you are thinking about something because of a tweet posted, then reply. You can get a chat going then and it gets to be fun.

Dive in, the water is fine.

Do consider what you say though, remember that this is going to be your professional face.

It was @gazneedle who said: “If I wouldn’t shout it in the playground, then I wouldn’t tweet it.” He is right.

Don’t troll, don’t be dismissive. Call people out on their ideas, but let them validate them if they can because that is the key to #CupofTeaCPD!

 

5: Know what things mean!

There are a lot of acronyms and jargon to wade through – much is common sense but this should help you along the way to begin with.

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. #aussiEd
  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

rocketpost.com

3: Share your website or blog address.

WatsEducation Blog – http://www.watseducation.wordpress.com

WatsEd Consultancy – http://www.wats-edconsultancy.moonfruit.com

Twitter is social media after, so if you have something to say – show people where to find it.

It is a bit like your Bio. It will allow people to see what your philosophy is, what’s on your mind, what motivates or concerns you, about education in general or perhaps a reflection on your own practice.

If you have something to sell – here’s a chance.

If you don’t have a blog – start one – you don’t have to do very much – but once you read others it will most likely inspire you to write something too.

seoskylimit.com

seoskylimit.com

2: Separate Personal and Professional

Not always as easy as it sounds.

If you are planning on using Twitter professionally, I suggest you keep your non-education stuff separate. It keeps things tidy and presents your professional face. Social Media is a way of tracking someone (Big Brother is watching – or is he!?)

Remember your colleagues and school leaders might be joining you – what do you want them to see?

I have found that very quickly, as I built up a PLN (Personal Learning Network) of like minded individuals that banter and in jokes do start, that’s OK, but if I was chatting with non-education people on the same timelines then it might get somewhat blurred.

Make a decision – in the end you can play it out however you like.

Decide what will work best for you.

debkrier.com

debkrier.com

1: Be patient

No, seriously. Be patient.

When you start you ca expect to get a little feedback on what you say. Perhaps even the holy grail of a Retweet (RT) or favourite. This is how people bookmark your tweets. The more that you say and do, the more interest you will develop and the more people will be inclined to follow you. Over the course of a few weeks/months the network will grow and you will find yourself drawn into more and more conversations and discussions.

Don’t let it take over your life (that is very easy, believe me!)

Be discerning about who you develop links with, some people will just be people you follow, some will be people you have occasional link with and then there will be people who form your PLN (Personal Learning Network) – you will realise who they are when they include your name in the tweets so you are drawn in, or they will refer to you when questioning or answering others, this is when Twitter becomes really powerful.

quotespics.com

quotespics.com

Now you have got yourself started, the learning can begin. I have been amazed at the wealth of knowledge, ideas and resources out there. I knew they would exist, but Twitter has shown me where to go to read about more and more interesting things.

I has both shown me how much I don’t know and need to learn and how much I do know and have been doing for years and even things I did and stopped doing for a variety of reasons.

Make your experience as broad and varied as you can.

Read blogs.

Share ideas.

The more you do people will want to know more about you.


Good Luck.

Enjoy the adventure, there are many others taking it with you and you can rest assured that you will bump into them on your way!


Update: 30-08-14

I have received this document as a result of these blog posts:

Essential Edchat Resource Guide

“This guide was brought to you by USC Rossier’s online EdD

Hopefully you may find it useful.

 

Why should teachers be using Twitter? #CupofTeaCPD Trilogy Part 1

The reason for this post, is quite simply that it is self affirming.

I joined Twitter, professionally at least, in April 2014. I had been a Twitter non-user for a number years before that.

I didn’t get it.

Too little space, too little to read, too much nonsense, if no-one follows me what’s the point? No-one can read what I say.

As such, my profile sat, unloved, unappreciated and under used.

Then I had an epiphany (a late one, but better late than never!) I had realised it was something which could be used professionally and I knew a few people who used it, so I took the plunge and @WatsEd was born. Well created anyway.

Now 7 months later, I have Tweeted 10,622 times, I follow 1328 users (all real people too, not bots or rubbish) and am followed by 1137 users (also real people, I hope! They talk to me, so if they aren’t that’s worrying!)

I have learned more in that 5 months about what is happening in the world of education, than in the last 4 years!

  • OfSted
  • Curriculum
  • Government Policy
  • #Gove
  • Tech
  • App Development
  • Blogging
  • Leadership
  • Global education
  • Updates from Conferences
  • Keynote Speakers
  • Teachmeets

The list could go on and on.

I am not professing to be expert in any of these things, but I know things now that I didn’t before and that is an improvement.

Twitter has opened so many doors to my practice, self awareness and self reflection.

  • Genius Hour (although I already did a similar thing)
  • Flipped Classroom
  • Raspberry Pi
  • Educational authors.

All off this and more is at my fingertips – literally!

I can ask a question of my ‘Twitterati’ and within the day I will have answers, lots of answers, from people in different contexts who have a range of opinions – I can discuss them, argue my case, back down, stand up – whatever I need.

More CPD than I can handle!

——————————————————————-

So, to the point.

I want to share my new found obsession (and it can very easily become that!) with my own colleagues.

So I asked Twitter…

“I wonder if anyone has any materials for showing staff the benefits of Twitter?”

I had a few responses, all helpful, but it was Tom Bigglestone (@the_tank) who really came through.

He shared both his very lovely printed iPad handout complete with suggested user to follow and a collection of tweets answering the question: ‘Why should teachers use Twitter?’

His blog entry I re-blogged below is the rest of his 10 minute presentation to staff.

It was exactly what I needed – I could easily have written and said the same things, but sometimes it is nice to know that you aren’t alone in your opinions. That’s powerful.

Thanks Tom.

——————————————————————-

There are so many professionals out there in the ‘twittersphere’ and the ‘blogosphere’ – they are nice people and they are all too keen to share their skills, knowledge and understanding with anyone who cares to ask.

Where else can you discuss a chapter of a book with the author(s) over a coffee – almost anytime you like?

What about discussion about an app that you like, with the developer and coder? It’s brilliant.

If you are a teacher and you aren’t on Twitter – why not?

@BATTTUK Twitter

@BATTTUK Twitter

I have had what I now refer to as ‘Cup of Tea CPD’ so often.

Just make a cup of tea, ask the question and discuss. 15-20 mins and you know more, or you have shared with someone else. Brilliant.

There are so many #chats to join in with – 30 mins of VERY intense tweeting about specific topics. #behaviourchat, #SLTchat, #headteacherchat, #MLTchat, #edchat, #ukedchat, #AUSSIEdchat, #usedchat, #tlap, #whatisschool – again 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!

Two screens is helpful to track discussions.

Sometimes it is like being a kid in sweet shop!

I have wholeheartedly bought into the idea that Twitte can provides some of the best CPD you can get.


Update: 30-08-14

I have received this document as a result of these blog posts:

Essential Edchat Resource Guide

“This guide was brought to you by USC Rossier’s online EdD

Hopefully you may find it useful.


Update: 02-09-14

This tweet makes me very proud.

A genuine 1st tweet using #CupofTeaCPD

https://twitter.com/primaryteachni/status/506877709923155969


 

Update: 04-09-14

Another 1st Tweet from my #CupofTeaCPD blogs

https://twitter.com/HayleyPreston8/status/507301255497388032

Practical P4C

On Friday morning I gave a ten-minute briefing to all staff at my school on the benefits of Twitter for teachers. Accompanied by a keynote presentation behind me, I used the words below as a rough script (though I don’t tend to read from notes when presenting). I also had designed and laminated a double-sided cardboard ipad for all to take away: on one side was a collection of replies I received to the question ‘Why should teachers be on Twitter?’ and a Getting Started guide on the other.

Please feel free to use any of these ideas to “put the case” for Twitter among your colleagues.

1394203322114

“This briefing is on the benefits of Twitter for teachers, and why the fact that only 4% of teachers are on Twitter means there are so many missing out on its advantages. This is not a “how-to” use Twitter. If I what I say…

View original post 547 more words

Teachers on Twitter by @TeacherToolkit – The best CPD you can, all get in 140 characters!

What’s the value of that visit? (Part 1)

This post is the first one relating to ‘Wats-Education’

Capture2

Wats-Education is a start-up Educational Consultancy. We aim to offer high quality support and advice for Sites, Venues and Visitor Centres to improve and develop planning, activities and environments for learning for educational/school visits and commercial public visits.

With our collective experience of almost 40 years as education professionals, teachers and school leaders from Early Years to Key Stage 2, we are well placed to work with clients to develop exciting new or existing environments.

We also have additional specialism in understanding and developing access arrangements for Special Educational Needs and Disability.

Having worked in education for many years, we have been on countless educational visits, some fantastic, others that have left us a little flat and disappointed. On those occasions  when we have found ourselves saying; “This is good, but it would be even better if…” we realised there was an opportunity to offer our experience to help.

We want to help improve planning, access and variety of experience either to existing environments or to help develop new attractions, both for marketing within Education sector or for commercial public events and visits.

——————————————

On the 6th of May this year I started a survey of teachers and educators to discover the motivation for the inclusion of Educational visits in the curriculum. I felt that while it seemed obvious, I didn’t want to fall into the trap of making assumptions.

sm

I had my own clear opinions and was interested to see whether or not others shared my views or if there was more to it. The survey was responded to by teachers from Primary (inc. Early Years), Secondary and Special schools from across the UK and one from a home educated family. Some teachers from overseas also responded including a small number from New Zealand, Australia and Canada.

There were 10 questions:

  1. Why do you include educational visits in your curriculum?
  2. What do you look for in an educational visit?
  3. What do you think is the most important factor for a successful educational visit?
  4. Where do you find out about potential venues/sites/centres for educational visits?
  5. In no more than 30 words, describe the best out of school learning experience you have shared with children.
  6. In no more than 30 words, describe the worst  out of school learning experience you have shared with children.
  7. Is it important to you on an educational visit, that the venue is well prepared for your visit and has contingency for unforeseen events?
  8. Should venues have a selection of different contextual activities for children or do you think it is acceptable to focus on one specific activity?
  9. If you could guarantee one outcome of an out of school learning experience, what would it be?
  10. What would make you decide to make a return visit to any given venue, either annually or otherwise?

The survey closed on 22nd June.

Results Concept. Results word on white background

The Results:

Why do you include educational visits in your curriculum?

(This question allowed more than one answer)

 

85% of respondents said that the main reason they included visits was to give children experiences beyond the classroom.

62% said that it was to provide fun/engaging topic starter/closer.

61% backed this by saying that it was to give children that ‘something extra’ that school cannot provide. WOW Factor.

There were other responses but these were the most significant. I don’t think that there are any surprises here. The purpose is surely to get children interested and excited about a topic/theme/idea. I am not sure that anyone would argue that these are some of the key reasons for taking children out of school to do something that will excite them and either set up their learning experience or consolidate it. While it seemed obvious, it was good to see the statistics match up.

 

What do you look for in an educational visit?

(This question allowed more than one answer)

 

70% of respondents said that Hands On activities were top of their priority list.

63% said Value for Money

49% On-Site resources and pre-planned/prepared activities

All this seems reasonable. Value for Money is a tough one to quantify. In my opinion that mean that each child comes away having had an experience that makes it worth the time, effort, planning and cost (let’s not forget that often families have to make their ‘voluntary contribution’). They come away with something they can actually use as part of their learning.

What surprised me was that ‘Expert Knowledge’ was the lowest factor when looking into an educational visit (35%). Also low was the Learning Environment itself (38%). I personally think a venue should look ready and be prepared for its guests. This is of course contextual. A beautiful sparking, neat and pristine farm, looks wrong, but an untidy, badly arranged and poorly organised museum is also not up to the job.

 

What do you think is the most important factor for a successful educational visit?

(Only one answer allowed)

 

I was surprised at the outcome of this question as it related so closely to the previous one.

When pushed to only give one response, the Learning Environment came out as the most important single factor for a successful visit (23%). So perhaps we do want to take our children to places which are prepared, set up, organised and ready for the visit with plenty of materials and resources available to support the context of the visit, much like we do in our schools and classrooms.

Hands On activities were again an important choice (19%) and an experienced and professional delivery by on site staff (15%) completed the top 3 factors for making a visit successful.

Some of the best visits I have been on have been made by the people we meet, some of the worst the same. If children meet someone who can engage and excite them, it will set them up for the whole experience. When they are by a tired and bored looking individual, who cannot wait to go home, the experience is ruined. All venues and sites which run visits for educational purposes should be sure that their staff are fit for purpose (and most definitely are).

 

Where do you find out about potential venues/sites/centres for educational visits?

(This question allowed more than one answer)

 

I didn’t expect any shocks with this question. Let’s be honest, as teachers there are three main ways of finding somewhere to take children. We know a place because we have been before, a colleague has been and told us how good it was and because we googled it!

These were overwhelmingly the top 3:

78% Web Search

70% Personal/Family visit

70% Professional Discussion/Dialogue

Social Media came out at 23%, so perhaps this is no the tool for professional discussion and dialogue. As more and more teachers and venues take to social media perhaps there is greater and greater opportunity for people to share opinions.

All types of written media (Local and Regional Newspapers, Tourist Information) were not a place for teacher to find ideas for visits, nor were random generic emails (10%).

This tells me that the best advertisement is a good experience. If you can deliver that and send people/children/teachers away happy and you will get more business. Teachers talk to each other and we like a recommendation!

recommend

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I will leave Part One here now and return to it at a later date where I will look at the written feedback from Best and Worst visits, why they were or were not successful and what can be learned from this.

If you have any questions on this post so far, please feel free to comment and share.