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’.

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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

 

 

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…

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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

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?

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.

 

A Reflection on: Internet trolls and the School Playground

I read this piece earlier this evening and could not help but feel it was loaded with truth and reflected scenarios that I have seen and dealt with almost on a daily basis in school.

As I find myself drawn deeper and deeper into the ‘rabbit-hole’ that is Social Media, you find it more and more often. One only needs to read the comments on a Sky Sports news story, or a comedy photograph on Facebook and it begin almost immediately. Yet rather than leave these people to it and leave them to their opinions, we fight back and ‘Feed the Trolls’. That’s when the trouble usually starts…

I like many others have 2 Twitter identities and as time has passed there is less and less link between my personal and professional accounts, to the point where I rarely use the personal one. Using Twitter professionally has meant that the majority of the people I communicate with are like minded education professionals, which means that there isn’t that much ‘Trolling’, perhaps a light hearted jibe from someone seeking debate or as a way of instigating reasonable discussion, I have never seen it get ‘nasty’. I am sure others might have other stories.

To quote: http://newteachersblog.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/internet-trolls-and-the-school-playground/

“The blogosphere is a very big playground. Most people in the playground know how to play nicely. But in every playground, there are highly-skilled, expert name-calling wind-up merchants. Their influence relies on people taking notice of them.”

I wonder if this is just another facet of the old fashioned playground bully?
The one who whispers in another child’s ear: “Hey, guess what I heard Barney just say! True Story!” And then having ilt the blue touch paper, retires to a safe distance.

The difference is that as teachers, we always knew who that kid was and kept an eye out accordingly!

The ‘troll’ can be nameless and faceless and cowardly. Hiding under their appointed bridge.

They can hide behind a false online identity, which they do for the sole purpose that the ‘man in the mask’ is harder to find. I honestly feel sorry for those people who have nothing better to do than insult, offend, falsely accuse or otherwise incite others, just to sit back and watch the chaos that follows.

Should any accusation be based in truth, then there is a proper way to make those allegations, and I’m not entirely sure that Social Media is the right place to do it.

I suspect that Trolling will never become professional nor will it become an Olympic sport, and unless in some peculiar parallel universe that comes to fruition, I shall stick to my opinion that:

I Pity the Troll!

 

They clearly have a very empty life!

 

newteachersblog

As a child, if ever I came home from school complaining of people calling me names, my mother would say: “Ignore them. Otherwise they’ll do it even more. Don’t play with people who call you names.

If I ever protested, she would get visibly irritated: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.  Say that and walk away.”

Sometimes I found her advice very difficult to take. It always seemed inadequate and it never satisfied my inflamed need for retribution against the perpetrators or more perversely, for my desire for their acceptance and inclusion of me in their group.

Sometimes if I could not resist the temptation to retaliate, my mother would say: “If – and when – you come off worse… don’t come crying to me!”

By the time I became a teacher, I had graduated to dishing out the same advice.

View original post 924 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.

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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.

OfSted and NQTs – Who watches the Watchmen?

Checklist? - Check Looking over your shoulder? - Check Clean shoes? - Check

Checklist? – Check
Looking over your shoulder? – Check
Clean shoes? – Check

The following for those who haven’t already read the article is from The Guardian 04-06-14:

http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2014/jun/04/newly-qualified-teachers-ofsted-inspections

Posted by Michael Allen and Lucy Ward Wednesday 4 June 2014 15.56

From Monday, Ofsted will send inspectors to inspect trainees’ teaching in the autumn term as they start work as newly-qualified teachers.

Previously, Ofsted only inspected trainees in the summer of their training year. But the aim of the new plan is to ensure that new teachers implement what they have learnt while training in the classroom, particularly in managing behaviour and instilling discipline.

In a further change, inspectors will also judge whether teachers are dressed professionally and demonstrate professional conduct. While the inspectorate says it is not laying down a prescriptive uniform – ties will not be compulsory, it insists – it argues teachers should be dressed “in a way that befits their professional status”. Training providers who do not ensure trainees dress appropriately will be marked down.

Some teacher training providers have not prepared trainees adequately for their induction year, according to Ofsted. In a speech in January, chief inspector of schools in England, Michael Wilshaw, said Ofsted had “not been as demanding as it should have been with training providers who have sent newly-qualified teachers (NQTs) out into schools unprepared for the rigours of the classroom.”

Ofsted is particularly concerned that 40% of new teachers leave the profession within five years, with poor pupil behaviour cited as a key reason. The figure is a “national scandal”, Mr Wilshaw has said.

Sean Harford, Ofsted national director for initial teacher education, said the new two-stage inspection process would help raise standards, with further visits scheduled for those teachers needing support to improve. “Teaching is a tough yet very rewarding job. So it is important that the training new teachers receive is the best it can be. Trainees should learn how to promote good behaviour in the classroom so they can focus on teaching, and children and young adults can focus on learning.

“Through our new two-step inspection process we will make sure that teachers are putting into practice in the autumn what they learned in their training. I expect this new way of inspecting will help to raise standards. When we judge providers to require improvement or are inadequate we will support and challenge them to improve; we then will re-inspect them the following year.”

When judging teacher training providers, inspectors will now also have to evaluate how far they have tried to engage schools and colleges in challenging circumstances, including those deemed to require improvement, in training partnerships. They will examine whether teacher supply has increased as a result, particularly in areas of the country where recruitment is difficult.

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So, in September OfSted will be specifically inspecting Newly Qualified Teachers to ‘ensure that they are applying their classroom learning of behaviour management and instilling discipline’. This will include professional dress and conduct.

Here’s an idea:

Let’s inspect and scrutinize some of the most vulnerable teachers, NQTs, you know the ones who need help and support to succeed in an incredibly challenging job.

Just as you start and before you can really secure your place – we will come in and check you are dressed right, speak right and can ‘deal with the pressures’ – that we have imposed.

I suspect there might even be a check that fingernails are clean and clipped and that hair is regulation length.

 

OK, so perhaps gold spangled hot pants are not quite right, but who is deciding? This has the potential to promote some very shallow values. Teachers should wear dress that ‘befits professional status’. This is incredibly subjective.

Where will they stand on tattoos and piercings?

Are ear-rings OK? For men and women?

What about a nose stud? Will that make someone an ineffective teacher?

 

I have tattoos, not visible and very small, but I know someone with a large tattoo on their arm.

They cover it, but it has been seen.

Is that ‘Inadequate’, Grade 4 dress or conduct? I think not.

 

This guy does a remarkable job promoting anti-bullying and anti-prejudice in schools – Michael Wilshaw would faint!?

Promoting anti-bullying and non-prejudice

The Scary Guy – Promoting anti-bullying and non-prejudice

 

I know another teacher who wears their PE kit, every day, whether or not they are teaching PE, does that mean they are not dressed in a way which befits their professional status?

 

As a recently qualified teacher some years ago, I experienced my first inspection. The Lead Inspector toured the school with the Head Teacher and commented to her something I have always remembered and admired:

“You have sure a wonderful range of individual teachers in your school. From the very experienced lady in Nursery to the young man with all the jewellery and bracelets (that was me by the way), it is lovely that your children get to see a variety of personalities.”

So, my wearing of 7 rings and 5 bracelets didn’t concern him, he liked it. Would this new regimen perhaps have frowned on it and ‘marked my training provider down’ for not teaching me what to put on in the morning?

I’m not sure that my College Tutor would’ve had the inclination to scrutinise my wardrobe.

 

I struggle to begin to express how terrifying this whole process is becoming.

In what sense does it help?

 

Mr Wilshaw tells us that:

‘…training providers have sent NQTs out into schools unprepared for the rigours of the classroom…’

We all know this.

NQTs know this.

Having your own class for the 1st time is terrifying. It is the first time that YOU are responsible for setting the climate for learning and not just adapting yourself into one that is already set by a teacher/school during your placements. It takes a little time. It is tough. We learn and we are taught by experienced colleagues, it is what we do and the vast overwhelming majority get it right.

Trainee teachers are not taught a great deal about behaviour management. That is why so many cite it when they choose to leave. I never found that learning about the work of child psychologists helped me very much – I know my Maslow, but have never really felt it was a tool for my practice.

Teachers don’t learn to be good at classroom and behaviour management in a tutorial or lecture. They do it through experience. If they are lucky they learn from good and outstanding teacher mentors during placements and from their colleagues in school. But it often takes a little time to find a way that works for the individual and develop a range of strategies which suit a range of different pupils.

We encourage children to make mistakes and build resiliency from it – but teachers don’t seem to be permitted to do it.

We take risks in being innovative with teaching methods and with new technologies and all is well, but if something doesn’t work there is the risk that if you are seen to go wrong – you have a problem and this absolutely should not be the case.

Sean Harford says that ‘…this will help raise standards…’.

Is this because OfSted is held in such high regard and that the teaching profession has so much faith in it?

If we want new innovative teachers to stick around – let’s support them. Let’s teach them, not scrutinize every move. That is why they leave!

Imagine if you will… it is Week 2 in September… OfSted are coming to inspect, not your school, but you.

Are you excited and looking forward to the prospect?

Or

Are you filled with self-doubt, because now, it isn’t just about you, but your school, your job, your colleagues…?

Pressure?

Seems a little harsh to me.

keep-calm-it-s-a-lesson-observation-2

If ‘poor pupil behaviour’ is cited as the primary reason – is this being addressed in ITT? And not just through relentless Ofsted edict.

Let us not say the pie tastes bad, when we haven’t carefully judged what the cook put in.

If the recipe is wrong, the food will taste bad.

Improve training on understanding pupil behaviour and managing it, then we can perhaps alleviate the pressure put on new teachers by preparing them for the real world inside their own classroom.

I have written about this before:

https://watseducation.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/i-know-wwi-was-100-years-ago-but/

I worry that this design will not stem the tide of new teacher leaving within 5 years, it might make it 5 months!

What the teaching profession needs is a regular influx of new minds, fresh ideas and innovation.

While this is not provided solely by newly qualified teachers, they are a source of it and the NQTs of today are the Headteachers and School Leaders of tomorrow. They have enormous value. Why do we seek to undermine, under value and over scrutinise before they have had chance to show what they are capable of?

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I would really like to know what are other peoples opinions on this.

Mike