This week in school it is what we call Golden Nugget Week. A week when every teacher chooses a topic they'd like to teach the children. This can range from Volcanoes to Stick Man and Butterflies to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The class I was working in today have been finding out about Kenya. As part of this I planned a whole day learning about David Rudisha.Activity One was a fact finding mission. The children had to find out a list of 10 questions about David Rudisha in what I called the Speed Research Challenge. Not just research!Following this, we talked about what it takes to be a great sportsperson. Dedication, hardwork etc were obvious answers,Next, we watched the video above. The children then wrote 3 part stories in role as David Rudisha. (Something I have done previously with Derek Redmonds unfortunate collapse in thee 1992 Olympics)
My Example (What the children heard but could not see)
There I was. The Olympic final. All the years of running along dirt paths, roads, hills have got me to this point. The crowd is electric, the noise incredible. Cameras flashing everywhere and then my name is announced on the tannoy system. I wave to the thousands in attendance and the amazing Olympic park in London. My heart fluttered and I suddenly felt very nervous. It all comes down to this. 800m are between myself and my destiny. I’m fit. I’m ready. I think I could break the world record today. The starter tells us to take our marks…
BANG! The gun went and off we ran, my legs and arms working in unison to propel me forward. My breathing steady, my muscles working like I wanted them to. I hit the front to control the race. Soon I had reached 400m and my competitors were beginning to fade. I looked up at the giant screen and could sense they would not be able to keep up with me. I decided to go for it. Head down, I started to up the pace and my competitors could not handle it. It was now me against the clock. Entering the last 100m I could see the time ticking towards the world record. Instantly, I put on an almighty sprint…
I ducked at the finish line and when I looked up my face was on the big screen. Next to it were the word, “NEW WORLD RECORD!” I had done it. I had broken the long standing world record for the 800m. I was so proud of myself and so proud of Kenya. A huge smile came across my face and cameras flashed. I had done it. I had become a record breaker.
Notes from todays Focus Education Conference
First of all, let me thanks Clive Davies OBE who through some amusing anecdotes and excellent presenting skills meant the day flew by and made my brain hurt with the many questions he made me ask myself about our curriculum in school (as well as many other questions).
To begin with we looked at the 7 myths of teaching.
1. Using praise with lower attaining pupils
- Over nurturing with lower ability children has led to them being too dependent on adults in the classroom for help and nurturing. TA's must not sit with the same group of children being called, "Luv, sweetheat, darling" when they get something wrong or will not take part in the learning. This stifles learning and leads to low aspirations. We need to raise the confidence of these children but we have to do it truthfully and tell the children that they do need to improve and they need to work harder because they are not where they should be. Their parents also need to be very clear about this too. Don't give feedback just to keep them happy.
2. Allowing learners to discover key ideas by themselves.
- Although Clive says this has been discredited recently, I am a firm believer that once children have been taught the necessary skills to become independent and group learners they are able to understand how to discover learning for themselves. But do we mean discover knowledge or discover learning because there is a difference.
3. Grouping pupils by ability
- Hugely discredited and schools are being encouraged to seriously rethink grouping by ability because of the 'mastery' curriculum that is now expected. Teachers should be teaching to the top and then differentiating down. Not teaching to the middle and then teaching upwards and downwards.
4. Encouraging re-reading and highlighting or memorising key ideas.
Another contentious point here because of the 'Talk for Writing' approach that we use in school to help children learn 'patterns of language' and to assist them in developing as writers. We also encourage children to re-read books for understanding and this has had a huge impact on the children's ability to comprehend what they are reading.
5. Addressing low confidence and aspiration before teaching content.
- I didn't make any notes on this! Sorry! - But he basically said that this did not need so much time out of class. Children are inert learners and will learn if the teaching in front of them is stimulating and engaging.
6. Presenting information in preferred learning styles.
The less said about this the better. Every child needs experiences visually, through listening and through action.
7. Being active rather than listening passively (learning pyramid)
Basically - there is not a preferred method for teaching - its what works for that class for that lesson that matters.
This week we will be looking at the wonderful world of Pandora as a fantastic, out-of-this world holiday destination. Children will be practising key persuasive language to tempt holiday makers to visit this amazing world from the film Avatar. See the file attached with example writing checklist for Y4, modelled writing and prompts for the lesson. Also attached is the previous lesson which looked at persuading people to live by a river with example of writing from two writers.
I love, love, love using music songs to enable the children to write in role as a character. It is a little different than writing from the point of view of a character in a book and has previously been very successful. I'm about to start working with a group of year sixes to boost their writing ability, particularly their creative writing ability. I'll be using music videos as the main stimulus, alongside talk for writing and Alan Peat's exciting sentences. Along with these other music videos...
As can be seen from previous posts, I stop the video at certain points and we discuss the feelings, actions and descriptions of the characters/setting at different points. This is to ensure all children can verbalise their writing and have the chance to share and listen to ideas from all other children prior to writing. Scaffolding the learning of all by sharing ideas is essential for all children to progress in writing and is one of the key components of the approach I take during these sessions. Questions and further prompts will appear here soon alongside childrens work when it is completed on Friday.
Writing explanations can be tricky for children in my experience. Getting them to write how something works can be quite difficult based on getting them to write about a real-life thing which needs lots of technical knowledge.
Previously, I have used the 'Teacher Pleaser Machine' as the stimulus for this type of writing with some good writing gained from it. (http://www.teachprimary.com/learning_resources/view/pie-corbetts-non-fiction-magnificent-machines)
Prior to writing an explanation it is obviously important for them to partake in small creative writing opportunities like:
- Why does the moon have a face?
- Why is a rainbow like an arch?
- Why are snots green?
- Why don't clouds wobble in the wind?
Get the kids thinking creatively and using talk for writing (see article above for example) the children will be able to explain anything easily using their great imaginations. Yes, it is non-fiction but that doesn't mean it has to be based on real facts.
Anyways, Jonny Test - Cartoon Network. He's always up to no good and always asking his sisters to make him something to make his life easier. However, it always goes wrong. Watching this yesterday with my son I realised that nearly every episode I have watched with him include the sisters making some kind of invention which needs explaining. Yesterday was the lawnmower. It has so many buttons and gadgets on it that the children can't help but get carried away with writing an explanation on how it could help Jonny to win the Lawnmower race. This is just one example of how to write explanations in a much more creative way.
- Short phrases created using the questions above
- Talk for writing (including any Alan Peat Exciting Sentences) to get the patterns of language into their brains
- Use the video as a stimulus for them to write an explanation on the lawnmower (possibly have a boring lawnmower in the classroom that you could attach buttons to?)
If you try this in class please let me know. I can't wait for explanations to come up soon so I can teach this!
So as well as using videos to inspire writing I have also began to look at using different websites and APPS for writing. This list will be added to with pictures etc when I come across them.
Use this video below first to get discussion going about what might be out there.
What do they think the animals could be? Stop the video on each animal to discuss the possibilities.
Following this - get the children to work in groups or if you are lucky enough by themselves on the class laptops or I-pads. Go to www.switcheroozoo.com and get the children to create their own animals to write about.
The children can use the website to write a story involving the made-up animal.
They can use the animal that they create to write a short description piece using the show-don't tell method for descriptions.
They could also write a newspaper report about the animal, e.g. where it was discovered, eye witness accounts etc.
Another possibility is to write a non-chronological report about their animal.
The website is so much fun that the hard thing will be to get the children to only choose one animal to write about.
An alternative to this would be to give the children an already completed animal that you have printed yourself to do the writing tasks with. If you use this in your classroom please let me know.
Some examples of the first few paragraphs from today are shown here....
We used this powerful video to complete our unit on diary writing. Before writing we got our creative juices flowing with the following...
Stop at 00:04 What is she running from? Why is she running? What thoughts are running through her head at this point? Could you come up with a 3ed sentence to describe to the reader how she is feeling? How about a feeling, description sentence?
Stop at 00:06 Do a vocab boost to describe the woodlands. Similes, adjectives etc
Stop at 00:26 – What is going through her mind at this point? What choices does she have? Why are the dogs/wolves chasing her? What has she done? Who do the dogs belong to?
00:40 – How come she can hold her breath for so long underwater?
0:50 – What could the flashing lights be?
01:20 – What could happen here? Why are the lights getting stronger?
01:41 – Is she going to survive? If so, how will she survive? Does she have any superpowers that will help her here? Make sure to look at and pause on all the different scenes. This would be a chance for some more Alan Peat sentence work.
01:46 – It’s a giant hand. Who does it belong to?
2:02 – What is she thinking at this time? How is she feeling? What is this thing that has saved her life? Why has it saved her life? How could we describe it?
2:50 – What happens next?
Zedd – Stache
Discussion Points and Possible Writing Activities
Stop at 00:07 – describe the man you see. What super sentences can the children come up with to describe the man? What can we tell by his looks? What might he be about to tell everyone?
Stop at 00:09 – Who is this guy? What might he be doing?
Stop at 00:13 – What is he trying to do? (Children will come up with lots of suggestions here – run with a few and develop an oral story with the class – will they predict what he is actually doing?)
Stop at 00:21 – Why do the armed people want him? Are they police? Why is his location so hidden? What might all the piece of paper on the floor contain? Why is there no-one there to help him?
Stop at 00:29 Are there any clues here as to what he might be trying to do in this shot? Do the children think he is a good guy or a bad guy?
Stop at 00:59 What happens next? How is he feeling at this point? (Why do you think that?)
Stop at 01:03 What might the blue light be? Run with childrens suggestions again running with an oral story and perhaps adding in an ending that they can think of. Referring back to the fact that some people are trying to find him urgently.
Stop at 01:37 – What went wrong? Why won’t it work? What has he done wrong and what could he do to make it right again (this could lead to talk about persevering etc) – Can you think of an explanation that you could give him so he gets it right? How is he feeling at this point? What would you do at this point?
Stop at 01:47 – Why is this man back again?
Stop at 02:40 – What is he thinking at this point?
Stop at 02:53 – What happens next? Get the children to predict an ending to the video or even act one out. What will the blue light produce? Is it a new superpower? Is it the key to everlasting energy? Let their creative minds go free!
Stop at 03:14 – Now do we know why that man is on TV – What might he be saying to the public? Children could write a short speech about the blue flame/light and highlight their concerns to the public about it.
Stop at 03:50 Can the children explain what is happening (as creatively as possible). Follow up with what is going to happen next? What is the blue flame going to do?
Can the children write a newspaper report about the event?
Write a diary from the scientists point of view?
Can they write an explanation of how the machine works?
Write the ending to the story (stopping at 02:53)
Write a script to perform as the head of security addressing the public.
Write a police report about the event
Write a non-chronological report about the blue light/flame.
+ Lots of creative thinking and discussion.
A Day In The Life of a Pencil
You are probably sat reading this thinking how on earth can this be part of a writing lesson. I, myself was thinking the same thing. Last week one of my children in the middle of a piece of quiet time simply stated, I wonder what its like to be a pencil. BANG! Friday writing idea was born for this week.
If we sit here and think about a day for a pencil, its hard work. Sweaty hands, bogeys, ear wax, being chewed to death, the shredder of doom even cuts of parts of his body bits at a time.
Will the children be able to write about his feelings or will this be too abstract, will we'll find out tomorrow but I am hoping that they use their incredible creative thinking to create some mini masterpieces of writing. I'm going to use the video below to help them in case some become a bit stuck on ideas (although the role play of sticking a pencil up my nose etc should give them plenty ideas).
I will start by letting them explore what it is like to be a pencil and get them to write down events that the pencil might go through in a particular day. We will then discuss and note down how the pencil might view us. Are we known as the demon killers by the pencils of our classrooms? What is that stuff that we make them lose their life to? Then I will share my own thoughts before they have a go at writing their own.
My Hideous Life
So here I am again. Bored out of my brains, aching from yet another excruciating day of work. Laid down next to all my other overworked friends. Silent flows through the classroom now because all of them crazy people have gone home, which means that I can finally have a rest and recuperate from the long day. You see, I’m a pencil. That’s right, a pencil. I lay here all night feeling sorry for myself. Let me tell you why.
Well it usually starts as soon as the mini-beings stampede into the classroom. I’m picked up quite quickly and if I am lucky I don’t go immediately into the dreaded shredder of doom. My blood flows out of me quickly to enable these strange creatures to draw some crazy looking doodles onto some white material they call paper. For a moment I’m put down for a rest while this huge being stands next to this glowing temple of knowledge talking to the mini-beings. But then my day goes from bad to worse.
You might think being a pencil isn’t all that bad (apart from being put into the shredder of doom) – well let me tell you, it is! First of all it’s the chewing and saliva. I mean, I know I am yellow and black and look like a tasty sweet – I’m not! I don’t want saliva dripping down me, its vial and disgusting. Then there’s the times when I’m used to scratch peoples noses, I mean once I even had bogeys on my head for a week! On the table, the floor, back to my bed, into their germ infested hands, back to the table. I’m constantly being man-handled by these incredulous beasts who have no regard for my own personal well-being. As well as the bogeys and the saliva I even have to put up with being shoved into hair or on the giants massive hearing implements where I generally get left until the time comes to once again lose my blood.
Eventually, at the end of every day, a loud noise clatters after hours of being treat like a piece of dirt and I’m hurtled into my bed once more. Well, so far I have. I’m losing friends fast, they are losing their blood quickly. We are being overused and our life expectancy is down to four weeks. That’s my hideous life. It’s no fun being a pencil, especially a run of the mill boring pencil like me.
We used Alan Peat sentences to develop writing a description and to develop the children's use of : ; and -. Amazing results from my amazing children. The vocabulary and sentences developed were astonishing. If you are not using sentence books from Alan Peat, you are mad!
Lambton worm - part two
We worked on writing a description about the fearsome Lambton Worm using the many different sentence structures we have now learnt in class.
We learnt the story by watching an amazing video where an author retells the story in his own unique way. We also had a go at singing the song ourselves. See below for some of our amazing writing.
Examples of writing completed.
I'm a deputy head in Scarborough, England and love using media and tech to develop writing. I'm also a keen advocate of Learning Without Limits and believe in a games based approach to developing mathematicians.