Yesterday, I was one of the lucky ones. I got to take part in what can only be described as the best CPD day i've ever seen. It seemed like The whole country merged into one school for www.independentthinking.Co.uk big day out. And what a day it was!
From juggling with balls to Little Miss Sunshine and meeting many tweechers I have come to know online, the day had everything. I left feeling inspired, it renewed my belief that humour, laughter and trying to be 'out of the ordinary' are the key to great classroom practice.
Using Dave Keelings speech i've rearranged what he called RING to make this theory of outstanding teacher practice.
If you can't make children laugh, well it's time to buy a joke book. Laughter released the same chemical in our brain that exercise does. It makes us feel good and when we feel good we are happy. When we are happy we learn more. Nuff said. Get giggling!
Is what you are teaching relevant to your children? If it is, well that's bloody fantastic. If, however, you are still teaching QCA unit 8 tudors to a bored class of 8 year olds, you are doing something wrong somewhere. How can you make it relevant for them is what you need to consider here.
Are you interested in what you are teaching? Are you still interested in being a teacher? If not it's time for a change. Lessons (and yourself) must be interesting. Share stories of yourself with them. Take them into your world. Make them see the world for the interesting place it is. Putting it simply, if kids don't find it interesting, they'll be bored, if they are bored they are not learning. If they are not learning, you are not doing your job properly.
Not naughty as in having a glass of wine at lunchtime or knicking someones stapler because it winds them up, but naughty in the sense of adventure. Taking risks, what I have termed explosive learning. Explosive learning because you know the starting point but you have no idea what will happen next. Letting the children lead the learning. Not being afraid to fail and to make mistakes. You should be making mistakes everyday! If you are not, you are too safe! You are not using explosive learning.
Smile at every child everyday. It may be the only smile they get. A smile also forms the basis of the teacher student relationship. If you ain't smiling, you are miserable. If you are miserable, it's likely your kids will be miserable.
Smile. You are on stage.
Most of all, make the difference.
You only get one childhood. Do you want it to be memorable? Or miserable?
So I went to my first speed learning event on 15/10/2013, armed with all my colleagues who I dragged along in the hope of inspiring them to join twitter (and get some great ideas as well).
The keynote unfortunately let us down which meant the fabulous @blamehound (Nicole Fitzpatrick) and someone else from St Silas school in Liverpool gave some great ideas to start with.
The lady from St Silas @s10_Sarah (Sarah Knipe) showed a unique way of engaging children into talk about their learning with 'Mimi-me's http://reception.stsilasblog.net/2013/10/13/mini-mes/ )
At first I thought this was great for EYFS for getting the children talking and discussing. Then had to really think about how we would use these in KS2.
So my ideas for mini-me's
- the first idea would be to use the mini me's as discoverers. The mini me would be placed on a background and then the children would have to think... Where has mini me been this week? Then use the picture of mini me for a reading activity based on discovering where he has been, what has he been up to, who has he been with. Creating imaginary worlds is not just for EYFS - it is what makes great writers! Could it also be used to look at countries of the world? Could mini me be sent to I different countries around the world and then have his picture taken and then sent back to your school?
- Sarah discussed using the mini me's as firemen etc in role play area. I believe theatre children in ks2 would also be able to use them like this but in different ways. At the moment we are studying Victorians. It would be interesting to see which children would love to role play with the mini me's as Quinn Victoria and the children as their servants.
Following this it was time for the tables. 5tables for 5 minutes each. How to choose? One table was how to use twitter. Another how to use Pinterest. Think I'm ok at them so it that narrowed it to 7, them I discarded the educationcity table. (we already have it in school). That left me with 6 but one was about tracking data. (No thanks, no offence to whoever was running it).
Creating awe and wonder. Creating 21st century learners ready for the future.
When was the last time you just sat and watched / noticed what your children are doing. EYFS do it all the time and know their children amazingly well. When was the last time you just walked, listened and observed the children in your Ks2 class. I do it all the time in maths, it allows me to see who knows it, who can explain it and most of all who doesn't know it. Have a go! Set a task, allow the children time to discuss the solutions, listen in, note down, alter lesson plan, improve understanding!
Blog of Sarah Knipe - EYFS ideas.
FS builds the blocks for whole school achievement. - That's why we all must get it right in EYFS
Active, meaningful, applicable to them.
EYFS principals throughout school will create a curriculum that is brave and challenging for all children. That's definitely something that I would love to see happening, but the pressures of achieving highly in maths, writing, reading and SPAG mean that if a school went down this route and results were not good enough, the teaching and learning of the school would be deemed not good enough. What to do?
This table was given to one of the sponsors the www.yesprogramme.co.uk They have made a range of short videos which show children basically why we teach them what we do. These would be great for showing the children why learning about specific things is necessary but I'm not convinced yet. Maybe when we get the trial of 12 videos to watch and have a discussion with the other members of staff who also saw this I will be more convinced.
Table 3 - Mid Kitchens with @geoffbilling
Geoff gave us a quick run through of the value a mud kitchen has added to his EYFS provision outdoors. More talk, more creation, more inventiveness. More FUN! Although he did talk about a mud kitchen for EYFS the provision for a mud kitchen for KS2 is a massive opportunity that most schools probably are not utilising. Yes, they will get dirty, yes it may be a bit mad. But the children will love it and they will enjoy using it. Ideas on how to use a mud kitchen in ks2 can be found on google, my ideas though...
- have a range of measuring equipment to measure mud, water etc to make mud pies
- have recipe cards, e.g. Use 1/4 mud, 1/4 stones and 1/2 water, how can you make sure you use the correct amounts?
- creative writing - make a cake and then describe the texture, smell etc to the audience for your writing
- calculate timings - my cake takes 20 minutes for every 20g of mud, at what timek do I need to come back outside to I get it out my mud kitchen oven?
The possibilities really are endless. It depends how brave you are!
Using an artist with @clairewithere
A great story of how they took an unknown artist, planned a massive topic around it and ended up having so much success that she went to I Italy to talks about it. I love this idea so much that I am planning on adapting it for KS2. With work on an artist I've never heard of! I love, love, love this idea!!!
Table 5 - Green screening
Once that I was interested in but didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know. Apart from the fact to make it easier I need to get a MacBook for school!! The possibilities re endless for this, you just need the technology!
All in all, a great event that created some great learning for the people there. So glad to see so many students there too, more events such as this and teachmeet are going to carry on. Twitter, Pinterest, teachmeets and now speed learning are definitely the best CPD you can access and all for free!!
Now the thing is, I'm being asked... why don't we organise one for Sheffied Teachers! Ermmmm
We used learning logs as the main form of investigative homework in my previous school. This was used from y1 upwards was a great success in getting parents involved in the children's homework and therefore as past of the children's learning. Some of the work produced is so fantastic I felt I had I had to share it with the world.
As a change to normal practice the children in y6 were given a set of 12 objectives to choose from and had to choose the 6 that interested them the most. (if they aren't interested they are not going to do it!) they have had the first half term to complete work on these and some of the work that has been brought in so far has been nothing short of amazing! Check it out....
These are some examples of Y6 work completed this half term.
Here I sit at the end of another week (this is an old post from a previous blog), another week of getting every last drop of learning from my class. Writing used to be a chore that in previous years the children didn't enjoy. Grammar and punctuation was all over the place and sentence construction was poor too.
That is until I stumbled across Exciting Sentences by Alan Peat
( @alanpeat ) Suddenly the kids writing took off. Sentence construction improved dramatically, punctuation use got better and children began to enjoy the writing lessons again. However, something was still not working because writing was still not progressing as fast as I would have liked.
We were not using the sentence types in the best way we could. The children were using them in small chunks but not in the context of the learning. Now we are. Every Friday is designated as Fantastic Friday writing whereby the children get the hook into writing via video (www.literacyshed.com) a picture, a story or anything else that we can think of.
Then they have the freedom to use as many sentence types they like. Using the sentence types also means they are including commas in all the right places, colons are being used and most of all the children are enjoying writing again.
If you do one thing this holiday season buy Alan Peats exciting sentences books and get using them in class. The results in your Childrens writing will blow you away.
(I am in no way employed by Alan Peat!)
After moving school, we are now in the process of introducing Alan Peat Exciting sentences across key stage two. They are already making a difference to the standard of writing. We are also lucky to have him coming to deliver an inset at our school in October so we can make even more improvements.
Recently, I began posting work on my blog showing how we approach our 'Fabtastic Friday Writing' in my current school and have been asked many different questions about it. Hence this post!
This all came about because of recent initiatives we tried for writing and just didn't quite work for us. Children enjoyed writing but were not writing often enough and therefore not producing writing that was good enough. Not enough practice meant not enough solid feedback and focus on writing which in turn meant not much progress in writing. After a lot of planning over the summer we decided that we would do a creative writing morning every Friday and every class from FS2 to Y6 would do it. The results have been incredible.
Stimulus for writing is key
Each teacher chooses their own stimuli. Some use www.literacyshed.com some use artefacts or pictures to stimulate writing opportunities. Some have used other youtube videos (see some previous posts e.g. Alone and The life of a pencil) while some have also used a story or current news story to stimulate writing. Some have also used APPS or websites too. We've also included work following visits In school. As part of our process we also wrote as a key stage the whole nativity show with each class being responsible for each part of the story.
Alan Peat Sentences
I can't quite remember where we came across Alan Peat Sentences but I am sure glad we did. By implementing his sentence types across school children are able to use different sentence types in many different contexts. These in turn have encouraged the children to enhance their use of different sentence openers and punctuation to boot. Children love creating their own sentences and playing with words. The use of Alan Peat sentences has also impacted on children's understanding of grammar. Use them! I can't recommend anything more than using these in writing lessons - they are that good!
Why A3 Paper?
We have a big push on presentation in school. Children were presenting work well in books but after trialling writing on A4 paper last year we moved to writing on A3 paper with a line guide. Children must not write in the margins and writing must be well presented. All writing is kept in a file with our APP record sheet at the front. Each terms has it's own folder. Over the year each child will write approximately 30 pieces of extended writing. Each of which is expected to get better and better. Not just in terms of presentation but in terms of development of writing too. Children know and understand what they need to do to improve and continually work on these things in class.
Marking and Assessment
The contentious issue. It takes a long time to mark 32 pieces of writing every week. Each week is not assessed however! It's a quick read followed by good points and points to work on. These are fed back to the children and they are expected to show where they have worked on these in the following weeks work. Doing this does take time, but it's time well spent. Every child in my class has made massive progress in writing this year. This also informs my planning every week. I get to see what they are not doing in writing and act on it every week. This has also made a difference to the standard of writing being produced.
It's done using watercolours and follows a set of rules. This is the newest thing to implement and my class have not quite got it right yet. Time is the key here. We want the children to produce intricate paintings which match their outstanding writing. So far I haven't got it right. Time will tell if they finally get it.
If you have any more questions on this just ask. An example of our assessment grids and success mountain are shown below.
A great random sentence picker using Alan Peat's exciting sentences and others.
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.