Monthly Archives: January 2016

Today, we celebrate our Independence Day

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Since returning after Christmas I have tried to encourage my more able groups be a lot more independent. I keep reading about how the children should be the hardest working people in the room, not the teacher. As a result I thought I would give it a go.

My first query when I sat down to plan this was “What, in my head, would a class of independent learners, working harder than the teacher look like?” After some contemplating I came up with a number of guidelines but the one I had the main issue with was…

  • Children receive instructions for a source other than the teacher’s mouth allowing them to put their own spin on what they are being asked to do and not be influenced by the adult in the room.

How would I get the children doing what I wanted without me stood in front of them for 20 minutes! It’s all I know! I talk, children work. That’s the way it’s always been! “No” I thought to myself, must resist the temptation to talk at the start. Let them do it themselves.

As they walked into the room this morning I had written a decimal number to three places (0.451) on the whiteboard in a cloud. Coming off the cloud I picked out everything that the children in Year 4 and 5 might be asked to do. I halved it, doubled it, partitioned it, converted it to fractions amongst plenty of others. Basically, everything I could think of that they might need to know. Then, on my interactive whiteboard, I wrote instructions explaining what I wanted to see evidence of by break time.

Some were baffled, why isn’t the teacher talking to us? Some didn’t read the instructions, but eventually I cleared up any misconceptions without having to stop the class. So, off they went.

My TA and I couldn’t believe it. They were analysing the whiteboard, attempting to work out what it was I had done on each of the arms. Delighted, I circled the room asking more probing questions about the way children were working and what they were understanding.

By the end of the lesson all the high achievers had discussed what difference having a number other than 0 in the units column would make (although we will go over this again tomorrow) having also done their own three decimal place number in their book. The middle ability had done their own three decimal place number in their book but hadn’t quite got to changing the 0 in the units column. The lower, middle worked collaboratively with my TA and had understood about 75% of the arms through discussion with her. (They need more work on converting to fractions.)

All in all it was an enlightening experience that I will most definitely be attempting again. I encourage those who have never tried teaching like this to try it, even if you don’t like it, you’ve tried it!

I’m off to plan another lesson like it for tomorrow!

Writer’s Block

writers-block

So, there we were, 15 of us sat round at our INSET day. Trying to work out whether the writing that our children had done before Christmas was at a level appropriate for their age. We were supposed to say whether that the writing in front of us was either below age expected, at or exceeding but none of us were entirely sure.

Why not? We decided we were in no position to say where we thought the writing should be placed because we had no basis for comparison. Yes, we had a top, middle and bottom from each year group but how are we supposed to know yet if it is what the children are supposed to be composing. We need to see the perfect example of an “At Year 4”. I vaguely remember a bank of example pieces under the old levelling system that one could download off the internet and see what a 4c piece of writing would look like. That helped!

This is the writing guidance given in the National Curriculum for children in Year 3&4.

I’d like to put my neck on the line and risk being corrected but to me it’s a bit vague. There are mentions of fronted adverbials (which, according to spell check, isn’t even a word) and using direct speech correctly amongst other things. Is this all we are supposed to assess our children on? Have my children got mastery in writing if they can tick all those boxes? How do I know I am assessing to the same standard as someone in another school?

One teacher in this meeting was discussing that they think most of their children already have mastery in writing for their year group. Where does that teacher now take their class? I for one don’t believe that all their children have mastery already. But, when it comes to their pupil progress meeting, would it not play out like this…

Head: So, in December you said all your children had mastery, where are they now?

Teacher: Well, they still have mastery.

Head: So, where is the progress?

Teacher: err? I moved them onto the year above curriculum.

Head: OK but Year 3 and Year 4 need to learn the same things, did you move your Year 3s onto Year 5 then?

Teacher: err?

This thought prompted me to think, no child can surely have mastery of the year group yet? All these new things to cover, no teacher is that good that all their Year 3 children are using fronted adverbials with no difficulty whatsoever at just over 1/3 into the year.

As a result I wondered, what do we as a teaching community currently use to assess writing? Is it just us who are struggling to find a basis for assessment? How do I know if my children are below where they should be or flying high above the rest?

Pie Corbett offered this as to what he thinks children in each year should know and I’d rather be using this as a kind of new form of APP grid than the National Curriculum guidance that doesn’t tell me much at all.

Reassure me that it isn’t just us that are unsure, tell me there are others out there as well…

The year to come…

make a difference phrase on blackboard

2015 was good.

2016 will be even better.

Reading other people’s new year resolutions has put a desire in me to first of all think of my own and second of all to scribe them down.

1. Make a difference to new people

OK, as teachers we all make a difference one way or another every single day, sometimes whether we mean to or not within our schools but more specifically within our own classrooms. I though, would now like to expand my influence to the online community. Over the last few weeks I have read so many inspiring articles by teachers and people in a similar position to me that I read them and think “I’d like to try that”. So I am going to give it a go and try to make a difference to other people out there in the world be it through writing, providing resources or giving advice.

2. Make a difference to myself

This desire to improve other people’s situations has only come about thanks to all those people I have read articles by over the last few weeks. They have had a huge influence on me and I aim to find more people and more writing that will help make me a better teacher and a better person. I really enjoy this new community I’ve found and I hope it continues to grow and helps me develop as a teacher and a person.

3. Make a difference at home

My daughter turned 1 the other week and the year I have spent with her has been phenomenal. I go out of my way to make time for her and not let my work suffer. I am on the way to finding the correct balance but it could still be better. There is never enough time I can spend with her and my wife, so I will be hunting out more of it.

4. Make a difference to the children in my class and the staff at school

I adore the children that I teach and already make a large difference to their lives (I hope so anyway!). For the coming year I hope that this continues and that the ideas I use and the lessons I do mean that they go home raving about both what they have learnt and the fact that they are in my class. It fills me with pride when a child from another class says they can’t wait to be in my class as they have seen all the exciting things we do.

Staff wise I hope to pass on my ideas and influence and to greet every single one of them with a smile and a “Good morning” I want to be the one that everyone feels they can go to when they need someone be it for help or just a chat

5. Enjoy it

All of these just won’t be worth doing if life isn’t fun. So I will try and make the most of every minute and quite simply, enjoy myself.