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Showing posts from 2014

Learning to write through play

My daughter playing a writing game -Game two
My daughter is three and a half years old. I have never taught her to write nor how to hold pencil using a preferred pencil hold. Before she was three she was naturally holding a crayon using the preferred hand grip, and mark making like any other child her age. I never pushed her to write letters as she enjoyed making marks, circles and then faces with arms and legs. Two weeks ago I played a game with her where I wrote her name and asked her to write it too. She watched me closely then copied it. The picture above shows the second go at the game. To say I was taken aback is an understatement.
I teach in reception (4-5 years old) and children have a wide range of writing abilities. On entry in September, a few can write their name, many more can write the first few letters of their name and some use only marks to show their name. The only reasons I can ascertain as to why children can write their names when they start school are They are en…

What I love most about teaching

I love teaching. I love teaching even when outside influences do everything possible to make it the most difficult and time consuming job in the world. I love teaching because I make a positive difference in the lives of the children I teach. I love teaching because there is nothing quite like it, every day brings new surprises. I love teaching because every class is different, made up of individual personalities that fill you with laughter and joy. I love teaching because I get to share those moments when learning has clicked. I love teaching because I find it challenging and rewarding. I love teaching.

How do we improve our teaching?

It seems that now, more than ever, every facet of teaching and learning has come under the microscope that forms every teacher's Performance Management. I have my own PM coming up later this month which will examine my performance during the 2013-2014 academic year. The discussion will examine in great detail the targets that were set last year and ascertain whether or not these have been achieved using evidence that I have gathered. Afterwards a new set of targets for this academic year will be set and the PM process will continue. I can safely say it does not improve my teaching.
What helps to improve my teaching is my own analysis of how effective my teaching is. I manage this by reviewing lessons I have taught and checking through work produced by children in my class, I read over notes I have taken during the day and adapt my next day's planning if required. I look for gaps in my teaching that may have left children behind in their learning and ensure that in the next le…

Google Classroom - what I'm hoping to achieve

In case you've missed it, Google Classroom is now open to all Google Apps for Education domains. I am aiming to have it set up and ready to be used by two classes this term and also with my Coding Club. There are many blog posts already written about setting up Google Classroom so I'm not going to go into that, what I do want to look at is whether or not it will be an effective tool for teachers and students. 
Teachers Classroom is designed to help teachers create and assign work for students that are part of their Classroom. Drive folders are automatically created for every student which keeps work in an easy to find order. Teachers can also see who has started work and who is yet to begin. Along with the collaborative power that Drive gives users, Classroom becomes an incredibly useful addition to the Google Apps experience. As it is rolled out to teachers in my school I will ask them to complete a Form to provide feedback about what they find useful and what might need to b…

My Teaching and Learning goals for this academic year

https://magic.piktochart.com/output/2634750-teaching-and-learning-goals-for-
These are my teaching and learning goals for this academic year. I have focused on teaching and learning in my Early Years Foundation Stage class and across the school. You can grab a copy of the full sized infographic by clicking here.

From scribbles to portraits - early childhood drawing

My little girl turned three recently. She loves dressing up, acting out her favourite stories, playing with toys, exploring, singing and drawing. Her first forays into art were 'making marks' on a page as she held a crayon in her hand and pushed it at the paper in front of her. This progressed to scribbling as her grip improved, usually back and forth scribbles then circular in motion. Next came scribbles that definitely demonstrated more control such as a drawing of round shapes on one part of the page then another part of the page. She is now drawing faces and to be honest it happened quite quickly, one day she was drawing circles and the next that circle became a face. This development in drawing led me to search for information on children's artwork and the stages that young children go through when drawing. 
My daughter attends nursery and they have explained that they encourage drawing by providing the children access to a wide selection of materials, like we do at …

Digital footprint design

I recently noticed that my online presence, my digital footprint, was a little disjointed and the overall effect was a hotchpotch of images that didn't quite give my audience a picture of who I was or what I did. I had a background image for my G+ profile that was different from my YouTube background that was different from my Blogger header image that was different from my Twitter profile and so on. So today I have spent a few hours designing my digital footprint, my online identity, to ensure that who I am and what I do is no longer lost in a mess of graphics across the many platforms I use.

I started by looking at the three words that best describe me. I use these as a tagline across every platform I use: teacher, artist, musician. Next I thought about the design and I decided to focus on my YouTube Channel art first as this would involve the largest image size out of all the social media sites I use regularly. If you have a YouTube page then I suggest you take a look at Googl…

Developing a sense of number in the Early Years

Children come into the Early Years Foundation Stage with an array of mathematical abilities and understanding of number. Their world may be filled with numbers (for example in books, television and film, nursery rhymes and songs, shops, signs, counting with parents) but that does not necessarily mean they have an understanding of number sense. 
Early Years and Kindergarten teachers will assess the children in their class within the first couple of weeks to build a picture of every child's understanding, skills and knowledge in many areas, number is one such area. When asked to count to 10 or 20, a 4 year old will happily plough through a mantra learned by heart to impress the teacher/parents/whoever asks. That child will think they can count to 10 but rhyming off numbers is not counting. This rhyming of a number sentence is certainly a skill that children learn at an early age, the next step is to learn the value of each number, its cardinal, and this is best done using practical…

Creativity isn't a dark art

What does it mean to be creative? What exactly is creativity? If you search these two questions on the internet you will receive 267,000 results and 94,600 results respectively. If you check the same out on Twitter you can find ongoing discussions revolving around each question almost on a daily basis. Tonight has been one such night. David Didau (@learningspy) posted the following blog post 
The dark art of creativity
It created quite a stir, to say the least. 

As you might be aware, I now teach in Early Years. I can safely say that every day I encounter creativity.  There are 25 children in my class yet I can guarantee that every one of them will experience or directly create a creative moment every day. Young children are highly creative, their imaginations know no bounds. They say what they want, they will do what they want when they want and these outcomes are all creative. Early Years is filled with such creative moments, and as many creative moments are captured to give teachers a…

Elizabeth Truss speaks about improving teaching

For umpteenth years, teachers have complained again and again about not being able to teach due to the many conditions imposed upon them by government, local authorities, the nonsense excuse that is ‘What Oftsed expects’ and their very own SMT. Teachers have had their professionalism ripped from them by bureaucracy, politics and SMT fears thus creating the predicament we find ourselves in today - teaching by numbers, by box ticking, by Performance Management Expectations, by SMT created policies and all of these overseen by the nonsense excuse ‘What Ofsted expects”. 
Yesterday, Education Minister Liz Truss gave every teacher in the country hope, hope that they could once again be professional, hope that they could teach without adhering to ridiculous SMT enforced policies such as APP, hope that they could once again be teachers not part of some caged monkey pressing buttons manufacturing line.

Teaching in EYFS - my thoughts so far

As Bilbo Baggins stood at the gates of Mordor, he possibly thought to himself ‘what on middle earth have I let myself in for’. I can safely say I know exactly how he would have felt as I too have experienced that Mordor moment, when I walked into the EYFS classroom of my school back in September as its reception teacher.
Before deciding on joining the EYFS team, some colleagues told me I was mad, others looked perplexed. Why would I, an experienced KS2 teacher, put himself forward to teach in EYFS? Well, I was intrigued with teaching and learning in EYFS and had used some of its approaches within my own Year 5 classroom so when the opportunity to be a reception teacher came along it was too good to miss. 
In June, I spent 3 days observing the children and teachers and teaching assistants. I immersed myself in the daily routine, I found myself in awe at how the staff could turn any situation into a learning opportunity and wondered if I too could be as inspiring as they were. I would soo…

Marking in primary schools is verging on the ridiculous

Marking in primary schools used to be done with a red pen or whatever colour happened to be closest at hand. I've even marked in pencil once, but most of that marking was rubbed out by the children. What's happened now however has been steadily creeping in over the last few years - red pen is seen as bad, a terrible colour to mark with. Children view it as negative even if their work is correct. Red is now a banned marking colour in many primary schools across the land and has been replaced with a plethora of colour coded marking schemes, all followed to the colour due to the ridiculous nature of some primary school marking policies.

Assessment on a post-it

EYFS is built upon a bedrock of continuous assessment. Every child's needs is catered for, for at this early age every child is recognised and valued as an individual. Assessment informs everything we do and with 5 adults in my EYFS team we need to be consistent in our approach to ensure every child's needs are met. 
In term 1 I did this by having daily conversations and exchanging notes each of us built up throughout the day. Unfortunately, a daily conversation can sometimes be cancelled, late or forgotten. This led to '10 minutes before the start of the day quick recaps of the learning that happened the day before' which once again fell victim to other pressures of daily school life. We needed a system that would be simple to use, provide instant assessment opportunities and be as failsafe as possible. So I've devised this Assessment Wall.
I focused on Writing, Number and Phonics as the main 3 assessment opportunities that would lead to most impact. During Adult…

My latest lesson observation feedback

This was the outcome of my latest lesson observation - I received Good with Outstanding features (whatever that actually means). The form is based on the 2013 Ofsted criteria for a whole school observation, such criteria is not meant to be used to grade individual lessons so why are schools doing exactly that?
To achieve an Outstanding grade on this form I would have needed to do the following in the length of time the lesson observation took place.  Almost all pupils make rapid and sustained progress across the curriculumMarking and feedback from the teacher and pupils is frequent and of consistently high qualityTeaching of reading, writing, communication and maths is exceptionalUse of well judged and often imaginative teaching strategies that match individual needsTime taken to develop skills in other subjectsAppropriate and regular homeworkNow to pick some of these apart. No teacher can possibly be expected to ensure all pupils make sustained and rapid progress across THECURRICULUM

Learning to code in an after school club

I started my after school coding club 2 weeks ago; it was oversubscribed so the first 20 children got in. And it's not all boys, there are 6 girls in the club and a few more waiting their chance to join later in the year. To say it's got off to a great start would be a slight understatement - the feedback from the 'coders' and their parents has been excellent.  
So onto the club itself. I decided to stay away from it being a 'Learn to use Scratch' club as the very same children will be using Scratch next year as part of the Computing Curriculum. I looked at various possibilities online and found learn.code.org would be perfect for my needs. Part of code.org, it has a K-8 intro to Computer science that runs for 15-20 hours. The course is broken into 20 stages with each stage broken into mini activities that the user completes to gain your awards. 

Once you have registered as a teacher with the site, you can easily set up your students by adding each yourself or ge…

Gamification, 20time and the flipped classroom -

I've blogged about my use of gamificationhere, here, herehere and here. I've blogged about 20%time here, which led to my personalised learning approach which kicked off here, then here and here, followed up by a 'leashes not required' post here and a conclusion of sorts here. Flipped Learning never got a look in, I added that to flip you in.  So do any of these approaches work? I now teach in Early Years and have been thinking if I could use any of them within this stage of learning. I haven't got an answer for that yet, but hope to in due course. The aim of this post is to look back and measure the effectiveness of the approaches against learning gains.

Flipped Classroom

Okay, I admit it now. I’ve never used the flipped ‘model’ in my classroom, although I have used parts of it as a basis during many lessons that I have taught. I want to get this one out of the way before you deluge me with complaints. I'm not sure whether the flipped classroom learning model i…