Sunday, November 30, 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
  1. They are encouraged at home
  2. They are encouraged at nursery
  3. They are encouraged by child minders
  4. Points 1-3 encourage them to make marks through play
Encouragement through play not teaching

Initially, you don't teach three or four year olds, you give them the time to explore, to try out, to play. Young children learn through play, teaching comes second. A few discussions on Twitter and blogs have attempted to demean play as an effective educational activity but they all miss the point that they are completely wrong. Children do learn through play. 

My daughter demonstrates this every day. By game three I had taught her how to form the f and e as you can see in the game three picture.

Play first, teach second. When I taught in Year 5 I used the same approach. I used play in a lot of my teaching from the outset and children responded favourably. Too often some of us look down upon play as a form of fun rather than an educationally sound activity . I ask those who do so to look again and rethink how play can be used as an effective teaching and learning strategy.


Game one 
Game three




Saturday, September 6, 2014

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.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

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 lesson these gaps are filled and their learning is more successful. Research and strong evidence of good practice also helps build a clearer picture and develop my teaching. It might seem like common sense but with the fast paced teaching and learning classrooms that outside influences have helped to create, teachers find themselves with less opportunities to reflect on their teaching and improve it.

It's only by looking closely and focusing on the details that my teaching will improve. How do you improve yours?


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

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 be changed. Google is listening to teachers using this tool so the more real world feedback they receive the better the product will ultimately become.

Students
I don't want Classroom to become another place for students to find even more work to complete so work assigned by teachers should not be replicated on paper elsewhere nor be in addition to paper based work. Classroom should become a place where collaborative learning can take place outside of school, where children using Classroom can work together on activities that they learned during school and want to improve on whilst at home. I'm hoping I can convince the teachers using it that this could be a better way of using it and could open up our Peer Tutoring program even further. 


Monday, September 1, 2014

My Teaching and Learning goals for this academic year




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.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

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 home. And like many parents we have a collection of drawings and paintings adorning our home. I wanted to find out more about children's drawing and decided to search online for research, examples and anything else that would help me learn more. The research I have looked suggests that the earliest drawing is mark making leading to the Scribble Stage around the age of 18 months - 2 years old. Scribbling can be broken down into four sub stages (Lowenfeld, 1978)
1. Disordered scribbling
2. Longitudinal scribbling
3. Circular scribbling
4. Named scribbling

This picture was drawn by my daughter when she was 18 months. As she drew this I sat beside her asking what she was drawing.

Named scribbling
She told a story as she drew the picture - a big fish with legs and it was raining. As I teach in Foundation Stage I wrote these explanations down and gave a copy to her nursery to be included in her Learning Journey. Over the next few months her drawings have progressed from named scribbling to what is termed the pre-schematic stage (ages 3 - 4 years) which is characterised by circular images that include lines representing arms/legs. This pre-schematic stage is a stage of symbols where a drawn symbol can stand for a real thing in the environment. (Betty Edwards, 'Creative and Mental Growth') 






These stages of development are fascinating reading, particularly if you work with younger children and I shall refer to them throughout the year ahead when I return to the Foundation Stage classroom. 
For now, here is my daughter's latest drawing complete with arms and legs.



References


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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 Google's support page for further information. The YouTube channel art is the image that sits on top of your page, many people will choose an image provided or, as I did, upload a photo from their collection. The image looks quite small but it all depends on what device you are using to view the page. Google's support page recommends a single image of 2560 x 1440 pixels that is optimised for various devices. You create an image that works for your YouTube Channel, but also for a mobile device and viewed on a television. Depending on the device more or less of the uploaded image will be used so you need to design your layout carefully.

I used Keynote to do this as it suited my needs perfectly as I never needed the power of Photoshop or similar image editors. I used Keynote's colour picker to create a simple colour scheme and I also added a torn photo effect to some of my images. Whatever image editor or tool you use make sure you set the image size to 2560 x 1440 px otherwise the image you create, once uploaded, will not fit correctly.

My YouTube Channel Art
I then used this image as the basis for the rest of my digital footprints across the social media sites I use.


My Twitter banner


My Google+ cover photo

I'm quite happy with the cohesion that this design has given to my digital footprint. If you have suggestions about how I could improve it then let me know.

Image sizes required.

YouTube - 2560 x 1440 px (text and logo safe area is 1546 x 423 px)
Google+ - 1080 x 608 px recommended
Twitter - 1500 x 500 px









Sunday, May 4, 2014

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, concrete objects. I have found when you give a young child a set of objects to count, the counting activity and its correct result could depend on the following.
  1. The number of objects given to count
  2. The number of objects the child is able to count confidently
  3. How long the number sentence mantra is the child has learned
  4. Whether a finger is used to count or not
  5. Whether the child looks at the objects whilst counting them or looks at you
  6. How the objects are placed
Point 6 is one which I started using more and more with children to assess whether the counting strategy used was a mixture of points 1 to 5 or if they had started to develop the cardinal of a number. Try this, look at the following groups of objects. How many are in each group? Try to do this without counting the objects individually then check by counting.


You will most likely have counted them using either fig. 2 or 3 as these use an arrangement we are familiar with. If you checked by individually counting the objects you will have found fig.1 to have one less than the others, it has 14. Now, how did you count the objects in fig.1? Did you start at the top and work your way across and down in lines, or did you start at the bottom and work up? Did you employ another method? A 4 year old child will probably not have developed such a method to work out the value of the group so may start counting from a random dot and go over the actual number due to counting over dots again, or count to a known high number in the hope of impressing you. What we take for granted is in fact a difficult and challenging concept for many young children to grasp. 

By counting the group of dots correctly in fig.1, the child has moved from merely using number names to recognising that numbers have a value. The next step is to develop an understanding that numbers can be added together and I'll explore this in my next blogpost. 







Friday, April 11, 2014

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 better understanding of every child’s needs. I base my planning on these moments and react to them instantly or as quickly as possible. Creativity in the Early Years is as common as plankton in our oceans. 

So why do other teachers argue about the loss of creativity throughout the rest of a child’s education? Does it mysteriously fade away due to natural causes or does the education system have no time for it, or worse, seek to eradicate it? 

After considering various definitions for creativity, I’m going with this - Creativity is the use of imagination or original ideas. There are many possibilities that we could use this creativity for, you may even disagree on the definition I have used so please feel free to provide your own but for the sake of this post, creativity is the use of imagination or original ideas. 

In primary school, children have many original and imaginative ideas. But do these creative moments fit into a school’s expectations? Do we take the risk of following through with a child’s creativity or do we stick rigidly to the given curriculum so as to meet our performance management targets? Do we constantly worry that children aren't creative anymore or do we ensure they understand and can use the basics in Maths and English which will lead to many of them finding that creative spark once again?


There is a balance. Creativity can be encouraged whilst still meeting the targets imposed upon us by SMT and your own expectations. All it takes is courage. It’s not that difficult. Feel free to deny a child's creativity in your comments below and please do read David's post

If we really want children to be more creative we must feed their imaginations. We need to teach them stuff before we can expect them to question and criticise. We need to show them how ideas coalesce into something useful before they we start seeing their own connections. And we need to give them rules if we want to give them something to kick against and escape from. Constraints force creativity: freedom stifles it.

That's made me think, creatively ;-) 

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.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

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 soon find out.

The first 2 weeks are a gentle baptism; only a few come in for no more than half a day at a time. Some are inquisitive and loud, others say nothing and a few cry, a lot, usually in the mornings as they are left at the gate when the bell rings and they hang onto their parents legs. But they all settle in quite quickly once they get into the classroom. The relationship you form at the very beginning is essential, you describe the class rules and then realise that most of them haven’t listened as their attention has been on the hole in your shoe, or on the child who has curled up on the floor to go to sleep, or because there’s a noise coming from the room next door that sounds like a monster because that’s what another child tells everyone else that’s what it is. But stick to your rules. Like any age group you need to have them otherwise anarchy will ensue, and it's no different with 4 year olds. What you take for granted in other year groups all needs to be taught and modelled at this age. 

You soon discover how a 4 year old’s mind ticks, when your well planned lesson introduction is interrupted 15 times in the first 60 seconds. You learn that their questions are far more important than your own particularly when you want to find out if they have learned what you have been teaching. You stifle laughs but then realise that young children love to see their teacher laughing. You join in with them by getting down to their level which means sitting on chairs which are not meant for adults and develop a method of sitting that yoga specialists would be envious of. The table you once coveted as your own becomes a breeding ground for crayoned scribbles and suspicious looking finger marks. You soon discover you have superpowers and can prove to KS1 and KS2 staff that teachers do indeed have eyes on the back of their heads, you just need to be an EYFS teacher in order to have them.

I found my entire approach to teaching had to change if these young children wanted to learn. They learned by playing and talking, by running and falling, by dancing and singing, by lying down when you thought they should have been sitting, by sticking their fingers to their books and painting their friends’ faces with paint. Every moment becomes a learning opportunity, the day is filled with them and each becomes an integral part of your teaching.

EYFS gives you the freedom to teach and allows children to learn at their own pace, an approach I would love to see a school consider from 4 to 11.


Don’t let the gates of EYFS scare you. Welcome the change because as you step through into this world of wonder you will become a better teacher for it.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

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.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

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 focused and Adult initiated activities, all EYFS staff would use a post-it pad to jot down quick assessments on those children in their group. The note would contain the child's name, concern and adult's initials. This post-it would then be placed into the corresponding day/assessment focus box and during the same day, or later in the week, assessment post-its would be picked up by any member of staff to follow up the assessment with a repeat activity or enhanced activity depending on learning needs noted. This post-it would then be stuck into the child's work book (or Learning Portfolio) alongside the additional learning activity giving us a highly effective way of demonstrating assessment for learning; one that's not based on smiley faces, traffic lights, lollipop sticks or any other manner of mumbo jumbo voodoo assessment nonsense.

After one week, we have found this system to be a simple yet highly effective way of ensuring assessment throughout our EYFS class is acted upon quickly, that it not only informs our planning but ensures each and every child's learning needs are met. 

And one more thing - we don't use pink pens nor green pens in our EYFS team because we firmly believe that the use of such a marking scheme is nonsense in EYFS. It's also a nonsense throughout KS1 and KS2 but that debate's for another day.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

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. 
  1. Almost all pupils make rapid and sustained progress across the curriculum
  2. Marking and feedback from the teacher and pupils is frequent and of consistently high quality
  3. Teaching of reading, writing, communication and maths is exceptional
  4. Use of well judged and often imaginative teaching strategies that match individual needs
  5. Time taken to develop skills in other subjects
  6. Appropriate and regular homework
Now to pick some of these apart.
  1. No teacher can possibly be expected to ensure all pupils make sustained and rapid progress across THE CURRICULUM in one lesson.
  2. To ensure marking is of an effective and high quality it takes more time than one observed lesson affords.
  3. I'd like to see this actually happening, a teacher teaching all of these exceptionally in ONE observed lesson.
  4. So if there are 25 children in my class, do I need to provide 25 individually well judged and imaginative teaching strategies? I didn't think so.
  5. During one observed lesson a teacher has barely enough time to breath never mind develop skills in other subjects
  6. This is just nonsense.

Teachers and pupils deserve better than this. 

Once again, WHY do schools resort to a rehashed version of whole school Ofsted inspection criteria to grade individual lessons? 


Does your school use a similar type of lesson observation form? Perhaps you teach at a school that has developed an observation system that teachers look forward to, I would love to know.


Note - I spent no additional time preparing for the above lesson, I prepared no additional resources nor did I go through my previously planned lesson with a fine comb to ensure grade descriptors were met. My 'lesson' was barely 20 minutes long as I teach in EYFS. Make your own mind up.


Further
Ofsted’s grade criteria state: “These descriptors should not be used as a checklist. They must be applied adopting a ‘best fit’ approach which relies on the professional judgement of the inspection team.”

Additional Reading
I recommend you read the following blog posts (and blogs on a regular basis)
'Meeting Ofsted : The game has changed' by Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher)
'On grading lesson observations' by Alex Quigley (@huntingenglish)
'Has lesson observation become the new brain gym?' by David Didau (@learningspy)

And
'Beyond lesson observation grades' by Mary Myatt (@marymyatt)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Learning to code in an after school club

Learning to code with learn.code.org

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 getting them to do so with a unique 6 character sign up code. This is perfect for students in schools that don't have access to email or if you prefer them not to use email to sign up for online activities. Each user has access to their own progress board that details what stages they have completed and what they have left to do. 

After the introductory 'What is a computer scientist?' video, the children started Stage 2  and were hooked straight away. They started off slowly using the Scratch like 'drag and drop' interface to move the character around a maze - based on an Angry Bird catching a pig. As they progressed through the activities, they moved shared solutions and worked together to solve the problems they were presented with. They looked carefully when they discovered their 'code' didn't quite function they way they thought it would and I encouraged them to go through each step to debug their program. Cheers went up went the first child won himself a trophy and others flocked to discover how he had managed to solve the puzzle. 

An excellent addition to the teacher section is the ability to not only view the progress of your class but also run code that they have been working on.


I can add a comment to this activity so the child can develop a better understanding of how to improve their code if it is not working correctly. The child can also click on 'See code' to look at how their moveable blocks would actually be represented by Javascript. 

The coming weeks are going to get interesting as the children progress through the stages at their own pace - some will be further along than others which is perfect as I will need as many 'coders' as possible to ensure each of us learns to code.

Learn.code.org is a fantastic site, well thought out and very simple to get you and your school started in its coding journey. I thoroughly recommend it.






Friday, January 10, 2014

Gamification, 20time and the flipped classroom -

At the top - http://morguefile.com/creative/BreonWarwick


I've blogged about my use of gamification here, 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 workI 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 is effective or not. What I will say about it is this - isn’t it just homework in another guise? Pre-preparation leading to the same flipped presentation presented again the next day therefore defeating its purpose? And for what?


Gamification


Ah, the cool one, flavour of the month and last month come to think of it. But is it effective? Well... that’s up for debate. As a way of grabbing your class, it’s extremely effective. I created the following video to ‘grab my class’ at the start of my Gamification teaching and learning process. Believe me when I say it hooked them, they couldn’t wait to start ‘learning’ but on reflection that was nothing more than a lesson starter albeit a damn fine one at that. I had grabbed the class in 1 minute and 23 seconds and could focus my teaching on what they had to learn. Gamifying the learning involved the class ‘playing through’ the learning, accessing next levels to achieve the ultimate goal - my learning objective. To be honest, it’s a lot of effort, it’s great fun, but an awful lot of effort. I have no demonstrable proof that teaching using a gamification process improves learning. Does it improve the learning experience? Absolutely, without question (I dare you to argue, you naysayer, you) but I’m not sure the actual use of the approach does. I can say that my enthusiasm in using the approach did have a positive effect on learning.If you go down this route, prepare yourself for a lot of additional planning hours to ensure the success of a gamified learning experience.


20time


20time is derived from Google and their use of 20% free time with its employees - they use this time to delve into their own projects which will benefit the company (half of Google’s tools released in 2005 were derived from 20time). I decided to use this idea in my class by giving my class time to develop their own ideas and interests in learning. I grew the idea into a personalised learning approach for every child in my class, each received a PJ (personal journey) at the start of every week based on their individual learning needs. I taught lessons in chunks here and there throughout the day, not in specified timetabled lengths, for example, children would ask me for additional teaching in a Maths concept whilst others were doing their 20time or completing their English work. My Teaching Assistant was doubtful at first, but found the approach more beneficial. Do read the posts linked above to gain a full understanding of the approach. I can say that combining 20time/personalising learning/projects with a focused teaching of skills is a very effective teaching and learning method. Why? Here you go.




Positive learning assessment gains across the whole class


What to do

Don’t ask yourself which you should use, ask yourself whether or not you and your class will benefit from these methods. I implore you to do your research, find out as much as you can about each of these methods before even considering them. Do not jump on the ‘teaching flavour of the month bandwagon' and hope it works for you and your class. I found 20time/personalising learning to be the most effective at that time with that class. Will I use it again? Of course I will. Will I use the other methods, that’s doubtful. But we owe it to ourselves as teachers to keep ahead of what we do, to build upon our teaching using research and experiences we learn from others.

Has a gamified / 20time / flipped classroom benefitted your teaching? Has your class benefited from them in their learning?