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The Story of Me – increasing vocabulary recognition.

I am a primary school class teacher, based in Scotland. I teach Primary 2 (age 6 -7 years).

I designed the Story of Me project to promote recall of vocabulary. It was inspired by an article I read recently by Turk et Al (2015) which found that children were more likely to recall target vocabulary if it was used in sentences where they themselves were the subject of the sentence.

At the same time I had been doing lots of work with my class on improving their drawings of themselves. I had been modelling the step by step process I would take to draw a person and discussing with them all the elements that one might think about when trying to represent somebody in an illustration and then, following on from that, how you might illustrate what they are doing in the picture.

I put together the project based on these on these two ideas to see whether co-authoring and the experience of being the subject of both text and illustration could make target words more memorable for children and also to see whether seeing themselves represented by an illustrator would improve their self-portrait skills!

I am currently studying illustration and I was engaged in this project as an illustrator as well as the class teacher (although the children were not aware that some of their stories were being illustrated by me!).

The model was as follows:

  • Identify target group of words for each child – these were a mixture of ‘high frequency words’ and ‘keywords’ from our reading scheme.
  • Children create sentences about themselves using these words.
  • Aspiring children’s illustrators were recruited to work (virtually) with the children in the class – they draw one illustration for each child’s sentence per week.
  • Child is created as a central character so each sentence becomes part of a story about them.
  • Aspiring illustrators gain experience in the creation of a character and placing that character in different situations each week.
  • Illustrations come back to the children via email or online sharing.
  • Over the 4 weeks of the project the children will compile a special book (either a paper book or an e-book) containing an illustrated story about themselves.

The primary aims of the project were as follows:

  • Children develop a strong relationship with the target words and recall them accurately.
  • Illustrators model good quality drawing and illustration for the children and the children develop their ability to draw figures and faces.
  • Illustrators gain experience creating a character and placing it in different situations.

Other intended outcomes:

  • Children get a taste of the collaboration of author and illustrator.
  • Children gain a better understanding of the work of both an author and an illustrator.
  • All children see themselves in the role of an author – they have written a book!
  • Children’s ideas are valued and celebrated.
  • Children themselves are at the centre of the story – they are important and interesting.

The project is now complete and you can see a compilation of our wonderful stories at http://bit.ly/StoryOM2.

There is also a summary of the findings and outcomes of the project against its intended aims.

I hope you enjoy The Story of Me!

Susannah Jeffries

Twitter @mrsjteaches

Instagram @MrsJDraws

 

Children’s Library Club

“Children can only aspire to what they know exists.”

Glasgow Children’s University, 2016

This statement illustrates the philosophy behind the Children’s Library club, offered to pupils of St Mungo’s Primary School every Wednesday from 3 o’clock, with students from the School of Education at the University of Strathclyde having full responsibility for planning, organising and running this experience.

St Mungo’s Primary school is located directly behind the university library, but the 5 minutes walking distance between the 2 buildings is ultimately a barrier between two separate communities. Although the physical distance is minimal, the distance metaphorically is immense and the prospect of the University campus was abstract to the pupils in St Mungo’s Primary, many of whom were actually unaware of its size, opportunities offered and even its existence. This is further highlighted in that I, as a student entering my fourth year of study, was equally unaware of the existence of the school.

This after school club enabled children to see for themselves the wonders of the huge library, specifically the vast range of children’s books covering a variety of exciting topics and the technology and research methods that could be utilized to help them make interesting and relevant discoveries.

Through inviting groups of pupils into our library, supporting them in researching topics of interest, and encouraging them in team work while being independent in their own learning, we hoped to enlighten pupils to the captivating environment offered in the University. 4 weeks of exploring informative resources, increasing knowledge and enthusiasm and co-creating presentations to display this, accumulates in a visit from parents, who are also invited to the library to see for themselves the experience their children have had.

We hoped the experience would reintroduce the university, the library, and further education as a whole, as things pertinent and accessible to everyone, regardless of their current social, economic, political or cultural status.

Being the initial organiser and key point of communication between the school and the university, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in an experience which has enabled me to develop, not only an enhanced passion for books and working with children, but professional attributes which shall be utilised in my future career as a teacher and which shall be strengthened throughout my professional life. I feel I have gained vital experience of leadership as I took responsibility for the creation of the club, planning and organising timings, resources, considerations of safety and “housekeeping”, recruitment of fellow students and lines of communication to maintain the efficient running of the sessions. This in turn led to attributes of resilience and problem solving being developed as several obstacles were addressed and overcome: lack of communication and issues regarding commitment being just some of these.

As I was undertaking my final 3 month block placement in the months from January – March, for me this meant keeping in close contact with the students who had volunteered to run these sessions, ensuring the club was of a sustainable nature, instructions and advice being passed to successive groups.

The benefits reaped from this project were not only apparent in the children who took part, but also in the students from the university who organised and supported the sessions. Students across all 4 years of study took part in various 4 week blocks, working together, liaising with other professionals and experiencing numerous obstacles and challenges throughout their work, implementing skills of cooperation, problem solving and communication in order to address these and maintain the consistency of the club. The success experienced in this first year of the clubs creation has evoked a huge sense of pride in me and has ultimately given me the confidence to continue with opportunities like this in the future, taking a leadership role in other experiences that I find exciting and worthwhile that spark my personal interest and passion. The sustainability of the Children’s Library Club means that students who have taken part this year can go on to carry the club forward, using their prior knowledge and experience to influence its progression.

I sincerely hope this initiative will continue for many years to come as we continue to work together to collaborate the communities of university students and staff, and the parents, pupils and teachers of St Mungos Primary.

 

Blendspace

As one of our digital leaders at school, responsible for raising our digital prowess and use of technology to enhance learning (rather than just a bolt on), I am often asked what are my most recommended apps/tools to use in the classroom. I am by no means an expert – in fact, quite late to the technological game when it comes to it being integrated into the classroom. I have learnt a great deal from experts in the field, such as Mr P ICT and Rob Smith (founder of Literacy Shed). As an avid fan of all things technological, I spend my CPD time learning from them and gleaning whatever I can from the trail they, and others, have carved out. So, with all that in mind, I apologise now if anything I share might be ‘old news’ for you.

My favourite at the moment is ‘Blendspace’, which does exactly as it says on the tin – blend the ‘digital’ space with that of your classroom. I have found this tool invaluable with any children I teach (KS1 – KS2). It allows me to create a digital pinboard, for the children to access online content that I have chosen and selected beforehand. I have used QR codes for a while (another post to come) to allow children to quickly access a website, without having to enter in the inordinately long address. When I have needed them to access multiple websites, I have given them multiple QR codes, which in its essence, is fine. Except there is something better. Blendspace.

You can access this website (soon to be an app also, I hear) through your TES account. If you don’t have one of those….you’d be the first teacher I’ve met who doesn’t. Go get one! It’s free and is a whole remarkable resource all of its own. I don’t have time to unpack the genius of this place here and now. Alternatively, you can just sign up for Blendspace.

Blendspace allows me to compile any digital content that I want in one central place for the children to access. I can upload directly from TES, Google, Youtube, images….etc.

Here is a screen grab of a lesson I delivered a few weeks back to Year 6 on Charles Darwin. I wanted them to research, using the questions they had generated. By ‘googling’ Charles Darwin, they would have spent too much time sifting through to find relevant KS2 appropriate information. Here, I provided it for them.

Untitled

Here you can see that I found a PDF, links to websites and a video, through the search function on the right. I then just clicked and dragged into the available boxes on the left. Here, all the research resources they need are in one location. Now, for them to access this ‘digital lesson’ I have done one of two things. Either:

1 – Used the link above as a hyperlink on our class blog. I tend to do this if I want them to access this outside of school.

2 – Clicked on the green ‘share’ button at the top and then copied and pasted the QR code onto a document. I usually display this on the board, or print off for tables. All our children have access to ipads and so can scan the QR code, which will take them to what you can see above.

Saying that – it isn’t the longer address and they could type it into the address bar. Not my first choice, but not a problem either.

Once created, I named my lesson and it became forever in my library of lessons. Others can access it too, if they search for ‘Charles Darwin’. On that note, if you click on ‘blendspace’ at the top, it will take you back to your dashboard – your homepage, if you will. From here, you can search for lessons that already exist, that others have made. Super useful.

You could differentiate the ‘lesson’ by creating a different pinboard for each group. I have also used it in a carousel activity, when I needed multiple stations, each with different research. My students have also used this to create ‘lessons’ on a topic they researched for Home Learning, to make the websites/resources they used available to all. After we have finished, the QR codes are added to the display board, for anyone to continue to research in their own time. A number do.

I was using this before we purchased iPads. Whilst I believe they do make it smoother, they are not essential to using this excellent tool.

I used this weekly in some capacity or another, in a range of lessons throughout the curriculum. Sometimes, it has just been set up as a station for those who are ready for challenge/early morning work, with websites to SPAG revision, phonics games etc. We have even used it to upload the children’s actual work, be it writing, calculations or art work, so that it can be seen by others (parents, children, teacher) all in one place – a gallery of learning.

If you are already using it, I would love to hear about other ways you have used it, whatever your setting. If you haven’t, please let me know if you started using it and what you thought of it. My staff were really excited to discover this and have found it invaluable already. I hope it is for you too.  Happy blending!

Poetry By Heart Scotland: calling S4-S6 teachers and students

Poetry By Heart Scotland is a competition from the Scottish Poetry Library that gives students in S4-6 opportunities to learn by heart and perform poems from our specially curated database. Students compete at school, regional and national level, culminating in a final event in Edinburgh where they have the chance to perform in front of high profile poets such as Liz Lochhead, Rachel MCrum, Diana Hendry and Tom Pow.

Schools that participated in the pilot have told us that through the competition students improved their self-confidence and went on to engage with poetry on a deeper, more meaningful level in the classroom. It’s a great chance for the teachers too – an opportunity to run the school competitions and regional heats in a personalised way that responds to the needs and interests of their students. Registrations are currently open till the end of September and we’d love for as many schools as possible to participate this year, following our successful pilot in 2014-15. To date, schools have registered from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife, Aberdeen, Dunblane, Perth and Kinross; there is capacity for more schools in these regions and others throughout Scotland to join us.

The competition is completely free for all participants and the Scottish Poetry Library funds all related travel costs and prizes.

You can find out more about Poetry By Heart Scotland on the SPL website at http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poetry-heart-scotland or email me at georgi.gill@spl.org.uk – I’d be delighted to explain more, answer any questions or engage in general poetry chat!

Georgi

Eyes Down for Bingo!
June 18, 2015
0

Using bingo cards is something I’ve done since I was an NQT and I’ve always found it to be a useful way to test pupil knowledge of characters or quotes. It’s simple enough to include a group of either on the cards and then call out a clue which the class have to decipher in order to cross off enough to get a line or full house. It’s fun and as a simple knowledge test, reliable but it can take up a lot of time both during the lesson and in the planning stages.

Recently I’ve been thinking about developing the quality of the content as well as making it more focused on pupils taking ownership of the game. Most recently with Year 9, I was hoping to embed their knowledge of the characters at the beginning of a unit on Romeo and Juliet (particularly now that they need to have a much greater depth of knowledge with the new GCSE assessment approach) and ensure that they were able to link these with key quotes in preparation for a scene analysis of theme.

Each board had a slightly different layout to ensure that the whole class didn’t match everything at once but in order to foster a more independent approach; the pupils worked in pairs with a set of coloured character cards each turning over the cards and matching them to an appropriate quote or analysis point. As you can see in the pictures, cards can be laminated and two coloured highlighters can be used too. Wipe clean and reusable!

This format is so versatile that it can be developed from Bingo to Connect Four according to the rules that you set as a teacher. It can be used as an indicator of gaps in knowledge or as a springboard to prompt further and more detailed discussion. Rather than having simply characters and quotes, the boards can be developed to include analytical statements about characters and events which pupils must discuss before ‘marking’ or blank squares can be left in order for pupils to add their own thoughts. Used as an individual or paired task, for a quick warm up, plenary or as a revision tool before the exam, it never gets old. Let’s face it, the novelty factors will always be there. After all, who doesn’t love a good game?

Cross-posted from The Ramblings of an Enthusiastic Teacher

Using a short, silent film to stimulate independent learning, discussion and writing

I was really delighted to be asked by Pedagoo to explain how I would use this short film to enliven learning in my classroom. In this post I am mindful of how to harness the abilities of our visual learners. By using this visual text my aim is to generate extended thinking and learning and to encourage engagement with the writing process. I was inspired by David Didau’s hexagonal learning (Solo taxonomy) strategy to create genuine pupil-led independent learning and to find some evidence that this, often alchemical aspect of teaching has taken place.

Activity One
1.Watch this short film prior to showing it to your class. It lasts for 7 minutes.

2. In the classroom you might PAUSE the film mid-way when the little girl is resolute that she won’t accept the boy’s charity. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT ?– cue class writing activity… Five minutes of writing

Join in with this activity teachers !

The whole class including you writes the story. Write frantically, announcing an amnesty on spelling (just for this activity). What really matters here is that ideas are being blasted onto paper. After a strict five minutes, (set a timer) everyone must stop. Then enjoy reading all of the weird and wonderful responses this writing generates. Don’t be precious, read yours out too and accept the fact your pupils may be a little ahem… underwhelmed !

Leave it there fizzing with potential for next time. Your pupils will love this unrestricted burst of writing. Deliberately don’t be too prescriptive about using certain vocabulary banks in advance, see what your students will try, what might flow.

3. Don’t forget to read lots out even if it’s only a paragraph or two – then watch the film to see who the future script writers might be in your class !

Activity Two
Hexagonal Learning – Independent Learning using this visible thinking strategy and discussion tool.

  1. In groups of 4-5 pupils list the narrative moments in the film on hexagonal post-it notes. One event/word per post-it note. Ideally you would use lots of different colours and link the colours to the content.
  2. The pupils then list some of the themes they think may be emerging in the film.
  3. Together the group joins the hexagons up and discusses why they are placing them in a particular order.
  4. The hexagons are photographed and then using Bluetooth or other alternatives are linked to the classroom white board for all to see. Two members from each group go to the board and explain the connections they have made collectively, their decisions and the group thinking to the rest of the class. See below for an example:

Untitled

Figure 1 Hexagonal Learning using Hexagonal Post-it Notes

This activity ensures that pupils, come up with ideas, lead the discussion and make decisions and links independently.

You could also use a template, depending on your class and the ability ranges, where you direct the learning and the pupils develop the initial ideas. I would use this sort of template below, which is a PowerPoint that can be tweaked according to whatever you are teaching. I would have at least 20 prompts on the hexagons. Print and cut the hexagons out, for longevity you may also wish to laminate them. (Do this while they are still in sheet form and use the school, paper guillotine for cutting out.)

Untitled2

Figure 2 Hexagon Generator Pam Hook
pamhook.com/solo-apps/hexagon-generator

Cleaning your work
How to wash

Hi all!

This is my first ever blog about teaching! Please apologise for my ramblings – if anything is unclear then don’t hesitate to tweet me @MrRDenham . Or even better, if you have a go at this, then tweet me some pictures to the above handle.

Context of the class:  Students have come a long way in recent times. It is the first time we have seriously considered entering a set 3 class into higher tier – normally only sets 1 and 2 get this chance. School has had the mantra of ‘safety in numbers’ when it comes to getting a C. Thankfully, this all changed now we are measured on progress. A change I am really glad of. Now the whole school has to focus on all students. Not just the ‘C’ grade ones. Students in this class range from an E to a B (got high hopes for one girl even getting an A) so differentiation is key.

Cleaning Your Work! The idea came to me when driving home… I felt that I was banging the same old drum with my year 10 class when it came to successfully analysing thoughts and feelings within a text: look at a text; show good examples; they attempt it; we mark it; I mark it; repeat! This was becoming very monotonous for me and the students – some were not excelling. I needed to attack this at a new angle.

The task:

The task involves students reading a text and then answering a question on it – developing sustained responses. We were answering a ‘thoughts and feelings’ style question. Using the washing up instructions provided by me, students had to ‘clean their clothes’ and create great examples of text analysis. They were tasked with creating 5 clean clothes. Along with this they had to purposefully create 2 dirty clothes – these were rubbish examples. I recommended they took out a step from the ‘washing instructions’ to help them achieve this. I feel that the latter part was the most successful for lower ability students as they were now able to recognise what a bad answer looks like. They were having to think how to make a bad piece of work, rather than concentrating on creating excellent examples and stressing themselves out with keeping up with the rest.

How to wash

How to wash

During the washing process, I also provided washing up ‘tablets’ to enable students to break away from just saying ‘suggests’ all the time. Like when we wash clothes, we lose a tablet to the process, thus eliminating a ‘suggest’ word. This helped them to increase their vocabulary and enabled them to stop their work sounding repetitive (C – E grade students were struggling to get out of this habit).

Then it was…walla – peg, or throw out (I used my working board to stick a bin bag on – always find that it’s good to have a blank display for you to use in class) your work as you go along.

Bin bag used to get rid of dirty clothes

Bin bag used to get rid of dirty clothes

These are two 'clean' examples pegged out to dry

These are two ‘clean’ examples pegged out to dry

To finish we stuck our work into our books: 1 clean, 1 dirty. They had to then reflect and state why the clean work is ‘clean’ and the dirty ‘dirty’, once again reinforcing their exploration in the lesson (it took us two x 50 min lessons to achieve this).

Reflection

Reflection

Note: During the final lesson of the week we did a ‘mock’ exam to help consolidate their learning further – a number of students requested the tablets to help them. If you have read down to here… then I thank you for your time. Hopefully this blog isn’t as bad as I fear! ENJOY YOUR WEEKEND FOLKS – I’M OFF TO MARK THEIR (AMAZING) WORK!

Sentence Pong

I recently blogged about Moosing about, a table cloth I used with my Year 7 SEN Class. The ideas and stories generated from this were fantastic and it really helped them with their paragraphing however they all started pretty much the same way- The, Then, I and She/He.

So I decided my class needed to do some more work on making their sentences interesting and the thought processes/ editing that takes place.

This is where Sentences Pong comes in, I have used ‘sentence roll a dice’ exercises and I have a few laminated boards in my classroom with mixed success. So I decided to cut up the boards and put them into yoghurt pots and then students could throw a ping ping ball into the pot which would generate a sentence opener/starter.

This is how it worked

Before the lesson

  • I cut up sentence criteria for example use alliteration, a metaphor, simile, indicate a location, personification ( If you Google sentence roll a dice activities some fantastic ones pop up)
  • I put them into the yoghurt pots

Start of the lesson

  • Went through the terms with the students to refresh/ recap what the terms mean and why they are used
  • Explained the classroom rules and that if there was silly behaviour with the ball then they would not participate

Sentence Pong

  • Students ( I only have 8 in one SEN class and 6 in the other) throw the ball and aim for a pot
  • Once landed in pot, the group stopped and came around the table
  • As a group they then came up with a sentence, I then wrote this down

As the game went on, they decided they didn’t want to do it one at a time and instead wanted to write a few sentences together, they worked collaboratively and generated some fantastic creative writing.

I have now typed up the writing that was on the table, so next lesson they can D.I.R.T and write their own paragraph using the techniques used during the group lesson (they will have the sentence openers/starters grid with them).

I really enjoyed this lesson and so did my class as for once on Friday P5 they were not rushing for the door to leave 🙂

IMG_0173[1]

Moosing about!!

This is by FAR.. the BEST 80p I have ever spent!! and this lesson had me hanging off the edge of my seat…. but also in fits of laughter!! and turned out to be one of the highlights of my Y7 (SEN/LA) class.

I was reading numerious tweets about #poundlandpedagoo and decided that I wanted to go on a hunt and track down all the bits and bobs I had seen. So off I went and got the post it notes and eggs etc and then I found this… an 80p party table cloth (from Wilko).

So… how I used it! I simply put across the table and gave each student a multi link and advised them that today we were going on a journey… where we went was completely up to them….

This is how I set it up…..

  • Students placed their counter on a location
  • Then roll the dice and move across the squares in any direction
  • They then need to describe the journey, surroundings, use 5 sense, adverbs, adjectives and to try and create a vivid image and engage their audience (me and class mates)
  • Students were peer assessed throughout, as class mates could hit the buzzer if vocabulary could be improved, sentence could be improved or if they had any questions.
  • On some of the squares I had placed prompt cards- if they moved to one of these they had to include this in their story
  • I also had a buzzer that sounded like a klaxon, when I pressed it ALL students had to include what ever I said into their story (a text message- used laminated Iphone post it notes, seeing something or simile/ alliteration etc.)
  • All the sentences (mainly in green) are the fabulous sentences, vocabulary that my class generated. They then copied these into their books (some drew little pictures) so they could be used when they start to write up their story next lesson.

The students really enjoyed the lesson, they stretched each other, engaged each other and I was able to listen and be transported into their stories.

This could be easily adapted, as students could create their own table cloth.

 

Moose Moose

 

Moose  Moose

 

Snakes and Ladders

Revision and reviewing does not have to be boring… it can simply be a game!

My Year 8 class (SEN/LA boys) have been working extremely hard to not only recap the poetic techniques they learnt last year but also locate them in the poem and construct PEE paragraphs. Their assessment is to compare two poems (Hard Frost and Winter)  the class started the comparison by completing an interactive Venn Diagram and this brought up gaps in their knowledge and ability to lengthen their responses.

I could have made a work sheet got them to complete a table but I wanted to do something different, where I could sit and listen to their answers…. SO I came up with this.

Its really simple (buy and outdoor snakes and ladders game- this one is from Amazon) put questions on as many squares as you like and then play Snakes and Ladders.

I chose to use the questioning stems from the thinking dice and then the students generated 10 questions of their own relating to the 2 poems (these tended to be questions that they still had about the poems).

Students then played the game, answering the questions they landed on. The rest of the class listened to the answer and told them whether they were right/wrong or needed to add more to their answer. If a question arose that they could not answer, we then paused the game and had a class discussion ( some of the questions became the starters for the following lesson to check).

My class played the game for a whole hour, and were thoroughly engaged, answered the questions in FANTASTIC detail and really stretched and encouraged each other. It was a delight to witness.

 

Snakes and Ladders Snakes and Ladders  board

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