Category Archives: Expressive Arts

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

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


Nursery to P1 transition process

“The current interpretation defines education transition as the change children make from one place, stage, style or subject over time. For children, educational transitions are characterised by the intense and accelerated developmental demands that they encounter as they move from one learning and teaching setting to another.” (Moyles, 2008, p229). Transition is an exciting time for families, with children moving into primary school, they move to being a “big” boy or girl. Families trust us with their most precious possessions, their children. We are gifted a great honour to look after their children, to help them and join their parents in watching them grow.

The Education Scotland document on transition states that “parent participation is vital” and “relationships are key”. It is this that we must remember when designing and implementing the transition process. Which is no mean feat when faced with such a range of nursery options; children as of August may choose to arrange their 16 hours in anyway which suits them, mornings, afternoons, full days. When trying to arrange to meet the needs of every child in transition this is can very challenging. In a setting like mine, a rural school with no nursery, our intake can include many different settings, which adds further to the complications. Yet, within all this we must strive to keep relationships at the centre of the transition; and remember that transition is a process and not merely an event.

Education Scotland suggests we aim to create “pedagogical meeting places between pre-school and primary school” which understand and build on the nature and importance of early learning experiences and learning to ensure meaningful progression can take place. Certainly the projects I can shared on the Pedagoo Perth event have had a pedagogical meeting place which ensured that it not only benefitted the children transitioning into the class but also ensured progression for the children already in the class.

In term 1 of this academic year my class planned, organised and ran Rhyme Time sessions for the community. All P1 children and families for August 2016 were invited by invitation; and the community were invited through newsletters and posters around the locality.

The class planned 6 sessions over term 1, each with a theme, and each week changing the roles they took on during the Rhyme Time session.

The school benefitted by raising its profile within the community, and providing opportunities for parents and families to visit the school.

The class benefitted because they further developed their knowledge and understanding of syllables, rhythm and rhyme. It helped the children become secure in their knowledge of rhyming and popular nursery rhymes in a safe way – as we all had to rehearse for the day! It helped the children deepen their learning as they were teaching their skills to others. It gave the children a purpose to their learning and an immediate goal for their reading and literacy skills. All children took part in reading the story across the 6 weeks, including the primary 1 children, who had been in school 3 weeks by the first rhyme time session. The children even created their own rhyming songs to the tune of well-known nursery rhymes because one week’s theme proved tricky to find a range of songs to fill the session. Therefore this was a seemingly low risk activity yet had a great yield in terms of learning, confidence and leadership.

It helped the children transitioning into P1 next year because they have met their future classmates over a sustained period of time. Their first meetings were in a familiar, non-threatening environment with their parents, with the same routine each time and using songs, stories and rhymes they knew. The nursery the children attend use rhyme time songs and games already in their practice, so it ensured continuity in their learning.

My favourite moment of the Rhyme Time was at the end of a session, which ran to the end of a school day; the Rhyme Time parents and children had remained in the hall to chat as I got my class ready to go home. The P1-3 children ran outside and were immediately joined by the Rhyme Time children and took off up the playground. The parents stopped and chatted to some parents at the school gate, some parents were helping chop our willow dome. As I looked around all the children were running the length of the grass, from toddler to P7, dragging bits of willow dome to the compost heap. It was a true community. The parents were all chatting together watching the children playing together.

Previously we have used joint projects with Balbeggie P1, as we both receive children from the same nursery and partner providers, Education Scotland emphasises the importance of shared planning in the transition process, “shared planning, for example by developing a shared theme/project…could enable dialogue and a shared understanding of roles and progression.” (Education Scotland p11). We decided to do a mini-topic which we could focus on over two transition days and work on in class with our current classes. We chose Hansel and Gretel as a fairy-tale basis and both had a trail of breadcrumbs leading to a letter from the witch- who had mended her ways and was ever so sorry. But sadly needed a house as Hansel and Gretel had eaten hers! The children worked in vertical pairings to build a new house for the witch, using outdoor materials. We tried to do this as an outdoor learning activity but anyone who has been to Collace will know it is always windy, which was frustrating for the children whose marvellous creations were constantly being blown over- so we took the outdoors indoor!

Children then “sold” their houses to their nursery friends, in their own P1 setting attending a transition day at the other school, via a GLOW meet. The children showed off their houses like an estate agent. This gave the children a common experience to share when back in their nursery setting, “Creative teachers, it seems, are those who provide the kinds of contexts, opportunities and space for learning that are familiar to children during the last year of the Foundation Stage. For young children, transition to the classes of such teachers in Year 1 will be much smoother as a result of this kind of practice.” (Bruce, 2008, p179). Again this benefitted the children already in the class as we developed persuasive writing from this and used the initial experience for other learning experiences over the next few weeks. I would take this further if we did this again and use it over a full term, including more curricular areas such as maths and social studies; adding one or two more transition afternoons where we could GLOW meet and share our learning, “settings are encouraged to capitalise on the use of technology including online resources and support. Examples of opportunities for communication for children, parents and practitioners include…GLOW discussions, document uploads or engaging in GLOW meets…”

Last year we were lucky enough to take part in the Memory Box project run by a local dementia charity. It looks at memory and how important it is to us and our sense of self, thus creating a context in which adults could get to know children and what is important to them, “The most significant element in children’s learning at school is the teacher, or other skilled adults… the authenticity of such roles must depend on the authenticity of the learning context or enquiry.” (Bruce, 2008, p179). It encourages children to talk about their memories and creates opportunities to create shared memories. We used this as an opportunity to include nursery children in this project throughout the term. I visited the nursery and showed some of the memories my class had and worked with the children individually to create a memory book of all their nursery memories. My class created a box of memories with their parents, including pictures, photos and objects which all held special meaning to them. All perspective P1 pupils for the following academic year were invited alongside their parents to create a memory box in our memory sharing afternoon.

In fact perspective P1 pupils and their families were invited to many school events during the schools year; not only the Christmas play, carol service and sports day but charity events the pupil council were running such as Monster March where children (and parents) invented a monster for a local children’s charity.

As much as transition “is a process-not an event.” (Education Scotland, p11) certain events do become important in families’ calendars. Every year we hold a new P1 visit afternoon in the summer term where we traditionally focus on outdoor learning and a range of number and literacy based activities, this approach is based on active learning and play based strategies, Education Scotland document on transition states “Active learning should continue to be developed and supported in order to ensure transitions are as positive as they can be”.

As the Education Scotland document states, it is important for “meaningful progression to take place”; so as far as possible I plan these activities to progress into the first 2 weeks of school in August. For example this year I knew we would be doing a minibeast project in term 1 and would be focussing on poetry in literacy. Therefore we created a poetree as a class and used paired writing techniques to create simple poems, something which we built on in the first few weeks of school to create shared and paired writing haikus and other poetry. “There are two main strands to the transition to school: “settling in” to the schools in terms of getting to know people and the environment, and learning about learning in school. Continuity is the key to both these elements.” (Moyles, 2008, p229)

Similarly, many of the games in the P1 welcome packs which we give out on the open afternoon are also used in homework at the start of term to ensure some progression and continuity for children. This also gives us a chance to share expectations of learning with parents. Parents are invited to attend the last ½ hour of the welcome afternoon, where I share the P1 welcome packs, explain the games and show how these will be built on in the homework for term 1.

“Parent participation is vital in ensuring progression across the early level. It is important to support parents in developing realistic and positive expectations of what happens in primary 1, including supporting an understanding of active approaches to learning. This will in turn impact positively on children’s expectations of the transition.” (Education Scotland p10)

Part of our tradition of our welcome pack we also create a talking photo album and ask the children to add to it; this again involves the children in the class welcoming their new classmates and being involved in the process in a way which benefits both the new P1 children and the current class.

Designing and implementing transitions for 3 years now has certainly helped me transition into a better p1 teacher; although I would say there is still a long way to go in my transition process. I would certainly like to capitalise on our successes so far and hope to hold more rhyme time sessions in term 1 next academic year.

Using transition projects or themes which could run for a term such as the memory box would be beneficial for the future and is something I would like to further develop; again building on the success of the Hansel and Gretel GLOW transition. Although this does come with some practical difficulties in trying to match the learning needs of the children in at least 3 settings and finding a suitable project.

The Rhyme Time has taught me how important it is to include the children in my current class in the process; and so I would like to include them in running another enterprise project next term possibly involving our story sacks. Perhaps creating a story sack library and loaning them to perspective P1 parents.

This term our project is a book study on a selected few of Beatrix Potter’s stories; the children will create their own animal storybook as a gift for each of the perspective primary 1 pupils as well as a story CD of the children reading some of the stories.

Cross Schools In-Service Day

Two in-service days to break up the October to Christmas term! A welcome relief from the busyness and non stop work with all secondary pupils. For many of us – one of the most useful and helpful in-service days of the year! Every year Scottish Borders Council allocates one in-service day to be used as a cross schools subject day when all teachers from each discrete subject get together.

It is always a really helpful day for all teachers. In the past few years the Art and Design days activities have ranged from visiting artists and designers to visits from representatives from the SQA. This year, with a non existent budget and a prescribed focus on “verification and moderation” I decided to tap into the existing skills of the teachers we have within the region and use the time for a variety of cross marking and information sharing activities.

The day started with information from the SQA on standards for National 3 to Higher for both the course assessment and unit passes. I shared some of my National 5 written paper marking experience which we used to practice mark some papers using the Understanding Standards website. The afternoon consisted of both National 5 and Higher design and expressive folio marking. Each school brought a number of examples from last year, with the marks. They were pinned up and the marks put next to them, hidden underneath a sheet of paper. We used the SQA marking scheme to mark the units and then discussed the marks the units got drawing on the experience of a number of our teachers who mark both National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher.

It was a really beneficial day and great for cross marking, standardization, moderation and confidence that what we are all doing is going along the right lines! Long may it continue!

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 or email me at – I’d be delighted to explain more, answer any questions or engage in general poetry chat!


Arts learning resources from The Fruitmarket Gallery

The Fruitmarket Gallery is an art gallery funded by the taxpayer displaying exhibitions of work that are not for sale. The Gallery brings the work of some of the world’s most important contemporary artists to Scotland. We recognise that art can change lives and we offer an intimate encounter with art for free. The Gallery welcomes all audiences and makes it easy for everyone to engage with art. Gallery facilities include a bookshop and café. The Gallery is physically accessible and family-friendly.

As part of our learning programme, we produce free resources to help teachers, families and community groups to get the most out of each exhibition. Links to our resources are below.

The Learning Through Exhibitions series helps schools and community groups to explore exhibitions before, during and after a visit to The Fruitmarket Gallery. They can also be used for arts activities at any time alongside our other resources documenting the exhibition. Developed with artists and teachers, the series suggests ways to think with and through art and be inspired to make it. Creative Challenges are open-ended and adaptable to any age group. Covering artists including Louise Bourgeois, Gabriel Orozco, Jim Lambie and our current group exhibition of modern and contemporary Brazilian art Possibilities of the Object, resources cover curriculum areas including Expressive Arts, Literacy, Social Studies, Religious and Moral Education, Health and Wellbeing and Languages. Activities include dance, storytelling, poetry, drawing, sculpture, installation, music, film and photography.

Little Artists are activity sheets for families and primary school groups to explore and respond to the exhibition together. Activities include colour poems, storyboards and designing a display of sculpture.

Possibilities of the Object:

Stan Douglas:

Jim Lambie:

Tania Kovats

 Louise Bourgeois

 Gabriel Orozco

“I am very impressed by the learning resources available which accompany the exhibitions. They are comprehensive and motivating as well as being relevant to the curriculum.” Kathryn Malcolm, Teacher of Art and Design, Inverkeithing High School

A Takeaway Homework approach for Drama

Context – the many faces of Drama homework

I work in a school where lower school classes are timetabled two one hour lessons of Drama per fortnight. Our Drama department policy is to set one piece of written homework per half term which covers the topic explored in lessons.

I have found that the type and amount of homework in lower school Drama varies from school to school and ranges from written homework once a week in exercise books, the odd piece of research, practical rehearsal style homework to none at all. There is usually some correlation between this an factors such as how much curriculum time is given to lower school Drama, other pressures on the Drama department to directions from senior management. One discussion that we have had numerous times in department meetings is; if we can get away with not setting Drama homework, why bother at all?

It is my view, in the context of the school that I work in, that we need to be setting some kind of homework for Drama at KS3, not only to stay in line with the other creative arts subjects in our school but also to ensure that Drama is viewed as a credible serious subject by students, parents and dare I say, SLT! I know that homework cannot do this alone, but I think it helps. I also believe that it is important for those opting for Drama at GCSE to have had prior experience of writing about Drama and that KS3 Drama should prepare them for this.

The problem with homework

Rehearsal style homework at key stage three doesn’t work for us. We lack the space at lunchtimes and after school as we have a lot of GCSE, A Level and extra curricular commitment. So over the past 10 years we have strived to set meaningful homework which develops their knowledge and understanding of the topic they are studying. These have included writing in role and researching a topic.

More recently, we have started to adapt our homework tasks so that they are more useful to those opting for GCSE Drama such as annotating script extracts with stage directions or evaluating a still image.  All of these with varying degrees of success in terms of quality and submission rate. We have plenty of students who, without fail, produce high quality homework no matter what they are set. On the flip side, we also get those students who hand in scrappy bits of paper with two sentances written, copied and pasted pages form Wikipedia or none at all. Having to set homework detentions and following up missing homework and missed detentions was talking its toll on us Drama teachers as well as the students.

Takeaway Homework and Unhomework

Having got a Kindle for Christmas and with my New Year’s Resolution to read more, I found myself reading  #100Ideas For Secondary Teachers: Outstanding Lessons  by Ross Morrison Mcgill (@teachertoolkit) during January.  The links and mentions of Twitter in the book started my Twitter journey and online discovery of examples of #takeawayhmwk in practice. During February half term, I read #Unhomework by Mark Creasy (@EP3577) and I knew then that I wanted to completely overhaul our homework policy.

Designing takeaway menus that meet our needs

I knew that to jump from our very structured and undifferentiated homework to the complete and utter freedom of #unhomework, in the way that Mark discusses in his book, was too much of a leap for my department! Takeaway homework seemed like the best stepping stone to this ultimate goal.

I wrote a list of all the homeworks we set and arranged them into three categories; those that we set at the beginning of a topic tended to be research homeworks; those set in the middle of the topic tended to be development homeworks and those set at the end were evaluation style homeworks. As this gave me three categories, I decided to design three menus! My thought behind this was that I would design menus that could be accessed by years 7, 8 and 9 and for all schemes of work without the need to write a menu for each individual topic. Students would be guided to the appropriate menu by the teacher.

For this to work, I knew that I needed my department to be on board with the changes and when ‘homework’ appeared on the department meeting agenda, it sparked much discussion even before the meeting! I was relieved when everyone (including my good friend and colleague who was anti-homework!) showed enthusiasm for this new venture and began giving ideas for homework tasks and helping me redraft my first attempt.

The trial

The first year group to use one of the menus was year 8. The topic was Shakespeare and previously, they had been given a quiz style homework to find out facts about Shakespeare. This was actually one of our rare homeworks that had differentiation built in, with more able having more questions. This however, felt forced and still did not really give any choice to the student over what facts they found out.

The takeaway homework that was set for them was from the Ed’s Diner research menu with a choice of seven tasks to choose from and varying in difficulty. The first class I introduced this to looked utterly bemused by their assignment with comments such as “so what am I supposed to write in my homework diary?” and “so we can do anything?”. It took a little more explaining before the penny dropped and as they headed out of the door, they were discussing with each other what they were going to do!

I realised at this point, that the shift from traditional homework setting to takeaway homework would take a couple of months as each class becomes used to the style. But my hope is that next year, it is seen as the norm and the only instruction needed from me will be “your topic is Shakespeare, pick from Ed’s Diner, due in two weeks!”.

The outcome

I was pleased with the quality of homework that came back from year 8; there was a variety of tasks undertaken and it seemed to have sparked a real interest in Shakespeare from the students. There were, of course some students who did not hand anything in – mainly those who lack organisation and are notorious for not completing homework. However, we had a much greater rate of submission and quality overall.

I am currently experimenting with ways to celebrate their creativity effort in work that they complete. One strategy that I have already found effective was to get the students to peg their homework up on a washing line as they came in. They were able to show off what they had done and admire the work of others. It did also have the effect of shaming the one or two who had not really produced anything worthy and hopefully, it will encourage them to produce better homework next time. The plenary of that lesson was to find out a new fact about Shakespeare from someone else’s homework which they then shared before they left the lesson.

The future

Year 7 will be next to try out the takeaway homework menu on their topic; Greek Theatre in the summer term. As a department, we will evaluate the success of takeaway homework so far and also how we mark it, opportunities for peer and self assessment and how reward students for their efforts.


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Taking risks in the classroom/studio

Education very much these days is about getting it right, achieving and moving on. But when did getting it right all the time make for the best outcome?

Certainly in the art classroom and in the life of many artists and designers, getting it wrong can be as much a learning experience as getting it right.

Continue reading

Learning Rounds

I love watching other teachers in action. Their environments are usually quite different from the bedlam of the Drama class, peaceful, quiet and studious. I delight in the mix of academic and creative learning that is possible in a school and the way this is managed by professionals from a wide range of curricular areas. Yesterday I prepared for the visit of “others” into the Drama studio. They often find it alien as it is generally devoid of furniture and most written work takes place whilst lying on the floor. I think they liked what they saw. I hope they did. I did. I have always found it challenging to teach essay writing to senior pupils. I am not from an English background, as so many Drama teachers are nowadays, and need to approach these tasks practically. The pupils have explored the texts practically and then have to write essays – I think they need to see the link between the two disciplines, instead of viewing them as disparate entities. So, some flip chart paper, colourful pens, post it notes and the 5 plays being studied for Contemporary Scottish Theatre, the aim to work co-operatively to create the perfect 20 point essay in one 50 minute period. Pupils found quotes on destructive relationships in 4 groups (different coloured post it notes for each group) then chose went round marking the doublers and the best ones (hearts for Valentine’s Day!). We were then able to agree on the best 20 points and have, thus, created a pretty good exemplar essay for Higher Drama. It was the quickest period of written work ever. The best bit – 17 year olds getting excited about the texts, talking to non specialists about the themes and issues and then fighting over a praise sticker.

Paperless. Well, almost…

“It is important to remember that educational software, is only one tool in the learning process. Neither can be a substitute for well-trained teachers, leadership, and parental involvement.” – Keith Krueger

I wonder to what extent we agree with this quote from Krueger? Most definitely for me, technology and ICT has a huge role in enhancing learning and teaching within our classrooms. In my opinion, it should be an integral part of lessons, meaningfully delivered by great teachers and not something added on, to tick a box. ICT can, most definitely, enhance lessons for pupils but can it also help teachers to work smarter?

When Santa was kind enough to treat me to an iPad for Christmas, I must admit, my main motivation for choosing this particular gift was the possibilities it might provide within my Art and Design classroom and not so that I could waste hours of my personal life to Candy Crush or Netflix. My primary interest was in the use of Idoceo as a tool for tracking and monitoring, having heard so much about it from fellow art educational ‘tweeters’ south of the border. I hoped that this app might finally be what I’d been looking for in terms of a way to visually record pupil progress within Art and Design. Let’s just say I got a lot more than I bargained for…

Initially it took a wee while to get the hang of Idoceo’s functionality and the wide range of ways in which it can be used. I started by inputting all my class data for each year group, using the really helpful website tutorials as guidance. Very quickly, I was up and running and visualizing the power which this app could have in transforming learning and teaching within my classroom. On Day 1, I was keen to show off my new toy to my Higher pupils and explain how I was now able to photograph their artwork, essentially tagging this under their name within the class register. Pupils were keen to have their work photographed and it instantly helped capture their progress at a given point. This was helpful for me to later look back on and instantly see pupil improvement visually but also to aid feedback discussions with pupils on how to improve work and identifying next steps. As I became more confident, I was able to quickly work around other classes photographing their paintings, graffiti ideas boards, and recording evidence of learning. The app has allowed me to record written comments about pupil progress or to record video or audio feedback to aid discussions with pupils. I have yet to encounter how powerful this will be during parent’s evenings, however I have already found it particularly useful during a one to one meeting with a concerned parent. At the touch of the screen, I was able to easily show the parent the progress of her child’s Expressive unit and the areas identified as next steps.

I have now found myself using the Idoceo app to record attendance, homework and test scores quickly and easily. Tonight I sat and did my planning for the week within the schedule for each class, and my paper planner has literally become defunct. At last week’s staff meeting I swapped my notepad and colourful gel pens for my iPad and challenged myself to use technology instead. This actually saved me time because I was able to quickly email my notes from the meeting to absent colleagues within the department instead of then spending another 10 minutes typing up an email. I now write my daily ‘to do’ list within the app and can set reminders for specific classes. Last week, I also purchased a lightening to VGA adapter and this has further opened up the possibilities as now I can use my interactive whiteboard to project my iPad for all pupils to see. This came in handy last Thursday when I had prepared a range of visual resources to inspire pupils and added them as a note to the class pinboard within the app. I was then easily able to share this with the whole class on the projector as opposed to finding the images on iPad and then emailing them to my school account to access. My own next steps are now to uncover the possibilities for capturing all of this data and producing an overall pupil report which can be printed, saved or emailed to parents or staff in order to allow others to view and understand progress. You could say I’m converted. So much potential to not only effectively record pupil evidence and progress of learning but more than that, to allow meaningful discussion with pupils, parents and other staff in order to improve.

I’ll be the first to admit that for me it was a challenge to give up my notepad and coloured gel pens of which I am so protective off. Initially, I found myself doubling my workload by planning in more than one place; on both my iPad as well as a paper copy almost like a comfort blanket. I found it difficult to let go of my previous need to have everything written down on paper, however it really is amazing how quickly I am adapting. And once I was completely comfortable with the app’s ability to back up data to Dropbox, Googledrive or iCloud, I felt a bit more reassured. Now I feel like I truly am working smarter.

However, I suppose I’m still very much at the start of my journey towards being paperless. Whilst I can see the huge potential of an app such as this due to its ease of use and instant ability to record, track and monitor pupil progress visually, in video or audio format, I do however feel challenged by the assortment of systems we have in place for doing this. In today’s world, I think it’s vital that we are working smarter not harder, and are using systems which are integral to learning and teaching. Currently, within my department we use Seemis as a whole school tracking system, however we also have a departmental approach to tracking and monitoring as we feel the Seemis system does not work effectively or provide enough information for us as a department. Now I have found the possibilities of Idoceo, I feel that by far this is app is the most useful and effective form of tracking and monitoring for the department. But surely it cannot be productive to have three different systems in place? In addition, the obvious cost implications of using Idoceo as a department tool would require the purchase of iPads, however I am determined not to let that daunt us.

We still have lots to discuss, lots to try out and lots to learn before I believe we as a department are in a position to decide on our most effective method of tracking and monitoring. However, I do believe that whilst iDoceo is most definitely not a substitute for effective teachers, strong leadership and parental involvement as Krueger suggests, it is indeed a very effective tool in capturing effective everyday interactions with pupils. And that, in my opinion, can only be a good thing.

Hung out to dry: Your life in pictures

Nantes Triptych 1992 by Bill Viola born 1951

Bill Viola, Nantes Triptych 1992

Imagine a washing line stretched across your lifetime. One end of the line is tied to the hospital bed that you were born in, the other to your gravestone. – Use your mother’s ankle or an urn of ashes, if you prefer. Hopefully you get the idea.

Now, at the start of the line, and in chronological order – from your first to last breath – peg up every photograph of you that has ever been taken. Yes, EVERY photograph. Imagine that: Your life set out before you, swaying in pictures.

picsLee To Sang, Studio Portrait. Unknown image from Awkward Family Photos. Martin Parr, Weymouth 2000

Take a slow walk along the line reminiscing on your life suspended. There are lots of thought provoking questions to be asked, and not just “What was I thinking with that haircut?” but questions to make you consider photography in previously unthought-of ways.

Ok, social networking sites, most notably Facebook, already bring such timelines to life, but no wandering off task seeking digital ‘profiles’. These crowd-sourced trails – tracking and tagging you 24/7 – certainly raise plenty of lines for further reflections. But not now. Read on; this is an exercise in your imagination. As a young photographer, it’s your most valuable asset.

erwittElliot Erwitt

When does a conscious relationship with photography begin?

Photographs, courtesy of hospital scans, might have existed prior to our birth but the chances are we did not strike knowing poses. With time we have graduated from passive subject matter to willing (or unwilling) participants. Stood before a wide range of recording devices, we have been coerced, encouraged, directed, cropped and temporary blinded. Not to mention the subsequent consequences: processed, developed, downloaded, uploaded, adjusted, manipulated, tagged, shared, treasured and trashed. Photograph a child of 3 or 4 years old today and a request of ‘can I see it’ will undoubtedly follow. In almost every instance they will be proud to recognise themselves. In a child’s eyes that singular portrait exists within an immediate, uncomplicated moment. But regarded later – suspended on their imaginary timeline perhaps– the same image becomes loaded with significance.

Memories, hopes, and fears can swell and circulate around a photograph. Each suspended moment has the potential to take on new meaning as time passes, reframing and re-contextualising as it goes.

wearingGillian Wearing’s Self-Portraits 2003 (using prosthetic masks)

Consider this: A parent of a four year old is looking at an image of herself (or himself) at the same age. Physical comparisons are inevitable. A parent will instinctively look for resemblances between themselves and their child, and obviously these could never be made prior to parenthood. However, over time, as the photograph is re-visited, more complex emotional knots can emerge. Memories from the past will tangle with hopes and aspirations for both of their futures.

Photographs do not only show something to us; they do something to us: A photograph challenges the viewer to consider the past in relation to their present, and in doing so can shape motivations, ideas and hopes for the future.

A conscious relationship with photography might begin at an early age – a child quickly learns that a camera records their image. However, over time a heightened awareness of the potential of an image emerges, and instinctively we strive to control it -constructing ideal scenarios with carefully selected locations, faking confident poses, fighting against undesirable portrayals by shrinking into the background, shielding faces or even refusing to co-operate with a photographer’s demands. These behaviours will be familiar to everyone – from our own past actions in front of a lens, and from our experiences behind it. It is an early lesson learnt, parallel to our growing self-awareness: The camera can be a powerful tool – welcomed and celebrated; treated with fear and suspicion. Young photographers, take note: Develop sensitivity to the behaviours a camera can provoke, and in turn you will be better equipped to negotiate, persuade and manipulate. Useful skills, particularly when it comes to dealing with people.

selfie_fakesCaught out:Fictional girlfriend ‘Selfies’

Our relationship with photography begins with that initial wink of a camera’s eye. When history – our own personal, malleable history – is first fixed as an image. For new photography students: A deeper consciousness awaits – studying photography should not only change the way that you consider past photographs, but also how you engage with the world itself. Your future timeline will certainly be richer for it. Now, imagine that.

This text was written to encourage KS5 Photography students to read and reflect on the role of photography within their lives. For teachers it might form the basis of a valuable group activity or discussion. The following questions may support with this.

Additional questions to provoke reflection and discussion:

  • When were you first confronted with a camera? What is the evidence of this?
  • At what points does your imaginary timeline hang low to the ground, weighted by the significant moments in your life that have been photographed?
  • How have the physical attributes of photographs changed over your lifetime? –The quality of print, the texture of the paper, the emergence of digital imagery etc.? How has camera technology evolved?
  • Which images of your life are by ‘professional photographers’ such as school portraits, wedding photos etc.? And do these have more, or less,‘value’ than the other photographs of you? (Are they technically more proficient? Do they lack the spirit or spontaneity of other more vernacular images?).
  • Which photographs have the most personal
    significance? Which most accurately represent
  • How might your individual timeline compare with someone else’s, such as a friend, a teacher, or a grandparent? …Or against wider contexts: compared across locations, class divides or cultures?
  • Is it important for a young photographer to reflect on the emotions and actions that taking a photograph can provoke in people?
  • Is it valuable for photography students to reflect on their own photographic histories?…To unearth their own family stories?

Do you study or teach Photography? This is part of a series of texts I have been playing with. Any use? Thoughts and feedback appreciated.