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Using stories to support numeracy – Collette Collects – a picture book for number bonds…

It is always good to have a bit of a project for the school holidays. My October holiday project probably should have been having a big tidy-up or finding someone to clean the guttering, but instead I decided to finish writing and illustrating a picture book.

This was quite a significant project as I am not a writer and I have only just started learning to draw but I have been writing this book, through various iterations, over the past 6 months in response to a need I identified while teaching.

As we all know, learning your number bonds is a really helpful stepping stone toward improving your mental maths. If you know what numbers go together to make 10 then you can immediately access a whole load of other number facts.

If you know without a moments hesitation that 7 + 3 = 10 then you can quickly see that 70 + 30 = 100 and

700 + 300 = 100 and

13+7 = 20 and

53 + 7 = 60 and so on…

However, for some kids, retaining these number facts is much harder than it is for others. Having tried to teach these facts every which way I could think of, some kids were still struggling, but I knew that some of those same children could tell me every detail of a story I had told them.

So I decided to try writing these facts into a story.

The book is called Collette Collects and it is about a wee girl who likes to make collections of things. She doesn’t really mind what she collects but she feels that for a collection to really be a collection it should have 10 things.

Last session I started to read (various versions of) this story every week before our regular mental maths activity and after a few weeks some of those children who had always struggled were shouting out the answers to the questions posed on every page and I started to see a slow but steady improvement in their number bond knowledge.

I have now created a complete, illustrated version and I am working with a group of class teachers in different settings and parents of children aged approx. 5 – 7 years to test and measure the impact of the book.

If you would like to use a copy in your school the book is available from both TES Resources and Teachers Pay Teachers. If you would be interested in taking part in the testing process, please contact me via twitter @MrsJTeaches or use the contact form below.

[contact-form to=’MrsJDraws@gmail.com’ subject=’Pedagoo Post’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

 

 

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.

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!

The Elephant in the Classroom #FabEduBooks

My favourite edubook is The Elephant in the Classroom by Jo Boaler. In the book Boaler talks about the mathematical progress of thousands of students from the UK and USA whom she followed over a number of years from school into their adult life. She also gives some great suggestions of ways in which maths can be taught better in schools.

I remember being skeptical as I didn’t want to read a book which gave you lots of data about what was working in schools and what wasn’t: I didn’t want to read a textbook. However, The Elephant in the Classroom managed to give you the information needed to understand the theory and ways to put this into practice whilst being captivating and informative. I had the book finished within a few days and I read it again this time annotating parts and taking notes for things I wanted to do in the classroom.

Back in 2010 two chapters stood out for me. In “A vision for a better future” Boaler sets out two different ways we can make maths more engaging and meaningful for pupils: a project based approach and a communicative one. As someone who had just finished a PGDE where the approach was to introduce the topic, explain the rules and have students practice them multiple times, I was intrigued to try out something different.

The other chapter was “Making ‘low ability’ children” which in no uncertain terms told me the system “tell(s) children from a very young age, that they are no good at maths”. I was shocked by the bluntness but after thinking about how we ‘set’ pupils from S1 by ability I couldn’t disagree. This started a love/hate relationship with me around setting – something I still think about.

Having picked up the book again to write this post I rediscovered another chapter which I’m going to re-read: “Paying the price for sugar and spice: how girls and women are kept out of maths and science”. I’ve recently spent a bit of time researching the social constructs of gender and how we use these in schools as ways to control behaviour and sort young people into groups. I’m interested to find out what Boaler said…back soon *opens chapter*


#FabEduBooks is supported by Crown House Publishing

Everyone who shares a post on their favourite edubook this September on Pedagoo.org will be entered into a draw at the start of October. The lucky winner will receive a Big Bag of Books from Crown House Publishing.

To find out how to submit your post, click on the following link: Pedagoo.org/newpost

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Area and Perimeter – Helpful resources

Kids struggle with this topic.  They find the area by adding all the sides and multiply to find the perimeter… Or worse they add then multiply in a complex calculation!  Now I’m not saying i’ve cracked it using the resource below my kids have spent the week wrestling with challenging questions that has had them deeply engaged and discussing the two to an extent that I hope will mean long term gain.

2015-06-05 16.29.14

Blank 100 grid game

I’m finding more and more uses for a blank 100 number grid and this wee game is fast becoming my S1’s favourite.  In pairs, pupils are given a blank 100 grid, two different coloured pencils and two dice.  They take turns to roll and what ever numbers they are given they have to draw a rectangle with those dimensions on the grid e.g. if they roll a 4 and a 3 they’d draw a four by three (or three by four) rectangle. Play until grid is complete – winner has most squares coloured in or for a twist – whoever draws the last rectangle.

What do the pupils learn from this?

  • Simple motor skills of using a ruler
  • Simple counting – it’s amazing how the really poor kids will draw a five by three instead of four by three because they don’t count the first box as “it belongs to the three boxes”
  • Timestables – kinesthetic practice of 4 x 3 etc.
  • Strategy – where to put the rectangles on the grids
  • Probability – some numbers come up more than others – so they say – investigations to be pursued!
  • Area of a rectangle – by default and without mentioning it for the first few weeks of playing the game… Bonus!!!

Extensions I have been mulling over and will look to introduce this week are:

  • Add the numbers instead of multiply to give area and pupils will have to decide the rectangle dimensions
  • Use of half squares
  • Don’t need to draw rectangles
  • The number from the dice (added or multiplied) has to be the perimeter

Here is a blank 100 grid sheet if you fancy giving this a go.

 

NRich Worksheet

With all the kids practice of area of a rectangle within the game it seemed appropriate not to get them doing a simple textbook exercise so I had a look on my hard drive and found this beauty of a worksheet:

NRich Website – Area and Perimeter

The kids worked in pairs trying to come up with rectangles and other shapes which would meet the criteria asked of them which resulted in far more practice of area and perimeter calculations than would’ve been carried out if they were doing a straightforward ‘find the area/perimeter’ type worksheet/exercise. More than that though; my kids showed great resilience and the ‘have-a-go’ attitude that I’ve been wanting to see for months!

They drew lots of shapes and started to think about half squares (I could’ve jumped on this, went off on a tangent and talked about Pythagoras’ Theorem but instead I just told them the length of diagonal was 1.4 and built the suspense of “we’ll learn how to work this out for ourselves next year”) and some kids got very creative with their shapes e.g. one pupil drew a robot where squares were removed from rectangle head to make area less without effecting perimeter.

They might not have twigged onto logical processes that some of their peers in higher sets would have; they were mostly using blind luck and trial and error but they were thinking about what they were doing and noticing some patterns and that’s all I ever want from my kids 🙂

All in all, they’ll probably still get mixed up between working out area and perimeter but they’ve had more practice using these two resources with not a bored sigh heard all week.  I’m calling that a success.

Class Economy
Image by flickr.com/photos/68751915@N05

We recently had a finance week at our school and in Primary 6 focussed on bank accounts and budgets.  This seemed like a good time to start Class Economy with my class.  Class Economy, is an idea that a colleague gave to me a few years ago and I’m sure many other teachers around Scotland and the world have used.  In our version, learners are given bank books and each week are ‘paid’ wages, bonuses for class jobs and gain interest on savings.  They also have to pay tax, hire their seat and pay fines for late homework and other infringements of class rules.  The children check each other’s calculations and sign off on them and roughly once a fortnight the class bank opens (run by them) and they can withdraw cash.  In our version, we also have a class shop where they can buy things small items like pencils.  This year when I told the children about the project, I also told them about previous businesses other classes had run.  They blew me away with how quickly they responded to this.  So far they have opened 3 hire businesses, an art shop, one shop and a face painting pop up for Halloween and I was presented with my first contract for a business who want to buy and sublet seats.  What strikes me most though is the excitement that can build up and the issues they have to deal with.  Some of them are saving and aiming to invest.  Some are starting to think about how to stop other people just pinching their best ideas.  They are already grappling with questions like: Should everyone in the business get the same share? How do they make their idea unique?  How do they promote their business?

Last year, one of the learners in my previous class, ran an event where he auctioned seats for a raffle and the excitement was tangible.  Some people were buying seats for huge prices, others waiting for cheaper seats, others still wondering what exactly people were paying for.  When I asked the learner, “what exactly are they paying for?”  His reply was, “it’s all about creating a buzz.”  He then ran a very successful event but had to deal with keeping staff on side and the reactions of others to his success (with help).

Play is often a great way to explore and learn.  I am new to this blog and am looking forward to exploring other ideas and approaches that people are using.

Teaching Numeracy Without Numbers…
October 11, 2014
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Image by flickr.com/photos/stewf

Well yesterday was an interesting day from both a pedagogy and an understanding point of view.  As a trainee it is all new to me so nothing has become boring or old hat yet.  I get a feeling of surprise in most lessons at what the children do or don’t get.

Yesterday’s numeracy lesson was Probability and Chance.  This is the first time I have attempted to teach any numeracy that did not have any numbers in and also possibly the most rewarding lesson I have taught to date.

Confusion reigned in the classroom – taking such an abstract concept as probability and trying to teach it to a high-achieving, logically minded Year 5 class was a challenge.  Could the children understand that we can use probability and chance to predict futures? This posed a challenge to their logical minds.  Used to performing calculations with a high degree of difficulty is was a challenge to understand the mathematical principles that underpin probability and chance.  Children could agree that there was a chance of certain things happening (roll of a dice, flip of a coin etc) but struggled to see that maths connection with the chances of something happening.  This then prompted an impromptu philosophical discussion on the likelihood of certain things happening.  Linking this to what the children could already comprehend was paramount – children could understand that there was a sliding scale of chance that events could happen but then could not apply this in a real-life context.  In the context of the new National Curriculum this is a vital skill, as we try to enhance the problem-solving skills of our children.  

This is where I took a different tack and linked the learning to something we had looked at in the previous literacy lesson.  The question then became “What do I want to be when I am older?”  By hypothesising about this we were able to look at how we can use mathematical principles to predict futures.  The default 10 year old boy answer of “Professional Footballer” could be dissected as we looked at how seemingly random events can change the path we tread.  Plodding carefully so as not to crush the dreams of the boys, we were able to look at how we use chance in every day life, from supermarkets stocking their shelves to planners building new towns.  Of great humour to the children was the fact that they may live for longer than me!

The real proof of the understanding came in their independent work.  Children were able to order events in terms of chance and look at how the chance of one thing happening could then effect the chances of something else.  After an initial struggle at the lack of number in the work it was amazing to sit back and watch the discussion unfold.

One interesting topic thrown up was time travel, I may have to invite Prof Cox into school to explain that one although looking at whether you would change age as you travel through time was a rabbit hole that I declined to go down on this occasion…

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