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Using Hexagon Learning for categorisation, linkage and prioritisation
Students at the International School of Toulouse studying the rise of Stalin using the hexagon approachStudents at the International School of Toulouse studying the rise of Stalin using the hexagon approach

Hexagon Learning Case Study: The Rise of Stalin

The ability to select, prioritise, categorise and link evidence is a valuable skill that students learn in History. It is also highly transferable to other subjects.

Using hexagons is a particularly simple and effective way of developing these skills, as the following case study seeks to demonstrate.

Historical Context

How Stalin was able to emerge as leader of the USSR against apparently overwhelming odds is one of the most intriguing questions which we study at IB Level. In the years that following the Bolshevik Revolution, due to a series of blunders and miscalculations, Stalin had lost the support of the party leadership: so much so that on his deathbed, Lenin dictated a formal ‘Testament’ describing Stalin as a liability who needed to be removed from his post. He was also hated by Lenin’s closest ally, Leon Trotsky, who was widely expected to step into the leadership position after Lenin’s death. Yet just five years later Stalin was undisputed leader of the USSR and Trotsky was in exile.

The story of how Stalin transformed his fortunes so dramatically is a great story revolving around Stalin’s treachery, cunning and downright charm. But the danger of this is that the essays that are then written become mere narrative, storybook accounts which do little more than provide a step-by-step account of the main events between 1924-1929.

The Hexagon Approach

After a study of the events culminating in Stalin emerging as leader of the party, I made a list of factors which could be used to explain why Stalin became dictator of the USSR. I then put these into my Classtools.net Hexagons Generator to create two single-page documents containing a total of 40 hexagons.

Stage 1: Selection and Categorisation

The class was divided into pairs for the activity. Each pair of students was given a copy of the first sheet of hexagons, which they cut up and started to organise on their desks into categories of their choice. This process, involving the categorisation of 25 hexagons, took about 20 minutes. Students were encouraged to come up with no more than five categories overall. They could also choose to leave some of the hexagons to one side if they were considered less important than the others.

We then spent five minutes comparing the different categories that students had identified. Each pair of students took turns to suggest one idea for a category heading until all the ideas had been shared.

Following this, I gave each students a blank sheet of hexagons. The challenge was to identify other factors which could help to explain Stalin’s rise to power and write these directly into the hexagons. After five minutes, each pair of students took it in turns to suggest an idea. If this was a valid (and fresh) idea, then the other students copied it into their pair’s version of the sheet, and the students who shared the idea were each given a sweet (we had a bag of these left over as a result of our ‘Rise of Stalin through sweet-eating’ lesson which had preceded this lesson!). This process was repeated until the students had run out of ideas.

Each pair of students then cut up this new sheet of factors and used them to develop their existing diagrams. In some instances this involved merely adding fresh evidence into existing categories. Sometimes though it involved adding new categories, or amending earlier categories.

Finally, each pair of students was given the second sheet of hexagons and the process of categorisation continued.

Stage 2: Linkage and Prioritisation

By this stage, the students had decided upon the main factors to explain Stalin’s rise to power, organised into key categories. Each of these categories could form the basis of a paragraph in an essay. However, it was still necessary to decide two things.

Firstly, students would need to decide in which order to deal with the points in each paragraph. It would not be enough to simply introduce the category title, then randomly write about each piece of evidence from the hexagons in that group. This is where the hexagons are particularly useful. The six sides mean that factors can be placed alongside each other in various combinations to highlight connections between batches of factors within categories. After students rearranged their factors in this way, they stuck them down onto sugar paper with a glue stick. They could then write the title of each category over each batch of hexagons, and annotate around each group of hexagons to explain why they were arranged in that particulary way.

Secondly, students had to decide how to connect their main categories together to create an overall thread of argument. They did this by drawing arrows between the factors and explaining their connections over them. For example:

“Economic problems in the country > created > Divisions in the party > exploited by > Stalin’s Cunning”

Stage 3: Essay preparation

The final part of the process was to use the completed diagrams as an essay plan. I photographed each of the diagrams and shared them with the students. Their task was to use the diagrams as the basis of their essay on “Why did Stalin become leader of the USSR?”. Each paragraph was to focus on separate categories of hexagons, and the points made in each paragraph should have some logical order and ‘flow’. Moreover, the order of the paragraphs should be dictated by the arrows linking the categories, with the opening sentence of each paragraph after the first one being based on the explanation over each arrow.

Reflections and Conclusions

The ‘Hexagon Approach’ worked very well. It steered students away from a narrative approach and into an analytical frame of mind. It helped them frame categories of analyis, build up their command of the material step-by-step. It provided them with the opporunity to easily change their initial assumptions, connect factors together both within and between categories, and give them a very effective basis of an accomplished written piece.

It is also a very simple approach that can be transferred to other topics and other curriculum subjects. All that is needed is an initial list of factors – contributed either by the teacher or the students – which can then be written into a blank hexagons template or turned into hexagons automatically using my Classtools.net Hexagons Generator. Thereafter, all that is needed is a pair of scissors, some sugar paper and a glue stick. And, ideally, a bag of sweets!

 

Class Economy
Image by flickr.com/photos/68751915@N05Image 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.

The Story of Planet Play
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Ten easy ways to demonstrate progress in a lesson
Image by flickr.com/photos/audiolucistoreImage by flickr.com/photos/audiolucistore

This post is a result of my two minute presentation that I recently gave at the Teachmeet at Acklam Grange School in Middlesbrough. It is one of those things that student teachers ask me all the time. How can I show progress quickly when I am being observed? I think that sometimes, people tend to over think this, as progress can be shown in a lesson very easily. So here are my ten easy ways to do this:

  1. Progress Clocks are very simple. Students are issued  with a template of a blank clock. The clock face is divided into four, each quarter represents twenty minutes of the lesson. The first part is to find out what the students know about a topic. This could be a completely new topic or one that you taught last lesson and are going to expand upon. The clock is revisited throughout the lesson and used a mini plenary check. Students use this alongside success criteria so they can see themselves how much progress they are making and what they need to do to achieve the next level.
  2. Mini Mysteries are used when you want the students to learn independently and demonstrate progress. In History, we use evidence packs that allow the pupils to work together in groups – good for differentiation. They are also provided with a key question. For example, “What was happening at Grafeneck Asylum?”. Students then have to come up with an answer and complete a concept map to show their thinking. This allows them to share their ideas with the rest of the group. Based on what is then discussed in the class, groups are given the opportunity to change their original judgment. The answer is revealed and students have to connect the event to their prior learning. I usually do this in the form of a piece of extended writing.
  3. Three Tiers of Progress. This is a visual way for the students to see the progress that they are making in the lesson. It can be a display board in the classroom or simply a template displayed on a power point slide. The board is divided into three horizontal columns, each column containing the title “Novice, Apprentice and Expert”. Students either have small pictures of themselves or just their name and move themselves into the category that best suits them at that particular time in the lesson. Students should be using the success criteria in the lesson to move themselves higher up the tiers – the aim is to become an expert in the topic by the end of the lesson.
  4. Progress Checker. This can be a laminated card that can be issued at any point during the lesson. It contains statements that allow students to comment on their progress at different points of the lesson. Examples of statements are  “I feel confident about my progress in this lesson because….”, “The thing that I have found most difficult in this lesson so far is …..”. Statements can be adapted for any subject. Students complete the statements in their book so there is evidence of clear progress.
  5. Are you making progress this lesson? This is best done with a smaller class or where you have the advantage of having a teaching assistant with you. It simply involves giving a red, amber or green dot with a marker pen in the student’s book against a statement that they have made. It is an excellent way to start the lesson. In History, I use it with the bell activity which is usually the key question. The coloured dot represents correct knowledge – red means totally incorrect, amber, some of it is right but it needs improving and green is correct. Students are obviously aiming towards the green dot somewhere during the lesson to show that  they now fully understand.
  6. Mr Wrong paragraphs. Students are given paragraphs that contain deliberate mistakes. This task is used to check understanding of knowledge or for spotting literacy errors. However, I often use it as a combination of the two as there is so much emphasis placed on improving literacy in every subject. This could be used to check for understanding of knowledge or used for spotting literacy errors (or a combination of the two).
  7. Enquiry Based Learning or KWL Charts. These are similar to the progress clocks in that they check what the students already know, what they would like to know by the end of the lesson and what they have learnt during the lesson. They need to be used in conjunction with the lesson objectives so that the right questions can be asked.
  8. Tactical Titles. What can be easier than having the student write a title in their book such as, ‘What I know now’,   ‘Pre-assessment’, ‘Draft 1’, ‘First attempt’? Students complete the relevant information under each title. The more they are used throughout their books, it becomes very easy to see that progress over time has been demonstrated.
  9. Exit Tickets. Most teachers will have used these in one way or another. Some use post-it notes for a student to write down what they have learnt during the lesson. Mine are a printed ticket for each students that are handed out towards the end of the lesson. They contain the titles, “Three things that I have learnt, Two questions that I would like to ask and one final reflection”. Exit tickets help with the planning of the following lesson as you can get a good idea of which aspects of the lesson the students did not fully understand.
  10. Marking and Feedback . I know – this is what we all hate the most!  Detailed marking is time consuming but I truly believe it is the best way for students to make progress. I use the system of including an empty yellow box after a piece of written work. I give feedback in the form of “What went well” and “Even better if ” comments. It is the responsibility of the student to act upon the comments given and make the improvements in the highlighted yellow box. The box also highlights the progress that the student has made. Students act upon their feedback at the beginning of the next lesson. We call this “DIRT” time – dedicated improvement and reflection time.

So there you have it. Ten easy ways to show progress in a lesson. I would expect that there are many more which we do on an everyday basis without even thinking about it. Why don’t you add to my list?

Gillian Galloway, Head of History, Acklam Grange School.

 

 

Switching kids on…
October 15, 2014
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Image by flickr.com/photos/mybloodyselfImage by flickr.com/photos/mybloodyself

Earlier this year I shared the outcomes of approaching a new topic with my S1 class differently. Basically, rather than starting the topic with the title, learning outcomes etc., we started with a discussion which generated questions…

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Once we have the students’ questions, we add in the experiences and outcomes and begin to bring together a topic together as a class. They then name the topic. This year it’s called ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Life’ - a fantastic title which I would never have come up with myself. What has really blown me away this year however has been their questions. The following questions are the ones they came up with which we were able to easily align to our experiences and outcomes:

  • What species are there?
  • Is there life only on Earth? How and why was life on Earth formed?
  • How was life on Earth found?
  • Why did humans evolve on Earth and not on Mars?
  • How did we change from monkeys to humans?
  • Could there have been life on Mars because there was water?
  • How does life continue every day?

However, for some reason we had a much greater variety of questions this year which left us with the following to answer…

  • Why do hammer head sharks have a hammer head?
  • What made the countries split up?
  • How do natural disasters like volcanoes, earthquakes and tornadoes occur?
  • How was the Earth made?
  • Could humans survive a meteorite hitting Earth?
  • How can animals survive in Chernobyl (Ukraine) and we can’t?
  • Where do deadly viruses come from?
  • Why were the dinosaurs killed through meteors?
  • How do viruses transfer to humans?
  • Will there ever be WWIII? What will happen if it does?
  • How does gravity work?
  • How do volcanoes erupt?
  • How far away is space?
  • What did space look like before Earth was created?
  • How does Earth stay together?
  • What will happen if meteors hit the Earth?
  • How did the Earth’s core get made?
  • What are the planets made from?
  • How big are all the planets?
  • How was the sun made?
  • What did space look like before the big bang?
  • Why is there no ozone layer in Australia?
  • Is there anything which could destroy Earth?
  • What if the hole in the ozone layer gets too big?

Wow! Remember, these students are in S1…which means they’re about 12 years old. Our curriculum will perhaps attempt to answer some of these over the next six years, but not all. How did we answer all these I hear you ask…well they each chose one to research at home and share back to the class as a homework project which they did brilliantly on Friday of last week. Not a perfect solution, but at least they had the chance of exploring at least one of these big questions and hearing from others about their questions too.

This whole process has really made me think…if that’s the questions they are arriving to us with, why is it so hard for us to make the space to answer them? Also, if we make no attempt to try and answer their own amazing questions is it little wonder that many of them eventually switch off to schooling? Imagine instead of being so obsessed with content in S1-3, we instead focused on those skills and attributes which we so wished our students possessed in S4 onwards? I’m not saying knowledge doesn’t matter, but I don’t think everything necessarily needs to be taught to everyone at the same time.

One of my favourite papers contains a much more complex version of the table below. Harris suggests that to get learners to see the purpose in, and even ‘own’, their own learning they need to be collaborators in the learning process:

Continuum of Learner Engagement (What) and how teachers can achieve these levels of engagement (How). Adapted from Harris (2010).

Continuum of Learner Engagement (What) and how teachers
can achieve these levels of engagement (How). Adapted from Harris (2010).

I love this idea and have been striving to find a way to make it a reality in my classroom for some time now. It really shouldn’t be that hard given that there is significant overlap between this idea and the capacities we are tasked with developing as part of the curriculum.

FourCapacitiesDiagram530_tcm4-715823

So, for me there seems to be a contradiction here. If we want our learners to own their own learning and develop the capacities we want them to have, we need to be able to allow them to be collaborators in the learning process. If they are to be collaborators in the learning process then we need to make the space to take their complex and challenging questions seriously as part of their curriculum.

Ultimately, if we want our kids to be switched on we have to somehow find a way of decluttering the curriculum and making the space for it to happen…

Cross-posted from fkelly.co.uk

Our learning journey in tracking pupils’ learning journey
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Our learning journey in tracking pupils’ learning journey and monitoring skills progression in the Broad General Education

The pipe band welcome to Preston Lodge was an amazing start to an amazing day. My colleague Alan and I were delivering our journey in trying to track learning in knowledge, knowledge based skills and soft skills through the Broad general Education.

The journey started 9 years ago at a weekend for pupils who were underachieving, at this point we were delivering master classes to support them. A maths teacher on a Saturday night was getting frustrated with the pupils and exclaimed “Think” at the assembled group. This “think” started the journey as to what do we mean by “think” what are we asking pupils to do? And how can we help pupils scaffold how to do this?

This led to myself and 2 colleagues creating a booklet in different thinking styles to support pupils

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With the implementation of CfE a few years later we started to look at both the knowledge and knowledge based transferable skills within our subject area (science). Through this we have gone through many different transitions of how to support pupils and reached a stage where we settled for the last few years. The success criteria grid that we produced and used links knowledge based transferable skills with content, but also allows pupils to track their progress using a star rating.

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This provides a clear progressive framework to show how they can move forward their thinking forward.

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Having spent about 18 months thinking about SOLO Taxonomy (Structured Order of Learning Outcomes), we are now moving into a SOLOesque type of grid which shows more progress in learning by linking ideas in a more visual way. We are trialling this at the moment with some  classes but we think it is a better way to support pupils learning and allow them to become more independent in their studying beyond the classroom.

Untitled6 However through all of these changes and refinements the need to develop a structure for social skills and transferable skills for learning and success kept nagging away at us. We have both been to the Co-operative learning Academy and were delighted by the experience but question why give social goals and then not monitor/measure/record these in some way? How do you show progress in soft skills?

This led to a small literature research after which we created a grid of the most common skills pupils could need in order to succeed both at school but also in life beyond school.

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After we had shared this with our faculty we decided to focus on one skill from each section this session. This led us to try to find ways to support pupils to recognise when they are using these skills and then also to measure where they are and what they have to do next in order to improve.

This became cumbersome quickly and a bit “ticky boxy” so on Thursday evening Alan produced a framework which we hope will move us forward.

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This framework is a work in progress as we now try to answer some bigger questions such as

What if we could teach students a common set of techniques and reflective questions, throughout the whole school curriculum, that will enable them to not only deal with the day to day challenges of life, but to motivate themselves to achieve their potential and succeed, regardless of their interests and ambitions?

The approach includes the use of Metagcognitive Question cards, geared around encouraging students to contemplate the processes they went through during the lesson on both a cognitive and emotional level. Alternatively, students could be presented with common thinking framework as part of their learning task, to help structure their approach.

One of the key problems with attempting to map out a progress path for certain transferable skills, is that they are by nature general and open to interpretation.  Therefore any attempt to create a definitive progression framework for judging ‘mastery’ of transferable skills is ultimately subjective.

Our initial attempt at a progression map has been based on a ‘start with the end in mind’ principle and attempted to work backwards from an ideal, to a fundamental entry point that opens with an initial consideration of the basics of the skill e.g.

Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 18.34.43The ongoing challenge is find a way to map activities onto these progression criteria in a way that retains the discrete nature, yet lays the foundation for further progress.

One of the ways we are now looking to demonstrating pupil progress is through the ‘motivational interview’ self-assessment approach. As the name suggests, we want to support pupils to monitor and track their progress thus making it more engaging and meaningful than teacher subjective opinion. Within this, two pupils who the teacher perceives to be similar, could ‘score’ themselves very differently, this is OK because the important thing is not the score but the “what are you going to do now?” for both pupils. And like SOLO, pupils can judge their progress by comparing their approach with clear models/or using techniques from different progress levels. This is a work in progress!

So that is where we have got in our thinking about how to support pupils learning of knowledge, knowledge based transferable skills and social transferable skills.

We would appreciate comments and dialogue to help us move forward in our thinking.

The beginning of a trend?
September 28, 2014
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On September 24, taxi drivers in London staged a 1,000-strong protest around Westminster.  Among their list of complaints included their concern over the growth in use of the smartphone app, Uber.  Uber allows users to book transportation using their smartphone’s GPS.  You can track the whereabouts of your cab as it heads towards your location, and, once your journey is complete, pay for your cab online: no money changes hands.

London cabbies are not the first to complain about the app, and Uber is not the only mobile internet-based service to come under fire.  AirBnB has been in the headlines rather a lot recently for causing ripples in the hotel world.  And no wonder: aside from tax and other regulatory concerns, their rate of growth is staggering.  It took Hilton hotels 93 years to build up a worldwide capacity of 610,000 rooms, while AirBnB beat it in only 4.

I guess the question is, are cabbies and hoteliers attempting to resist the irresistible: the tide of change brought in by the advancement in mobile Internet technology and by users’ changing preferences?  And if the Ubers and AirBnBs are to form part of a new economy, how are we investigating such ideas in our classrooms?

Uber and AirBnB could be classified as examples of disruptive innovation: ideas so appealing they completely alter an existing market, or they create a new one for themselves.  A number of emerging technologies and ideas fall into this category, including additive manufacturing, Internet of Things, collaborative consumption, complementary currencies, crowdfunding, biomimicry and Cradle-to-Cradle design.  Each of these has the potential to create transformational change; all will likely form a part of our futures.

For four weeks starting on October 20, the Disruptive Innovation Festival (DIF) invites you to investigate such ideas, and to contribute your own.  Aimed at thinkers, makers, learners, doers and systems changers, the DIF is interested in exploring systems-level change for our economy.

Change doesn’t happen without education.  We have lined up a handful of key thinkers to contribute to the DIF.  Included in our schedule is Sir Ken Robinson, Guy Claxton, Alan November and Oliver Quinlan, and we will also have key educational inputs from experts in the circular economy and biomimicry. More than that, we want YOU to get actively involved.  You can apply to run your own Open Mic session within the DIF; or quiz those who have already put themselves forward.  The philosophy is straightforward: anyone can get involved, regardless of age, knowledge or experience.  Participate as a learner, contribute by asking questions, create by applying to run a session.  Just visit thinkdif.co to get started.

We hope to see you there.

 

* Image sourced from here.

Take your class on an Online Field Trip
August 19, 2014
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I have been a primary school teacher for more than 12 years, with the majority of my career being in the one school. I have always been a keen cook myself and take an interest in where food comes from and how it is grown. In my current post I have also been the technologies co-ordinator – part of that role is being responsible for increasing the education of food technologies throughout the school. Throughout the years I have always found that some children’s knowledge of where their food comes from is lacking. For example (taken from a lesson I conducted about healthy eating):

Me: Where do carrots come from?

Pupil: From a tin, Miss

Pupil: My mum gets them from the supermarket

Me: Who likes potatoes?

Pupil: Not me, Miss

Me: Do you like chips?

Pupil: Yes, of course

Me: They are made from potatoes

Pupil: Really, I thought the supermarket made them

Some children are unaware that fruit and vegetables are grown on farms and think that they just appear on the supermarket shelves – and they have no other experience or knowledge to contradict that belief. These children are unlikely to go and visit a farm or farmers’ market, unless it is on a school trip, so will continue to have this belief.

Due to there being less money for trips in school, and also parents can’t afford to subsidise the trips, classes are less likely to be able to go and visit farms etc.

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However Tesco have launched their Eat Happy Project, and part of the resource is Farm to Fork Online Field Trips. These field trips are free and a great way for pupils to see how different foods are produced and supplied without leaving the classroom, while still giving them the real-life context of a visit and interacting with the people involved in the process.

The resources and activities before the event allow the children to gain some prior knowledge and background about the food they are learning about, changing any misconceptions about where the food comes from, and as they are already prepared, it isn’t any extra work for the teacher. They are fun activities that build up the children’s enthusiasm for the certain foods. I also created a homework task, where the children researched about the food, so they were also learning facts independently.

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The Online Field Trips themselves are interactive, using different methods of technology to keep the children interested and also engaging the children by allowing them to speak to the food producer. They also get to see other schoolchildren from different parts of the country.

The children get to pass round the food being discussed, as Tesco send a delivery to the school, they get to grow their own or make their own and then they get to take the food home, so they can share the experience with their parents and create a recipe.

My class took part in an Online Field Trip to a pasta factory in Naples, Italy. The children loved learning about Italy in the quiz prior to the event and then enjoyed seeing Guiseppe and Sam discussing the production of the different pastas – they were amazed at how many there were! This Online Field Trip was something that the children would never have experienced otherwise, as Scotland isn’t renowned for its pasta-making. The children took pasta and pesto home and we got to make our own fresh pasta as a class, as Tesco had provided us with all the ingredients. One of my pupils even made it with his mum at home from scratch! The children loved the experience of making it, just like Guiseppe!

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Prior to the Online Field Trip, we looked at the preparation activities; these fully engaged the children and built on their minimal prior knowledge, as they knew what Giuseppe was talking about when he discussed the different types of pasta.

The pupils loved interacting with Sam the presenter and Giuseppe, seeing the other schools and learning about pasta in such a fun and interactive way. We also took part in an Online Field Trip about mushrooms. The class took the mushrooms home and cooked recipes with them, some even brought back the mushroom dish for the class to taste. We also got sent ‘Grow our own mushroom’ kits.

I’d recommend this great project to any class who wish to learn more about healthy food and where it comes from. It’s free for schools and will ensure the children experience an engaging lesson whilst making great use of technology in the classroom.

Take a look behind the scenes at the Perfect Pasta Online Field Trip


The Eat Happy Project is:

  • a cross-curricular resource that fits into the experiences and outcomes of the curriculum and allows for children to gain a greater and more accurate knowledge of where food comes from and how it goes from farm to fork
  • fully inclusive for all pupils, whatever their learning abilities are, and can be adapted to different year groups and differentiated where needed
  • completely free, so doesn’t cost the pupils, schools or parents anything
  • suitable for all learning styles
  • a resource that encourages pupils’ interest in food, the health benefits and nutritional values that certain foods have, in a real-life context.
  • a resource that allows children to visit places they wouldn’t normally be able to visit, albeit virtually.
  • an easy-to-use resource for teachers that doesn’t involve time-consuming preparation time.

 

There are lots more Online Field Trips coming up in the autumn term:

Honey – 11 September 1.30pm

Sweetcorn – 18 September 1.30pm

Rice – 25 September (time TBC)

Broccoli – 2 October 1.30pm

Pumpkin & squash – 9 October 1.30pm

Baked beans – 6 November 1.30pm

Bread – 13 November 1.30pm

Potatoes – 20 November 1.30pm

Tea – 27 November (time TBC)

Clementines – 4 December 1.30pm

For more information about joining an Online Field Trip with your class or to use their fantastic free resources visit the Eat Happy Project website or follow them on Twitter @EatHappyProject

Cheryl Miller, P4/5 Class Teacher at Niddrie Mill Primary School, Edinburgh

Engagement in Deep Learning
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If we truly want to connect with students in ways that will activate them to be self-driven lifelong learners, then we must be authentic, deeply engaged learners ourselves. 

Deep learning is infectious and if the conditions are fertile, it will flourish.

Invitation from @fkelly

This post is a reflection on engagement in response to a recent Twitter invitation from Fearghal Kelly. As I am still a novice in the Twittersphere, with only a few months of tweeting under my belt, the invitation in the form of a Twitter notification from an animated squiggle with glasses was indeed a surprise! I approached this quite cautiously by doing some googling and was relieved and then flattered to learn more about Fearghal and the innovative pedagoo.org community of teachers that he has established in Scotland.

Let me share some of my own thoughts on engagement in deep learning with you.

Tweeting in the context of engagement

As part of my sabbatical research early this year , I focused on deep engagement in learning and I explored the ‘tweets’ that young children from the Manaiakalani Cluster of schools in Auckland, New Zealand were sharing with links to their personal blogs. I was particularly moved by a ‘tweet’ on Anzac Day, a public holiday in New Zealand, that linked to a blog post from a nine year old girl.

 This was evidence of learning happening beyond the classroom. I went on to count 228 tweets via @clusterNZ with links to personal blogs shared by learners across the Manaikalani Cluster of schools during the two week holiday period at the end of the first term of school. A global audience provides comments and feedback to these learners who are motivated to continue their learning beyond school hours. The presence of positive motivation towards a learning task markedly increases the likelihood of students engaging in deep learning (Groff 2010).

Personal Learning

I decided that if young children could willingly share their learning via tweets and blogs, then I needed to take the plunge and do the same. I googled how to tweet and create a blog and I have continued tweeting @jennyljackson and blogging ever since. 

Without realising this at the time, I was moving out of my comfort zone into the ‘unknown’. I was also reconnecting and engaging as a learner. I  was pushing my boundaries beyond the surface and digging deeply within and stirring my dormant authentic self.

The reality is..

In the busyness of our day to day lives, rushing to and from work, going to meetings,caring for our families, a little bit of our authentic ‘learner’ self gets lost along the way. No matter how emphatically we articulate our dedication to being model lifelong learners, we inadvertently lose some of the passion, motivation and powerful love for learning that drew us into our teaching vocation in the first place.

The incessant demands for accountability in our workplace can mean that we engage at a surface level, in survival mode with our teaching and learning. This doesn’t mean that we are doing poor jobs but it does mean that we have the power and potential to greatly improve the learning environments that we are working in.

Instead of frantically searching for the latest programmes, trends and ideas to engage learners, I believe we need to start by looking inside ourselves.

But how?

Last term, I gave our staff a sabbatical from staff meetings. I wanted to give them back some time to play, explore, learn and let their creative , innovative juices flow. I shared the Eduardo Briceno video that linked to Carol Dweck’s  ‘growth mindset’  research and gave our staff the precious gift of time. 

Although I had shared my personal learning with them, I had no expectations about their own learning during the ten week term. Yet, within the first three weeks of the term, staff and students began to explore blogging. Although some staff members already had class blogs, the proliferation of new blogs generated a collaborative community of bloggers,supported by our school Facebook page and website. Suddenly, the rich learning experience that were normally privy to teachers and learners became tangible to families beyond the school walls. 

It wasn’t the blogs alone that engaged the families but the passion, enthusiasm and self-motivation that oozed from the very creators of the blogs. 

What next?

This term, we have ‘ditched’ the word ‘meeting’ from our calendar.We believe that if we are to truly engage our students in deep learning, we need to be experiencing this kind of learning ourselves. We agreed to replace the word meeting with the term ‘taonga’. A taonga in Maori culture is a treasure. We believe our love for learning is indeed a treasure. You have to dig deeply to find a treasure.That means we have to continually dig deeply within ourselves to reconnect with our passion and love for learning as educators. Engagement in deep learning is infectious and if the conditions are fertile, it will flourish.This is indeed the message from my  video.

ScreenHunter_80 Jul. 01 20.11

For the past few months, I have been reviewing chapter by chapter the inspiring book Open: How We’ll Work, Live and Learn in the Future by David Price. Price continually refers to the merits of going ‘open’ and the fact that businesses and institutions are more innovative and successful when they create informal, social networking environments for employees.

One of our teachers has innovatively created a blog for staff development. Lorraine Frances-Rees explains, “Why don’t we do all the reading and understanding before the meeting and then do the important stuff together – the conversation, the creation, the collaboration? Without permission and time to explore, I wouldn’t have had the impetus to do this. In fact I already had the meeting prepared with a PowerPoint guide. But I had the space to think about how I want us to learn and what I would need to do myself to make this happen. So I created a Blog.”

As a result, the ‘taonga time’ is more focused and purposeful and the time together is reduced by half.

When we create collaborative cultures of educators deeply connected to their own passion for learning, then we are well on the way to engaging our students in deep learning for success.

 If we truly want to connect with students in ways that will activate them to be self-driven lifelong learners, then we must be authentic, deeply engaged learners ourselves. Deep learning is infectious and if the conditions are fertile, it will flourish.

 

Grouping Pupils
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Seating Plans are something that can take seemingly endless amounts of time and effort, particularly if you are going to include data for observers. I have often found that I have over-thought seating plans and they haven’t really worked, so I decided to take the thought out of it and develop a seating plan generator.

The first thing I decided to do was rank my classes based upon recent assessments, and use that to create groups of even ability. I split my classes into bands of 8, and put one from each band in each group. I realised that there was a systematic way that I could do this, and have a selection of different groups that still follow these criteria. I developed a set of group cards(see group cards 8 below) that I could assign to the pupils, that would allow me to group the pupils in 4 different ways, where if all groups were used, no pupils would work in the same group twice. I developed a spreadsheet(see blank groups 8) that showed the seating plans in these groups in a mode friendly for observers and a separate mode friendly for pupils when they change groups.

Group cards 8

Blank Groups 8

I have since developed it further to include an element of competition between groups. I used a points system to assign points to each group, each lesson. This led to more responsible behaviour, as a sense of “not letting the team down” set in. After complaints of unfairness, I added a random name generator to the spreadsheet, which allowed me to ask a targeted question to a random member of a particular band. I reward the winning group with school reward points at the end of each lesson, and enter each groups points on my spreadsheet. The winning group over a topic get more reward points, before switching to the next set of groups. My spreadsheet also totals up each individual’s points that they have earned in their different groups and gives an overall winner once all 4 groups have been gone through. This overall winner is rewarded even more and celebrated as a consistently good team member within any of their groups.

I have also developed sets of 7 groups and sets of 5 groups for smaller classes. For these, I was able to do more groups, and it gives you the opportunity to move on to the next group if the seating plan is not working.

This is something that has worked for me, feel free to try it, amend it and give me feedback.