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The Zone of Relevance…explained.
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On a Friday afternoon I often share teaching resources on Twitter, like many other teachers do, using the hashtag #PedagooFriday. The Zone of Relevance resource generated a lot of interest. I was contacted by teachers asking for further explanation and asking questions, which is understandable as 140 characters can be very limited!

The Zone of Relevance works best with GCSE and A-Level students because it is very useful to complete when preparing and planning an exam answer. However, it can be used with other year groups and across the curriculum. The idea behind this is that students recognise what information is relevant for a specific exam answer and essential to achieve exam marks. It also helps students prioritise information. This task supports students to understand what they should and should not include in their answer. This will highlight what information is irrelevant to that specific question to prevent common mistakes being made.

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The example I have included is from a Year 10 GCSE History class. The question asks how abolishing the death penalty was a turning point in punishment in the 20th Century. We discussed this question as a class and then looked at the mark scheme success criteria. Students then filled in the outer circle, it also works with concentric squares too. The largest zone must be for the relevant information, as that is most important because it is the content of the answer. Students include the relevant information with supporting detail and justification. Then in the middle zone or section students included extra information they could add to their answer such as examples and stats etc. The final and smallest zone was basically what not to do! I was able to help students with this, based on many common mistakes I had come across over recent years marking exam answers! Students can also refer back to previous exam answers and learn from mistakes they had made. For example, students would often express their views on the death penalty despite the fact the question didn’t ask that or offer any marks for that either. The question also specifically asked about England and Wales, yet students would write about the USA where again there were no marks available. The question was asking about the 20th Century so discussion of any other periods were not required or rewarded.

This activity can be done individually or in groups. In groups with a larger template works well as it promotes discussion, decision making and working with others. It can be a great plan for students to refer to when completing exam questions, either in the classroom or at home. It helps students understand and identify what the exam question is asking and what information is required. Many teachers may have used this idea before or in a different style but I recommend it as a revision activity! This activity also works well accompanied with highlighted notes, to include in the relevant sections. You can download the template for free on my TES page here. It might be too late for some of your exam classes or perhaps just in time!

Bringing Children’s Rights into the Classroom [Scotland only]
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Are you looking for a way to incorporate Getting it Right for Every Child into your classroom?

Child Rights Launchpad by Unicef UK aims to help you do this. Launchpad is a ready-to-use, Scotland specific resource that promotes learning about rights and supports the Curriculum for Excellence. It covers all 42 articles of the UNCRC directly relating to children and, best of all, this award-winning resource is completely FREE to use!

Don’t just take our word for how good it is, the resource is currently being used by teachers all over Scotland and they’ve been quick to praise Launchpad:

“We have introduced all our S1 pupils to Launchpad and it has definitely increased the pupils’ knowledge of Child Rights.  One great aspect of the resource is its focus on personalisation and choice.  I have also found it a helpful reference as a teacher and have used it to look up information on specific rights which I have then used in my lessons.”

Mrs. Hoyle, Teacher at Douglas Academy, East Dumbarton

See what other teachers (and children) had to say about Launchpad in this short video:

 

What to expect?

Launchpad is designed at three different levels, broadly aimed at the following age bands:

  • Level 1: three to seven-year-olds;
  • Level 2: eight to 12-year-olds; and
  • Level 3: 13 to 18-year-olds.

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Example of the site’s content.

At each level the ‘missions’ follow the same format. The exploration begins with an introduction to the right, before considering it in a Scottish context. The focus then switches to an international setting, exploring how the right is enjoyed in one or more countries around the world, followed by a related activity. Finally, the ‘mission’ is finished with an interactive quiz and a star for the ‘Super You’ character. After six missions each child or young person receives a certificate.

Detailed Guidance for Adults is available on the website- this will provide you with all the information you need about the resource. It’ll also help you to plan how you use Launchpad in your lessons.

Creating your free account is incredibly easy, simply follow this link, We’re confident that you’ll be glad you did – just remember to encourage your colleagues to create their accounts too!

 

Sport Education Model
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I got the idea to try out the Sport Education from my departmental PT as he wanted to see how it worked, so I thought why not a give it a go? What can go wrong? I can can only learn more and take it forwards!!

What is Sport Education, and why use it?

Sport Education has shown to provide the possibility for better learning and social experiences for all learners through a learner-centred approach of teaching. Sport Education was produced to provide learners with an inclusive, encouraging and entertaining experience within sport. This is created because Sport Education allows teachers to assist and guide students to construct their own learning experience, rather than simply telling students what to do. Furthermore it helps to develop students into experienced, knowledgeable and keen sports people.

The development of responsibilities directly links into the health and wellbeing experience and outcomes, HWB 3-11a, HWB 3-19a, HWB 3-23a regarding social and physical wellbeing. These experiences and outcomes within the Curriculum for Excellence progress and expand student’s capability to undertake diverse roles and responsibilities within sport rather than simply performing. For example coaching, or refereeing. Also considering the significant aspects for learning there are numerous personal qualities that Sport Education targets such as confidence, responsibilities, leadership and communication.

It is suggested that Sport Education is producing situations in which the students benefit from continuing reflective development. Consequently inspiring students to contemplate their own learning and the learning happening around them. Sport Education contains a lot of self-management encouraging students to problem solve and make decisions for themselves. Most of the students responded well to this pedagogical model settling well into the sessions, with the team leader taking charge of the group also resolving issues. However in one particular group the students were not responding to the team leader and causing a problem which is where I had to step in to resolve the issue myself. In this situation I could have changed the groups around to split up the students causing issues. If I had spent more time with the students beforehand I would have had a better relationship and known who would work well together.

What did I do?

I chose to implement the Sport Education model to my S1 mixed gender, mixed ability badminton class. This group have many different behavioural and classroom management issues which can become a hindrance sometimes. However I still thought that these students could learn a variety of life skills and sport knowledge from this teaching pedagogy.

When planning I decided each team would be chosen by the class themselves; selecting their own team name and team captain. The team captain is overall in charge of the whole team and is responsible for making sure all team members carry out their responsibilities and stay on task. Other responsibilities within the team are coaches, reporter, referee, equipment manager, and score keeper. This gave the students the opportunity to be involved whether they are physically capable or not. I created badminton pack’s for each group which were labelled with the team name and included; – to do sheet, register, task cards, observation sheet, score cards, twitter sheets, reporter book, board pen and eraser. This allowed the students to pick up the pack, watch the demonstration and then have everything that they need to complete the lesson effectively.  Consequently allowing students to be more independent and self-manage their own learning.

 

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My badminton pack for the students

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The roles and responsibilities for each group

Within the lesson I had planned and built in routines which were the same every week so that the students were completely aware of what was expected of them. Students were to organise themselves when they come into the games hall with the courts, registers and sit ready for the demonstrations. Each week there was a different focus for the students; week 1 – serve, week 2 – overhead clear, week 3 – drop shot, week 4 – net shot, week 5 – underarm lift. Each of these different badminton shots follow on from one another in order to build up a sequence as the student’s progress. This allowed students to gain more than just a bank of badminton shots and when to effectively use them. Students would gain a more in-depth knowledge of all aspects of the sport.

Students had to sit around a badminton court were I would run through all of the tasks that are within their badminton pack for the lesson. When completing the demonstrations I would give students the key teaching points, and observations to look for of the shot. The students were to look at their observation cards during the demonstration to make sure they understood the task. I planned to add in demonstrations to ensure students gained some content knowledge from me and the observation cards as a reference point for help.

Most of the roles are self explanatory and you do as it says on the tin! If you are a coach you use the observation cards and tell someone where they need to improve their technique. If you’re a scorekeeper you keep the score.If you’re a referee you have to make sure that everyone is aware of the rules and adhering to them. If you’re the equipment manager you have to ensure that your group has the court set up correctly and the right equipment needed for the lesson. However the reporter is more complicated. Reporters were to comment on the different elements of the lesson such as; – learning, enjoyment, sportsmanship. Reporters commented upon something they felt necessary and important throughout the lesson for example:- sportsmanship, ability, leadership, behaviour. However they must include the significant aspects of learning. This was getting them to start considering skills they were achieving. Furthermore students are linking learning with the significant aspects of learning, making individuals more familiar with the correct terminology. Subsequently including literacy within each lesson which is a responsibility for all teachers to consider within every lesson within the Scotland educational system.

image1 (2)  An example of the coaching observation card that I used

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The front of the reporters sheet and example of an answer given by students

image2The back of the reporters sheet to remind them of the SALs 

What I hoped pupils would learn from this experience?

I hoped that through Sport Education that the students would gain a greater understanding of badminton. Rather than just the skills and some rules, by the end they would understand how to coach, referee, report, organise their own activities and keep the score. This helps students to gain more experiences within badminton and help others to learn with them along the way.

Students are also expected to take responsibility for their own learning. This helps students to be more independent and confident in their own ability; giving students a sense of belonging within the classroom (Hastie, 2012). Consequently Sport Education includes co-operative learning within PE which enhances physical performance and cognitive understanding supporting students, therefore increasing their motivation and self-esteem (Metzler, 2011).

Sport Education places students are at the heart of the learning process within small groups (Slavin, 2014). Students’ working co-operatively gives individuals the opportunity to work together effectively and energetically in small groups to enhance their own learning and others (Darnis and Lafont, 2015). Alexander et al (2014) approves and expands to propose that this style of learning assists both student’s accomplishments and social wellbeing. It also helps to facilitate learners to integrate their own knowledge and apply this within other situations. Subsequently allowing them to find as area that they excel in and creating a sense of success (Perlman, 2014). For example students who are good and confident at the serve can go and assist another member of the team to improve.

 

Evaluation of how successful the learning was in the series of lessons

Positives of the Sport Education model

There are many positives and advantages to implementing the Sport Education model with a secondary PE setting.  Overall many of the students responded and engaged well with this style of teaching and learning.

Sport Education gives students more responsibility to take ownership of their own learning. It proves to be very effective to hand the responsibility over so that students are responsible for organisation and helping one another. It gives students the opportunity to learn from one another, which is building upon student’s social wellbeing. Sport Education provides a social environment that examines relationship between students, overall assisting with student’s social wellbeing. Subsequently individuals within the class who have previously been disregarded have now become affiliated with peers in higher social groups. This is apparent when you look at the grouping registers and know the personalities of the students.

Sport Education provides structure to the lesson ensuring that students are always aware of where they should be and what is expected of them. Consequently this makes the lessons run smoother and quicker as it is the same structure and arrangement each week, which means they should be completely aware of what is happening. Within this structure the team leader is responsible for their own team ensuring that everyone is correctly and effectively fulfilling their role within the group. Students were to record which individual is carrying out what role so that everyone is clear and knows exactly what they are responsible for. It was evident from the lessons as the students always knew what I was expecting of them and if they were unsure I had the instructions written out in their team packs.

Giving each student a different responsibility offers each student to be appropriately challenged so everyone is always learning. For example if the students are physically capable and can perform an overhead clear they should be transferring their knowledge as a coach to help other students. Responsibilities can help to motivate students and provide individuals with numerous diverse opportunities to experience success within an inclusive environment focused upon team work and contribution. However some students can then hide behind their responsibility or referee or coach and not physically participate within the lesson. Therefore as previously mentioned I ensured they rotated roles each week.

 

Challenges of the Sport Education model

Sometimes the pace of the lesson can be compromised at the start of the block as the students have to take time to get acquainted with the system.  Students were in S1 and the principle teacher wanted the Sport Education model to be implemented from first year and then followed through each year. However this model was implemented in badminton which is a sport that most students had not played in primary school therefore they have no prior knowledge. This made is difficult to complete some of the tasks and effectively peer assess one another as they didn’t have the correct depth of knowledge to coach one another. Students must teach one another the different badminton shots but will find it difficult as they do not have the background knowledge to support this. Consequently I created reciprocal cards and observation sheets for the students to follow so the teaching points where available.

Bad behaviour can present challenging situations when implementing the Sport Education model. For example it is difficult to give students the responsibility to organise themselves if they are distracting one another and misbehaving. Student centred teaching and learning requires a certain amount of trust between pupils and the teacher, if this trust is broken and students misbehave learning does not occur.

Finally the Sport Education resources take a lot of time to prepare and get everything in order for the lesson to run smoothly. I had to prepare individual observation sheets for each shot, registers for each group, task cards for each individual activity and shot, score sheets, and twitter sheets. However once the resources are created they are completed and only need slightly altering in the future.

 

Hope this has been useful and let me know if anyone wants a copy of the resources!!

 

Thanks

Interpersonal Small Group Mediation
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The purpose of this guide is to support teachers/tutors in resolving conflicts within Learning Sets through Interpersonal Small Group Mediation strategies. 

As I have expressed in a number of articles on my site collaborativegrouplearning.com, Learning Sets are dynamic group structures designed to engineer and facilitate both effective socialised-learning and social relationships. The three principles of:

1: 6 in number;

2: Heterogeneous in character (diversely mixed);  

3: Sustained overtime;

have the potential to either enable high functioning learning and social relationships or low functioning learning and social relationships. To enable the desired outcome of the Learning Set relationships must be nurtured by all 7 members of the Learning Set; the 6 students and the 1 tutor

As with any group, problems and issues concerning relationships can emerge and if unresolved can evolve into corrosively negative group relations. The key therefore is to enable the successful resolution of substantive, communication and relational problems as they emerge. Vigilance, swift action and mediation on the part of the tutor can enable the group to locate the causes, course and consequences of the problem or issue and with this foster healthier Learning Set relationship.  

A Learning Set’s success is in direct correlation with the strength of the Learning Set’s relationship.

The long term goal is to enable students to better negotiate their own solutions to substantive, communication and relational problems. Students need to recognise that the relationship of the group is the responsibility of every member. Through modelling and interventions such as Learning Set Mediation, students can come to be ever more self-regulating, aware of how to negotiate their way through the complexities of learning and social relationships. Within this process the Learning Set’s tutor plays a key role.

Learning Set Mediation involves:

  • Voluntary participation (all members of the Learning Set agree to it
  • Face-to-face discussions between the parties in conflict facilitated through the tutor as mediator
  • An unbiased mediator who helps those involved to understand each other’s point of view and come to an agreement
  • Equal opportunities for all participants to speak and explain their perspective
  • All relevant information being shared openly by all participants 
  • A shared agreement between the parties
  • Revisiting the agreement to ensure application and resolution  

The Role of the Learning Set Mediator:

As mediator the teacher of tutor’s role is to enable the process of mediation to be undertaken.

The key to effective mediation is the tutors fulfillment of organisational and communication duties. Good communication during the act of mediation is crucial. Good communication involves the mediator putting aside their own views and feelings in order to help the parties listen to and understand each other. To these ends the tutor must place themselves physically within the group acting as a conduit of communication for mediation (discussion-resolution). 

A mediator needs a range of skills, including:

  • Active listening skills;
  • Questioning and clarifying skills (reflective listening, normalizing, reframing) to grasp both the facts and the areas of controversy;
  • Emotional intelligence to understand the underlying emotions;
  • Summarising skills to set out the main points of controversy, and underlying emotions, and also to help the participants to reframe issues in less emotive language; and 
  • Empathy to help each party to stand in each other’s shoes and understand each other’s point of view.

As a mediator the tutor must not take sides, or be seen to be acting unfairly. Acknowledge points made by all parties, and spend equal time with each person or on their issues, enabling them to speak and actively listening. 

The task is complex but is essentially all about being fair, listening to all and enabling all to speak. It is about not reaching a personal judgement but helping the group find an agreement enabling them all to move forward. Enabling, through questioning, to get to the root cause of the problem or issue by helping the group to:

  1. track back from consequences (the present situation);
  2. through the course (he said-she said);
  3. to the cause (where did it begin and why?).

Mediation can be time consuming and will require a number of daily-weekly-monthly sessions, all depending on the nature and complexity of the problem or issue. 

The time spent however can reap rewards for all involved in the long run and for the tutor cement their role as an informed and important member of the Learning Set.

The Mediation Process:

1: Preparation

  • Select a place to conduct the mediation. This should be a neutral and private space, free of interruptions, where the group can sit together in a circle with the mediator sat as part of this circle.
  • Each session should last not more than 20 minutes.
  • When sat in the circle members should be distraction free; nothing in their hands to fiddle with.  
  • Once in the space and sat the mediator needs to introduce themselves, set out the mediator’s role (to be impartial and help to communicate and reach their solution) and lay out the ‘ground rules’ for the mediation process. These should include the basic rules of communication (once voice at a time, eye contact with the speaker, no interruptions, use of a person’s name when referring to them) and confidentiality. 

2: Reconstructing and Understanding the Conflict

Through questioning, active listening, revoicing and management of the group:

  • Enable each member in turn to identify the present situation (the consequence, problem and/or issue)
  • Enable each member in turn to identify their feelings and emotions concerning the present situation (repeat these emotions back to enable all to recognise them)
  • Enable each member in turn to identify how the present situation has come to be (the course of actions towards the present problem and/or issue)
  • Enable each member in turn to identify what they believe the starting point or cause is of the present situation (the cause of the problem and/or issue)

3: Defining Points of Agreement and Dispute

During this stage, the tutor’s role is to help all to move towards a position where they start to understand each other’s point of view, and can then begin to resolve the shared problem.

  • Enable the group to move from a focus on the past to one on the future. 
  • Enable the group to see areas of agreement, commonality and shared feelings.

4: Creating Options for Resolution

  • Enable the group to develop options for resolution.
  • Help the group select the most likely to succeed option (relevant, achievable, suits all parties). 
  • When relevant offer tools to aid the successful application of the preferred option (Communication Cards, Learning Set Role Cards, Learning Set Report)
  • When relevant help the group to develop evaluation criteria, which should ideally be objective and in order of importance, for the successful application of the agreed option.

5: Moving Forward 

  • Enable the group to agree to the proposed resolution.
  • When relevant set the group or individuals SMART targets to enable the successful application of the resolution. 
  • Agree a follow up meeting to discuss how things are moving forward. 

A Potential Mediation Script:

1: Preparation

“Thank you for making the time to be here today  and thank you for joining the circle.”

“This is not about blaming anyone but a chance for us all to understand what the situation is, what has happened and how it is effecting you all.” 

“My role in this process is to be impartial, listening to what you all say and helping you all through effective communication reach a solution to the present situation so that we can all move forward.”

“Before we begin there are some ground rules to cover. For this to work well we must apply the basic rules of communication which are once voice at a time, eye contact with the speaker, no interruptions and the use of a person’s name when referring to them. Everyone will have many chances to speak and I would like to remind you all that everything you say here today is confidential. However if you say something that makes me really concerned about your safety and wellbeing I will have to report it to…”

2: Reconstructing and Understanding the Conflict

“Let’s take it in turn to share our thoughts and feelings about the situation. (name) will start first and we will move around the group in a clockwise direction listening to what everyone has to say”. 

“….what is the problem/issue/situation as you see it?” “How does this affect you?”

“….what has been happening to get to this point, can you think of any situations or examples of things that have happened?” “What has been your involvement?”

“I think I understand what you are saying, is it right to say that…”

“What started all this off?”

“What do you feel has caused this situation/to get out of control?”

3: Defining Points of Agreement and Dispute

“The past is just that, what can we do together to move forward? …what do you feel we could do?”

“I hear what you are saying, what do you…feel?”

“What I noticed when you were talking this through is that you agreed about…”

“Can we use what you agree about as starting point for a possible solution?”

4: Creating Options for Resolution

“Do you believe…that this is an effective resolution? How would you make it better? Who agrees/disagrees? What’s your opinion…?”

“I agree/disagree that the option you are suggesting will be the most effective at resolving the situation because…What are your thoughts…?” 

“What resources could I offer you to help you all move forward? Perhaps….would be of use.”

“I think that those evaluation criteria will work really well because…”

“I feel that some of those evaluation criteria could be enhanced a little, for example…”

5: Moving Forward 

“Do we all agree to the proposed resolution? Why do you…agree to the resolution? Why do you…disagree to the resolution?” 

“What would be the best SMART targets that you feel you could all follow to ensure that…”

“We will meet again…in order to see how things are moving forward, is this ok with everybody?” 

Developed with help from:

http://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/mediation-skills.html#ixzz427eU7BsP (accessed 06/03/16)

Thorsborne. M., & Vinegrad. D. ( 2011) Restorative Justice Pocketbook, Teachers Pocketboks. Hampshire.

Ongoing research into situated group dynamics.

Nursery to P1 transition process
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“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.

Join Me
December 15, 2015
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As mentioned in my previous post, I am one of our school’s digital leaders and super excited about all things technological, especially if they enhance the learning. Sadly, I have seen ICT being used one too many times in a way that seems like a ‘bolt on’ to the lesson, simply because it’s there or because it seems super modern and seems to add the WOW factor. But unfortunately, in my experience, when used in this way it is pointless and detracts from, or slows down the learning process. I’m a wholehearted believer that ICT should be engaged with and used, but only when it’s integrated into the learning and the opportunity calls for it.

The past few years, I have needed to use ICT increasingly during my time in my current school to support children who have visual impairment. ICT is the key for them to access their learning. Fonts can be increased to a suitable size at the flip of a button, spacing altered, background colour….the list goes on. I have had children who can take a snap shot of something on the board, using their ipad, and zoom in and out as they need to. I could provide them with endless ‘altered’ work – in fact, as a team we were – but the ICT has given them power to access learning for themselves. We of course, still adapt where needed.

One of the tools we have been looking into more is Apple TV, in order to connect what is happening on the board with the ipads. This is taking some time, with a variant of IT difficulties. In the meantime, we have found an amazing resource called Join Me.

Join Me is an online meeting space. It is free. It allows me, with a click of a button, to enable anybody to see what is on my board, via their smart device, laptop or computer. This has proved particularly useful for my children with additional needs! But it has supported the learning immensely in the classroom, by just making what is on the board more accessible for all children. It has allowed me to organise groups and the space better, so that when groups are off working, they still have all they need right in front of them.

Signing up, allows an icon to appear on your desktop. Double click on it and you will see this.

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I have selected my ‘handle’ above (which is what the children type into the address bar) and click play.

Then you will see this presentation page:

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The first button, allows you to instantly share what is on your screen. The second allows you see participants. The fourth button, allows you to record, annotate and erase what you can see on the screen before you, allowing your participants to ‘participate’!

It is brilliant – do check it out. This is a new resource for me and whilst it has been enormously supportive of learning so far, I know I have probably just scrapped the barrel.

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Blendspace
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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.

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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!

Visual Hexagons
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I am an unashamed admirer of hexagons in the classroom. Hexagon activities (which can be found on my blog – www.jivespin.wordpress.com) promote deeper and independent thinking on any topic as well as focus on different elements when answering a specific, exam focused question. They encourage students to make links between different elements of a topic and forces them to e plain and employ higher order skills.

With such an activity, some students can find hexagons a challenge – especially Key Stage 3 and less able students. This is because the very skills hexagons encourage are higher order ones that students can struggle with. As a result, I have been thinking about modifiying hexagon activities to make them more accessible to all students without diluting the outcome of sharpening students’ higher order skills set. Coupled with this I have experimenting with a variety of visual resources, such as creating comic strips and word clouds – some of which you may have seen elsewhere on the blog.

Putting these two together, I have experimented with usual visual hexagons. I create them using the Moldiv app, as recommended by Mark Anderson (@ICTEvangelist). I give my students a fixed hexagon pattern like the one below with images relating to a central question or topic in each hexagon. Usually, I give students an A5 size copy of the hexagon pattern so they can stick it in their exercise book and write next to it.

Firstly, students must identify the images and how they relate to the central question. The image can represent not only a specific person or event but also a larger point that may summarise an area or bigger aspect which link to the set question. This can be part of a starter exercise in a lesson. Once students are clear about each image, students can then complete the main task which is to explain each link between the images where the sides of the hexagons touch. To add competition and engagement, this can be completed in pairs under a time limit. Once the time runs out, there can be a class discussion where each pair share their links and students can fill in any links they have missed or write improved ones from others.

This task can be extended by asking the class extension questions to promote thinking, such as –

What other images can fit in the middle of the hexagon pattern?

What other images could be used in the pattern?

If you had to replace one image from the hexagon pattern, which one would you remove?

Once students have completed the visual hexagon task a few times, you want to place greater challenge, freedom and independence by giving students blank hexagon patterns for them to fill in on a given question or topic. Alternatively, visual hexagon tasks can also be used for –

Revision activities – reviewing a topic and preparing students for an exam in an active and engaging way.

Plenary – summarising learning in a lesson and encouraging students to demonstrate their progress utilising higher order explanation skills.

Planning an essay – visual hexagons can be used to prepare students for a specific exam question. 

These visual hexagon activities create engagement in lessons and can provide students with a visual learning aid which gives the hooks to prompt memory as well as attractive summary of a topic or question within a students’ notes. Many visual hexagon resources can be found at www.jivespin.wordpress.com, where if you type in visual hexagon in the search engine you will be present to links to the resources. Although these resources are history subject based, they can act as a guide on what other subjects can produce.

Find below an excellent example of a student’s work on a visual hexagon exercise, explaining the links and exhibiting higher order thinking to an outstanding level.

Google Classroom…the new IT silver bullet?
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The goal: going paperless. Why? Not only is it better for the environment but it prevents me from *misplacing* those pieces of paper without names that were handed to me in the corridor period 9 on a Friday and aids easy tracking of progress.

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I have been using Google Classroom with my Year 11 class since the 16th of June and introduced it to my Year 10 and A Level groups at the start of this school year. I had previously been using Edmodo which had been working well, however, with Google Drive being such an integral part of my teaching life it seemed stupid not to give Google Classroom a go.

How does it work?

For those of you familiar with Edmodo it is similar in many ways – you provide your class with a code to access the classroom page. This is all done through the google sign in details. You can post announcements (which can include links to websites, images or document attachments) and create assignments that are submitted via the student’s google drive.

The pros:

  • It allows for easy marking and editing of pieces of work that are submitted as google docs (tip: it is essential that students submit the documents as a Google Doc rather than a Microsoft Word document if you would like to edit or comment on it). The comments are seen down the side of the page and the student can then resolve them as they act on the piece of work.
  • It is easy to add missed worksheets or PowerPoints onto the page from my own Google Drive.
  • I can see the comments I have made on work previously submitted by a student and the mark that was given – this is lost when marking work on paper as the comment is returned with the students so it is difficult to verify whether the student has acted upon the feedback given.
  • Google drive is already an integral part of many workplaces.
  • It is easy to use and follows a similar format to Google Drive

The cons:

  • If your students do not already use Google Doc/Google Drive to store and complete work it can be quite an adjustment for them to get used to completing work in this format rather than in Microsoft Word.
  • Using Google Classroom is reliant on being connected to the internet – if you do not have access to a good internet connection either at school or at home it may not be for you.
  • For the marking and commenting process to be time efficient you should be comfortable typing and reading work from a screen.

For me, Google Classroom has made my marking both more efficient and effective and has worked in seamlessly with the way I already use Google Drive. Whilst it may not be an educational ‘silver bullet’ it may just save you some time (which we all need some more of) and seems to be one of the best ‘virtual classroom’ spaces available at the moment.

Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions about how Google Classroom works or how I have implemented it with my classes!

Why blue sky?
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At some point while thinking about our approach to education we asked children 1 question: What would you like to find out from scientists?

What did we do at school? 😉

We had of course some responses in our heads (it was not THAT bad, you know), but we got to the point where adding some additional “but why’s” made us realise, that we just don’t get it really 🙂 – and also, that we CAN (and do) live with that. It left us wondering how at some point we just accepted the level of our lack of understanding and moved on skipping yet another “but why?”.

Who to ask though? How many “but why’s” of an average kid can an average person handle?:) Some of us are parents and – believe us – we know what we are talking about here: the constant inflow of ‘Why’s?”, ‘When’s?”, ‘How many’s?”, ‘Which’s?”, ‘For’s?” and  ‘How’s?”…

Because it is so, okay?” 🙂 We read somewhere that an average 4 year-old asks 437 questions a day. Scary?

We haven’t read anywhere though how many questions an average adult asks a day, yet we’re pretty sure it would probably be MUCH less than 437. Even scarier? Do grown ups already know the responses to questions they do not ask? (which was definitely not the case in our little experience with kids’ questions) – or is it that we just do not notice the “question-opportunity” anymore 🙂 – or not give ourselves time to wonder. Why is the sky blue?  Do you know? If not, what would it change for you if you knew? What would be different if you gave yourself some time to think about it?

And this is how we knew we would engage our actions in appreciating the ability to wonder why, or simply – the CURIOSITY – as one of the most important competences for life.

We’re WhyBlueSky
Check out our all open source LESSON PLANS that respond to REAL QUESTIONS of real children! 🙂

 

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