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The Story of Me – increasing vocabulary recognition.

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

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

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

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

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

The model was as follows:

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

The primary aims of the project were as follows:

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

Other intended outcomes:

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

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

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

I hope you enjoy The Story of Me!

Susannah Jeffries

Twitter @mrsjteaches

Instagram @MrsJDraws

 

Children’s Library Club

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

Glasgow Children’s University, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Something out of nothing

I am often bowled over by an EYFS teacher’s ability to create something out of nothing. When so much in Early Years revolves around child interest, it can often be difficult to plan for the interests of all children. And even if you do it can be in vain, when a group of children totally into superheroes for example, completely reject the phenomenal new area of provision you have slaved over.

A rainy day outdoors last week with no cover and soggy resources led to a frustrated teacher, thinking, as ever, quite literally on her wet feet. The children showed a real interest in jumping in the puddles. Yay! Physical development. Good job as everything else was a tad limited.

The impacting teacher joins in, has fun, talks about the puddles, the weather, asks key questions. The innovating teacher sees something else. They think at a zillion miles an hour how they can extend this learning to something really rather special. The children started to jump from the puddles into a now dry tuff spot. Cue footprints! The innovating teacher will quell the instinct to yell “STOP! SLIPPERY!”. The teacher helped the children, with the use of Building Learning Power, to notice. What could they see in the footprints? There were stripes, zig zags, circles – patterns! We have maths! Woohoo!

Brain spirals again. Grab chalks! Go over the patterns with your chalk. Literacy! More physical development! The children give meaning to their marks. But now the tuff spot is also a wet mess with no visible footprints. The group head over to a ready set up mark making area outdoors under cover where there is an abundance of thick paper. The children jump up and down on the paper, repeating the process of retracing lines. “Can I take it home to show Mummy?” – PSED! They are proud.

The innovating teacher has, naturally, captured all this on her iPad. Assessment!

The opportunities to extend beyond this are ten fold. Learning walks looking for patterns, printing using other tools, sensory activities.

Its great to have a fabulous environment. But on occasion even that can let you down. And it is at that point that the innovating EYFS teacher has the ability to literally create something out of nothing. Which very often leads to the best learning outcomes!

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

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

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

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

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

700 + 300 = 100 and

13+7 = 20 and

53 + 7 = 60 and so on…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Taking Care of the Soul in the Role – #PedagooHampshire16

 

I was delighted to be offered a chance to speak this coming Saturday 17th September at Pedagoo Hampshire 16 in Alton. This event, which features a day of interactive seminars hosted by individuals across the educational landscape, aims to discuss and tackle key issues in education and create a forum for speakers to share their rich experience and expertise. If you have been lucky enough to get a ticket and you are thinking of coming along to my session on Saturday, there’s one key question on which I’d like you to ponder, as this one question will form the core of my session.

And that question is…

“What do you believe is the most precious thing that you bring to your role as an educator?”

We’ll be exploring this question, because for the last eight years, working as an Executive Coach, I have spent easily over 100 hours listening to the inner most thoughts and questions of Head teachers and senior school leaders, and when individuals find their own answer to this question, things begin to change.

I also have another question for you, … What do you know of the journey you are on?

From ‘walking alongside’ individuals on their leadership journeys, I have come to the conclusion that school leadership is a journey of deep growth and personal transformation. However, because of the systems over-emphasis on results and league tables many individuals are devoid of a language or a space to describe the inner dissonance that often accompanies this walk into the unknown.

It is not until they have been afforded this space, that they begin to see the role of school leadership anew and in so doing make the vital connection between being alive to what Parker J Palmer [American author and social activist] calls the ‘Soul in the Role’ or the ‘being’ in Human-being’

Having been in the profession now for over twenty-eight years, I fully get why this is so; why it feels so alien for us to engage in conversations that take us inside of ourselves. I believe it is because too often we are asked questions that demand that we justify, explain, give account for;

– Good results

– Bad results

– Good performances

– Bad performances

Persist in asking me questions that seek justification for external outcomes and I become a stranger to my inner world, upon which these external outcomes depend. I will seek to defend, ‘who I am’ and what I bring to my role. On the other hand, ask me questions that invite me to explore the ‘how and why’ of what I do and then you invite the best in me to come forth. You invite my soul to come out from behind its defences and engage in more live giving and affirming conversations about what matters most.

My session on Saturday will be just that, an invitation to begin taking part in a journey with us on the subject ‘Taking Care of the Soul in the role’.

The journey begins with Saturday’s interactive workshop and continues throughout September with a series of related blogs on bringing who we truly are into our roles as educators and leaders. The journey’s end will be on Tuesday 4th October from 8:00-8:30 PM when we will be hosting our webinar on Staying in Love With School Leadership.

webinar-photo

If you would like to receive our register for this webinar, please click here.

Nursery to P1 transition process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Developing the Young Workforce – Career Management Skills: One Primary School’s Approach

The labour market is constantly changing. Many of the children in our classrooms will move into jobs that do not yet exist. A 21st Century Teacher’s job cannot only consist of turning on the tap of knowledge in the hope that our learners will be equipped for the future.

In 2014 the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce was published. Later that year the Scottish Government outlined the Developing the Young Workforce Strategy, an agenda focused on increasing youth employment. Between May and September 2015 we have seen the 3-18 Career Education materials published on the Education Scotland website.

It’s great to see the power of work going on in the Secondary sector; however, the grass roots of the Early Years and Primary are crucial if we aim to develop the skills for work of our workforce of the future.

Earlier in 2015 Lochardil Primary School, Inverness, developed a Career Management Education programme for P6 and P7 pupils. The multi-agency project which was led by Highland Council’s then Literacy and Assessment Development Officer, the P6 and P7 teachers in the school, the Employer Liaison Manager at Barnardo’s Works and Skills Development Scotland. The project aimed to:

  • increase pupil, parent and staff awareness of the world of work
  • develop an understanding of skill development within the world of work
  • allow learners to reflect on their own horizons
  • make connections between education and the world of work.

CME2The Primary 6 and 7 pupils developed their research skills through using Skills Developmental Scotland’s My World of Work tool, identifying core skills which are fundamental across different industries. They learned how to create surveys to find information which was pertinent to the project, enhancing their skills in data literacy. They developed their communication skills through writing to businesses and presenting to businesses and their families about their learning in career education. They learned from local businesses within the hospitality, finance, construction and consumer market industries.

The project enabled the learners to make connections between the skills developed in school and the skills which are crucial to the world of work. They learned, from Skills Development Scotland, about the tools which they can use to make informed choices. Families learned from Skills Development Scotland and from the children through informative and interactive presentations.

The project engaged P6 and P7 pupils in the world of work, highlighting the importance of Skills for learning, life and work. To find out more about the project, including learning resources to help you develop Career Education with your children, check out the links below:

Developing the Young Workforce – Lochardil Primary School
Developing the Young Workforce – Lochardil Primary School (includes appendices)

Blendspace

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

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

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

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

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

Untitled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Your Eyes Only

Driving to the Early Years ( EY ) conference this morning I couldn’t help being inspired by the colours of Autumn here in Argyll, around the shores of Loch Fyne. Ironically, Sheena Easton was singing ‘For Your Eyes Only’. This was certainly not a sight for my eyes only but one that would be shared with every driver and passenger lucky to drive this road at this time. Similarly the Early Years conference was not ‘For Your Eyes Only’ but for everyone who was there to share in the fantastic work our Early Years practitioners do on a day-to-day basis.
Our Government quite rightly wishes to close the attainment gap of our poorest, most vulnerable children, however testing them is not going to achieve this. Investing in Early Years will help. We all witnessed the positive steps our practitioners were taking to address the development of the child.
One example:
We offer a hand to parents and ask ‘How can we help you help your child?’
Parents reported back and said they were not confident with their own literacy skills. What do we do? Put in place a vehicle to support parents. Yes, and it was fully endorsed by parents.
Just one example of exemplary work happening in Argyll.
There were many more fantastic examples of how families are being engaged in the development of their youngsters. Investing in quality practitioners and quality practice will pay dividends in the long run. Dylan William quoted the financial gain to a country per child for this intervention in Early Years. I’m not going to quote the amount as he rapped my knuckles on Twitter before for getting the amount wrong but let me tell you it is a six figure sum.
So as our Executive Director asked today in his closing address, ‘why are the Scottish Government not paying heed to this research.’
In Argyll and Bute we are getting it right. Not quite there yet, but at least we’re on the right track.
If the Scottish Government take us down the other track of high stakes testing they’re missing a trick and it’s our most vulnerable children that will suffer. Ms Sturgeon and Ms Constance want to get this right as we all do, but for me they’re listening to the wrong people and not reading the research.
Today was such an inspiring day. The Developmental Milestones tool kit for me is leading the way in Scottish Education.
Why don’t we all jump on this train, because if we get this right from EY’s we will have a more prosperous, innovative, entrepreneurial nation.
I’m already on the train. Come join me.
Sheena will be singing for ‘For all our eyes’.
Thank you Argyll and Bute Early Year’s team.

Creative Thinking @ PedagooPrimary

On Saturday morning I joined a room full of enthusiastic primary teachers for the long awaited #PedagooPrimary, a chance for primary teachers to get together and share thoughts, ideas and strategies… and chat, laugh and generally be enthusiastic about education.

This was my third teachmeet experience, last year I attended #PedagooGlasgow and pedagoo@PL which were incredibly uplifting, inspiring events, this time, I thought I’d be brave and lead a learning conversation.  That’s part of the brilliance of Pedagoo, it is about teachers sharing things they do, things they enjoy, things that have had an impact in their setting.  It is a very inclusive community that makes you feel like you have something to contribute.

My conversation was focused on ‘Creative Thinking’

If we aim to develop a passion for lifelong learning then children’s first experiences of education need to inspire curiosity, introduce interesting problems and encourage creativity. I also think it’s essential that we as teachers get the chance to be inspired, solve problems and be creative as much as possible, it is difficult to pass on a passion for learning if we are uninspired.  It is however, unrealistic to think that we can be producing fabulously creative and inspiring opportunities all day everyday, and at times it is easy to feel caught in the flow of routines and demands that exist in every school.  My conversation aimed to encourage others to find one little thing everyday that makes you think creatively and makes you and your pupils smile.

I shared a number of experiences and projects that we have developed at my school @grandtullyps . Grandtully is ‘A Wee School With Big Ideas’ and I see my role as supporting the pupils (P1-7) to develop their ‘Big ideas’ so they become a reality and a lot of the time in order to do that I need to stand back.  This is not easy! as a self confessed ‘ideas’ person with a strong inclination to control it’s really, really hard not to dominate but to let them explore, create and learn from their mistakes.  However, once you start you’ll never go back.  The process of working together with the pupils, listening, watching and providing well thought through guidance (that’s essential!) has allowed us to develop some really creative (and extremely enjoyable) learning experiences.

Macro Fun

A friend of mine purchased a little clip on macro lens for her iPhone so I had to have one too…. and then I realised its school potential!  After we had spent some time exploring the classroom carpet (uurrrghhh) pupil’s shoes and eyeballs…. we ventured outdoors but something odd happened… we had shrunk.  Younger pupils (P1-3) linked this to ‘In the Garden’ the Oxford Reading Tree story and then wrote their own magic key adventure, while older pupils (P5-7) developed their ‘exciting sentence’ writing using their images as a stimulus.  (If you search for iPhone Macro lens on Amazon you should be able to pick one up for about £5-£6)

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Ten Pieces Project

We were keen to take part in the BBC Ten Pieces project this year.  Pupils listened to and watched a short film introducing 10 pieces of classical music, we then developed creative responses to each piece.  Pupils came up with a whole range of ideas for how we could respond, we then linked them to experiences and outcomes which became our planning for the term.  Holst’s ‘Mars’ inspired a science topic on Space, we visited Dundee Science Museum, watched the Eclipse (good timing!) and pupils wanted to write some space themed stories too. P1-3 pupils looked through a range of picture books before deciding on a Lauren Child style collage approach, while P5-7 listened to podcasts of NASA astronauts before creating characters for their own suspense filled graphic novel.

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Finding an audience for our work is very important, so we shared our books at our community showcase.

For our response to Stravinsky’s Firebird we were lucky enough to work with Clydebuilt Puppet Theatre https://www.clydebuiltpuppet.co.uk.  Each pupil wanted to create their own bird and then P5-7 created a ‘Mega Bird’  they had to work together as a team to fly it.  Check out the flying skills via BBC Ten Pieces site. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02p4n7r  P5-7 also created a bit of a storm in response to Britten. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02p6ktt .

It’s hard not to smile standing in a field, listening to Stravinsky, watching pupils flying a giant bird.

Happy Creating.

@ciaracreative @grandtullyps

 

 

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