Tag Archives: engage

Wonderful word towers!

With a bottom set Year 9 German class, we had watched the film ‘Lola rennt’ (Run Lola, run) and were using the perfect tense to describe what had happened in the film.  We had spent quite a few lessons on this (it felt like an eternity!) and the class seemed to be getting it, slowly.  They had started to adapt the sentences to say other things too  The only problem was, they were getting really sick of it; any mention of the film title and their groans would fill the room!  As I entered the classroom on this occasion, I had some exercises planned, some whiteboard activities, even a cartoon strip, but I must admit that even I was starting to grow weary.  I spied a couple of bags of big ‘Mega Blox’ style building bricks that I had bought very cheap from Wilkinson at Christmas and on the spot I decided to change my plan and an idea started to grow!  I asked them to write on their bricks with dry wipe marker, using one brick per word and see who could create the longest sentence and therefore, the tallest tower.  They had also just learnt how to use connectives, so their towers had the potential to grow to quite a height!  They were mainly working in pairs (it is only a small class) and I dished out a handful of bricks per pair.  Once they got going, they started to get quite competitive and almost forgot that there were creating quite long and complex German sentences in the past tense; something that causes headaches for quite a few pupils!  They were even going around ‘borrowing’ bricks off each other to make their towers taller!

The atmosphere was, although competitive, quite serene; you could almost hear the quite buzzing of busy brain cells.  At the end of the activity, I took photos.  The pupils were so proud of their towers that they asked me to wait until they had run out of bricks!  On this occasion there was no prize.  They were simply happy to have the glory of creating the tallest tower in the class, and in doing so, creating fantastic, complex past tense sentences.

I learnt that you’ve sometimes just got to go with it; take a risk and wait to see what happens.  Also, I learnt that you should keep your eyes peeled for cheap children’s toys; I’ve got quite a collection now!

Original tweet here

German word towers

German word towers

#PedagooWonderland

0530 on a Saturday morning is difficult, cold and after another long night of the ashes, very miserable. However, I was off to a Pedagoo event, packed with exciting speakers, thoughtful teachers, inspiring individuals and I was pretty confident that my chosen Saturday CPD event was going to be brilliant. It was…

The first thing that blew me away (after registering with the very welcoming pupils of the school) was the amazing building. It was bright, clean, tidy and very much the type of modern building I come to expect when I go ‘somewhere nice’. Just as our children know when they are being shortchanged as regards use of windows XP on old PC’s, they know it when they walk into a dingy building which is in desperate need of a paint job. Michael Gove said that the building and environment of a school makes no difference. I drive past these buildings at Fettes and Stewart’s Melville on the way to my school every day. Clearly, environment makes a difference.

The other thing about the building I loved was the use of images of Joseph Swan children working, often with ideas about how they work, or slogans/quotations about respect, reading etc behind them. That is something I will try and create in the next couple of weeks if energies allow as it looks so good and inspires.

Whilst having my complimentary tea and danish pastry (which would contravene the bring your own tea and biscuits policy of many councils) I set about reading my welcome pack. I loved the Happy Mondays leaflet which contained loads of great, ready to use, ideas for enhancing and reinforcing learning in the classroom. The Happy Mondays reference is because the teachers at Joseph Swan receive and e-mail every Monday, with a new idea or resource in it from their SMT. I love that idea!

MY first session of the day was in the Reading Room (and what an amazing space that is…) with David Hodgson. David talked about how we learn and how we can use techniques in the classroom to help children learn and remember how they learned things. As a primary teacher I get asked lots of questions from the children and my most frequent answer to them is good question. I don’t believe in throwing the knowledge confetti about for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’m not convinced the children will remember it whilst they walk back to their desks and secondly I (or A.N.Other teacher) will not always be there for them when they have a question or want to learn something. The things we did in his session were all practical examples of an NLP approach, and I was so impressed I bought his book for my Kindle this morning. He used this pupil feelings graphic in his session too which I find a useful tool to have by my desk in the class room. Something David said which rang a bell was that we should ensure our children ‘Have a get out clause for children when they don’t learn’. This is vital, so often our children get way more stressed than we ever do about a wrong answer. We need them to take risks, get it wrong, change it and get it wrong again, smiling all the time! That is a successful learner right there.

The next session was with Rachel Orr who is HT at Holy Trinity Rosehill Her workshop was about developing writing through Primary Learning and specifically using Pie Corbett’s talk for writing work. I had worked on a Pie Corbett workshop for writing day before (January 2007??) and it was amazing. I’ve bought a few of his books and love his approach to writing. There is a lot of material on the internet too to supplement his written work. I also liked the punctuation sounds and actions which children are to use when they are talking and can then reinforce the assessment process in class. Rachel has used Pie’s work in two differing schools now and shared with us examples of the successes her young writers had, and these examples cal be seen on her school blogs. Rachel gave us a disk with loads of fantastic resources on, many her own work (the learning keys are a great idea!).

During lunch I met some great folk including @spiceweasel77 who is doing some brilliantly exciting things with his class!

After lunch it was on to Hywel Roberts session. Hywel spoke passionately and humourously about creating contexts in the curriculum, allowing the children to view the learning they are given through their own filters and engaging children in their learning. I made loads of notes during Hywel’s session and later tweeted many of them. Here’s the quotations I tweeted:

‘It’s our job to get the World thinking.’

‘We need to dig learning holes for our children to fall into.’

‘we are the people who make sense of the curriculum we are given. ‘

‘Have a what’s great 2 mins at the start of staff meetings’

‘we need to induct our kids into learning’

‘all of these things are just doing the job we’ve been asked to do. That we’re paid for. ‘

I’ve got Hywel’s book and it’s a great read. I need to do more of this in my classes. It’s great stuff. I was incredibly impressed with Hywel and the way he works in schools.

Finally, my last session was about using enquiry based learning in maths. Stephanie Thirtle took this session, she is a maths teacher at Joseph Swan. (I’d love The Girl to have her as a maths teacher, lessons would be so interesting!)
We did some enquiry based openers which really got us thinking and she talked about the approach of letting the children work things out for themselves, rather than an I teach then you do model. I love the work things out idea and think the way she’s bringing it to maths in a high school works really well. Much of the rationale for enquiry based learning was on her presentation and clearly showed examples of enquiry based learning which we could use as one-off lessons or develop for a maths topic. Such things investigating square numbers, straight line graphs using algebra, and one which P7 will be seeing soon – 12 Days of Christmas maths.
Her room displays were wonderful and I snapped many of them on my phone and you can see them here. I particularly liked that ways she put maths into context making it real for the children.
That chimed so well with the session from Hywel previously.

I came away with my head full of wonderful ideas and a bag full of goodies!
So, what next…well before Christmas I will make some posters of children and their ideas about learning to go up in school and I will also make some musical posters for the music room.

After Christmas I will take loads more of these ideas and run with them. It’ll be different, fun and learning will happen.

Raising Boys Attainment or Superheroes need Super Teachers

Boys… They have it tough. The gender attainment gaps in Primary school result in a reduction of life choices and chances by the end of High School. In 2011  48% girls went to University whereas only 37% boys had the same chance.
At our INSET with Gary Wilson (www.garywilsonraisingboysachievement.co.uk) on Friday we were taken through the challenges of boyhood and the barriers to boys learning. From succumbing to the peer police (“Better to be seen not to be bothered by winning than to try and fail.”) to issues with independence; with parents who have been lured into the false impression that it’s easier to do everything for our boys rather than live with constant nagging, raised blood pressure and ranting that even the smallest of requests can result in. From low self esteem to the negative labels society puts onto boys from a very early age Gary is on a one man mission to change these negative stereotypes (once challenging British Home Stores when they advertised a boys T-shirt in their Spring Collection declaring “Lazy and proud of it!”).

So what can we do in our schools and classrooms to give boys the best opportunities to meet their potential? Gary’s main suggestions of the day were: 

– Promote breakfast – by not eating breakfast by 10.30am we have the reaction speed of a 70year old. 
– Promote a “can do” ethos  –  internal auditory is louder in boys heads.
– Positive visualisation ensures success – Imagining yourself doing well means you most probably will.
– Feed your brain! Giving children fruit and a drink prior to test helps with attainment.
– Assist neuropathways by ‘piggyback’ learning- teach someone else what you’ve learned. 
– Promote creativity- children who play instruments do better at school.
– Develop leadership capacity in boys so they get attention for the right reasons.
– Boys prefer active learning. Although there’s a need to balance approaches across learning styles make sure there’s enough active learning events in our lessons to motivate and engage so boys work to the best of their ability. 
– Superheroes! Tapping  into this genre helps to boys to make links to the real world. Staff should value play based on children’s interest whilst promoting order and boundaries. Superhero play = emotional intelligence = clear rules = structure = guidelines for success. 
– Ban setting! Setting reinforces negative stereotypes. The younger a child is ‘set’ the worst they’ll do at age 16. 
– Celebrate success by using hand written ‘I did great work’ style labels as success stickers to give parents a focus to celebrate success at home.
– Aifl- use those lolly sticks or a random name generator (http://www.classtools.net/education-games-php/fruit_machine) to ensure children are focused and expect to be included in the lesson.
– Plan the plenary! Don’t let the boys skip any part of Kolb’s learning cycle (http://www.simplypsychology.org/learning-kolb.html) in their rush to be finished.
– Focus on Fiction: it promotes emotional intelligence and 
          – exposes children to wider experiences,
          – aids understanding of what others think,
          – helps children identify with characters and their issues,
          – gives children strategies to deal with dilemmas.
-Set up Systems – When in doubt give them a system! 
– Think in the short term for long term success: Short term goals, short term targets, short term rewards = boys striving for success.
-Cut out the copying out – it has no purpose and is predominantly used as behaviour control. Out of the mouths of boys: “Teachers’ can’t be bothered to teach us when we’re copying out.”
-Make learning real and fun by giving children real audiences. Use Crazy Talk (http://www.reallusion.com/crazytalk/crazytalk_trial.asp) software to manipulate pictures and provide a purpose to writing. 
– focus on fine motor control development. Often this is an area of difficulty for boys (http://scotens.org/sen/articles/primary_reflexes.pdf) so praise for quality ideas when quality presentation is a mountain too high!
– Consider training staff to teach the children peer massage  (http://www.misascotland.org.uk/index.htm) or yoga (http://www.yogascotland.org.uk/findteacher.html). Positive touch  and relaxation helps to keep students calm, focused and motivated.

Through Gary’s work with groups of boys their top tips are:
– Choose the right time of day to teach important stuff- not when we’re excited.
– don’t criticise if you can’t read my handwriting, it’s not always the most important thing.
– be more persuasive!
– writing in small chunks is best.
– we want to write in any way we want!
– use mind mapping ideas.
– you start the story, let us kids finish it.
– give us basic ideas to get started.
– make it fun!
– use lots of props.
– find out what interests us
– use mind maps as a form of plenary/ help me share my learning with a partner.
– read to us – it helps us with our own stories and poems. 
– let us act stories out.
– give us time to think and talk.
– model writing – use visualisers to share pupil work.

All the approaches above are very much good learning and teaching and would benefit any pupil regardless of gender but with a focus on engaging boys and bridging the attainment gaps the whole class will benefit.

Other places to get Gary’s words of wisdom are:

http://www.oxfordschoolimprovement.co.uk/professional-development

YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YsgT3iiBY_M&feature=youtube_gdata_player

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mcdqmTidmE&feature=youtube_gdata_player

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yW1q-76pjgE&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Books:
http://www.garywilsonraisingboysachievement.co.uk/publications.htm