Author Archives: eddiewhite

Sharing a simple idea for primary transition. But we need your ideas too!

A few years ago, I started doing some informal primary transition work by using the most exciting tool in the educational toolbox – Maths!

All we do is have some fun building cubes out of jelly babies and spaghetti. It is as simple as that.

But then, scratch the surface and all hell breaks lose.

In that short hour, we are covering at least three numeracy outcomes, at least one Maths outcome and at least one literacy outcome. The depth covered is commensurable to the amount of time we spend together. It is a taster of the learning to follow, we are not trying to cover the course in a week, after all!

This is the time of year to plan it and with tesco value spaghetti (24p) and Lidl Jelly babies (59p) I have managed to supply about 5 classes with resources for less than £5 (but a funny look from the girl at Lidl)

I am sharing this so that you could consider either doing the same or sharing your own ideas. A small fun lesson like this eases kids in to high school, build relations with our primary colleagues and cuts through so many areas (one historian added a lesson on the originals of peace sweets that we now call jelly babies).

Please share your ideas too, the simple ones are the best and sharing via pedagoo you will not only clock up more CPD time but also potentially make ALL the difference for a child starting high school.

Lesson outline and ideas for links with CfE are here

What will make the difference with this curriculum?

Last month I made comment on the fact we were getting more detailed support in the curriculum and that this was bringing us closer to Cuban’s theory of the four types of curriculum. The four being the formal curriculum, the taught curriculum, the learned curriculum and the assessed curriculum. These four seemed to always develop hand in hand. Despite Mr Russell’s comments in yesterday’s TESS, we will probably still have to teach kids to put their phones away and they will learn how to get around this (taught vs learned curriculum.)

What happens when we look at a policy document detailing the future and vision of the teaching of Mathematics?

“It is more than ever necessary today …. to be numerate…” is a comment that I can not argue with. But despite the cutting edge relevance, I struggle to be convinced by such facts and details.

It is definitely something I agree with but I want to move on to the next important question. “What is the ‘new’ Mathematics?”

In fact, there are great statements here that we all are presumably hearing like chants in teaching monasteries. “An attempt to bring out the ‘big ideas’ of mathematics.” (I am sure my colleagues from other subject areas can replace the word “Mathematics” with any subject area!) There is even an attempt to distance oneself from the evils of the textbooks that precede the initiative – “In the old text-books, the list of contents might run: ‘simple interest, Factorisation of Trinomials,….'” I am going to stand a ground here and argue that a textbook is a resource that will allow us to move from Modelling, Coaching then Fading to build their independence. It is important for children to get a chance to be independent, even in academic study. I fear I am transgressing, let me get back to the point.

There is even a great question that is asked and answered in the document.
“How do we know if these new ideas are any good?……Already children are even admitting that they enjoy mathematics; and this is because they are able to see what it’s all about.”

Before I move on to my reason for quoting all these facts about the future of education, I want to add one final quote in. This is regarding parents. I agree with this one too.

“Parents’ meetings will help to convince them that the ‘new’ work is relevant. The climate has changed considerably …. many parents now feel their children are deprived unless they are “doing” the new Maths.”

I don’t want to give our policy makers too much of a hard time but it is important to note that they will probably pump out stacks of paperwork with this sort of message on it every time we look at curriculum change. It will probably always point out that numeracy is important and that parents must be engaged.

What role do teachers have in all of this? Are we the mechanics compared to the shirts and ties that own the garage? Perhaps the owner was once a mechanic but business rather than passion has taken over as the drive.

Many, probably most, teachers don’t have anything to worrying about with our delivery of education. We are always trying to keep our lessons real world and relevant. I am sure the Taught Curriculum has been like this for quite some time, now the Formal Curriculum is naturally catching up.

One amazing idea about the new curriculum is that we are underpinning real world experiences, children are going home with insights in to the real world and are also coming in to school and sharing their own unique insights with the class. This is facilitated by great teaching, not by policy documents and the like.

That is one reason teaching really NEEDS pedagoo. We need teachers to share what went well and vision and ideas with each other. We are not islands. We all share a passion and like to see how to improve, even if we are amazing teachers, we want to be amazinger or the amazingist teacher in the classroom (I know they are not real words) so sharing and even recycling ideas is not a bad plan.

Previous evolutions of change have not had teachers talking together as much as thing one. This success is not down to the director of Education nor the minister for education. It is down to people using twitter and the wider Internet. We need to hear each other talking about everything that is good about your work. If you can think of one thing you know went well last week, you need to share. It doesn’t have to be a new world resource that is cutting edge and never been seen before. It could be something you regard as normal practice and could provoke a small change for a massive impact. (A pupil asked me never to do starter questions again – Mr McCallum did Monday Madness, Tuesday Twister….. By renaming the starters, they loved it – an example of a tiny change)

As for this policy document, I may add it dates from 1970 and the language of the text sounds like it was written yesterday. Draw your own conclusions about that, we are professionals after all!

Blooming Parenting. Quality parenting leading to quality learning.

Some week ago, I shared the self-evaluation tool for Bloom’s Taxonomy. The checklist is here if you wish to re-visit it.

I was leading an after school professional discussion yesterday where this was to be the focus of a self-improvement opportunity.

During the discussion regarding Higher Order Thinking, we stumbled upon a question that made some of us think. “Does Evaluation and Analysis need pupils to be older before they become of any educational benefit?”

If you are a secondary specialist, it may take a minute to think about this, and we did take a minute to consider it. If I ask a pupil in S1 to talk for twenty seconds on what it means to be analytic or to tell me what evaluation is all about, I do doubt they will be able to tell me. Ask them to tell me why Celtic Park is so much more impressive to see than East End Park, there will be fairly easy discussion about number of fans, ticket price, money from being in Europe…. It could go on a long time. If you said “Evaluate the differences between two polarised Premier League Teams!” then you may not get the same answer.

We agreed that all pupils are good at higher order thinking. They are fantastic at it. Only last week, my two year old asked for a 10p bag of Haribo sweets and a £2.00 bag of chocolate buttons. I told him he had to choose one, and one only.

If that had been my six year old, he would have evaluated it based on weight of sweets and I would have spent the £2.00. For the two year old, he evaluated this himself and came up with the fact he wanted the Haribo more than he wanted the chocolate.

This is a very basic example, but it proves a very important point. We discuss Higher Order Thinking and rich questioning as though it is exclusive to education. Education never stops, I am not sure where learning starts but in the delivery room I remember my youngest stopping what he was doing (Urinating on the midwife, as it happens) and turn to face my voice. He had heard that voice through a load of water for months and clearly recognised it as something of interest to him. He was certainly curious and there had been less than five minutes since his grand entry.

Indeed, the enrichment of learning that we create using Bloom’s Taxonomy is not just for high school, it is not just for primary but it is something our pupils do learn from a very young age. 

As professionals, we question and engage using this method a lot naturally. If you are unsure, have a go at completing the self evaluation tool yourself and you will see quite how much of the process you are already doing simply from experience in your own profession.

The question I am left to consider is this. Do we share this basic process with parents? And should we?

I believe it is vital that parents truly are partners in this process and I would openly welcome any parent to look at what questions they ask their children. Parents are the most important teachers and if a school doesn’t have its parents on board, it really doesn’t have its pupils on board.

My son goes to a smaller primary school in Prestonpans and I can say with pride I see the homework does come home with questions for parents to ask pupils – I always make a point of doing this with my son. 

However, there is still a feeling of poking around in the dark. What is the holistic thing about questioning and would parents be interested in spending an hour finding out about the work of Higher Order Thinking?

It is hard for me to answer for two reasons.

1) As a teacher, I am quite up-to-speed with the process
2) As a teacher, I have a natural interest in the area anyway so don’t know if other parents do too.

As we move to using the Curriculum for Excellence, which appears to be underpinned by this whole Higher Order Thinking, more parents should get an opportunity to find out about our processes and they may learn that education is moving more to a natural learning process. As parents see that we are changing to help pupils learn like the have done from day one, parents may start to not only engage better with this change but also trust it more.

Twittering in the Classroom

Twittering with teenagers

I had an idea. The idea was that everyone, well almost everyone uses social media. This had to be a way to enrich my lessons. I researched the kids on setting up a Facebook fan page. They looked at me like I was nuts.

Use twitter for that Sir!

It was as clear as could be. Twitter is their social media of choice for this. Who am I to tell them which method they would use?

The red tape in East Lothian was worryingly simple.

Go for it. Use obvious safeguards and don’t DM kids

Getting the class to follow me was easy. Getting them to tweet back, not so easy.
I was not going to be upset at this. I did discover that theyread my tweets. They even told me to tweet more often so my tweets didn’t get lost in their timeline. They were keen to also get links to Maths news etc so they can read the stories. They only read the stories on their smart phones, though, so setting up complex tasks for them to do on a PC is not using their preferences as much.

It would transpire that most pupils, being teenagers, don’t want their mates to see tweets TO a Maths department. The kids are happy enough to read them, only their own timeline will show they are reading a Maths department’s twitter feed. If a kid comments, or mentions, on the department’s feed, then their own followers will then see the conversation.

So, twittering with teenagers works, so long as we don’t

dis their street cred

and, even worse, we don’t expect them to respond publicly to us.

It is a great tool for reminding them of facts, offering information regarding revision and supporting them in expending their educational experience. They are responsible for checking and acting on the feeds and links. This is just one method to help them gain success and I accept some learners will find twitter more helpful than others.

Indeed, getting them to condense their learning into 140 characters, what a tool!

1)It is free, 2)it is available and, even more, 3)it is current. 1 and 2 excite teachers and 3 grabs the attention of the kids.

Using twitter, we are all winners!