Category Archives: Uncategorized

Play practice in your school

Hello all

What is your current play practice in school? Does you school train playtime supervisors? Would you like to change childrens play experience at school?

This free resource is for anyone who has an interest in children’s wellbeing at school although it has been designed to be particularly relevant to support staff. It explores how outdoor play in schools supports children’s learning and development, identifies a range of ideas for enriching play and shares practical advice from schools that have developed good play practice.

Each of the 11 sections is accompanied by short notes, discussion questions and links to further useful resources. We strongly suggest that you use this resource together with colleagues to encourage discussion and planning about how you take some of these ideas forward in your school.

The support booklet can be downloaded for free here (you do have to sign up, but I only send you an email with useful stuff, and only about once per term).

The video’s are currently on Youtube – but are about to be on Education Scotland, or I can dropbox a copy of them all to anyone with an authority that blocks Youtube.

Playtime Revolution – Introduction – The Value of Play (01)

Many of you know that there is a new Scottish strategy on play, and this training series fits in with the aspiration to see play transformed in schools across Scotland.

If any of you use this resource, I would be really interested to hear how you get on.

Thanks all


Outdoor Learning Officer

Grounds for Learning

A Play Strategy for Scotland – It includes schools!

We want Scotland to be the best place to grow up. A nation which values play as a life-enhancing daily experience for all our children and young people; in their homes, nurseries, schools and communities.

Yesterday the Play Strategy for Scotland: Our Vision was officially launched.  This is the first part of the Play Strategy – the action part of it will be published in the autumn.

When you think of your own children, or perhaps children you teach or work with in some capacity, consider the opportunities they have in their daily lives for free play – particularly outdoors.

To begin with, do they have enough time in their lives to play? I don’t mean undertake football training, or sing in a choir or attend dance classes or any other structured activity. It’s about free play – time for a child to choose when, how, where and with whom they play. Is there time for free play for children who may have to help their parent with work or care for them in some way? How about children you know who have additional needs? What about young people studying for exams?

Do the children in your street feel able to play outside safely, in their local area? Are there suitable places for play? By this I don’t mean simply play parks but green space or well-designed, child friendly urban areas? Are teenagers welcomed or is their presence everywhere and anywhere frowned upon? Have you ever asked a child or young person you know what they think and how they feel about this?

What about the school and the quality of play provision? Do the routines around break and lunch time provide enough time for play? Do children get to play if they haven’t been behaving well or if they haven’t finished their classwork? Are the school grounds accessible all year round in all weathers and beyond the school day? Are they interesting, well-designed places to be with open-ended features and resources? Is play facilitated by staff who know, understand and support children’s right to play?

Ghandi is often quoted as saying “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” This may be a fair point, but the first indicator has to be how a nation values and treats its children.

This play strategy matters. It is an acknowledgement that there needs to be more happening in our homes, schools and communities to ensure all children and young people of all ages have the right, the time, the space and the places to play.

  • What do you think?
  • What action do you want to see the Scottish Government take?

Let me know. There’s still time to have a say, make a difference. Tell me your thoughts – from within or beyond Scotland. I’m part of the play strategy working group putting together the forthcoming actions to support the vision statement.  I’m genuinely interested to know

(Reposted from I’m a teacher, get me OUTSIDE here! blog! It’s about to undergo a big merge and morph so I won’t add a link)

Pick of the #PedagooFriday tweets 16/03/12

This week’s selection of #PedagooFriday Tweets

As well as the usual great things from your classroom, why not share a book/article that has greatly influenced your teaching #PedagooFriday

Book recommendations first –

All teachers need to read 'Why Do I Need a Teacher When I've Got Google' by @ #PedagooFriday
Kenny Pieper
Jo Boaler - The elephant in the classroom. Made me think about the impact of my teaching on pupils. #pedagoofriday
Martyn Call
#pedagoofriday early but in case I forget, inspirational text @'s Could Do Better. Superb.
Bryan Gregg
#pedagoofriday +1 for Mindset by Carol Dweck. Key message: praise effort, not achievement, to nurture a growth mindset.
Robert Jones


Now some of the great stuff that’s been going on this week –

#pedagooFriday this week I've been looking at the power of using blogs in history
Mister West
Have a look at the weather games on @ to see what Jennifer, our student teacher, has been up to with S3 #PedagooFriday
Brilliant S1 pupils took charge this week: asked to meet classmates in small groups to check on progress/offer support #pedagoofriday
Alan Hamilton
Ch were great talking to Comms for Rural Ed about sch and their learning. Heard fab egs of how they were linking learning #pedagoofriday
caroline breyley
Enjoyed having pupils get excited over pi-day. I got 3 cards, a cupcake and excellent discussion on transcendental numbers. #pedagoofriday
Martyn Call
#PedagooFriday #BigWriting Science Creative writing - "What would the World look like today if the Russians had won the Space Race..."
Steven Wilkinson
Used Google forms to record class test. Instantly marked by flubaroo Easy marking #pedagoofriday
#pedagoofriday teaching structure through comedy timing - fun times 🙂
Lisa Jane Ashes
Today I love my job! Who'd be a teacher? I would! Hard working teachers took time 2 share innovative approaches & enjoyed it! #pedagoofriday
Liz Sutherland

Excuse Me? Can I Have a New Tail to Wag My Dog?

I’ll probably not make many friends by writing this post but it concerns something that has been burning inside of me for a while. Exacerbated by the increasing ‘doom and gloom’ scare stories over the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland, I really feel the need to let this one out. Strap yourself in. Here goes. If you were to ask me what my concerns were over the eventual qualifications system of CfE in the upper stages of school then I would have to say, at this point, I don’t really care. There. I said it. I feel better already.

Alongside the dreary negativity which is churned out whenever the subject is raised in the media – a negativity which does not compare with my experience – there is an almost gleeful exuberance at times when a teacher, a parent, an individual expresses their hatred of the new curriculum. Don’t get me wrong; it isn’t perfect. I’m no cock-eyed optimist. There is still a long way to go to really assess its success. I just don’t think it is constructive to constantly snipe at something which is here and here to stay.

As for qualifications, the amount of times I’ve heard teachers say to me that if we teach the children well they will pass any exam we put in front of them suggests that others would agree with me. That concept, however, seems to be slipping away now we have the opportunity, in many ways, to put it into practice. This needs to be a time where, as individuals, we are embedding our practice with outstanding, challenging, creative teaching. We should be developing the wonderful things we already do, enhancing those things with real life experiences and stretching, bar raising tasks.  And, for the most part, I think that is beginning to happen. For example, no English teacher I know sees the Curriculum for Excellence as an exercise in dumbing down, an excuse to avoid the prickly subject of grammar, or proclaiming spelling to be a thing of the past.

However, before you label me as some idealistic lefty who thinks examinations are outdated – you might be right but that is not what I’m saying here – I do think the qualifications will have their place. But if we are to wait until they are embedded before we can be comfortable with change then what does that assume about the profession? That we do indeed teach to the test? That we do indeed believe that passing school exams is the be all and the end all? If that is so I think we may well miss the opportunity of a lifetime.

A teacher said to me the other day, ‘why can’t they just tell us what the exams will be like so we can just get on with it?’ My heart sank.  If we teachers are truly to make the best of the most significant change in curriculum probably in most of our careers then we need to forget about what the examination may become and start to ensure our classrooms are challenging, creative, collaborative spaces which raise the bar for every student in our care; and we need to start now. Our society deserves young people who are successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and an effective contributors. It is our job, our duty, our raison d’etre to ensure that happens.

At this point I can understand that parents and pupils want to know about the exams; schools should always be working closely with them for the best possible outcomes for children. However, as the curriculum is not new any more – it is what we now do every day – my questions is this: do teachers really have to?

philosophy with 5 year olds

Hello! I’m Morven a fourth year B.Ed. student at Jordanhill. I’m currently out on placement with a p1 class, and this is a blog post about my experiences with philosophical inquiry in the classroom!

Last year on my third year placement I had a primary 7 class. I wanted to try out different teaching strategies that I had learned about at university. One of which was philosophy. The children were looking at ‘vivisection’ (class teacher’s idea!) as their topic to develop arguments within language. I decided to put I a philosophy lesson to allow the children to think as a group about what vivisection means to them which would help them develop their arguments for writing. However it did not go as I had planned. In fact the lesson was an absolute disaster!
I went into the lesson the wrong way for two reasons. Although we had already discussed vivisection as a class with reading books, the pupils never actually chose to talk about vivisection. Secondly I never had any stimulus to allow the children to think about something in context, such as a story or a picture.

This year I decided to try out philosophy again, this time with my primary one class! We are learning about different feelings you have. Each feeling is firstly explored through a story within a drama lesson, with the story being set in a toyshop (to link in with their environmental topic) and the children hear stories of toys who have different feelings, i.e. sad because their friend has been bought and left the toyshop, or angry for being teased by another toy etc. The feeling is then explored by a philosophical discussion. I tried this out with my primary one class a few weeks ago and I was so surprised how well it had gone, considering my last failed attempt!

I started by introducing a talking teddy toy. Whenever someone was holding the teddy that meant they got to speak. This helped to stop any interrupting and shouting out which may put shyer children off. I then showed the pupils a large image of a child feeling ‘left out’ on the whiteboard. I initially asked them to talk to me about what they see getting responses like “That girl is not being allowed to play by the other girls” “that girl is alone!” and asking the children to then elaborate on their responses, describing how each child may feel, or what they should do in the situation. The children needed very little from me, only a few questions and thoughts to help encourage the children to think about their opinions and ideas, but they had ownership of the conversation as they were responding to each other’s ideas! This is the difference between the first time I tried philosophical inquiry with my primary 7 class; although my p1s didn’t choose the topic they did choose the flow of conversation and of thought. My primary 7 class were not motivated or enthusiastic to talk about a topic they had little interest in in the first place, so they were then unable to use each other’s ideas as a basis to consider their own. Also by giving my primary one class a stimulus of the picture, this hooked them into the lesson and allowed them a visual reference to consider ideas.

The creative thinking and the way that the children spoke about their ideas was fantastic, it did show the ‘power’ of philosophy with young children. Young children love to talk to teachers- philosophical inquiry gives them opportunities to share with their teacher what they think about deeper issues and situations.

I hope this inspires some people to think about how they can implement philosophical inquiry into their classroom (and learn from my mistakes!)- after all if p1s can do it…

what is stopping the older children?!

I’d like to thank fellow B.Ed.4 Nicholas McMahon for giving me advice for planning philosophy with p1’s! : )

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!