Tag Archives: PedagooReview

Testing the water #PedagooReview

Feeling like a naughty student who has tiptoed into the office to steal coke from the bottom drawer, as a PGCE student I’m perhaps the least qualified person to be posting on this site, but I delivered what I felt was a good lesson. It was one that showed progress, differentiation and reflective learning. But, more importantly, I enjoyed it and got to crack one of my now infamous fat-teacher jokes…

The premise of the lesson was to give my Y9 students the opportunity to improve their PEA paragraph responses to the novel Stone Cold, focussing specifically on Reading AF5. They had produced several PEA paragraphs over the previous fortnight which had been quality marked with suggestions for improvement.

Connecting the Learning

As usual, my students were greeted by my cheery self at the door, at which point I handed them a PEA Paragraph Progress Pack (alliteration, I know). On the board were a series of rewards students could earn within the lesson based on their effort (I had seen this done by another teacher attempting an ambitious lesson, and lets face it, the opportunity to introduce chocolate into a lesson is always a good thing…).  Within the PPP packs there were two questions about the novel, and a number between one and four on the top of the pack. Beneath each question and answer box was a table of AF5 success criteria for levels four, five and six. Students had to complete the first question in silence with very little support, although they could request hints and tips sheets to aide their structuring of the answer and some key literary terminology. Once students had completed the question I asked them to mark their work by ticking off the AF5 success criteria they felt they had met in their responses, as we had spent the previous lesson discussion their APP grids. Students seemed to enjoy the opportunity to critique their own work; however upon reflection they were perhaps overly generous. In hindsight I would have asked them to mark their initial responses AFTER the ‘New Information’ section of the lesson.

Learning Objective

Today’s mission was split into two key objectives to cover all aspects of what my students were learning:

What are we learning?

  • We are analysing how Swindells uses language to present character in a way that meets at least level 5 criteria.
  • We are identifying ways to improve and develop our analytical responses.

How are we learning?

  • We are working independently to improve our work.

Why are we learning this?

  • To make us all super-groovy, AF-smashing cats…

New Information

Perhaps the weakest section of my lesson, as confirmed when my tutor described it as ‘too much chalk and talk’. There was, however, no chalk. My intention here was to model to the class how we as teachers mark their work and identify the feature of AF5 to determine their current ‘working at’ level. Due to the time restraints of the lesson I made the error of simply showing the students responses on the board, and highlighting their differences to show them how to build their answers from level four through to level six. This would have worked so much better if I had given the students copies of the sample answers and asked them to mark it, but the students did (eventually) understand how to engineer their responses into the higher banding. Its at this point that I should have asked students to mark their initial responses, as they now had a much clearer insight into how to mark their work and how to identify the success criteria for AF5.

Searching for Meaning

This is the part of the lesson I had been most excited about, at the time I was absolutely terrified that it could become a HUGE disaster if the students lost focus and drifted completely off-topic. Around the room were four student support stations (another literary device, I know), each numbered one to four. Students then had to go the station which corresponded to the number on their pack, thereby creating four completely randomised groups. Students were given five minutes at each station to collect information that would help them improve their responses and in particular help them push into the level five and six success criteria. Students were able to personalise their learning to their own specific needs in light of their self-assessment and earlier quality marking feedback. The four stations were as follows:

  1. The Term-Table: This consisted of about a dozen key literary terms such as onomatopoeia, metaphor and rhetorical questions. Students were able to learn about what the terms meant, the sorts of effects they can have on the reader, and they could also see several examples of each term, some taken from their novel, Stone Cold.
  2. The Levelator: This was another opportunity for them to study how student responses are marked. I had put A2 size PEA paragraphs on the wall, all in response to the same question. I had then quality marked each paragraph, highlighting the AF5 criteria which had been met, as well as features of style that were worthy of recognition. Students used these examples to compare their own work to, to see if their answers could be improved using the formats on the wall.
  3. Dictionary Corner: Students were given dictionaries, thesauruses and learning mats here, primarily to give them an opportunity to focus on their style. I encouraged students to reflect over their work to see if they could broaden their vocabulary and thereby improve their style. It also gave them an opportunity to clarify any terms or vocabulary they were unfamiliar with.
  4. Interactive Question Map: Without question everyone’s favourite station. On the IWB I had created a mind map of topics that students may wish to ask questions about, anything from integrating quotations to analysing language was up there, students were able to touch the question they wanted to ask and then be taken to a page explaining how to tackle the issue. If students were still uncertain they could touch the information tab which would take them to a worked example. Students found this really useful, as alongside the complete personalisation it offered them, they were able to discuss with other members of their group how it had improved their understanding.

Students were totally engaged throughout the carousel, and were making sure that they squeezed every last drop of useful information from each of the stations. I also saw a more holistic transformation of my class. They had gone from a group of severely apathetic individuals who didn’t remotely care about PEA paragraphs, to a cohort of active custodians of their own learning, keen to share how what they were collecting was helping their understanding, and probing me for further information to drive them onto the higher criteria.

Demonstrating their newly acquired loaf

Once each group had visited every station they were invited back to their seats and given a few moments to reflect upon what they had collected and relate it to their initial PEA paragraph response at the start of the lesson. They were then asked to complete the second question in the booklet; using the information they had collected during the lesson to improve their responses. Again the activity was carried out in silence to make sure they focussed solely on demonstrating their progress. Once they had completed the question they had to mark their answer using the same success criteria from the start of the lesson so that they could see if they had made tangible, measurable progress in meeting the AF5 success criteria for levels five and six.

Reviewing and Reflecting

Students were given an ‘Exit Passport’ to complete in which they reviewed new things that they had learned, things they found easy and difficult and something they were still unsure about so that I could inform the planning of my next lesson. Students were given the merits promised at the start of the lesson as a reward for their fantastic work and then left, each ever so slightly more competent and confident with their AF5 abilities. For those 60 minutes, every one of these pupils became one of my groovy, AF-smashing cats…

This was by no means a perfect lesson, there were flaws just about everywhere. But in terms of a review of my pedagogical year it was a great lesson, as my students learned a huge amount about my subject, as well as huge amount about me and my pride at taking two seats up on the bus (allegedly…see earlier reference to fat-teacher jokes).  I also learned a huge amount about them, perhaps more than I’d learned in the entire two weeks I’d been teaching them. I also learned a huge amount about what goes into to making a successful lesson, as it was arguably the first lesson in which I was able to act a professional, reflective practitioner.

Now where did I put that Christmas gin…



Challenge and reward + making homework work #pedagooreview

The words challenge and reward are oft applied and sometimes over used in the attempt to sum up the experience of us teachers.  Despite them being well worn, they’re two words that continue to mean a lot to me and they sum up a lot of what I have to say in reviewing my teaching year.

It has been a year of immense challenge, not least in striving to meet the high expectation of delivering consistently engaging, relevant and meaningful learning experiences that I, my school and the Scottish curriculum sets for teachers.  There have been many moments of reward too – encouraging observations from students on their own learning or on their experience in my classroom, enthusiasm from other colleagues for the work we’re doing to develop our practice, seeing progress being made and knowing that my teaching has played some part in this being achieved.  This year I’ve had the particular privilege of witnessing a couple of students reach a turning point in their own self-perception – realising that they are people of real skill, with the ability to work on and apply these skills and the power to make themselves successful if they so choose.   These moments have confirmed for me that teaching is worthwhile.

There have been may strands to my teaching year: pushing to really embed co-operative learning in my classroom; connecting with more teachers in my own school and beyond to share and build on practice; not just believing in the growth mindset but teaching it to my kids; deepening my understanding of what assessment that really progresses learning looks like; learning John Hattie’s mantra of ‘know thy impact’ and continually trying to keep at the front of my teaching mind.  The question of ‘is what I’m doing progressing my students’ learning?’ is now ever present, as is questioning what to do differently when it’s not.   All these things have added challenge to my year but are things I’d recommend any teacher to try – with each there have been tangible rewards.

All of these strands have woven themselves together in a change I’m making to how I use homework with my classes.  The change was inspired by Neil Winton’s (@nwinton) session at the Pedagoo Teachmeet in Glasgow (to go http://nwinton.wordpress.com/ for an overview) .  He shared with us the work he was doing to free up how students can show their learning.  It was pushed further by reading about Tait Coles’ work to develop Punk Learning (see http://taitcoles.wordpress.com/  or follow @totallywired77 for more).  This was something I found out about thanks to the world of teachers on Twitter and was serendipitously picked up on at a similar time by a colleague of mine in science: a fact that we realized not by speaking to each other in school but again through the platform of Twitter.

All of this in itself sums up the way that my own professional development has changed (I hope irrevocably) this year thanks to Pedagoo and the general enthusiasm of teachers who love to teach.  The momentum created by these folks setting up their own structures through which to share pedagogical ideas and approaches (teachmeets, #pedagoofriday, blogging…), circumventing more traditional models of how to share teaching knowledge and expertise, has given me so many new perspectives to use in my own teaching and delivered them in such a way that I have the energy and brain space to put them into practice.

And what is my new bit of practice?  I’ve experimented with setting open questions or tasks for homework, linked to the key idea of recent learning and challenging students to respond to these in anyway they so choose.  So, after my S1 class had been developing their research skills, while learning about the growth mindset, they were set the task of creating a resource that would help other 12 year olds to learn about their learning (bearing in mind that a lot of the sources we’d been using in our own research were geared more towards adults).  My S3 class finished reading Frankenstein and then had two weeks to create a response to the question ‘what makes us human?’

From both classes they were responses worth waiting for.  Students came back with videos they’d made, going out and sharing their learning with other friends and family, with animations created on websites I’d never heard of, with pieces of creative and non-fiction writing that spoke with their own voice and with models and posters.  The minute the homework responses arrived I realised that first time round I hadn’t planned properly how to give the work the audience that it deserved.  It needed to be seen by more folk than just me.  It was also homework that I was genuinely excited to mark, not least because my students where sharing with me what they really thought and felt about what were learning, rather than simply parroting back set, pre-planned responses.  It was also homework which let my learners show how they liked to learn and show me where the limits of their learning were – taking ideas as far as they could in the medium that they felt most comfortable in rather than producing a limited response to an overly structured task.  It was fascinating.

This is not to say that it was all reward and no challenge.  As already mentioned, I realised instantly that I needed to do more to integrate homework like this into the wider class experience.  This is needed to recognise, celebrate and hopefully deepen the effort and learning that goes into students’ responses.  Also, although many students really engaged with their task and produced something that was authentic and interesting, I felt a few used the open structure to do the least they could rather than show the most that they could and some continued to find it hard to hand in anything at all.  So, I’m continuing to think about how do to things differently to broaden out the enthusiasm, care and deep learning that a lot of my students have already shown as I move forward with this. Having launched two individual approaches in English and science, in the new year I’ll be embarking on a more collaborative approach with my colleague.

I know that I’m not there yet with getting the best learning that I can from this approach but I’m excited to be part of it.  Also, through deciding to give this new idea, picked up in a 30min session, a bash I feel that I’ve inadvertently set myself off on a new path, exploring what my learners are learning and how my learners are learning.  Further, it’s challenging me to think carefully about how I lead their learning to make sure that they’re learning for themselves and have the enthusiasm, energy and opportunities to push themselves to their very limits, maybe even beyond (to use some more well worn words).

I have found the challenges of this year hard.  Pausing to think through my experiences though, has made clear to me that as challenge is what I want for my learners it’s what I need to embrace for myself too.  Further, I teach in the hope that the progress that comes from embracing perpetual challenge is reward enough.


My year so far… #pedagooreview

My first 5 months of teaching have by far surpassed any expectations that I had previously. I have learned more in this short space than I ever could at university and that is simply due to the fact I landed myself an excellent department. My first thought looking back is how much I have grown in terms of my confidence in my ability to teach and my willingness to experiment and try new things and to persevere with these new things. I mean I never thought I would blog just 6 months ago but I have been gripped by the intensity of this, my probation year.

Looking back there are a few things that have stood out. I believe my relationships that I have built will stay with me for a while both with staff and pupils. How the pupils have engaged with me has been nothing short of excellent and they way in which they work with me and not against me has been a great highlight. I have introduced twitter, pedagoo, edmodo, senior football, first year football, sky sports living for sport and a running club in this 5 months – all of which have been taken up with good numbers.

The senior football team has been a particular highlight, being that I live in a rugby dominated area.  We have played a number of games and even got ourselves new strips and to see the boys wear them and the appreciation I received is why I want to stay in this role for years to come.

In terms of my teaching and learning, I have gained so much from a brilliant department. My questioning has improved and I now use whiteboards, discussions, thinking time and other active learning techniques that I have picked up from my department, twitter and of course pedagoo. I have used twitter to issue homework, hold discussions and generate enthusiasm within pupils that has generated a buzz in the school for activities and other things going on. I have also assisted in reintroducing Houses and alongside the House Team have managed to hold a few events and get everyone involved in the houses and representing their respective house and joining together as a group.

Overall this 5 months have been nothing short of excellent and I only hope the next 5 months, years and so on are just as excellent however busy I get.

A Bittersweet End to 2012 #PedagooReview

2012 has been an eventful year resulting in a lot of learning, achieving and frustrations. Although I’m ending the year in less than ideal circumstances with a long period of absence from work for medical reasons, it is inspiring to reflect on all of the great things that have occurred this year.

The growth of Pedagoo has been simply phenomenal this year. Involvement in the blog and #PedagooFriday has been spectacular, and our events have gone down a storm. We really seem to be reaching a critical mass of participation thanks to lots of support from many fantastic people – far too many to mention here (you know who you are 🙂 ). It’s great to see all the thought and effort paying off in terms of impact on colleagues, and ultimately learners.

I’ve also been lucky to have a had a great year in school. My classes have all been fantastic and their increasing desire to take ownership over their own learning and success has been heartwarming. This ranges from my S3/4 classes which have become increasingly confident in making use of the chromebooks we have access to as a tool to revolutionise the way we learn together, to our remarkable S6 students who took the PLWebLearn course I constructed to a whole new level which I’d never envisaged. It’s also been fab to see the use of the chromebooks and Google Apps spread across my department and school.

Obviously one of the highlights of my year has to be completing and passing my MEd. This is a very personal achievement of which I am, of course, proud. But, there’s a much more important outcome from my MEd which I would identify as my true highlight of the year. For the final phase of the course I had to lead a collaborative professional enquiry with colleagues from my school. I had to recruit this team on my arrival at the school due to the timings involved, and what a team they have turned out to be. Although I wrote up and handed in the dissertation in February of 2012, this team of highly positive professionals have continued to astound me with their willingness to try new things and share. Since completing our first enquiry, we’ve shared it with our colleagues in the school, to members of ACTS in Stirling and, most amazingly, to a packed room at the Scottish Learning Festival in Glasgow.

But that’s not all! Not only are they enthusiastically participating in a new enquiry this year, now with the support of Stirling University, but they are also now leading other school staff in two new collaborative enquiries of their own – something by their own admission they wouldn’t have even contemplated this time last year. All of this is ultimately to the benefit of a huge number of learners in our school as the teachers involved feel that they are now involved in deep and meaningful professional learning which is directly responding to the needs of their pupils by thoughtfully and collaboratively changing practice.

Which leads me to my bittersweet highlight…as although I’m frustrated that I’ve been stuck at home for the last month, I’m still delighted to see the emails coming through showing that all of the enquiries are continuing happily in my absence. Amazing! Well done team 🙂

My Favourite Lesson of the Year #PedagooReview

Inspiration for 2012 Favourite Lesson


As luck would have it, after hearing about the #pedagooreview (share your favourite learning experience from 2012 on pedagoo.org) , I happened to have my favourite lesson of the year. This lesson was inspired by Hywel Roberts’ amazing Oops! This wonderfully inspiring book is packed with fun, ideas, lists and laughter; I am now desperately trying to avoid a cliché but if you are struggling to think of a good Christmas gift for a teacher friend, this book is one of those gifts that keep on giving!

My favourite lesson of this year came from a chapter named Accidentally Learning, in which Hywel took the idea of a mountain range and transformed it into a myriad of learning experiences. This is where I took it…


Year 9’s ‘class reader’ for the term was Lord of the Flies. This novel depicts the carnage that is a group of school boys shipwrecked on an island creating their own laws and society. The SMSC possibilities that arise from exploring narrative are so rich! After a term of exploring democracy, dictatorship, Freudian concepts such as the id, ego and superego, the pupils were armed and ready to create their own society.

We began with the question “What keeps our world calm?” Their answers demonstrated a wealth of social and moral content that studying this novel had provided; my favourite answer was “fear.” One boy explained how each thing that keeps our world from breaking out into chaos is born of fear. We are afraid of the consequences of our actions and this keeps our society as it is; he explained how very few people allow their id to rule their existence as the id can result in negative consequences. 

During our discussion, we used a thought bomb (an idea also born from the Oops book) to keep the peace in our microcosm by passing it from person to person as the shipwrecked boys did with a symbolic conch shell when creating their democracy. Pupils were only allowed to speak if they held the bomb and, as it was passed around the room, our thoughts exploded into amazing ideas.


Just an image and storytelling required

No sooner had conch calm fallen, when I suddenly wrecked the peace with the revelation that Christmas 2012 saw the destruction of our planet. Humans had finally gone too far; the world had blown up. All that remained was a small section of England, surrounded by nothing but an expanse of water. Pupils were hooked by this story! These pupils are thirteen and fourteen years old but their imaginations are still alive. There’s nothing quite like an apocalypse to get the imagination cogs whirring. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have heard that the world is going to end (I totally remember believing it when I was young) and you could see the pupils had that “this could actually happen” look in their eyes.

This lesson was not designed to create mass panic; the idea was to enthuse the students to WANT to learn how to speak persuasively. I was keeping that fact a secret for the time being. They needed to draw the outline of their island and draw five things of their choice which had survived the blast. This wasn’t an art lesson and this task did not take very long to complete. Conscientiously, they discussed ideas and possibilities in pairs, creating a really positive vibe in the room.

An Island

Some pupils thought very carefully about the consequences of their choices and drew fresh water lakes filled with fish and working farms complete with livestock to ensure the survival of their species. Others drew establishments such as Macdonald’s, ADSA or Pizza Hut. This was a fantastic opportunity to explore what good decision making looked like and helped us to begin to decide on the qualities of a good leader.

The pupils had a real purpose for exploring leadership qualities as the next step was to become the leader of the other survivors. We looked atEngland’s leader David Cameron for a moment and explored what kind of leaders we wanted to become. They all agreed that they wanted to be honest and trustworthy….qualities of which they decided Cameron was not a great role model for.

After using a version of QFT to get a fuller image of their island (I became God for a moment and allowed them to ask me anything) they were told that their people were in panic! Much like the littuluns on the island, their people had become afraid of the future. They feared famine, disease and even each other! As leaders, they would need to gather their people together and use their powers of persuasion as fair and just leaders to restore calm to their island.


It was amazing! The pupils seemed to genuinely care about the plight of their imaginary people. They cared enough to analyse a speech by Martin Luther King to ensure that they got their speech just right. They wanted to learn from a true leader so that they could become great leaders and take their nation forward to a happier situation.

Independent Analysis


This ‘Oops learning’ idea had resulted in high levels of engagement, students acquired the knowledge required to create their effective speeches rapidly and their final products were outstanding. If an Ofsted inspector had been sat at the back of my room, they might have wanted to see more checks for learning every few minutes or that I had created a bar chart of progress to evaluate the impact of this task within an inch of its life. However, there is no doubt in my mind that this learning experience was, for them and for me, outstanding. They enjoyed the lesson, they achieved, they felt awe, wonder and passion over the topic and WANTED to do well.

My favourite thing about this learning experience

This exploration could result in so many other learning experiences! From the idea of a new world we could have debates over decisions that have to be made, develop creative writing or develop ideas in role as characters. I think that the possibilities with this kind of learning are endless. Thanks Hywel! You’re on the good list for sure!

Cross-posted from Reflections of a Learning Geek

End of term #PedagooReview

As the term draws to a close I thought I would pull together some of the best bits of pedagogy I have picked up  from 15 minute forums, Learning Development Groups, Twitter, lesson observations etc this term.

In the spirit of Christmas there are 12…….

1. Stop getting students to copy learning objectives!  It’s a passive, dull activity that serves no learning purpose.  Discuss and explore them together, but don’t copy them.

2. Flip the learning from time to time.  Set students a homework where they learn the content for the next lesson – where they then carry out activities based on their homework learning. Allows the teacher time to support, address misconceptions and challenge.

3. Develop extended writing skills by encouraging students to do a ‘one minute plan’ for their extended answer and then use connectives to develop this into a paragraph.

4. Use a big picture (literally) as a hook to engage students and encourage discussion.

5. Use Edmodo to set homework – students like it and it gives the teacher useful feedback on student performance.

6. Use the ‘Plan on a Page’ to plan effective lessons – where each learning episode is differentiated and learning is assessed.

7. Graffiti learning – Get students to do a card sort in pairs, then allow them to use dry markers to group/link/annotate the cards by writing on desks.  Great for developing discussion and collaborative work.

8. Close the gap marking – Include a question in your marking comments to move their learning on, give them time to respond in lessons and then respond to their response!

9. Use exit cards at the end of the lesson to identify what they have learned and what they have struggled with.  In the next lesson, match students up – those who struggled with certain topics and those that were confident – and get them to teach each other.

10. Mini whiteboards are a great way to check learning…..but need to be used well.  Make sure all students hold up their answers at the same time (so they can’t all copy the bright kid!) and then question them on their answer – don’t let them get away with just holding it up!

11. The Panel Presents – Produce a powerpoint of images to show to students, that cover the main themes of the lesson. In groups, they then have to prepare and give a presentation, based around these images.

12. SOLO taxonomy and Hexagons – prepare hexagons with key words written on them (alternatively students can write their  own on). Students then have to link the hexagons together (based on links between the words) and then explain their reasons for doing so.  This can act as the basis for a piece of extended writing.

Another reminder of the ‘aggregation or marginal gains’!

‘My dog has fleas’ #pedagooreview


A highlight for 2012?  Over the years I have been involved in many things, often with the focus being on technology and science stuff.  I’ve always strived to engage pupils and am constantly on the look out for resources that enhance and extend my learners experiences.  Twitter has been a great way to find and share ideas with enthusiastic motivated teachers all over the world. So I have surprised myself as my definite highlight has been something very un-tech.

At the end of last session I noticed a poster advertising a new pilot project for Fife being organised by Sandra Taylor of the Youth Music Initiative; Ukulele in the classroom.  Now, like all primary teachers I’m a ‘Jack of all trades’ and have taught music to various age groups over my 11 year career so far.  I have also been fortunate enough to work with excellent visiting specialists and musically talented class teachers over the years at various schools.  I can hold a note having been encouraged to sing in choirs as a child and would consider myself a good enough recorder player to keep one step ahead of a P7 class.  However it is not something I had ever considered as being a ‘strength’.

So what possessed me to fire off an email and sign up? Was it the fact that as a primary teacher I regularly wish I hadn’t given up learning to play piano at the age of 8?  That I now actually agree with my mum that I would live to regret it?  Well, if I’m honest – partly yes (but don’t tell my mum).  My main reason was that I thought it would be fun.  Fun for me and fun for my pupils.  Whilst I’m sure recorder has its defenders and can be a beautiful instrument I was sure that ukulele would have the edge.  If nothing else (I figured) you can sing along and they come in cool colours. I also decided that surely you couldn’t go to a ukulele twilight and meet people who didn’t want to be there.  You can’t take life too seriously if you choose to play the uke.  A chance to learn a new skill, be part of a pilot with motivated people and get outside my comfort zone.  I’m in !

Thankfully I was accepted on the pilot and met up with the fantastic Sandra Taylor and Ann Rae.  A real mix of teachers attend, some I know, most I didn’t.  I headed back from the first twilight with 19 ukuleles in the boot of my car to an incredibly excited class… two weeks of daily tuning had to be undertaken before they could be played and my utterly brilliant classroom assistant took on the challenge with me. She claims to be totally unmusical but was totally up for it.  I love working with people like her! Enthusiastic, motivated and positive.

So how have we done so far since September? It has been utterly fantastic!  I have driven my colleagues mad with our constant tuning and strumming (one of which is getting a uke for her Christmas). Children have been bought their own instruments (which can be had for around £20) and I know a few more will be appearing in stockings on the 25th. My class have totally surpassed my expectations, we play twice a week and have a whole stack of chords under our belts.  Some pupils are naturals, some find it tricky; everyone loves it.

We have performed three songs at our School Christmas concert in front of a packed church. We are off to play to the nursery this week and at another church service on Saturday.  We are even planning to play on the Glow TV Talent show this week.  We’ve made a giant Hawaiian Christmas card for the hall featuring Santa in shorts, ukulele calendars and strumming ukulele playing snowmen Christmas cards.  Music is fun! I have never had a class exclaim ‘YES!’ when it’s time to play recorder. Yes, I’ve seen recorder taught really well…but in my opinion the uke is better. In the new year we are going to go even further and start composing our own songs.

And technology? Well, we have a class blog into which we have an RSS feed from audioboo. We regularly record our music (including our Samba drumming) and comment upon it on our blog.  We can hear ourselves improve as we sing along enjoying ourselves.  I demonstrated how other teachers could use Audioboo to record and share their class’ work.  I’m hoping this is going to develop into a network so pupils can offer peer feedback across schools.  Oh, and one pupil is working on a Scratch project featuring an interactive Ukulele! I’m also just about to send off recording to Chris Evans on Radio 2 which, fingers crossed he might broadcast.

We have a concert planned for the summer term and our enthusiasm shows no sign of wavering.  I’m looking forward to my uke twilights and we are apparently performing as a staff at the Fife Festival of Music.  I have my homework to do over the holidays! All of this and just yesterday I read with interest on Twitter that the Scottish Government have pledged to spend an extra million pounds on instruments for schools.

So what have I learned? Well, we never stop learning and getting yourself outside of your comfort zone is a good place to be.  Everyone should seek out motivated, positive people to engage with; enthusiasm is infectious.  Pedagoo is one great place to do this….a room full of ukulele playing teachers is another 🙂

Oh..in case you were wondering-I don’t own a dog!.

Beyond the classroom, into employment #PedagooReview

Although most of Pedagoo.org is focussed around school level learning, I’ve followed their work over the past year as I feel it is important to keep up with developments in other parts of the sector. Very often I’ve learned more about teaching and learning from my PS & HS colleagues than from my peers in FE, or even from CPD courses I’ve undertaken.

So, I’m taking part in Pedagoo Review and looking back on successes in my classroom – actually successes out of the classroom too, as learning doesn’t stop at the classroom door, no matter which way you’re walking.

I’ve worked hard over the past few years to get credible work experience for my students and real life projects to give them a better understanding of employment in the creative industries. Work experience is often more important to employers than qualifications as it serves as a differentiator between job candidates. Fortunately there have been a number of successes recently in gaining such experience for students.

Internships & jobs
A few years ago I met a local PS teacher via Twitter and later in person at a Teachmeet at the Scottish Learning Festival. She put me in touch with her husband in an IT company. Subsequently he was looking at taking on some interns, and after a while the two students who went to work for him gained permanent jobs. Just this past month he’s been back in touch looking for more interns & several students are being interviewed this week.

Aladdin special effects videoTheatrics
A year ago we were contacted by the local theatre, the Alhambra in Dunfermline, about working with them on their productions. Although they were initially interested in drama students, after talking with them for a while they realised they could make use of our animation, video and photography skills too.

At the end of 2011 we worked with some of the cast of the Aladdin pantomime and made a special effects laden video of Aladdin escaping the treasure cave and flying through Dunfermline. The 3 minute video was shown at the end of the first half of the show and was a great success with the audience who loved the local references in the sequence.

This gave a handful of students experience of shooting and editing video, working to deadlines and quality standards, and working with professional actors.

Since that project the Alhambra has kindly allowed their venue to be used for a fashion photography shoot and also hosted this year’s student exhibition.

More recently we’ve been working on this year’s pantomime, creating a surprise special effects video for Cinderella.

Visit Dunfermline
This organisation that promotes businesses & events around Dunfermline gave our students a chance to create a mural at East End Park to promote the famous people from the surrounding area. The mural was unveiled in February and copies of the mural are now set to be used in the city chambers and in future promotional activities.

Over the next year students will be working with Visit Dunfermline on their Dunfermline2014 website.

king Robert the BruceKing Robert the Bruce
A website to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn & celebrate Dunfermline’s link with the warrior king.

Students are working on animations & educational materials for the site, aided by Herald Events who do Scottish themed events. Herald Events have since asked for students to work with them on building a website for a Robert Burns event & to create film.

Looking forward
So I think 2012 has been successful in terms of obtaining students’ work experience and showcasing their work to a wider audience. I’m sure it will benefit the students as they move on to employment or further study, and I’m looking forward to future projects with the aforementioned organisations and new ones in 2013.


My highlights of 2012 #PedagooReview

What was good about 2012?  Under an umbrella, I propose:  “new techniques and technologies that really work for me and which are not rammed down my throat by either an administrator or by a self interested publisher”.

  1. #ukedchat:  I have become fairly regular on Thursday evenings and have learned a great deal.  I have also ignored plenty, but the feeling of talking with others who “feel my pain” has been liberating in the extreme.  Twitter is not the most considered forum, but this works and has made me a better teacher in a number of ways – principally because I am thinking about what I do.  New Year hope:  fewer Ad Hominem attacks when people disagree – there is more than one way to teach and we should be very wary of blind implementation or condemnation.
  2. my Blog: jwpblog.wordpress.com  has been brilliant fun and Ia way to genuinely ensure that I reflect and develop my teaching.  I haver tried to keep it to a teaching resources site, but have strayed from time to time.  Examples of much I include below can be found on it.
  3. Best cheap resource:  LIQUID CHALK PENS.  Windows are now display boards and there is no better way for engaging the less engaged – Yr 9 prepared poetry by writing their word banks on the very windows they were looking out of – they really went for it and much more was achieved than might have been if only using books.
  4. Best teaching idea of the year:  SOLO taxonomy with hexagon planning for essay preparation.  Really has begun to have an impact in Year 13 and hopefully lower down. I used David Didau – How to teach a perfect OFSTED English lesson to clarify my thoughts – most useful book of the year.
  5. continuing to develop:  filming of S+L activities and use of cameras generally.
  6. I could not work without:  Evernote, Dropbox, CamScanner+ – no wireless in the classrooms, so these keep me sane.
  7. Best moment:  Erin’s A in GCSE English Language
  8. Most difficult circle to square:  Work-life balance.  Watching Wasps and having support at home is brilliant, as are my colleagues, but this is a serious issue.  We work in one of the most stimulating and exciting jobs there is.  However we are bombarded with paperwork from all sides.  Admin takes up more time  than it should and mainly to hit spurious targets designed to make us better teachers.  Where will it end?
  9. .. which brings me to Times Educational Miscreant… (timeseducationalmiscreant.blogspot.com/) which is a constant source of delight.
  10. Most influential Twitter poster for me this year:  Geoff Barton.  For those who know -enough said.  For those who don’t-you should!


So, you all know how #PedagooFriday works now. Every Friday teachers share the highlight of their teaching week on twitter with the hashtag #PedagooFriday. It’s a fantastically positive way to the end the week and a remarkably great way of sharing ideas.

As next week is the last week of the teaching year we thought we’d do something different…introducing the #PedagooReview! Let’s end the year on a high!

For the #PedagooReview we’re asking teachers to share your teaching highlight of 2012 all this week! You can of course do this on twitter just like on a #PedagooFriday, but given this is your highlight of a whole year, you might want to consider sharing it as a blog post instead to allow you to explain it in more than 140 characters.

The idea of Pedagoo.org is that any teacher can share their practice on the blog. All you have to you is join and then click on new post and you’re away. It’s easy! What would be a better of way of writing your first post on Pedagoo.org than sharing the highlight from your classroom from the whole year?

So anytime this week, write a blog post or a tweet to share your best bit of 2012 and add the hashtag #PedagooReview!

Many thanks to @Lexi_Quest for the idea 🙂