Using Film in History.

Building enthusiasm within your classroom is important if you are to ensure engagement from pupils in their learning. The curriculum for excellence: building the curriculum 4 documents that using enthusiasm and motivation for learning enable young people to become successful learners (Scottish Government, 2009a). A good way to hook pupils at the start of a topic is to make use of media such as television and film. More often than not, the first cultural experience children will have will be through TV and video (BFI Education, 2013). For many young people, they look forward to going home after a day at school to engage in some sort of entertainment media such as gaming or a movie (The Tech-Wise Family, 2017). Therefore, incorporating film into lessons helps to bridge the gap between home and school.  Additionally, it is exciting for pupils to do something they will perceive as fun,  I can guarantee you will receive a high level of engagement as soon as you even mention a video! That is why it is important we, as teachers, make use of such media to engage young people in history and to provide information at a level they understand.

For our social studies TDT, we were to choose a film that could be used for teaching a historical subject and devise some suitable learning outcomes and activities for an upper stage class. I decided to choose the diary of Anne Frank, which aired on the BBC in 2009 as a series of 5 episodes whereby the well-known diaries were adapted for television (The Diary of Anne Frank, 2009). I chose this because I remember watching it when I was in primary 7 myself, it wasn’t to do with anything I was learning in primary school, it was merely out of interest and I remember really enjoying watching the programme.

I thought it would be great to use in an upper stages class as an introduction to a topic on world war two that would focus on the holocaust. This could be linked with the experience and outcome “I can discuss why people and events from a particular time in the past were important, placing them within a historical sequence” (Scottish Government, 2009b). These diaries that had come to life in the form of a accessible TV programme would be great for engaging children in the topic and aiding their knowledge and understanding. It can often be hard for young children to comprehend such events that seem so distant and show no relevance to their lives, however these sort programmes allow children to use a medium such as TV which they understand and are familiar with to relate to the story of Anne Frank and develop their understanding as to why the holocaust is a tragedy for humanity (Lello, 1980). The use of voice-over allows the thoughts and feelings of Anne to be empathised with whilst we watch scenes unfold showing what it was like to be in hiding. The use of media would enable emotional effects, allowing the pupils to feel a part of the learning.

In terms of activities, I thought it would be a good idea for the pupils to write a letter to Anne Frank as one of the other characters in the programme. This will enable a more real learning experience and they will be able to draw on their knowledge and understanding to ask questions. Farmer (2015) suggests drama can provide young people with a purpose to their writing, this sort of meaningful context can enable improvement in writing skills as well as understanding of historical events. We would be able to discuss their letters and come up with possible responses, using the diary extracts to get into the role of Anne Frank to enable us to really understand her thoughts and feelings during that time. There are many famous quotes from her diary which can be used in a classroom to promote higher order thinking skills, allowing them to critically analyse her words – do they agree or disagree? Are what she discusses relevant to our society? The curriculum for excellence cites the importance of teachers promoting the development of higher order thinking skills (Scottish Government, 2009). There are so many ways you can take this topic but one way could be to get young people really thinking about what they would ideally like in their society, what is a perfect world? And what are our hopes and aspirations? Anne’s dreams for her life are often mentioned throughout the diaries and it can help put a positive spin on a sad ending, looking at what our dreams are as a class. Another great way to aid pupils understanding would be to play the programme as the pupils have their eyes closed, this enables them to focus on her words as she describes the situation so they can imagine it themselves and feel as if they are there. Following on from this, the class can then go on to look at the holocaust as a whole and being able to see where Anne Frank’s story fits in with the timeline of events. In terms of learning outcomes, learners will have developed knowledge of the story of Anne Frank and developed an initial understanding into the Holocaust, as well as begun developing skills such as chronology, capacity for critical thinking, enquiry – asking questions, empathy and historical imagination (Hoodless 2008; Scottish Government, 2009c).

Whilst the programmes are very thought provoking, they can be emotional to watch and could potentially upset some young people, however it is important time in our history which aids pupils’ understanding of the world we live in, for example, why we have the Holocaust Memorial Day. Additionally, it demonstrates the power of writing and how it can be used to enable us to understand someone else’s perspective. This is just one example of how film can be used to make history come alive and provide a meaningful learning experience for young people.

“We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same.”

Anne Frank

Reference List

BFI Education. (2013). Look Again! A teaching guide to using film and television with three- to eleven-year-olds. London: Department for Education and Skills.

Farmer, D. (2015). Drama For Writing. [online] Drama Resource. Available at: [Accessed 24 Oct. 2018].

Hoodless, P. (2008). Teaching History in Primary Schools. Exeter: Learning Matters.

Lello, J. (1980). The Concept of Time, the Teaching of History, and School Organization. The History Teacher, 13(3), p.341. Doi: 10.2307/491674.

The Diary of Anne Frank (2009). BBC One Television, 5 January.

Scottish Government (2009a). Curriculum for Excellence, Building the Curriculum 4: skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work. Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

Scottish Government. (2009b). Social Studies: Experiences and Outcomes. Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

Scottish Government. (2009c). Social Studies: Principles and Practice. Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

The Tech-Wise Family (2017). How Teens Spend Their After-School Hours. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24th Oct. 2018].


Teaching Controversial Issues in the Classroom.

Yesterday in my Social Studies Elective we were discussing teaching controversial issues within the classroom and it became clear that it was quite common for such issues to be shied away from, one of the reasons being the potential backlash from parents. It got me thinking about my experiencing with controversial issues during my time in primary and secondary school. One experience which stuck out was a modern studies class I had in first or second year of high school, we went in one day and without any prior discussion my teacher put on a clip from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I was horrified, I couldn’t believe it, despite being 3 years old at the time of the incident and seeing it on the news, I had no recollection and had managed to not come across it till then. Despite being shocked I was so intrigued by it, I remember going home and telling everyone, I was so fascinating by what I had seen that I spent that night on the computer researching, watching documentary after documentary on it. This soon became my favourite class, I wasn’t the biggest modern studies person, I didn’t even take it at standard grade level and yet I looked forward to these classes due to the fact we would explore controversial issues in every lesson, my teacher wasn’t afraid to explore them and I for one, enjoyed discussing them and learning more about them, I was so engaged as a result. This experience has shaped the teacher I have become as I believe quite strongly in teaching controversial issues within the classroom, more often than not pupils will be engaged and you as the teacher can provide a safe place for them to discover and discuss such issues. This being said there is always going to be a certain degree of risk involved but isn’t risk-taking important in teaching?

So, why teach controversial issues?

It could be argued that the reason for social studies is to teach young people the kind of substantive knowledge that promotes a deeper understanding of their world. So you could say that the best way to do this is to provide consistent opportunities for students to tackle controversial issues. Still don’t believe me? Well you don’t have to, esteemed social studies educators such as Edwin Fenton, Lawrence Metcalf, Hilda Taba, Anna Ochoa, Shirley Engle and more all advocate teaching through inquiry which promotes enduring questions, positive confusion, reflective thought and an understanding of differences in values, priorities and definitions of mortality. Teaching controversial issues does this, nothing in my whole 6 years at high school got me thinking more than that lesson on 9/11, yes I was confused, it is hard to comprehend how another human being could do something like that but that got me thinking – what would make someone do that? This lesson promoted reflective thought, I had experienced something (watching the clip), I had thought (a lot) about what had happened and I learnt from that experience (that everyone sees the world differently and things can happen that drive people to do bad things). Reflective thought is part of the critical thinking process, are these not the sort of higher order thinking skills we want our young people to be developing? As controversial issues prompt young people to think about why people do things that we perceive to be horrific (like I did), this provides a perfect opportunity to nurture a growth in tolerance for other points of view. This sort of cultural awareness and appreciation of diversity is essential if young people are to become responsible citizens. If there was more of a tolerance for others within our society then there might be less conflict. Doesn’t that sound great?

But won’t the children will be scared?

Most of the time, no. As a teacher, you should know your children well enough and research the topic you intend to discuss well to ensure this doesn’t happen. Controversial issues can be seen everywhere in the media and with the rise of the internet, it is likely a lot of children will encounter these issues outside of the classroom off their own accord. Therefore, it is even more important they have a place where they can discuss what they have seen and share their thoughts, learning the facts rather than being alerted by fake news. You could argue they aren’t controversial issues they are relevant issues, issues that affect our society and learning about these are relevant to young people’s understanding of the world.

But what if the parents don’t like it?

Most parents understand that controversial topics will come up at school, just like they will come up at home, you can’t avoid them. If you are going to be exploring such an issue, send home a note or email letting parents know, a lot of the time they just want a chance to share their views with their children and letting them know in advance means you already know if there will be upset and you can deal with this. Controversial issues are extremely valuable learning experiences and as such it requires some thought and advance preparation but the impact it will have on your students will be worth it. 8 years on and I still remember that lesson like it was yesterday, the experience has stayed with me and enabled me to make sense of the world we live in. It introduced me to a world I didn’t know existed and shouldn’t a child’s education expand their horizons?

Controversial issues can be uncomfortable and it can be easier to avoid the conflict and risk involved with teaching them but it is necessary. As teachers we have the power to provide a safe and nurturing environment in which to explore controversial issues and we need to use it.

Exploring Characters

Choose a well-known story. Create ‘role on the walls’ to demonstrate how the main characters feel (inner) and how they are perceived by others (outer). Create a still image carousel to retell the story using just 3 or 4 key scenes. During each still image, use thought tracking to externalise what each character is thinking during that moment.

As a group, we chose the story of ‘The Three Little Pigs’ and discussed how the pigs felt when their house was blown down vs. when their house wasn’t blown down, as well as how the wolf felt after being defeated. This allowed us to really get into the mindset of the characters and how they were feeling before creating our still images.

We recorded our still images and also considered the thought tracking element as a way of informing the audience of how each character is feeling at that time.

  • In the first image, we used the chairs to represent the house for three three little pigs and we are all happy in our own homes. Thought tracking – “I love living in my house next to my brothers. So pleased with my house built with straw.” – pig
  • In the second image, the wolf has appeared and blown down the first house, 2 pigs are still happy, however, the first pig is distraught. TT – Yas, blown my first house down.” – wolf
  • In the third image, the wolf has blown down another house so now 2 pigs are distraught and 1 pig is still happily in his home. TT – “Oh my god, can’t believe the wolf blew down my house, I’m homeless!! I shouldn’t of used sticks to build my house!” – pig
  • In the fourth image, the wolf tries so hard to blow down the last house, but is unsuccessful and the house is still standing with the pig inside. TT – “So happy I built my house with bricks, that wolf will never blow it down.” – pig
  • In the last image, all the pigs go round to the house built with bricks, set up a home inside together and live happily ever after. The wolf is very angry that he was unable to blow the house down. TT – “I am so angry I couldn’t blow that house down, I will get those pigs one day!!” – wolf


Music and Storytelling

Choose a well-known children’s story and dramatise this, using musical motifs, sound effect, character songs and instrumental music to accompany the drama/narrative. This can take the form of a stage production or a radio version of the story.

We choose the story of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ and dramatise this into a radio version. To make the story come alive, we used the instrumental version of ‘Teddy Bears Picnic’ for the effect of ‘if you go into the woods today…’. Additionally, we used musical motifs for every time Little Red Riding Hood was mentioned to signal the entrance of an important character. Sound effects were also used to help bring the story to life, for example, using a scream when the woodcutter is in the forest.


Tell a Dance Story

Choose a well-known nursery rhyme. Devise a simple choreography to tell the story without using any words.

The Teapot Song

I’m a little teapot, short and stout. Bend knees and have arms above head to create an ‘o’ shape.

Here is my handle, here is my spout. Put left hand on hip and have right arm diagonally up.

When I get all steamed up, hear me shout, Shake your full body.

Tip me over and pour me out. Lean to the right and lift left leg (keep straight) up off the floor.

I’m a very special pot, it’s true, Place right hand onto your heart.

Here, let me show you what I can do. Return to standing normal and place arms out (palms up). 

I can change my handle and my spout, Put right hand on hip and have left arm diagonally up.

Tip me over and pour me out. Lean to the left and lift right leg (keep straight) up off the floor.

Create an Advert

In this task, you are asked to create an advert (for television or radio). The focus of this should be the musical persuasion. 

My group decided to create an advert for ‘coca cola’, purely sound based for the use on radio. The advert starts with a take on the ‘jaws’ theme tune which was recorded on a keyboard. The tempo is gradually increased followed by the noise of a can opening which acts as the full-stop to the music. To end the advert there is a breath of relief followed by ‘coca-cola take a breath.’ We used this to persuade consumers to relax with a coca cola and take a break from their busy lives with the relief of a cold, fizzy drink.

Dance Drama

Choose an environmental issue and tell its story through dance.

We chose deforestation as our environmental issue. Using the song ‘Grow’ by Frances, our aim was to send a powerful message about deforestation using a slow, gentle dance. We found it particularly challenging to portray ourselves as trees through dance as we did feel a bit ridiculous and we weren’t sure how clear it was. However, it was all a learning curve and we worked as a team to get our final clip. In the clip we settled on as being the best, we all gradually come up and grow as trees followed by a bit of dance as happy trees, working together to provide oxygen for the world, then at the end we are all cut down and fall to our death. Upon reflection, I feel this would be a good task to explore with a class as it allowed us to really engage with an environmental issue in a way we never would have imagined.

Create a Silent Movie

In this task, you should select your soundtracks (examples will be offered during the workshop), use these as a stimulus for your drama, creating a story based on the different soundtracks. You should then act out your silent movie ensuring that the drama reflects the music selected.

In our music workshop, we were given the opportunity to create a silent movie and my group chose the genre of horror. We did this by creating our own soundtrack, keeping it fairly simple by just using tuned percussion and a wooden guiro. Initially, when we discussed how the silent movie would unveil, we wanted to use leitmotifs to distinguish between differing characters upon entry. However, upon reflection it was going to be too complex to portray well so we decided to keep the same tune and just play it over each time. As you will see in the video, I found the tune to go very well with what was happening in the movie as it gave an uneasy atmosphere and built up anticipation as the characters entered the lift. Although each character would enter the lift with the same music and then their disappearance would be discovered to the same tune, it provided a sense of rhythm alongside the mysterious tone of the unknown.

Upon reflection of this task, I believe it would be very beneficial to conduct a lesson similar to this in a classroom as it draws on children’s creativity and musical experience whilst allowing everyone to get involved. Additionally, children should feel a sense of pride after completing their very own masterpiece which they can share with family alongside having (hopefully) enjoyed the learning experience.

Learning from Packaging

Collect and photograph a range of packaging such as boxes, packets and tins from your kitchen or shopping. Flatten out some of the boxes when they are empty. Make notes on the different designs, colours and letters used by the designer and reflect upon these choices and the messages they give out. Compare two different examples and evaluate why you prefer one to the other. What audience are they aimed at? How could you use this activity in the primary classroom? What else could be learned from this study. Include photographs or sketches of the packaging, your notes and written evaluation. Design and create a piece of packaging to appeal to a specific audience or market and upload this to your portfolio.

  1. Quaker Oats have used a sun and blue sky to identify how good your mornings will be when you have their porridge for breakfast. Minimal text is used to highlight the key points – it is simple and quick. The red colouring represents the flavouring of porridge so
    consumers can easily identify the difference between the boxes.
  2. Tesco have used images of bubbles on their lemon bitter to emphasise the fizzy-ness of the drink. Coupled with the classic lettering used for ‘lemon’ it is visual appealing and subtle in its neutral colours.
  3. Tesco have used a classic red colour which has proven to be attractive to the human eye and in this example is representation of the jam centre. The text is positioned within the outline of a biscuit tin to feature where the creams belong once purchased. Having several images of the biscuit on top of each other send out the message that there is lots of biscuits for the price.
  4. John West have used green/blue/turquoise/aqua to represent the ocean in which tuna is obtained from. The traditional lettering and ‘since 1857’ could be there to send out the message that they are a reliable, long-standing company. The animated pictures of fish indicate what sort of product it is.
  5. Clover have used quite an outdoor/summer vibe for their packaging which could be to send out the message that their product is all natural. The attract to nature being that it indicates the product is much left artificial than other products, therefore, making it more desired. This is emphasised in the ‘simply made with buttermilk’ text.
  6. Pepsi have used a black label to blend in with the colour of the Pepsi, the attraction being it is simple to for the eye. It could be said that the red, blue and white logo is from the American flag as it is an american company. Again, the lettering is very simple and straight to the point ‘maximum taste, no sugar’ giving the consumer all the information they need.
  7. Tesco have used quite a faded, stamp-like logo for their instant coffee to represent the authenticity of their product. The coffee beans next to the cup are used to emphasis the rich, coffee taste you’ll get from the powder just by adding hot water. Additionally, ‘serves 55’ stamp is used to show how much you’ll get for you money.
  8. Nescafe have gone with a slightly more ‘out-there’ design for their ‘Azera barista style instant coffee’. This packaging is meant to be visual appealing to the consumer and is intended to stand out from all the other coffee brands. Additionally, the ‘limited edition’ banner is used to emphasis the need to get it now as it won’t be around for long.










    To compare the last 2 pieces of packaging for instant coffee, it is very clear they have many differences. The Tesco one is very much indeed for practicality – getting the point across but also attracting the consumer to the taste of a classic coffee. Whereas, the Nescafe one is much more visually appealing and relying on the consumer liking the design rather than the look/sound of the coffee. I definitely prefer the Nescafe one and I think this is purely down to the eye-catching design, it would most definitely attract your eye from far away in the shop whereas you would have to be intending to look at coffee and be fairly up close to find the Tesco one appealing.  This one is also aimed at coffee drinkers whereas the last one could be for anyone, you could not like coffee at all but still want the nicely designed container!

    You could use this activity in the primary school by asking pupils to bring in pieces of packaging from home that is their favourite and ask them to explain why, developing their aesthetic understanding. Additionally, they could have a go at designing their own packaging after researching and exploring aspects that need to be considered when designing products for the consumer. In addition to learning about advertisement and the power of visually appealing products, pupils would learn that everyone likes different things as everyone will have a different opinion on different packaging, therefore, this develops their ability to see things from other’s perspective.

Packaging for instant coffee, designed by me appealing specifically to coffee drinkers.


Final Design


Gallery Visit

Physically visit an art gallery, exhibition or museum. Select a piece of work and develop a project for the primary classroom based on your study, research and understanding of the piece and its context.  Your portfolio must contain evidence of your attendance (e.g. ticket stub) and direct study of the piece e.g. your own notes and photographs, diagrams or scanned in rough sketches. It is essential that you see and engage with the piece directly as well as in reproduction.

I visited the McManus gallery in Dundee and selected a piece by David Batchelor which caught my attention.

“The only colours that interested me were unnatural and artificial colours. Industrial colours, city colours: chemical, electrical, plastic, metallic, neon…”

This particular piece caught my eye as it was bright and colourful and stood out amongst everything else in the McManus. It is made from 200 plastic bottles, electrical flex and low energy lamps. As you can see from the photos, the central concern for this piece is colour. The subject matter Batchelor explores are always rooted in the artificial and industrially manufactured world. Everything that he has used is found (manufactured for some purpose other than art) and ‘poor’, being used up or industrial. The ‘shiny’ colourful materials are always contrasted by the mechanisms of how the work is powered and supported – electrical flex, junction boxes and plugs (both of equal importance and both transformed into sculptural objects of mesmerising beauty).

A project for the classroom could involve taking pupils to the McManus to actually study the piece and allow them to take their own photos and make sketches. I thought this piece would be quite enjoyable for children as it is visually appealing and made out of household items. Following on from this, there could be a class project in which pupils help to recreate their own piece using this as the stimulus. Every pupil could bring an item from home that is artificial and goes to waste after emptied and then together, build their own. As a class, we could explore why we think Batchelor created this and what does it say about our environment and the place we live in. Moving away from Art, we could explore recycling plastics and the effect it has on our environment. Additionally, we could use bright, neon colours to paint our own version of the piece.


Alternate Endings

Choose a well-known story. Consider the ‘big themes’ of the story and explore possible alternate endings. Decide on the most powerful new ending and film your new story. 

I choose the award-winning story ‘Lost & Found’ by Oliver Jeffers. In this book, a lost penguin shows up at a little boys door, the boy found out where it came from and returned it. However, the journey to the north pole is long and difficult in their little rowing boat, to pass town the little boy tells the penguin stories. When they arrive, instead of being happy they are both sad, then the boy realises that the penguin wasn’t lost, it was just lonely.

I consider the ‘big themes’ to be friendship, bravery, loneliness and adventure. The possible endings I explored were: the boy couldn’t find the south pole so came home with the penguin; the boy welcomed the penguin into his home, they went to school together, played together, etc. until he was ready to go back to the south pole; the boy took the penguin to the south pole and went back home but everyday the penguin came back and everyday the boy took him back till he realised he was lonely.


Writing in Role

Choose an everyday object from around you (e.g. a chair, a pen, the tv…). Use the drama convention Visualisation to explore what it would be like to be that object. If it could hear, what would it hear? If it could see, what would it see? If it could feel, what would it feel? Write a short description of the world from the point of view of your object.

My life is spent inside a dark cupboard, only to see the light of day when my services are required. Every so often I hear the click of the kettle and that is when I know I am needed. The tip tap of feet followed by a blinding light and a hand reaching out. Ahh…boiling water flowing into me once more, making me feel all warm inside. My bottom resting on a saucer with a rich tea to keep me company. Today, I am lucky for y owner is joined by a guest. Listening to voices above me, I soak in all the gossip as the liquid from inside me is slowly sipped away. Then, I am dipped into fresh, soapy water followed by a soft tea towel brushing against my ceramic skin drying every inch of my body. That is when I know I am starting my journey to the dreaded cupboard that I call home, where I am put to rest. Empty inside, I feel cold and unwanted till the next time…

How would you develop a human character from your object? What might they look like? Sound like? Move like? Think and feel? Write a brief character description. Include drawings if you wish. 

Cup looks happy and quite young, dreaming of a life outside the cupboard. Their voice very squeaky and quite chirpy. They move as if they are jumping, hopping from A to B. They feel very empty inside when not used and lonely, they think of a better life on the outside.

Using Photography in Teaching

Digital photography can be a useful tool and activity in the primary classroom. Almost everyone uses it, often without any formal teaching. Produce an illustrated guidance poster, video or hand-out for primary teachers and or pupils in the use of this medium. Consider aspects such as image quality, subject matter, composition, inclusion, accessibility, potential health and safety risks, privacy, storage, printing and compile a list of potential uses around the school.

The use of photography for learning in primary school is often overlooked. When I was in school, the option to do photography never came up till high school, I have no recollection of it being included in my primary education. However, I feel it is crucial to engage in photography from an early age as it opens up a whole world of discovery and allows children to express themselves in ways they feel more comfortable in. As some children find drawing or acting too daunting with lacking in confidence, cameras allow them to discover art in a way they don’t consider to be art or even learning. This allows us to change children’s perceptions of art in that anyone can do it, you don’t “have to be good at art”. In fact, it changes their view of school as photography is a prime example of how we can make learning enjoyable for our pupils. I feel it is crucial to manipulate any source of enjoyment to enhance a child’s education.

I have created this guidance poster to demonstrate how digital photography can be a useful tool within primary schools. Additionally, i have considered aspects such as subject matter, potential health and safety risks and privacy.

A Memorable Learning Experience

I have many memorable learning experiences from my time in school, many of which are good. I attended a primary school where I was lucky enough to have opportunities to go on various school trips, have specialists come in and go away to places like Luxembourg. Therefore, I have various experiences which were memorable for a whole host of reasons. However, I have decided to talk about one particular experience today which was our project on Japan.

I remember this topic well as it was active work rather than filling out worksheets or reading books. At the time, I considered it fun and enjoyable as it was different from the usual lessons where you would you have to sit at your desk, listening to the teacher. I think this highlights an important aspect of how to make lessons enjoyable for children. Thinking outside the box and creating lessons very different from what pupils are used to, immediately grabs their attention and therefore produces meaningful learning.

As part of our learning of the Japanese culture, we had the opportunity to dine like we were in Japan. I found this particularly memorable as it was the first time I ever tried sushi and still remember to this day the taste and the disgusted look on my fellow pupils’ faces around me. Even though I’m sure only a handful out of the 60 pupils in primary 7, 8 years ago, actually liked the sushi, it was effective in the way we were talking about it for days and the thought of sushi still reminds me of that day and learning all about Japan.

Another activity that was part of this project which I distinctively remember is making our own Japanese bowls out of clay. I found this particularly memorable as clay making was one of my favourite activities. Once they were set, we also got to paint and decorate them which I remember doing clearly with my best friends at the time. Again, as this was active learning, I really enjoyed it and still have the bowl on display at my parent’s house. In primary school, Art was my favourite subject as it allowed me to be creative. Art still remains most children’s favourite subject at school and I think as teachers we should take advantage of this. Incorporating other curricular areas with art would allow more meaningful learning to take place, if the children were more engaged in say maths disguised amongst art rather than just maths on it’s own (as this is normally the least favourite subject amongst pupils), their learning could be more successful.

The teachers I had who taught this Japan project, went to a lot of effort to bring Japan to us. To make learning realistic, the classroom was decorated and we had Japanese costumes, although the realistic element of these costumes is questionable, our learning had a context which we very much thought was realistic. This enabled enjoyable and meaningful learning which I still remember well. If there’s one thing I can take from reminiscing on this experience, it’s that if you make learning fun and bring the world to them the learning that goes on could stay with them forever.

Maths in time or time in maths?

Throughout the discovering mathematics module I’ve learnt a lot about how maths is all around us disguised in our daily routines. Most recently, I was amazed just how much maths is in time but not in a way you would normally think. We are all fully aware that part of the curriculum for maths is teaching time. However, it is claimed that mathematics began through the study of time, particularly when it came to recording sequences of events. For example, understanding the seasons is essential if you are to successfully grow crops. You need to consider the right time to plant the crops, when the rain will come, when the rivers will flood, when you should harvest the crops. Knowing the length of the year was of vital importance, yet much less visible from the timekeepers in the sky (daily passage of the sun and monthly phases of the moon), leading to calculation where maths links in. It then became necessary to count days and months which lead to the creation of calendars. The earliest evidence of timekeeping dates right back to 20,000 years. The evidence of this comes from markings discovered on bones and sticks, for example, the Ishango bone.

Back in the day, it was extremely important for the Egyptians to know when the Nile would flood. Therefore, this played a huge role in how and why their calendar developed starting from the earliest version of roughly 4500 BC which was based on months. 4236 BC saw the beginning of the year as the helical rising of Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. This helical rising was seen to be the first appearance of the star after there being a period where it was too close to the sun for it to be seen. This occurred in what is now our July, which was said to be the start of the year. Not too long after this, the Nile flooded making it a very natural beginning to the year! Therefore, the helical rising of Sirius would be a signal for people to prepare for the flood. This year was calculated to be 365 days (as it is today) and by 2776 BC it was known to this degree of accuracy. Consequently, a calendar of 365 days was created in order to record dates. However, a later more accurate calculation of 365¼ days was worked out for the length of the year but the calendar was not changed. Interestingly, the 2 calendars ran in parallel, the one being used for the practical purposes (i.e. sowing crops, harvesting crops etc.) was based on the lunar month.

In the modern world, units of time require some way of measurement,one of the earliest devices used to measure time involved the sun. 3500 BC saw the gnomon being used which consisted of a vertical stick, using the shadow to indicate the time of day. 220px-sundial_taganrog

Further along the line in 1500 BC, the sundial was used. The problem with the sundial being that the sun took a different path through the sky throughout the year. To ensure the sundial would roughly produce the correct time all the year round it had to be set at exactly the correct angle.


Around 300 BC the hemispherical sundial was introduced to develop the sundial into a more accurate instrument. Just before the rise 27 BC,  Roman architect Vitruvius was able to describe 13 different designs of the sundial in his book.

But what happened at night? As the sun will have gone down! As the sun couldn’t be used to tell the time at night, water clocks were used in 1500 BC. Water would run out through a hole in the bottom of a vessel, the inside of this vessel had lines to indicate passage of time. Earlier versions didn’t consider the fact that water ran out more slowly when the pressure dropped. Additionally, sand was used and still is in the familiar hour glass in which sand trickles from a container, taking a certain length of time to run out.


So is it maths that is in time or time that is maths? Who knows! But one thing we know for sure is that time played a very important part in the beginnings of mathematical understanding as we know it. To refer back to Ma’s PUFM and the 4 interrelated properties, this particular post involves longitudinal coherence. When teaching time we tend to just jump straight into how to tell the time on a modern day clock, however, the history of time can be used to lay foundations for when they go on to learn history but also not limiting the knowledge learnt to just the curriculum and taking into account the subject as a whole. Additionally, connectedness can be found here as I made a connection to a previous post about prehistoric mathematics, linking the mathematical concepts. When teaching, it is important to make learners see the connections in their learning to ensure it doesn’t become fragmented and to reinforce previous learning. Overall, I have gained a lot from this module about just how vast maths is and it has opened my eyes to just how limited the maths taught in school is, leaving out all the fun and exciting parts. One of the things I believe to be very important when teaching maths is relevance. So often we see children disengaged in maths because it is not “relevant to their lives”, that is why it’s so important that we shed light on this issue and make sure we make connections to the real world whenever we teach maths. Taking this on board to the future with my teaching, I aim to ensure that all learners see the connections between mathematical concepts in the world, to show them just how fun maths can be and how it interlinks to just about every subject! By doing this, I hope to banish ‘maths anxiety’ and share my love for maths.

Maths and Music

Growing up maths and music were two of my most favourite subjects so I thought it was only right that I did a blog post about the links between them and the maths rooted in music. Having played the keyboard and piano since I was 8, I have a deep understanding of all things music, from the fractions involved in musical notes to counting semi-tones to find a chord. However, there is more maths in music than I ever realised which is a great discovery in terms of making maths enjoyable for learners and using different routes to teach it, for example through maths.


Firstly, in this weeks maths input I learnt about patterns in relation to music and maths which I found of particular interest after one of my previous blog posts on Islamic Tilings. Through my research, I discovered that music is an example of a hierarchical system as patterns are nested with larger patterns just like characters form words which form sentences, chapters and eventually a novel. Composers have been exploiting this concept of hierarchies for thousands of years, maybe even unconsciously, but surprisingly it’s only recently that these systems have been understood mathematically. This type of maths shows us that principles of musical composition are shared among diverse hierarchical systems (a form of patterns) which suggest there is still may more exciting avenues to explore.

Whole numbers and fractions are everywhere when it comes to music and are especially important as it enables musicians to read music and interpret the length of a beat easily. This is crucial when playing in an orchestra as everyone needs to stay in time with each other. So to give a bit of background for all the non-musicians out there, each note has a different shape which indicates its beat, length or time. Additionally, notes can be classified in terms of numbers. Whole notes consist of one note per measure, half notes – two notes per measure, quarter notes – four notes per measure, eighth notes – eight notes per measure and sixteenth notes – sixteen notes per measure. These particular numbers are used to signify how long the notes will last. For example, a whole note would last an entire measure whereas a quarter note would only last a quarter of a measure, therefore, there is time for four quarter notes in one measure. Which is expressed mathematical as 4 x 1/4 = 1. Furthermore, there is a dotted note which involves placing a dot after a note lengthening it by a half of that note. For example, a quarter note with a half would be held for 3/8 of a measure, expressed mathematical as:maths-2 In conclusion, it is essential for musicians to understand the relationships and values of fractions in order to hold the note correctly, therefore, linking maths and music!

Finally we come to Fibonacci as believe it or not, it also links to music (and patterns!). As I’m sure you know, the Fibonacci sequence is a famous and well-known sequence that follows as: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89… and so on, where it uses the pattern of adding each term to the one before it to create the next term. For example, 5 + 8 = 13, 8 + 13 = 21, 13 + 21 = 34 and continuing to infinity. In music the Fibonacci can be seen in piano scales which is something I used to dread as a child (they’re no fun to learn). For example, the C scale consists of 13 keys from C to C (eight white keys and five black keys, with the black being arranged in groups of three and two. Additionally, the ratio between each term is very close to 0.618, which is known as the golden ratio.


I could continue on for pages about all the links that are present among maths and music. I find it particularly interesting as I had no clue just how many links can be made. In relation to Liping Ma’s 4 interrelated properties this particular post refers to longitudinal coherence as achieving a fundamental understanding of the whole curriculum you are prepared as a teacher to use any opportunity that may present during learning to review any critical concept where needed. For example, when teaching a music lesson if the opportunity where to arise, you could go over a mathematical concept to reinforce students previous learning. For future reference, what I have learnt through writing this blog post and my research will be taken into account when teaching as I think it will be of great benefit to the children to learn maths through music as for many it is their favourite subject whereas maths can be considered boring or difficult.


Buehler, M.J. (2014) The universal patterns of nature. Available at: (Accessed: 4 November 2016)

Glydon, N. (no date) Music, math, and patterns. Available at: (Accessed: 4 November 2016).

The Importance of Zero.

After yesterday’s lecture on place value, I was left feeling some what baffled by the binary system as even though we tried hard to crack it at our table, it wasn’t until I watched a video explaining it that it all made sense. Studying number systems closely over the past couple of weeks has sparked an interest in me for the particular digit that is zero. When making our own number system, zero was the one to cause a havoc for us as its importance is not always seen. As a matter of fact, the invention of zero was one of the most important breakthroughs in the history of civilisation.

Zero has in fact baffled many who have studied and developed mathematical theories as how can nothing (i.e. zero) be something? First, lets start with where zero came from. It all started in 520 AD with the Indian Aryabhata who used a symbol he called “kha” as a place holder which has believed to have been the concept of zero. Brahmagupta, who lived back in the 5th century developed the Hindu-Arabic number system which interestingly included zero as an definite number in his system. Furthermore, other mathematicians such as al-Khwarizmi and Leonardo Fibonacci developed the concept of zero in the number system. This concept reached the Western society during the early 1200’s.

Now we’ve got some background on where zero actually originated we can look into how important zero is. As I’m sure you know zero is the number where negative numbers on the left stretch to infinity as do positive numbers on the right. Therefore, it is neither positive nor negative, hence why you see zero as the pivotal point on thermometers, the origin point for bathroom scales, coordinate axis, etc. Additionally, zero is extremely important as its value in place holding. For example, when writing five hundred and two, how do you do so that you understand that this number has no tens. Of course, you can’t just write it as 52 as this is in fact a completely different number, hence, proving the importance of zero.

Another key element when it comes to the importance of zero is the “additive identity element”. It may sound confusing but in actually fact it’s very simple. It simply means that when you add zero to any number, you get the number you started with. For example, 7 + 0 = 7. Now, I know this may seem obvious but it is very important to have a number like this. For example, if you’re manipulating some numerical quantity and you want to change its form but no its value you might add some fancy version of zero to it.

As we’ve found out in this blog post, zero is important and can sometimes be overlooked as without it what would we do? Not only does zero fulfil a central role in maths but as the additive identity of integers, real numbers and other algebraic structures as well as being used as a placeholder in place value systems. The whole concept of zero and number systems links in with my previous blog post on the Ishango bone as this is believed to have been the first piece of evidence we have where we started using numbers. All this links with connectedness as mentioned in a previous blog post as one of Liping Ma’s 4 properties of fundamental mathematics and as zero is one of the fundamental concepts behind maths, it all ties together nicely! The importance of zero is something I will keep in the back of my mind when teaching maths to my pupils as I believe it would be enjoyable for learners to try and use maths without zero.

The importance of the creation of the zero mark can never be exaggerated. This giving to airy nothing, not merely a local habitation and a name, a picture, a symbol, but helpful power, is the characteristic of the Hindu race from whence it sprang. It is like coining the Nirvana into dynamos. No single mathematical creation has been more potent for the general on-go of intelligence and power.” G.B Halsted

Islamic Tilings

depositphotos_22086491-islamic-tiles-pattern(Islamic Tiles Pattern)

Who knew maths could be so pretty and creative? Symmetry has to be the most significant and elegant connection between the boundaries of art, science and maths. These patterns create a visual language expressing order and generating appealing, fascinating compositions and it’s my favourite part of maths as it often surprises people! Islamic art is dictated by extravagant geometric decoration expressed by texture, colour, pattern and calligraphy. Remembering that the exquisite designs are not purely decorative are key to its understanding. They, in fact, represent a spiritual vision of the world- ‘Unity of God’. There is 3 fundamental shapes used in Islamic Art, the equilateral triangle, the square and the hexagon. In this post, I have created a short video showing you how to create a hexagon from a rectangular piece of paper. In Islamic Art, a hexagon represents heaven.

How to make a hexagon


Now that you’ve made a tile, you repeat that over till you have as many as you need and now it’s time for the tessellation process!

As seen in the photo below, you can fit the hexagons together in different ways till you get the tessellation you like. You can move the hexagons around at different angles to create different designs.


Tessellation is a great way to instil a love for maths into the children we teach as it combines maths along side many children’s favourite subject, art. I will definitely use what I have learnt about tessellation to show children that maths can be fun and creative. You can also show them how tessellation is used all over the world in buildings and even see if they can find tessellation in their world. This post refers to one of Liping Ma’s principle – connectedness as whilst learning how to make polygons and all about different shapes they also learn how they fit together to make tessellations. Therefore, students are learning a unified body of knowledge rather than just the topic of tessellations as it also connects to learning about shapes. This allows children to make connections to ensure their learning doesn’t become fragmented.

Prehistoric Mathematics and the Ishango bone

p-_oxy-_i_29(One of the oldest surviving fragments of Euclid’s Elements, dated to circa AD 100)

Prehistoric Mathematics. Sounds boring, right? Wrong. Now I’m not one for history but after our workshop last week on the origin of number systems, I decided to look into the history of maths and number systems a bit more. If you (like me) think that prehistoric maths is something to that will put you to sleep, be prepared to be amazed as it really opened my eyes. So if you thought our current understanding maths was born overnight, you’re wrong as it actually toke several ages and to this day we are still discovering new mathematical concepts as maths research is very much ongoing and ever-growing. In fact, numerals are approximately 5,500 years old!

Back in the day, our prehistoric ancestors actually knew the difference between say one stick and two sticks, all through instinct as believe it or not school wasn’t around back then. However, the massive leap in intelligence from the idea of having 2 objects to the invention of a symbol (i.e. 2) or a word for this abstract idea (i.e. two) did take numerous centuries. Even in this day and age there are a few remote hunter-gatherer tribes in Amazonia whose number sequence simply consists of “one” “two” and “many”. Similarly, there are other tribes who only have words for up to five. How bizarre is that? Imagine trying to bake a cake using a recipe that just says ‘many’ eggs. However, without settled argiculture and trade there is, naturally, no need for a formal system of numbers like ours.

The earliest evidence of mankind thinking about numbers that we have today is the Ishango bone. The Ishango bone consists of notched bones from central Africa dating back to 35,000 to 20,000 years ago. However, as you can see from the image below, it was mere counting, what we would call tallying rather than mathematics.

ishango_bone(The Ishango bone)

What’s interesting is this bone was found in 1960 by Belgian Jean de Heinzelin de Braucourt among the remains of a small community in Africa that had been buried in a volcanic eruption. Whilst some interpret the bone to have that of tally marks, others suggest that the scratches may in fact be for getting a better grip on the handle or some other non-mathematical reason, it’s impossible to know and is down to individuals beliefs. Personally, I’d like to believe that the implement was used the construct a numeral system.


When analysed you can see that the bottom row (from right to left) begins with three notches and then doubles to 6 notches. The process is repeated for the number 4, which doubles to 8 notches, and then reversed for the number 10, which is halved to 5 notches. These numbers may not be purely random but could suggest some understanding of multiplication and division by two. Therefore, this bone may have been used as a counting tool for simple mathematical procedures.

In the book How Mathematics Happened: The First 50,000 Years, Peter Rudman disputes that the development of prime numbers could have only arouse after the concept of division, which he dates to after 10,000 BC, with prime numbers probably not being understood until about 500 BC. Additionally, he writes that “no attempt has been made to explain why a tally of something should exhibit multiples of two, prime numbers between 10 and 20, and some numbers that are almost multiples of 10.”

When Alexander Marshack examined the Ishango bone, he believed that it may represent a 6-month lunar calendar. However, Judy Robinson argued that he over interpreted the data and the evidence doesn’t suggest a lunar calendar. Furthermore,  Claudia Zaslavsky suggested it that this might indicate the bone was created by a woman tracking the lunar phase in relation to the menstrual cycle.

Moving on, mathematics properly developed as an acknowledgement to bureaucratic needs as a result of settlement and agriculture development (i.e. measurement of plots of land, tax, etc). The first time this occurred was in the Sumerian and Babylonian civilisations of Mesopotamia and in ancient Egypt.

To link back to more modern day mathematics, I started reading ‘Alex’s Adventures in Numberland’ which I highly recommend as it provides some eye opening moments and shows you just how maths isn’t boring and mind-boggling but in fact is fascinating and underpins our everyday lives. I can guarentee you will learn something new. For example, I didn’t know that every number can be winnowed down to a product of prime, try it for yourself! There is some more interesting theories as well that are still to be proven such as the Goldbach Conjecture (every even number bigger then 2 is the sum of 2 primes).

So to link this all back to teaching as I’m sure you are wondering why on earth any of this will be relevant if I will never teach it in the classroom. Well, it all links to Liping Ma’s 4 interrelated properties. This post refers to ‘longitudinal coherence’ as by not limiting your knowledge to whatever is in the curriculum (i.e. prehistoric maths is not in the curriculum) you allow yourself to use every opportunity to learn about these crucial elements of maths and you never know you might even enjoy it! Additionally, there was a little bit of multiple perspectives in here as I considered all the various approaches to the origin of the Ishango bone which allowed me to have a flexible understanding of this concept. Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed discovering the understanding of maths long before my time and it’s encouraged me to open my eyes to a range of different mathematical topics that are out there rather than just the curriculum as I believe it will strongly benefit my teaching in later years as well as my overall understanding of mathematics.


Bellos, A. and Riley, A. (2011) Alex’s adventures in numberland. London: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.

Mastin, L. (2010) Prehistoric mathematics – the story of mathematics. Available at: (Accessed: 10 October 2016).

Rudman, P.S. (2006) How mathematics happened: The first 50, 000 years. United States: Prometheus Books.

The lives of children in New Zealand.

For my learning from life placement next year, I have chosen to go to Thorrington Primary School in Christchurch, New Zealand to get an insight into a foreign education system, allowing me to compare this to my experience with the Scottish education system. I got the inspiration to go to New Zealand as this is where my mum was born and also where my uncle currently lives. I’ve always wanted to visit, therefore, this is the perfect opportunity to make the most out of my visit by gaining experience that I can take on in my professional development. I believe this placement will provide me with a range of benefits, the main being acquiring valuable life skills whilst experiencing the workplace first hand. It will give me the chance to get to know other people and their working habits allowing me to make connections for possibly working abroad later in my career. Furthermore it will help me on a personal level as well as on an academic level, for example, I will be travelling on my own which is a great deal of responsibility and will allow me to do a lot of growing as I did start university at 17 and I strongly believe that life experience that comes with studying abroad would greatly benefit my professional practice for third year. Additionally, when looking for a job abroad real hands-on experience would be a great asset.

Although I booked my flights a couple of months ago, I’m far from ready to go. As part of my preparation, I thought I’d do some research into what life is like for children in New Zealand, not just in school but out with as well to give me some background knowledge before I go.

Family Life

New Zealand is well-known for being a stable, peaceful and safe place to grow up. According to the 2015 Global Index, it is the fourth safest country in the world. Additionally, HSBC’s 2015 Expat Explorer survey revealed that 76% of expat parents living in New Zealand felt that their “offspring are more healthy living in New Zealand”. They also rated New Zealand first in the world for ‘health’ as well as 3 in 5 agreeing that they personally had become more physically active since their move. The open space and vast freedom that New Zealand offers provides wonderful opportunities for sports and other outdoor activities which are very popular out there.

Public Services

New Zealand’s innate need for everyone to get a ‘fair go’ in life is reflected in their inclusive health system. Residents of the country receive free or low cost health care due to the governments subsides. Their healthcare is also available to non-residents (with a cost).


New Zealand’s excellent education system has been described as the “biggest ever global school rankings”. Furthermore, in 2015 the OECD put them in the top 20 nations for the quality of their schools. The safe learning environment also involves outdoor recreation which makes use of the wide open spaces mentioned earlier.

Similar to here just slightly later, school is compulsory from 6-16 years old. New Zealand plan learning using the curriculum Te Whāriki which I will look into in another blog post. An interesting difference is that children can start school on the day they turn 5 years old , they don’t have to wait until the start of the new school year which I look forward to seeing in practice. Like our system there is 13 year levels, however, they start at secondary school slightly later at 13, therefore they only attend secondary school for 4 years.

Depending on your area there is choice for you to send your child to a single-sex school or co-educational school. Additionally, your child is guaranteed a space at your local school but you can apply to a school outside the area in which you live but a place isn’t guaranteed. The majority of the schools in New Zealand are owned and funded by the state and therefore teach the national curriculum and are non-religious. Additionally they have ‘state-integrated’ schools which were private and have since become part of the state system, attendees have to pay compulsory attendance dues.  Like us they have private schools which receive some government funding but are largely funded by charging school fees, they don’t follow the national curriculum.

What I find particularly interesting is they have a ‘Correspondence School Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu’ which uses multimedia and online learning to teach those who live a long way from the local school, travel overseas, etc. Additionally, children can study one or two courses if a subject isn’t available at their school.

In conclusion, there is many similarities between a Kiwi child’s lifestyle and a Scottish child’s. However, one of the difference which I am particularly interested in is outdoor learning. In New Zealand, it is easier to cater for these outdoor experiences, however, it would be valuable to see what I can take from their teaching in outdoors and adapt it over here. Additionally, it will be interesting to see how they teach modern languages as this is also an interest of mine.

scooter-fun-in-new-zealand(Wellington, New Zealand)


Family life in New Zealand (2016) Available at: (Accessed: 9 October 2016).
New Zealand Government (2016) Education in New Zealand. Available at: (Accessed: 9 October 2016).

Profound Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics

To be honest, I hadn’t heard of PUFM (profound understanding of mathematics) until my first workshop for the math’s elective. I couldn’t even tell you one of the principles let alone four. However, now that I have done reading into Liping Ma’s research, it all makes sense. PUFM is essential if we as teachers are to enable learners to really get a grasp on mathematics.

So what is PUFM and why is it important? PUFM is more than just being able to understand elementary mathematics, it is being aware of the theoretical structure and attitudes of mathematics that are the foundations in elementary mathematics. Furthermore, being able to provide this foundation to instill those attitudes into learners. Having a PUFM is essential when teaching as in order for a learner to understand a concept, the teacher must fully understand it first both conceptually and procedurally.

Elementary mathematics is a range of depth, breadth and thoroughness. Teachers who are successful in achieving this deep, vast and thorough understanding will be able to reveal and represent the connections that lie between and among mathematical ideas in their teaching. These 4 interrelated properties are the principles that lead to these different aspects of meaningful understanding in mathematics:

Connectedness refers to connections made among mathematical concepts and procedures, anything from basic connections between individual strands of knowledge to more complex, underlying connections that link mathematical operations. When put into practice, this should ensure the learning that takes place doesn’t become fragmented. For example, instead of learning isolated topics, learners will engage with a unified body of knowledge.

Multiple Perspectives refers to when a teacher has achieved the PUFM and can appreciate different facets to an idea or various approaches to a solution including the advantages and disadvantage. Additionally, they can provide mathematical explanations in relation to these facets and approaches. In teaching, this can lead to learners having a flexible understanding of a concept.

Basic Ideas refers to displaying mathematical attitudes and being aware of the “simple but powerful basic concepts and principles of mathematics”. Teachers with PUFM will tend to revisit and reinforce these basic ideas. This leads students to be guided to conduct real mathematical activity.

Longitudinal Coherence refers to not limiting the knowledge that is being taught as you will have achieved a fundamental understanding of the whole curriculum. Therefore, you are ready to exploit any opportunity in order to review crucial concepts. Additionally, they have an understanding of what students will go on to learn later and take these opportunities to lay a real foundation.

All four of these principles are equally as important when gaining a sound understanding of elementary mathematics. This is extremely important when teaching mathematics as how can you teach and inspire young minds without having a deep understanding yourself? Not only is this relevant to maths but it is something I will keep in mind when teaching any subject as each of these principles can be applied to different topics. I found Liping MA’s research extremely eye opening and I will continue to use these principles and keep them in mind when bringing new mathematical concepts into my future classroom.

Why does everyone hate mathematics?

“If I had 50p for every time I failed a maths exam, I’d have £6.30” (Twitter)

It has recently occurred to me that maths gets such a bad reputation amongst learners of all ages and as someone who enjoyed maths at school it’s hard to pin point why. After I stumbled upon this tweet it really got me thinking about why it is that children dislike maths and consider themselves ‘maths dyslexic’. I consider it an important issue in our education system and has been for a while as maths being hard or boring isn’t a new opinion. This is why one of my goals as a teacher is to instil the love of maths I have into the pupils I will teach. I am strong believer in ‘teachers who love teaching, teach children to love learning’ which applies to every subject whether the teacher in question likes it or not.  A pupils’ love for a subject tends to stem from the way the teacher taught the subject. Therefore, it’s important to never forget the influence you have over a learners enjoyment for subjects.

Sometimes a learners believes that mathematical achievement is due to factors beyond their control such as luck rather than their own hard work (locus of control). These learners may think (for example) that if they scored well on a maths test it is because the content happened to be easy. Additionally, they believe that if they fail it is due to either the lack of innate mathematical inability or level of intelligence. By viewing their achievement as ‘an accident’ or lack of progress inevitable leads to them limiting their capacity to do well and study productively.

Attention span is another factor that can contribute to a dislike for maths. Students can be mentally distracted and can have difficulty focusing on problems especially when they involve multiple steps. For example, dealing with long-term projects or more than one variables can interfere with their achievement. An effective teacher should use attention grabbers such as visual aids. Additionally, students who can work together can help each other stay on task, however, this can also have the opposite effect!

The last factor I am going to talk about is understand the language of maths. It is often true that students can become confused by words that have some sort of special mathematical meaning. For example, “volume”, “power”, “area”, “divisor”, “factor” or “denominator”. Terms such as these can seriously hinder student’s abilities to focus and understand these terms for mathematical operations. Memorising such terms without context that they can relate to is not productive. That’s why it is important when teaching a new topic in maths that involves new terms that the meaning is clear and something they can comprehend. For example, when introducing estimation many learners won’t understand it until you relate it to a situation they have experienced such as when the opening of a local shop is delayed (the estimation was a bit off).

These are just a few of the many factors that can effect how a learner perceives maths. Therefore, it’s our jobs as teachers to push past these factors and adjust their learning environments to instil a love for learning maths in the classroom for all the learners, whoever they are. As part of my journey to becoming an effective educator, I would like to do further research into why maths causes such anxiety amongst learners.



The Importance of Health & Wellbeing.

Health and Wellbeing is becoming more and more prominent in the Scottish curriculum and is strongly embedded across all the curricular areas. Curriculum for Excellence aims to ensure that all children and young people in Scotland develop the knowledge, skills and attributes they will need if they are to flourish in life, learning and work, now and in the future. With Scots dying younger than in any other part of the UK (2010 Scottish Health Survey) and over two thirds of adults and one third of children classified as overweight, the Scottish Government has established a National Indicator to reduce the rate of increase in the proportion of children with their BMI out with a healthy range by 2018.  As children learn through all of their experiences, it is important that learning about health and wellbeing is embedded in the learning experiences of children from a very early age.

With childhood obesity rising at an astonishingly scary rate, I believe it is very important for children not just to do sport and exercise but to also have a very strong knowledge of how to be healthy in terms of food and their overall lifestyle. If this is taught from the early years they will grow up knowing how to be healthy and look after themselves properly. This will hopefully help with weight problems such as diabetes.

As a result of this, there are now 3 central strands to the curriculum that all teachers are expected to teach whatever the stage of development. These are: literacy, numeracy and health & wellbeing. I think it’s amazing that health & wellbeing is now being recognised as just as important as literacy and numeracy. It may have taken a while but it shows the public that the Government is aware of the increasing problem and is actively trying to solve the problem at the root through education.

Whilst it is essential to raise physical activity in children, it’s also essential to develop a good knowledge and respect for mental health. Mental health problems are becoming more of an issue in today’s society. With the number of suicides increasing each year, it makes complete sense to me that children should be taught about mental health from a young age. Being aware will allow them to not only help others but to help themselves if they ever have to tell with traumatic life experiences which can have a damaging affect on mental health.

Finally, I strongly believe food technology should be taught more in primary school nationwide. Many children may not have a stable home and therefore will not have a role model who can demonstrate healthy eating to them. By the end of primary school, I would hope that children can prepare simple healthy food and drink and also be able to discuss the journeys of food from producer to consumer. As a result, children should have established lifelong healthy eating plans.

Overall, as a teacher I would hope to make full advantage of health & wellbeing across the curriculum as I strongly believe it is central to children living a long and healthy life from the beginning.

Scientific Literacy

Within our society we are bombarded daily with various claims and stories about the impact of science on our world. These can range from global warming and medical advances all the way to the food we eat. When we have knowledge and understanding about scientific processes and larger concepts we can then hopefully approach this information in an informed manner. If we grasp the concept of scientific literacy we can question the world around us. The idea of scientific literacy is basically being educated as to how science moulds the world. This can hold great cultural, social and personal importance. The skills that are developed when we analyse and critique scientific information are transferable. Scientific knowledge then becomes a very observational, experiential, logical and somewhat sceptical way of knowing. This enables people to ask questions and find answers. If we are to be fed “facts” by the media it is with scientific literacy that we can decide whether to take them at face value or delve further for answers. This also grants us the tools to reach conclusions through fair debate and applicable evidence.

Scientific literacy is very important as not having it can lead to misunderstandings. This happens a great deal with media reporting when the journalist didn’t have a good level of scientific literacy and writes a report which spreads incorrect information to the public, this can often have a very negative impact. An example of this is the report which claimed there was a link between the MMR vaccine and ASD, which has now been proven wrong. However this report was picked up by the media and they spread hysteria across the country over whether or not it was safe to vaccinate children. In 1998 BBC news published an article titled ‘Child vaccine linked to autism’ the Telegraph also published an article in 2007 which restarted the concern over the vaccines claiming there was a ‘New fear over MMR link with rising autism.’ This panic meant that hundreds of children were not vaccinated which could have been avoided by ensuring people have a good level of scientific literacy. Scientific literacy is the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity. It also includes specific types of abilities.

A “fair test” refers to an experiment that is carefully controlled to ensure that the information gathered is reliable. In science, it is an experiment conducted in a manner so that it does not provide any advantages to any of the conditions or subjects being tested. To insure that your experiment is a fair test, you must change only one factor at a time while keeping all other conditions the same. Scientists call the changing factors in an experiment ‘variables’. For example, imagine we are wanting to test which toy car is the fastest while going down a sloping ramp. If we gently release the first car, but give the second car a push start, this is not a fair test! This is because we gave the second car an unfair advantage by pushing it to start. The only thing that should change between the two tests is the car. To ensure a fair test, we should start them both down the same ramp in exactly the same way.

Reference List

BBC (no date) Home. Available at: (Accessed: 7 February 2016).

The telegraph – telegraph online, daily telegraph, Sunday Telegraph (no date). Available at: (Accessed: 10 February 2016).

The national academies press (no date). Available at: (Accessed: 14 February 2016).

Oxford dictionaries (no date) in Oxford Dictionary. Available at: (Accessed: 13 February 2016).

Ailsa Mackie, Polly Ford, Rebecca Muir & Rebecca Birrell

Design Your Own Classroom

As part of our organisation and management TDT we had to design our very own classroom with justification. As a result, I created this design.

Design Your Own Classroom

This particular classroom is designed to hold 28 children maximum as I strongly believe that children work better when in smaller groups. Although I am aware that this is not always possible as many classrooms these days have as many as 33 children in a class. The seating arrangement would be organised in mixed ability to allow children to progress by interacting with fellow pupils whatever their ability. Ideally, their would be no particular seating plan as to allow the children to mix with the whole class and get to know every pupil regardless of gender or background, this should enhance their social development. However, with literacy and mathematics they would be placed in ability levels to allow for differentiation but this should be done in a way that the child would not know what level they are compared to others.

There is a large mat in which the tables surround it in a shape similar to a horse shoe. This allows all the children to get together for whole class instruction. Additionally, it can be used for reading a story as a class after lunch to allow the children to calm down before lessons. It would also be ideal for things like circle time to allow the children to share stories and ideas with each other. On this mat is a white board which would be used to write and discuss the learning intentions and success criteria with the children as sharing these is essential for an effective lesson.  Behind the mat is an interactive SMART board which provides fun and engaging learning for children of all ages to enjoy.

To the left of the main area of the classroom is a reading area/ mini library. This provides a quiet area for personal reading as I believe that reading is essential for developing a wide range of language and furthermore instils a certain enjoyment into children that will hopefully stay with them through life. Reading can be a way of escaping as for some kids growing up can be difficult and they don’t always have the best upbringing. Additionally, it developments their sense of imagination which is at its greatest when you are young. The small range of books that live in this area will allow children who have no access to books at home to not miss out and still be able to use reading to its full potential. It also has an interactive chart for each child to keep record of what they have been reading.

Next to this is an individual study area which can be very useful especially when children are having a bad day. Something might be going on at home or maybe an incident occurred at break/lunch time. Whatever the case, this small space allows for any child to have some time out if he/she is not in he right mind set for the lesson.

Across the other side of the class is an art area. This allows for the pupils to be messy and creative without ruining the whole class! It isn’t a huge space but it will allow small groups to go over together and release their inner artist whilst minimizing any chaos! Next to this art area is an interactive wall display which would be relevant to the current class topic. This will add a colourful display to the class which will incorporate the children’s own work. It provides an area for an child to visit whenever they would like to learn in a fun and interactive way which would be regularly up-dated and changed to match what they are learning at that particular time.  Additionally, there is a section for a wall display on class rules and routines which the children will have created themselves. Not only will this be a fun, creative lesson but it will teach them what is expected of them in a way in which they are involved in the decision of what should be a rule and what shouldn’t. This will hopefully be a productive step in involving them in positive behaviour management. Lastly in this corner is a wall display full of the children’s work from all the curriculum areas which will be slowly built up over the class year and updated to what they are learning at that time in whatever subject.

Moving further down the class, there is 2 computer stations which accommodates for 8 pupils at one time. In this modern day world, it is essential to have a basic knowledge of technology as it is everywhere and will be required for their future careers. This is why I found it important to incorporate some computers which the children can use for interactive learning or even just typing up a story that won story of the week, for example. It will allow the children to develop a sense of responsibility when dealing with ICT. Additionally, they can play maths games online with other pupils in the class. I particularly like this as the children will have so much fun competing with classmates that they won’t even realise that they are significantly improving their maths skills.

In between these stations is a group work mat. This allows for more space so the children aren’t constantly sat down, there is room to move around the class and interact with other areas. IT allows groups of pupils to remove themselves and work together to produce a piece of work which may relate to the current topic. This is essential for their development as learning to work in a team provides excellent opportunities to develop their social skills.

The teacher’s desk is located in such a way that it isn’t the centre of the classroom. I believe this is very important as a classroom should be child-centred rather than teacher-centred and this is why I have the class laid out in such a way that the teacher isn’t seen as superior to the pupil’s. This should help to develop a strong pupil-teacher relationship. The teacher also has their own bookcase for a selection of books to use for the whole class story time and filling cabinets for storage. I have provided an inbox and outbox for student’s work to ensure effective feedback can be given by having an organised system for marking. Additionally, there is storage facilities dotted across the classroom for pencils, pens, jotters, etc. Ideally there is a door to the outdoors to provide opportunities for outdoor learning or even for some time out. However, this is not always possible.

Completing this task has really made me think about how my ideal class would be laid out. Unfortunately, you will never have your perfect classroom as it’s just not possible. However, part of being a teacher is making use of the resources and space you have in order to maximise learning. This classroom isn’t too dissimilar to my placement classroom. There is less room compared to this design but there is still room for the whole class to get together and sit for some class discussion. There is a reading corner which I think is great but no interactive learning displays for the children to take part in. However, their work is displayed and there is a great class rules display called “Gary the Good-Mannered Goldfish”. There is no room for an art area, computers, or a mini library. However they’re booked in each week to use these type of facilities which are located elsewhere in the school. Additionally, they all know how to take out their books and can do this in the library at any time.

Overall, I would love to be able to teach in this class that I have designed! However, in most cases I will have to adapt my ideas and use the space to the best of my ability.

Why are people afraid of Maths?

Following the 2 inputs we’ve had so far on Maths, I’ve decided to write this post as part of the TDT. Personally, I have no anxiety at all regarding Maths, it’s a subject I’m totally comfortable with and would choose to teach it instead of any other curricular area any day of the week. I’m not quite sure where my love for maths came from as neither of my parents really share my enjoyment for it and even my brother wasn’t all that keen on maths at school. All through Primary School I was okay at Maths, never good nor bad just doing fine. Then all of a sudden in third year at High School I undertook Standard Grade and all of sudden I realised how much I liked it and that I was actually really good at it. So much so that I even took Advanced Higher which many of my friends couldn’t understand as that would be their worst nightmare!

There’s just something about doing calculations and solving problems that I really enjoy. There’s always an answer. I don’t feel the need to guess on a whim because I can always find the answer even if it takes me 50 attempts and when you do, there’s nothing more satisfying than having got to the right answer eventually. Maths is everywhere, it’s in everything you do such as counting the change you’ve got or telling the time. It’s definitely an important part of the curriculum and always has been, I have strong memories of reciting my times tables to my Mum as part of our homework.

Something I found really interesting in the inputs was how being illiterate is seen as being unacceptable (which is completely understandable) and yet it’s acceptable to be innumerate? Its definitely not. Everyday life would be extremely difficult if you were innumerate, I don’t think people realise quite how important Maths is. This is why it’s extremely important to inflict an enjoyment for Maths on children from the moment they walk into a classroom for the first time. I can see why people are afraid of Maths because it can be very daunting especially if all your friends can do it and yet you just can’t seem to get a grasp on it. This could be partly down to influences from home as it seems to be very common nationwide to have a fear of Maths. As I have a passion for the subject, I feel like it is my job to make sure the pupils I teach aren’t afraid of Maths and I can make it as enjoyable as possible.

However, teaching Maths is a whole other ball game. To be perfectly honest, I would have no idea where to start on how to make Maths enjoyable, especially as it’s compulsory which can make it all the more scary. When teaching Maths I will try to demonstrate how fun Maths can be and hopefully the pupils will pick up on my enthusiasm! My goal for placement regarding Maths would be to try and find innovative ways to teach it that will spark an enjoyment for the children. How I will do this, is something I will have to figure out in the mean time!

Drama Llama.

Drama has always been a good hobby of mine. Growing up, I was part of a theatre company were every year we would put on a show in the local theatre. However, it wasn’t part of our school curriculum until you chose to do at standard grade. I felt this was a real shame as personally I think drama can do great things for a child’s confidence and self-esteem. It allows you to express yourself in a form of acting and generally many will find it quite enjoyable pretending to be someone else and leaving the real you behind at the edge of the stage. Additionally, drama allows a child to understand different ways of communicating and expressing your feelings, e.g. through body language, tone, etc.

After my first drama input, I definitely felt more confident to teach drama as it had been a while since I had done it myself but brought back my childhood love from drama. The TDT we were given was all about reflecting on the structure of a drama lesson with the stimulus being this video:

This video, was all about teaching the teachers how to structure a lesson for drama as this is essential for a successful lesson. The lesson is structured through stages, the first one being an agreement were there is a discussion between the teacher and the pupils about a set of rules that will be put in place for the drama lessons which should help with behaviour as it easy for the class to get over-excited with fun, practical lessons! I found the 3 C’s to be a great idea as any problems that may occur during the lesson will be down either communication, cooperation or concentration. This keeps it simple but effective to ensure the children are aware and compliant. Next was a warm-up which helps to differentiate between play and learning especially as it’s different from there usual maths or literacy lesson. It also incorporates teamwork which will get them engaged physical but also mentally. Following on from that, they were talking about creating a focus using a stimulus such as picture which helps the children to develop their ideas through talking with one another. The development section, is all about building up how to create a drama bit by bit. They are also creating a visual scene here which gives a child something to focus on and engage in by creating sounds themselves. Performance is an important stage as this is the finished product and will be what drives the children to actually get to that point. Evaluation is the last stage which enables the children to differentiate what they have learnt from what they already knew so they can see a purpose to the lesson they just participated in. Additionally, it allows them to calm down after an energetic lesson.

There are many benefits to come from structuring a lesson in this way. Throughout, the stages were based on how to keep the children focused and engaged in what they’re doing so they don’t get too off task, especially with practical lessons being quite exciting for them. Drama was presented in a very simple manner, it wasn’t one big scary play but it was broken down into little bits for the children to easily grasp and allow them to build on their performing. One curriculum for excellence experience and outcome I think is being addressed in this video is: “Inspired by a range of stimuli, I can express and communicate my ideas, thoughts and feelings through drama. EXA 0-13a / EXA 1-13a / EXA 2-13a”. As this structure was using stimuli to get them developing their ideas and then expressing them through use of voice, etc.
Additionally, there was an emphasise on how drama can be used cross curricular. For example, one teacher gave an example of how she could have used it in her class that very day as their topic was fairy tales. Personally, I think the children would find it really enjoyable to re-enact their own world war 2 rather than just reading about it or doing a presentation on it. It allows them to really get a grasp on how children similar to them must have been feeling and this would hopefully strengthen their understanding.

Good Reflective Practice.

Today’s input was about our ePortfolios and how we can inspire and challenge our way of thinking in terms of certain approaches and methodologies of education in relation to good practice. We were given 8 examples from our fellow student’s blog which were all exhibiting good practice in their own unique ways. It was very inspirational to see our fellow students doing so well in contributing to and embracing the shared, collaborative culture that we’ve created together. It’s really inspirational to be able to see how others are developing their professional thoughts as it’s a fairly new concept for us all. In this particular post I will be reflecting on what I can learn from these posts.

The one that particularly stood out to me was Layla Dawson’s post on ‘Fear of Feedback’ as it was very detailed and clearly a lot of thought has gone in. The title is quite catchy and will draw anyone in as feedback is something everyone has to face in whatever career and can be a very daunting task. Layla starts off with the oxford definition of feedback which I think is very good idea for initially starting the post as it simply defines the topic of discussion. She also goes on to talk about what feedback means to her which informs the reader of a clear view of her knowledge and understanding. From reading the first paragraph you can see that she clearly has a detailed understanding and can link it to her understanding of criticism and praise as well.

I particularly liked the second paragraph as I feel it is one that many can relate to. I know I really struggle when it comes to feedback as I don’t want to be too critical or too nice, it’s about getting the right balance. I like how Layla goes on to talk about the effects of different types of feedback and how she feels about getting/giving feedback. It helps to give an inside into her professional view of feedback and her experiences. Further on she talks about her so far positive experience and how that made her feel. Additionally, where she’ll go from here now that she’s done this.

Layla goes on to tell us what she’s learnt about feedback which can be very beneficial for others as different people will take different things from the same task and I find it particularly interesting to find out other people’s perceptive of things. What I found very good was the fact she linked it to placement which shows us how she is linking her learning in a professional manner to her practice. I found this the most beneficial as it showed me how other people were using their TDT’s to gain knowledge for placement as it’s important to feel prepared!

Ending the post with a link was very useful for the reader also as they could go on to read further into feedback if that was of particular interest to them. Overall, I think Layla has written a very detailed post which shows a critical and reflective attitude towards her learning. I think we could learn something from this post as it has something for everyone, even the most knowledgeable on feedback! Personally, this post helped me to develop my understanding of feedback and give an inside into others thoughts on the topic.

Layla’s Post:


Internet Safety.

Growing up I have always been heavily aware of the consequences of not being careful enough on the internet. For a while I thought my mum was just really paranoid because she didn’t grow up with the internet like I did but I soon realised after reading all these horror stories about children who were that bit too trusting with social media that she was right all along. Additionally, I remember watching many short clips in assemblies at high school recreating real events that would scare me so much that I almost never wanted to go on the internet ever again!

It’s a big scary place the internet and without the right education on how to safe, it’s easy to go wrong and end up in a mess no one wants to be in. This is why I considerate it really important to make sure children grow up feeling confident with internet safety so they won’t be scared but will also stay safe. We live in an expediential world and it’s very easy to be overwhelmed by it all, especially when teaching if you don’t have a grasp on what children get up to these days. However, simple things such as never revealing your address online may seem obvious but can be where many go wrong. I’ve read many a times about how a teenager has posted on Facebook (or any other social media site) that they are having a party so they put their home address on the post and before you know it 300 odd people turn up and the house is wrecked, leaving 1000s of pounds worth of damage.

The most worrying thing for parents when letting their children venture on to the internet is strangers. It’s no secret that there are many horrible people out there that will use their brains to lure children in by using fake accounts. Therefore, children who are uneducated in the way of internet safety wouldn’t even think twice about talking to  someone the same age as them, who are interested in the same things and happens to go to the primary school not too far from them! Sounds too good to be true? It normally is. Unfortunately for the parents the child will often lie and if they end up meeting this internet friend, the parent will be unaware that their child’s safety is at a very high risk.

After this week’s ICT input I decided to check out ‘Fakebook’ a site where teachers can create a fake profile for a fictional/historical character. I found this really intriguing as it’s not something I’d ever heard of before but sounded quite useful. Being able to put information in a format most children are familiar with will help them keep engaged and might find learning that little bit more enjoyable (if possible!).

I put together my very own ‘Fakebook’ highlighting the risks of the internet and why it’s important to stay safe.


How The Cat Stole The Fish.

Creating a short clip using animation about how a cat stole a fish is certainly not what I expected to be doing in my first ICT input! However, it did introduce me to teaching ICT in a enjoyable, innovative and creative way. It did take it us a whole hour just to make a 20 second clip but working in a team and finding out exactly how to make an animation is something I very much enjoyed.

Teaching ICT in primary school is growing increasingly important as we are living in an expediential world where we are heavily reliant on digital technology. I can remember being at primary school and getting a 1 hour slot each week for ICT and that was it. We would spend our time learning to use Word, PowerPoint, etc. nothing nearly as innovative as animation. I don’t understand why, however, as children would love to learn about animation! Growing up I watched Wallace & Gromit which is an animation comedy series that still remains popular. In this respect children should be able to relate to animation as they may have tried Pivot themselves at home or watched Wallace & Gromit on television.

Pivot is a great way to introduce children to animation as with the right support from a teacher, they will easily pick up on the basic skills needed to create your own animation. Even if it’s just a few clips that tell a very short story, its a start and something they can grow on at home if they gain a real interest for animation. Through creating their very own animation on Zu3D in a group they can gain valuable teamwork skills.

Animation isn’t something that is widely taught in primary schools as some teachers may lack the knowledge or confidence needed. However, it shouldn’t be something teachers are afraid to do, as I learnt that it is a relatively easy task to implement in the classroom. Additionally it can be found in the Experiences and Outcomes for Technologies under stage 4: “I can use features of software to create my own animation which can then be used to create an animated sequence. TCH 4-09c”

Unfortunately, there are various barriers that teachers may face within the primary school. For example, if they are only given a short amount of time in the ICT suite a week, it can be very difficult to be able to fully educate pupils in animation. However, even if it’s just for a short period of time they can learn to use Pivot gradually throughout the year. Additionally, it could potentially be done in the classroom where there is one computer which would allow small groups to rotate using the computer each week to create their own short animation using Zu3D with the help of their teacher. This way, pupils will be able to slowly progress with their animation skills and gain the confidence and knowledge to explore animation more in their own time if they wish to do so. Furthermore, a simple and fun homework task to get them engaged could be to create their own animation booklet using just a paper and pen.

Animation is a great way to enhance a child’s creative skills in a fun and interactive way. There may be barriers that can prevent some schools from doing so, however, it’s always worth going the extra mile for the greater good of a child’s learning. After this input on animation, I feel I have the confidence to expand my knowledge in the topic which will hopefully make use of a child’s vast imagination in an innovative way.

Planet Earth.

From my experience with primary school, I only have a few vague memories of science lessons which we were given from external educators. There was much more emphasise on subjects like maths and literacy which we would spend most of our time on daily. This makes it all the more surprising that I had a real passion for science at high school. Not necessarily physics but I really enjoyed chemistry and biology. Growing up, I wasn’t religious at all and never felt the need to follow a religion. However, I did believe in science and was deeply interested in the vast variety of topics that all stemmed from science. I would frequently question myself about why things happened and how.

Planet Earth incorporates: biodiversity and interdependence; energy sources and sustainability; processes of the planet and space. Following our first science input, I’ve decided to focus on biodiversity after watching BBC’s planet earth which sparked an interest for the variety of life in the world.

My SMART Targets:

Specific: I will plan a lesson for a primary 4 class on biodiversity which involves Planet Earth and meet the criteria for SCN 1-02a.

Measurable: I will create a lesson plan – 2 pages A4

Achievable:  I will discuss my idea with peers and research the topic area through the internet and the resources the university has to offer. Additionally, I will visit Edinburgh Zoo for added expertise on the topic and any fun facts I can gather.

Relevant: Children tend to be quite interested in animals. Some may have seen documentaries on the BBC such as Planet Earth and Natural World which are educational and enjoyable.

Timed: I will complete the research element by the end of my placement observation block.

I aim to meet this target to enable my knowledge of science to expand as it is such a vast area. Although it is impossible to know everything, doing this will hopefully prepare myself more for future science lessons I will give.

My Reflection on Feedback.

Feedback plays a very important role in the reflection process. It is essential to gain a good understanding of your own strengths and weakness in order to be able to improve and be constantly developing as a whole. Feedback from peers is vital when learning whether it be in school, the workplace or in any everyday situation.  It can come in many forms from something simple like 2 stars and a wish right through to judges’ feedback on a performance. Feedback is important to be able to constructively analyse another persons work or actions in order for them to improve and learn for next time. Everyone has the ability to provide others with useful information, the complex part is how you put it to them. You should be careful when giving feedback as they could potentially take it in a very negative way and this will have a lasting effect. Useful feedback should support the person and enable them to improve. It’s important to remember to be down to earth and not unrealistic in your expectations.

An advantage of feedback is that you gain another person’s perspective. Sometimes it can be difficult to see fault in your own work and by having someone else give their views, it can enable progression. Feedback can have very positive effects when used correctly. For example, it has the potential to highlight your good areas which could spark more confidence in your ability enabling more success. A disadvantage, however, is it can have negatives effects on a person mentally when used incorrectly. For example, if the feedback focused only on the negatives and offered no suggested method on how to improve this could adversely effect their progress.

Generally, feedback I have received has been positive and has given me more confidence in terms of my ability. Personally, I tend to not let negative feedback get to me and instead use it in a constructional way to help improve my ability in that particular area. However, giving feedback is something I tend to struggle with. I’d happily tell a peer what I think are the positives of their work but I don’t like to be the one to point out where it went wrong, especially if it’s a friend. I intend to gain more confidence in analysing work constructively, not just positives but negatives too throughout the years.

Feedback is something I will go on to use a lot throughout my life. Therefore, I have taken on board everything that I’ve read and learnt about feedback so that I am able to give good feedback as I find it to be crucial in learning. I’ve also become more aware of how taken on feedback from other people is extremely important to aid your learning, therefore, I will be paying particular attention to the feedback I am now given. Hopefully, over the next years spend in a classroom, I will gain more confidence in giving feedback.

The Enquiring Practitioner.

To be an enquiring practitioner is to discover through a method which can be justified, therefore, holding more value than reflection. This normally involves working collaboratively with others in your profession, for example. Practitioner Enquiry is similar to reflection in the way that it involves on going learning and development.  However, it involves permanent qualities such as being flexible and willing to change. Part of being an enquiring practitioner involves being aware of the current news regarding your practice and involving yourself in ways to make sure your knowledge and understanding is up-to-date i.e. workshops. Furthermore, it involves being able to critically analyse your own beliefs, values, knowledge, understanding opinions, etc. The main point is that practitioner enquiry should lead to deep transformative learning: knowing what, why and how.

Being an enquiring practitioner is very important in teaching, as it involves being continuously reflective in your methods and constantly evaluating i.e. ‘Is there an easier way for my pupils to understand this?’. Therefore, it has a impact on the pupil’s learning. After Donaldson, teachers being an enquiring professional became the heart of teaching as it involves constantly improving. This is reflected in the GTCS standards for registration – “Committing to life-long enquiry, learning… (professional commitment)”, therefore, challenging past expectations of teachers. In my opinion to be able to be an enquiring practitioner in terms of teaching is essential and will provide rich benefits in the way that we teach today regarding children’s futures as members of society.

The benefits of practitioner enquiry are huge as it challenges and changes the way we think. For example, it can encourage teachers to become not just a better teacher but a good role model for the children to follow. Furthermore, as it involves investigating new, better ways of teaching, teachers will be well informed and up-to-date with current affairs around the world. Hopefully in the future, it will transform education as we see it for the better. Additionally, if children are surrounded by enquiring practitioners as the learn, grow and develop, it should reflect in their personality and enable them to become successful in reflection themselves.

In my opinion, a challenge regarding the practitioner enquiry is older, more experienced teachers may feel challenged by this new way of thinking that is now expected of them. Especially as it goes against the ‘traditional way of teaching’. They may find it hard to get their heads around it as they have been trained a different way and being an enquiring practitioner is a whole new way of thinking in terms of teaching. If enquiry is expected to be embedded deep into practice, this will take some time and a lot of support and expertise will be needed. Some may find it ‘uncomfortable’ as it is considerably different to previous methods. It can be challenging to understand the idea of an enquiring practitioner, however, without a good understanding it will become disengaging and disempowering. Additionally, it can be difficult to question your own methods and ability.

This implies for me, as a student teacher, that how to become an enquiring practitioner should be at the heart of my learning and kept in mind throughout my placement in order to obtain a greater understanding. Personally, I think as a student teacher I have it easier than current teachers as I can embed practitioner enquiry in the basis of my teaching ability from the start whereas it is hard to change your way of thinking and teaching after so many years. As a student teacher I will be able to start involving reflection in my learning so that I can develop a good understanding of practitioner enquiry by the time I leave university, where I will go on to continuously develop my practice as a professional.

The History of Brain Development Over the 20th Century.

The Physical Child – Brain Development TDT

1902 – Julius Bernstein proposes membrane theory for cells.                                                              1904 – Thomas Elliott suggests that autonomic nerves may release chemical transmitters.      1905 – John Newport Langley coins the phrase “parasympathetic nervous system”.                      1909 – Harvey Cushing is first to electrically stimulate human sensory cortex.                            1913 – Walter Samuel Hunter devises delayed-response test.                                                         1919 – Gordon Morgan Holmes localizes vision to a specific area.                                                  1920 – Stephen Walter Ranson demonstrates connections between the hypothalamus and pituitary.
1920 – John B. Watson and Rosalie Rayner publish experiments about classical conditioning of fear (Little Albert experiments).                                                                                                              1924 – Charles Scott Sherrington discovers the stretch reflex.                                                             1928 – Walter Rudolph Hess reports “affective responses” to hypothalamic stimulation.               1927 – J. Wagner-Jauregg – Nobel Prize-Malaria to treat dementia paralyses.                              1929 – Joseph Erlanger and Herbert Spencer Gasser publish work on the correlation of nerve fiber size and function.                                                                                                                               1936 – Walter Freeman performs first lobotomy in the United States.                                              1938 – Ugo Cerletti and Lucino Bini treat human patients with electroshock.                                1949 – John Cade discovers that lithium is an effective treatment for bipolar depression.        1953 – Brenda Milner discusses patient HM who suffers from memory loss of hippocampal surgery.                                                                                                                                                      1957 – W. Penfield and T. Rasmussen devise motor and sensory homunculus.
1957 – The American Medical Association recognizes alcoholism as a disease.                                 1987 – Fluoxetine (Prozac) introduced as treatment for depression.                                               1993 – The gene responsible for Huntington’s disease is identified.


Are Teachers Professionals?

First to speak is Chris Christie, who is very passionate about the fact that teachers are hero’s and they care about their pupils. The fact he mentions ‘caring’ is very important as that leads me to believe that he does see teachers as professionals. As mentioned in my previous post (‘What makes a teacher who makes a difference’) caring about the children’s learning, development and general welfare is an essential part of what makes teaching a profession. Chris Christie also mentions how we value teachers which I think is important in today’s society as they are becoming more and more valued and seen as professionals. This may be because being educated and having qualifications/degrees is fast becoming the norm in order to get a good job. I also find it important how he mentions that teachers should be paid what they are deserved and more because in terms of a profession many would say they are underpaid especially considering they’re only paid for classroom hours, however, as established earlier teaching is very much a profession you take home. Therefore, in terms of how teachers pay is calculated you could argue that teaching isn’t a profession.

Next we heard from Karen Lewis who made it clear from her opening line that she thinks teachers aren’t professionals – “I am a worker…I used to say I am teacher.” This could suggest that previously she did regard her job (teaching) as a profession but now she sees herself as nothing more than a worker. Karen states very clearly that “if you punch a clock you are a worker”. I understand where she’s coming from as you would say a ‘worker’ is paid for the hours they are at work whereas for a professional it’s more complicated than that. A professional takes their work home at the end of the day; their work is a part of their life and who they are. Therefore, Karen thinks teachers aren’t professionals because they pay for the hours they’re in the classroom teaching.

Personally, I think there’s no right answer to whether teachers are professionals or not. There is no obvious line that allows you to differ professionals from workers. It’s very much a personal opinion and very complex to determine.

Professionalism & Teaching.

In the video ‘Professionlism (teachers say)’ teachers give their different opinions on what it means to be a professional in today’s world. Firstly, Miss Catherine Long mentions that teachers are becoming more noticed in society as society becomes more educated. Teachers are also being represented more as professionals. I agree with Catherine here as years ago you wouldn’t need as much training as you do now to be a teacher. Over the years, more has been demanded from teachers and this is reflected in the way they are trained. Not just anyone can be a teacher, more and more is constantly required. Catherine goes on to say how there is a benchmark for teachers nowadays where they are ranked on how their pupils perform. Personally, I think this puts a lot more pressure on the teachers to individualise their learning and environments. How a child performs, however, can be based on genetics or how they were brought up. Therefore, a child performing bad shouldn’t necessarily be the teachers fault, there are plenty of other factors involved. Parents are becoming more and more involved in their child’s education which is great as teamwork is very important in a child’s development. However, parents can be quick to put the blame on the teacher which can cause problems, which is why constant communication between teachers and parents is essential.

Mrs Nursen Chemmi starts off by stating that professionalism can initially effect the children as they grow up to be adults. I agree with this, as the amount of dedication a teacher puts in as a professional impacts their learning. Additionally, the way they are brought up to see the teacher in terms of professionalism will impact their views as they develop into adults. ‘As teachers we are role models’ is a statement I would definitely agree with. Children spend the most part of their childhood in class, therefore, a lot of their time is spent with their teacher. It is essential that a teacher is a professional because as their role model children will effectively copy them and take on board the teachers actions and attitudes. Therefore, if the teacher represents good attitudes and behaviour, it  should reflect well in the child.

Mrs Colleen Welsh also describes professionalism as being a good role model. Colleen then goes on to say that it’s important not to judge a child by the way they are brought up which I do agree with as fairness is an essential quality for a teacher. I believe, it’s important to give every child a fair chance regardless of their background, therefore, being a professional does involve treating everyone the same.

Mrs Erin Smith states that professionalism is especially important in early childhood as they work with children, parents and families. I disagree with this as I think parents should be as involved in primary 7 as they were in nursery in order to benefit the child’s learning. Therefore, I would say that professionalism in that respect is equally important throughout all ages. However, I do agree with her comment about how professionalism enables you to be an effective communicator.

After watching this video and analysing what has been said, there appears to be a varied view on what professionalism is. Personally, I think that professionalism is individual and means something different to everyone. However, I think it’s important to stay open minded and be able to adapt in the teaching profession.

What makes a teacher who makes a difference?

One of the points made in ‘Being a Professional Teacher’ that really caught my attention was the ‘profession extending way beyond the walls of the classroom’. To me, a profession is the sort of job that you take home with you – it’s not one that stops as soon as you finish for the day. Therefore being a professional teacher and one who makes a difference involves teaching being a part of who you are and a big part of your life, not just a job. In my opinion ‘extending beyond…classroom’ is the perfect way to phrase this as it’s not just about what goes on in the classroom.

A ‘caring profession’ is also mentioned in relation to teaching. In order to make a difference, your heart must be in it and if you care about the pupils wellbeing and learning enough to go the extra mile, it’s bound to make an impact.

One of the doctors mentions that he gets a satisfaction out of treating patients which I think can relate to teaching. A teacher who makes a difference should get satisfaction from seeing their pupils succeed and do well. In the medical profession they need to give 100% all the time as lives are at risk. This can be relate to the teaching profession. Although they won’t physical die without a teacher who puts in 100%, it will effect their life, therefore, it makes a difference.

Teamwork is mentioned as making a difference which I think is very true as it’s important for the class as a whole to work as a team and also teachers to work as a team. Sacrifice was another word used which caught my attention as I think sacrifice is what makes a profession a profession, you’ve got to be willing to dedicate yourself.

One of the examples of someone who makes a difference was in South Africa where the teacher committed herself to the whole community not just her pupils. A teacher who makes a difference should be up-to-date with current education news as it is constantly changing. Additionally, they shouldn’t stop learning after they get their degree, there’s always workshops and education magazines to keep up with in order to update their skills.

My Academic Skills – the basics

I’ve always been a perfectionist so trying to be reasonably good at everything was quite important to me at school. I developed a love for maths and science at high school and if I didn’t want to be a primary school teacher, I would probably be doing a maths/science degree right now. Throughout high school I never really enjoyed English which was compulsory until 6th year. No matter how hard I worked to try and improve my grade, nothing seemed to work which was I didn’t enjoy it.

Since coming to university, I’ve been able to identify more specifically what was going wrong with my understanding of English through the OLA. Additionally, reading The Study Skills Book by Kathleen McMillan and Jonathan Weyers particularly improving your academic writing has enabled me to reflect more on the specifics of my weaknesses and since then I’ve hopefully been able to improve small parts of my writing through practicing.

Even though Maths has always been my strong point, doing the OMA has made sure that my basics Maths is still up to scratch and hasn’t been forgotten after doing Advanced Higher. It’s also allowed me to improve on sections that weren’t focused on that much throughout High School and I wasn’t as confident in.

Over the years of studying for exams, I’ve built up a handful of basic skills that are less important but make all the difference! For example, time management was essential in making sure I had allocated enough time for each subject, keeping stress to a minimum. Additionally, I’ve developed study habits and learning strategies which I know work for me and has enabled me to spend time studying effectively through various methods.

Knowing and understanding your academic skills is something I believe is very important and essential if you want to be a teacher. In order to teach the basic of academic skills, you must have a good understanding of yours and where you’re at with them. Over my years at university, I intend to gain a better understanding of my academic skill and constantly be developing them.

My Understanding of Reflection

Reflection is taking action in order to improve something such as your spelling, for example. Reflecting on the past (what went wrong, right..?) enables us to self evaluate our own performance then we can take action and decide- what will I do different next time? Reflection is a huge part of learning and developing. In my opinion, we do it all the time without even realising, sometimes more than others but it’s a part of how you grow as a person. For example, you learn from everyday mistakes by reflecting about what went wrong last time and knowing not to do it again. Effective reflection involves breaking down the situation and being able to analyse different sections in order to get to the bottom of it and learn for the next time.

I think reflection should play a bigger role in todays teaching system. If children are to become successful self-learners then reflection is key. It’s very important to be able to reflect on your own learning as this enables a whole world of opportunities in terms of development. Additionally, if it’s part of their day-to-day lives from a young age then it’ll be second nature in no time and stay with them their whole life.

An example of my own personal reflection was studying for exams. The first time round I was trying to establish effective study method and how I learnt best. Therefore, by the next year I was able to study effectively as I knew what would work best and what wouldn’t. Through trial and error, reflecting after exams and then again after I had my results I was able to take action.

I would encourage reflection throughout my career as I believe it is an essential part to any learning, no matter what the subject or situation. It’s also a vital life skill that can enable you to grow your own personality, learning from mistakes as you go. In terms of developing as a whole person, reflection is a key part.

The Construction of the Professional.

Firstly, I think fairness plays a very important role in the teaching profession. All children come from different backgrounds, upbringings, financial situations, etc. therefore it is crucial that every child is treated the same. Not necessarily taught the same as every individual learns different but treated with the same amount of respect and given equal attention. It’s important not to think that just because a pupil can produce great work without help that they don’t need attention as this could develop other issues. Similarly, it’s important not to spend all your time helping the one or two pupils who can’t work on there own as this way they’ll never learn how to write their name themselves, for example.

Patience is a quality I think every teacher needs. When doing my work experience with the primary ones, I learnt all about why patience was needed! Its extremely important to be able to keep calm even if they get the same question wrong ten times in a row or get green paint all over you when doing art! I think patience is an important quality for anyone to have but especially a teacher as a child shouldn’t feel like they can’t do something wrong just because it’ll make you angry. Learning is all about making mistakes because how else would you learn? That’s why I think its important to feel comfortable enough to have a go at everything even if you fail and that’s where patience in a teacher comes in.

Another quality which I find to be important is honesty. In order for a child to learn and develop as a person they need an honest teacher. It may build there confidence in that particular moment to say they’re doing great when in actual fact they’re not but it won’t help long-term. Therefore, in the future they may still not be able to do something right. I find it’s better to have a teacher who can be honest and upfront with you about strengths, weaknesses and ways to improve therefore you’re aware and can develop all aspects of your learning.

Additionally, I think integrity plays an important role in teaching and relates to honesty. It’s very important to have strong moral principles and therefore a teacher should be able to inspire the children to have their own beliefs. Part of growing up and finding who you are involves being an individual and having your own beliefs. I don’t think a teacher should teach what they believe in but rather to have our own beliefs, that’s where integrity comes in. No two people are the same, not even twins, therefore, I believe integrity to be a very important quality and one that should be imbedded from the start. To have strong moral principles also enables self-confidence.

Finally, I think respect is one of the most important qualities a teacher can have. Respecting your pupils as individuals is bond to have a huge effect on their learning and confidence growing up. A teacher should respect a child’s strengths, weaknesses, talents, personality, background, opinions, etc. It’s very important for anyone to be able to express their opinion with confidence and I think having a teacher who respects you for who you are is really beneficial for self-confidence. Not being able to be yourself or believe in the things you want can be damaging at a young age, therefore, it’s important that from the start they are respected and also learn to respect their peers. I believe that being respectful of other people is an important quality to have in life for anyone.

Professionalism and the Online World.

Personally, I think it’s very hard to maintain one account on social media for both personal and professional use. It is possible but it’s only going to make things more difficult! Therefore I think it’s best to keep them separate to avoid more challenges than is already being faced. For example, celebrities tend to have one account for family and friends where they can share personal and private things, plus another account for fans to follow where they share upcoming events and can be professional. This is something teachers and other professionals can relate to as its an easy way to keep your personal and professional life separate. However, pupils or parents may still be able to find your personal account, that’s why its crucial to think before you post and make sure you use strict privacy settings.

Having a professional account is a great way of sharing class related topics with parents and a very easy way to keep them informed. For example, when I went to Berlin with the school, my teacher had a blog where she wrote about what we did that day and added pictures. This meant that family back home could see what was going on and were kept well informed. On the other hand, a pupil should only be able to contact you during class time and if they were to try over social media, the situation would need to be addressed.

These days, I think social media gets quite a negative viewpoint when it comes to the professional world as it’s easy for the line of professionalism to be blurred, therefore, people have this stereotypical view that it’ll only end bad. Having grown up with social media, I can tell you, it’s not all bad and there are many benefits to using it professionally. Therefore, I will frame things in a positive viewpoint as I think many opportunities can arise through the use of social media. As a teacher, I will keep my personal account separate from my professional one which could be used as a learning environment as well as a source of information and quick communication. I’m aware challenges may arise through doing this but I’d rather not pretend it doesn’t exist when it’s such a big part of the modern life today.


The benefits of active learning and co-operative working

Personally, I think you can benefit greatly from active learning as memorizing information for exams isn’t as beneficial long-term. Studying actively involves thinking about what you’re doing and why rather than copying notes or reading. Actively working using different techniques, insuring that you know the topic well and are able to understand all aspects and theories rather than just being able to write everything you’ve memorized down for an exam. Additionally, I think that active learning is a lot more motivating and less passive. Eventually, this method should result in more self-confidence in your own work, development and knowledge. I think, that active learning promotes more learning through team work activities, further improving cognitive development.

Co-operative working holds many benefits. For example, the ability to work in a team to reach a common goal is very important in today’s society, in jobs, etc. Additionally, it enables development in social skills which are essential for life. Working co-operatively enhances your learning as you can learn from each other and grow professionally, having team members you can receive help from is also very beneficial. Skills in leadership and communication can be learnt and developed through frequent group work. Being able to think as a team and build decision making skills are more benefits that arise from co-operative learning.

Gender – My Experience

Upon first read of the question ‘how did your gender affect you as a child?’, I had no idea what to write because I didn’t think it had any affect on me at primary school. However, after reflecting on my experience, I’ve come to the realisation that actually it did, I’d just never noticed.

At my primary school, the girls played in the netball team and the boys played in the football team, it was just the way it was. I never once questioned it till now as I would never have chosen to play football in the first place but had I wanted to, I wouldn’t have been able to and vice versa for the boys. Furthermore, if a teacher ever needed help with moving a table for example, they would ask for “two strong boys” as if a girl wouldn’t be able to do it and it’s assumed the boy is stronger or more able.

Additionally, I’ve now realised that all the sport teachers were male and all the art teachers were female. For all 7 years I attended primary school, there was never a male teacher, they were all female. For a while there was a male janitor and at one point a male head teacher but that was it. I can’t say whether this had an affect on me or not but for all I know it could have.

When discussing this question with peers, many said that the boys in their class got in trouble more often than the girls even for the same behaviour. Personally, I can’t remember if this was the case in my school. I do know, however, that it’s a common assumption that boys are better behaved than girls. In my opinion, this stereotype could affect their behaviour and subsequently have an impact on their learning, in a good or a bad way. Some teachers may not even realise that they’re treating the girls differently from the boys as it’s an automatic behaviour but in doing so could affect many children’s behaviour as it is presumed from the first day.

Teaching to me

For me, what made me want to become a teacher isn’t something I can pin point. There hasn’t ever been one experience that flicked a switch and all of a sudden I knew, more a series of events. In my third year of high school you were given the opportunity to gain work experience, I didn’t really know where to go, only that I did want to go somewhere. So, I did the typical thing and I went back to my old primary school. This changed the way I looked at primary school as the teacher I was helping was young, not long out of university and was an inspiration for me. She was exciting, enthusiastic, very in to using technology in a way I never had experienced in primary 1. I think it was her interactive approach that changed my view of things.

Growing up, I had a great education. I went to a great primary school and an even better high school which without either one, I wouldn’t be sat here today. In a way, I wanted to become a teacher to put back into society and education what I gained from school.

If anyone asked me what environment I’d like to work in, it was always between either a hospital or a classroom. Then, I had major back surgery which involved spending a lot of time in hospital or with the staff. Even though I had a great experience and I could not thank the nurses and the doctors enough for all their help and the difference they made to my recovery, I never wanted to see a hospital again! I got to see a lot of what went on behind the scenes and it was more than enough for me to decide that a classroom was definitely the environment for me.

Over the years, spending time with my younger cousins has always been something I loved. Many times growing up have I begged my Mum to take me down to England in the holidays just to see them (they grow up so fast!). It wasn’t till I took higher psychology in 6th year that I realised how fascinating I find child development. Particularly how we learn, how we develop as a person and as an important role in society.

I want to become the kind of teacher who inspires success, ambition and self encouragement. I was home schooled after my surgery and this is when I realised how inspiring my teachers were, they gave up time to come teach me, called to see if I had problems, put together folders to help me teach myself (the time the council allowed was limited). I want to be the kind of teacher that inspires others to be the best and to reach their goals no matter how scary and big. I want to be the teacher who is approachable and makes school as enjoyable as possible. It wasn’t until I realised teachers were inspiring that I realised that’s what I wanted to be.

Welcome to your WordPress eportfolio

Welcome to your eportfolio. This is where you will document and share your professional thoughts and experiences over the course of your study at the University of Dundee and beyond that when you begin teaching. You have the control over what you want to make public and what you would rather keep on a password protected page.

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Teacher, Lorraine Lapthorne conducts her class in the Grade Two room at the Drouin State School, Drouin, Victoria

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