Author Archives: Brian Tasker

Equality and Diversity Training

Today I undertook the online Equality and Diversity training module and found it both engaging and enlightening, and it caused me to reflect on my own inherent biases/prejudices. The course itself included links to a wide variety of further reading and viewing to enhance this process.

Although I believe this subject to be fundamentally important to society, it is also especially important for a trainee teacher like me who is expected to have Integrity, earn Trust and Respect through my commitment to Professional Development and Social Justice. This awareness (both of myself and wider legislation) is important right across the Standards from differentiation within the classroom to effective and emapathetic working with staff, parents and partner agencies to promote learning and wellbeing.

Language TDT2

Based on the Curriculum for Excellence Es and Os for talking and listening, I have devised a set of group rules for talking and listening as follows;

I then selected a novel called ‘Holes’ by Louis Sachar to design a lesson activity to meet the outcome LIT 2-07a (“I can show my understanding of what I listen to or watch by responding to literal, inferential, evaluative and other types of questions, and by asking different types of questions of my own.”)

First step was to define the terms for the different types of questions;

  • Literal Questions – directly stated in the text
  • Inferential Questions – Inderectly stated, induced, or require other information
  • Evaluative Questions – Formulate an opinion-based response.

Bearing this in mind when reading the novel I formulated the following questions which would form the core of a lesson on Chapters 1-4, and would include group discussion and mind mapping.

Gettin Physical!

P.E. is one aspect of the Health and Wellbeing area of Curriculum for Excellence. Gillian’s input on P.E. in the Primary setting encouraged us to consider and reflect on our own physical literacy.

When I was of primary age, I was very active enjoying football and other team sports but also running pretty wild around the scheme through ‘backies’ and ‘closies” whilst tree and wall climbing and thereby developing decent strength and coordination, as well as learning the social structures and etiquette of my fellow delinquents. Once I had my first BMX I could roam even further afield, and it was this spirit of adventure and wanderlust that motivated my physical activity. Towards adolescence, I moved away from team sports, largely disillusioned by what I perceived as fairly toxic cultures around these games, but also forced by a spinal/pelvic injury on the rugby field. I shifted my focus toward more individualistic pursuits such as cycling and BMX, mountaineeering and climbing and swimming and surfing. Alas, I have broken at least a dozen bones in my lifetime and had a variety of other injures, which have all contributed to fairly major challenges to my remaining fit and strong. A positive aspect of this is that I have become much more aware of my body and how it works and have (eventually!) become more aware of assessing risk.

As with many of the other subjects I have been learning about, I was again surprised by how many curricular areas are covered by P.E., and incorporating literacy, numeracy etc were demonstrated throughout. The lesson was structured like a P.E. lesson with a warmup, core activity, then cool down/plenary. Our Learning Intentions and Success Criteria were clearly outlined and achieved. The accompanying materials and further reading contain a wealth of ideas and plans for leading sessions and working on core skills and self awareness and importantly how these can be adapted to fit various environments and available resources.

The PEPAS  (Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport) initiative was entirely new to me and I am impressed by its ‘whole life’ or holistic approach to movement and active living which aims to take account of not only what happens in school, but in day-to-day life and any clubs or associations learners may be members of outwith school. I feel this is very important in terms of citizenship by helping build relationships and a broad sense of community that does not end at the school gates.

Language and Literacy

Michelle’s input on language was very engaging and led to me reflecting on my own experiences of learning English. I expect most native speakers like me take this ability for granted, and because the initial processes began so early in life I can’t really remember the actual process. I was also quite literate before attending primary school so have always felt very confident in using language. This instinctive or at least early development of the understanding of how to communicate is marvellous in and of itself, but does not help me analyse the process in terms of teaching it to others. On reflection one of the key aspects is repetition, or practice, along with immersion in real world use of language and exposure to vocabulary, initially with parents/care givers and then broadening out from there.

With reference to children achieving second level outcomes, I would be hoping to observe engagement and confidence in using language, and the ability to summarise, discern between facts and opinion and to explain the purpose of an instance of communication. Bloom’s Taxonomy (represented graphically below) suggests the kind of language to use when assessing learners’ stages.


Another method might be to use ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ tasks, which give teachers an insight into learners’ stages and give their pupils an opportunity for self-assessment, reflection and benchmarking.

As literacy underpins attainment in all other aspects of the curriculum, and therefore one’s role in society, I am a keen exponent and practice what I preach. I read a great deal from a wide variety of sources, both professionally and for pleasure. This is a habit which both my own young children have adopted by osmosis and one which I hope to pass on to young learners in my charge. For if young people can express themselves, communicate and comprehend effectively, then there is no limit to their potential.

Makin’ Movies

My first ICT workshop involved group work using the Zu3D software to create simple stop motion animations such as the one below.

This abstract piece set to Bernstein’s Mambo allowed us to play with the software and hardware to get a feel for the piece and imagine what it would be like from a learner’s perspective. Although we were able to create a satisfying result in under an hour, I still felt the whole experience was very rushed. I would imagine in the classroom, this is something that would need to built up to over time i.e. becoming familiar with the music, learning about the geometric shapes, investigating other animated features etc etc with the animation short forming the quantifiable result of a block of work.

Our second input saw us endeavour to portray a narrative with a ‘claymation’ approach building on our experiences with the Zu3D setup from the previous workshop. I can see how, like in the other Workshops, the scope of the outcomes for learners can be very broad. For example, we were developing not only our ability to engage with and evaluate technology, but also group working, story telling, using our imaginations and fine motor skills and so on. This involved cross-curricular skills such as planning and organising, utilising materials and tools and developing design skills.

Although the end result is terrific and I really enjoyed the Workshop, I still have reservations about using this exact lesson with primary classes. Using my own ability to critically analyse the technology I think there are far too many variables (ageing machines, usb drivers, fragile hardware, updates, glitches etc etc) which might make this unwieldy for a whole class to undertake at once. Perhaps this might be better suited to a lunchtime ‘Animation Club’ or similar with a dedicated workspace and perhaps 6 learners at a time. That said,  it was a fascinating session which illustrated very well how simply a fairly professional-looking little movie can be put together :oD.

Steppin’ Up!

Despite having no formal training in dance, I have been known to bust some serious moves from time to time on the dancefloor. Until this semester, I hadn’t considered the role of dance within the curriculum, but was pleasantly surprised by how straightforward it will be to integrate it into my practice.

My own experience of dance at Primary School was only really the dreaded annual Scottish Country Dancing session, where not only did one have to keep one’s school uniform on rather than gym kit, but one also had to HOLD HANDS with a GIRL! The arbitrary gender division and partnering was the source of acute embarrassment for some and just getting in the way of what could have potentially been a fantastic game of netball/dodgeball/tig instead for others. The rigidness and tartan-and-shortbread Scottishness of it all did not sit well with me back then (and still doesn’t) and that was pretty much it for me and formal dancing. Until now.

The contrast between what I learnt from Eilidh and what I learnt at school could not have been starker. By that I mean dance is now framed (I believe correctly) as a creative, expressive art, almost the exact opposite of the thinly veiled military drills we learnt as “dance”.

One of the main things I will take from the lesson is the ability for dance to help transcend difficulties with literacy and numeracy; learners who may struggle to express themselves on paper may find that dance will help engage them. The second thing was that very little resources are required –  one does not require special equipment or even necessarily a beat to be able to teach and enjoy dance. And finally I am very pleasantly surprised that individuality and creativity are now encouraged and fully supported by the Curriculum for Excellence.


Legacy of Empire: Racism and Misogyny

I found the issues explored this week were very closely aligned to my own passionate belief in equality and fairness. It is also very interesting to me personally as a mature student to note that that concepts around equality and fairness were regarded as in some way subversive or counter-cultural when I was growing up: “Gay” was a pejorative term, people of colour were routinely referred to in what would now be considered obscene language in polite company, and so on. Standard child rearing practice involved the constant threat of violence and use of one’s dialect was a punishable offence in school.

It may sound like I grew up in the Victorian era, but I am only 36 years old. I point this out only to reflect on how incredibly far we as a society have come in such a short space of time – it genuinely fills my heart with joy and hope for the future when I find what were somehow marginal concepts becoming accepted by the mainstream. The younger students in our year have grown up against a pluralist background where cultural/gender/ecological diversity is the norm, thanks in part to digital technology, and I believe it is beholden upon us all to not take this for granted and continue to strive for democracy and social justice.

I have always found that discrimination was basically about maintaining a social order which protected vested interests which were, to quote Diane Abbott, “male, pale and stale”. I felt growing up that I had very little franchise in this social order and quickly adopted counter cultural role models. I present here a VERY short list of some bands, movies etc that had a huge influence on my worldview not to show off my exquisite taste (!) but in the hopes that someone else may find these things interesting/inspirational. Oh, and remember, there was no google back then so these things were arrived at through scrutinising liner notes and books and speaking to actual people!

Riot Grrrl Feminist punk culture – Bikini Kill, Le Tigre etc

Straightedge/skate punk culture – Fugazi – amazing DIY anti corporate band, DOA “Guilty of Being White”, Dead Kennedys “Nazi Punks F*ck Off” etc etc

Spike Lee movies Bamboozled etc

Ghost World – comic book and movie

Public Enemy, Fishbone, Living Colour, Rage Against The Machine, Beastie Boys – amazing rockin’ bands full of social commentary and good people who practice what they preach

John Coltrane, Charlie Mingus – jazz pioneers and 2nd wave black intellectuals – as Derek pointed out don’t fear the Jazz!! – it “is America’s one true original art form”

Blues players Robert Johnson, Leadbelly etc

And, just to drop in something remotely up to date, watch the stunning Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale, or go one better and read Margaret Atwood’s book!

As we seem to be heading in to some pretty dubious territory politically with the rise of the right and various populist movements I believe there is no room for complacency and it is our duty as teachers to nurture and promote these values and defend our hard-won freedoms. 😃