Did you say ‘let’s read?’ Oh… I’d love to!

Reading week is here. (Almost.) And that reminds me of letters, words and sentences: are they the raw essentials for a book?

I think letters create words. I wonder if words can act as sentences alone? I see that most sentences need a verb. That’s how we all started learning English – and essentially, university reading week is the same mental process.

“I think this will structure my argument. I wonder if anyone else has written the same thing! I see that I need more evidence!” (Dundee University students, since essay writing existed.) So, what do students do?

We research more. We write more. And then we, the primary teachers, discover Paddington Bear on shelves – and decide that the thousands of black and white words in the other book have had their day. Done with, they are. Done and gone.No-one – not you, not your friend, not your long-removed cousin – would dispute that the real, right reason for reading is to meet this friendly fellow. Learn your ABCs for Paddington. He’s the bear who jumps in puddles, splashes up bubbles and stands with his sandwich in the huddle. Cute, is he. But, really he is a character that many children and adults alike can connect with. The little quirks give us deeper meaning: meaning that is invaluable for developing a love of literacy.

Reading stories: I can’t remember the official ‘start date’ of my love reading. It’s not brain-noteworthy like the first lecture at university – or tip-toed into the classroom in Primary One! Enjoying books is a gradual transition from a challenge (at first) to a mind-bubble bath. A busy day at the academic section of the library always reminds me why it is SO important that we ensure children delight in relaxing with a book at night. It not only leads to university (in weeks, months and years later) but is important for our own happiness… and life satisfaction. The National Literacy Trust (2018, p.4) research supports this: “64.3% of those who have higher levels of mental wellbeing consider themselves to be above average readers, compared with 46% of those who have low levels of mental wellbeing.” Isn’t it abhorrent to think that children who struggle with reading most likely have low-levels of confidence in our areas of their life?

It clouds my brain with rain, thunder and lightning.

You understand, kids’ books are rainbows. They teach you something. And, of course, fill your heart with something. That something is another perspective:

“What day is it? asked Pooh.”
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favourite day,” said Pooh.

Perhaps, I have a soft-spot for Pooh Bear? My twin is twenty: this optimistic bear travels everywhere with her! But, really that’s just a damn-silly and sentimental reason! The characters from One-Hundred Acre Woods each have their own personality – and we can explore this in the classroom. Common bonds create friendship: characters in stories can be pals with characters (or so, I believe!) This allows children to explore their emotions in a safe space – and learn about the ways of the world. (Eades, 2008.) After all, don’t we all do extra-curricular activities to find out more about ourselves? Discover new things and push ourselves to that uncomfortable yet super-focused zone… that’s hobbies for you. Reading is not just a classroom activity – but a hobby, a safe-space and a home wherever you are.

What if you’re in university? Earlier on (when I didn’t jump into child land) I mentioned that I am spending this week researching academic work to complete my assignments. Previously, this week never matched the ‘excitement’ criteria of my diary. What…why? No lectures: no flying a kite whilst dancing! Simply, it was never as fun as being in a dancing teaching class – but I’m pleased to say… officially… that this week has earned a smiley face stamp! It’s nice to have time, before placement, to stick myself in the planning folder – and dig for more diamond literacy facts and theories. Moreover, I’m trying to change my perspective on summative assignments. Instead of seeing them as ‘if you don’t achieve this…’ the proteins in my brain-cells will be pumped to their best and accept that’s all that can be done.’ Sport is already thought of in that light, so my brain needs to change for grading. A change is positive. A positive change wins the… you know… happy bracket and colon! On that note, are you up for an amusing game?

Thought so.

Here it is, boys and girls – oh, I do love classroom classes! It’s just the best when you’re sat on the carpet playing Sam Smith’s Suitcase… hint hint… that’s the one your away to find out about! It seemed fitting to leave it at the end of this blog. A suitcase is involved and well, we properly started off our literacy chat with Paddington Bear. The rules are not complex, thanks to the Mandwell (1972). Heads up, I’ve re-worded some of it as we teach children not to always copy text – and I’ve already put several quotes in this blog post!

The leader of Sam Smith’s Suitcase is the teacher… at least for the first game! This person is responsible for asking the children what they want to bring with them. The student must bring an item that is the same letter as their first name… hence why your teaching name acts like an author’s pen name in a sense!

Teacher: “My name is Sam Smith. I’m going to take a trip and take along a suitcase. I’ll take some of you with me – but only if you take the right thing with you. Remember, I’m going to take a suitcase.”

Incorrect Response: “My name is Jane and I’m bringing a ribbon with me.”
Whereas the correct response has the object and proper noun with the same first letter.

Correct Response: “My name is Tim and I’m bring a tie with me.”

What will you bring? If your name Bella or Bryan…I know what you’ll bring…a book! 😊

References

Eades, J. (2006) Classroom Tales: Using Storytelling to Build Emotional, Social and Academic Skills Across the Primary Curriculum. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Mandwell, M. (1972) 101 Best Educational Games.  New York: Sterling Pub. Co.

National Literacy Trust (2018) Mental wellbeing, reading and writing. Available at: https://literacytrust.org.uk/research-services/research-reports/mental-wellbeing-reading-and-writing/ (Accessed: 11 October 2019).

The Telegraph (2016) 40 Quotes about Life (for an Optimist) Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/books/what-to-read/40-quotes-about-life-for-an-optimist/aa-milne/ (Accessed: 13 October 2019).

 

The Lovely Lorax – and My Plan!

I started writing a piece about planning over the weekend – and ironically, lost it. Great organisation, Claire! Anyhow, the weekend was successful in making notes about medium-term planning. I’ve done a few lesson plans here and there: but not yet, a medium-term one. What is that, exactly? Well, I had not a single (and I mean it) clue apart from ‘what we’re doing for more than one lesson.’ So, thanks to the help of a video posted online – cheers, Youtube for facilitating my learning with a cup of tea and blanket – and the Medwell and Simpson’s book on placement, the ink flowed from my brain to paper to here. And , now, you will see a few notes about planning. You will. (Oh dear, doesn’t that sound like Blue Peter’s craft show?!)
– Medium-term planning looks at the teaching of more than one curricular area: yay, I can begin cross-curricular teaching for good now!

– If you are prepping for a whole class lesson, differentiation must be considered. To facilitate a successful learning environment, the pupils’ individual needs must be catered for as much as appropriate and possible.

– Lesson outlines are included in a medium-term plan – and these are not lesson plans! Yes, I will repeat that: not individual steps of what should ideally happen every ten minutes or so. That’s exclusive to lessons plans.

– And last, but not least… such an overused saying but I do love it… is skill development. Teachers need to give thought as to how to improve students’ skillset so that they can do activities on their own.

As the Scottish Government (2010) puts it: students should leave school as successful learners who can “think independently” and “link and apply different kinds of learning in new situations.”

On the linking part, it’s time to put theory into practice (the best part, undoubtedly). No arguments, please. We have recently been looking at how a picture book can be used for a million, zillion, billion activities: adore them, should we. I know it’s kind of very popular, but that doesn’t matter… because we have been challenged to come up with our own ideas of activities to do with children. I was never sure on Dr. Seuss, however a reading session at the library proved me wrong. Indeed, it did. I. absolutely. Love the Lorax. Maybe it’s just to do with the fact the truffula trees are basically like Earth’s candy floss. Yeah?

For maths, the Lorax is ultra-exciting for the primary one age group. (And some adults too… you surely agree on that!) On a quick diversion, the book is about how we must strive to care for our planet and those around us – and remember that too much money can be the root of evil. The story, for me, introduces children to money-handling, shape/pattern and even measurement!

On the end of a rope
he lets you down a tin pail
and you have to toss in fifteen pence
and a nail
and the shell of a great-great-great-
grandfather snail.

Children could have a sensory station (with the objects laid out for them to play imaginary games with). I have listed some questions which could perhaps form the basis of a lesson (or small group activity) along with the appropriate CfE outcome.

– How long is the rope? Is it as tall as one of us? MNU 0-01A
– What is a pail used for – and could we use it to keep our toy ducks in? MNU 0-11A
– Which shapes make up a nail and a shell?    MTH 0-16A                                          – Do snails move quickly? Is speed important? (This is when… of course… you talk about the Tortoise and the Hare.) MNU 1-10C

Obviously, maths is not the only subject in which the Lorax can be brought to life. A spelling challenge could be set up: students could have to sound out the words. The different sounds could be the seeds… and the end result, a truffula tree! The end goal would be to make their own truffula tree pencil: basically put a pom-pop and cover the pencil is glitter glue/fancy tape. Nothing too complex… so perhaps an individual art tasks which allows them to be independent right from the beginning of their school days.

The book is not just limited to the Early Years, however! Nope… you could examine the philosophy themes in the book with the older stages. Or, more so, a close-reading lesson. Superb use of symbolism can be found in the book along with wise word choice! For example, the Lorax never shouts or argues – whereas the Once-ler who is greedy always yells, never listens and forever talks back! And, if you’re even more keen, look at deforestation and its impact on our dear Earth. (Must say now… well done Greta Thunberg!)

Above is a few of the ideas that came into my head whilst considering medium-term planning using a picture book. I’ll leave you with the description of the Lorax… just in the event you desperately need a brain break to doodle!

He was shortish. And oldish.
And brownish. And mossy.
And spoke with a voice
That was sharpish and bossy.

(P.S. I hope you made him look ultra-fluffy and cute!)

References

Education Scotland (2017) Benchmarks: Numeracy and Mathematics. Available at: https://education.gov.scot/improvement/documents/numeracyandmathematicsbenchmarks.pdf(Accessed: 8 October 2019)

Medwell, J. and Simpson, F. (2008) Successful Teaching Placement in Scotland: Primary and Early Years. Exeter: Learning Matters.

Scottish Government (2010) Building the Curriculum 3: A Framework for Learning and Teaching, Available at: https://www2.gov.scot/Publications/2010/06/02152520/1(Accessed: 8 October 2019.

 

Teaching for Equity and Wellbeing: Lecture-related Post

 

(Sorry… the title today is rather uninspiring… so if you can think of one that’s utra-inspiring… feel free to inspire me!)

Reading. On. Poverty – and closing the attainment gap. Oh, and emotional and physical health in the classroom. It’s all weighty stuff because … as teachers… we do not possess the super-power of being able to sort out society alone. And, we aren’t that strong either. Perhaps it’s me still on those 4kg weights! Anyhow…! Thinking about health led me to consider what my responsibility is in the classroom: sadly it’s not as simple as telling our little ones not to eat apples like Snow White. Sadly not.

The Scottish Government (2019) see health and wellbeing as: [wait for it] … ensuring that pupils are able to make the most of their educational opportunities regardless of their background or financial circumstances and through promotion of attendance at school. So, this means that we ought to find a way around most problems, come to a reasonable solution. Interestingly: Mcleod and Mowat (2019) found that no large-funding or project will solve the poverty issues in education. Instead, incremental changes by everyone will result in a long-term systemic change in society. Isn’t it obvious, then, that teachers need to think of the everyday practical stuff. Start small: stop tall. The pencil after all is what’s needed to change the world – and of course, positive relationships. Let’s look at the list from the Department of Health and Social Care (2013) about … how our lanyards give us more power than making us into the mould of today’s teachers. (If you’re a ‘secret shopper’ from TurnItIn, don’t stress. I did ‘re-word-ify’ it!)

Practical Steps for a Practical Poverty-Beating Solution (DoHSC, 2013)

• Establish good relationships with your students’ parents/guardians;
• Ensure a child has a positive experience in at least one of the following:
– Their social circle – Academic work – Sporting goals
• Run breakfast clubs and after-school clubs;
• Focus on properly developing a child’s skillset;
• Establish a routine/structure (discipline must be fair);
• Set tasks for the child to do at home (to boost self-esteem).

Thinking back with my autobiographical lens (Brookfield, 2017) the highlight of my first-year placement (other than teaching) was running the after-school clubs. Honestly, it’s a real perk. To be able to do something you love and share your enthusiasm with the students always leaves you with glitter in your brain. However, more sparkle comes when pupils light the spark to a topic you previously disliked! Someone close to me told me:

How can you not be interested in something, if you know little or nothing about it.

Through spending time with children outside the classroom, you not only find out more about yourself – but also, positive relationships are built upon. (Brick laid. Cemented. Then another brick…voila Disney castle established!) Over my six weeks at the school, I witnessed the mending of half-broken friendships during a simple lunchtime pop-music session… the daisy chain was completed. Thinking ahead, I need to plan smartly to allow myself appropriate time to run such sessions – and to think about the tiny details that could affect students. A teacher’s response from an interview by Saul (2019) highlights the need for everything to be as accessible as possible:

We spoke to students why say they won’t go to free after-school football clubs because you can wear what you like, and so everybody is wearing the latest football kit. Some students have since said that for afterschool sports clubs, all children should only wear their p.e. kit.

Wow. Doesn’t that just show how the simplicity of uniform can have a ripple of an impact? Uniform is not a ‘maybe’ but a MUST. There are obviously a myriad more MUSTS out there too. But for now, it is a MUST that I leave the laptop and head for the paper to create a list: let me list the everyday things that could make the difference to student’s health and wellbeing! And then, yes, I can look at my upcoming assignment. Oh, lists are so satisfying when you can put a smiley face next to each item!

References for this Post:

Brook, S. (2017) Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. 2nd edn. San-Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.

Department of Health and Social Care. (2012) Our Children Deserve Better: Prevention Pays. Available at:
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/255237/2901304_CMO_complete_low_res_accessible.pdf (Accessed: 3 October 2019).

Macleod, G. and Mowat, J. (2019) Poverty, attainment and wellbeing: Making a difference to the lives of children and young people. Available at: https://www.scottishinsight.ac.uk/Portals/80/ReportsandEvaluation/Programme%20reports/Poverty%20Attainment%20and%20Wellbeing_Final%20Report.pdf (Accessed: 3 October 2019).

Saul, H. (2019) ‘Nine simple things teachers can do to ensure the poorest students don’t get left behind’, INews, 6 September. Available at: https://inews.co.uk/news/education/nine-ways-teachers-and-schools-can-poverty-proof-their-classrooms-290621 (Accessed: 3 October 2019)

Scottish Government (2019) Schools: Health and wellbeing in schools. Available at: https://www.gov.scot/policies/schools/wellbeing-in-schools/ (Accessed: 3 October 2019).