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).

Fractions! Did you just call for pizza – and a party?!

We have had a few inputs now on mathematics: and they have all been most useful in helping me to realise that imagination is maths and maths is imagination. Long way to say it; basically think to the limits of space. Endless? Yes. Claire needs to enter the classroom and not just see the earthly game of “ooo, where are the ticks and crosses on my worksheet?” Children need to be exclamation marks and rocket to the next planet of discovery. As Juliet Robertson (2011, 00.33) says: “Maths isn’t about a pencil and paper… it is about using numbers as a tool to understand the world around us. Our lecturers and Molina (2004) emphasise that children need to realise what the sum is about – and not just recite the steps required to reach the answer (conceptual – former vs. procedural – latter). The depth of understanding must be enough that the child can build their own marshmallow spaghetti tower to hold an egg… and not just to fit the ‘it’s a tower that stands.’ I appreciate that I need to understand how best to deliver subject knowledge in a way that caters for every student too, if my children want to leave as confident individuals. And, doesn’t such success start with consistence in the little habits? Here’s a bad stereotypical student habit: ordering the red and yellow triangles! That’s the pizza habit – that maths can actually solve my guilt with!

There are times to throw a party, celebrate and dive into a box of Dominos. Maybe student life? Perhaps (okay, true). But, a classroom also benefits from having pizza. Children like to socialise and discover things. So… why not ask them to budget for their own party and introduce fractions at the same time? I am back to developing confident, creative and conceptual-focused maths learners: remember the Scottish Government (2019) design principles are for children to have depth, relevance and choice in their learning. By holding a pizza party, a child can be introduced to the fairness of fractions as well as budgeting for their needs. Let me explain (whilst I distract my mind from its desire to seek out the nearest pizza shop). Perhaps I’ll use the technique that we were taught through a sweet story shared in our latest tutorial: count the objects around you! Whilst typing this up, you find myself counting all the flowers in my window view! Sadly, I’ve only found one. Dundee’s library has more leaves (better for symmetry, though!)

Fractions Call for Fairness

Our lecturer was talking about making everything exciting for young children: the same goes for teenagers – which I realised when taking a group of 16-18-year-old Italian teenagers around a fairy trail this Summer! They. Loved it – seriously. Walking can be fun (if you don’t particularly enjoy it) when you have small goals to work towards: so, fractions can work the same way too, I presume! Here it goes (my plan for a pizza party at the end!).
Pre-lesson Activity (Starter):
We introduce what fairness is about – f for fractions and f for fairness. In the end, fair and equal are almost synonyms (kind of!). This could be done using a cake. Oops, food again! Give one student a bigger piece than the other… and watch the chaos unfold or cake end up in your face! Not really.
Lesson One:
The students could then explore the meaning of a whole (perhaps look at percentages.) What exactly is the meaning of the denominator compared to the numerator. How do you show how much of something you have using fractions? Visual resources are more important than worksheet questions for a start. Why? Penner-Wilger et al. (2007) found that finger representation whilst counting will increase a child’s ability to estimate well and understand the number-system. The same idea could be applied to fractions: mental representation goes along way. Maybe that’s why it’s the old-story that a face-to-face conversation is better than an email?! Anyway…
Lesson Two:
Recap fractions and introduce the idea of budgeting: that’s the next stage. Depending on the level of knowledge and depth of understanding of the students, the pupils could explore the cost of pizzas using greater than/less than signs or even percentages! It would be important to also look at some questions on fractions at the end as a formative assessment – okay, well just so you know what to plan next to teach them.
Sequential Lessons and the End Goal
Obviously, you cannot plan weeks and weeks in advance as you are unable to predict the students’ learning progress. UNLESS: a crystal ball has been inserted into your brain. I remember, when on my first-year placement, the teacher saying that they never plan longer than a few weeks because: you must change your plans; AND therefore, your time is most likely into space (and you use up fuel!) However, the end goal should try and remain the same or be appropriately adapted to the pupils. Hello, differentiation!
For instance, some complete the budgeting and other students just focus on fractions. Still, by the end, the class should come together to hold a pizza celebration. That would show that (I think) that we use maths all the time – and that you can have a choice in your learning. And, could a community of enquiry be created all whilst doing this? Maybe!

Now, back to circle time. Well, reflection! Our recent maths lectures have really cemented the idea of discarding textbooks more and more – and trying to make as many things applicable to real-life where necessary. Obviously not everything can be done in that way… but a lot could. Juliet Robertson (2011) discussed having an outdoors master-chef cooking lesson, involving mud and measurement! That does sound like a rocket-fuelled idea – that even astronauts might want to explore. I’m getting excited for teaching maths. Even more exited than I was before. If we make the students realise the everyday value of actually knowing why we carry out a mathematical operation, then our we are on the right route. Ollerton (2004, p.81) does a rather good summary for me: “The ultimate prize is for students to recognise they are learning for their own benefit.” That’s a tad better than pizza, I’d say.

References for this Post:

Molina, C. (2014) ‘Teaching Mathematics Conceptually ‘, SEDL Insights, 1, pp. 1-8. Available at: http://www.sedl.org/insights/1-4/teaching_mathematics_conceptually.pdf (Accessed: 26 September 2019)

Ollerton, M. (2004) Creating Positive Classrooms London: Continuum.

Penner-Wilger, M. et al. (2007). “The foundations of numeracy: subitizing, finger gnosia, and finemotor ability,” in Proceedings of the 29th Annual Cognitive Science Society, pp. 520-525. Available at: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/cc16/9648993eccb49088b511d37590f93e3fc1a2.pdf (Accessed: 27 September 2019)

Robertson, J. (2011) Messy Outdoor Maths. 31 March. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nh_4SEUpSrA (Accessed: 27 September 2019).

Scottish Government (2019) Scotland’s Curriculum: How We Do It. Available at: https://scotlandscurriculum.scot/5/ (Accessed: 27 September 2019).

Update Central

Deciding not to do placement. Bad decision? It could be. Wrong decision? It might be. Wise decision? For now – at least. I am most certainly not stopping teaching, as it is what I really do love. However, the time doesn’t work out to do placement and various circumstances have led me to this choice. (Dundee University, you need to know that you’re amazing and play zero part in this!)

It’s not been a decision that I’ve taken after having a headache one day. Nope. To be honest, I’ve already investigated the routes into teaching after leaving at the end of third year – and yes, there are options. I’m a tad disappointed as yes… there is nothing better than making a difference to a child’s life. However, my days in practice are not concluded come April next year. The lanyard may travel in zigzag but returning is on my agenda. Somehow.
And so how will I continue?

The blog has always been a crucial part of my journey. It has been. It still is. It will be. I may have to end my GLOW account with Dundee – most likely. Yet, there is now a new updated site (so my writing world isn’t over). Don’t cry, Claire… blogging can continue. The ability to check myself against different professional GTCS standards will remain online! Yipee! Future plan… when I graduate (in the foreseeable future)…I can look back at how my teaching has improved. It seems as if I will have to apply for the post-graduate option somewhere! However by that stage, I hope to have experience that will make me an owl of a teacher (with glasses because a -5 prescription calls for that!) I have looked into options whilst studying with Open University. Here they are:

TEFL;
Going across to Africa where I am trying to support an orphanage;

Working as a classroom assistant.

I know it sounds bizarre to an outsider to essentially stop a degree two-thirds in. But, well, life experience is needed. We are meant to teach our children – and I want to give my pupils the best knowledge I can. I owe that to them. I really do.

Learning for Life made me realise that the outside workplace can add another dimension, another aspect to your teaching which entering straight from school doesn’t let you have. I do quite fancy working as a classroom assistant where kids have challenging behaviour to put into practice the knowledge I have learnt. Then, in a few years, I hope to come back to some university (somewhere) to complete everything. I’m sad that Miss Smith may not be a full-time teacher to be honest – very sad in a way. But I know that through this blog… I shall keep my goal alive. It will happen. One. Day. It’s just not the right timing. Not for now 😊

This year, I am going to just go for it – and upload all my thoughts, lesson plans and ideas anyway. There are quite a few hiding in my document folder right now! I still tutor part-time. I am writing children’s books (cause yes, my brain is still five). And, I am making the most of what is offered during these next academic terms!

Health and Wellbeing: The Start of Lesson Planning

Blog Post Early Years

Above, you will see my first attempt (in ages) for lesson planning. Yes, it’s been a rather long time since the fingers have delicately hammered the keyboard to type up a lesson plan… and this is not exactly a full one! However – since learning from my first school placement last May – I have gone with the good old ‘keep things simple’ and started off with a PowerPoint.

For the slides, be warned. Really: be careful! The above link is full of magic and will erupt in glitter when you click on it (then unicorn emojis will fly out): I wish.

Sorry – but if you do desire to have a nosy, hover your mouse over the ‘Blog Post Early Years’ (above ‘above!) and voila, the attachment should pop up!

SO, Summer: LET’S MOVE FOWARD!

So, after learning about my learning placement (Lfl ’19) … I’ve decided to account myself to my learning more and uptake in the sport of writing a daily blog over summer. It’s not aiming to be a massive task, but something educationally amusing. A cocktail of words a day doesn’t do anyone any harm! It’s about time that I moved out of my comfort zone of posting occasionally – and made it into a real habit. A serious habit. A commitment (without the engagement ring of course!)


The discussion with my placement tutor has been sitting like the logs of a fire in my mind. Ready to be lit up! Just waiting, waiting… and well now? On fire, are they. I’ve understood the weakness which needs a more stable anchor in my personality: I like order a little too much; I love structure; I thrive when someone tells me what to do. Musing back to the days of study leave, a plan was created and the ‘chore’ of revising was undertaken at certain times. My brain, you see, is a bit odd sometimes: it will daydream if it is given no set timing or pressure. Annoying: but maybe that’s why my right and lefts still need to be written on my hand! Yes. I do that. Put me in the nursery – okay! What will move me out of my cot and into a full-size bed (academically, of course) is realising that you cannot wait for academic work to come to you. Don’t stay looking for educational food. Sometimes, well most of the time, you have to search. What better than using my TeachTodos university blog as an opportunity to explore new options? Let’s try. And be ready for failure too. A daily lesson plan and Early Years material post per day (when Wifi is accessible): that’s what myself shall do. That’s the new adventure.

YET WHY A BLOG?

During SQA days (uh-huh, I do kind of miss the ‘oooo it’s almost exams’ pressure a little) my brain adored the fact that you were told exactly which sentences to memorise. Really…truly…sincerely…and that homework was daily. Learn this, look up that. This blog has previously helped me to venture out into the real academic world, at least, where the notion of memorising to pass is long gone. Thinking? Ahh, yes myself does have a voice. Yet, speaking up can come with a price – and all the anxiety, fear and ‘what ifs?’ However, I love blogging. I just love this activity. So love it. (And I’m not just typing it because it’s part of my course). Why? It pushes you to put the past in a different light and cycle on in the correct gear.

When I started running years ago, I started the art of processing emotions and thinking positively through embracing the present (whilst pounding the streets). I see sport as the ‘resilience’ builder. But, missing something was I! Indeed. And, thanks to teaching… this blog has come along. And, another merci to my discussion (on LfL ’19) I will use my spare time to reflect and develop lesson plans. Writing learning intentions and success criteria is a matter of practice. On that same point, quite urgent practice is required! Hurry up to the desk, Claire.

And so, let me start off this daily reflection habit (to-be!) by considering one of my colleague’s posts, Blaze Lambert, who wrote a lovely piece about daydreaming. She speaks of daydreaming as “increasing curiosity” and building the (ever so encouraged) growth-mindset. But, time is put in the drain? Or so, some of humanity believe. Lauren Child – author of the famously popular ‘Charlie and Lola’ – argues that daydreaming allows our children “to develop a sense of personality” however modern day society does, indeed, consider the act of letting your mind wander in a more negative light. Escape boredom in class? Daydream. Stressed by something? Just daydream. Worried? Daydream of the perfect existence. There does exist the rather dangerous mental health condition, maladaptive daydream, in which people are more occupied by their made-up thoughts than what is happening in front of their eyes. However, allowing kids to be creative and play imaginative games? That’s essentially daydreaming. Or I uphold that stance. That’s what our screen monsters need. Sorry for the slightly derogatory word there: I’m not any better myself when my iPhone gives me the heads up for wasting the day on Facebook!

After all, daydreaming allows us to take in our surrounding and relax. Take in the moment for what it is – and pause. Like a peaceful stream: thoughts come and leave as the current of our brain moves up and down.  Is it that harmful to let our five-year old students to be engrossed in their own thoughts every now and again? Don’t we do it as adults occasionally? (You know when you’re so hungry and imagine that gigantic margarita with a handful of cheese… instead of focusing….!) As long as: the work is done, boxes are satisfied with their ticks, and kids develop a vibrant and eager learning spirit… a dose of staring into the tranquil sky is happily on the cards in my classroom. Yes. Bring out the colouring pencils and let the students’ minds wonder. Adults are apparently prescribed it as healthcare solutions nowadays! I’d rather see a smile with their heads in the clouds than a face consumed by extreme artifical bright light.

Oh… and… here’s a photo to start you in the #daydreamingland!

Well, c’est la vie – and it’s bonne!

I thought I would write. Write quickly – not a long post, but a “hello Summer, goodbye Second Semester” reflection. Time has passed and placement is now over. Over and done with, unfortunately. But, well, that’s it. This year has flown into history (too quickly) and even though my Lfl ’19 placement did not challenge me significantly, I learnt from it…and worked with such a lovely group of people that I miss! I learnt from this life placement something simple: do always challenge yourself (not just in certain aspects of your life!).

Ironically, the events that life threw me two months before placement helped me to develop as a teacher. Because, sometimes things don’t turn out the way you expect – and that’s not always bad. A couple of months prior to placement, I injured my leg (oops) then ended up misjudging the distance of a car on a main road island crossing… and was hit… then went to jury duty the following day (because one of my hobbies taught me to #nevergiveup) and as of March this year, potentially have two witness court cases. I’m extremely lucky (rather a miracle) to still be here…!

It’s not the course of events I expected over these past months: and I’m glad for it (in a way). There are always positives in negative situations – and you have to find them (thanks sport for teaching me that).

After the car accident, I very, very, very narrowly escaped head injury however my leg was still playing tricks. I didn’t realise, until about four weeks later that my leg was fractured from a separate accident a few weeks prior to the motor because… compared to my sister’s operations, it seemed minor. Take a day at a time – and by some miracle, the leg healed up well (and I escaped the cast/boot because it was too late!) I missed sport then, and was so grateful to be given the ‘okay’ in February. I have realised that, in the future, I wish to work with primary kids in a sport environment (or even abroad): I’m not athletic but physical activity teaches you to keep moving forward. Press on when the tough drills through your reserves. Life requires you to #carefullyreflect BUT: look forward, hope to the future and be grateful for today. Being optimistic, maybe my fourth year research could be related to health and wellbeing in primary schools?

Anyhow… on a separate yet kind of related note.. this 2019 placement taught me to really be patient – and be grateful (but for the small things.) The little aspects count. Count massively.

People are writing this week about mental health and #thepowerofpositivity. Thinking with a smile is not something school teaches you. Life teaches you that (including my previous two placements). What I want to throw out into the teaching community is this next question: how can we implement ‘let’s think on the bright side’ when kids are institutionalised? For me, it’s about taking the tiny parts of school life and making them light up your face – you have to do that with everything. You see, even in A and E, there is something to smile and hope about. You can ask for a glove to be made into a smiley face (yes 😉). Without training your mind to look on the upside and push through difficulties, life will pass. Quickly. Time doesn’t stop ao: grab every opportunity, see to your loved ones and well, do life as you like to. There is no right way, wrong way… but as long as you learn from mistakes, you are sure to be a better practitioner.

As my Grandpa told me this year: “You cannot stop the hand from writing life!”

Let’s think about (ma)thinking, okay?

Mathematics? Oh so fearful of it…are you? Or… look… there’s a sum! And… the answer? Let me spend time sourcing it. Right now. Some people leave education with this desire to crawl under the table when 5,6,7 and all the other numbers approach them. Others, well others, carry maths in their head – and would prefer to speak in digits if possible. The myth (according to the results of a 2013 research study) of ‘I’m right brained so call me a problem solver’ vs. ‘I’m the more rational leftie’ means that children should no longer be brought up to consider themselves as naturally mathematical or a born linguistic. Indeed: we have talents, we have strengths, we have preferences. But – of course, there’s a ‘but’ – mathinking is vital if we are to efficiently carry out everyday tasks. From recipe reading to saving our red squirrels ‘in the animal superhero cape,’ the digits that surround us must be of comfort. And, most certainly not, be treated as those spheres in bubble wrap. Our toddlers, our children, our adolescents ought to grow up ready to fail. Then succeed. Then… realise… that mathinking is about the effort and determination and less about the green-tick solution. That’s confidence-fuelled mathinking… in my head.

Recently (in fact only a matter of less than 72 hours ago) MA2 – that’s moi included – received their final STEM input. Nope… not how to arrange flowers for Valentine’s Day  or for the Chelsea Flower Show. However, we did receive a Happy Valentine’s on the top of our sign-in sheet from a lecturer with the last name of Valentine! And, that was topped off by creating our own game involving mathematical concepts. (Smiley face!) Lots of discussions were held on how to take maths out of the textbook and away from standardised assessments. A connectionist-belief approach involving open conversations was found to be the most effective way: and well, a recent starter-activity on consecutive numbers confirmed that. Sometimes, our inputs involve being the children – or attempting what the primary students have to do but with a university student’s mind on. Once (a very long time ago… not really, but I like to pretend I’m a storyteller sometimes) we had to figure out a word-problem involving consecutive numbers. At first, we all panicked. By the end, however, it was ‘Happy Ever After’ and everyone was wearing fairy-tale gowns. How lovely. Let me tell the story without imaging that a bunch of five-year olds were sitting beside my seat – here it goes:

Many of us stared. We realised there was no prince-charming. We put our hand up.#

The teacher (very friendly) told us to keep persevering through the rubber hail and rain.

We succeeded in writing down an answer.

 

And that’s the ending for you.

The latter may be more like reality, if we are setting the picture straight and not at an 89 degrees angle! At first, many of us in the lecture room were not at all sure about how to attempt the problem-solving question. Deliberately, purposefully and cleverly was the question slide jammed packed with information – and the only picture remained to be a table of consecutive numbers in blue and white. For me, lots of writing was the ‘tying the shoes tight enough’ hurdle. But, for others… the fear of making a mistake prevented them from taking the leap of faith. What reminisced with me was the impact sides, pictures, diagrams (and all the visual jazz) can have on a student’s learning. During my first year placement, my teacher advised me to keep it simple! Yes.. nothing like the Mona Lisa or a Magic Eye picture… from Miss Smith. And almost a year later, the same point was made again. Kids prefer simplicity when learning (although I personally believe that the occasional rainbow cannot go a miss). That pot of gold still does exist… Somewhere Over the Rainbow! Jokes aside, it’s easy enough to alter the layout of questions for our students however… calming a raging maths anxiety monster in them may take more than a few kind words (or a ROY G. BIV smiley – acronym lovers… you’ll know what I mean!)

The past few lessons, lecturers (or whatever name they should be termed) have taught me something more than ‘cut away’ all that text. As a future educator, I really do hope that my pupils will be like mathematical bees. Buzz, buzz, buzz… isn’t that algorithm so full of pollen? Understandably, some children will have a dislike for certain areas of maths (like me and symmetry and learning R and L) but overall, the wonder of maths must be ignited in them. A fire (with infinite logs) for problem solving does not always come from the pupil. Nope. Instead, as Ofsted writes, it is about the maths spirit adopted in the classroom:

“[Teachers] made conscious efforts to FOSTER A SPIRIT OF ENQUIRY [deliberate capitalization from your blog-post author], developing pupils’ reasoning skills through approaches that saw problem-solving and investigation as integral to learning mathematics. They checked that everyone was challenged to think hard and they adapted how they were teaching to achieve this. As a result, their classrooms were vibrant places of learning.” (Ofsted, 2008, p.12).

Spirit of enquiry. That is it. How do we develop that? Well, there would be many theories including Askew et al 1997’s research which deems that teachers tend to lean towards a particular set of believes (either connectionist, discovery or transmission). Most effective practice flourishes from the first mentioned belief-set, in which the most effective teaching happens when students can appreciate that all areas in maths are, in some way, related to each other. For instance: fraction word-problems are sometimes better solved by involving decimal conversion. It’s that simple thing like… why buy fresh bread when you already have some in the freezer? Enabling students to use the skills they already have is also of priority in the teaching of maths. Connectionist-orientated teachers set aside time (maybe in a circular fashion if Early Years students melt their hearts) to talk. Just openly talk.

#Why do we solve it this way? Is there another mathematical route that we can take to reach our destination? What about a storyboard?

That leads me on another path to bringing up storyboards but before… I’ll let you know that I want to be a connectionist teacher. That’s a seed already sown – thanks Dundee University. (That phrase was most certainly not sarcastic bee the way).

Storyboards (in the past – okay!) reminded me of ‘how to stretch’ and satisfy the students whose brains make them wish to reach for the nearest paint pot and brush. They were a time-waster. Just show some grit and keep moving forward with the sum. Write the working out, Claire. (That what previously motivated me in maths). But, well, you live’n’learn and realise that 1 + 1 doesn’t always make a two. Sometimes, a window is the result!!! After hearing about the various strategies and understanding the purpose of drawing out the number sentences, storyboards are on my Pinterest. (Sorry, I’m one of THOSE teachers.) Uh-huh, daydreaming about my classroom (maths) displays can occasionally happen with moi. Back to the point now, it is important not to overlook resources that you didn’t enjoy as a child yourself. There’s no excuse for not using something in your classroom because it was futile to you as a learner. Open-mind please. Keep considering all the options, Miss Smith.

Maths, I’m admitting, has a soft-spot in my heart. Whenever I was stressed out about an essay, me would run to do maths. Yes, on occasions, scuttering down the stairs to the kitchen for my textbook… but well I loved when you just got the answer after trying hard. There was a tick or cross – and you knew the result. Maybe it was a sense of control in the subject? After all, sciences were my thing until long reports became involved. I have always been torn between the arts and maths, yet teachers need to be enthusiastic for them all. There is something good, something interesting, something positive in every subject: my own maths students who enter with a dislike for maths need to feel that way. Mathinking… thinking abstractly… can be done by everyone – not just males too. Hemree (1990) found that maths anxiety stems from previous failure in maths examinations and is more common among female students than male students. The gender gap in STEM subject is already evident and it is common knowledge that our generation is trying to remove the female electric fence that surrounds females in careers such as engineering. A survey (conducted for the United Kingdom WISE Campaign) highlighted that 89% of engineers were male in the workplace – and so carrying out a subtraction leaves us realising that only 11% were female. Only 11. As I see it, that is a gap that an elephant would struggle to sort out. It really is.

To finish off, it is clear that the style of teaching is all-important. As mentioned above, discussions are vital to student’s success in maths. However, we ought to consider our own underlying nervous system when we approach numbers? Do we shake? Our hands: do they turn red when seen by a thermal camera? Are we still (like I was) centred on achieving those ticks? Or… the process… do we strive when something makes us want to scribble or shred the paper into as many miniscule pieces as possible. According to Finlayson (2014) our own experiences can make us teach with a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’ style or be flexible. Bee like a ballerina who is trying to bee a flower. Don’t get me wrong… I’ve failed many times in maths (and still use the trick to remember my left and rights)… but well it’s amusing to buzz around afterwards. That’s what I want my students to do so I ought to love a struggle myself. That’s what teaching is really: setting a true example. But, someone please, is there a faster way to stop mixing up left and rights? Maybe my students could teach me that. I’m up for a role reversal every so often!

References:

Finlayson, M. (2014) ‘Addressing math anxiety in the classroom’, Improving Schools, 17(1), pp. 99-115. Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1365480214521457(Accessed: 18 February 2019).

Hemree, R. (1990) ‘The Nature, Effects, and Relief of Mathematics Anxiety’, Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 22(1), pp.33-46.

Nielson, J. (2013) ‘An Evaluation of the Left-Brain vs. Right-Brain Hypothesis with Resting State Functional Connectivity Magnetic Resonance Imaging’, PLoS ONE, 8(8). Available at: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0071275

Let’s bubble about – right now!

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps… we should play. Why don’t we collect our pennies, count them up and link hands in a chain to the toy shop? Hand in hand, we trot (and try not gallop) to Smyths. Who doesn’t adore an hour in the den of all dens, shops of all shops? Some adults. But, for those delightful in simplicity, when the trip is over… Walt Disney does remind us that: “Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.” Anyway, he has a theory here. A theory that is much more than a theory: reality. That’s my (no laughter) Mickey Mouse take on it. I better go fetch my ears and put them on right now. Here we…. GO. Are you friends with Mary Poppins too?

Thought so. Let’s bubble on, now.

Pish posh to stern philosophical outlooks for two seconds. “Disney, as ever, is rather inspirational….!” I don’t believe that (and that’s only my view). I don’t see any person being fit to be called that word over another person as we all – in our own book – make a blank page have character. In teaching, you see one student who grapples with a concept grinning from one side of the rainbow to the other when the ‘oh-yeah’ moment gives them the educational gold. For another, the ‘graphite’ hexagons neatly fitting together in his or her brain might be significantly easier – and so “ooooo… that’s it” is emitted out of audible speech. That is why, well, for me inspiration must come from yourself. And, blatantly, your own progress is for no other single person to comment on. I remember starting University…concerned about achieving As… but well, for me it isn’t a priority. Trying matters. That’s part of the assembly of the toy, of an idea, of a book.

And, Walt Disney did fail many times. But he kept with his idea, his own little ‘toy.’ That’s why I rather believe we are all very much inclined to love his art – and undeniably, his story books. Books, you see, are an essential part of teacher education. From Vygotsky to Piaget, we learn. And learn. And, secretly try to figure out how we are developing ourselves as educators. But. Library days can only take you to a certain level of understanding. Lecturers constantly tell us of the imperativeness of writing about your strengths, your weakness and the movements forward. I agree; I do try to read factual works for enhancement: I do try to take an upwards approach to learning. However, some realisation has led me back to another square that I’m convinced is more of a triangle with another line to it. Not to another course is it bringing me, but to a moment of pause in my professional journey. After all, toy cars from Smyths aren’t intended to withstand several batters and bashes daily. We do need  ‘wait’ and ‘recapture’ time.

Time to separate the key words from the text, is it now. What for me is most crucial during this stage of my teacher education is figuring out the nuances to teaching – and classroom experience stories are all that is required. Remember when the nursery staff would come and give you a tip to be help make that tower look less like Italy’s (famous or infamous… I’m not entirely sure!) Pisa? Well, that is what I’m mentally making a note these days. Writing for assignments gives me the knowledge, but the breadth comes with the ‘you assist the child with the zip, yet leave them to attempt it if possible’ comments. That is why I am here. These pieces of advice mould me into a teacher who will (hopefully) as many of us wrote in our application… make a difference. Everyone, or so I wish to think, goes into the profession to bring out the best in others. By sharing a piece of humanity, of your own experiences, the heart in education beats on with the same rhythm.

The policies, lack of funding and health and safety – which we hear through the news more than word of mouth – puts on the rain too heavily sometimes. The career, of being a teacher, is being destroyed (sometimes) by what the child must achieve, must do and must obtain. Without stating the obvious, qualifications are extremely crucial but so is contact with others, so is PLAYTIME. And…health and safety is creating a gigantic wall…like that of Mexico.

After hearing that a former headteacher couldn’t obtain a swing for health and safety reasons, I desired to scribble : with frustration, with fury, with flaming anger. Sounds a tad over the top… but… well society needs to take a breather. Health and safety: uh-huh, the Law is imperative. But, what is wrong with a swing? For all you know, you could be hit on the road from misjudging a car speed or land awkwardly after a (as safe as possible) wall jump. Honestly. A swing moves up and down and let’s the child take control of their movement and emotions. Bare not, can I, to see a playground without such apparatus, without such necessities. Accidents happen. It’s life. And yes, we can avoid some but not every. single. One.

Play (and relaxed play) is what we need more of. Have a read of the Scottish Government’s 2013 Play Strategy: please do. To save you leaving to fetch it right now, here’s Scotland’s play vision: “A nation which values play as a life-enhancing daily experience for all our children and young people; in their homes, nurseries, schools and communities.” (Scottish Government, 2013, p. 2) Within merely opening the booklet, we see the phrase ‘LIFE-ENHANCING.’ Then, why is it that: our children are using i-Pads to clock up that screen time; our outdoors have no door; and our older ones play with the rubbers on their desks? I still play. Yes, I do. I am legally an adult, yet the amusement of following the yellow lines until they stop (in a quiet area!) or throwing up and down a ball will never leave moi. I do doodle: and well, at least it helps me with creative writing of some sort.

Early Years children become excited over miniscule parts of life – but that is what is crucial to the LOVE of teaching. That is why we must never treat play as only a reward. That home corner where you learned that hoovers make a noise: yes, it was really only fake plastic beads. But, imagination can become reality. That clean-up with my friends translates into ‘let’s tidy the classroom in P7!’ Play gives children hope, belief and an ‘I can do this’ attitude. Bring Smyths back to the classroom. Please do. Adults, it’s time to be silly but with a sprinkling of prudency (and sugar too!). We all have that inner-child that can be effectively controlled. I know we do.