Author Archives: Erin Smith

Key features of a Science lesson

Together with some of my fellow students we came up with the following ideas for key features of a good science lesson.

It needs to have active learning
-Needs to have problem solving and analytical thinking
-investigation and enquiry
-risk assessment
-familiar contexts, relevant to young peoples’ experiences
-appropriate use of technology, real materials and living things
-collaborative working and independent thinking
-relevant to wider society
– understanding and explaining through discussion, asking questions
-relevant to ability
-using evidence to draw conclusions
– be able to hypothesise with the info given
-be able to make connections to everyday life
– assessment through different approaches
– challenging and engaging
-present findings to peers to develop confidence in scientific communication
– use of ict for supportive learning

Reflecting on my first semester

Reflection is a major part of a teacher’s career and development; both at the beginning of our training and as we progress through our careers. I am now beginning to understand how important it is for us to be constantly looking back at the progress we have made, recognising the room for improvement as well as our achievements and having a positive attitude towards what our next steps are.

My first semester was a completely new experience for me and I have to say I have come quite far since our first week in Lecture theatre 4. The biggest learning curve for me was assignment writing. This type of academic writing was new to me and I can remember in the values assignment briefing I was quite overwhelmed. I had no idea how to approach this and had no confidence that I would be able to even attempt it. Miraculously my essay turned out to be something I am very proud of. Looking back I needed to have a more open mind towards new challenges and what I am able to achieve. However if I could tell myself one thing at the start of freshers it would be to properly reference from the beginning of the semester in my reading! That’s one thing I have taken into semester 2 that will save me a lot of time and stress.

Looking now to our first placement I know that reflection will be a key part of our development. Being able to be receptive to constructive criticism; being open to advice and not taking anything too personally is something I want myself to remember and hopefully when reflecting on semester 2 I can be more positive about my confidence to achieve.

Attitudes towards Mathematics

Our recent maths workshops have really opened my eyes to the stigma around learning Mathematics and the challenge I now face of teaching Maths. I have always relatively enjoyed Maths – I like how there is one right answer and the satisfaction you can get when a full page of working ends with one whole number! I was unsure about how I felt about being able to teach Maths and I now realise what is in store for me.

Tara told us about “Maths Anxiety”. The way someone reacts negatively towards Mathematics that can be debilitating. Any task involving numbers creates tension, fear or worry for someone. If we ourselves as practitioners suffer from maths anxiety this reflects on our pupils and how they feel towards mathematics. Tara and many of my other tutors have told me of how we must “fake” our confidence. Even if we are feeling a little shy or nervous about what we need to teach, as long as we are prepared, we must act confident and this will reflect onto our pupils. This is a prominent piece of advice I am going to take into my upcoming placement.

The Maths workshop also highlighted some of the attitudes towards Maths present in society today that haven’t really changed since the 90’s. Some of these included:

  • You are born good at Maths
  • You are either a Maths Person or an English Person
  • Girls can’t do maths

Some of these really annoyed me more than I thought they would – especially the last one! A lot of my maths teachers in the past have been women. We need to get rid of this attitude in our primary schools that girls aren’t as good at maths as this was the same attitude 20 years ago and our Curriculum has changed for the better. Mathematics is a universal language so we should be giving everyone the confidence and competence to excel at it.

Relationships: “They’re reacting to the environment we give them to react to.”

The young children coming into a classroom all come from different households, backgrounds and families. Each child will have a different relationship with their parents or carers to the next. Listening to Dr Suzanne Zeedyk talk about brain development in babies has allowed me to look at the way in which our relationships and upbringing shape who we are from a different perspective.

I had never thought of the environment babies are born into, whether that be noisy or peaceful for example, having such a big influence on how our brains actually develop. The early years of a child’s life really shape a person’s outlook on life and their personality. This idea can be key to our progression as student teachers as it can influence how we view certain situations within our classroom on professional placement. I like the way in which Dr Zeedyk summarises her talk:

It’s different from saying “How are they reacting to the environment?” They’re reacting to the environment we give them to react to.

This statement really stuck with me from the talk as it helped me to make the connection between babies and brain development to how I can apply this to my own teaching. It’s easy to blame a misbehaving child for disrupting the class or a lesson going wrong. However we can now look at the situation from the perspective of how this child’s relationships or upbringing has brought them to feel and act this way. What kind of environment am I providing to trigger this behaviour and can I do anything to help it? I am still at the beginning of my learning journey and still have a lot to learn about behaviour management especially. However this was my immediate reaction to this video and the connections I can make from it right now. If I watch it again in the future I’m sure I could look at it with an entirely different meaning coming to mind!

Reflecting on our Dance workshop

Our first input for “Teaching across the curriculum” for Expressive Arts was a workshop with Eilidh Slattery. Before going in I did feel nervous as to what we would be tasked with however I felt I had at least an idea of dance within the classroom. My previous work experiences have involved a lot of dance activities, especially around Christmas, as I have a background in dance as a hobby. However the workshop today opened my eyes to certain aspects of planning dance activities for a class and how many different ways you can involve dance and creativity (without having to get up and perform yourself).

One thing I particularly took into consideration was the way in which Eilidh asked us to think of ways to move across the room meant that it was accessible to all learners. A dance centred lesson does not have to be learning a routine or a certain dance style but learning and creating different ways your body can move. This can also link into health and wellbeing; connecting the lesson to learning about the body or the importance of being active. There are so many opportunities for active cross-curricular learning which I didn’t quite grasp before.

I also noticed that a lot of us became more comfortable to participate as the workshop went on as we were feeling rather nervous and awkward at the beginning. This is a perfect reflection of what dance can do for children’s confidence. As they begin to enjoy themselves and focus in on creating a movement or sequence they forget about any embarrassment they may have felt.

Looking forward to placement I am now starting to understand more of the pedagogy behind the curricular areas. The small details around planning a dance lesson that allow it to run smoothly were really interesting. Moreover all the different ways it could go wrong were especially helpful!

We are still stuck in the past

Our focus in our lectures and reading this week has been “Understanding ourselves: values as embodied and culturally specific” and it has got me really thinking about inequalities in the past and how they have or haven’t changed in the present day.

It’s fair to say that many people have learnt about in school and are aware of the segregation laws that were enforced between white and coloured people in the past. Many people are also aware of the responses to this situation such as the black lives matter campaign. If you asked someone on the street whether society is on it’s way to a more equal outlook on race they are most likely to say yes. However it is very evident if you just look at recent news that this is not the case. I decided to investigate a little further to see how our society’s opinions are stuck in the past.

This is what appears if you simply google “successful people”:

Even though people would say we are on the right path to a more equal society there are still so many news stories and evidence that we may never make it to racial equality. You may also notice that all of the above pictures are not only white but white males. Once again another inequality of the past has appeared when I simply typed something into google. I am not a writer so I am finding it difficult to find a just way to end this post. All I can say is there is still a lot more to do in our society but as individuals we can try to push these stereotypes out the window especially when it comes to educating children in our classrooms.

A workshop with a hidden meaning

This week my fellow student teachers and I participated in a very interesting workshop focussed on structural inequalities; although we didn’t know this at the time!

The task was to create a resource a new student could use to make their lives easier in this new environment. Each of the four groups were given a pack of things they were allowed to use. The 2 groups with less in their packs were almost ignored when presenting their ideas and products while my group, rich in pencils, paper, card and even rubber bands we could use, was encouraged and praised. While the products presented were all similar my group was rewarded with a 9/10 and a bag of minstrels at the end of the session.

While you think it would be obvious what was trying to be demonstrated, my group with all the bright coloured paper and felt tip pens didn’t actually notice the other groups with less. We were so engrossed with what we could make with all of these resources and bouncing ideas off of each other and the tutor we didn’t realise other groups had just a few pieces of white paper and some measly paperclips. This overlook can be reflected in our society today.

Families and communities in areas of deprivation are sometimes forgotten about. We choose to overlook them when we are too engrossed in our own lives. While in the classroom as teachers we can equally distribute the resources and make sure everyone is supported we must think further to society and how we view people with less available to them. Our capabilities may be the same but with less resources it is twice as hard for others to succeed. This should be remembered when we form our opinions on other people’s experiences. As an individual I know I need to pay more attention to others around me and what they have.

This workshop really opened my mind to opinions I didn’t know I had and was very effective in demonstrating the structural inequalities in our society despite my group being very disappointed to learn we hadn’t fairly won that bag of minstrels.

How I got here

From a young age I have been surrounded by teachers in my family with both my Auntie and Grandmother being primary school teachers.  While these women have been clear role models to me throughout my life they have also had a positive affect on so many other young people’s lives. This was one of the main reasons I decided teaching was for me. I want to be an important part of children and young people’s everyday lives. A child’s education can have such a big effect on their emotional wellbeing and I know that as a teacher I will play an important role in that. To put it simply, I am aspiring to be like my role models.

As I have gone through my education I have taken any opportunity to work with younger years. Often this was helping out in younger years drama or language classes as these were my strengths in school. I also led highland dance classes for children aged 3 – 12. This time during my own school experience helped me to realise how much I do enjoy working with children and was another motivation for me to choose education as a career.

Looking forward to my future career there are certain focuses I would like to bring to my teaching. I am very enthusiastic about the benefits of learning a language and while Scotland is headed in the right direction for language learning in primary schools, particularly in the first stage, I would like to see a bigger push on incorporating languages into other everyday lessons in the classroom.

So that’s just a glimpse into how I got to be where I am today and what I hope for my future in primary education.

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.

The ePortfolio in the form of this WordPress blog allows you to pull in material from other digital sources:

You can pull in a YouTube video:

You can pull in a Soundcloud audio track:

You can upload an image or pull one in from Flickr or any other image sharing site.

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

You can just about pull in anything that you think will add substance and depth to your writing.