An Early Introduction to Writing

It is explicitly clear how writing is linked to listening, reading and talking – the 4 main aspects of language – and Pie Corbett has highlighted this in his idea of ‘Talk for Writing’. This is an effective way to introduce children to writing as children start by orally familiarising themselves with a story and then build the skills to be able to add their own twists to it – change the ending, explore characters further, create their own versions of the same storyline. This manipulation process is good as it develops children’s higher-order thinking and creativity, providing an easy stimulus that will aid children who cannot tap into their own imagination as easily as others can. Corbett explains how this is enjoyable to both girls and boys, important as the latter are usually lacking in language skills as they lack motivation. Talk for Writing is an interesting method to encourage children to write creatively without it seeming so daunting.

Writing is often a subject that children struggle with because it seems so arbitrary, but it is important to see it as just the next stage from reading, listening and talking. Teachers must support children in the early stages of writing by ensuring all children understand that they can do it – it is not just for the avid readers or the children who always seem to have thoughts they can put to paper. Writing cannot exist independently of reading, listening or talking so by linking all 4 elements together in a process like ‘Talk for Writing’, children will grow in confidence to write to entertain, to inform, to pursuade and eventually, to encourage others to write a response.

 

Conversing in the Classroom

I did not realise the importance of classroom talk until I tried to really imagine what atmosphere I would like my future classroom to have.

Thinking back to my own experience in the primary classroom, as a pupil I did feel like I was contributing to and responsible for my own learning. The classroom was a fun, lively and enriching place to be – but I now realise that this is not something that is built very easily. Effective classroom talk is essential so that children can develop the interdisciplinary skills of ‘share and negotiate a range of points of view, listen attentively to others, evaluate what they hear and provide a considered response’ (Cremin and Burnett, 2018).

It is something that cannot be left to the children; it is the teacher’s job to teach the key skills of discussion and delve further into the children’s minds. Time must be dedicated to having class discussions where children can tap into higher-order, analytical thinking.

One way in which teachers can help children ask themselves ‘why’ more often is by effective questioning and this can be done through ‘pausing, prompting, seeking further clarification and refocusing a pupil’s response’ (Pollard, 1996). This ensures that children are given time to develop a more complex answer, are given assistance in doing this if required, understand the importance of detailed answers and are able to link what they are learning to their knowledge of the curriculum and world around them.

Effective talk modelled by the teacher will allow children to eventually do this themselves. If children can understand the use of open questions, importance of being a good listener and evaluating other’s opinions against their own, they will certainly be more responsible for their own learning. Talking and good questioning can make the classroom an enriching place to be by being a place of no judgement, respect and where children are enthusiastic to answer their own questions about the world.

 

Restorative Practice: Nourishing, not Punishing

Restorative Practice is an important element of Behaviour Management because it is essential to children’s growth as young humans. Unfortunately it has sometimes been overlooked because of the time and effort it requires but I believe it is far more of a learning curve for children than punishment will ever be and will result in lasting change.

Restorative Practice is defined as “a powerful approach to promoting harmonious relationships in schools and can lead to the successful resolution of conflict and harm (Education Scotland, n.d.).” It is key to note the importance of relationships in influencing a child’s behaviour and the depth that relationships exist in – they are physical, mental and emotional. This also applies to how harm and conflict can exist as sometimes a child can act out because a key relationship for them has been affected in an emotional sense. As the responsible adults we must recognize that children are unavoidably selfish and do not always have someone’s best intentions at heart – children just want to be noticed, respected and cared for.

This is exactly why punishment is the wrong route to go down to ensure children learn from their mistakes. It does not repair relationships; it only makes them worse as children are put in isolation to ‘think about what they’ve done’. While punishment will help them understand the immorality of their actions, it will not make children feel listened to and logically the same event will happen again because the child’s relationship in question has not improved. Restorative Practice must break the repetitive cycle of punishment as “punishment has a compounding effect on children who are already dealing with multiple stress and trauma in their lives (Thorsborne and Blood, n.d.)”.

That being said, repairing relationships to avoid more conflict will be futile if some cool-off time is not given – this could be seen by the child as reflective time, a form of punishment as they may be missing out on an activity. Only when the child is ready can the teacher sit down and listen to the child, be impartial and propose solutions to satisfy both parties.

Restorative Practice will do a world of good to all children – especially children who might be used to the routine of punishment in their home life. It will help to maintain stable and postive relationships between all school members of staff and the children so a good classroom ethos will be maintained.

What Makes a Good Science Lesson

Science is an integral part of the curriculum and gives children the opportunity to learn valuable and transferable life skills.  Science lessons have the ability to blow minds, but also the ability to go horribly wrong.  It is important that we consider what does make a good a science lesson, in order for us to to ensure that we deliver high quality science which help pupils “develop their interest in, and understanding of, the living, material and physical world.” (Education Scotland, no date, p.1).  We use our knowledge of science daily, to make predictions, analyse and evaluate.  It is important for children to actively recognise when they are applying their science skills in real life situations, in order to build science capital.

Key features of a good science lesson:

  • Teachers being well prepared, enthusiastic and having a positive attitude towards science.
  • Having the pupils actively engaging in the lesson.
  • Teaching pupils relevant skills, as well as knowledge.
  • Having them in groups to discuss with their peers what they understand and what they don’t understand, so that they can explain to one another (constant formative assessment).
  • Learning in different ways: outdoors, trips to science centres etc… by learning in a real-life setting, they’re able to see the relevance of that subject in everyday life.
  • Developing science literacy to understand the basics, so that they can apply knowledge across a variety of areas.
  • Carrying out investigations so that there is a practical essence to their work.
  • Inclusion: providing good examples of science happening locally and of equal gender representation in science.
  • Building on individual’s science capital so that they develop a passion for science and continue it into the senior phase.
  • Working in groups to develop co-operation and communication.
  • Make pupils aware of the Learning Intentions and Success Criteria, so that children know the aim of the lesson and how to achieve it.
  • Use real world examples of science to make it relevant to pupils – how it relates to health and wellbeing, society and the environment.
  • Make science accessible to everyone, regardless of their gender, background or ability.
  • Children understand the impact that they can have on the world with the use of science
  • Demonstrate different aspects of science so children are aware of different careers they could pursue; biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, engineering, etc.
  • The science lesson should be like a ‘story’ – children should not be taught isolated facts but comprehend how science is all linked together to form a ‘bigger picture’.

References  

Education Scotland, “curriculum for excellence: sciences principles and practice”, (No date), Available at: https://education.gov.scot/Documents/sciences-pp.pdf, (accessed 01.02.19).

Education Scotland, “The Sciences 3-18″, (2013), Available at: https://education.gov.scot/improvement/documents/sciences/sci14_sciencescurriculumimpact/sciences-3-to-18-2013-update.pdf, (accessed 01.02.19).

With thanks to Lucy Johnston and Lorna Whillans.