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 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.
An idea from today’s first maths input that really struck with me was how innumeracy should be just as unacceptable as illiteracy. Far too many children in my generation and the next are complacent about lacking in basic maths skills and, as Tara Harper stated, this will be detrimental to the rest of their lives. It is important that we tackle this problem from the primary stage so that children can grow to be confident in their skills.
No one is born good at maths; it must be understood that it simply comes from practice, dedication and effort – in the same way you will never learn how to spell a word unless you familiarise yourself with it. I think a key lesson to teach children about learning maths is that even the ‘cleverest’ mathematicians out there have made mistakes to get to where they are. Absolutely nothing in life is learned without first realising what not to do, and so too maths. People are also frustrated with maths because there is only one right answer, as opposed to more interpretative subjects like English. To some, this might make maths easier to understand but I know that this used to frustrate me too. My own maths working certainly had some creative differences to the teacher’s at times! This should not dishearten children, though, because as teachers we should teach the recommended way we have tried and tested to be the easiest, but there will never necessarily be a right way.
Going back to my original point, I think it is a shame that so many children struggle and consequentially give up with maths at such an early age. Like it or not, maths is literally all around us – simply calculating how many minutes you have until you must be in school or how much change you should be left with after purchasing that toy you wanted. Maths cannot be shrugged off and the phrase ‘I can’t do maths’ should not be as socially accepted as it is. As teachers we will have the responsibility to equip our children with skills for life, so good numeracy skills are just as essential as being able to read and write.
My situation is quite fortunate because I was always in the ‘top group’ in maths and I have received a good example of how maths should be taught so that it is memorable and understandable. It is very important that teachers incorportate this into lessons and ensure that children can discuss and justify their thinking as when they can do this, it is clear they have understood and can do it again. According to ‘Mathematics Explained for Primary Teachers: Learning How to Learn Mathematics’, it is fundamental that children are able to make ‘connections’ between their learning. This is where new knowledge is being built onto existing knowledge and so maths no longer seems daunting, but is easier in managable steps.
Over the next few inputs and on my placement, I look forward to learning how I can teach maths appropriately and help children to not be filled with dread at the thought of maths. Mistakes are acceptable; in fact, they are essential for learning and growing skills that will last a lifetime.
One of the most joyful elements of my primary school experience was drama as my school took great pride in putting on a pantomine every two years. I still remember today how amazing it felt to be a narrator for ‘Snow White’ in Primary 7 and from my experience I absolutely agree that drama is more than just the final show – it is also the process that counts. I have always been enthusiastic about putting on plays myself as a teacher and children feeling the same pride I felt, however I did have reservations about how I was going to successfully go about this.
Nikki’s first drama tutorial and the ‘Teacher’s TV’ Drama video have both helped me understand how to structure drama lessons and ensure children get the most out of them. The first key aspect of a drama lesson is to establish a ‘drama contract’, which establishes the rules and expectations that children must ahere to. I think that highlighting the 3 C’s – Communication, Co-operation and Concentration – will convey to children how drama means that no one is judged or ridiculed and everyone remains focused on the allocated task to maximise learning.
After this it is important for children to warm-up and get the mind and body ready for drama – this can be done through a fun game that works on vocal and physical warm-up and also teamwork, since drama is a good opportunity to be social and expressive also.
As for the main learning objective, children react well to visual stimuli so providing them with this will help even the less confident minds to engage in the activity. The ‘development’ process of the lesson allows the children to express their creativity by using their imagination to understand the topic. ‘Soundscape’ and ‘Bodyscape’ are two terms used in the ‘Teacher’s TV’ video to express how children should use sound and their bodies, without props, to tell the story to their peers. This is an engaging way for children to learn about a topic by being proactive and interpreting things for themselves, two key skills in drama.
This can then be followed by Performance if it is appropriate, as children’s motivation to participate is often driven by the opportunity to show off how far they have come. However in some ways, I think that performance is a form of evaluation so it should not always be the aim of a drama lesson. Evaluation is important as it allows children to consolidate what they have learned and think how to move forward with their new skills. Evaluation is also a key to building confidence and allowing children to evaluate their own progress.
Cooling-down is an important conclusion to a drama lesson so that children can settle down from the excitement and be ready to return to the classroom, until their next escape into the drama world.
My own pleasant experience of drama in primary school means that I am eager to promote participation in a subject where no one is judged according to ability or ridiculed for their out-of-the-box thinking. When I was a narrator sitting at the side of the stage anxiously for my cue, I had no idea that my brain was picking up so many useful transferrable skills as to me, all that mattered was that I made my classmates and audience proud. I also never fully appreciated the process before the end product – only the smile of success on my face as the curtains closed.
I am beginning to fully understand how being a teacher is a constant learning and development process that never ends. For our entire careers, we must constantly reflect on and evaluate our practice so that we are the best we can be for our children. For this to succeed we need to have an adaptable attitude, be open to constructive criticism from others and also engage in changes occurring in our profession.
In semester 1, the professional values I will have to uphold as a primary teacher, the GTC Standards, were made clear to me and this was an important point of professional development for me. The journey of my teaching career had officially began and I was experiencing positve progress. Another pivotal moment in my professional development was when I visited a primary school as part of my Working Together module. I was moved by the environment I was in as it became clear in my mind that this was where my future was and ‘Working Together’ was a reality, not just a theory. I enjoyed speaking to the staff members on a professional basis and it meant a lot to me to see the complexities of the profession with my own eyes. Reflecting on this event, I learned that schools are far more than just classrooms and many more policies and initiatives, like GIRFEC, SHANARRI and breakfast clubs to minimise income inequalities, are in place to help children succeed in all aspects of their lives. As a teacher, it will be important for me to engage in these as children’s wellbeing is one of my top priorities.
The process of reflection is applicable in more cases than simply stating how a lesson went. It also means reflecting on your development as a teacher, evaluating why something maybe did not go as planned and most importantly, how you will improve on this so that your teaching journey is continuously moving upwards.
Michelle Cassidy’s input on the importance of relationships, Dr Suzanne Zeedyk’s video and John Carnochan’s video have all contributed to my understanding of how young children must be given the right environment to properly develop into responsible members of society.
According to Carnochan, the most important years of a child’s life are from 0-3 years old, as that is when their brains are rapidly expanding with the first experiences they have of life. It is important that children pick up the essential life skills of decision-making, negotiating, compromising, empathy and resilience as early as possible so that they can utilise them throughout adolescence and into adulthood. Dr Zeedyk also states that children’s backgrounds and the kinds of relationships they form are essential to their brain development – the environments that children are exposed to allow them to develop the skills they need to cope. This is important information for me to take on as a teacher in training because I must consider what the environment my classroom will mean to the children I teach. A safe environment which facilitates learning and also provides children with a stable and significant adult to support them is vital as to some children, this is the only stability they have. Carnochan explores that while children’s brains are very flexible in early years, they are also very impressionable and it is essential that consistent support is always available so that each child can focus on their academic and social wellbeing.
As a teacher, I have an important responsibility to ensure that children are not overcast by their background and have the positive influences that they need to grow into confident and capable valued members of society. All parents, whether they are raising a child alone, struggling with issues of their own or find it hard to fit childcare into their careers, should be given the supporrt they need to ‘be the best they can be’, as Carnochan states. Accoriding to Carnochan, negligence in childhood is closely linked to unlawful behaviour later on in life, so it is clear that if we nurture a child and ensure they get the help they need early on, we will not have to punish them as an adult.
I will take the notes from this input on board for my teaching career as I now understand how my classroom can mean so much more to the children I care for.
I was pleasantly surprised by Eilidh Slattery’s dance input and the importance of dance in the curriculum has become even clearer to me. In the Expressive Arts Principles and Practice (Curriculum for Excellence), it is stated that dance is essential to children’s educational experience as it “promotes self-esteem” and teaches “creativity and innovation”. It is also important to give children an outlet to express themselves and ensure their mental wellbeing. One challenge I thought I would face in teaching dance is that it would be difficult to get every child to engage in the activity, as there is a risk that dancing can be seen as more “girly” and boys will be hesitant to express themselves on the same level. However after today’s input it has become more clear to me how I could encourage every child to partake in dancing.
Since dancing is all about expressing yourself, I would encourage a lesson on children making up their own routines in groups – I think allowing them the opportunity to be imaginative will engage them more. Group work would also be useful as children can learn the importance of teamwork and leadership, but also compromise. Finally, by encouraging the children to perform in front of the class in their groups will ensure children acquire the skills we want to teach – ability to take risks, to be able to give constructive criticism and to promote confidence. Dance is also a great way to keep children fit in a fun and light-hearted way. Physical activity is important as according to the 2012 Scottish Health Survey, ‘almost two-thirds of 2-15 year olds met the physical activity recommendation of doing at least 60 minutes physical activity a day’. As teachers, we must continue to teach the importance of being healthy and engaging children in fun ways of doing this at school will be beneficial.
I think that everyone has preconceptions when it comes to dancing – I admit that I was also apprehensive at the mention of ‘dance’. Many people’s lack of confidence comes from lack of experience, so encouraging children to enjoy themselves through dance and also learn things from dance will be a great addition to their school experience and maybe even something I’ll be thanked for in my pupil’s Britain’s Got Talent awards speech!
On Tuesday we had a group task to complete, which I found very eye-opening after learning the true meaning behind it. It was very hard to believe that an aspect so present in society could be so easily missed.
In our groups we had to work with the resources we were given to develop an item that a student starting at University of Dundee would find useful and then we were graded on how we presented it to the other groups. At one stage it became clear that not every group had the same amount of resources and my group actually had plentiful supplies compared to the others. This confused us all, as we then felt like it was an unfair playing field. Furthermore, we could definitely spot how our lecturer had a bias to the resource-filled groups and this was evident even when we were giving our presentations and our lecturer was harsher and less caring with the resource-deprived groups.
It was only in the reflection after the task that I realised the themes of gross structural inequality which were underlaying in the activity. Now it is clear to me how as a professional tasked with educating children of all abilities, this is a key theme in education which should not be ignored.
The activity very much coincides with the ‘Professional Values and Personal Commitment’ section of the GTC Standards for Registration. The four values are Social Justice, Integrity, Trust and Respect and Professional Commitment. Social Injustice relates well to the task we completed as it is what the resource-deprived groups were experiencing; their work was automatically disregarded as worse quality because of their lower status regarding resources. Just as those groups were given lesser treatment and suffered the consequences of this in their grades, so too teachers may treat pupils unequally on the basis that they are from a lower, more academically-poor social class. This behaviour is challenged in the GTC Standards as teachers must be “committed to the principles of democracy and social justice through fair, transparent, inclusive and sustainable policies” in regards to social class, gender, ethnicity, religion and disability. From this it is clear that teachers should treat all children equally to ensure every child can achieve their full potential.
Furthermore, the GTC Standards highlight how as teachers, we should aim to maintain Integrity by “bringing about transformative change in practice” and keep Trust and Respect at the core of our careers by “motivating and inspiring learners, acknowledging their social and economic context, individuality and specific learning needs and taking into consideration barriers to learning.” This applies well to the task we completed as children may sometimes face barriers like a lack of resources, but this does not mean our attitude towards them should change. Barriers are partially down to economic status, present in school life as well as wider society. Structural inequalities are a key element in modern society that unfortunately can limit a child’s achievement level.
From this task I have learned how structural inequalities are an aspect to keep in mind as a teacher, as it is so easy for them to thread their way in from wider society to the classroom.
Being a Primary Teacher has been a career aspiration since I was half the height I am now, figuratively and literally looking up to my mentors introducing me to every aspect of the real world. I was always a child that loved to learn and soak up knowledge like a sponge; I loved to read, to test myself, to be sophisticated. However, a child’s eagerness to learn is fruitless if not supported by amazing teachers.
My most striking memory of an extraordinary teacher that really touched me was my French teacher, Mrs Rochow. I remember the excitement of starting the new school year as a grown-up Primary 6 pupil, about to embark on studying a foreign language. I also recall being a little nervous as this was going to be an entire new level of challenging – incomparable to numeracy or even mind-blowing science. Now, as I reminisce on Mrs Rochow’s lessons, I realise what was the key to getting 11 year olds to fall in love with French – making the lessons not seem like lessons. Making us jump with excitement at the thought of having French after break time with the hilarious Mrs Rochow. Everyone equally enjoyed all the singalongs to French nursery rhymes, acting out families and café scenes and, of course, having the pride of knowing how to count to 100. Mrs Rochow was where my love of French all started – a love affair continuing all the way to Advanced Higher. Unfortunately, when I mixed with other children at high school, I learned that everyone was not as lucky to have the same experience as me. It wasn’t a fair playing field, you could say.
In my experience, Primary teachers symbolized stability and were true gurus I just desperately wanted to learn more from. Primary school was the foundation for my later learning and I believe it is an essential step in a child’s educational development. All children deserve to have the right setting to unlock their true potential. For this they need great role models, exciting not drill-like lessons and a friendly environment where they can see the joy in learning along with others. I knew early on that I wanted to undertake this honourable role and follow the example set to me.
Primary Teaching is a career I cannot wait to embark on – it will feel surreal to have my own classroom and to be responsible for children getting the most out of their first stage of life. While it’s daunting now, it’s a job I know I was made for.