All posts by Jessica Millar

Memorable Learning

I grew up in a small village with only 18 people in my class all the way through to primary 7.  It is fair to say that I loved primary school and am lucky to say I had more positive learning experiences than negative ones.

In primary 3, we were learning to read through  a learning scheme called ‘look and read’. Linked to this were a series of videos called ‘through the dragon’s eye’ which we got to watch once or twice a week in the afternoon. I remember being so excited to sit and watch the videos because they were so exciting (and actually a little scary!) for a 7 year old. We all would rush our work (which I now tell my pupils not to do!) so that we could watch these videos to solve the word problems and carry on with the adventure. Our teacher, who is actually now an art lecturer) was very artistic and I remember making the coolest things with her throughout our year in primary 3.  When we finished the videos and the learning block, we got to make our own clay dragons and paint them, put gloss on them and the best part was… it was soooo messy and I loved it!  I remember I  actually lost my dragon and I was really upset about it because I loved the lesson so much and was so proud of my dragon. My friend Moray took his home and every time I visited I would get to see his clay dragon and I was so happy.

This is probably the most positive learning experience to stick in my head to this day (I can still remember the theme tune for the show!). The learning content showed clear progression, variety and engagement and the context was so exciting that it captured everyone’s attention in the class. There were clear IDL links in her lesson planning and honestly, I would love to sit and watch this block of lessons even now.  I hope to have this same effect on my class and even when I am planning lessons, I try to make them as engaging and exciting as possible, simply because I remember how magical it felt to me when I was that age. School can be a sanctuary for some children so why can’t we make every day as magical as the last?


Camp versus School- Lessons brought away from an American summer camp.

For the past two summers I have worked in a summer camp on Long Island, NY as a Camp Counsellor. As a student teacher, the opportunity to work in a summer camp has been the most rewarding experience for me to grow personally and professionally.

In my role as a counsellor, I work with children between the ages of seven to fifteen in a sleep away camp. In this role you should never be referred to as ‘just a counsellor’. You are seen as a teacher, parent, role model, big sister/brother, a shoulder to cry on and the list goes on. You cry out of sheer tiredness, you laugh the most you will ever laugh, and you see a side to kids that teachers do not often get to see when in a school setting. I have sat up with campers for hours reassuring them when they are homesick, been there for them in their trickiest moments, shared special memories such as pranking other cabins and generally making sure their camp memories last a life time.

We can often fall into a classic routine in which rules and order are the expected norm. This was difficult for me at first as I had to relax a little and let kids do exactly what they are best at, being kids. Camp is the perfect place for children to explore, relax, escape from the real world and broaden their horizons in all aspects. The idea for this blog post actually came from a camper who said to me that they feel as if they learn more at camp than they do in school, which made me realise the importance of letting children be children. Obviously, the American school system is set up differently from ours, however I do agree that there are invaluable lessons to learn at camp. There are campers who come here for weeks on end, campers who have come since they were seven years old and ex-campers who are now working as counsellors. The skills that you learn here can carry you forward in life if you are willing to give the camp experience a go. Campers here learn how to sail, cook for themselves, expand their knowledge of the expressive arts, play soccer, lacrosse, volleyball, take part in a specialised ECO program and learn about sustainability and the world around them. They go swimming, snorkelling, running, take part in meditation, choice activities, choreography, talent shows. They find summer flings and then fling them away again and stay up late gossiping (despite telling them a million times to sleep). If you do your job as a counsellor successfully, you should be exhausted… but also full of pride when a camper tells you they have loved their time at camp.

You can be constantly learning from children and new experiences. I learned at camp that you should always listen to what a child is saying as there can be so many things they are trying to tell you, such as emotional issues or problems at home. And I asked myself ‘why do we have the stereotypical outlook that adults know more than children?’. Children have fresh concepts and new ideas and if you inspire them enough, they can care about it enough. As a teacher or counsellor, you have the ability to shape young minds into strong, positive and caring individuals who will hopefully shape the world in the future. If you care, they will care and I realised if I worked with the children and communicated to them, my lessons became easier and more enjoyable for all of us. I could incorporate mathematics into a volleyball lesson through score tallying or teach geography through soccer by using ‘countries in Europe’ as a category for a passing game. While doing this, kids were using their memory, working as a team and challenging themselves in more than one curricular area, interdisciplinary learning at it best!

So, everyone (especially student teachers!), if given the opportunity PLEASE work in a summer camp at least once in your life. It will expose you to new perspectives and teach you new life skills you can only gain through experience. And honestly… it’s just super fun!

Jessica Millar, August 2019



Patterns for Primary One

We have recently been looking into patterns within mathematics and learning in the Early Years classroom. Patterns can be a tool for children to recognise similarities and differences and enhances the uses of these skills in later life.

There are patterns everywhere. From picture books to road signs, children are exposed to patterns from a young age and will see things differently from each other. Patterns also form decoding skills and build upon curiosity. Through play and exploration, there are many resources for a Primary One class to develop an understanding of pattern.

A pattern must follow 3 rules-
– Replicable
– Regular
– Rules
Questions can be based around these rules such as ‘can you see anything that is the same or differences within these patterns?’
Patterns can also be visual, auditory or physical.

Song and dance is a great opportunity for patterns to form through physical movements and hearing similarities within the music i.e. verse then a chorus within a song. Alongside this, rhythm and rhyme can present patterns too. Art is also great for discovering patterns within the early years. Patterns can emerge when the children experiment with drawing and painting. An art lesson exploring patterns can lead to children being able create their own patterns and look for similarities and differences within each others art work.

Scientific Literacy Mini Essay

Scientific Literacy Essay

An understanding of science and the skills developed through the subject are becoming increasingly more acknowledged within Primary schools. Rutledge (2010) states; “children will not be able to connect up with their own ideas without skills such as predicting, and they will not be able to challenge their ideas without skills such as looking for patterns in results”. This links well into the importance of scientific literacy as it exhibits that children can develop skills that are learned within science, which can be transferable across the curriculum such as measuring, predicting and evaluating.

Scientific Literacy falls into four stages; Nominal, Functional, Conceptual and Multidimensional. This starts with recognition of a scientific term such as mass, following up to a full understanding of the term and applying it to their own lives and linking it into areas, such as history or a wider setting.

If there is a misinterpretation within scientific literacy and a person does not have the knowledge and skills to understand the science within conducting experiments; this could lead to false scientific conclusions being made. An example of when a lack of scientific literacy has led to false media representation is the MMR vaccine scare. The MMR vaccine protects against three illness, those of which are; measles, mumps and rubella. Dr Andrew Wakefield publicised that he believed this vaccine has links to autism and bowel disorders which resulted in vaccine rates of the MMR to decrease dramatically due to a fear within the public. It took over five years for this scare to finally be ruled out due to the high amount of allocations made by witnesses. It was said by the General Medical Council that Dr Andrew Wakefield “abused his position of trust” by conducting tests in which were unnecessary without the appropriate qualifications or ethical consent. Due to a failure of disclosure of questions that conflicted his argument the original paper that published this scare removed the article and his allegations were deemed as false (NHS Choices, 2010).

One of the key issues which must be enforced throughout science education in primary school is the importance of scientific literacy. As described by the OECD (2013, p9), academic literacy is the ability to use scientific fact and draw an accurate conclusion based on such knowledge. The importance of encouraging academic literacy from the earliest years of education cannot be underestimated. When teaching science from the earliest stage, academic literacy must become part of a routine. This will therefore allow accurate findings to be made which can support an individual’s research. As future educators, we must allow children to explore the ways of carrying out research responsibly throughout their time at school. Children must be motivated to work from a Nominal level (where by pupil recognises scientific vocabulary and concepts but their understanding is vague) – up to a Multidimensional Level of Scientific literacy (whereby the pupils can use scientific concepts and vocabulary in relation to other curriculum areas) (Holbrook & Rannikmae, p279). In order to understand how easy, it is to alter a substantial amount of results from the click of a button, children must see the damage inaccuracy can have. This allows them to understand that the implications are not just on an individual level but effect greater society. From a societal point of view, inaccuracy can cause extreme conflict between mind and matter. As a result, people most commonly suffer from severe mental of physical implications, which can be life changing and threating. Therefore, the importance of enforcing a secure structure of research, from a young age, will mean that in future the integrity of science can be protected.

To conclude, there must be more focus upon scientific literacy within primary schools. This will allow children to explore science and its connections to wider society, making it more relevant to them and their future learning. It will also provide them with the fundamental skills to; predict and challenge their learning and numerous transferable skills, all of which will accommodate their skills within school.

Jess Millar, Kimberly Waddell, Hannah Robertson, Rebecca Potter

References –

Holbrook, J. and Rannikmae, M. (2009). The Nature of Science Education for Enhancing Scientific Literacy. International Journal of Science Education, 4. (2010). Ruling on doctor in MMR scare.
(Accessed on: 10th February 2018) (2018). MMR vaccine ‘does not cause autism’.
(Accessed on: 10th February 2018) (2015). PISA 2015.

Click to access Draft%20PISA%202015%20Science%20Framework%20.pdf

(Accessed on: 8th February 2018)

Rutledge, N. (2010) Primary Science: Teaching the Tricky Bits. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill Education.

Learning with a Fizz, crackle and Pop!

On Thursday the 25th of January, we took part in a science lesson in which we all designed an experiment and presented to our peers. This session was to allow us to develop a science lesson for going on placement and I feel it was very beneficial to my practical skills for a lesson within a classroom.

The task enabled me to really engage with the CfE as I had to find relevant outcomes for my lesson, which was based around timing the speed of different masses dissolving in water. This experiment allowed for relevant science for children, learning about surface areas, but also incorporated skills such as measuring, timing, and ‘POE’- predicting, observing and evaluating. These skills are transferable across the curriculum and the lesson also included some maths, recording the times, which also encouraged interdisciplinary learning.

I really enjoyed this task and enjoyed taking part in my peer’s lessons too. It was interesting seeing the variety of the lessons and experiments and the session let us work as a team to develop a suitable lesson for teaching on placement.

Reflection Upon Semester 1

Semester One was an eye-opener for introducing me to work at university level. At the start of the semester, I would fall into a pattern of thinking I did not really have a lot to do and thought I had more free time on my hands than I did. I think this is due to the independency you get in University and the self-sufficient nature of managing a workload. Coming straight from school, it took me a while to get into the habit of managing everything so independently, work wise and living in halls for the first time. The experience of moving away from home has been great as it has allowed me to become more mature and confident in my abilities to manage tasks by myself.

As the semester progressed, I realised the importance of managing my time to allow for reading and completing tasks prior to a lecture. Unlike the start of the semester, I would not leave my work and tasks until last minute and manage my time better. Instead of one critical moment, I think it took a series of moments, such as leaving things to the last minute, for me to realise what to work on and reflect upon managing my time.  I can now build upon this and know how to be self-sufficient when tackling my workload.

Let’s Change The World Around Us.

Over the course of the last few weeks I have realised how important and influential the role of a teacher can be. Yes, before I started the course I had a brief understanding of what it was going to involve but I am now aware of the depths to the profession and it has made me very grateful to be on this course.

Teachers in primary education have the capacity to influence the lives of the children in their classrooms. I find it very inspiring that you can be looked up to as a role model, an inspiration and most of all you can provide them with the knowledge and attitude to grow up into open minded, fair individuals. Growing up myself, I was never fully aware of the discriminatory behaviour some people face every day of their lives. The inputs on the LGBTQ+ community, racism, sexism and disability have put it into perspective showing that stigmas regarding these issues have not quite left our society. In a modern day age, there should be no shame in saying you are Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, a woman, a man, from ethnic backgrounds or living with a disability. People should be encouraged to flourish as individuals, proud of who they are and supported by those who love them. Sadly, this is not always the case and too many people within society today are still facing discriminatory abuse and judgement upon their life choices.

One day as a teacher I hope that I can change these stigmas in the classroom. I hope I can make a little bit of difference by making children feel proud of who they are, encouraging diversity and culture and teach them that it is good to be different. These inputs have shown me that people will not always agree and conflicts in opinions can arise from time to time. The most important thing is that you learn how to act when this happens and stay respectful of other opinions and outlooks.

Reflection Upon Ethnicity, Race Discrimination and Patriarchy

The lecture on Tuesday the 26th of September for Education, CLD and Social Work was very eye opening in the respect of reminding us that racism and discrimination is still present within society. So many people face it on a day to day basis that it has become a normality for many. Before the input I was quite naïve thinking that racism was becoming a thing of the past. My eyes were opened, however, as I am now extremely aware that racial attacks and severe abuse is still taking place in a very violent manner. Yes, there have been improvements in supporting racial equality such as The “Black Lives Matter” campaign of 2012 yet attacks are still happening. You are eleven times more likely to be shot by Police if you are a young black male and in this day and age, this statistic is shocking.

I had an understanding of the  terms race and discrimination but I struggled with ethnicity and patriarchy. I now know that ethnicity refers to origins and traditions associated with an ethnic group and patriarchy is the system of a society which is heavily dominated by males. I now feel confident in the meaning of the terms and understand them.

The lecture was very influential to me studying to become a teacher as I want to ensure that I can provide a classroom free of discrimination and allow children to grow up being proud of their race, sex and ethnicity. I believe that the lecture was very beneficial to me by allowing my skills to grow in allowing diversity to thrive within a classroom. I also was able to learn of historic events and some shocked me such as the Emmet Till case. The main lesson I took from the lecture was that these four terms no longer have a place within society. As humans, professionals, friends and peers we must work together to ensure a safe and equal environment for everyone.



An Unequal Society- Resources Task

Recently we undertook a challenge  in which we were given a pack of resources as a group and asked to create something which could help a student in their first week at university. Unbeknown to the groups at the time, we were actually part of a much more important lesson than just a group work task.

Within Education, teachers will have to face some difficult situations such as deprivation and handle it with a professionalism and enthusiasm. This exercise demonstrated this well as each group’s packs were unequal in materials and some were very limited in what could be used. I was in a group with very limited materials and at first I was very confused as to why this was. Remaining positive, we decided to do the best we could with what we were given and ended up creating a useful idea of a map/board game of the “must do list” on campus. Throughout the process of creating our map, however, other groups were receiving biscuits and lots of praise whilst our group and one other were being ignored and deprived of praise and approval.When it came to presenting our ideas, it was starting to become apparent that this was more that just a group task as our task leader would not pay attention to our idea and came across as uninterested. We then realised it was actually an exercise to demonstrate deprivation and inequality within schools and communities and how we would react to it ourselves.

Upon reflection I think that the task was extremely useful and valuable and as a group we dealt with it well. It taught me that children will come from all kinds of backgrounds and as a teacher, it will be my responsibility to ensure that although there may be a divide out of school, in the classroom all the pupils are presented with equal opportunities and support. It also showed me that I will have to show resilience and commitment to my career choice by having to overcome challenges that are sometimes out of my own hands by supporting children to the best of my ability and inspiring them to remain positive whatever their situation may be.