Author Archives: Liam Hamilton

My Initial Thoughts about Early Years!

Third year marks the start of my journey into early Years, concluding with an early years placement. My feelings are a mix of nerves and excitement. During my experience at my local school during high school and my 1st year placement at University, I have always worked with primary 4/5. This is a whole new experience for me, but one I am looking forward to and aim to make the most of. My experience with younger children is very limited, so my only apprehensions towards this area is the fear of the unknown. Working with early years children will be a vital experience for me and I understand that I will make mistakes, but it is imperative that I use these and learn from them in order to improve.

Early years is such an interesting and exciting area of teaching and it requires so many different skills. Children are at the very start of their school journey and going from a primary 4/5 class who could all read and write to a good enough standard, to children who may not be able to read or write at all will be a definite challenge that I will have to overcome. However, overcoming new challenges and experiences is all part and parcel of teaching. This is where reflection and professional reading will help aid my practice and overall development as a teacher. Teachers also need to adapt to different needs of every child and no day seems to be the same from what I have learned so far.  I understand that the level of interaction will be completely different and the type of learning that the children will take part in will be unique and it is something I know I will need to get use to and adapt to in order to give children the best possible learning experiences.

I have always been a firm believer in active learning, where children are engaged and learn through ‘doing’ as well as outdoor learning and believe they are both vital for children’s development. Using exploration and investigation leads to fantastic opportunities for the children to be massively involved in their own learning as well as more importantly, allowing children to be children. I hope to implement all the knowledge and experience I have gained over the last 3 years, as well as my outdoor education placement to make learning as active, interesting and effective as possible.

I hope my understanding of this area will expand over this semester and I plan to do some reading on different aspects of early years to improve and develop my own practice and deepen my understanding in order to become the best teacher I possibly can. I expect this semester to provide fantastic opportunities and I hope to apply all knowledge gained to my placement in a few months.

Overall, this is a huge new experience for me and definitely out of my comfort zone, but I am thoroughly looking forward to learn all about early years and develop my own ideas, thoughts and overall practice.

My Thoughts and Opinions on Interdisciplinary Learning

I think interdisciplinary learning can be an effective tool in schools and can provide fantastic learning opportunities for children. For our ‘Developing Effective Teaching and Learning’ module, we have been asked to read 3 pieces of literature and discuss how that correlates to what our understanding of Interdisciplinary learning (IDL) is.

Through this reading, my positive attitude towards the approach was enhanced and I also gathered new knowledge regarding the topic that I previously wasn’t aware of. For example, I never realised the history behind IDL and cross curricular learning and the extent to which it has developed, and this surprised me as I was of the impression it was quite a new approach to learning.

I also did not realise that it has been through a tough journey to be significant in our curriculum. One of the major reports, the ‘Plowden Report’, talked about the disadvantages of separating subjects rigidly, however at the time many schools remained very teacher led, staying away from active learning and IDL. Even when told that they did not have to use rigid subject boundaries, they still opted to do it. This was due to the attention given to league tables.

I was surprised at how much politics impacted the attitudes towards IDL and depending on whoever was in charge at the time, correlated to how much it was used in schools. Attitudes towards IDL have changed dramatically in recent times and it has become more prevalent nowadays especially through Curriculum for Excellence. This reading has increased my understanding of how interdisciplinary learning can be an important learning experience during primary school and can really allow them to make connections between subject boundaries. The examples of literature I have read have strengthened my belief that this type of learning can be more engaging and stimulating for children and really lead to greater child autonomy and control over their learning. There is a key importance for teachers to make the IDL learning relevant to children. This involves teachers improving their knowledge of the children in their classroom, including their interests and hobbies for example. Implementing this into lessons can of course increase engagement and motivation and create a willingness to learn.

My own understanding of the key areas of good interdisciplinary learning have been improved and I have a deeper understanding of what teachers must do to enhance the experience children receive. The teachers must be confident and competent on the subjects they are teaching and IDL requires significant planning beforehand to provide good positive learning. The learning intentions must be clear and discussed with the children. This could even involve getting children participating in the process of creating the learning intentions. It is vital that there is a reason for IDL and it is not just done because the teacher feels they have to.  In order for the learning to be meaningful, there must be new learning and knowledge involved and to do this, it must be enjoyable, but provide a challenge for pupils, which links directly to the Curriculum for Excellence concept of ‘Challenge and Enjoyment’. As with every subject area, there must be progression being shown clearly throughout learning. One of the biggest areas of importance when it comes to IDL is that it must provide opportunities for children to apply their knowledge and learning from subject areas in relevant real life situations. This truly shows how much learning has been done.

A key piece of information I was able to take from the reading by Barnes was that the teacher shouldn’t be just a facilitator and if there is an opportunity to use the children’s questions and answers and turn them into positive learning opportunities to develop their understanding, this should be grabbed by both hands. This is something I hope to transfer to my teaching in the future.

There are of course crucial issues which I have noticed while reading, and these have included the lack of time. Teachers struggle to give children a balanced experience of all the subject areas and adding IDL to the equation can put more stress and pressure on teachers, especially due to the planning which is required. I have discovered, through reading, that this is an issue that has been around for a while as a balanced curriculum was usually not given to children because of time restraints and the prominence of testing in schools and inspections which were given priority. A way to help reduce planning stress and also benefit children’s learning would be getting them fully involved in the process of planning and allowing them to think about their next steps. There is the chance that some children may also learn better in ways that would not work well alongside an IDL approach, so knowing your class and how they learn is of vital importance to teachers when thinking of implementing an IDL approach into your classroom.

My understanding of Cross Curricular Learning and IDL has definitely improved as I did not know that there were various different types of Cross Curricular learning, not just IDL. There are many different approaches to Cross Curricular Learning and they have different aims and strategies that can provide diverse experiences and have differing impacts on children’s learning. Each approach has varying effectiveness, but that may depend the situation, such as the type of pupils, teacher’s attitude and teaching methods etc.

In general, my understanding correlates to the reading I have undertaken, but I now feel as if I have more of a grasp and deeper understanding of what IDL can bring to children’s learning but also know what is important to think about to ensure children receive the best possible learning experience. I would love to implement some IDL in future placements and my career as a teacher as I believe it can really create motivating and stimulating experiences for children to take control of their learning. If used and planned correctly, it can be a powerful tool for learning.

Topic Work – My Opinions and Experiences!

We had our first lecture to introduce the ‘developing effective teaching and learning’ module on Monday 17th September. We were discussing topic work and how it can often be the most memorable sort of work that we did at primary school and how it can be a vital tool for interdisciplinary learning.

Our task was to write a blog post discussing one memorable experience of topic work from primary school. My experience was when we did our World War 2 topic and it still sticks with me even to this day. We looked at events that happened during the war and the way people lived, which led to looking at how that compared to our everyday lives. The way the teacher engaged us using creative tasks and very practical hands on activities always made the lessons fun and interesting. I also think because of the way it was taught made the whole class more motivated and eager to learn more about the war. The teacher used different methods whilst doing this topic with us, we would watch different videos on the war and how people lived, and we would talk and answer questions that included working in pairs and small groups to engage us in discussion.

Doing topic work in general always made me feel excited and I always had a smile on my face whenever we were told that we were going to do it. What I didn’t realise at the time as a pupil, but I do now as a trainee teacher is that it is a perfect opportunity to combine many different subjects in a way which stimulates children’s interests. I think for me it was great as there were no different level groups which is the norm in maths and literacy for instance. It was everyone together having fun and taking part in wonderful learning experiences.

For example, one particular experience that really makes it memorable for me was when we used all of our knowledge and learning to put on a show for the rest of the school and local community which of course involved us combining our topic work with drama. It was all about the war time and my part in the show was to perform the World War 2 song ‘Run Rabbit Run’ by Flanagan and Allen with my friend David. It was such a fun, engaging learning experience for me, as I was able to do something I really enjoyed, whilst learning at the same time. During this show, we invited the local care home also to come along as we thought it would be a great idea to allow them to get all nostalgic about the olden days and their youth. They all loved it and it was a wonderful opportunity to bring together the wider community and open our classroom up and show what we had learned at the same time.

 It was also great fun to dress up in clothes from that era, which we did on several occasions, not just for the show.

I also particularly enjoyed the opportunities it gave me to sit and interact with family as I had to talk to my gran and grandad about their experiences and I found this fascinating to learn about how they lived and what they experienced during that time. I was even lucky enough to borrow my grandad’s ration book to take to school. My grandparents also enjoyed reminiscing and sharing their memories.

Another fantastic topic at school was Falkland Palace and Scottish History, more predominantly, Mary Queen of Scots. This is another experience that I remember very well and again, the practical element of this project made it memorable and for me was a powerful learning experience. The context behind the project was looking at Scottish history and how that impacted our lives as well as looking back at past events and stepping into the shoes of some famous characters of Scottish history including Mary Queen of Scots and John Knox. Some aspects that I remember vividly include having to use our researching skills to discover more information regarding events that occurred, as well as using our literacy skills to try our hand at different writing tasks. These included writing newspaper reports on the murder of Mary Queen of Scots private secretary David Rizzio and writing diary entries and letters as if we were Mary writing home from France to her family. Reflecting on this experience now, I can see how this is an excellent way to practice and improve writing and literacy skills in a stimulating way where the children don’t actually feel as if they are doing ‘proper’ work. As the topic they are writing about is interesting, children will be more motivated to complete the task and to a high standard. We also took part in creative art activities such as making and designing booklets and filling it with information about Scottish history, events, weapons etc.

 

One of the best opportunities we had during this topic was to visit Falkland Palace for the day. Our journey began with a tour of Falkland learning about the past and were then taken to Falkland Palace where we learned all about Scottish history and the story of Mary Queen of Scots. We also got to dress up like characters from the past which was always great fun. I was Lord Darnley. We really felt like we were experiencing first-hand how the people lived and the use of actors to portray the characters that day really helped spark my imagination. In my opinion, class trips such as this are essential as they can allow children to get out of the classroom environment and really experience something first hand. It could also perhaps result in children who may not flourish in the classroom environment to do so.

This whole experience of this topic made me feel like I was actually there during the time of Mary Queen of Scots and the practical, full on element of the project meant that it was never boring. It really stimulated and challenged me and constantly made me think, whilst providing me with so much learning and knowledge. Something that still stays with me today.

I believe that project work can provide children with fantastic opportunities to learn so much about a certain topic and the element of wonder and surprise during these experiences can be a very powerful learning tool. I particularly like the fact that it can meet the needs of all children and everyone can take part and have fun doing it. It is a very inclusive type of learning and this can only be good for children’s confidence and development. Of course, the effectiveness of this type of work can depend on the approach the school and teachers use, as well as the attitude the teacher has towards topic work. But on the whole, if links can be made across subject areas, creative teaching strategies are undertaken, and the children get to participate in a variety of engaging activities then in my opinion topic work can be one of the most memorable experiences you can have in primary school. I know it certainly was for me.

My personal views about children’s rights. Do teachers have the right to express a moral viewpoint?

We live in a society where all human beings having rights which must be respected by others. This of course is not always the case however. There are differing opinions about children’s rights. Some people believe that children should have rights just like everyone else, but others believe they are still dependent on teachers and parents so should not be full right bearers. I can see why both arguments could be valid.

There have been two main theories looking at rights, which can be linked directly to children. The choice theory is self-explanatory and discusses how everyone has rights, whereas the interest theory also believes everyone has rights but there must also be an interest group there to protect wellbeing. In my opinion, children should have their rights, but at an early age be given as much support as possible. Children will be able to make choices from very early in their life, but they will have no concept of what that choice could mean for themselves and others around them. Brighthouse and McAvvoy (2010) discuss that children have the potential to improve their skills and personality in such a way that will enable them to deal with the world, physically and socially on their own in the future, without being dependent. Therefore, it is vital for the children to have teachers and parents etc guiding them. The main role for teachers regarding rights for children is to support them in order for them to be independent with their rights in the future.

I believe that teachers can express a moral view point however it has become increasingly difficult to do this. This ‘expressing a moral view point’ can be looked at in two ways. If a student makes a decision that the teacher may believe is wrong, the teacher can only express a moral view point in my opinion if there is permission to do so from family and only if they feel the decision being made could have negative consequences on the student. They should never force their viewpoint on the student. If the moral viewpoint concerns what they are teaching in class or how they are being made to teach, this is completely different. Due to teachers lack of freedom and autonomy in the classroom, they have no choice in how and what they teach due to the curriculum and Scottish education compared to other countries. This leads to a lack of motivation from teachers in Scotland.

Teachers do have the right to express a moral viewpoint in terms of children and their rights but only in a way that will not make students feel uncomfortable or that it is being forced upon them. This links back to teachers being the supportive adult for children outside of their home environment. Teachers can give their opinions on matters in children’s lives and convey their view, but at the end of the day if a student is going to engage in any sort of activity, it is irrelevant what a teacher says, as they cannot stop them from doing it.

ICT programming in the Primary Classroom.

This is a short blog about ICT and programming in primary schools.

On Thursday 11th January, our workshop was on ICT and more specifically on programming. We were introduced to a variety of different programming applications that can be used in the primary classroom.

The one I will focus on is Textease Turtle. Textease Turtle is a Control Technology program where you can command a turtle to draw shapes on the screen. The turtle can be directed by a controller or by writing instructions. The reason I have chosen this is due to my previous experience of seeing this in my 1st year placement. It is a terrific way to teach the basic skills of programming to children and can be used for early and mid-primary school level.

Initially to get the children really engaged and motivated by the program, there can be a session introducing programming and how it is used in real life e.g. phone apps and games that the children may use. This will keep the lesson and topic stimulating.

The first steps would be to introduce the program to the children and discuss its purpose and how it works. The controls would be introduced and discussed, with the children copying the teacher to get a feel for the program. The class could then move on to follow instructions set out by the teacher to complete tasks and draw objects and shapes.

Once the children felt confident with the software the children could then get into groups of three. One person would be coming up with instructions for the turtle movements in order to make any sort of shape or picture and the other children in the group would listen and follow the instructions. The aim of this would be for all three children in the group to have the same shape/picture on the screen if steps have been followed correctly.

Now that the pupils have built up knowledge of the basics of programming, they can begin to be more creative and make their own instructions to create a picture to complete and for a partner to try and follow.

The task I witnessed in my placement class was that children were given a maze on their screens with the turtle at the beginning. The children then had to use the program to move the turtle through the maze and out of the other side. Differentiation was used in terms of support for certain children. The pupils were engaged and really enjoyed the task. Extra tasks could then be completed such as the children making their own maze and programming the turtle to navigate through that.

Finding the motivation to write this was tough…

Today, I had a lecture on Motivation in the Primary Classroom.

We were given the question….How do we motivate learners? Identify and discuss the key features of motivation and strategies to develop motivated children.

There are two types of motivation:

Intrinsic motivation comes from inside yourself while on the other hand, extrinsic motivation comes from external factors. Both  types can be engaged in different ways by the teacher. Intrinsic motivation can be triggered by regular feedback, providing activities that the pupils will find interesting and relevant to them and active learning. Extrinsic motivation is different and can be engendered by praise, but more importantly sincere praise. If this is not the case, children will be expecting praise and will potentially stop trying as hard with work.

As teachers, it is vitally important that we have high expectations and that the work we set children offers them a real challenge but at the same time offers children the chance of being successful. There must be a balance and the ability and level must be taken into consideration. Monitoring children’s progress and letting them know constantly how they are doing through feedback can have a big impact on their motivation.

Thoonen (2011) discussed three  motivation factors which:

‘*Expectancy components – pupils’ beliefs about their ability to perform a task (academic self-efficacy)

*Value components – pupils’ goals for doing a task, their beliefs about its importance and their interest in the task.

*Affective components – pupils’ feelings or emotional reactions to the task or school in general.

One other motivation theory was Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. Maslow had the idea that there were 5 stages of motivation and each one needed to be completed to move on to the next stage of the pyramid.  The 5 stages discussed were: Physiological needs, Safety and Security, Love and Belonging, Self Esteem and Self Actualisation.  As a teacher, I feel that I can be responsible for meeting some of these needs such as the child feeling safe and secure in the classroom environment and the feeling of belonging the children will have in the class. This can be built up supporting children’s self esteem. Bartlett and Burton (2012, p206) had the idea that to develop a child’s self esteem, children need to be ‘listened to and empowered to make decisions about their own learning’.

Children must be given feedback to show how they are progressing. This in turn will motivate them to keep going and continue progressing.

Getting to know your children in the class is of vital importance for any teacher and building up a good relationship with the pupils can motivate both yourself and the class. There must be mutual respect and you must be modelling your behaviour as a teacher to motivate the class to behave in a positive way.

Hayes (2006, p23) found that children liked teachers:

  • who like them
  • who are confident and in control
  • who provide well prepared lessons
  • who make an effort to make content interesting.

Ultimately being a teacher who children like, no matter how simple that idea sounds, is one of the most important aspects that will lead to a class who are motivated and a classroom with a positive ethos.

One final thing I would like to mention is 5 powerful motivators that Gonzalez (2016) wrote about and they included: positive relationships with teachers, choice, rewards not being a good idea when tasks ‘involve creativity and persistence’ as this may ‘hamper motivation’, students having the belief that they can complete tasks and finally, relevance to children’s life’s outside of school.

Motivation is a huge factor that all teachers must consider every day. This can not only help develop children’s understanding, knowledge and skills if they are motivated to be learning but it can also give a teacher a better chance of being successful. A motivated class can create a positive ethos and give children a purpose for doing the work they have been given and through positive relationships, learning that is relevant to children and their interests and methods of teaching that engages children and really makes them think will ensure that motivation will be at the highest levels.

 

 

Rerefences:

Thoonen, E.E.J., Sleegers, P.J.C. , Peetsma, T.T.D. and Oort, F.J. (2011). Can teachers motivate students to learn? Educational Studies, vol. 37(3), pp.345-360.

Maslow, A. (1943). ‘A theory of human motivation Psychological Review’  50(4):  pp 370-396

Bartlett, S. and Burton, D.M. (2012) Introduction to education studies. London : SAGE

Gonzalez, J. (2016) 5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Unmotivated Students. Available at: http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/student-motivation/

 

Food for thought….

 

Last week, our group had our first Food and Textiles input and it was quite an eye opener. I would be the first to admit, my culinary skills are not the best, with microwaving and making some small cakes about as far as it goes. Today has given me more confidence in myself about teaching this subject and this workshop and previous research has now given me simple recipes and lessons I can do with children in order to develop their skills.

It was interesting to learn how simply learning to make different foods can link so much into different areas of the curriculum. We experienced many examples of this during the input, such as:

  • How making the cakes that my partner and I made – chocolate melting can link to the science of changing form.

cake

  • How traditional foods made in the class can be linked to traditional dance in another lesson.
  • How children can represent the food they make through dance and drama, e.g. popcorn.
  • Simply the health and nutrition aspect of food linking to the health and wellbeing aspects of dance, drama and PE.
  • Food linking to religious festivals such as Shrove Tuesday and pancakes.

It was an interesting input and one that will hopefully help me become successful at teaching the same to children. It is vital to the curriculum as it can encourage children to become healthy adults and can develop their understanding of how significant eating correctly is to their lives. The subject is so important as it links to several other areas of the curriculum such as expressive arts, mathematics, social studies and sciences.

 

Scientific Literacy Mini Essay:

As part of our Science input, we were asked to write mini 500-600 word essays on Scientific Literacy:

Scientific Literacy

AC1 – Scientific literacy is often misunderstood. It goes beyond knowing scientific words and filling in worksheets like most people think. It even goes beyond science as we think we know it, as it concerns more than the subject of science itself. People who are scientifically literate have specific skills that are necessary in understanding the world. Being able to distinguish between the truth and false statements, for example, the comments made by people in the media. Naivety is preventable through science. It enables the pupils to be more aware of the false claims thrown at them on a daily basis. Rather than just knowing scientific terms, scientific literacy is understanding concepts of science and developing skills to enable everyday successful learning. Through science, we can establish skills such as predicting, understanding, analysing, evaluating and observing. These skills are extremely valuable to help make important life choices.

AC2 – People who are not scientifically literate can often fall victim to products that have false advertising. One popular example of this is diet fads such as the tea brand Bootea Teatox. This brand highlights that by drinking their special tea, over different time periods, you will experience weight loss results as you detox your body. It seems that many people already jump at the chance for a product that advertises it can influence weight loss however add some complex scientific language in the advertising and quickly the consumer falls into a false sense of confidence in that particular product. Unfortunately Bootea has left out a few important facts about their ingredients and how they can affect the consumer. The ingredients can actually interact with particular prescription medicines and cause them to fail. The side affects are negative and not highlighted clearly as the ingredients can cause vomiting, nausea and diarrhoea. It has also been researched that the product will only cause a loss in water weight and unlikely to perform in the way advertised. Therefore, Bootea consumers have been led to believe that they will undergo a detox experience when actually according to medical advice it could be affecting their health (Johnson, 2017)

AC3 – Fair testing is a vital part of science in schools. A fair test can be carried out if one variable is changed in the experiment while keeping all other conditions the same. When we are teaching children all about fair testing in the classroom, they are learning and developing vital skills. They learn the importance of being fair in experiments and how this can lead to much more effective results. Linking back to the scientific skills, fair testing can allow children to make use of the skills that can make them scientifically literate such as predicting, observing and evaluating. In experiments, if all conditions are the same apart from one, it will be much easier to determine the effect each condition is having. Looking at fair testing in schools on a wider scale, it will allow the children to understand more deeply the underlying concepts of each experiment and the reasons behind why everything is happening. The skills that children learn in school can of course help them develop a conceptual understanding of what they are learning and be more successful. It can also help children be more successful outside of school and in their future when making important life decisions.  It is also important that the experiments link to science topics that are current and can be linked to everyday life. This is linked to the National Science Education Standards (p22) as it is stated that “Scientific literacy means that a person can ask, find, or determine answers to questions derived from curiosity about everyday experiences.”

References

Johnson, K. (2017). Diet Pills Watchdog | Bootea Review, Bootea Scam, Bootea Diet Tea. [online] Diet Pills Watchdog. Available at: https://www.dietpillswatchdog.com/bootea/ [Accessed 1 Feb. 2017].

National academies press (no date). ‘National Science Education Standards 1996’. (p22). Available at: http://www.nap.edu/read/4962/chapter/4#22. (Accessed 5th February 2017).

 

Megan Freeburn, Alex Allan, Liam Hamilton and Taylor MacInnes.

 

 

My Experiences of Music.

music

Ever since I was in P5, I was always very musical. I started playing the clarinet in P5 when the opportunity arose to take up an instrument. This really excited me and was raring to go. I continued to play clarinet and take part in many school concerts and music festivals until 6th year when I was forced to hand my clarinet back to the school. My experiences of musical tuition have been very positive, I always got on with the instructors. Their methods for teaching all differed but were all very effective in helping me learn and develop my skills. In primary school music for me was usually taught by listening to different music and trying to learn to play different songs on the recorder. I feel, although learning music in school was positive, it still needs a bigger part in the curriculum in my opinion. In primary school, I also played several lead roles in musical concerts and musicals, such as Toad in ‘Wind in the Willows’, Joseph in ‘Joseph and his amazing techni-coloured dream coat’ and Oliver Twist in ‘Oliver’.

clarinet oliver-twist josephwindi

I achieved A’s in National 5 and Higher music. Studying music in high school was different in the way that it was more in depth and was not just playing instruments. It involved listening to different music and learning to recognise musical concepts as well as making our own music. Due to my musical background, I feel as though my music reading is of a good standard.

I have always been very passionate about music, be it playing instruments, singing or learning about music and also just in general, listening to music. Whenever I can, I will always be listening to music. It could be new modern dance or pop songs, or classic songs from years ago. I have always loved music, but the reason I like older music from the 80’s etc. could be due to the fact my dad was a DJ in Spain in the 80’s and still volunteers for a hospital radio station in Kirkcaldy. I grew up listening to older songs, because of my dad’s obsession for music and I am still undecided if that was a blessing or not. My music taste is varied and I will listen to any song, given of course that it is a good song.

headphones

I believe that the experiences and skills I gained throughout those years has lead to me being quite confident in my ability in teaching music in the primary school setting.

However, despite this, I am also of the opinion that you don’t have to be musically talented or naturally musical to be an influential, successful music teacher, and I agree with Mills (2009, p6) who stated that ‘Their advantage is that they already have musical self-esteem‘. This is a vital element that teachers have that can help them be as successful as possible in the classroom.

I believe that music should have a more prominent purpose in the curriculum as it engages children in an activity that can broaden their horizons and give them vital skills for now and later in life. It allows children to enjoy learning and challenge them to critically think about and learn a variety of different music genres, some they may have never heard before.

Overall, I feel quietly confident about teaching music due to my positive experiences and musical backgrounds. There will obviously be struggles along the way and difficulties to overcome, but I believe that by gaining even more understanding and knowledge and further developing skills throughout my course, I have the best chance of being a successful teacher of primary school music.

References:

Mills, J. (2009).  Music in the primary school.  England: Oxford University Press

Aw god, not maths…

maths

Most individuals who are training to be primary teachers hear the words maths and  they instantly get an overwhelming feeling of fear and anxiety. There are often many reasons for this, for example:

  • They have had a negative experience of maths at school, mostly due to the teacher they had.
  • They never understood the subject and it didn’t make sense to them.
  • Simply because they didn’t think they were any good at it.

The truth is, these anxieties are not needed. This is because it is our job as educational professionals to encourage children and allow them to enjoy maths. One key stage in this process for children is that they understand exactly what they are doing and the skills involved.

During our first maths input, we discussed some of the myths people have about maths. Two that caught my eye were firstly, some children will tell you ‘ I don’t have a mathematical brain’ when in fact this is far from the truth. Although people will always be confused and wonder ‘when am I ever going to use this again in life’. The answer is all the time. Most things we do in our daily lives are surrounded my maths and problem solving. Some examples are setting our alarm and planning when we need to set it in order to be ready for school. This requires time telling, estimating, planning and problem solving skills. One more example would be simply paying for the bus to school, in this situation, you have to pick out the correct change or notes in order to pay the fare. This clearly uses skills with money.

The other myth that I am choosing to mention is that there is a right way to teach a maths problem. There is most definitely not. When listening to people in the input’s experiences of maths in school, one factor that made an experience positive was that the teacher was open to new ways of solving problems and the negative experiences were because teachers wanted children to do it the teachers way. Teachers will have a much better chance of being successful in helping children’s development skills and enjoyment in maths if they vary the ways in which they teach each topic and ways in which a problem can be solved.

I believe that it is important to allow children to be fully engaged in their learning 100% of the time and one essential way to achieve this is to use a variety of different teaching methods.

In our input, we learned that children can learn maths in three different ways:

  • “Doing Maths”
  • “Talking Maths”
  • “Seeing Maths”

This clearly shows that you can’t expect children to learn by simply filling out worksheets continuously. You have to get children engaged in order to further their skills, understanding and development. Children will respond to this, thus increasing their enjoyment of what they are learning.

Personally my experiences of maths were on the whole very positive. I achieved an “A” in national 5 maths and a “B” in higher maths after about 12 years of studying the subject. In primary school, maths was always very enjoyable, due to the enthusiasm of the teachers and the variety of different resources and methods of teaching which inspired and engaged the whole class. The difference for me, when going into secondary school, was that sometimes I struggled due to the different pace and teaching methods used by secondary teachers. If some children didn’t understand what was being taught, then the teacher would just usually move on. Fortunately for me this was never the case, due to the fact that I would ask if I was stuck as I felt comfortable talking to the teachers. They would always be there and willing to help however they could.

calc

After reading ‘Mathematics Explained for Primary teachers’. 5th Edition by Derek Haylock with Ralph Manning. Published in London by SAGE publications 2014, p.3-33, I was able to broaden my understanding and knowledge of how children can learn strategies in order to carry out addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Of course every child learns differently, however teachers have to realise that children can’t all learn things simply by memorising things taught to them. This all links back to how essential it is to vary teaching techniques and methods of learning. I read about many examples within this chapter of how children make additions and subtractions easier, for example ‘friendly numbers’; e.g. if a child is faced with the sum of 742 – 146 they may find this difficult to get their head around but by using numbers that have a friendlier relationship to each other, the sum can be made easier to understand. Looking at the above sum this would be done by adding four to the first number to make it 746 – 146 which is a much friendlier looking sum with an answer of 600. All the child would have to do now to find the answer to the original question is takeaway four to get 596.     

Everything I am talking about links back to the type of teacher I would like to become and what one of the most important roles is going to be for me as an educational professional. I would like to be the teacher who is going to inspire and engage pupils and to encourage them to enjoy and understand maths as a subject. I believe that it is of vital importance for teachers to realise that every child will learn differently and that some children will need more support. Whilst teaching maths, it is vital to ensure everyone understands what they are learning before moving on and that if someone is struggling then you help them in anyway possible. Being a supportive teacher will really make a big difference and will allow you to consider everyone’s needs in the class.

Overall, we have to show them that maths can be fun and creative and hopefully through placements, people training to be teachers will be able to get over their anxieties and get rid of any negative experiences they had at school, by making their very own positive experiences for children.