Category Archives: 2 Prof. Knowledge & Understanding

The Enormous Turnip



Choose a well-known children’s story and dramatise this, using musical motifs, sound effect, character songs and instrumental music to accompany the drama/narrative.  This can take the form of a stage production or a radio version of the story.

The Blue Lights of Pizza Express

Go to Choose a dance and teach it to someone.

Being a passionate Scottish Country Dancer, the task to learn and teach a Scottish Country Dance as part of the Expressive Arts elective thrilled me immensely! I have been dancing as a hobby from the age of 5, and for the past few years have been assisting in teaching the younger class, and it is still a hugely enjoyable pastime for me, however, I believe that schools take the joy out of it.

The dance I chose to learn and teach to my class is “The Blue Lights of Pizza Express” (yes, it is a real dance). The picture shows the dance crib (instructions)(click to view clearer), which is written using dancing terms, which we know, but would need explaining to a beginner. This dance is a Strathspey (slow dance), in a square set, the type of which is not taught in schools. The dance is quite complex, and took a good deal of explaining to my class, and therefore I certainly wouldn’t use anything near as difficult with a primary class. We did get a video of us dancing it, however, the file is too large to be uploaded to the site. If anyone would like more beginner-friendly instructions for the dance, just comment.


As my love for Scottish Country is so well established, I am of the opinion that it is taught completely wrong in schools, to the extent that our national heritage is loathed and comes with such a stigma. Whenever I tell anyone I do dancing, they usually ask which kind, to which I reply Scottish Country. The sheer comments and questions that follow highlight my point precisely. They ask “Why?”, or sometimes simply just laugh or look confused, a reaction which I argue would not be given had the answer been Ballet, Hip Hop or even Highland.

Schools teach the same 6-8 dances throughout primary and secondary, and in an attempt to make it more fun, have begun to use modern music. While this is a good strategy, and one we use in dance class ourselves, it is only the beginning. Children are forced to dance with classmates they would rather not, which starts the lesson off poorly. Children should be able to choose their partners, boy or girl, and, as long as there are clear rules about expectations of behaviour, there will be less misbehaving to warrant partnering children up. There should also be a range of dances taught, as well as step practice. We would not give children the task of playing football or basketball without teaching them some core skills they would need to play. Therefore, why do we partner children off and tell them where to go – usually by walking – and let them get on with the “dance”. There needs to be a shift in the thinking of teachers who teach Scottish Country Dance, before there will be a shift in attitude towards it.




Can’t sleep? Count chicks!

I have chosen to look at the picture book “Six Chicks” by Henrietta 1Branford in terms of the mathematical learning involved in the book.

The book tells the story of Red Hen, who is trying to get her 6 chicks to sleep. Red Hen tries many strategies to get her chicks to sleep, however, only one chick falls asleep at a time.

The book will familiarise children with number words up to 6 in a descending order, allowing them to practice the backwards sequence, which is often overlooked and is trickier for children to master.

While reading the story, the adult should try to get the children to count the chicks on the page – which should always be six – and the amount that are sleeping and awake. This will familiarise the children with numbers that add up to 6. For example, there are 3 chicks awake and 3 chicks sleeping; there are 6 chicks in total, therefore 3+3=6.

The adult could also use numerals alongside the story, as the book does not show the numeral with the number word. Every time the number word is said either point out the numeral to the children to highlight the connection between the two, or have the children point to the numeral if they are familiar with the numeral and number word connection.

I’m a Scientist!

We conducted an experiment to see which material was the most absorbent.

1We decided to change the type of material used (the dependent variable) and keep the amount of liquid used, the type of liquid, the surface and the size of the material the same (the independent variables). We measured the time taken for the liquid to be soaked up by the material.

Using the planning sheets prior to the investigation helps focus in on what you are looking for in your experiment. They also ensured that you had a controlled experiment, as it made sure you only changed one variable. This would be particularly helpful for children to begin the process of planning controlled investigations. 

We predicted that the thinner materials would soak up the water quicker and the thicker materials would soak up the water slower.

Making predictions helps the children concentrate on the outcome of their experiment. When making conclusions at the end of the experiment, what the children have learned will be clearer as they can compare their understanding to this point in the experiment. 

These were our results: 1
Card – 14.03
Tissue paper – 35.28
Paper Towel – 5.19
Toilet roll – 5.44

Results are the most important part of the investigation. The children learn the skill of recording data, how to interpret it and what that means to the investigation. This is where the relationship between maths and science is exemplified as the children are see the real life applications of the data analysis skills that they learn in maths class, using tables and graphs to display their results.

We found that the thickness of the material did not make the difference, as tissue paper is thin and did not absorb well. The important factor was the surface of the materials, as those which had indentations absorbed better. This is because when flattened out, the surface area would be greater, therefore the material could soak up more water.

Conclusions are where you see what the children have learned. In the case of the above experiment, we learned how absorbent materials such as kitchen roll and toilet paper work – due to the indentations, not the thickness of the material.

The planning sheets we used during this input were incredibly helpful in planning the experiment. They would be excellent to use in a classroom to keep the children on track and to give them a framework for investigation planning, which could be slowly removed to allow for independent work.

Do you wanna count the snowmen?


When looking at nursery rhymes to promote counting, especially with early years children, there were many that came to mind. I remember singing songs such as “Ten in the Bed” and “5 Little Speckled Frogs” when I was young, however, when researching one for this module, I found the rhyme above particularly useful.

Firstly, as in many of these rhymes, the songs use the number name sequence going from “5 little snowmen…” down to “1 little snowman”. This gets the children practicing the numeral names and can learn about counting backwards, as in school we tend to focus on counting forwards.

Secondly, the song counts the snowmen on the screen. This reinforces the numeral names and their sequence from 1 to 5. It also has the children counting forwards, which means they can practice both in this rhyme.

The third thing I particularly like about this rhyme is that they include a noise for every missing snowman. For example, when you get down to 2 snowmen, there are 3 “shh” noises after it. This leads the children into addition and counting on, as they are learning that there are 2 snowmen there and 3 missing to make the total of 5.

I think this rhyme is particularly good to be used in the early years classroom to promote counting, and could easily be extended beyond 5 when the children improve in their maths ability. The subject could be changed depending on season or even topic, making it a highly versatile resource.

Ett, två, tre…

100_6431This week we looked at the Education System in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries, which has been long praised and admired. Before joining this course, I had never really considered the starting age of school in this country, as it is the norm that I have grown up with. However, upon looking at research and other systems across the world, I am questioning exactly why our children start school at 5, sometimes even 4.

Why do our children start on or around their 5th birthday?                                                           What are the issues surrounding children starting school before 6?                                      Are there drawbacks to starting formal education so late?

Below is a clip from 2013 discussing whether children, as in Scandinavian countries, should start school age 7:

The clip raises some interesting arguments, pointing out the importance of play in the early years. While children are highly intelligent (as one woman points out), it is good for them to learn through play, developing skills that they will need for further education – and life in general – such as communication and cooperation with others. This informal learning means children will be motivated to learn – a type of motivation that does not come from being told to sit down and complete a worksheet. Fun and exploration are crucial at this age, and denying children this right is, potentially, killing their desire for learning and school in general.

Why do you think Swedish children are attaining higher literacy skills?

The above video raises two possible conclusions about why Scandinavian children perform so well: their later starting age; or the higher qualified teachers.

In these such countries, it is necessary for teachers of any level to have a masters degree. classroomHowever, I do not believe that you need a masters degree to be a successful teacher. I believe that teaching is a natural talent which can be developed and polished through a degree, but is ultimately an intrinsic skill.

I believe that Scandinavia’s success is more likely to be because of their later starting age. Children have longer to develop social and personal skills through play at an early age, meaning that they are ready to start school and concentrate more on their learning.

Assessment – do we over assess our children?

I believe that they way teachers must assess children is totally against the type of culture we are trying to promote in schools. I understand that is useful to keep written assessment pieces, especially in upper years of primary, however, children at such a young age cannot be assessed as often this way. Teacher observation and actually communicating with the children is a much better way of gauging where the children are at in terms of their academic development.

There’s Been a Murder!


In the clip below, Dan Walton (Teacher of the Year) is teaching his class Pythagoras. My memories of pythagoras at school mainly involve textbooks, much like most other maths topics in high school. We were taught the rule and how to apply it (instrumental understanding) and given textbook work to consolidate our knowledge. However, Dan’s approach to teaching this topic is very different.

Pythagoras is the rule that the squares of the shorter two sides with equal the square of the shortest side – a²+b²=c². Rather than simply teaching this rule to his class, he has them find out the answer. Some of the children simply draw the triangle to scale, giving them the correct answer, others must work out the rule using numbers. This is giving the children multiple ways to solve the problem and they then realise that the formula is more efficient than drawing triangles every time. By having the children investigate this rule for themselves, Dan instantly has the children engaged in the lesson.

captureBy using a real life example (golf hole), Dan is showing the children the context of this learning in the world outside of the classroom. He gives them the option to solve the problem any way they want, allowing them to choose between the two methods they have explored. All of the children opted for the formula method, showing their ability to select an appropriate method for solving a problem.

When Dan then moves on to working out the length of a shorter side, he has a small piece of paper showing the rules of pythagoras, but does not tell the children anything about what they have to do. This investigation and discovery really has the children engaged and involved in the lesson in a way that a textbook cannot do. The children are working out what they must do – they are taking control of their own learning. By giving the children the opportunity to do this, Dan is helping them with long term problem solving skills. The children learn that the answer is not going to be given to them, they must work it out themselves.

The climax of the lesson, drawing on all the pythagoras they have learned, is a murder mystery file000814023043problem. There are multiple pythagoras questions which they must solve in order to find out who the murderer is etc. This is an incredible way to find out if the children have taken in all that has been taught. If the children can find out the answer, then they understand the rules of pythagoras that they have been taught. Dan even hides some of the questions around the school to bring some energy and movement to the lesson. There is no doubt that this is substantially more rewarding for children than sitting at a desk with a textbook.

While pythagoras may be a more advanced topic than those of primary mathematics, I believe that many lessons can be learned from Dan’s lesson. Children should be encouraged to explore numbers and mathematics, rather than being told a rule and applying it. If they can work the rules out for themselves, not only are they much more likely to remember it, but they are more likely to enjoy this learning. While we cannot allow primary children to run around the school looking for questions, it is important that we allow them to have active maths, even taking them outside as a class into the playground to solve some problems will be much more engaging and exciting than a normal maths lesson. Dan also does not share the learning intention with the children at the start of the lesson, again, promoting discovery and exploration. I believe that this is even more important in a primary classroom as allowing children to find out what they are learning themselves shows that they have actually understood what is being taught.

In my future maths lessons, I want to incorporate some of these techniques, especially taking learning outdoors. Maths does not need to be sitting in front of a textbook. Maths should be a wonderful, exciting discovery of the whys and hows of numbers – an idea all too often overlooked in the primary classroom.

Lost in Number Translation

Skemp suggests that there are 2 types of understanding: instrumental and relational.

Instrumental understanding – Not quite about playing the piano, but I think the analogy applies. old-piano-keyboardInstrumental understanding is like knowing the notes to play, but not knowing the tune – in maths terms, it is about knowing the rules, formulas and processes to get an answer, but not knowing the underlying concepts. This method is easier to understand and children get to see the results of their learning quicker, giving them a sense of success that children, like all of us, are excited by. These reasons are why it is understandable that teachers use instrumental understanding in the classroom. If there are upcoming tests or exams, it is quicker and easier to teach this way if it is a subject they simply need to know. A teacher may also feel that the children have not developed skills that are needed to understand relational thinking, the other type of understanding described by Skemp.

above_londonRelational understanding is a more complex affair, however, the long term effects are substantially worthwhile. It is about knowing why you are using a certain rule and the concepts beneath the strategy, i.e. why two negatives make a positive. This approach is more adaptable to new tasks and is easier to remember in the long term. Relational understanding is knowing all of the connections across mathematical topics.


Skemp uses the analogy of a town to explain the difference between these two approaches. You can walk through town knowing your route from A to B and a few other routes nearby to get to the essential places you need (instrumental) or you can create a “cognitive map” of the town in your head, knowing all the routes and which is best for your journey (relational). If you can master the second approach, then you will never be lost.


Skemp, R. (1976) Relational Understanding and Instrumental Understanding. Mathematics Teaching. Available at (Accessed 23/09/16)

Clever’s New Friends

Stories are a great way to introduce new concepts or feelings to young children, especially in file000129746402Early Years (primary and nursery). Children may recognise the feelings of the main character in the story as feelings they have felt in their lives, however, young children struggle to communicate their feelings – emotion words are often learned last. Stories provide children another land to get lost in as they follow the main character and find out how they deal with their problems. The child, knowingly or not, will be able to take messages from the story and use them when they find themselves in this situation.

There are lots of different “social stories” that target specific issues children may be having such as loss/grief, anger issues or loneliness. There are also stories like this for children with Autism and other learning difficulties, which may help them cope with problems they might have in daily school life.

The below clip shows a social story about using polite words and being nice to others:

In the story Clever’s New Trick, we see the story of Clever the fox who has problems with his temper. This leaves him lonely as no one wants to play with him. Jerome the Gnome teaches captureClever a trick to help with this – Stop and Think. He uses this trick with some of the other animals, practicing controlling his temper and playing with his new friends successfully.

While this teaches the lesson of controlling their emotions, it also teaches the children that everyone is learning things – nobody is perfect i.e. Snowy Owl is still learning how to fly well. This story could be used in Early Years quite easily with the right preparation.

There are some words in the story that young children will not know i.e. hesitant and remorseful. As children will be fixated on these new words, it would be useful to use these words prior to telling the story, a few hours or days before. This that the children are still learning these new words, but can still focus on the story. It is also important to have questionscapture to ask the children throughout the story, such as asking them to predict what will happen next. This involves children in the story telling process, stopping them from simply being passive listeners. It is essential to plan these questions in advance, as it is unlikely that suitable, high-level questions will be thought up on the spot. It is also important that children have the chance to ask questions of their own. This consolidates their learning and allows them to fully understand the story, which is especially important if there are follow up activities based on the story.

Stories are essential in the classroom, and are often overlooked as something to do to fill in time, or to calm the children after playtime. While stories can relax the children, it is important not to simply use them as a filler activity. Story time should be planned as much as any other lesson in order to get the most out of them and to develop key literacy skills in children such as prediction, analysis and merely an enjoyment of stories and reading.

Sit Down and Shut up

file5571249338839 I’m sure it would not be too hard for us all to think back to a teacher who had a very “sit down and shut up” attitude, and these would often be teachers whose subjects I tended to like less.

In the classrooms of the past, it was clear that the teacher was in control and no talking or movement would be tolerated. However, this should not be the case in modern day classrooms. Teachers should be open and enthusiastic, and group discussions are promoted rather than seen as a nuisance.

In terms of behaviour management, the following video analyses the way in which 5 teachers engage and control their class without any need for forceful language or gestures.

Boost Your Teaching

How do they help maintain the attention of the children? – The teachers all make use of movement and hand gestures to engage their class and keep them focused on the task at hand. They move around the classroom in order to keep engagement across the class, which ensures that those sitting at the back listen and contribute as they know the teacher will come over to them. The hand gestures they use are very open and keep the children’s attention.

How do they show respect for the children? – It is clear that all of the teacher’s respect their children. They do not raise their voice or shout at the children, and they use positive praise, smiling when the children answer a question correctly. In particular in this video, the history teacher is given wrong answers, however, he does not make the children feel bad about these answers, he simply helps them to work through the wrong answer as to why it is not what he is looking for.

How do they show the authority of the teacher? – All of the teachers in the video show a commanding presence in the classroom, although it is warm and inviting at the same time. They refuse to talk over children, as demonstrated by the geography teacher, and use their authority to move around the class, ensuring that all children are involved and engaged.

How do the teachers manage the movement of the children? – As shown by the PSHE teacher, the children enter the class in single file rather than in bunches, which calms the children down after any high energy occurrences that may have happened outside the classroom. This is also reinforcing the teachers authority. At the end of the lesson, shown by the geography teacher, it is important to let the children go in groups/tables as this avoids a chaotic scramble towards the door.

I believe that the ideas in this video, while based in a high school, will work well in the primary school setting. The need to include positive praise is essential, especially with younger children, who have a shorter attention span, and need some form of constant engagement. It is also useful to note how your stance as a teacher can either invite pupils to learn with you, or switch them off completely. For example, folding your arms creates a barrier which the children may feel they need to fight or break in order to form a good relationship with their teacher, which is the first step to effective learning. This can lead to poor behaviour in the class, and the teacher may not understand why without this knowledge of effective stance and body language.


3, 2, 1… Action!

This video is an excellent resource from “teachfind” on how to structure a successful drama lesson.sw_StageLightBar_sa101665

The lesson begins with an agreement between the teacher and the children, in this case using the 3 C’s : Concentration, Cooperation and Communication. I believe that this is a great agreement to have with the children, not just in drama, but in the classroom also. I will take this strategy with me, on placement and beyond, as I think the children will connect with these rules well. The use of the simple 3 words is also effective in my opinion. It means that there is not pages of rules for the children to remember, or in many cases forget, and this strategy will stick in the children’s heads as it is better than a long, boring list.

Next, you shoustretching_legs_on_ringld then move on to warm up. These can be games which get the children moving and/or communicating (referring back to the rules), and should get the children interacting with each other. In my opinion, this is one of the most important parts of a drama lesson, especially with a new class of children. It will allow them to let themselves go (to an extent) and interact with their new classmates in a playful, semi-structured way. Some of these games could include:

Fruit Bowl/ The Wind Blows – good for mixing the class up. Must refer to rules to ensure chaos does not pursue.

Change the Action – the children must repeat an action after you have changed it. For example: Teacher claps hands, pupils sit still, teacher shouts “CHANGE” and pats her knees, children clap their hands and so on. This is good for building the concentration element of the rules. If the pupils struggle to concentrate with this activity, they cannot progress into a drama lesson.

Hula Hoop – must pass hula hoop “through” everyone in the circle without breaking hands. Concentration control.

Cross the circle – All the children are numbered and when their number is shouted they must cross the circle in the way you say i.e. fashion model, astronaut, hopping etc. This should be a fun activity to loosen the children up and make them willing to have fun and participate fully.

There are lots more, these are just a selection.

(Accessed at:

Next is the focus of the lesson. This is where the children should come together to interpret a source (pictures are used in the video) in order to establish a theme or topic for the drama lesson. For example, if the lesson was linked to the history of World War 2 that they had been studying, a picture from that time could provide an assessment for the knowledge they have taken in from the history lesson. This stimulus is also a way to provoke new learning by having the children act out and hopefully share the feelings of the people of that time.

Once the children are focused, then comes the development of their ideas. Allowing the children time to visualize a place or image that you, the teacher, prompts through words, allows the children to ‘get inside’ the story. This links to the ability to feel what a Capturecharacter feels, an important aspect of developing the character to be realistic and believable. Allowing the children to vocalize what they see/hear/feel ensures that they are fully engaged and involved (somewhat of an assessment). It also shows that they can put what they feel into words. Sharing how they feel or see things is an important skill for writing, ultimately linking drama work to further language tasks.

Body-scaping is a good way to allow children, in groups or as a whole class, to physically create a picture from their visualizations. This just uses their bodies with no props, and sound is optional.

CaptureAllowing the children to perform what they have created is key in giving the lesson a purpose. If the children know that there is no meaning to a particular lesson, it can lead to a lack of enthusiasm for some children, whereas others will be shy and not want to participate in acting to the whole class. It is this mix of personalities in a class that can make performance difficult to gauge. While this seems difficult in theory, I think that once you have your class and know them well, you should be able to work out what is best for them.

Once this decision is gauged it is important to ensure you are getting the most out of the children. This can be done through further prompting, as in the video, like thought tracking. This again allows the children to share their thoughts and feelings as the character, and shows the teacher that they have truly thought about the story and their image. This can also take the form of adding sounds to a silent still image. However, this must be incorporated slowly so that the children do not get carried away and cause chaos.

In order to give meaning to the lesson in terms of a teacher’s point of view it is important that the children evaluate what they have achieved, what they would like to achieve next time and what they have learned. This brings the children together at the end of the lesson and can reinstate calm before either heading back to the classroom or getting on with other work.

These evaluations link to a cool down activity, which has the same purpose, which is to calm the children at the end of the lesson.

There are various cool down activities, just as there are with warm ups, however, this one caught my eye in keeping the concentration of the children right to the end of the lesson.

Pass the pencil – a detective goes out of the room and one pupil is given the pencil. The children  must then pass the pencil around the group without the detective seeing. The detective has 3 goes to work out who has the pencil.shcesey 053_pe

Another cool down that I remember from primary school is sleeping lions. While looking back this was just an excuse to give the teacher some peace and quiet, it is a good way to get the children to relax after a busy lesson, or indeed day. Basically all the children lie on the floor and when tapped by the teacher, they may line up at the door quietly – so that they don’t wake the other sleeping lions.

In overall reflection of the video, I think it lays out how to structure a drama lesson brilliantly, taking any teacher through the steps they need to know to keep control of the class while structuring a fun lesson. I agree with the teacher at the end of the video who states that the importance of drama is to bring the subject to life. I think this shows the versatility of drama across the curriculum to reinforce what the children have already learned, but to learn new skills at the same time.






Animation Fun

As 18 year olds we had great fun creating this animation, and I think a class full of eager children would feel the same.

This fun activity teaches the children the skills of using a camera, and also using a microphone to record sound. This can be done in the form of recording a song as we did, or the children can record their on voices to fit the animation. This kind of task if completed in a group can also teach the children about teamwork, and the importance of including everyone.

In terms of where animation can fit into the classroom, I believe it is a wonderful resource to link subjects across the curriculum. Allowing the children to create their own figures for the animation can be their art lesson, the recording of the animation can be their ICT lesson, and the subject of the animation can be varied to cover many different aspects in order to support the knowledge that the children already have.

I would say that animation slots into TCH 1-04b / TCH 2-04b:

“I can create, capture and manipulate sounds, text and images to communicate experiences, ideas and information in creative and engaging ways.”

I believe this to be the case as animation allows to the children to work with a range of media, including sound, text and images, to portray their knowledge in a different way, which can hopefully allow them to retain the information.