Category Archives: 3.3 Pupil Assessment

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.

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.

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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.