# Planning Investigations

Last week, we had a workshop about planning an investigation which I found really helpful. At the start of the workshop, our groups had to draw a picture of a scientist. This resulted in a handful of very similar images revolving around a middle-aged man with crazy, electrocuted hair wearing a lab jacket and holding a test tube. It really challenged me when the lecturer pointed out how no one had drawn a female scientist or one that was under the age of twelve or disabled or not middle/upper class. It hit me how much the stereotypes of society have infiltrated us all and the message that it sends to children- that they have be a certain kind of person to be a scientist.

Science begins when we start to question our everyday ideas. Iike this diagram of what we can do with children when we are questioning something in class. It follows a constructivist approach, in that we recognise our own misconceptions and intervene to challenge them by setting up a controlled experiment. This will result in the children and I reformulating our ideas and solidifying what we have found in the experiment.

Science experiments practice and develop a lot of different skills; observing, raising questions, predicting and hypothesising, planning and carrying out investigations, measuring, recording, evaluating and communicating. I thought that the planning sheets we used in our experiment were really helpful; planning an investigation can be quite daunting, but when you split it up it is a lot easier! I now feel a lot less nervous about planning an experiment with my pupils, and I plan to use the sheets with my class in the future.

# Ten Little Frogs…

In our mathematics and science module we have been looking at how picture books and nursery rhymes can be used to help children develop their understanding of mathematical concepts and language.

The book that I looked at is called ‘One, Two, Three, Four’ by Mary Grice. It is a book compiled of different poems with illustrations by Denis Wrigley. The poem I focused on in it is called ‘Ten Little Frogs’.

I believe that this poem can help children develop their understanding of subtraction. It could be used to give them a visual image of a subtraction question. You could tell the children the first part of the verse e.g. ‘ten little frogs sitting on a well, one leaned over and down he fell, frogs leap high and frogs leap low’ and then ask them to tell you how many frogs would be left. You could also challenge them by asking them if one came back how many there would then be, getting them to practice their addition skills. Even the mathematical words and concepts ideas of the frogs sitting on the well and how when they fell they fell down are being practiced.

Some of the mathematical language which might be practised are words like ‘subtraction, on, down, high, low, 1-10, total’. You could use toy frogs to act as a prop for the poem and to help the children count how many are left each time. It doesn’t even have to be toy frogs, the idea behind the poem can be adapted for a range of things.

# ACTION

Today, we were discussing about action and how to incorporate this into the everyday classroom life. I believe that action is important in further developing a pupil’s understanding of a topic/issue and that it is important to provide plenty of opportunities for pupils to reflect upon their actions.

Davidson (2009) points out the importance of tapping in to a child’s inner thoughts and being; ‘actions only have an enduring impact when they affect a student’s inner conviction, which requires genuine choice and genuine responsibility.’ This way, actions as a response will become a natural habit to a pupil and something that they genuinely want to do. This can start of with one person, but it is contagious and so hopefully this would spread throughout a classroom.

Action in a classroom does not necessarily mean always putting on big extravaganza bake sales to raise money for charity or going out into the community to garden for the elderly. It can be smaller things, such as apologizing to a friend that you have upset, or actively trying to remember to turn the light off after you have left a room to save electricity. Davidson (2009) talks about the importance of considering what children can directly affect or be involved in, rather than think about distant issues, ‘the more we focus on issues outside children’s spheres of influence, the more we highlight their powerlessness.’ In fact, choosing to not act is still a valid action and we shouldn’t overlook it. What is important is that regardless of how big or small, pupils see the importance of action, are aware of their responsibility and have a desire to act upon what they have been learning.

I watched this video and it gave me a lot to think about. It is amazing how the results show that the more children are involved and given opportunities and context for action, the more they achieve academically. Kiran Sethi points out in the video that pupils in her school who have been working as part of the ‘I can’ project were outperforming the top 10 schools in India in math, English and science.

It was inspiring to watch the videos of pupils in India making a change all over the country. From the video Kiran Sethi tells us of children teaching their illiterate parents to write, an auction raising 120000 Rs. for charity and the incredible story of 32 children stopping 16 child marriages! Stories of children even just going out into the local community and collecting plastic bags to reuse or filling potholes in the street are just as important because they are making a positive impact in that society. We may not be able to single handily stop water pollution or famine, but it is important that we inspire our pupils to do the little things that they can to help.

In the video, I was struck by how much children can achieve when they truly believe in something and work together. As Kiran Sethi said, ‘If adults believe in children and say ‘you can’, then, they will’! As a future teacher, it is important that I inspire my pupils to go out and take action, whether this is big or small. As Davidson (2009) says, ‘If we develop their character dispositions and ability to carry through on their choices, they can have a significant impact on the world later in life.’

References

Davidson, S. ‘Actions Speak Louder than Words’ in Davidson, S. & Carber, S. (2009) Taking the PYP Forward. Woodbridge: John Catt Educational Ltd.

# An inquiry into inquiry

One of my only memories from school about inquiry was when I was in P7 and we were studying Australia as a project. In pairs, we had to pick an Australian animal and were given laptops in school to compile a double sided page of information on our chosen animal using information we could find on the internet or in books etc. I think that some of the benefits of it was the fact that it was something that we were really interested in and excited to find out more about! We were given the freedom to find out what we wanted to know and note it down in our own way. It opened our eyes to the different ways that we could find out information and helped us practice the way of ordering/ sorting our information into suitable paragraphs and categories. I think that this enabled me to learn more because I feel I absorbed more of the information about my chosen animals this way. One disadvantage of this method is that (in particular on the internet) children could find a lot of false information, however, a given time of feedback would help to highlight this and correct it.

I observed a lesson in my placement class in which they were about to start the rainforest topic and so the pupils each produced one of the KWL graphs. It gave them time to reflect on what they already knew about the rainforest and to get excited to think about what they would have liked to learn about.

I think that this approach to learning is great because it lets the pupils feel like they are in control of their learning and can lead to them becoming a lot more eager to learn. It starts off a spark of curiosity in a pupil and leaves it open-ended so that the pupil is independent and free to search to find out more. It also helps the teacher to distinguish what their class already knows about something or any misconceptions that they may have. I think it is definitely a method I will use with my own class in the future.

# Creating a bilingual pre-school classroom

I thought that this was a very interesting interview with a bilingual teacher in Finland about trying to integrate a different language (Swedish) into her monolingual class; http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09500782.2015.1009092

I agree with the teacher that you could use songs and dances to initially settle them into the new language, but then the foreign language should be integrated more into everyday class life. For example, on my placement class, the lunch register was asked and answered in French. I know a teacher who greets and asks her class how they are every day in Spanish. Teachers could start off like this, by slowly integrating it into the classroom, seeing how pupils are responding, and then building upon that. This also highlights the fact that it can be done through dialogue; children don’t always need to be handed a worksheet to translate as this can get very monotone.

It is important that teachers don’t force the language upon their class, the teacher in the research said she would accept a response in either Swedish or Finnish. This gives the children the option, and would hopefully prevent them from resisting/ getting bored or annoyed at learning the language.

The teacher set realistic, achievable goals; to familiarise the class with Swedish, taking the pressure off the children to perform well in a test. When she felt she had achieved this goal with them, she built upon that. In a primary class, you could agree on set goals with them so that the pupils feel responsible for their learning and have a clear view of what they are working towards.

# Classroom Organisation and Management

I was given the task to design a classroom layout for a class of 28 pupils; 23 boys and 5 girls. This is the classroom layout I designed;

I would really like to have a smart board and a white board so that demonstrations can take place in different areas of the classroom. I have heard of many schools bringing in iPads or tablets for their pupils and I think this is a great idea! This fits in with the GTCS SFR: 2.1.4 Have knowledge and understanding of contexts for learning to fulfil their responsibilities in literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing and interdisciplinary learning and 3.1.3 Employ a range of teaching strategies and resources to meet the needs and abilities of learners . By using the tablets, lessons can be even more interactive and may make the pupils feel more relaxed and comfortable if it reminds them of the experiences they have at home.   I think it is important to have quite a lot of the desks facing the Smart Board as this is probably one of the most used classroom resources and so saves the children craning their necks. Beside the Smart Board there is a list of classroom rules, therefore, whilst the children are looking at the front they can be reminded of what is expected of them. At the start of the school year the class could discuss/suggest this list of rules and this list being beside the Smart Board means that I can easily point to it to remind the pupils of the rules we agreed on. This comes under the GTCS SFR: 3.2.2 Develop positive relationships and positive behaviour strategies and 3.1.5 Work effectively in partnership in order to promote learning and wellbeing.

I have arranged the tables so that the pupils will hopefully have a good view of both the White board and the Smart Board. I think that the ‘L’ shape of the tables will enable the teacher to move around smoothly and be able to reach any child easily who may need help etc.

I placed the teacher’s desk at the side near the back so that I have a good view of all the pupils in the classroom .Beside the teacher’s desk is a white board because I know that they are a common feature in classrooms and I think that they are practically very handy. They can be used, for example, to remind one group of the work they should be doing whilst the other board is used. I also placed the desk in between the Interactive Learning Zone and the Quiet Zone so that I can easily keep an eye on these areas and make sure that they are being used properly.

There is a Quiet Zone at the front right of the class. This is an area where children can come to ‘cool down’, have a ‘time out’ or do some silent reading. It could also be used to gather a smaller group in the class to teach. This comes under the GTCS SFR:3.2.1 Create a safe, caring and purposeful learning environment.  It is opposite the Interactive Learning Zone at the back of the classroom. Since the majority of the class are boys, I thought that it was important to have an area where they could come and do some practical, hands-on learning. This area will be filled with different resources, such as building blocks, number games and  a range of other tasks. This fits in with the GTCS SFR: 3.1.3 Employ a range of teaching strategies and resources to meet the needs and abilities of learners .

There is also a ‘finished work tasks’ board for pupils to give them options other than just silent reading/ Interactive Learning Zone when they are finished their work. This will contain tasks such as quiz questions, poster ideas and crosswords etc. which the pupils can complete at their desks. This will  prevent the Interactive Learning Zone and the Quiet Zone from becoming too overcrowded.  All three areas are placed very far apart to prevent overcrowding. This comes under the GTCS SFR: 3.2.1 Create a safe, caring and purposeful learning environment.

I also want to have a ‘compliment board’ in my classroom. I think it is important to create a positive atmosphere and  a classroom environment where children know that they are accepted for who they are. If they have confidence in themselves, then this will hopefully influence their motivation to learn and to work hard. Also, in today’s society , there is a pressure among males in particular to keep  their feelings bottled up and to not show any emotion. There is a pressure among both genders to look and act a certain way. By creating this safe environment, I hope that it will encourage the pupils to be trusting and open to sharing if anything is bothering them. This also fits in with the GTCS SFR: 3.2.1 Create a safe, caring and purposeful learning environment.

Around the walls I will have examples of all of the pupils’ work to show them that they should be proud and to really make it feel like it is ‘their’ place. There will be a welcome board containing some information about each pupil (which they will write them selves). This is so that visitors can find out more about the class and so that each pupil knows that they are an important member of the class. I will have an achievements wall which will be updated regularly. There will also be an information board near the door containing, for example, registration notices and lunch menus. This is so that pupils can check it as they come in and so that they are reminded that they are in a classroom and so they are reminded of what is expected of them.

# Intertwining drama into lessons

As a child, I used to love putting on dramatic performances, whether it was in front of the school in the Christmas plays, or simply in front of my family in the comfort of my own home. I loved going to the drama club at my Church every week and secretly dreamt of one day being an actress (who knows, there’s still time).

The great thing about drama is that it is so versatile! It can be easily applied and shaped into any subject. It is a way of reinforcing what the pupils have been learning. Speaking from experience, I know that drama can bring a topic to life and can make learning fun and interactive. There are many different ways to integrate drama into a lesson; it can be used as a summary of a lesson, as a way to develop the class’ peer assessment skills or as a relaxing activity at the end of the day. I have researched three conventions with suggestions of how they can be applied in the classroom;

Conscience Alley

This method could be used when looking at a range of subjects. For example, the influences and reasons for alcohol / drug abuse, what different religions would have to say about a particular issue/topic or even simply in reading when a character has to make a decision. The class forms two lines facing each other. One person walks between the middle of lines as each member of the line gives their advice regarding the situation. This could be done so that each line is giving opposing advice. When the person reaches the end of the tunnel they have to make their decision.

Soundscape

This convention could be used to set the scene of a story being studied in an english lesson. It could also be used to imitate the atmosphere surrounding an important historical event in a history lesson or to recreate the buzz of a city or the peace of the country in a geography lesson. One person acts as a conductor whilst the rest of the class are the ‘orchestra’. Using their voices and bodies, the class tries to create a ‘soundscape’ of a particular theme or mood, for example the seaside, a city, a jungle.

Thought Tracking

This convention would go hand-in-hand in literacy when reading a story or even in a social studies lesson when discussing how a historical figure felt at a significant point. It starts off with a freeze frame then each character in the freeze frame explains how they feel and the situation that they are in.