Category Archives: 2 Prof. Knowledge & Understanding

But what does learning look like?

They’re sitting quietly with chairs tucked in

The lunches are done and the register complete

The daily timetable has all been discussed

But what does learning look like?

 

The jotters are out and the pencils are sharp

The learning intention is up on the board

The textbooks are there if we need a fallback

But what does learning look like?

 

Times tables recited and learned by heart

The Es&Os covered, highlighted and starred

Each reading group heard and the homework is set

But what does learning look like?

 

The wall displays perfect with no room for error

Partner work is only allowed if you whisper

If you’re finished just turn to the next page of work

But what does learning look like?

 

Attainment to uphold and gaps to close

A pile of marking that never ends

A ‘teacher face’ put on like a mask

But what does learning look like?

 

Jimmy came in with a cut on his knee

Lucy’s dog passed in the night

Abdhul has a new baby brother

Maja learned to ride her bike

Aedan loves football but hurt his ankle

Kayleigh can’t wait to do her turn at show and tell

Sarah is tired and hungry today

Max doesn’t want to be here at all

Esther loves music and is learning violin

Grant had a fight on the street again

Kris is excited to use the Ipads

Mary is anxious about leaving dad

Eric is quiet but happily so

Harry is still in ‘holiday mode’

Lola is sneezing and full of the cold

Anna just needs a hand to hold

Eddie is freezing

Sally, too warm

But what does learning look like?

 

Each child is unique and so learning is too

What I learn will not be the same as you

What can look like learning may be built on ideals

So what are the more pressing questions here?

 

Are your children safe, happy, secure?

Were they welcomed as they came in the door?

Can they trust each other and have their voices heard?

Are there times to be noisy, creative and free?

Is the ethos ‘us’ or ‘them and me’?

Are they seen as a person or behaviours displayed?

Are they challenged and given the time to play?

Is learning dictated or stemming from questions?

Is everything done in the children’s best interest?

 

But what does learning look like?

Different every day

With the child at the centre steering the way

Relationships embedded and a team that is strong

Mistakes are to grow from and not seen as wrong

 

Learning will happen in many which ways

What did learning look like in your classroom today?

 

Image available at: https://relationshipinstitute.com.au/news/questions-therapists-ask-us/ (accessed 29.01.19)

The Power of Music

This is a topic that I have considered writing about for some time now, particularly in the lead up Christmas where music plays a big part in my own life and, I am sure, in the life of many others.

Music is something quite unique to anything else in life. It holds power. The power to bring people together, to share stories of joy and sadness, to move people, to make people move, to encourage stillness, silliness and to celebrate good times. However, there is another power at work behind music that is perhaps of a more controversial nature. For recently, although the good tends to outweigh the bad, I have found that music can sometimes have the power to make people feel excluded or ‘lesser’ than others. You may be wondering how it could possibly be the case, that such a simple thing can contain the power to simultaneously unite and reject?

To put this idea into a context, I invite you to imagine a young child called Sam. Sam spent every day singing everywhere; in the shower, in the street, in the middle of a supermarket, you name it! Sam had a song for everything. It was not only the words and melodies of songs that resonated with this child but the feeling of familiarity and freedom that they sensed when singing- an emotional outlet that could not be otherwise replicated. One day, Sam decided to audition for the school choir. Although a little nervous, they sensed a great feeling of anticipation and excitement waiting to be heard by the music teacher. After belting out their favourite tune with the greatest gusto, Sam looked up to see the music teacher with head in hands. The teacher looked up and laughed, not only did they laugh but they told Sam that they would never stand a chance in the ‘music business’ and that singing really ‘wasn’t for them’. Sam was confused. No one had ever been so brutally honest. Was this honesty? Sam froze to the spot but managed to hold in the tears until home time. Sam did not sing again that night, that week, that month or in fact that year. Whenever the thought entered their head all they could think of was those words telling them they could not and were not good enough. Having lost this outlet, Sam found it difficult to express them self and decided to put up barriers to any experience that may involve singing in front of others.

It was not until many years later, when Sam was at a friend’s birthday party that- after a few drinks- they found them self joining in with a session of karaoke. Sam’s friends watched in awe as they had never seen or heard their friend sing and could see the immense joy in their friend’s eyes as they sang each word with a deep sense of conviction. After the performance Sam burst into floods of tears. They had forgotten the powerful feeling of expressing them self through song. The performance was not ‘pitch-perfect’ but it did not matter. The support given and love felt in that moment was a turning point in Sam’s life. Gradually they started to find more opportunities to sing, and although the niggle in the back of their head telling them they were not good enough was smaller, it always remained.

Although this is a completely fictional tale, I am sure there are many of us who know a ‘Sam’ in our lives; whether that be a friend, a family member, a child in your class or maybe you can relate directly to this experience. As someone who has had a very musical upbringing, this is the kind of story which deeply saddens me. However, it is not something I am unable to relate to in any way. I would argue that, in life we naturally look in longing at those we would consider ‘better’ than us, ‘smarter’, ‘more talented’ and wonder why we could not be something more than who we are. I would therefore argue that it is not actually music itself that has the power to make a person feel ‘lesser’ than who they are, but they language we use around music and the expectations we put on ourselves to always be something more than what we are. It is important that we do not lose sight of the word ‘expressive’ in the title ‘Expressive Arts’. Music is not just about playing or singing every note in tune, with perfect rhythm and largest range. It is about expression and the freedom that comes with letting go of the things that we bottle up inside of us. Have you every been moved to tears by a piece of music? What was it that had this effect on you? Was it the performer’s ability to sing each note perfectly in tune or was it the emotion they conveyed their story with?

In this way, Music and Health and Wellbeing work hand-in-hand, but how often are we encouraging children to think about how music makes them feel? The Scottish Government (undated) highlights ‘feelings’ as a core experience in both of these subject areas.

“I have listened to a range of music and can respond by
discussing my thoughts and feelings.” EXA 1-19a / EXA 2-19a

“I am aware of and able to express my feelings and am developing the ability to talk about them.” HWB 0-01a / HWB 1-01a / HWB 2-01a

Therefore, I would urge you to consider the language you use around music ‘ability’. Not just when talking about others’ strengths but when talking about yourself, as a way of modelling this positive language to others. In response to the phrase:

“I can’t sing”

I would suggest a humorous answer, along the lines of:

“You may not be able to sing like Freddie Mercury but that does not mean you can not sing.”

Followed by the explanation that, by definition, to sing is “to produce musical tones by means of the voice” (Merriam-Webster, 2018). Not to be the best musician in the world or to even produce a recognisable tune, simply some ‘musical tones’, which separate singing from every day talking. I would like to encourage that we value music and singing particularly as an expression of the self, a way of letting out what is inside and learning to accept that this is part of who we are and that we are all enough. It is then that we will be able to feel the truly wonderful power that music holds to bring people together, to share stories of joy and sadness, to move people, to make people move, to encourage stillness, silliness and to celebrate good times.

Image available at: https://fleurdelyz.com/2015/03/29/quotes-on-music/the-power-of-music/ (accessed 16.12.18)

References

Merriam Webster (2018) Definition of sing. Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sing (accessed 16.12.18)

Scottish Government (undated) Curriculum for Excellence: Experiences and Outcomes. Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

Looking from the outside in…

During one of our drama sessions, as part of the ‘Developing Effectiveness in Learning and Teaching’ module, we were shown an old suitcase and asked who we thought it belonged to and why.

What did the tattered appearance tell us about who owned the case?

What about the size?

What other clues told us something about the owner?

From just looking at the outside of this case we were able to imagine that it belonged to a young evacuee child. Of course these were only assumptions and once the case has been opened, the contents gave away more clues about who this character might be.

This is a great activity to do with a class as it encourages children’s natural curiosity and allows them to use reasoning to deduce who the character they will be exploring could be. Asking children to justify why they think it is a certain character is a great way of allowing for a deeper level of understanding through discussion. One of the great things about drama, from an interdisciplinary viewpoint, is that it allows teachers to spark their children’s imagination and can make them want to find out more about this character- in this case it would act as a great link to “people, past events and societies” (Education Scotland, undated).

After engaging in this workshop I decided to create my own ‘character bag’ in the form of a treasure chest and filled it with items that a pirate might own (see images below).

Treasure chest

Stripy t-shirt, gold skull and cross bones chain, eye-patch, pirate sock, map, sword, bandana

I would use this particular resource with an early years class, which could then link into a story about pirates and further lessons using the pirate theme as a stimulus. An example of this could be asking the children to choose materials for the pirate’s ship that will not sink, which allows for a scientific experiment to take place. This is another example of how drama can act as a stimulus for subject areas across the curriculum.

 

References

Education Scotland (undated) Benchmarks: Social Studies. Available at: https://education.gov.scot/improvement/Documents/Social%20StudiesBenchmarksPDF.pdf (accessed 21.10.17)

I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down!

For this drama TDT we were asked to choose a well-known story and create ‘role on the walls to demonstrate how the main characters feel and how they are perceived by others. I worked in a group, with three others, and chose the story of ‘The Three Little Pigs’. Below are our ‘role on the walls’ for:

the pigs after their houses were blown down,

the pig whose house survived

and the wolf.

The task then required us to create a ‘still image carousel’ to retell the story using key scenes. Below are the still images which we used in our carousel.

The three pigs in their houses made of straw, sticks and bricks.

The wolf comes and blows down the house of straw.

The wolf blows down the house of sticks.

The wolf is unsuccessful in blowing down the house of bricks.

The three pigs celebrate in the house of bricks.

From a learner’s point of view, I was able to understand more about the characters in the story of ‘The Three Little Pigs’, by unpicking the feelings and traits of each character and by putting myself into the story using still images. I also enjoyed working as part of a group.

From a teaching point of view, I think this is a valuable activity for exploring a story at a deeper level. By using a familiar story, children would have the opportunity to focus on developing the characters and looking below the surface of what they already know. Allowing the children to work in groups may also encourage those who are not as confident to speak out in class to share their views. This lesson could be followed by a health and well-being lesson, looking and friendships and what it means to be lonely. It could also feed into an art and design lesson looking at architecture and building design.

Bringing objects to life

For one of the drama TDTs we were asked to choose an object and use the drama convention ‘visualisation’ to explore what it would be like if the object had human qualities (what it would see, how it would feel etc.). During our drama input we discussed the benefit of using visualisation to create a character. This way of developing a character allows children to use abstract thought and gives them the opportunity to look at a situation from a different perspective.

As I looked around my room to choose an object I realised the significance that some of the objects have in my everyday life but had never thought to stop and consider this before. I decided to pick my bed and came up with the following dialogue portraying the thoughts that a bed might have. This type of activity is known as ‘writing in role’.

Image from: http://www.cambridgebedcentre.co.uk/wooden_frames.html

Another day sat here in this corner. I’ve got four legs but never left these four walls…who am I kidding? I couldn’t even fit through the door if I tried. Well, that is, unless they took me apart completely and then put me back together again. No. I have a service to provide and it is a very important one. I am the constant in her life. Always there when she comes in after a long day, ready to support her as she tries to reenergise from the stresses of the day, I am a comfort. The day she got her first job, I was there. When she had her first missing home breakdown, I was there. When she stayed in her pyjamas all day with a snuffly nose and a box of tissues close at hand, I was there supporting her every second. I see her ups and downs, successes and failures, happy days and heartaches and hear every silent prayer that she whispers each night before she falls asleep. There are days when I wish I could hold her all day long and protect her from the outside world. I get the sense she feels the same way as she often hits the snooze button multiple times just to spend that extra few minutes in my care. As much as I wish I could get up and go with her each day, to fight off the troubles the world throws at her, these moments remind me why I need to stay right here where I am.

After completing this task we were asked to consider how a human character could be developed from our chosen object. This is a useful tool for building a character’s identity as coming up with a complex character can be challenging and the previous activity can act as a stimulus to start ideas flowing.

 Human character description:

  • A mother of a young woman who has been involved in a car accident and is paralysed from the waist down.
  • As a result of this she has put on a lot of weight and has become quite depressed as she can never leave her bed.
  • Her daughter visits her everyday and tells her stories of the outside world.
  • She often reminisces about ‘the good old days’ and memories from before the accident.
  • She wishes she could stand up and walk out the room with her daughter every time she leaves and finds it very difficult every time they say goodbye.
  • It is hard for her not to be with her daughter every step of the way.

From a learner’s point of view, I really enjoyed doing these tasks, particularly the first one, as the use of abstract and creative thought behind the task meant that there was very little scope for getting it wrong. This is an aspect that I enjoy about drama, as there are many opportunities to think outside the box and very few times when you are able to be wrong about something, as it is your own creative response to a situation. The security of knowing you can’t be wrong provides the opportunity for children to share their ideas in a safe space.

From a teaching point of view, I think that some children would benefit from being given a specific object and examples of a final outcome before they try and address this task. Depending on the age and ability of the children, this task does not need to be written but can be discussed in groups, pairs or as a whole class. A link could also be made to literacy as “there are close links… between the expressive arts and creative writing” (Scottish Government, undated, p3).

 

References

Scottish Government (undated) Curriculum for Excellence: Principles and Practice and Experiences and Outcomes. Edinburgh

 

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish

Before our recent Mathematics input, I had never considered using stories as a way of exploring mathematical language and concepts. I’m sure most people would agree that stories are first and foremost thought of as something linked to literacy and language. However, after reading the well-known Dr Seuss book, “One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish” I was amazed by how many mathematical concepts could be covered if this short story was unpicked.

The first obvious concept that is addressed by this book is counting but there are also many others. Below I have highlighted the main mathematical concepts that could be explored through this book, based on the mathematical language used by the author.

 

Counting, Addition and Subtraction:

  • One, two, three, four etc.
  • Take (subtraction, numbers less than)
  • More (addition, numbers greater than)

Time:

  • Today
  • Tomorrow
  • Every day
  • Was (concept of the past)
  • Long (length of time)

Speed:

  • Fast
  • Slow

Distance:

  • Here
  • There
  • High
  • Low
  • Near
  • Far

Temperatures:

  • Hot
  • Cold

Shapes:

  • Kite
  • Box
  • Ring
  • Fat
  • Thin
  • Little
  • Long
  • In/out (looking at 3D shapes and volume/depth)

Directions:

  • Up
  • Right
  • Left
  • Pull

Measuring

  • Grow
  • Long
  • Some
  • Lot

There are many props/ resources that can be used to aid the exploration of these different concepts in a story telling setting. As this story covers many different aspects I am going to focus on Counting, Addition and Subtraction. One great resource to help children in the early years with these concepts are counting bears (see image).

Image from http://www.earlyyearsresources.co.uk/numeracy-c46/data-handling-c326/counting-bears-p10999

As this story talks about different colours, the bears allow children to see that counting can be done with objects that look the same but also objects that are different. Instead of “One fish, two fish” you could say “One bear, two bears…” and start by counting on. If the children are ready to move on to counting backwards the bears can be counted back into the tub. Language such as “Take two bears away” or “Add one more” can link the language used in the story directly to the activity.

Number lines are also great resources for counting , adding and subtracting as they act as a good visual for children. Without these visual representations, counting can be seen as quite an abstract concept and some children simply start by learning the number sequence 1-10 before seeing the relevance of each number.

The type of question used to assess children’s understanding might be, “If I have three bears and add on four more bears, how many will I now have?” This models the kind of mathematical language that is expected and, depending on their answer, shows if a child has understood the concept or not.

Placement Reflections 1PP1

Having just come to the end of my first year placement, I would like to share some of my reflections from the last 4 weeks. In the first week I was quite overwhelmed by the workload faced by every teacher. This was on top of being solely responsible for and managing a class of 29 pupils with varying abilities, needs and language barriers. It was a steep learning curve for me as I had never experienced anything like it, particularly as I had never had the experience of planning lessons during my previous experiences in a classroom setting.

One of my first challenges was keeping the class focused on a task when the class teacher was not in the room. This meant that I had to show my authority as a teacher but found that I would have to gain the respect of the class. I had to stop at regular intervals to tell the class that the noise level was unacceptable and became quite agitated and stressed. After reflecting on the lesson and discussing with the class teacher, she suggested adopting her approach of counting down from 5, getting quieter on every number, as the class knew that this means it is time to give you their attention. I started to use this strategy and it  made a positive difference.

Although this strategy worked to begin with, the class started to ignore me when I used this strategy and so it did not work as well for me as it did for the class teacher. After discussing this issue with the class teacher she suggested I used my own behaviour management strategy. This is something that I developed over the third and fourth weeks of the placement. Pollard (2008, p.304) states that tone of voice and customary routines can be used as children arrive to achieve quiet. The strategy I used involved me saying “hands on heads, shoulders, ears… (etc.) fingers on lips.” The order of body parts I said changed each time to keep the class focused but I always started with “hands on heads” and finished with “fingers on lips.” This let the class know that they should have everything out of their hands and be ready to listen to instructions.  At first, some children were resistant to join in and so the class teacher encouraged me to praise those who were participating and to give the class something to work towards, such as house points or fuzz balls. After giving out 5 house points to one child, I immediately saw other children trying harder with the strategy.

Something else that I needed to work on was being more relaxed while teaching. I found that when taking a small group I was able to be more relaxed and consequently their behaviour was much better. I was also more relaxed when I knew my lesson plans well and as a result didn’t have to focus as much on the content of what I was teaching. This gave me more head space to think about behaviour management strategies, body posture, tone of voice etc. Through feedback from the class teacher and from my formative assessment, I  learned that the children needed me to be very structured and consistent in my learning style as they  were more likely to trust someone who is confident about what they are teaching. Medwell and Simpson (2008, p.107) say that the most important thing is to appear confident.

This confidence is something that I had to build throughout the 4 weeks. By the end of the four weeks I was able to see that the children responded much better to lessons that I showed confidence in teaching. If I was at all unsure about an aspect of the lesson the children became confused and this was reflected in the results of the activities. Rogers (2011, p.193) says that pupils very quickly get an idea of whether or not a teacher is in control, and that they feel more secure in their knowledge if the teaching style is confident, authoritative and positive. When the children were at all unsure or thought I was not in control of the lesson, they became restless and didn’t follow my instructions.

One of the main aspects of my practice that I had to work on was the pace of my lessons. During the first week I had the children sitting on the carpet for too long, on a couple of occasions, which caused them to become bored and restless. Hayes (2006, p.45) says that “decisions have to be made about the time spent reviewing and revising existing knowledge”. This is something I needed to take on board as it was an area that I was picked up on after my formative assessment, as it slowed down the pace of the lesson. I made improvements to the pace of my lessons by using resources, such as online timers, and by selecting a few children to answer questions rather than listening to every child’s answer.

At the end of the second week I realised that I needed to manage my time better. Planning in advance allowed me to have meaningful discussions with the class teacher about my lessons and allowed for changes to be made if need be. I also needed to think about making my lessons more challenging and exciting. This required me to look at the second level experiences and outcomes and to come up with activities that were engaging and would motivate the class.  “Effective teachers try hard to make learning fun and effective; they take into account different pupil needs, yet maintain discipline and help pupils to achieve high standards of work” (Hayes, 2006, p.20). In the last couple of weeks of my placement, I worked hard to come up with more exciting activities that I could differentiate to meet the needs of every pupil.

Over the course of the placement, I learnt a lot about teaching a class that includes children with additional support needs, particularly those on the autistic spectrum. I learnt that some of these children have triggers that can make them upset or angry. This can be something as small as a word or phrase that has been used by the teacher, which they have particular associations with, or can be caused by the behaviour of others in the class. Change is also something that children with autism can find particularly challenging. Attfield and Morgan (2007, p.32) say that a prime reason for behaviour difficulties for a child with autism is anxiety, which is often caused by uncertainty, change and unfamiliarity of people and places. This anxiety can lead to anger and frustration, which may come across as aggression but the child is actually just feeling overwhelmed. This is something that I witnessed , as a child with autism was annoyed by a peer and became aggressive. This made me realise the importance of building relationships with these children and knowing how to make them feel calmer in these situations. Plimely (2006, p.17) talks about the vital importance of keeping in touch with parents/carers of children with additional support needs so that all adults involved in the care of these children are able to help them through the events that have happened. Developing these good home/school links is of vital importance when considering what is best for these children.

Overall, the main aspects that I will take away from this placement is that I need to have more confidence and be more relaxed when teaching, in order for some of my personality to come through. I need to make sure activities are planned in enough time that changes can be made if necessary and also so that they are as engaging and motivating as possible. It is important not to make assumptions about the stage of any child and to use results of activities to know what the next steps are for the children.

 

References

Attfield, E. and Morgan S. (2007) Living with Autistic Spectrum Disorders: Guidance for Parents, Carers and Siblings. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Hayes, D. (2006) Inspiring Primary Teaching: Insights into excellent primary practice.  Exeter: Learning Matters Ltd.

Medwell, J. and Simpson, F. (2008) Successful Teaching Placement in Scotland. Exeter: Learning Matters Ltd.

Plimely, L. (2006) Supporting Pupils with Autistic Spectrum Disorders: A Guide for School Support Staff. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Pollard, A. (2008) Reflective Teaching (3rd ed.) London: Continuum.

Rogers, B. (2011) You Know the Fair Rule.