Category Archives: 3.1 Teaching & Learning

Conquering the Fear of the Unknown

Have you ever been in a situation where you have felt completely unprepared, perhaps overwhelmed or just scared because you were faced with something brand new? Maybe it was something as small as taking a mode of public transport to somewhere you had never been before or walking into a room full of people you had never met. I am sure we have all been in a similar situation at some point in our lives, but what is it that makes something that seems so small such a big deal? As someone who has particularly struggled in situations where the final outcome is not clear, I wanted to explore why this is and what it could mean in relation to my practice. Why is it that we can be so fearful of the unknown?

Take some time to watch the video below. Particularly focus in from 6:13 to 8:34:

This idea that teachers are surprised when pupils won’t enter into open-ended projects, yet show little confidence when asked to do exactly that, has made me question whether it is the fear of the unknown instilled by teachers and other adults that makes children and young people equally as terrified to attempt a task without knowing what the end result will be. This idea has made me reflect on my own experience of school, when most subjects had a clear timeline, from start to finish, of intended learning and what should be achieved in order to pass the next test or exam. There were very few occasions, if any, when a teacher said that we were going to find out something new without having a very clear, tick-box idea of what the outcome of the lesson would be for the class as a whole. This was where university came as quite a shock to many people, as we were suddenly all expected to take a very individual, critical stance on assignments which did not come with a set list of do’s and don’ts. Even now there are people who struggle the fact that we are not told exactly what is expected of us in every submission as this is how we have learned to behave throughout our time at school.

At this point in my professional development I have being doing a lot of reflection on the benefits of allowing children to take ownership of their own learning and presenting them with opportunities to learn skills that will be transferable in other aspects of their lives. A perfect example of this type of approach is the transdisciplinary learning model, most commonly used in International Baccalaureate schools. This approach is distinct from multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary learning as its goal is to allow children to create new ideas and form deeper levels of understanding of the world they live in, by blurring subject boundaries and creating an environment which enables rich, authentic learning to take place (IBO, 2010).

As a teacher I have often found myself feeling the need to take control, however recently I have wondered whether this is where the fear of the unknown comes from. Without knowing what is to come, it is difficult to have a feeling of being in control. Maybe letting go of the need to be so in control is something that will allow for new learning opportunities to occur. By taking risks in my own practice, I hope to model to my pupils that by stepping into the unknown there will be new opportunities to enjoy and connections to be made but there will also be challenges to face. I believe that if children learn these transferable skills at a young age then they will be more set up to deal with other challenges they face in the future.

 

References

IBO (2010) The Primary Years Programme as a Model of Transdisciplinary Learning. Cardiff: International Baccalaureate Organization.

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.

The sky is the limit!

After spending some time reading other people’s ePortfolio blog posts this morning, I have come away quite enlightened. Throughout the time I have spent writing my blog posts, reflecting on my personal development and discovering new aspects of the curriculum, I have adapted and improved my blogs as I have been inspired by the other posts I have read.

imagesOne of my more recent discoveries was how to align pictures alongside text as I think that it makes the blog  nicer to look at and easier to read. This is something that I have seen done by
many others and wanted to incorporate it into my own posts.

Something else that I would like to start integrating into my posts is direct links to professional practice and more references to academic text. This will take more time and commitment on my part but ultimately I will need to take this step forward in order to further my professional development.

One of the most exciting posts that I read today was about classroom management. This post used the computer game ‘Sims 4’ to design the layout of  a classroom. (See below)

https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/glowblogs/cebeportfolio/2016/01/06/180/27c268b

As I was reading this post I felt lots of little light bulbs going off in my head. What a great
example of thinking outside the box! It reminded me that with education the sky really is the limit. If more of us were to take that step outside of the box then just imagine how the future of education could be transformed. This has inspired not only the way I write my blog posts but the way I look at how I will be an engaging and fun teacher, whilst focusing on the 8 key areas of the curriculum. As is highlighted in the Disney film ‘Big Hero Six’, you sometimes need to look for a new angle.