Category Archives: 3.4 Prof. Reflection & Commitment

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.

 

 

Exciting Animations!

In our first technology workshop we looked at how to make different types of animation and good ways of using and teaching these techniques in the classroom.

The first activity was making a flip book animation with a folded over piece of paper. The instruction was to start by drawing something on the inside of the paper. When the paper is folded over you should be able to see the image shining through, providing an ‘onion skin’ so that the next drawing can be drawn with only a slight alteration. This then allows the image to move when the paper is opened and shut at regular intervals. When doing this task with a class it is important to be prepared with folded pieces of paper for the pupils in the class, as they may not fold them exactly in half and the activity may not work as well. A clear demonstration will also be necessary to ensure that the pupils fully understand the task.

We then tried making another type of flip animation using the corner of our notepads; however post-it notes would be the best resource to use for this activity. The video below describes how this type of animation works.

Our third animation activity involved recreating a scene from the film ‘Frozen’ using the programme ‘Pivot Animator’. Like the previous activity this programme is designed so that you can make a scene using stick men and then make subtle changes to the picture using the ‘onion skin’ as a guide. This sequence of pictures makes the animation come to life. In the classroom you may choose to pick a story line or ask the children to recreate a specific scene from a film, as we did with the film ‘Frozen’. We learnt how to add different characters, how to change the colour of the characters and how to make our own characters. It may take a whole lesson to explain one of these skills to your class depending on their stage. It is also important to avoid teaching more than 3 new ICT skills in one lesson as it can be overwhelming for some pupils.

The above video is an example of an animation created using ‘Pivot Animator’. This is one of the very few videos on youtube, made using this programme, that does not involve any violence or inappropriate images. This is why it is important to be clear with your pupils that although others are using the programme in this way, it is a great classroom tool and similar inappropriate use will not be tolerated in the classroom setting.

For our third and final activity we worked in pairs and were shown how to use plasticine models to create an animation using the programme ‘Zu3D’. We learnt how to use cameras which plugged into the computer and that it was important to take five shots for each frame as it took an average of 25 scenes before the video was only a second long. We were also shown how to add in text at the start and end of the video and sound, if we wanted to include these aspects in our animations. Finally, we were shown how to save our animation in video format. A copy of our animation is available to download and view below.

 

Using animation in the classroom is not only a great way of teaching ICT skills but an opportunity to draw on other areas of the curriculum such as literacy, music and art. For example, the animation could be used as a stimulus for a story writing exercise. The children could also consider the use and impacts of the music used for animations and could even choose a piece of music as a stimulus for their animation. The plasticine models allow a link with art and the making of the actual animations requires team work and co-operation. It allows the pupils to be creative and to explore new ways of creating and developing ideas through the use of technology.

The Mystery that is Mathematics

What is the first thing that you think of when someone says maths? Do you feel full of confidence and excitement or rather dread and fear?

During our first maths input this afternoon, I realised just how many people experience the latter mentioned feelings of fear and anxiety. There were even people who talked about feeling physically sick just at the thought of it. Why is this? As teachers it will be important to think about why maths is such a huge cause for concern, for so many, and what methods can be used to change peoples’ attitudes toMaths Jokes.009wards such an important part of the curriculum.

A main point that came out of the discussions during the workshop was that if people did not feel like they were good at maths they kept that mentality throughout their time at school, and still find it difficult to see the opportunities to become more confident in this subject. When we are challenged by something, especially as children, a natural reaction is often to switch off, shut things out or give up. I think this has something to do with feeling vulnerable and embarrassed, especially when we start comparing ourselves with others who seem to know it all.

I would like to spend some time sharing and reflecting on my own experience of maths in primary and secondary school. From when I first started school in primary 1 right up to primary 7, I found myself in all of the ‘top groups’ including maths. I always felt happy and confident during maths lessons and very able to explain to others how to get to an answer without much worry or concern. Of course there were areas which I found difficult but they didn’t make me scared or less confident in my abilities.

7caoz5RziMy high confidence in maths continued into the first couple of years of high school but I no longer enjoyed the lessons as much, as most of the work we did came straight from the textbook. I can’t quite pin-point the moment that I started to feel less confident in my abilities in maths but I know that it started to creep in during my exam years.

Our standard grade teacher encouraged us all to sit higher maths as she believed that we were all capable of continuing at that level. It was this confidence in our class that made me choose maths as a subject in fifth year. This was probably the year that knocked my confidence the most because I had always felt good at maths until this point. My parents arranged for me to be tutored in maths as I was able to do the work but perhaps required more time to go over areas of difficulty. That being said, I have forgotten a lot of what I learnt that year and have found myself telling others that maths is something I am not very good at, despite the fact that I managed to get a B in my Higher exam.

Looking back on my own experiences it is clear to me that a lot of our self esteem and self concept, especially in more difficult areas such as maths, comes from the teacher and their teaching style. My favourite maths lessons were the ones where we were able to do group tasks or challenges in order to find the solution to a problem.

Learning from peers can be very beneficial as one of your class mates may explain something to you, in a way that is easier for you to understand than what the teacher originally demonstrated. Explaining something to others, that you understand well, is also a great way of consolidating what you already know. During one higher maths lesson the teacher came over and heard me explaining how I worked through one of the questions to a class mate who was feeling confused. He told me that I should be a maths teacher to which I responded, “No way! I can only explain it well because I understand this bit.”

My main reflections on this topic are that you don’t have to have the highest qualification in maths to teach it well. As long as you find a way of understanding the maths that you need to teach your pupils and can help them to understand your methods in an enthusiastic, fun and interactive way then there is no need to feel anxious or scared.

hilbert-math-quote

Calling out for peace

The terrible news of the terrorist attack in Paris on Friday 13th November will not be new to many people. It is a story that has really struck a chord with me and makes me question; what kind of world are we living in? When innocent lives are being taken, and for what?

One of the biggest outcries on social media over the last couple of days has been the need to highlight more of these tragedies that different countries, around the world, are facing everyday. Just today there was another attack, this time in Kenya. (See article below)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-32169080

How are we now meant to move on as a society? What can we do to make a difference? And, most importantly, how can we as teachers address such serious issues in the classroom? It can be difficult to know where to start and whether or not children are ready to hear about some of the horror stories we are subject to every single day.

I think it is really important that, from an early age, children understand that violence is not the answer to solving problems. It always amazes me that people think that the way to achieve peace is through war. If people had the ability to see past hatred and violence and focused on loving one another then the world would be a much safer and happier place. This is a message that is important to share with children as we want future generations to live in peace. Psychologist, Marshall Rosenberg, has a very interesting take on the topic of ‘Compassionate Communication’ which I encourage you to read:

https://www.nwcompass.org/compassionate_communication.html

Another issue that has been raised after the recent terrorist attacks is the increase in Islamicphobia. I find it absolutely ridiculous that people are blaming all Muslims for the actions of a minority group who practise the same religion. This is why it is vital to teach religious education in schools, to help children understand that there are always going to be stigmas attached to certain religions but that doesn’t make all those who practise that religion bad people.

One way of helping children to understand such big issues is through music. There are so many beautiful and meaningful songs that really get the simple message across that it is important to strive for peace. Some examples of simple songs that can be used in the primary school are in the links below.

Overall, I think it is important that we inform children of world issues when they are at a stage of development when they are not going to just feel scared about these stories but will actually be able to communicate how they feel about the issues. It is important that we don’t cause them to live in fear but encourage each individual to make a difference. Something as simple as a session on reflective writing, poetry or through song could be a really effective lesson to cover some of the harder topics that are important to address.

Practitioner Enquiry- A Brief Insight

What is practitioner enquiry?Jack in the box

This image from the GTC Scotland website clearly shows that it is about practitioners engaging with teaching in a different way. It is very much about a continual learning process, where the teacher is responsible for furthering their own learning through continual research. This is a fairly new idea for teachers in Scottish schools; so why is it important?

Although it focuses on Australia, the video below is just as relevant to practitioners here in Scotland, as it highlights the importance of teachers and the role they play in schools.

As the video highlights, the best teachers are those who are the best learners. People who engage in current issues relating to education, and the world in general, are in a much better position to teach children about the world they are living in today. This gives the pupils a very relevant and diverse education, which enhances their learning in areas that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. It is clear that the best kinds of teachers are ones who take action.

All of the efforts that teachers put towards becoming a better enquiring practitioner should be relevant to providing their pupils with the best education they can. One of the biggest benefits of practitioner enquiry is that teachers can look further into particular topics and discover new ideas and theories behind these subjects. This will then enable them to make more elaborate, fun and engaging lesson plans and will allow them to continue on their learning journey beyond university.

A further bonus of practitioner enquiry is being able to talk about what you have learnt with a colleague and share new ideas and findings with one another. As one of the main challenges of this type of practice is feeling lonely or isolated, it is a great way of avoiding this situation. Another challenge might be if, during your research, your morals and beliefs are questioned or challenged. It may be that an idea you have never considered before causes you to take a completely new stance on a topic but this is not an easy shift to make.

As a professional, it is important to remember to use a variety of sources and not believe everything that one particular author has to say. A big part of practitioner enquiry is about asking questions. Why has the author taken this stance? What does this mean in relation to what I already know? How can I use this new knowledge to ensure that my pupils are getting the most out of my lessons?

As a student I think it will be important for me to remember to keep questioning my practice. It will be vital to do continual research to keep up with the fast pace world that we live in today. With massive advances in technology and the ever changing education system, I know just how important it will be to engage as an enquiring practitioner.