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

 

Express yourself!

“Thinking too much or too hard can get in the way of creativity.” (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2001, p27). This is something that really resonates with me as I am a very creative person, however I am also a person guilty of over thinking and putting a lot of pressure on myself. It is at these moments when the head takes over that I feel the need to stop, breathe and hand the reins back over to the heart, where creative expression is waiting to burst out. 

This year I decided to pursue the Expressive Arts elective and I could not be happier with my decision to do so! As someone who likes to express myself, I have really enjoyed exploring what teaching and learning through music, art, drama and dance can look like within a primary school context. It has also encouraged me to do a lot of self-reflection about who I am as a practitioner and the experiences I have had in my life which have given me such a strong connection with the arts.

The craze started young!

I can’t remember a time in my life where the arts did not play a key role. My parents are both very creative and as a result of this I have a lot of positive childhood memories of singing, playing a variety of instruments, doing arts and crafts, going to dance classes and much more. Some of my fondest childhood memories include my mum singing songs to my sisters and I to help us fall asleep at night and my dad using his guitar to take us on a ‘Bear Hunt’ around the garden at our birthday parties.

Having the confidence to stand up and perform in front of a large number of people is not something I shy away from, rather the opposite in fact! Since singing my first solo to an audience at age six, I have been drawn to any opportunity where creative performance is a prominent feature. Not only do I enjoy the performance aspect of expressive arts but I like being able to connect with an audience.

I think that being so heavily involved in, and enthusiastic about, expressive arts is something that has had a real impact on who I am as a person and, ultimately, who I am as a teacher. During my first year placement a teacher said to me that there are sometimes days in the classroom when you need to put on your ‘smiling teacher face’. By this she meant that there will be days when you feel awful but you still have to put a smile on your face as you are the person that those children look up to. In this respect teaching can be like putting on a performance- when you are in teacher role you take on the character that those children need you to be. This is something that has really stuck with me and  I always tried to put on my best ‘teacher face’.

Image from: http://ilovetypographywallpaper.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/believe-in-yourself_25.html

I believe it is important to have a good balance of performing the ‘teacher role’ and being yourself. This is something that I found very difficult in our first placement as I had only just started the journey of exploring who I was as a teacher and found myself trying to be the teacher I was observing rather than drawing on her practice and bringing myself to the placement. As I am normally such a confident performer, I became overly critical of myself for not being more ‘myself’ and struggled to bring my lively personality to the experience as much as I had hoped to- a perfect example of how thinking too much can get in the way of creativity!

However, in this last year there have been two main experiences, which have really boosted my confidence and have helped me to see that people are drawn to me when I am completely myself. The first of these was my second year placement at the International School of Stuttgart. I was delighted to be in a school setting for this placement and having reflected on the year before, I went into the experience with the intention of exploring who I am as a practitioner. In IB schools there is a big focus on international mindedness and valuing each individual for who they are. This encourages staff and pupils to learn from each other’s cultures and traditions and gave me the opportunity to be completely myself.

Grade 1 butterfly!

As a result of this open, welcoming atmosphere and my own personal goal of bringing more of myself to my teaching, I really enjoyed the experience and even turned up dressed as a butterfly on my second week! The children responded very well to this and as a result I was able to use the butterfly theme as a stimulus for other lessons. Having had positive feedback from pupils and teachers when acting more myself, I was able to really enjoy the lessons I planned and delivered.

The second of these two experiences was taking part in West End Stage Summer School. This involved a week taking part in workshops in singing, dancing and acting led by West End professionals in preparation for a performance in Her Majesty’s Theatre at the end of the week. In an environment where everyone was fully committed to giving their all in the different workshops, I felt fully able to express myself and as a result I was the happiest I have ever been. This hugely positive experience made me reflect on how I could use this passion and enjoyment to inspire children in the classroom. This is where the Expressive Arts module came at a perfect time! It has shown me how I can take the two things that I am passionate about (teaching and expressive arts) and interlink them.

Craft (2002, p91) says that “imagination and creativity involve an approach in life which begins with: ‘perhaps if’ or ‘what if’”. So why don’t we take more time as teachers to ask ‘what if’? It’s time to be yourself, express yourself!

 

 

References

Craft, A. (2002) Creativity and Early Years Education: A Lifewide Foundation. London: Continuum

Learning and Teaching Scotland (2001) Creativity in Education. Dundee: Learning and Teaching Scotland.

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.

Scientific Literacy- Group TDT

The term ‘Scientific Literacy’ is one that can often be heard in academic conversation but what does it actually mean? To be literate is having the “ability to read and write” (Oxford Dictionary, no date), therefore it would be assumed that being ‘scientifically literate’ is about having the knowledge to be able to understand different scientific concepts. However, scientific literacy is not just about knowing how to carry out a range of different experiments. It refers to having a knowledge of scientific concepts and being able to apply what we know to decisions that we make throughout our daily lives, regarding “personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs and economic productivity” (Literacy.net, no date). This entails that being scientifically literate gives you the proficiency to be able to “ask (about), find and determine” (NSES, no date) scientific experiments, and establish whether information that has been shared is of a reliable background. From this we can use individual methods to judge and evaluate the experiments, resulting in conclusions which have come from personal knowledge and research.

The best and most well-known example of scientific literacy, or a lack of scientific literacy- leading to inaccurate reporting- is the MMR vaccine scare. This started when a paper was published in 1998 and reported that twelve children had been found to have bowel syndrome and signs of autism after receiving the vaccine. However, the report provided no hard evidence to support the argument that there was any link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The main author of the report, Dr Andrew Wakefield, initially stated at a press conference that parents should avoid the MMR vaccine. It was later found that the author of the report did not have the medical qualifications to assess the risk of the MMR vaccine, and he was found guilty of four counts of dishonesty. These events had a major effect on public confidence in the MMR vaccine. Vaccination rates continued to fall, even after there were many reports showing that there was no link between the vaccine and autism. When it was found that Wakefield had actually been funded by a lawyer firm that wanted litigation against MMR, confidence eventually returned but a combination of poor scientific practice and lack of scientific literacy led to inaccurate reporting in the media for several years.

In terms of scientific literacy in the classroom, the process of fair testing is an important part to any science-based activity that you may be conducting with your pupils. Therefore, it is vital that you teach them just how important this element is. Fair testing means that only one factor is changed at any one time ensuring that all the other conditions are left the same throughout. In scientific terms, changing a factor is known as changing a variable. It is essential that children understand the effects that changing one or more variables has in order to fully understand the experiments you teach them. But how does teaching fair testing link to scientific literacy? By making your children aware of fair testing, you are stating that an experiment will have no deliberate advantages or disadvantages as they follow a procedure that will provide a legitimate outcome. Through this, students will then be able to “identify questions and draw evidence-based conclusions”. Fair testing ensures that there is less of a bias within the experiment. Scientific literacy is linked to fair testing through the fact that it is “evidence-based” and not simply an answer that people are to believe. Fair testing helps to reduce this idea of “bad science” in schools. It will help your pupils to progress within their scientific literacy and encourage them to become more questioning, providing results that have evidence to back up the findings.

 

References

Literacy.net (no date): Scientific Literacy: [online] Available from: <http://www.literacynet.org/science/scientificliteracy.html> [10/02/16]

National Science Education Standards (no date): Chapter 2 – Principles and Definitions: [online] Available from: <http://www.nap.edu/read/4962/chapter/4> [10/02/16]

OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] (2003) The PISA 2003 Assessment Framework – Mathematics, Reading, Science and Problem Solving Knowledge and Skills. Paris: OECD.

Oxford Dictionary (no date): Literate: [online] Available from: <http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/literate> [10/02/16]

Radio 4, Science Betrayed, Thursday 24 March 2011 at 20:59 (available online at http://bobnational.net/record/55921)

 

John Muir, Shaun Finnigan, Danielle Mackay, Rachel Billes