Ruby Baxter UWS

November 14, 2017
by Ruby Baxter
1 Comment

My BA1 Placement 2017

The initial prospect of stepping out of my front door for the first time as ‘Miss Baxter’ seemed a daunting, yet exciting one. Having moved to Scotland in 2015 from a privatised, secondary girl’s academy near Liverpool; to a mixed, high-performing and prestigious school in East Renfrewshire, gave me a small taste of what the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) had to offer.  Having gained the vast majority of my primary school experiences within English primary schools, I felt as though it was my duty as an aspiring primary school teacher, to research and educate myself fully on what the CfE entailed within a junior school. To do this, I sought out information within the Education Scotland website and other similar government pages in order to grasp a firm understanding of the aims and features of the CfE before I set off into a school.

My first week was spent working closely with a primary 2 class, observing and shadowing the class teacher; but also, being fortunate enough to take groups of the class to either assist with tasks, reinforce a topic or support children with reading. One of my initial tasks was completing the ‘Burt’ reading test with half of the class- my placement partner would later complete the other half of the class. The reading test was especially interesting as it allowed me to see the vast range of abilities within a single classroom that the teacher must consider. Within this particular class, the mean reading age results showed as 6 years 6 months whereas the mode of the results showed a 5-year gap- the largest age being 10.11 and the youngest being 5.11. This is a large age gap of 5 years and catering for every child’s needs, whilst challenging them to the best of their individual ability can also be a challenge to teaching staff across all subject matter.

The class were studying the topic of pirates which they were extremely excited for, the teacher began the topic by inviting the pupils to write on a small black flag using a white crayon, what they already know but also what they would like to find out. I thought that this was a lovely way of encouraging children from an early age to consider taking charge of the direction of their own learning, but also promoting children to be inquisitive and ask questions within the classroom. This fortunately relates back to Hargie Owen’s literature about skilled interpersonal communication in which he states that students may only ask approximately 2 questions an hour. This therefore provides evidence that questions are something that need to be encouraged within our classrooms. This is something my assigned teacher was highlighting to her pupils in a fun, enjoyable and anxiety-free way.

One of my favourite experiences within the Pirate topic was assisting the class with their letter writing task; this was because it allowed me to see how children explored a theme using their imaginations and how enthusiastic they were doing so. In order to support the pupils with this task I would prompt them; for example, in the form of asking questions or suggesting an idea, resulting in an idea from the student- almost like a ‘lightbulb’ moment. As a teacher, seeing this for the first time is highly rewarding and satisfying- it is as though you have helped that pupil achieve and grow that little bit more. A development need for myself within the topic of writing, literacy and reading- involving the aspect of communication would be that a primary 2 student asked me if I was “speaking another language” because of my slight ‘scouse’ accent. Realising the student had a misunderstanding of the difference of language, dialect and accent; I explained where I came from, the difference of language and accent but also considered the way in which I talk- specifically my accent. I also considered how that can be a distraction to many students as they may not have heard my accent before, thus for this to not be such an issue I need to pronounce my words more clearly.

During my second week of placement, we were transferred to a P6 class. I was nervous and had some anxiety about having to adapt so quickly to an older age group, especially because myself and many of the students are apart of the same generation I was afraid of establishing the same level of respect generated by the primary 2 class. I was also afraid of not being able to adapt my language and behaviour to suit the new audience. Once in the class I found that adapting to suit the older age group was not as big as an issue as I originally anticipated however, I found establishing respect with the older students was difficult. For example one student discovered my first name and continually called me it despite being asked not to, another student called me a derogatory word during a maths activity which acted as an almost setback for me as it really effected my confidence and caused a lot of anxiety for the remaining duration of the placement. This was an almost test of my resilience, I learnt that by showing the smallest bit of nervousness or anxiety in front of students in some cases can lead children to notice this and act on that in a negative way. This is where the importance of body language comes in, positive body language may lead people and students to believe that confidence is there even when it is not.

Although there was a minor setback in maths, it was also something I thoroughly enjoyed as I was able to see the clear link between theory and practice. For example, in university studying mental methods to then enter the school and see it actually happening really reinforces everything experienced. In primary 2 they labelled the partitioning strategy “Hulk breaks apart” and there is an image of Hulk- however, the P6’s know this strategy as the partitioning strategy. I also found it interesting to see how children chose and found their own strategies and helping them find one that suits them.

Reading and literature- particularly children’s literature- has always interested me and therefore I enjoyed organising and leading a reading lesson. The book we were studying was ‘the twits’ by Roald Dahl in which the children appeared to be deeply involved, laughing along when reading and showing a great understanding of the novel. I primarily established this by asking one child to explain what they can remember happening in the novel so far, every child asked appeared to be very enthusiastically explaining when being asked. Whilst reading I would pause every couple of pages and ask another child to recap what has happened so far so that they can show that they understand the novel, putting it into their own words. Roald Dahl tends to use different sized fonts in his books, capital letters where they are not supposed to be and made up words. Each time one would appear I would pause and ask the group if they had spotted anything unusual, and I found it so interesting to hear the student’s responses on why they think Roald Dahl has given a word a particular trait and what that may represent- for example; “HUGTIGHT glue”- I would ask the group questions such as; what images does this word conjure up in your head? Why do you think Roald Dahl chose this word? Why has he put the word in capital letters? Each child would have a different response and interpretation of the text which they found exciting to analyse; the children also began to bounce ideas off each other coming up with new theories and suggestions.

Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my first school placement; being made to feel welcome by staff and students in a fantastic school with a lovely atmosphere and environment. I have learnt so much from not only the staff but the pupils, not just teaching-wise but also about myself; my strengths and weaknesses. These past two weeks have really been an eyeopener for what is to come over the next 4 years and beyond; I could not be more excited about developing and growing into the teacher that I aspire to be.

A dyslexia task for dyslexia week being completed by P2 students.

The not-quite-finished yet pirate display.

A pirate ship picture, created by a P2.

Hand signals for the teacher to see when a child may be struggling or has a strategy for the number problem.

Part of P2 mental methods.

Part of P2 mental methods.

October 1, 2017
by Ruby Baxter
1 Comment

Skilled Interpersonal Communication: Research, Theory and practice- Hargie

Skilled Interpersonal Communication Research, Theory and Practice- Hargie, Owen.  Finding out about others: the skill of questioning.

A main aim of the chapter was to explore in-depth the qualities, purposes and potentials of questioning, but also explains that with the correct techniques, questioning can be of great assistance within the ability to learn, grow and build upon knowledge. This therefore enables both the teacher and learner to immerse themselves fully within the subject matter; perhaps in the form of challenging difference approaches or requesting information.

A key theme within the chapter is the psychology of asking and answering questions. An example of this is found on page 138 when explaining the ‘acquiescence effect’ which is supported by evidence; ‘the Moses illusion’ (Erikson and Mattison 1981). The chapter is laced with the theme of the psychology behind asking and answering questions without explicitly stating it. Another example is found on page 140 with the ‘effects of leading questions on children’ -supported by the child abuse scandals during the 1990’s- in which questions were asked in such a way where the children’s answers could be easily manipulated and perceived to an extent where it disproved the abuse accusations.

Another theme within the text is how questioning is imperative for an enriched and fulfilled learning experience. The chapter is constantly reinforcing the idea that there is a link between questions and learning within the classroom; for example, in the text, Dillon (1982)’s research shows that teachers ask approximately two questions a minute, whereas students may only ask two questions an hour. The chapter then goes on to explain what may be hampering the students desire to ask questions.

The chapter claims that there is a reason behind student’s inability to ask questions within the classroom and that reason is the anxiety of a negative reaction from the other students. This is then supported from evidence by a number of different studies such as Daly et al (1994) discovering a negative correlation between question asking and ages in pupils and another study also conducted by Daly that found certain groups of individuals that were more likely to ask questions than others; these groups included people within high-income bracket and males.

Hargie also argues the importance of parental involvement within a child’s ability to ask questions- he argues that parents should take the time out to answer any questions their child may have as the response is viewed as a reward by the child.

I agree with the majority of arguments, theories and claims within chapter 5. Something that came to my attention was the section on ‘the effects of leading questions upon children’ as I am a strong believer that people, especially children should be made more aware and educated on leading questions and how to spot a leading question. However, what I did disagree within this section is that I believe although children are more susceptible to ‘falling into the trap’ of a leading question, I believe adults are too, especially those that are considered less educated. Leading questions may be dangerous; shaping the media and journalism but may also be present within courtrooms- potentially ruining lives through the subtle manipulation of responses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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