Category Archives: 2.1 Curriculum

How can the adventures of Paddington Bear help us in the classroom?

During a recent social studies elective input, we briefly discussed how one might use the film ‘Paddington Bear’ as a stimulus to introduce a new topic. I love the film Paddington, and I remember loving the stories as a child. However when I considered it from the point of a teacher, I realised its vast potential in terms of the learning that it could invoke in a classroom.

When one considers why Paddington ended up on a train to London, you discover that his native home in ‘deepest darkest Peru’ has been destroyed and is no long habitable. This immediately opens up a huge range of opportunities to discuss different, important topics. For example, deforestation: ‘what is the effect of deforestation to the lives and habitats of animals? What can we do to stop this? Why are we cutting down trees in the first place? What would happen if all the world’s rain forests cease to exist’?

Or alternatively, you could view Paddington’s situation from a more historical or modern studies perspective. In a recent article commemorating the life of Micheal Bond, it is written that Bond wanted people to consider what it might have felt like to be an evacuee/a refugee: ‘although Paddington was never arrested, there was “a bit of a kerfuffle” when he was taken in for questioning by the police. There was, of course, a happy ending, but Bond used the book as an opportunity to explain: “a side of Paddington the Browns don’t really understand at all: what it’s like to be a refugee, not to be in your own country”. This is of course an extremely relevant topic today and could potentially provide and appropriate introduction to discussing the current refugee crisis: ‘what must it have felt like to arrive in London with no family or friends? How would you feel if you had to move to a new country on your own? How do you think the Brown’s felt when the saw an unusual looking bear standing at the station? Do you think they treated him well? How would you like to be treated if you arrived somewhere completely new where people didn’t look or sound like everyone you’re used to being around?’

All this potential teaching and learning- including experiences and outcomes from history (evacuation), modern studies (refugee’s/immigration), geography (Peru/deforestation), expressive arts (learning through film) and language and literacy (learning through new/varying textiles)- could take place after watching just the first 10 minutes of a popular children’s film. Who knew?!

This brief discussion proved a valuable stimulus for me as a teacher- the concept of using a children’s film as an introduction to serious learning caught my imagination and through looking into it further, I definitely feel as if this could be an excellent starting point in developing/designing lesson plans in social studies.

Dancing Queen? Not so much.

I’ve never found the thought of dancing particularly inspiring. In fact, I decidedly dislike the idea. Unless we’re talking about a good old ceilidh, there’s nothing about the thought of having to dance in front of people that I like. I’ve always been into sport and I don’t really have a problem with performing, particularly in front of children, so it wasn’t like I had major anxiety when I learnt that dance is a part of the curriculum. It’s more that I just didn’t really fancy it- I have absolutely no experience in the field and consequently, didn’t have the foggiest idea what we might have to get up to. I envisioned myself in years to come trying to choreograph dance lessons for my classes and truth be told, even in my imagination it didn’t go exactly…swimmingly.

However, good news! The tutorial was neither as odd nor as discouraging as I had anticipated. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I’ve learnt that the learning outcomes for dance are remarkably do-able and actually make a lot of sense. Where I previously questioned whether or not dance belonged in the curriculum (extra curricular undoubtedly, but is it really necessary to be part of the school day?) by looking into it further and exploring the experiences and outcomes in more detail I’ve come to accept that dance does indeed hold its own.

Despite my admittedly limited experience, I have always valued the idea of interdisciplinary learning and I think dance is a good example of when this can be achieved. For example, I have always been passionate about story telling and in the past I have found it hard to bring it alive for children who perhaps don’t share this interest. I think the E’s and O’s for dance provide an opportunity to introduce story telling in a completely new light that could potentially spark an interest that wouldn’t be possible in a classroom.

‘Inspired by a range of stimuli, I can express my ideas, thoughts and feelings through creative work in dance.’

EXA 0-09a/EXA 1-09a/EXA 2-09a

As I slowly become more familiar with the Curriculum for Excellence it’s becoming clearer and clearer what is trying to be achieved in Scottish classrooms and I honestly think it’s an exciting time to be entering the profession of teaching.

Walt Disney, the new generation is coming for you!

When I reflect over my years at primary school, the sort of lessons that stand out in my memory are without doubt the ones that were a little different from our normal day-to-day schedule. It was for this reason that the idea of teaching animation in a classroom really captured my imagination. I know for a fact that it would be the sort of thing I would have loved as a child and if done right, I can imagine it being a lot of fun to teach as well as to learn! I really appreciated the way that Sharon demonstrated (in just an hour!) how we could build up a child’s understanding and skills in the animation world through a number of different progressive lessons. As a class we went through the various stages, starting with the basics and moving onto sophisticated animated productions. I was introduced to programs that I had never even heard of before and was surprised to find how easy they were to use and to understand. In my experience, primary aged children can be exceptionally intuitive when working with technology and I can only imagine that a classroom full of children could produce some really interesting pieces of work! I particularly loved the idea that lessons such as these could be a new and interesting way to incorporate and develop various elements within the curriculum- language skills, IT skills and even communication skills. The workshop really helped me to start thinking about the various opportunities open to us as modern teachers with such a wide access to technology and equipment. There are so many different ways to capture children’s imagination within the confinements of a classroom and I feel both inspired and excited to start exploring this concept in more detail over the next few years!



Active Learning

Active learning is defined as ‘any instructional method that engages students in the learning process. In short, active learning requires students to do meaningful learning activities and think about what they are doing.’

Personally I find active learning very helpful. In fact, without applying techniques like using different colours to reference my work or re-writing notes I’ve taken during lectures, I find it very difficult to retain information. When I look back to when I was studying for my final exams at school, I realise that I engaged with active learning on a very regular basis- it’s definitely a style of learning that I can employ.

I find that when I’m working towards a project or an essay, I need to understand exactly why I’m doing what I’m doing so that I can in turn, fully apply myself to the task in hand. I think that this is largely linked to active learning, as proved by the definition; ‘active learning requires students to do meaningful learning activities and think about what they are doing.’

In my opinion, this is one of the main benefits of implementing skills and techniques defined as active learning. Knowing exactly what you’re doing and why and keeping your brain actively engaged with the task is vital to successful learning.

In relation to this, working collaboratively with peers is also linked closely to aspects of active learning.

I think one of the most obvious benefits of working co-operatively is the idea that each individual person has the ability to bring something completely unique to a group discussion. This can spark all sorts of new ideas or thoughts that one person might not have considered on their own. Working as part of a team reduces the responsibilities of each person and instead, provides an opportunity for equal distribution of work and tasks.