Developing Mathematical Concepts and Language Through the Cockatoos’ by Quentin Blake.


The Cockatoos’ is a story about Professor Dupont, a man so wrapped up in routines that he overlooks how some of his quirks may be perceived as annoying!

This book offers several opportunities to explore mathematical language with early years’ pupils.



cockatoos-2As Professor Dupont searches for his ‘Feathered Friends’ classes can explore positional language such as ‘the cockatoos are ‘above’ his head.’ ‘The cockatoos are sat ‘on top’ of the toilet.’

As he searches for his cockatoos there are ample opportunities to count as a class. ‘How many cockatoos can you find in this picture?’ ‘How many more are there?’

Another activity which can stem from this story is for the class to hide their own cockatoos and think about how they can direct their classmates to try and find them. ‘Go left three steps,’ ‘Turn around and go back.’ By photographing or drawing areas of the classroom, school or playground the children can take turns hiding the cockatoo and use their ‘map’ to help guide each other to its location.a983e33478bff143f02b01ccae1f7994

This type of lesson can lead onto basic programming games on the computer such as Scratch.

Science: How does it work?

Today’s Science input showed me that as an adult we don’t tend to question why things are the way they are. This is something which has been explored within the International Baccalaureate module which encourages teachers to engage children’s natural curiosity and facilitate inquiries. Yet, this isn’t often something adults do for themselves!

Liz asked us to discuss the function of the wax of a candle today and I was surprised that this is something I had never actually pondered…how does that work? It got me thinking like a child again. Well how does the car move or why does the world look all wavy when its hot? These were things I asked when I was younger and had explained to me, perhaps not incredibly scientifically but my parents tried their best!

The organic nature of curiosity and wonderings is crucial to all types of learning and I believe it should be at the heart of Science in order to make it relevant and purposeful for the children. This draws on the constructivist theory which starts with the knowledge already possessed by an individual and sees misconceptions lead to the development of further understanding.

By creating a ‘wonder wall’ where children can share their questions and ideas teachers can base their lessons within Science and  any other curricular areas on the genuine interests of the children. By following through inquiries which are built on a topic of interest children are more likely to be truly engaged and immersed in the experience and more interested in the findings.

Science can become part of the day to day workings of the classroom in a way that it currently is not. Rather than a rarely dusted off box of electrical circuits or test tubes why not rely on the curiosity of your class, it may even teach you a thing or two!


As a side note:

The investigation conducted today within class was a success. My group and I worked together to over come confusion relating to some poorly drawn instructions and were able to conclude a controlled experiment which was planned using cleverly designed planning boards. This is definitely something I would use with a class to help them structure their ideas and wonderings prior to an experiment as well as to enable them to understand the correct procedures required to achieve a controlled experiment.

I’m not a Poet and I do Know it!

Poetry is something which was very much ruined for me in Secondary School. Picking them apart line by line took away the enjoyment and the excitement. However, before the preparation for Standard Grades and Highers, when I was back in Primary School I really enjoyed poetry.

Every year we spent time looking at Scots Poems and I enjoyed getting dressed up in something tartan and competing against the rest of the class to see who could perform their poem the best. The poems selected were usually rhymed and were funny and we’d all learn actions to go with our performances. That being said I don’t remember looking at any other types of poetry throughout my time at Primary School (other than acrostic poems of course).

Up until our recent poetry inputs the only poetry reading and writing I had done since my Highers was spending time creating rude and silly limericks with my nieces and nephews! This being said I found it quite simple to put together a rhyming poem for our TDT. I chose to write about my time at primary school:

Heinemann and repetition

Copy down what Teachers written

Sitting in our cold hard chairs

Looking on with vacant stares.


We Memorised what we were taught

We didn’t cheat or we’d get caught

Five minutes off your Golden-time

Punishment don’t fit the crime!


Seven years of learning on

All those facts and figures gone

Just to start again next year

To be filled a fresh with facts

                And Fear.

Within the second poetry input we looked at various types of poetry, some of which I had never heard of before including Mesostic Poems. My group wrote a lovely one about Winter:


We also looked at list poems and were invited to have a go at writing one about a type of food. I wrote one of my own all about apples:

Red apples, green apples

Scarred and lumpy crab apples.

Glossy apples, royal apples

Basic Granny Smiths.


Pureed apples, stewed apples

Dipped in sticky toffee apples.

Chopped apples, peeled apples

Apples are so great!

Writing my own poems within a workshop really highlighted the need to provide classes with warm up activities prior to poetry writing as well as a stimulus to inspire them to get creative. Following these lectures I definitely feel more confident about teaching poetry whilst out on placement as I have a much broader catalogue of ideas to work with.

Eins, zwei, drei…

German is a language I am familiar with. I am by no means fluent in it but I have been exposed to it throughout my school career. By primary 6 I was being taught the basics and I continued with my learning until S4.

The problem was that when I transitioned into high school my prior learning was not valued. I was to start again from the beginning until I was ‘set’ in terms of my ability! As a result all this time later the elements of the German language that have stayed with me are the basics and not the complex grammar and vocabulary I was taught in later years.

Furthermore when I was given the opportunity to visit Germany in my third year at High School I found that none of what I was learning, from a seriously outdated and a little bit stereotypical textbook, was completely irrelevant to life within the country. I didn’t know how to read a train timetable or ask where the toilet was. I found it difficult to order food in restaurants and in one particular incident I was forced, by my lack of vocabulary, to order an orange flavoured ice cream! Another memorable occasion when my German skills lacked was on a trip to a theme park. My friend and I were attempting to order chips and asked for: ‘Ein Pommes, bitte.’ The German man serving us proceeded to place a single chip on a plate and laugh at us.

The point I am trying to make here, other than that my German is severely lacking, is that we need to be equipping our children with the same level of language education as other countries across Europe and the World give to theirs. Why is it that our children reach secondary school and use modern languages as a chance to chat and muck around? Why is it that we, as British people, think that there is no need for us to learn another language? Where did this idea that ‘Everyone else speaks English anyway!’ come from? When in actual fact ‘75% of the world’s population do not speak English, and only 6% of the world’s population speak English as the mother tongue.’

The 1+2 scheme appears to be a step in the right direction in terms of changing Scotland’s approach to learning other languages. The idea of starting from a young age is sensible and mimics the approach of various other countries who are successfully producing bilingual children. The addition of a third language (or second additional language) in middle and upper stages is a great way of introducing children to new cultures and providing them with further opportunities. With this being said, at a time of economic trouble, is it really feasible to provide the resources needed to accommodate for children with mother tongues other than English? Or to train staff up to a standard to be able to teach a language in enough depth…or to have a grasp of more than one additional language?

I know that for me German is all I know, and as I expressed above I don’t know an awful lot! I don’t think I’d feel entirely comfortable if I was to be teaching a class French or Spanish or any other language. Is it down to myself as a teacher to pursue this and increase my knowledge base as I would do in any other curricular area? Or is it the responsibility of individual schools or councils to provide training to their staff?

In terms of our language inputs within university I am enjoying the refresher they are giving my dusty old German vocab! I would have perhaps liked to learn French instead so that I had a basic knowledge of both of these languages but due to staffing issues this was not possible. The German inputs are interesting and collaborative. By sharing teaching ideas we are building up each other’s repertoires of resources for teaching foreign languages, not just German!

The use of rhyme, songs and games and their role in introducing children to a new language or new vocabulary is discussed within Teaching Foreign Languages in the Primary School (Kirsch, C. 2008.) The repetition and rhythm within these types of activities is key to embedding language within our classroom and within our children. So far within our inputs we have covered Greetings, Numbers and Age. These are the types of things I still remember from my own language learning experience.

One of my main wonderings is what types of things do children in successfully bilingual countries teach their children and at what age? Is starting with this type of content relevant now that we are choosing to start teaching it so much earlier? And to what level must teachers be at within their own understanding of languages in order to facilitate progressive learning from Primary 1 right through to Primary 7?



Outdoor Learning

Last weekend I took the opportunity to join the RSPB for a CPD on outdoor learning at Perth’s Quarry Mill. Outdoor learning plays a huge part within my teaching philosophy. Removing the boundaries of the classroom and teaching children within the context of their community and the natural world is key to creating inquiring learners.

Upon arrival at the CPD we were invited to make woodland themed name badges and it really20160925_080217 set the mood for the whole session as one of excitement, creativity and fun! We were treated to some background information on the RSPB and it was interesting to learn just how active they are within the education system in Scotland. There are ample opportunities for children in various locations across Scotland to become involved in the work the RSPB do and to experience the wonders of the animals and woodlands they work so hard to protect.



Before starting our journey into the woods we were provided with an array of resources and ideas that the RSPB use with children to ensure the walk is never dull. My favourite resource was the ‘journey stick’. A simple resource comprising a stick and some twine but one with the potential to captivate children and explore links to literacy too! I have to say I thoroughly 20160925_080645enjoyed collecting items I spotted on our walk and attaching them to my journey stick with the length of twine. Each item had the potential to tell a story, to link to the seasons and to express an emotion. This idea could be used with children from early years through to uppers. It allows the outdoors to come into the classroom and facilitates several other learning activities.

As well as the ‘Journey Stick’ we were provided with resources from the RSPB website, which I would highly recommend. These resources included spotting cards, which ranged from simple colour spotting activities to variations of tones that were tricky for even us grown ups to find within the woodland around us. Another favourite was the peelable post card which was another way for children to collect items from their walk in a fun and hands on way.20160928_100447

Needless to say the walk to the woodland clearing was incredibly active and engaging and led to new and interesting discoveries and this was all before we had even reached the official venue of our ‘outdoor learning workshop’.

The clearing itself was beautiful and would definitely be a hit with children! Our first activity was called ‘Meet a Tree.’ It is an excellent activity for getting hands on with nature and also has links to ‘Talking and Listening’ and HWB in terms of trust and relationships. I have to say it was certainly an interesting way to spend a Saturday morning; being blindfolded and led around the woods by a relative stranger! Upon meeting our tree we were asked to touch and feel the bark, roots and leaves in order to guess which tree we were becoming acquainted with. Myself and my partner took it a step further by trying to identify the tree and its species using a picture grid from the RSPB website.

If that wasn’t enough we then spent time looking at outdoor links to literacy. We were asked to form groups and choose a tree. We then spent time describing the tree and choosing words and sentences to bring the tree to life. My group decided to create a poem which was then ‘dramatically’ performed to the rest of the group, drama links too!! 20160924_114419

Our poem:

I am the Elder, I watch over the woods.

I twist and turn in all directions and reflect the seasons many moods.

From my mossy, weathered bark to my shining golden crown.

I stand alone, a solitary survivor. You will never cut me down.


This was a great activity as there is so much scope for differentiation. You could start from having groups of early years children find one word that describes their tree all the way up to primary 7’s creating poems or giving dramatic performances. Following on from this activity we went mini beast hunting! We were shown a great variety of resources for catching insects that could even be made yourself if budgets are tight as well as resources for identifying the mini-beasts you and your class find.

All in all it was an excellent morning well spent. I have come away with a head full of ideas and a feeling of excitement for outdoor learning that I want to keep alive until my next placement! This RSPB course has certainly increased my enthusiasm for outdoor learning and opened my eyes to the many ways to link this type of learning to CFE.



My Teaching Philosophy (‘Why Teaching’ Revisited.)

As one of our first Tdts in MA1 we were asked to write about why we chose teaching as our profession. I did not take the straight forward route to university like so many of my fellow education students did. I did not know from day dot that I wanted to be a teacher in fact I thought it wasn’t for me! I had decided I didn’t have the patience to work with children and so I went into full time employment instead of going to uni.

Initially I worked in a bank, I didn’t like it. Then I moved into administration up in Aberdeen, I didn’t like that either. Finally I was chosen out of over 100 applicants to work in sales and administration for a well know Jam company, I loathed that job too.

Yet looking back if I hadn’t been working in that factory listen to all those people become frantic and stressed over JAM (really?!) then I wouldn’t be here today. Here at Dundee University. Here as an Education student. Here as a future teacher.

In my previous post last year I spoke about how I wanted to do something that mattered and that I wanted to be in a profession that made a difference to people on a personal level. This is still the case. In fact after my first placement I can happily say that this motivation has been instilled a new.

Last year I wrote that I wanted to be: ‘an adaptable teacher. A teacher that understands the advancements and developments in the world and rises to every new challenge.’ I still feel the same one year on. Every day can be a challenge in a primary classroom and I found within my placement that I have a knack of bouncing back, I am able to reflect and re-evaluate more quickly than I ever thought possible. I rose to the challenge when lessons didn’t go as planned, or learners didn’t respond in the way I had hoped. I rose to the challenge when two new children started and brought with them new ideas and new behaviours. Now I am back on campus rising to the challenge of new modules and a heavier work load all because I know deep down this is exactly where I want to be and exactly what I want to be doing.

A huge part of why I wanted to teach came from witnessing injustice and wanted to, in some small way, be a part of putting a stop to it. I am a huge believer of inclusion, even if in some cases that means exclusion, I am someone who sees everyone as an individual and wants to see them achieve their fullest potential. In my post last year I wrote: ‘I want to be an inclusive teacher, a teacher that works hard to cater for all her pupils. A teacher that explores new avenues and reflects on her own practice.’ This still stands. Through the International baccalaureate module I am beginning to expand these ideas of who I am as a teacher and who I want to be.

As part of a Tdt I took time to reflect on my pedagogy or my ‘Personal Philosophy of Teaching’ and I came up with this mind map: 20160921_112746

I believe in child led education where children learn through exploration and inquiry. I believe that it is my responsibility as a teacher to provide the children with creative lessons and authentic learning experiences that cater for them as individuals. I believe that all learning should be relevant and set in a context applicable to the children within my class. I believe that children should be in control of their learning and that by providing them with some ownership over their learning they will have a greater respect for us as teachers and for learning as a process. I think that parental involvement is a great tool and has a number of benefits to children and their learning. I think the same about outdoor learning as well as any opportunities the children get to explore their community or to bring the community into the classroom.

I am looking forward to reflecting on this philosophy as the semester goes on and following on from my placement within an IB school next semester. I am also attending an outdoor learning CLPL that will be helpful to me in terms of teaching ideas and approaches. By immersing myself in as many different perspectives of teaching as possible I hope to become an amalgamation of them all.

MA2 New Beginnings.

As summer draws to an end its time to take stock of what has changed since I first started university one year ago…

Reflecting on how I have changed as a student, a trainee teacher and a person as a result of my experiences over the past year has been insightful.

During welcome week I remember feeling nervous and excited. I was unsure if I could succeed at university and as a teacher. Had I made the right decision to leave the stability of my full time job to pursue a new vocation?

Lectures were a challenge and I felt like I was swimming out of my depth for the first few weeks. I hadn’t studied since leaving high school four years previously and I had forgotten where to begin.

The prospect of placement felt incredibly daunting. How would I, someone so self-conscious, stand up in front of a room full of people and teach?

Yet here I am one year on readying myself for my first day of MA2 feeling excited and incredibly motivated.

My placement was an amazing experience and I was given some excellent feedback. I feel as though I am returning to my studies with a solid foundation upon which to grow. I now have a context upon which to base all future learning. How will this information change how I teach? What could I do differently within my practice to better engage the learners? I shall constantly refer back to placement within my personal reflections because that is the point from which I need to grow.

I am incredibly excited to be studying the IB elective this year and have already begun to explore what this might mean for my future practice. The theory behind the IB excites me and cause me to reflect on my pedagogy. The ideas surrounding authentic inquiry caused me to reflect on some of my placement lessons and consider ways I could have adapted the lesson to allow the children to lead their own investigations.

I believe that MA2 is going to be an eye opening experience for me and one that enables me to find out more about myself as a teacher.

Good luck to everyone this semester!