Monthly Archives: January 2016

I’d better get out there and do it then!

Geography in school was something that was never really covered – or at least not in my primary school. History was something covered well and to an extent mostly just about the local area – that was 60 miles away (if I did culloden once at school I did it a thousand times!). The most I remember is learning the countries and matching them with their capitals in Gaelic (which let me tell you is not as much fun as it sounds!). I personally would now argue as to whether or not I was doing literacy and language by learning the Gaelic words for all these places. To be perfectly honest it astounds me that we didn’t cover geography more, because look at where I come from! Surely perfect for some outdoor learning?

This is where I was brought up, perfect for a bit of Geography right?

Well, either way secondary school I dropped geography for modern studies and history which I then went on to get good grades in during my higher exams, so I can’t say I regret it. But I distinctly lack an awful lot of knowledge about Geography and what I have learned has been learned from my holidays – so going out to a school to teach it seems pretty daunting to me. The thought of teaching other aspects of the social subjects however, does excite me. I love doing projects with the kids and a period/event in history is a perfect theme topic.

During my work in the nursery, we did a little bit of geography. The principles and practice documents are split into 3 different categories – people, past events and societies, people, place and environment and people in society, economy and business. So with this is in mind we did a project with the children about different countries in the world – America, China,

This is a similar wall display to the ones we made with the children in the nursery

Italy and Australia. We did big wall displays with each countries shape being the main part and then the activities would go inside or around. Geography came into it with the countries names, the children would learn the names of the capital cities of the countries, look at pictures of the countries, look at the flags of the countries, find where the countries are on maps/globes and the children did activities relating to the landmarks in the countries (for example for Italy the children made little leaning tower of Pisa’s!). It was a great project for me and my colleagues as well as the children because we had to research a bit about the country before we could teach it – especially when the children asked questions. This is something I will definitely do when I am out teaching because how can I teach children effectively if I do not have knowledge about the subject myself?

It was mentioned in my lecture today, and I think to be honest we are all a little guilty, to every so often just rely on what comes up on my Facebook news feed. If it wasn’t for facebook and twitter the likelihood of me seeing this really cute video of the panda in Washington Zoo would be very slim.

When I was studying modern studies I was really good at watching the news daily (especially in the morning because who doesn’t love Bill Turnbull on BBC Breakfast) but reading and watching the news is something I only do when I think I should, just because it is on or if there is a political election coming up. Maybe it is down to student life but I think if I was to read newspapers and watch or listen on the radio to some form of news then I would start picking up on various things happening around the world in terms of geography, history and modern studies. After all history is happening around us every day!

Lastly, a great way which I will be starting soon is by visiting places.

Lake Geneva – where I learnt about water running into lakes from mountains

There are so many places around the world to visit. The majority of my learning, especially history and geography, has come from my travels like learning about the swiss mountains and the water that runs off them to form beautiful lakes such as lake geneva and swimming in the red sea and looking at the underwater coral reefs. Studying in Dundee I have such a wide range of accessible experiences on offer to me that I would be mad not to take them up like the Dundee Botanic Gardens and RRS Discovery just to name two!

So to round up my three ways of getting more focused on social subjects before getting out and teaching them are to watch the news, do some research and background knowledge about what I’ll be teaching and visiting places to get an interactive view of what I will be teaching. Goodness me that sounds a lot. I’d better get out there and do it then!

Paddington Bear Story Sack

My first input for Language was something I found really interesting and engaged with.

This is me reading "A Bear Called Paddington"

This is me reading “A Bear Called Paddington”

I love childrens stories and am always looking at the new releases in the childrens sections in Waterstones and read to the children everyday when I worked in the nursery. The TDT however really excited me because my favourite activity in college was creating the story sack. I chose my favourite story from my childhood (which it still is now because I’m a big kid) which was A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond.  I decided to choose Paddington not only because it was my favourite childhood story but also because of the history behind it. This may come as a surprise to readers of this post but I have genuinely met people who thought Paddington was just a film, not a book first. CRAZY ISN’T IT! It came to my knowledge just by talking to people that not many realize that “A Bear Called Paddington” was published in 1958 and quickly became a classic book way before the 2014 film came out.

My Paddington story sack

My Paddington story sack

When I had gathered everything for my story sack which was a beautiful old leather suitcase from a charity shop I included a soft toy of Paddington himself, activity sheets, a toy bus, blank luggage tags, a photograph of Paddington station, a numeracy interactive book about trains, bubble bath, a jar of marmalade and of course the Paddington book itself. I had to do the story sack with the children on my placement. It was my favourite activity on the placement and went really well without many glitches. The younger children found the book too long but the older children liked it a lot and all the children liked the activities I had set out. The main thing that I learnt from doing this story for my story sack was that you have to make the stories that you read to children age and stage appropriate. There is no sense in trying to sit and read for example The Secret Garden to 3 year olds in a nursery and doing a chapter everyday because by the end of the chapter the children will be restless, there are no pictures to fuel their imagination and the likelihood of them knowing what is going on with the complexity of each individual character is unlikely. However, reading children of P7 age a book like A bear Called Paddington is useless as well because they won’t engage in the way they should with literacy and language at their age. So it is all about a good balance. This is why although the initial TDT was to create a lesson plan for the experience and outcome..

I can show my understanding of what I listen to or watch by responding to literal, inferential, evaluative and other types of questions, and by asking different kinds of questions of my own. *Responsibility of all LIT 2-07a

…I adapted it so it fitted in with the resources I already had and changed it to…

To help me understand stories and other texts, I ask questions and link what I am learning with what I already know.*Responsibility of all LIT 0-07a/LIT 0-16a/ENG 0-17a

…which is just the Early version of the experience and outcome given to us in the TDT. I would highly recommend that anyone who is involved in education make a story sack because they are an absolutely fantastic resource to have in your cupboard. Furthermore, the children engage so well with activities after reading the story and if there is a main character can engage well with the character making learning fun. You have to be careful that you make the activities educational so that the children are learning from this.

At the same time story sacks are not perfect. Not every child wants to follow up each book they are read with an activity. Younger children like story time to be a calm down activity to relax before they have a nap and older children just don’t always appreciate the storybooks so don’t engage with them. Educators can also become reliant on story sacks for example rather than reading a book and going on to another topic a different story sack comes out everyday and the children will just simply be bored. Children with English as an additional language may also have problems fully engaging with a story sack. They can also be time consuming and expensive to create (although charity shops and the works are a good idea if you are strapped for cash!).

IMG_3784 [457009]A story sack is something I am always adding to like with this one I’ve added paddington shaped cookie cutters and paddington napkins so the children could do some baking. I would never be able to finish a story sack. However, going on the basis that this is what I have, I have included a picture of what my final lesson plan for a P1 class would be for 1 hour and 15 minutes (maybe an afternoon?). I would sit the class down and read them the story carefully looking at the front cover and who the author is. Once read the children would be asked to go into 4 groups. The first table would be asked to look at the train book and do shape activities for numeracy. The second table would be asked to make a luggage tag with their name and this would help me as a teacher to evaluate not only the childrens writing skills but also if they are able to write their name. The third table would be a session where there would be a computer animated interactive Paddington bear asking the children to find out where Peru is and what is in Peru? This would mainly cover geography but would also be a good starter onto a topic about South America for example? Lastly, on the final table I would ask the children to do an activity about trains. They would have to answer questions like “How do trains run?” and “Where is Paddington station?”. After the final group had finished I would ask them to tidy up and make marmalade sandwiches as a group – being careful about dietary requirements and being careful about this. There are an awful lot of children who at 5 cannot yet properly spread and use a knife so this would come under health and wellbeing. Once they had eaten them as a group they would make a chart for the wall as to who liked them and who didn’t. This would be numeracy because it is about statistics.

These are all my own ideas, some of which have actually been carried out in a classroom. I’m happy for anyone to ask me any questions about how I carried out my story sack and how I would adapt this in the classroom further – just comment below. I hope by reading about my experiences with this story sack, I will encourage anyone reading this to find out more about them and even create one of their own.

Effectively Improving My Blog

In today’s ePortfolio input we were all asked to look at some of our peers work, reflect on the way in which our peers are crafting their professional thoughts and to write about what they are getting from doing this and how others may benefit from reading their work. I have also chosen to share the posts in this blog so anyone reading can go and take a look at these fantastic examples of brilliant writing.
tscreenshot_2Lauren Duncan’s post 5 6 7…DANCE! was one that I really liked reading because the writer, has taken her own experiences as a dancer and reflected on how she can use them in the classroom which is a personal touch I found very creative and very thoughtful. Her experiences and knowledge about dance is vast and reads really well. This is something I have never thought about doing. I do have experiences of different things throughout my life with photos I could share and never have. This way the reader of the post can see how passionate the writer is about that topic, in this case dance.

Layla Dawson’s ePortfolio post Fear of Feedback really resonated with some of the ways I feel about giving feedback. Especially that feeling of guilt I always feel after leaving constructive feedback or criticism. She writes in an easy tscreenshot_3to read yet professional manner, something which I can take from this post. Not using long complicated words in posts to make yourself sound clever is vital for teachers, because your audience will eventually be children. I also think something I can take on board from this post is mentioning something which I think is a good or positive idea, but still writing about the issues that come with it. Layla has done this when mentioning 2 stars and a wish. I should not be scared to write about the improvements that can be made with certain ideas or what people have said. Not everything has to be taken with a positive attitude and part of being a professional is finding the right way of putting across what the problem is with these ideas.

In Claire Beattie’s post, she has written about something that is completely unrelated to what we have been asked to do by our tutors. The Ability Grouping Debate Continues is a fresh idea, tscreenshot_4taken from something she has read which is something I need to do more of. By keeping up to date with what is happening in the news, using recommended reading and reading from other places like magazines and newspapers is just some of the ways I can gain fresh ideas for my posts. I thought something else that I can take from Claires post is the way she used visual aids. I try to use relevant and interesting visual aids like pictures and videos in my posts but this is something I can try to do more of to make the post more interactive and fun.

I think overall, reading these three posts and any others will help me to learn the different ways in which I can make my posts more professional, enticing for others to read, interactive and more reflective. Something that I tend to do is stick to my normal way of writing a post which I have become comfortable with. Furthermore, when you are a teacher you will be put in different situations and if you cannot reflect and learn from other writings, you will not be a professional educator. It is my hope that by reading these excellent examples it may help me to become the professional writer and educator I strive to become. I take any constructive criticism I can on board and am extremely grateful for it, so if you have anything to share or ways I can improve my posts please share them with me by commenting or emailing me so I can become the professional and good educator I have always wanted to be.

Dancing Under the Sea

I have never really danced, only seen it on the TV

I recently attended the only dance input I will be given at University until 3rd year. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a dancer unless I am at a scottish ceilidh, playing just dance on the Nintendo Wii or it is a half hearted waltz after a glass of wine. The only dancing I was taught in school was ceilidh dancing being from a small rural school in the Scottish highlands. Even outside of school the only contact with dance I’ve ever had was watching Dirty Dancing and Strictly Come Dancing. So I’d be lying if I said I was not apprehensive when I heard as a teacher I would have to teach dance as part of the Scottish curriculum. However, along I went to the dance input and I really enjoyed it. After the dance input we were asked to think about how we could conduct a dance lesson for a class of P5s and to do a lesson plan.

I thought long and hard about what I would do for a dance class and came to the conclusion that I needed context. So I thought about doing an Under the Sea theme with the children, learning about sea creatures with an end of term performance in front of the school at an assembly. The children could draw them for Art and make some costumes for our performance, do animations with information about different sea creatures on a computer for ICT for the background of our performance, read a book involving sea creatures for literacy in their reading groups for literacy, do some learning about turtles and dolphins being caught in nets and the government trying to stop fishermen doing this – there are a lot of possibilities. However, this was a dance plan so I chose my outcome from the curriculum for excellence and thought about warmup and cool down games that might involve the sea. I remembered that on the Nintendo Wii I used to play just dance which had Under the Sea from the little mermaid on it. I thought this could be a good cool down activity, especially before lunch because it is quick, fun, easy – so the children can participate whatever their dance level/experience, it has a lot of repetition of dance sequences (potentially a mathematics link) that the children can learn and could also lead us on to the next dance lesson I was thinking about, of bringing mermaids into our end of term performance.

I planned my lesson for 50 minutes because getting to and from a gym hall might take some time and also children may need to change into and out of gym clothes for this lesson. With it being the first dance lesson of the term I decided just to do some simple group dance activities with music to build team working skills and also being a considerate audience member who gives positive feedback. Everything I have chosen though does link into our key topic of sea creatures and we end the lesson with a fun activity that could lead onto the next lesson.

I feel that given my lack of dance experience from a school perspective that in the past perhaps some schools have not given dance the lesson time it deserves. It gets children exercising and using their creativity, two things which I think are important. Creativity is also something that is mentioned in “Learning to Teach in the Primary School” and that there seems to be a lack of it being taught in schools. I think it is up to teachers to make dance something that is part of the weekly lesson plans, like mathematics and English because of the benefits it brings and at the very least make it a regular part to childrens learning in class if weekly is not feasible. With new schemes and programmes like “Change 4 Life” dance is something that I hope will become more common in schools. I’m looking forward to my third year dance input and learning some more about teaching it, ways of teaching it and also putting into practice what I have learnt in my inputs on placement.

Arthur, J. and Cremin, T. (2014) Learning to Teach in the Primary School. 3rd edn. Abingdon: Routledge.

Maths, Anxiety, Stress and Me

Maths, Anxiety and Stress. They all come hand in hand – or at least for me anyway. The ridiculous thing is though, I got an A in maths and as I keep getting told “if you got an A in maths then you should be confident!” Well read it and weep guys, I get stressed about the thought of having to do maths in public just as much as the other person.

I liked maths in primary school, learnt my times tables and passed tests with an adequate score, i’m not pythagoras or anything. My problems with maths developed when I was in high school and because I did badly in 1 test got pushed down into the lower classes where the teenagers my age weren’t interested in maths and most of them couldn’t care less about their

The teacher being enthusiastic and giving me extra homework gave me so much more confidence in my mathematical skills

education. The teacher I had though was really enthusiastic and gave me extra homework, seeing my potential. He was Irish and only in the high school for a year which was a sorry loss when he did leave because everyone got pretty good scores and missed him. I think the fact that I remember so many things about him as a person, the way he taught me and the enthusiasm he embedded in me about maths really stuck with me and made me think more about wanting to become a teacher – that kind of teacher. I don’t want the children in my future classes to feel badly about doing 1 test wrong and going down into lower groups. It destroyed my confidence at maths and it took me twice as long to get the A I would have been capable of getting a year earlier.


This picture shows that the teacher doesn’t understand, so neither will the pupil

I had never heard of “maths anxiety” until I went to my first maths tutorial, came back from that and read up on it. When looking it up on the internet I found the BBC article published last year “Do you have maths anxiety?” I then turned to Haylock’s first chapter in “Mathematics Explained for Primary Teachers” where I read that actually this opinion about being scared of maths and finding maths difficult to teach is really common. I think it is up to teachers to destroy the myths and the anxiety surrounding maths because if we can’t children are leaving our classes innumerate, and I think anyone can agree that is unacceptable from teachers in this day and age.

Not only do teachers however have to be enthusiastic about maths, but they need to understand it too. Currently, I hold my hands up and say I need some kind of refresher course on basic maths, it has been two years since I learnt it in school and currently I couldn’t tell you my prime numbers from my prisms, I just can’t remember it. That A means nothing when you have a class in front of you which you have to teach maths and you have maths anxiety. So you have to bring maths to life in your own classroom, not only for the childrens sake, but your own too. If you don’t find maths fun the likelihood is the children won’t either. Now my Irish maths teachers’ favourite game to play with us was countdown. Its perfect for older children because even if they don’t like the maths they

Countdown was my favourite maths game in school

love the theme tune (so do I though!) which makes it fun. Dominoes was a regular favourite in my nursery last year, whether it be numbers, spots or animals to match, it meant they were matching something which is maths. Clocks, the simple fact is, telling the time is maths. There’s numbers on the clock and without mathematical skills then there’s no way you can tell the time, so make sure your classroom has a clock in it. Counting rhymes or songs. From my experience the older children aren’t the only ones in school who love a good sing song and if you can’t find a decent song with numbers, find one they’ll enjoy and find the maths in it (my favourite was always the rattlin bog!)

These are all things I intend to do as a teacher. Enthusiasm is something I personally feel really strongly about as a student teacher. Reflecting on my own experiences with my teachers has shown me what kind of a teacher I want to become and made me start to think about the ways in which I will bring maths into my classrooms. If you have other maths ideas for the classroom please share them in the comments.

The science behind playdough..

Playdough is something that I used to love playing with as a child because it is so flexible and you can make and do so many things with it. Also, my year’s work in a nursery made me see what opportunities you have to link playdough into learning, especially with playdough mats like this one.

Playdough mats can be really educational to children and can link into whatever theme your class is doing if you use the right ones!

Therefore when we were asked to do a two minute science demonstration for one of our university classes, playdough shaped bells started ringing in my head thinking – how can I relate playdough to science? Turns out it was not actually that difficult to find out how playdough and science is related since playdough is actually a forced chemical reaction when you mix all the ingredients together. The recipe that I will ask my peers in the class to follow for making the playdough is from a fantastic website called The Royal Institution and the section I landed on took me straight to playdough making as well as other inventive ideas to get children more into science. They have videos too explaining what the activities consist of, questions to get the children thinking and children’s reactions to the activities.

So as the video explains the main purpose of having salt in the playdough is to form a matrix (the surrounding substance within which something else originates) around the flour particles when it has dried. Also, when the food colouring and the water are mixed they become a solution, which when adding oil to this it floats on the top of the solution because of the particles that are in oil. When the water has dried out and the mixture has been kneaded, it leaves the salt behind, which cements all the flour particles together making what we know of as playdough.

Each year group is different and obviously nursery aged children and P7’s will have different reasons for playing with playdough in class and speaking from experience the older children are the less interested they are in play dough and the more interested they are in playstations. Hopefully, if I do this experiment with a class of my own i’ll be able to make it age and stage appropriate and fun, because I think playdough is great fun! When I have done my experiment with my peers I will be sure to put up pictures and an evaluation of how my experiment went. Until then please add comments as to how you would use playdough in the classroom/nursery?