Monthly Archives: March 2017

Learning for Support and Support for Learning

I want to learn about schools from all aspects from the kitchen to the classroom

If you are keeping up to date with my blog and reading it daily, you will be familiar with my third goal for this placement quoted above. Today’s main learning focus for myself was Learning Support in my fantastic placement school. This is a part of school life I myself have had a lot to do with as a child. Readers for my previous posts will know that I went through the Gaelic curriculum in the Highlands of Scotland but may not know that I actually have severe dyslexia which was discovered at 14. I am very open and honest about it and throughout primary school struggled with reading, spelling and especially Gaelic language. After my father was ill and passed away, a lot of my work slipped further and this was put down to what was happening in my home life. Not till I was 14 did anyone spot that there might be more to it and sent me for a screening. After being diagnosed with severe dyslexia, the only support I was given by the school was extra time in exams even with me and my mother crying out for more support. The exception a was few individual teachers who were kind enough to give up their own time recording notes for me to listen back to and giving me one to one support. I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. The reasoning the school couldn’t support me further was down to funding and time and like so many others, my schooling may have been so different if this hadn’t been the case. So, my experience was not great, but this was 5 years ago now and times have changed since I was at school. Here is a good video explaining what Additional Support Needs in Scotland are currently recognised to be.

Today, I was able to have a chat with the Head of Learning Support for Moulsford which is where I have received the majority of the information for todays blog post. Moulsfords Learning Support is constantly busy as they have over 50 boys who need support from 4 full time and 2 part time Learning Support teachers. Their work ranges from one to one support to early morning group working interventions and it is massively supported by the other staff in the school and used well. The interventions and resources used vary from child to child but some that we discussed were for reading and maths recovery, group work and extra time in exams. At Moulsford, similar to the practice I am used to seeing in Scotland, additional support can be long and short term. It can range from the child having an additional support need (long term) to a parent being unwell (long/short term) to the child having a broken wrist and being unable to write (short term). No matter what the support is, no child is turned away and every child is catered for. Additionally, the school also have additional language and speech therapists, occupational therapists, school counselors and many other visiting support staff to support the children in any way they may need.

Image taken from TES Resources

Learning Support at Moulsford is well catered for as it is integrated into every classroom as well as 3 individual rooms being used for one to one support. If you go to Moulsford all over the school you will see these dyslexia posters provided by TES, informing staff at the school what to look out for in students work.

But how does all this compare with the Learning Support in Scotland? For a state school in Scotland, they must have support in place for children with additional support needs after The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (and the amended 2009 version) was passed and are currently enforcing it through Getting it Right for Every Child and the Curriculum For Excellence in schools across the country. Iain Nisbet also chairs The Advisory Group for Additional Support for Learning in Scotland, who focus on eight areas related to additional support for learning over a two year period at a time.

Image from google. Scotland are putting great emphasis on GIRFEC at the moment to help children who have Additional Support Needs

However, some may say the Learning Support at a private school like Moulsford also has a serious drawback. Unlike in Scottish/English state schools where any support given via the school or outside support staff (i.e. NHS) is totally free, at a private school, one to one Learning Support is charged on top of the fees their parents already pay. Moreover, I personally see the benefits to this as in Scottish/English state schools and the NHS, money is drastically being withdrawn and children are being turned away constantly and therefore not receiving the support they need. See here for more. At Moulsford every child in Year 3 is screened for additional support needs and then after that teachers and parents can raise concerns where the child may be screened again. Once a child has been screened and an additional support need flagged, the child will have an Individual Educational Plan drawn up for them – similar to the ones I have seen schools use in Scotland. The whole system at Moulsford is amazing, nowhere else have I seen every child being screened for support needs at Year 3 and wonder if I had been given a screening at the same age for my dyslexia, would it have been spotted and schooling made easier for me?

A short quote about individuality which should be taken into account when thinking about learning support from google images

I cannot change my own past and experience through the Scottish education system, but can certainly say that my point of view is that the Learning Support team at Moulsford have absolutely got it right from their screenings to the resources they use to the range of support staff who come into the school. In Scotland, I think we could learn a lot from the Learning Support team at Moulsford and would do well to take on board some of their practices and values. Before my meeting with the head of Learning Support ended, I had enough time to ask one final question which was “What piece of advice would you give to me as a trainee teacher for spotting and then supporting children who have additional support needs?” The advice given was to use differentiation, early intervention and if something doesn’t seem right, to always question it. This is advice which I am sharing so that I can not only enhance my own practice but readers may be able to so as well. I can certainly say that today has been one of the most educational for me so far, definitely hitting one of my goals for this placement. They are a lovely team and I look forward to learning more from the Learning Support team more over the next four weeks.

First Time at Phonics

Image taken from google

Phonics at Moulsford has become part of the curriculum from pre-prep up to Year 5 over the past couple of years. For those of you reading this who are unsure of what phonics are, they are the first strategy that children should be taught to help them learn to read by using words that are made up from small sounds called phonemes. Before Moulsford, my own experience of phonics was limited and I was never completely sure of what they were, how they were taught or if they worked. Although I have not been at Moulsford all that long, already I have been in many classes who are using phonics regularly and putting this strategy at the forefront of the children’s learning. Moulsford also follow the national curriculum for England for teaching phonics which means that more resources are often readily available online. Each class I have observed during their phonics lessons have had around 16-18 boys in and have used a range of activities to develop knowledge and understanding. Lessons at pre-prep level are taught every morning for half an hour and the older years mix phonics in with reading time and English lessons.

Image taken from google of a good example of a resource teachers may like to use in their classrooms

Euan Mclelland for the Daily Mail, mentions the benefits of teaching phonics, saying that phonics is a cost-effective way to help raise literacy levels across Britain and that teaching phonics closes attainment gap while not asking more from pupils than what they are used to or capable of. Also, the London School of Economics (LSE) have found teaching children to read using sounds rather than individual letters, far more effective and that this can be of greater benefit to children with English as an additional language. Furthermore, Rhona Johnston and Joyce Watson at the University of Hull have studied the implementation of phonics in classrooms from 1992 to 2004 and found that the teaching of 3.5 hours of phonics per week can bring children’s spelling, reading and vocabulary up considerably, concluding that there is considerably less time wasting in the classroom with phonics teaching and that the scores were generally better.

Andrew Davis has argued in the guardian that phonics doesn’t work and there shouldn’t be so much concentration put into phonics at a young age. Moreover, he states that English is a hard language to learn with words having many different spellings all with different meanings. He also says that there is no consideration in phonics for children who need braille and sign language and is therefore not an inclusive method to bring into the classroom. This point is strengthened by Abigail Marshall arguing that teaching phonics is an arduous process for many dyslexic students and that phonics-based teaching won’t help children with dyslexia because their reading barriers lie elsewhere.

Image taken from google images of a twinkl resource for phonics

Some of the resources that Moulsford have been using include books and websites from Lego superhero books to phonicsplay.com and twinkl. From what I had heard about the what phonics was I wasn’t expecting it to be taught in such an active way, with the children being so engaged. Games like the one here, from twinkle, include throwing a dice and then choosing a word from that to read and put into a sentence. Additionally, writing out words on whiteboards, possibly a more traditional way of teaching reading and writing, are still included in the daily lessons and the children also have a phonics book which will go home with them. This is where the boys can find the correct words in the home environment to match the sound for that week, which in turn with also get parents involved in their child’s learning. The children also make use of technology playing games on their smart boards in small groups or individually trying to find the correct spelling for the words on an ipad app.

To conclude this short post, every activity I have experienced are all key points which I will try to take away and put into my own future practice as a teacher, especially with phonics becoming more prominent in the Scottish Curriculum. My experience at Moulsford is certainly teaching me a lot about education in England, especially early years English in this case and this means I am hitting my goals for this placement already! I am hoping that after easter I may be able to try my hand at teaching my own phonics lesson and sifting through the wide world of resources out there at educators fingertips…

Image taken from google of some good outdoor phonics ideas

Image taken from google of resources which can be used

Image taken from google of resources which can be used

Musical Madness at Moulsford

With over 75% of boys at Moulsford learning at least one musical instrument, 2 choirs (involving over 120 boys) and an orchestra it is needless to say that Moulsford Preparatory School is a fantastic place to go if you’re interested in music! Today was a fantastic (although slightly mad) day at the school as it was the interhouse music competition. The school has 4 houses which the boys are all divided into for competitions like there were today. Those are Amundsen, Bering, Cabot and Drake. The competition has an external judge and consists of solo, ensemble and whole house performances from each house. The whole day is given to this and things got very competitive amongst the boys (and the staff).

I joined Bering for the day where the whole house performance was  ‘Boys That Sing’ by Viola Beach.

The whole morning after monday assembly was given over to whole house practice where it was lovely to observe everyone getting involved – including the staff. The staff in fact became a band playing guitars, bass and drums with some of the students and much to my dismay, me on the tambourine! Anyone without a musical instrument was singing and the year 8’s came up with dance moves for the pre-prep and senior sections of the school. Each house did something similar, some with backing tracks and us with a full band, but all had coordinated outfits, choreography and harmony. Each house was in it to win it and everyone had a part to play in this no matter how old or young.

Image taken from google I felt that the children working together with the pupils was the best thing about the inter house music competition!

Seeing everyone getting involved in this was not only heartwarming but food for thought in terms of how students and teachers work together in education all the time. Although as teachers we must always make sure that the students understand that we have responsibility for them and that means we should be the authority figure in the classroom, far too often we abuse that power and forget to spend time doing something fun rather than just learning. I feel that today I have spoken to far more children about the school, their classes and their lives than I ever would in a classroom and this is a key point that I will remember when I am a teacher for Health and Wellbeing topics. With the new named person legislation being put into place in Scotland, it will become more important for teachers to discuss with students about all aspects of their lives from school to home, and I personally do not feel this can be achieved if the children constantly see the teacher as someone who can never have a bit of fun. Furthermore, the attachment theory (Bowlby, 1969) explains that a positive teacher-student relationship enables students to feel safe and secure in their learning environments. By working together in the inter house competition today, I certainly felt that the children and staff were gaining each other’s trust through a lot of teamwork.

Image taken from google

There were broken classes in the middle of the day which were mainly given over to the solo and ensemble artists, so they had time to practice before the full competition in the afternoon. Everyone was amazing! The musical talent at Moulsford is simply fantastic and for children so young could certainly give the professionals a run for their money. Throughout all of the performances I was stunned at how quietly the children sat, listening to their peers and although competitive, how supportive they were of each other no matter which house they were in. Moreover, I have never been in a school where the children have sat so well and focussed so clearly on anything for such a long period of time. The guest judge gave positive feedback to each solo, ensemble and whole group practice as well as things to improve on which was excellent because every boy put their all into those performances and to be honest they all deserved to win. Additionally, studies of effective teaching and learning (Dinham, 2007) have shown that learners want to know where they stand in regards to their work.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day there can only be one winner and for the first time in 13 years a huge congratulations must go to Cabot who were the overall, very deserving, winners of the day. (Bering did come third and I would like to think this had something to do with my fabulous tambourine playing…). Today may not have been the most academic day for a teaching student to observe, but I did really enjoy my day listening to what musical talents Moulsford have to offer and see them taking a whole day away from the learning to spend time working in teams.

 

References

Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss, Vol. 1: Attachment. New York: Basic Books.

Dinham, S. (2007). The secondary head of department and the achievement of exceptional student outcomes, Journal of Educational Administration, 45(1), pp. 62–79.

Cognita De Vita

Learning From Life…

The title of this post is written in Latin as I am writing today about my first ever experience going into a Latin lesson. It was extremely interesting going into a classroom being totally unaware of what the children were learning about and saying. The teacher was extremely helpful by asking the children to explain what constituted a verb and giving the English before the Latin. Also, the teacher kindly handed me a sheet of the present passives so I wouldn’t be in the dark in what they were saying. I found the experience gave me a slight insight into how it must be for children coming to Britain with English as an additional language or with no English at all. I have had similar experiences going into French and Spanish lessons in previous placements as I have been fluent in Gaelic from a young age but have never had a wish to learn another language as my interests lie in social studies. At Moulsford, the boys learn Latin from Year 5 onwards, however this may change with the new timetable where they may start at Year 6. Latin not only consists of the learning of the language but also about its history as this could be a scholarship opportunity for some boys in the future.

Picture taken from google images

I have said myself that I have never been given the opportunity to learn Latin and that is purely down to the fact I went through state school. Yes, I was lucky in the sense that my parents lived in an area where the Gaelic curriculum was offered and decided that I would go into the Gaelic medium at 3 however, I am aware of the fact that this is not the case in the majority of schools in Scotland, let alone the rest of Britain. Private schooling is certainly one of the only options available if you want your child to learn certain languages including Latin unless you are willing to move, however according to The Independent Latin is said to have made a surprising comeback within state secondary schools over the past few years. I had a look on website for The Association for Latin Teaching where they have a list of all of the schools which offer Latin as a subject and state schools are certainly in the minority. It is clear that if you wish for your child to have any form of teaching instruction of the classics then private or independent schools are the way forward. 

Picture taken from google images

Professor Dennis Hayes believes that Latin should be taught in every primary school (no matter whether they are private or state) and be taught throughout school, not limited to the middle and upper years. He suggests that it would transform education in English schools and that subjects should become more accessible to children in state schools. Furthermore, I agree with Hayes that children should have the opportunity in all schools to access classic languages, but that I feel this only a dream. The current state education system in Britain is underfunded and the Financial Times recently produced an article stating that English schools will face a 6.5% cut in funding and expect it to happen by 2020. Therefore, the likelihood of the government spending a drastic amount on Latin teachers and a new curriculum for Latin is low when they are taking away money from other departments.

Some readers may ask why Latin, but I ask why any Language? Surely there is a benefit to children learning a language no matter what. I have had people say to me that Gaelic is a dying language and should be left to die instead of pouring money into it when there are more important things to be spending money on.  However, my argument to this is that I have used Gaelic throughout my life to converse with friends, as an extra exam on my University applications and most importantly in my job when I worked as an early years practitioner in a Gaelic Nursery. Furthermore, the same could be said with Latin with other students. Half of our English vocabulary is made up of Latin words and roots, it is argued that Latin is the most efficient way to learn English grammar and it is a part of our history as a country. Each language has its positives and negatives but I feel that Latin is a good language to teach children and should be taught in all schools. I look forward to observing more Latin lessons at Moulsford and hopefully learning a few Latin words myself. Today’s lesson certainly gave me something interesting to think about.

Gratias ago vos pro lectio!

 

The Moulsford Forest School Experience

Do we ignore the importance of outdoor play?

I am so lucky to have today visited a forest school with the pre-prep year groups from Moulsford. It was a new experience entirely for me and having bought wellies in preparation, everyone knew how excited I was to be given this opportunity. Outdoor education is something I tend to miss out of teaching because there is either not enough time or the weather in Scotland is horrendous at the time. The forest school teacher was extremely kind and helpful, explaining everything to me and getting me involved with the whole day. We all started by going to the forest from the school around 15 minutes away on the school mini-bus. The children were all dressed in rain suits, hats, wellingtons from home and warm clothing because there is no shelter or indoor area. The journey was short but the children were all excellently behaved and were told a story about Bosun the dog who sat in the back as good as gold barking along with the story. The atmosphere was really heartwarming for a total outsider to forest school like me. Moreover, it is an amazing opportunity to have a dog with the children on these trips which is so well behaved and plays so well with the children.

Upon reaching the forest the children walk from the busses parking place for around 5 minutes to a large clearing all cordoned off with fences and blue rope. This was the childrens are to do anything they wanted play, build, climb, sit. They can literally do anything they want. However, the first thing they have to do is to go and do their own check in pairs around the clearing that the blue rope, fences, ladders etc are all still intact and safe which they then report

My own image taken from the clearing

back to the forest teacher. After this the children are free to play on or build whatever they wish. The dogs ran and played fetch with the children for a long time however after a while the children went off to do their own thing – mostly climbing trees, logs, ladders, pulling the ropes and building swings. Furthermore, many children ran over to the forest teacher to ask if they were allowed to do certain things like building a swing or climbing a tall tree, to which the forest teacher always responded “what do you think?”. The open ended question gives children an opportunity to think about the situations safety and sense and they are also able to decide about something themselves. Giving the children this amount of responsibility can give great results for their confidence, as all children can be successful in answering the questions. The Queens University of Belfast believe that asking children open ended questions can play a salient part in the development of young children’s thinking.

The children received a snack which changes every week, and after that it is time to go home. With this group of children there was no moaning about leaving and they just did what they were told – something I am certainly not used to when leaving something which is so much fun. Leaving was just the same where the children were allowed to run in front with the dogs providing they were always in eyesight of the adults with them. This is one of the only rules of forest school which also include not going outside the boundaries and when climbing a tree ensuring the branches are as big as the children’s wrist and there are always 3 points of contact on any climbing instrument whether this be two feet, one hand or one foot, two hands etc. The relaxed atmosphere of the forest school means the children have a better chance to enhance their social and emotional skills and develop their imagination. Sarah Olmsted states in her book, Imagine Childhood, that the key main keystones of childhood are nature, imagination and play. Building on this, I had a very in depth discussion with one boy about fairies and elves living in trees and he was able to tell me about each room in the tree and what they would eat for dinner etc. He then took his imagination and played with the tree pointing out where the windows were and climbing up and down the ladder to look at them. The same boy also expressed his love of forest school saying he liked being able to play outside and climb the trees.

My own image of the clearing

In addition, it is important to be critical and ask is forest school really everything its cracked up to be? The paper work is intense, the risk assessment alone which I haven’t seen yet but will be writing about later in the term, I can only imagine is extremely lengthy and jam packed with things that could go wrong. The risk of taking the children to a forest is far greater than having them play in a classroom, especially with children climbing trees which they could fall down and building with logs and twigs which they could get splinters from. However, without children taking these risks how can we really ensure that children receive a hands-on learning experiences in a woodland area in a classroom. How can we ensure that their imagine develops to its full potential if everything is structured? Is a forest the most hygienic place to be taking children to? These are all questions surrounding forest schools across the country and its legitimacy in schooling today.

To conclude my blog post for today, the practice which I observed today has given me something to really think about with forest schooling, however for me personally the positives fully outweigh the negatives. The benefits are never ending and forest school is something I’d like to get more involved with here at Moulsford and then develop into my practice as a working teacher in the future. I feel that every child should have the opportunity to just play, yes they need to learn, but what about play! It is discussed all the time about play in education and putting learning into play, but I think good old fashioned play with no structure like I observed today, for me, is the most beneficial thing that any child can do in their lifetime. Because of this, I leave you with this thought…

Learning from Life – First Day Nerves

Needless to say this morning before my first day at Moulsford Boys Prep and Boarding School I was extremely nervous and could not wait to just get there and started. I’m extremely lucky and grateful to be living with family only 25 minutes away from the school itself and I have my car to travel in every morning so except for those first few nerves, getting to the school was a breeze!

Not an actual picture from the school grounds, but this gives a good idea to how magnificent the school’s surroundings are

I found the office and the first few hours of my day were spent meeting and greeting people, inductions and being shown around the school. The overwhelming feeling of welcomeness was incredible. The staff, the parents and the boys themselves were so friendly, kind and showing me where to go. When being shown around the school I was struck by the beauty of the surrounding area, especially as the school backs onto the River Thames and the boys can try their hand at canoeing, kayaking and more. Sports are a major part to life at Moulsford with opportunities to play rugby, cricket, football, tennis and many more with fixtures for teams being frequently held. Overall, I am extremely impressed by the opportunities the boys are given and as my placement goes on, will write some more about this side of Moulsford.

My day was not completely filled with meeting people and learning the geography but I observed pre-prep (or nursery as I would usually call it), Maths and English lessons. The children are all extremely polite and there were no cases of bad behaviour throughout the day, which struck me as quite different from any schools I have ever worked in before. Although I thoroughly enjoyed each lesson and have learned some new games I was slightly taken aback by how advanced some of the children’s English and Maths work is compared to students their age in Scotland through the Curriculum for Excellence. I will be learning more about the specific curriculum that Mouslford runs with and am attending at a good time as they are about to change their curriculum in September, so will be able to write more critically about the differences in the two curriculums.

Another first for me was the fact that I tried my hand at family service lunches where an adult stands at the top of the table and serves the boys their dinner and then proceeds to eat their dinner with them. This was a great opportunity for me to talk to the boys and find out what life at Moulsford is like for them as students. The overall resounding answer with many nodding heads and loud yes’s when I asked “do you like school then?” was astounding. When I asked why answers cropped up like “my friends all go here”, “the sports are really good” and “everyone is really nice and its near my house”. Clearly, the school means a lot to the boys as well as their families and I am looking forward to finding more about the boy’s opinion of the school, private education and boarding life as the next 6 weeks fly past.

I’m looking forward to writing up all about my experience with Forest School tomorrow!

Tomorrow, I am observing science, pre-prep, English, Maths and most excitingly FOREST SCHOOL! I have always wanted to see forest school in action and am so prepared I have even gone to Sainsbury’s and bought some funky wellies to keep my feet dry. Science is very exciting too although not my strong point if I am being honest, but there is always room for improvement and the teacher was extremely enthusiastic about me joining the class for the day. However, now I think I have earned an extremely long lie down and some chill time watching the footie – come on CHELSEA.!

Pedagoo Perth

My aim throughout my time as a student is to continue developing my professional practice so that when I graduate then I will already be in the habit. From day one, the University of Dundee have encouraged our use of twitter, twitter chats and blogs to effectively share our experience with others. I can safely say I’ve caught the bug and I can’t get enough of tweeting ideas I have seen and writing reflective pieces on my experiences at university. Therefore, it was natural that when I saw a tweet about Pedagoo Perth I was keen to find out more. After finding people to go with and signing up, I was getting more and more excited in the lead up to the event, to find out what this all entailed. I was not disappointed. I attended 3 separate chats all hosted by different practitioners and some of the discussion I was involved in taught me more than I could have ever imagined.

My first learning conversation was with Jason Bain where we discussed how to ensure that you record, reflect and take forward your professional learning? It was all about journals and keeping organised with our professional updates for the GTCS. This was interesting for me as I am a very organised person but have tweet ideas written on post it notes and facebook statuses saved all over the place but having an online journal where you can keep everything seemed to be a really good idea for me.

The second learning conversation was with Oscar Chamberlain discussing ICT in the classroom and how we can use excel and other applications to our advantage. I’ve never really been in a classroom for long enough to find that I have struggled with keeping up to date with reading groups and maths groups but I would imagine that I am the kind of teacher that will end up forgetting entirely so going out into a classroom with these ideas already in head, my first few years should hopefully be that little bit easier.

Lastly, I attended the learning conversation run by Kevin Hodgson about The Pursuit of Pivotal Plenaries. This was by far the discussion I took the most away from, especially as I am someone who struggles with plenaries from all angles. Finding the time, finding the ideas, having the motivation – you name it, I struggle with it. However, Kevin made the idea of plenaries sound fun, quick and informative for not just myself but also for the children. Using current themes like twitter and instagram – for example having a twitter wall – is something I had always wondered about the actual use of, but now I fully understand and look forward to creating my own! A book that was also recommended to us by Kevin which may interest any readers of this blog is The Book of Plenary by Phil Beadle. I am hoping to buy this soon during my next placement and put some of the ideas into action.

So overall this experience has been amazing for me as a new professional just starting out. Being part of this kind of community makes me much more passionate about teaching and being on social media fuels this passion as it is with me in my pocket wherever I go. Even going down to Oxfordshire for my Learning From Life placement this year will keep me focussed on being part of this community as I will be blogging as part of my assessment. Although the learning conversations for me were over after 3, other professionals who I have connected with through twitter or at the University have talked to me about other learning conversations that they attended so I then have an idea about what was discussed. This just shows that we can and sometimes have to learn from and rely on each other. After all, I am going into a career where you constantly have to learn. Its up to me to find anyway that I can to do this.