Monthly Archives: September 2017

Effective “Egyptians” Education

Today’s first input for my Developing Effectiveness in Learning and Teaching module gave me a lot to think about and reflect on. I have to say that interdisciplinary learning is not something that I myself thought about when I was in school, however I remember my school days quite clearly. Now I think back to my days in school I can point out subject content which linked together, but at the time it really didn’t cross my mind in the slightest that we were doing maths and ICT at the same time or science and literacy for example.

I’m always very honest about the experiences that I had in school – good and bad – but in this post I want to focus on one of the P4 projects that really made me motivated to learn at the time. It was the still popular today topic, Egyptians and I loved every second of it! My grampy did his national service in Egypt so has always told me loads of stories about his role out there at the time and the kind of things he had to do (mostly getting up to mischief and into trouble by the sounds of it – but that’s my grampy for you!). Maybe it was this connection to home that helped me really engage with these interesting lessons which says a lot to me about the idea of making sure you can connect subjects to a child’s life at that time. I was able to learn in school and then go home every week to phone my Grampy and tell him about what we had been up to, which I thought made me very clever at the time.

However, I think the teacher had a hand in making this a memorable topic too by making the activities that we did in class time engaging. The most memorable activity for me was making papyrus. I loved (and I mean loved to the point where I did it at home too) the messy side to making the papyrus, the waiting for it to dry and then carefully planning what we were going to write on our papyrus when it was ready to use. As a class (only 6 of us but still) we all made a decision to draw our names in hyrogliphics on the papyrus and I can clearly remember us all trotting along to the local library to research hyrogliphics so we could write our names out when our papyrus was ready. I was quite small in P4 and I believe there was an argument over who was getting to use the photocopier which I lost because of my height and the fact I wouldn’t say boo to a goose – so this topic wasn’t all the sweetness and light I make it out to be…

It’s probably down to the fact that we took time out of the classroom and it was the first time I had taken proper ownership of my work by researching what I wanted to do on my papyrus that led this to being one of my fondest memories of primary school. Moreover, it has also led me to believe that children taking full ownership of their work is something really important in a classroom and this experience has moulded the type of practitioner I have seen in action in the nursery and I’m sure I will see as a fully qualified teacher.

Me riding a camel in Egypt. A once in a lifetime experience I will never forget.

On a final note, the Egyptians topic really left a lasting impact throughout my schooling as 8 years later in S5, I was off to Egypt myself to see the pyramids, hyrogliphs and mummies on a school trip with my favourite teacher. It was an experience I will never forget and I’m so proud that the shy little girl from P4 managed to go out on a 12 day school trip to a continent she had never been to just to see some of the amazing things she’d learned about at just 8 years old. It just shows really what a lasting impact the topics we choose as teachers, can have on the children and as I continue this module, I hope to learn more about how I can make the right decisions in order to give the children in my classroom the same lasting impact I have experienced.

The History in Castles

This week I have been lucky enough to have visited not one but TWO castles, have been learning about history teaching in lectures and have frankly loved every second of it. I went to visit family for the weekend in Northumberland and with them knowing how much I love history, going round the castles seemed the best activities to undertake. The first was Bamburgh Castle – the ‘King of the castles’ which looks over the sea, was built in the medieval period and is now home to the Armstrong family. Sunday’s stunning castle was Alnwick castle – home to the Duke of Northumberland, has some magnificent state rooms and is some of the inspiration to the outside of Hogwarts, including where the broomstick lesson scene was filmed in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (absolutely not the reason I went *ahem).

However, my week of history started on Thursday with my first social studies lecture based around history. As I aspire to someday become a history teacher in a prep school, I was eager to get started and learn what I can. But, I am very aware that history can be one of the more challenging and emotive subjects to be teaching in a primary classroom and some teachers will keep as far away as possible from the subject and for as long as they can. Furthermore, one of our first tasks has been to ensure that we fully understand the constraints when teaching history and what good practices we can keep to help ourselves as professional practitioners.

We have been asked to look at the The Historical Association (2007) TEACH booklet which has some very useful tips to teachers who need some guidance when it comes to teaching history and also what the constraints are that teachers find the most trying. Moreover, one of the more regular constraints I saw popping up was that there is not enough time given to the subject. But I honestly cannot blame some teachers! The amount some teachers have to do is incredible and then the government have the cheek to pile more on. It’s quite ridiculous. But at the end of the day, none of this would be the problem that it is if teachers had the training in history they needed because they would be more willing to find the time. We all know how good history is at falling into the themes that teachers know (and usually love to teach), but teachers have inadequate subject knowledge.

Bamburgh castle was simply gorgeous!

Moreover, although self study would help this quite considerably, teachers do not have the time to simply buy books to teach themselves what happened here and watch lengthy documentaries about what this person did there and it is unfair to ask teachers to give up their time to do this! If schools and councils were able to give suitable training and information sessions on certain history topics, I am without a doubt that teaching history would not be quite as much of a chore to some professionals as it seems.

Resources are my bug bare in schools, I love creating them and the laminator is my ultimate best friend, however as before I constantly find there is just not enough time to be cutting and laminating a whole topics worth of resources (and I applaud those who do) every couple of weeks. Some teachers will read this gritting their teeth and minds screaming “but its your job!”. However, I am not the only trainee on a placement to be hunting around the school’s resources to see what I can borrow for my “mini project” and know from speaking to other professionals that it is all to easy to slip into the routine of grabbing that box off the top shelf, dusting it off and rifling through the same resources used in the eighties for something to teach the children with. I hold my hands up and say I am a hypocrite because I have done it, but am very aware this is one of the worst things that you can do! All of these old resources will have some value yes, and I’m not in anyway saying we should bin them, all I’m saying is we should be not relying on them but mixing them with newer ideas. The Historical Association (2007, p.21) TEACH booklet suggests using puppets, music, films and cartoons that will appeal to today’s children and can also encourage personal engagement with the topic.

I would teach children about cooking in different times and the challenges big banquets would have brought!

Walking around both castles, I also saw many different ways in which you could link different periods of history with other curriculum subjects. Both castles had libraries which I would take as an opportunity to explore some of the books that were written years ago but are still read and thoroughly enjoyed today. Health and wellbeing could be explored through how people would prepare meals and which foods they would eat. I might even attempt to get my class to prepare their own meal from this era to see if they would like eating/prepping foods from these times – if taught the right way, it would certainly relate to their lives today! Finally, I might take a look at some of the scientific findings that have been discovered – for example Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb in 1879 – and do some experiments, involving light, of our own. It would all take a little more thought than little old me typing away at my keyboard for 5 minutes, but you all get the idea that it can all be linked together if you try..

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my weekend, and I would go to both castles with classes of children to give them a close up view of how people used to live. Moreover, I feel that getting the children out there to see these castles on school trips is a vital part to learning, something which is concured by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (2004, pp. 4). I see the value in teaching history greatly, and cannot see my opinion changing but only becoming stronger on my social studies course which I am really happy about and excited for. The upcoming weeks will hopefully provide me with many more good practices and recommendations to help me with the constraints that teaching social studies can prove. I might even force myself to visit a few more castles…

References

Department for Culture, Media and Sport (2004) Inspiration, Identity, Learning: The Value of Museums, Leicester: RCMG.

The Historical Association (2007) T.E.A.C.H: Teaching Emotive and Controversial History 3-19, London: The Historical Association.

Powerful Knowledge in the Social Studies Classroom

So, after a wonderful summer of work, work, Paris, work, its back to third year and within my first day I have been subjected to TDT’s! Nothing quite like getting into the swing of things, is there? My elective module this year is Scottish Studies (unlike me I know, but when I signed up to it, it was called social studies and it sounds like this is what it will be) and will have main focuses on geography, history and politics – just has social studies does in a primary school. It looks as though I will be updating this blog on a more regular basis again (yay) because we have to create a portfolio which will have pieces of writing which reflect on what I am reading, thinking and learning. So lets start as we mean to go on!

I am starting off by comparing two very different articles which are referenced at the end, on a knowledge based approach in the classroom setting. Young (2013, p.115) throughout the article, has argued that a knowledge based curriculum is not a workable solution to any problems arising in our curriculum, but would highlight the issues in our modern society. Roberts (2014) on the other hand has written positively about knowledge in the curriculum, feeling that the knowledge children bring in to the classroom from past experiences can be an asset to the classroom for pupils. Now I’m going to be honest here. I found the article Young wrote quite a tricky read, putting it down and thinking “what does knowledge even mean anymore”? It could have been the fact it was the evening and I just needed some sleep and it could have been the language he has used, but I decided to find out exactly what is meant by  a knowledge based curriculum. The Great Education Debate (2013) has stated that a knowledge based curriculum is based primarily on knowledge as opposed to the skills a child will need for going out in adult life to work. Currently, our curriculum’s are based on the skills needed and not the knowledge, but some people feel that knowledge in the classroom is far more important.

Now we know what a knowledge based curriculum is, what are my thoughts on what I have read? I personally think there is absolutely a case for knowledge in the classroom. At the end of the day knowledge is already a huge part of the curriculum, we are teaching knowledge everyday – I am slightly confused as to why we are believed NOT to be teaching knowledge already, but rather skills. Roberts (2014, p.192) discussed Vygostky throughout the article and points out how Vygotsky values knowledge learned at home and supports children’s everyday experiences. On the other hand, Young (2013, p.111) disagrees with Vygotsky, claiming that a child’s experiences growing up can limit their education. Personally, I feel a child’s previous experiences can benefit the child’s learning in the classroom because I have seen first hand how enthusiastic some children can be about sharing personal stories from home and the joy on their faces when they realize they already knew something. The children can feel smart and accomplished with is really positive for those pupils with low self esteem.

Don’t we find out what children already know as teachers everyday from their old books?

My argument is also that, do we not as teachers get taught to understand our children when they join our classroom, which I have always believed to mean, understand how much knowledge they already have AND the skills they already have. Furthermore, the first thing most teachers will do is grab the child’s old books and see what they have learned previously or talk to the child to gain an understanding. Young (2013, p.111) reports that students don’t come to school to learn what they already know from experiences and frankly I completely agree. It seems stupid in my head to teach children something they have already learned, but at the end of the day, as a teacher if you do not explore what knowledge children have already learned then how will you know what it is you need to teach them in the first place. Therefore, previous knowledge can benefit the teacher in the classroom as well. 

I think when it comes to social studies, we need to draw on these experiences. Children will have a wide range of ideas of what, for example, geography means and this includes from direct and indirect experiences Moreover, as Roberts (2014, p.193) suggests, a schools curriculum should not exclude a child’s everyday knowledge, it should be utilized. The problem with this is that every pupil is different and with that, every child’s experience will be different, so how can you possibly design a curriculum which can include the millions of different experiences a child will have. This argument against a knowledge based curriculum continues with, Young (2013, p.112) believing, this curriculum will not be practical for all students, leaving the proportion of students failing left to increase. Although, this is a rather bold statement to make, I see that Young believes the knowledge based curriculum is not a solution for the faults in the current curriculum and may add to them.

To conclude, with the many arguments for and against from Young and Roberts’s articles, I have come to the conclusion that when it comes to class sharing activities, it is vital for a child to have knowledge in the classroom. I don’t feel it is right for the current governments to suggest that we only prepare students with skills for the working adult world either, because on a daily basis teachers are using the experiences that children have brought into the classroom with them positively. Children are leaving our education system into a modern society very different from the societies we have seen before, with knowledge at our finger tips from just one click of a button. We need a curriculum that will take both skills and knowledge into account to equip our young for the working adult world of today.

 

References

Roberts, M. (2014), ‘Powerful knowledge and geographical education’, The Curriculum Journal, Vol.25, No. 2, pp.187-209

The Great Education Debate. (2013) ‘The Curriculum’, [Online] Available at: http://www.greateducationdebate.org.uk/debate/debate.the-curriculum.html (Accessed on 13th September 2017)

Young, M. (2013), ‘Overcoming the crisis in curriculum theory: a knowledge-based approach’, Journal of Curriculum Studies, Vol.45, No.2, pp.101-118