Category Archives: Curriculum resources

Inset Day – Purple Pens and Labelling Lads

Yesterday’s inset day was a lovely relaxing first day back for the teachers before the madness of the children arriving! Moulsford had booked a local teacher to talk to us from a private school in Oxford who are changing their curriculum, like Moulsford, to a more skills based curriculum. As he started I already liked the idea of what he would be talking about and he ended up keeping me engaged throughout his whole talk and giving me fantastic ideas to come away with to put into practice.

Image taken from google – is this really how we want children to feel when we label them?

The first thing which the gentleman discussed was ensuring as teachers we have high expectations of all our students. One of the problems in teaching at the moment can be the way we label our pupils from “low ability” and “lazy” to “gifted” and “clever”. I had never actually sat and thought about how my own thoughts and discussions with colleagues could have such an effect on the child themselves but I am really glad I have because I have realized now that it can really influence a child and their own expectations for their learning. Even the parents start to pick up on children who are in top sets or low sets and it reminded me of the episode of desperate housewives (I know sorry, but it was a good example) where two of the main characters go crazy trying to figure out which one of their children were in the higher maths class by stealing homework to look at from other children.

Image taken from google – what does this image really say about us as teachers putting children into sets?

Now although that is going to the extremes and is from a made up show, there is definitely something there to think about, because labeling our children as teachers clearly has an effect on our pupils. Granted, this can often be positive with children thriving from the praise of being a “star pupil” or an “A-grade student” but those labelled as “weak” or “unable” are, in my opinion far less likely to try to get better grades. The RSA have an interesting article on a system where at the start of the year every child is given an A grade and they have to continually show good academic work to keep the grade. Their research shows in fact that children are likely to try to hold on to the A they have been given rather than being given a C and to then have to try and bring it up to an A.

Growth mindset is everywhere at the moment and is something which was also discussed about in the talk. I can honestly say I didn’t really understand it fully until yesterday, it was just words that professionals kept using and I was reading in academic books and journals. However, now having done the activities in the talk I can say that I understand more of what growth mindset is and how important showing children that they can change is. Intelligence shouldn’t be seen as a fixed point, it should be seen as something which can be developed. Moreover, failure was discussed at the talk as well and how giving the children an opportunity to fail and learn from it, is just as important as giving children an opportunity to learn. This was then continued as the main focus for today’s morning assembly for the first day back. The head master made the point interactive by having children up at the front and re-iterated the fact that failure is something which should be seen as positive as we are able to learn from it. The following video was also shown, in order to prove to the boys that failure can happen to anyone, not just them.

Image taken from google here is an example of the pit

The last 2 points of the talk were challenging children and giving children informed feedback. I always try to challenge my pupils no matter their age or stage, but I dont challenge them to the extremes where children go into the “panic zone”. The teacher leading the talk discussed “the pit” with us and what using this tool could do for our teaching and the childrens learning. When discussing feedback, we looked at many different ways in which feedback can inform the children of ways they can improve on their work. Many different marking strategies including two stars and

Image taken from google – here is an example of the purple pen of progress in action!

a wish, peer assessment, question and answer were discussed in groups, but overall the main marking strategy I will be taking away from this is the “progress pen”. The idea behind this is that the children will be able to write in comments in their books around the teachers comments about how they will progress in their learning and more specifically they use it to answer their next step targets that the teacher has given them. To be picky, the amount of time this may take students to create a target for each piece of work could be lengthy until they get the hang of it, however the idea behind it is something I like and I feel it is a great way of teaching children that they should be in charge of their own learning!

To conclude, I feel that labeling children can be dangerous and the the RSA have come up with something very different with their ideas of starting off every pupil with an A grade. I personally don’t like to label children, however sometimes when discussing the child’s progress and ability in certain subjects I do see how these terms can creep into conversation, even if they are positive! Furthermore, I definitely think the learning pit and the purple progress pen are teaching tools which I like and would  use in lessons, even as just a student myself to make children in my class feel better about their learning and feedback. It is our job as teachers to ensure that all children feel that they are in a safe space to fail and by teaching them these techniques we can get one step closer to making them feel that they are in a safe space.

Image taken from goolge


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 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

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…

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.




During our mathematics lectures we have been exploring the different words we use as mathematical language in the classroom. One way in which we use mathematical language on a daily basis is through reading picture books. To explain this further I have chosen to look at old time favourite, Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A.Milne.

Image result for winnie the pooh book

Filled with great stories and great illustrations Winnie-the-Pooh has been engaging children for over 90 years but not many people would look quite so carefully at the language it uses. The first page of this book alone which only has 13 lines includes;

  • One
  • Some
  • Down
  • Begin
  • Behind
  • Far
  • Another
  • Bottom
  • First

There are probably more on that page that I haven’t picked up on, but you see the point I am trying to make. Shape, height, pattern and time are also written into the book which anyone not looking for it would miss entirely, but if a teacher was looking to point this out, is readily available for learning opportunities.

Some fun activities that I might do linked to this book are;

  1. Having a honeypot number line in the classroom
  2. Making “woozles” tracks in sand or mud (or snow if you can!) to explore patterns, size and shape
  3. Looking at the map at the beginning of the book to explore numbers, compasses and length
  4. Counting different things on the pages such as honeypots, bees, footprints, words and woodland creatures

There are so many amazing things that I love about this book but one that I really want to point out is the layout of the writing. In each book I have come across the way the words are spread out across the page, in many different directions, sizes, lengths and fonts are really interesting and unique to each edition of the book. The page opposite is from the original by A. A. Milne and E. H. Shepard edition of 1926 and I would definitely compare different editions of the book and focus on these pages when in the classroom.

I think in the short time it has taken to write this post it has become plain to see that mathematical language is featured heavily in this book. This classic book will live of for years to come and be read in classrooms across the country, but it is up to the teachers to point out the mathematical language when reading, Winnie-the-Pooh.

Non-Fiction Writing Ideas

Today’s lecture was our second so far about non-fiction texts and delivering lessons around them in the classroom. After going through the different types of non-fiction texts we will be teaching about we were all given a book and asked to create our own lesson from this. The group I was working with was given was “Beware of the Storybook Wolves” by Lauren Child. blog-picture

It was a lovely little book about a little boy who’s mother always read him a bedtime story and the wolves start to escape from the books. One part of the story was about the boy saving himself involving jelly and this is what we decided we could base our non-fiction lessons around. We thought about the time it would take and finalized that a week would be perfect for these activities and thought that the non-fiction text we would be teaching the children would be instructions in the form of a recipe for the jelly. We also wanted to incorporate other forms of media other than cookbooks into our lessons, thinking about cookery programmes on TV like Saturday Kitchen, Magazines like BBC Good Food and contemporary online websites like BBC Food and Deliciously Ella. The rough template of the lessons throughout the week is as follows.

Monday – Read the story and talk about the main parts of the book – especially the Jelly part. Start a discussion with the children on what they already know about layout of recipes, making jelly, accessing recipes and what recipes are used for.

Tuesday – Recap with the children about the discussion from yesterday and explain that they will be looking at some of the different kinds of recipes out there and how to access them. Show them a cookbook and ask them to find a recipe for jelly. Show them the BBC Food website and show them how to navigate it. Watch a video similar to this one or a clip from The Great British Bake Off? Find some food magazines and ask the children to compare them to the cookbook recipes – are there any differences? Would they appeal to them more because you can get a new magazine every week etc? Are the recipes all the same style of food like in the cookery book? All of these would be done as a whole class or in groups going around tables. Also if you have time it might be good to look at the back of packets of jelly and look at the instructions and how they are written. What kind of an audience are they tailored to, could anyone understand them?

Wednesday – Discuss different roles in groups i.e. head chef, team leader, photographer, writer etc depending on the the number of children in each group. Once the groups have been divided hold a lucky dip with each group writing/filming a recipe in the style of a website, cookery book, TV show or jelly packet. Give the children enough time to design the non-fiction text, create it and look over it. You may want to give them “deadlines” to keep them on task in the time you have and also have 2 minute interval’s for whole class reflection if some groups go off task.

Thursday – Each group will be given a different recipe to the one they have written and then make their own jelly by following the instructions. Leave jelly to set overnight. Not every child get the chance to cook at home themselves and by giving them this opportunity in the classroom you are broadening their experiences and connecting the literacy outcomes with health and well-being.

Friday – Try each jelly and discuss as a whole class which recipe was the easiest to use. At this time the whole class could look over the different recipes created on the Wednesday and reflect on their work in the group, did they all have the right jobs? This could also be done on the Thursday if there wasn’t enough time on Friday and the jelly had set.

So that was our plan. Not only would this connect in with literacy outcomes but health and well -being (wash hands/general hygiene when making jelly and written into recipe, will the children add fruit to their recipes), technology (those designing a website and filming a TV style recipe) and maths (measurements for jelly making/in the recipe and the time it takes to set) too! I personally really enjoyed planning this because I realized that you can make literacy lessons fun and interlink them with other curricular areas. Plus it involved food. Who knew you could get so much learning done through jelly?