Category Archives: Curriculum resources

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.

 

 

Winnie-The-Pooh

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?

My Peer Education Story

img_3056As an avid Girlguider I was delighted to get a place on the Peer Education training course last weekend. Peer Education is Girlguiding UK’s innovative programme that trains members of The Senior Section (14-25 year olds) to empower themselves and others to make a difference in the lives of girls throughout the UK through different “training sessions”. During the course of the weekend, we were trained to run fun, safe and challenging sessions on many different topics which are tailored to an age range of 7-25 year olds, and which have the right activities and content to make a difference in young people’s lives. We can deliver sessions on Think Resilient – mental well-being, Free Being Me – growing girls’ body confidence and self-esteem, Healthy Relationships – being good and safe friends and being able to tell whether a romantic relationship is healthy and lastly Youth Health – being aware of the effects of alcohol, smoking and drugs. The weekend was truly so much fun and the ladies training us were the most enthusiastic, funny people around – really adding to the atmosphere and learning. And the food was great which was a huge bonus.

I signed up for the Peer Education course initially to make a difference to young people who have been bullied after my own experiences, feeling a strong will to do something to help young people in a way I was never lucky enough to have in my school. This will to help children who have been bullied almost expanded my will to become a teacher far stronger to stop children having the same treatment from teachers I had. Although I feel really let down by the way the school I went to dismissed the way I was bullied I was lucky enough to have a weekly guides group with amazing leaders I am now lucky enough to call friends. Girlguiding has been there for me on two occasions in my life where I felt I had nowhere else to go and got me through, so naturally I feel heavily in debt to the charity and Peer Education seemed like the way for me to repay this at this stage in my life. However, on the course I found that Peer Educators have a far bigger job than just helping young Girl Guides understand365-2 the effects of bullying but that they help children to find coping mechanisms with this mental health and their body. In 2013 7,800 girls had been seen by a Peer Educator and there were over 500 peer educations in the UK.

 

Some of the techniques and activities I learned linked in heavily with many of the subjects I will be teaching in the future as a part of Health and Wellbeing. As exciting and fun as the weekend was it really hit home to me that some of the topics we were discussing would actually be happening to some of the children in my classroom. Although we see children smoking at an early age in the news and hear children say they think they looked fat in those pair of jeans in primark as we walk past them in the shopping center, we soon forget that we ever saw it and do nothing about it. But what kind of a society have we become that this is the norm? What kind of example are we setting for our children in the future if we do nothing about it? This was when it clicked that actually – teachers might have a far harder job in terms of pastoral care than I initially thought…
peer-educatorNow I’m trained up with these techniques I feel a lot more confident to go out into a classroom and talk to children about all sorts of these things. Activities that I learnt on my course like breathing techniques/emotions bucket to show children that even though your emotions overflow sometimes, you can always share feelings with someone/people mind map to show the people the children can go to if they are feeling down to talk are extremely versatile and can be run with children in many different settings – not just at Guides. I honestly cannot wait to start my peer education sessions though and am already taking bookings to run sessions so it looks like I’ve got a busy year ahead of me. Although I’ll be extremely busy it keeps me going to think about the good I will be doing for children across Dundee and the Highlands and just wish there was a way of expanding it to help more children in need of these techniques. But in the mean time I suppose I have to settle with the fact I’m a university student and taking Peer Education all over the world my just be a little too much for my tiny little brain to manage.

Part of a Peer Educators job is to inform the public of the amazing things we do in Girlguiding and spread the word about the sessions we teach so, after reading this if you feel inspired to find out more about the sessions we run and what we do please contact me by commenting below or go to www.girlguiding.org.uk and share this post so more people can know!!

This years newly trained Scottish Peer Educators - a very proud bunch!!

This years newly trained Scottish Peer Educators – a very proud bunch!!

Can all books encourage learning?

Wow, what a long time since my last post. I’ve had an awfully busy summer working 2 jobs in my home village in preparation for my second year at the University of Dundee studying Primary Teaching. Although the majority of my summer holidays were taken up with work I managed to have the odd day off where I went to the cinema (on that subject I would highly recommend going to see Finding Dory and BFG) or grabbed a short break down at my nanny’s. But, best of all and definitely the highlight of my summer was travelling 60 miles on the 31st of July to the nearest book shop (yes, I live in the middle of nowhere) to grab the highly anticipated next instalment in the “Harry Potter” series. YES, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” took over the bookshops this summer and definitely the majority of my august reading it. This is a series which ever since going to see the first film for my 5th birthday completely took over my life and as I’m sure you can tell, still does.

Being the daughter of a mother who loves to read she won’t mind me telling you she was slightly upset (devastated) when I had no ambitions to read and much preferred to cuddle up on the sofa to watch the football or a film, rather than a good book. I was read to from an early age and my vast collection of story tapes would send me to sleep but the one thing that I refused to bother with was a book. This carried on into my teenage years, where I won’t even get into the battle my English teachers had with me to get me to read the curriculum set books. I simply wasn’t interested until my 5th year English teacher said to me that it didn’t matter what I read as long as I enjoyed it. That was when the “Harry Potter” books thanks to my English teacher changed my mind. I would read those books until the early hours of the morning and the spines were so split pages were falling out. Because of him and his advice, I am now an avid reader, reading for pleasure as well as for university. However, many people would not agree with my teacher, but would say that the series that inspired me to read more isn’t proper literacy and is silly stories set for little children.

Just over a quarter of 35,000 children from 188 schools in the UK told the National Literacy Trust that they read outside of school in 2013 according to this BBC article. To me this is a scary prospect especially with the huge number of developments trying to encourage children to read such as book bug and the summer reading challenge. So as teachers shouldn’t we be encouraging the love of reading no matter what the book? One teacher who certainly embraced their love for the series in Imgur user, Entopop, who transformed their classroom into a “Harry Potter” classroom. With figurines, banners and candles all around I am sure some children in that classroom will be inspired to read the books (see pictures here).

Jeffrey Canton in the Washington Post compares the work by J.K.Rowling to other works like Alice in Wonderland and says that he finds it lacking in craft. Others in this article agree and some say that it has been written poorly and the later books are far too long for what the books really contain. Although I’m bias because I love the series, one quote that often sticks in my mind is Philip Womacks in the telegraph from 2012. “It’s written awkwardly and is clumsy in places – although it does tell the story well. And it lacks subtlety. Even Professor Snape, who is meant to be complex, is so obvious.” Womack in this quote has nothing positive to say except that the story is told well and in my eyes, I get the impression that Womack forgets that Rowling wrote and published this story for children not for it to become a piece of classic literacy.

1526667_959865904042871_4348001383586221120_n“Harry Potter” was never supposed to be a classic and whether you love it or loath it, is a fictional story loved by children and adults across the world which a whole generation grew up with. A theme park has dedicated a section to it, which I myself have visited and loved and the series of films and books bring in billions of pounds each year. Every year more and more children pick up the “Harry Potter” series, start it and find their love of reading. This post wasn’t written to prove anything or be an academic piece of writing but the question of whether we as teachers should encourage the “Harry Potter” series as reading is just something which has been playing on my mind over the summer since the new book came out. Whatever your view, I’m sure by now you have realised that I agree with my 5th year English teacher and think no matter what the book is or the content, if a child gets something out of it and it gives them the will to read a wider range of books we should encourage them, whatever it takes, to read. I am just one child who found the “magic” of reading a book in “Harry Potter” and certainly won’t be the last.