Category Archives: Curriculum resources

Do School Trips Educate Our Young?

I’m fresh from a school trip today and as a student teacher on placement, I wanted to share my experience as to whether or not school trips are – in my opinion – educational. The school trip in question was at Dundee’s Discovery – the ship which took explorers to Antarctica over 100 years ago.image1 The class had been doing the Discovery as a topic in the classroom and had covered many activities to go with the topic so that the children had some idea when they were in that part of the ship, what the sailors would have been doing. This was extremely educational. The whole layout of the ship was amazing and took you around each part with things to do like pull the rope and signs up with information on. There was a video too, which had loads of pictures from the expedition and of the sailors and it talked you through what the conditions would have been like for the men. There was even a talk for the children set up where they could try on clothes and compare them to current clothing meant for icy weather.

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

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

However, although this was an extremely educational trip for the children, why is there a lingering question from parents and the media around school trips being educational? School trips can be for an hour across the road in the local post office to a three week trip in India. The possibilities are endless. I was lucky enough to go on several school trips in school and in high school one teacher imparticual has inspired me to take my children on school trips when I am fully registered. I went to Edinburgh, London twice and Egypt with this teacher and I can hand on heart say they were some of the best experiences of my life – I learnt so much and I was never homesick because she planned so much for us to do. We were also made to fundraise to keep the costs low and if I did carol singing in one tesco around the highlands of Scotland those christmases, well, I sang in them all! I was truly lucky to have her as my teacher, she really cared about us as individuals and our experiences growing up. This is the type of teacher I aspire to be.

However, enough reminiscing about my own experiences and onto the question in hand. Do School Trips Educate Our Young? Well, the Scottish curriculum supports school trips by having an area on their website where you can find places in Scotland to go that they consider educational. This can be found here.  Education Scotland also say “Heading away from a young person’s familiar environment can provide new perspectives and lead to fresh discoveries.” So if our own curriculum supports school trips, is there really still an issue? Many teachers find that risk assessments put them off of actually taking the children outside of the classroom and I can see their point. Being involved actively in Girlguiding, I know just how much of a hassle risk assessments can be when I take the girls away or even outside of the hall for an evening. But surely as teachers we need to look at the positives? So you may spend 4 hours (yes, I really have spent this amount of time on a risk assessment before now) on a risk assessment which is a huge pain – but think of the experiences the children will have had by the end of the trip! Surely that alone is enough to persuade any teacher.

Through my reading I have read time and time again how outdoor education helps young people to be physically active as well as teaching to understand how to assess and manage risk.

This is a really good poem put onto a video about outside education by Hollie McNish. I think the main point that she points out is that schools are there to open doors to children. How can we do this unless we actually take them outside to see the world around them. A trip to the park can be educational enough for 3 and 4 year olds – I did it all the time with the nursery last year – because you can talk to them about what they see plus you’re giving them exercise by walking around and playing (major health and wellbeing benefits). The other reason we used to take the children to the park was because it was free. Cost is a huge issue for schools these days and if you can’t afford a proper educational school trip with all the bells and whistles to match then what you as a teacher will be giving your children is essentially something like a trip to the park. However, I have already explained how a trip to the park can be educational.

These are only two very short points on how educational school trips can really be. If we covered them all I would be writing this blog all day. So, to conclude, what I am saying is, school trips are all educational. They aren’t all boring or non-educational or costly. You just need to be thinking about them in the right context?

Craft, Design and Hot Glue Guns


Many people that know me would agree that me going near a hot glue gun isn’t necessarily the safest or most sensible option. BUT! On Tuesday I was given my own shot when we made these.. Mother’s Day Plant Pots. Richard (our tutor) basically gave us free rein to create whatever we wanted with the intention that we would make a learning intention and a success criteria to go with it for children in a classroom. The first thing we decided was that we wanted to have as our learning intention;

We are learning to safely use a hacksaw in order to cut a piece of wood into equal lengths.

imageWe then started looking on pinterest on things we could reasonably affordably and quickly make with children in a classroom. Here was our inspiration, which we made into our own idea. A plant pot for mother’s day for the children to take home with them. With that we discussed, we decided how to make the box, who already had experience in this field and who wanted to do which job. Teeny and Skye chose to do the presentation sheet and wrote down our success criteria as well as the learning intentions and the other areas of the curriculum covered in this activity.

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Our success criteria was

I can successfully; hold and use a hacksaw safely, measure equal lengths of wood.

After some further thought we realised that really we should have had more of a basic success criteria that the children could easily follow, but we can only learn!

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While this was going on we had Jess and Grace doing a fantastic job of sawing our pieces of wood. They all had to be equal lengths for the box to start taking a proper shape so they had a harder job with that in mind. When working with children I think I would want them to have already discussed with me safety whilst using a junior hacksaw and were able to measure properly with a ruler and understand why they were doing it. It could take quite a lot of practice to be able to properly use a junior hacksaw so this would be a good practice activity. image

After this was done we sanded down the pieces of wood and started gluing them together using a hot glue gun. This part could almost be another lesson on craft and design all together depending on how long the children take to do each part of the box making. However, using a hot glue gun is again something that I would be wary of doing with the children without some safety instruction beforehand.

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With all this excitement of me and Teeny using (very well actually) hot glue guns and sandpaper, Kathleen and Megan were busy to work making our pretend flower just for show. Although if I was going to do this in a cimagelass my obvious choice would be to use a real plant rather than one made out of wood. We imagedid not have that option available to us so we had to be practical and just made one instead. Using a real plant would get the children thinking about science, looking at the life cycle of a plant, different types of flowers and gardening just as a few examples.

So we did all this but what did we actually learn from doing it? Well we learnt about safety in the classroom and why it is important to teach the children the safety beforehand. I also took note that all the things in the room that we used are readily available to us, in a classroom they might not be and you might have to bring something in yourself from home (like a hot glue gun) or even go to the shops and spend your own money on it. Collaboration for us was hugely important. Yes, it took eight of us to make a box which might sound ridiculous but at the same time, children do sometimes work better in teams and I know for a fact I could not have done that without the others! Maybe this is a teamwork task more than an individual task and we would need to assess the different uses for the boxes.

So that was how we made our Mother’s Day flower pot! Here is the finished product!

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Just Another Post About Science Literacy..

If you’re looking at the title and thinking its a bit strange, let me explain… For our latest tutor directed task at the university, all the first years were asked to get together into groups and write 600 words as a team about what science literacy is, discuss an example of inaccurate media reporting and to discuss what fair testing is. We were then advised to upload them onto our blogs (which is why you’re reading this now) and share it via the University of Dundee edushare which everybody has done! I was lucky enough to be in a group of 3 with Kimberly Young and Hannah Wilson. We divided ourselves up as to which question we each wanted to focus on and take responsibility for. Working collaboratively with other students was a good experience because it meant that although we all had to take responsibility for researching and writing our own parts, we wanted it to be good for the others. I also felt a sense of responsibility for getting it done so “I didn’t let the team down” shall we say. So here is the finished product with some pictures and the references we used if you want to do some extra reading!

What is Science Literacy? (Katie-Rebecca Whitham)

Maienschein, J. et al. (1998) states that there are two main definitions for science literacy. The first emphasizes a huge focus on gaining units of scientific or technical knowledge. Second emphasizes scientific ways of knowing and the process of thinking critically and creatively about the natural world. Knowing about science means that you can make informed decisions about the world around us from an economic, social and personal point of view. Science literacy links in with some of the principles with the Curriculum for Excellence which are depth, coherence and relevance (Education Scotland, 2016). It is important for children to look at science in depth because if you don’t the children may not have the chance to understand at any other point. Coherence comes in because if the children link up their previous knowledge to their current learning then they may have a better overall understanding. Lastly, relevance is important because if you cannot justify why the children are learning what they are, then why are they learning it? If their work isn’t relevant to the Curriculum and the children’s interests then they won’t be interested in science.

An example of inaccurate media reporting? (Kimberly Young)

A shortage of scientific literacy could result in the development of false scientific conclusions. In 1998 one false accusation reported by the media was the investigation into the MMR vaccine. Andrew Wakefield, who no longer practices medicine, came to the conclusion that a child who is given this three in one vaccine for measles had an increase chance of developing autism. Of course, when these findings were released by the media many parents were hesitant and refused to get this vaccine for their children meaning the chances of the child catching measles increased.   In 2004 it was finally realised that these findings were false. Wakefield only did research on twelve children and these twelve medical reports did not match what Wakefield claimed in this findings. His findings were therefore false making the paper he published inaccurate and this paper was taken down. This illustrates how important science literacy is, the outcome of this false information resulted in children suffering for unnecessary reason. In new, recent research, it has been found that there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism. However, there are some parents who may still be hesitant or refuse this vaccine for their child as they still believe Wakefield’s findings.

What is fair testing? (Hannah Wilson)

Fair testing is one of many ways of learning through science enquiry. Testing is kept fair by experimenting in a controlled environment and changing one variable at a time. Teaching children how to test one variable at a time along with a control group shows them that only one variable can affect the outcome with a comparison (the control) reliably.  An example of a fair test in a school to improve scientific literacy could be to dissolve sugar in water. In each cup the same volume of water and sugar would be placed, one cup would have warm water and the other cold. The cold water (the control) gives them the comparison and proof that it is in fact the temperature that speeds up the sugar dissolving and not any of variables such as time left in water. Being scientifically literate is the ability to think critically about the world knowing that what they have in front of them may not always be reliable. So science literacy, the example of how false scientific conclusions and teaching fair testing iterates to children that not everything they say or hear is on based on evidence and they should challenge it if necessary.

 

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Is Playdough Really for Everyone?

After my blog post The Science Behind Play dough… I ended my post saying that I would be evaluating my play dough experiment. I took everything to my lecture in containers and the student I worked with seemed to really enjoy making the play dough and gave lots of positive feedback about my experiment. Everything went to plan and it was really easy to make and the recipe was perfect. One thing that I would add is colour to the play dough. Adding colour makes this activity more fun for children and if you are going to use it within a theme can match up – for example making it orange and black at Halloween.

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Whilst carrying out the experiment, as well as following the instructions, one of the discussions that we had was what age group this experiment could be done with. Through my experience I have always (wrongly I hold my hands up!) assumed that play dough is something that younger children mainly have an interest in by middle primary school age they don’t want to play. I even said this in my Science behind Playdough post writing “Each year group is different and obviously nursery aged children and P7’s will have different reasons for playing with play dough in class and speaking from experience the older children are the less interested they are in play dough and the more interested they are in Play stations.” Furthermore, it was mentioned in our discussion that actually there are many children who like making things out of clay and there is not a huge difference between clay and salt dough which you can leave to dry and become hard naturally or put in the oven. Plasticine is something else. Remember Morph?

And Wallace and Gromit are made out of plasticine?

They were some of my favourite things to watch as a child. So my initial thought that this would be a science experiment mainly aimed for younger children was completely abolished. Especially when I took the play dough we made home and I had 5 19-21 year old boys playing with it at the kitchen table…

A dinosaur

A dinosaur

A pig...

A pig…

 

 

 

I guess play dough really is for everyone…

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dancing Under the Sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maths, Anxiety, Stress and Me

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Countdown was my favourite maths game in school

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

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