Recently, in RME sessions, we have been thinking about morals, and the idea of right and wrong – both from religious and non-religious perspectives. While discussing this, I couldn’t help but think of a wonderful lesson that I came across on the internet a while back. In this lesson, a teacher used 2 simple apples to demonstrate the damaging impact of bullying, and more importantly how a person may seem okay on the outside, but may be hurt on the inside.
During the lesson, the teacher took 2 apples. She then proceeded to be ‘unkind’ to one apple – dropping it on the ground and calling it hurtful names. She also encouraged the children to do the same.
Then she turned her attention to the second apple, which she complimented and treated with care.
After the children had passed around both apples, they began to compare the apples. From the outside, both apples looked very similar. But when the teacher cut the apples in half, it was very clear to see that one apple (the one that had been treated with care) was fresh and healthy, while the other was bashed and bruised.
(Lesson explanation summarised from THIS ARTICLE by the telegraph)
What a powerful way to explain this concept to children! I love the fact that the children were involved in the actions of being kind or unkind. I also really like how the results are tangible and obvious, to allow the children to really think about what has happened. This would allow the teacher to lead some brilliant discussions about what happens to us when someone is unkind.
TASC stands for ‘Thinking Actively in a Social Context’. This is an approach which can be used when planning, to create experiences that will challenge and engage students – making links with social learning theories such as Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development.
In RME, we were asked to have a go at using the TASC wheel while planning learning around the concept of Pilgrimage. I decided to plan with a lower-school class in mind, and here is what I created:
I used the starting point of something that children would be familiar with – the journeys that they make. While this wheel encouraged me to ‘decide on the best idea’, I feel that I would in fact use many, if not all, of the ideas listed in the ‘generate’ stage to build up the children’s knowledge.
I am not sure that I found the TASC wheel particularly helpful in my own planning, however I can see that it could be used with the children, in order to involve them in their learning. I appreciate the ‘step by step’ layout which could help children to think through their task and their approach to learning. I also like the emphasis on communication and reflection, as these are important parts of learning which can sometimes become lost in day-to-day teaching and learning.
One of the highlights was having the opportunity to watch and be a part of the Spring Concert on Wednesday evening. It was really great to see the talent and hard work of these young people as the various groups played a range of music – from classical pieces to contemporary pop.
Although I only played a very minor role (re-arranging chairs between sets – and doing it rather badly if I’m honest), I enjoyed being a part of the event.
During the week I have continued to be involved in Kodaly, African drumming, Samba band, Orchestra, Brass band, and Wind band. I have also been thinking about how I could use some of the methods and resources from these sessions in my own teaching. One activity which I particularly liked involved the written notation for rhythms (stick notation).
These notations can look like this (please excuse my poorly imitated versions):
In this activity, children were asked to play the rhythm on the flashcard, being careful not to play the rhythm of “don’t play this one back” (a familiar game). This involved the skills of reading and identifying the rhythms, as well as being able to play them.
After observing this lesson, I began thinking about the connections between music and maths. Musicians use maths all of the time when counting beats in a bar, and working out how long a note lasts for e.g. a minim or crotchet.
One possible activity on this topic could be to use the rhythm patterns (as shown above), and allowing the children to choose which rhythms they would use to fit into a bar. Bars could be varied in length, but would probably start with 4 beats.
For example, the children could create something like this:
This pattern would sound like this (played on my clarinet using just one repeated note):
An extension of this would be to create something more complicated also using semibreves, quavers and rests.
This activity can be seen on the following video (from around 0:04:30):
This activity could be extended as the children add the note heads to their rhythms, creating their own melodies.
Another way which music notation makes meaningful connections with maths is through fractions and times tables, i.e. if there are 4 beats in the bar, how can it be divided? How many lots of “tea” would fit or how many “coffee”s? I think that it’s important to apply maths in as many different ways as possible, so that children can grasp and understand it. Using music can help to add an element of fun to this learning (and maybe avoid the dreaded worksheets!)
I can’t believe that’s my first week of placement over already! What a brilliant week it has been!
Here are some of the experiences that I have been involved in:
During the Kodaly sessions, I saw p1 children learning about the foundation elements of music, including rhythm, pitch, and tempo. This learning happens in a fun, active, and play based way, which reminds me of the circle games that I might use with my pre-school children at nursery. An example of this was when children were learning about tempo: they made 2 trains (standing in a line with their hands on the person-in-front’s shoulders), with one being the fast train, and one being the slow train. As they moved around the room, each train had a chant:
Engine, engine, coloured green,
The fastest train I’ve ever seen!
Engine, engine, coloured black
going slowly down the track!
The children were also required to use the additional skill of walking their feet in time to the beat of their chant. This helped them to recognise that the tempo of their chant related to the speed that they were moving.
I feel that I can definitely bring this style of learning into my own teaching and look forward to using this in my Early Years placement.
These sessions allowed children to learn and practise different rhythms and patterns. They did this through call-and-response, a ‘Simon says’ type game, and drumming along to backing tracks.
I loved how these activities seemed so simple, however involved many different skills; listening, remembering, motor skills, and creating different sounds using the parts of the drum. Children had also learned about the history of these drums, speaking about where they were from and what they would have been used for in the past.
Children learned a few simple chords which allowed them to play along with some songs. They practised the fingering for these chords and looked at how to strum these in time with the song (which is linked to reading music). These lessons were also linked with learning that was taking place outside of music lessons, for example, some children had been learning about fairy tales and folklore, and therefore were learning the songs: 3 Billy Goats Gruff, and The Ugly Duckling.
I was very impressed at how well the children were able to create the chords (placing their fingers in the correct places on the strings and frets) and strum in time to the songs! Many children even managed to read the words and sing along at the same time. This activity is helping them to develop many skills, including those used in sight reading music.
Orchestra and Wind Band
I was a bit nervous about these classes, as I was asked to bring my clarinet along and play with the children. While I CAN play, I’ve never been hugely confident in my ability, so this pushed me out of my comfort zone. That being said, I’m really glad that I did, because having my instrument allowed me to make a connection with some pupils (fellow clarinet players) and I feel that it helped children to respect me as someone who ‘knows what they’re talking about’.
In these lessons, pupils were practising their fingering and formation of notes, as well as timing and being able to listen to those around them. One way which they did this was through a ‘Hocket‘ style activity, where children were split into 5 groups (of mixed instruments) and given one note each. The conductor would then point to the groups, indicating that it was their turn to play. In this way, the children could play some simple tunes (e.g. Mary had a little lamb), and some even had the chance to be the conductor and create their own tunes by pointing to the different groups.
This was such a simple activity, but was great fun. It also allowed the children to practise a note that they may not be confident with, without the added problem of changing between notes. I can see how this activity could be used in a future music lesson, as it could be used with any instruments – from chime bars, to xylophones, to recorders…
Rock Band is a fantastic project that I saw taking place with 2 p6 classes. It involved children learning instruments that may be used a band, such as guitars (electric, acoustic, and bass), drums, keyboards, and their singing voices. They had been learning music from different decades, starting with Elvis’ ‘Hound Dog’, then The Beatles ‘Love me do’, and now moving on to Bob Marley ‘3 Little Birds’.
During a previous week, the classes had been videoed, allowing them to review their work and decide on 2 stars and a wish. The children were told that they would be making more videos so that they could set up their own ‘Rock School’ Youtube channel. This sparked a lot of excitement, and the children could hardly wait to start designing their channel logo.
I was really impressed with how enthusiastic and engaged the children were with this project. I think this this is partly because the children were given a choice in which instruments that they wanted to learn (which had led to some beginning formal music tuition in their chosen instrument). I also feel that these children were enjoying learning songs that they could recognise, rather than classical music, or music simply designed for learning.
I would love to be involved in a project like this in my future teaching career, however I would need the support of another teacher (or teachers) who had some musical ability in the keyboard and the drums as my own musical knowledge doesn’t stretch that far.
On Thursday, I saw 2 classes as they ran through their final rehearsals for their big show on Saturday – The Rite of Spring, which is taking place at the Caird Hall. These dances had themes connected with nature (the sun and global warming, and trees and deforestation). Every child had a part to play, with some taking on solos and more complex routines. Not being a dancer myself, it was great to see the variety of simple movements, and how these came together to create a lovely complete dance. I was also interested to see how the children’s own ideas were incorporated into the dance, giving them some ownership and pride over their work.
The dance teacher had a great rapport with the children, oozing enthusiasm and praise and I feel that this inspired the children to work harder as they wanted to impress him. He was also willing to dance along with the children – filling in for any who were absent, or just demonstrating new movements. This reminded me of the importance of putting my own self-consciousness to one side and being willing to get involved in the learning, as this can support the children.
I was hoping to attend the show this evening, but unfortunately will not be able to make it. However, from what I saw at the rehearsals, I know that it will be a wonderful event!
Oh, and I was also involved in the opening ceremony of the brand new Sidlaw View Primary School! The children put on a fantastic musical performance and it was wonderful to see such a range of talents.
As you can see, this week has been very busy!
I’ve had the chance to see lots of different aspects of the Aspire project, and work with many different children from p1 to p6, in a variety of different schools. This is a completely new way of working for me, and brings some challenges. One of these challenges is that it is difficult to get to know the children very well, especially as a music session may last for as little as 40 minutes, and that may be the only time during the week that I worked with a class. Despite this challenge I was impressed at the way that the Aspire teachers interacted with the pupils and had built positive relationships. This is something that I will continue to work on as my placement continues and hopefully my timetable will not change very much, meaning that I will be working with the same classes from week to week.
This week, I have also had the chance to speak to some of the teachers in the different schools. All teachers that I spoke to seem to have a positive view of the Aspire music project, and of the experiences that are offered to the children. One teacher reinforced the idea that many teachers do not feel confident to teach music (as discussed in my previous post) and stated that she was very pleased that the children had the opportunity to learn with the Aspire team who had the specialist knowledge that she did not.
Next week I hope to take on an even more active role in all of the music sessions. Now that I have an understanding of what goes on in each of the different lessons, I hope that I can help through team-teaching and acting as a support teacher for children who are struggling. I hope to also have the opportunity to lead some sessions, particularly the Kodaly classes.
I will also speak to the Aspire teachers about how they plan their lessons and links to the curriculum. I am interested in how the learning that takes place in these sessions could be linked into cross curricular learning, and how it can support other areas of the Curriculum for Excellence. I would also like to find out how (if?) the Aspire teachers record and assess the learning that takes place in their sessions.
As I prepare for the beginning of my Learning from Life placement (tomorrow!) I’ve been doing some reading about music education and the value and impact it can have on children.
There have been many studies which have investigated the benefits of music education. Standley (2008) and Hallam (2010) report that well planned music activities can improve children’s language and reading skills, and Roden et al. (2012) found that musical experience can aid memory skills.
These studies appear within a wealth of other research. Here are 2 TED Talks which consider the impact of music on brain development:
I particularly enjoyed this TEDx Talk, where Richard Gill discusses the value of music education:
The key points that I took from this talk include:
Music education should be introduced with our young children;
This can take the form of listening, focusing, and imitation, e.g. nursery rhymes;
Music is not prescriptive, instead it evokes, suggests, and implies;
Allows children to access a different way of thinking to the other curricular subjects;
The act of singing can have links with the development of literacy;
Music is worth teaching for it’s own sake;
Every child should have access to properly taught music education, from a properly taught teacher.
The last point interested me, as I have also recently read an article which explores how trainee teachers feel about teaching music. This study was conducted in England, however I feel that the findings will also apply within Scotland. Hallam et al. (2009) agree that children have the right to a high quality music education, however the research shows that many trainee teachers and NQT’s feel unequipped and unable to teach this subject effectively.
The study showed that teachers who were able to play one or two instruments were more confident in teaching music, however this was a smaller percentage, meaning that in many classes and schools, music education is being neglected. Among other suggestions of more training and CPD for teachers in this curricular area, it was proposed that the use of specialist teachers, whether working independently or alongside the class teacher, could have a positive impact. Relating back to what Richard Gill said above; children should be provided with their music education from a properly taught teacher.
I have not yet decided whether this ‘properly taught teacher’ needs to be a specialist, or whether it can simply be a primary teacher who embraces music in the same way as any other curricular area. There are many of us on my course who would admit that we are less confident teaching maths, science, ICT… however we wouldn’t dream of avoiding these subjects! Instead, we must recognise that it’s our responsibility to continually develop our own professional knowledge and skills.
I hope that my Learning from Life placement will allow me to develop my own confidence and skills in teaching music. Despite being able to play 2 instruments, I currently lack confidence in this subject, perhaps because I am not fluent at reading musical notation. My visit day has already helped me to feel slightly more confident as I was able to see the level at which the children were working, and how this was linked with the ‘figurenotes’ approach. During my placement, I will have the opportunity to work with a variety of music specialists, where I can observe and learn some of their techniques and teaching methods. While working with the children, I will also be able to practice working with sheet music and notation. I hope that this will improve my ability to teach my future classes, allowing them to benefit from the highest quality of music education that I can offer. I also hope that my musical experience may allow me to support other students and even teachers who lack confidence in this area.
“I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning” – Plato
Hallam, S., Burnard, P., Robertson, A., Saleh, C., Davies, V., Rogers, L., and Kokatsaki, D. (2009) ‘Trainee primary-school teachers’ perceptions of their effectiveness in teaching music’ in Music Education Research, 11(2). http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14613800902924508
Hallam, S. (2010) ‘The power of music: Its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people’ in International Journal of Music Education, 28(3). DOI: 10.1177/0255761410370658
Roden, I., Kreutz, G. and Bongard, S. (2012) ‘Effects of a school-based instrumental music program on verbal and visual memory in primary school children: a longitudinal study’ in Frontiers in Psychology, 3. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00572
Standley J. (2008) ‘Does Music Instruction Help Children Learn to Read?’ in Applications of Research in Music Education, 27(1). DOI: 10.1177/8755123308322270
Pattern is an area of maths that lends itself to all kinds of fun and engaging activities, especially in the Early Years. I was asked to think of some experiences which I could provide to a p1 class which would help to develop their understanding of pattern, including visual, auditory, and physical pattern.
I decided on one overall experience which would encompass various different activities on the theme of pattern. That experience happens to be one of my all time favourites: going on a nature walk! In my opinion there is no learning that can’t take place in the great outdoors.
During the nature walk, I would have children select items which they could arrange into a pattern (we would obviously need to look at some examples of visual patterns before this). The children would have the freedom to decide on the items that they choose, thinking about size, shape, and/or colour.
I would encourage them to talk about their pattern and make connections to the ones that we had seen before. This activity could include all sorts of mathematical language, such as positional language, the language of sequence, size, and shape. I could also extend the learning by having the children to attempt to imitate a pattern and predict what might be coming next.
The next activity which I would include on my walk, is a follow-the-leader style action game. The children would need to work in groups for this activity, rather than walking in one long line. In this game, the first child performs an action which all children must copy. Then the next child performs a new action, so all children must perform action 1 and 2 (and keep repeating them over and over). This continues until a few children have added a new action, creating a pattern of movements.
The mathematical language which would be involved in this activity could be “1st, 2nd, 3rd”. It could also be used when describing an action, for example “BIG swings of your arms” or “Tiny taps of your toes”. As an extension we would look (and have a go at) at some child-friendly dance routines (perhaps to pop music or something which engages the children’s interest) and notice any repetitions and patterns.
While walking, I would lead the children in a fun chant or song.
An example of this is a chant that we used when I was a member of the Girl Guides. It goes like this:
Everywhere we go! (Everywhere we go)
People always ask us (People always ask us)
Who we are (who we are)
Where we come from (where we come from)
So we tell them (So we tell them)
We’re from …name your school/setting… (we’re from…)
And if they cannot hear us (And if they cannot hear us)
We shout a little louder (we shout a little louder)
This is a fun example of a pattern as it uses repetition and rhythm. We could continue by looking at other songs and noticing if there are any patterns involved (which there probably will be, for example verse, chorus, verse, chorus…).
There are, of course, many many more opportunities for learning associated with pattern which I could involve in my nature walk. This activity has helped me to think about some of the ways that I can bring mathematical learning into activities which I would perhaps not associate directly with maths.
The picture book that I have chosen to use for this task is ‘We’re going on a Bear Hunt‘ by Michael Rosen. I chose this book because it’s one of my favourites, and one which (in my experience) never fails to capture children’s imagination.
I have used this story to explore language, and for various dramatic and creative play experiences, but I have never before taken a particular focus on the mathematical element. That being said, it is obvious that there is plenty of mathematical language and concepts throughout. Here are some of the ones that I spotted:
language of measurement and size: “we’re going to catch a BIG one” and “long, wavy grass”
positional language – over/ under/ through
counting – “one shiny, wet nose, 2 big furry ears…”
rhythm and repetition
If I were to use this story with my class, there are various activities which I may use to focus in on some of these concepts. I would always begin by reading the story with my class. I love the actions which Michael Rosen uses in his reading and would use the same, or my own variation of these to engage the children.
I have chosen 2 mathematical concepts to explore further: measurement and counting.
To continue with the concept of measurement and size, I would encourage the children to explore tape-measures, rulers, measuring sticks and even non conventional measurement resources like lego blocks. I would then provide opportunities for the children to begin to sort items that they had measured into groups of big/ medium/ small etc. I would model and encourage the different words and language which can be used to describe these measurements: large, tiny, huge, little…
Another fun activity could be to have the children arrange themselves in a long line from biggest to smallest or visa versa. This activity could be done as a transition (for example when lining up for lunch) and would help to secure the children’s understanding.
One way to continue learning about counting and labelling, in the way that the story does, could be to use the same method to describe something else. I would provide playdough with a variety of materials such as googly eyes, straws, sequins, string, etc and allow the children to create their own creature. I would encourage them to make their creature as weird and wacky as they liked, because when they are finished I would ask them to describe it to their friend. This activity could be linked to learning about description, or could simply be about how many eyes/ ears/ noses etc that their creature has.
During our first maths input, I was reminded of the importance of nursery rhymes and songs in children’s development. Not only do these songs include language skills such as rhyme or alliteration, but they also include many mathematical elements.
An example of this is the nursery rhyme: 5 currant buns.
5 currant buns in a baker’s shop,
Round and fat with a cherry on the top,
along came <insert name> with a penny one day,
They bought a currant bun and they took it right away,
Yum yum! Yum yum!
As you can see (excuse the rather awkward video…) – the actions help the cement the meaning and add understanding to some of the mathematical words as well (such as ’round’ and ‘on the top’).
This song involves the various skills of counting back (5, 4, 3, 2, 1),
I have explored numbers, understanding that they represent quantities, and I can use them to count, create sequences and describe order. MNU 0-02a
This can be extended to also include simple subtraction (we had 5 currant buns, one has been taken away. How many are left?)
I use practical materials and can ‘count on and back’ to help me to understand addition and subtraction, recording my ideas and solutions in different ways. MNU 0-03a
In describing the buns, the language of shape is used (round)
I enjoy investigating objects and shapes and can sort, describe and be creative with them. MTH 0-16a
as well as positional language (on the top).
In movement, games, and using technology I can use simple directions and describe positions. MTH 0-17a
I have heard variations on the song, with the words “big and round” in place of “round and fat”. The explanation of this was because “fat” is an offensive word, which I find ludicrous (a topic for a later blog perhaps), however the new lyrics would include a further mathematical word (big).
Finally, there is the introduction of money and how it is exchanged for goods.
I am developing my awareness of how money is used and can recognise and use a range of coins. MNU 0-09a
It’s clear that this song, as with many nursery rhymes, is packed full of maths. As a teacher, I hope to be able to use songs and rhymes to not only introduce concepts in a non-frightening way, but also to practice and engage with some of the more tricky outcomes.
I have already experimented with doing this while working in nurseries. While covering a wide topic area of ‘toys’, I changed the lyrics of this song to be about toys in a toy shop. Rather than each toy costing a penny, as in the traditional song, we gave each person a price tag (5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1). When a child was chosen to select the toy which they would like to buy, they were also required to choose the correct coin from the pot. I differentiated by having some price tags with a picture of the coin on them so that the child could match the shape and look of the coin, and some price tags simply having the price written e.g. 20p.
What is science all about? That’s a big question! Science is all around us and allows us to gain a better understanding of our world. This understanding involves questioning our assumptions and ‘everyday’ explanations, while modifying our ideas based on scientific investigation.
And that brings me to the topic of today’s post – investigation! During our input, we were encouraged to carry out our own mini investigation, using structured support materials (investigation frames) to aid us in our thinking and recording.
The frames asked questions to ensure that we considers our variables and control methods. I felt that they also encouraged us to work as a group – talking about what should be added to each sheet.
My group agreed that the frames were helpful as they organized our thoughts in the basic form of a ‘proper’ scientific report. Report writing can be a tricky skill, but it is one which students will need as they progress through their education.
I can see how the scientific investigation frames could be used in my own classroom, using scaffolding to support the children. First, to introduce the process of recording and reporting to my pupils, I would model the process with the whole class, allowing them to suggest the ideas for the sheets, conduct their experiments in groups, and then share the results together. I hope that this would build the children’s confidence and allow them to begin to grasp the key elements of a scientific investigation.
I would then use the frames in an ‘I do- you do’ fashion where I continue to model the process (perhaps with a generic example) but complete the sheets one by one, following each with a chance for the children to discuss and complete their own sheets.
Finally I would provide opportunities for the children to use the investigation frames with limited instruction from myself.
When thinking about my own teaching of science, I found it interesting to learn about the Constructivist approach. This approach involves identifying currently held ideas, discovering any misconceptions, challenging these, and finally reformulating our thinking. Now, I understand that on the face of it, this seems a little dry, but stay with me because it also has the possibility to be linked with stimulating and engaging lessons! As with so much learning, the interest comes as a teacher uses an idea or misconception which is relevant to the children (for example questioning something that happens in a movie, or using a practical experiment/ demonstration, or going on an outing…)
Science is a critical part of the primary classroom and curriculum for excellence. Despite this, PISA scores find the UK well below those top performing countries (OECD, 2015). It is therefore essential that future (and current) teachers aim to improve the delivery of science lessons to pupils – providing them with the skills and knowledge in a meaningful way.
Over the last few weeks, I have come across 2 online resources which I feel could be really useful in my future teaching career. These have been shown to me by university lecturers, and in the spirit of sharing, I thought I would write a little post about them to hopefully inspire some of my fellow course-mates.
The first of these resources was comes from the website ‘Chrome Experiments’. This is “an online showroom of web browser based experiments… and artistic projects” (Wikipedia.) In other words, people have been creating all kinds of weird and wonderful things and uploading them to share with the world.
The particular experiment which appeals to me and that I can imagine using within the classroom, is Chrome Music Lab.
Chrome Music Lab
Within music lab, there are various different activities, all connected with music. For example, the first activity (entitled ‘Rhythm’) you can experiment with having the characters beat their drum (or ting their triangle, or knock their wooden block…) at different times according to where you place a marker. This is a great introduction to simple rhythm and patterns, it also gives children a very basic, first introduction to how music can be represented on a page.
Another part of Chrome Music Lab is ‘Arpeggios’ . Here you can click on any letter to hear the arpeggio played in that key. You can also adjust the speed in which the arpeggio is played. I think that this could be a great tool for looking at how music can be used to provoke feelings and emotions – for example, the arpeggio in d#, playing at a slow tempo could be perceived to sound slightly sad/ melancholy whereas playing in G, at a faster tempo may sound happy and joyful.
The second resource was introduced to me through a TDT task which was sent earlier today. Again, I’d never seen it before, but it got me quite excited and I just had to try it out.
Padlet is a virtual space where you can add ‘post-it’ style notes, as well as photos, links and media from your own computer or from the web. What I really like about it is that it can be used as a collaborative space.
Each board can be set to be private (for your eyes only), public, or password protected. This means that it could easily be used for students to work together on a project – collecting their research or sharing ideas together.
HERE is my example Padlet board (pictured below). To access it you will need the password: uodedu. Feel free to add/ remove/ change things if you would like to.
Having this information stored in a secure online space means that pupils could continue to add work or ideas to it outside of school hours if they so desire. It is also attractive (customisable backgrounds and icons) and easy to use, which may help to engage the children.
THIS article from Education World has some more ideas about how you might use Padlet within the classroom. I particularly like the idea of having a question wall – with children perhaps adding questions about what they are currently learning and showing any gaps in their understanding, or perhaps adding questions which show what they would like to learn next.
Of course, an issue with this is that not all children have access to computers or the internet at home. Therefore I would not use a resource like Padlet for any homework tasks or compulsory work unless there is time allocated to it within the school day.
I always love discovering new resources and I would urge you to have a play with these. Let me know what you think of them in the comments below!
Thank you to Derek Robertson and Wendee White (the lecturers that inspired this post).
This song pretty much sums up my memory of learning a modern foreign language (MFL) at primary school. We learned it until we were blue in the face, and then sang it in an assembly to the rest of the school. I’m sure we did learn a few other basics (Bonjour, ca va, au revoir) but it is interesting to note that this learning didn’t take place until I was in year 6 (in England – the final year of Primary) and was taught by a specialist teacher.
Of course, it’s been a long time since I was at primary school (oof that makes me feel old) and approaches to education are ever changing. In Scotland, there is now the 1 + 2 approach which aims to ensure that children have the opportunity to learn a modern language from p1 (Education Scotland, Undated). This is slightly different in England, where languages are required to be taught in key stages 2-3 (ages 7-14) (Long and Bolton, 2016). The reason for beginning language studies at these earlier ages may be due to research which suggests that:
…an early start can result in early achievements such as improved communication skills, positive attitudes towards languages and cultures and heightened metalinguistic and metacognitive awareness… (Kirsch, 2012)
Primary teachers are expected to deliver lessons on modern languages, just as they are for all other areas of the curriculum. That being said, during my time on placement as well as the time I spent volunteering in a p2 class, I saw very little teaching in this area. This may be in part, because entry to teacher training degrees does not require a modern language qualification, and many people have not used those skills since they left school themselves. Not that I suggesting that I believe that candidates SHOULD have a higher modern language qualification (as that would mean rejecting many who could go on to be amazing teachers).
But for those of us that are perhaps a bit rusty/ lacking in confidence, we must work extra hard to undertake our own professional learning and development in order to provide the highest quality education to the children.
In order to support us in this professional development, the university is providing some MFL workshops. I am attending the French and Spanish workshops as I have studied French in the past (previously mentioned primary school and then a disastrous attempt at secondary school) and hope that this will give me a starting point to build upon.
Our first workshop session began with this video:
This grabbed my attention and immediately took me back to my time in nursery, where the children loved this song (the English version) and there were times when it was played on repeat. I really like the idea of using this as an attention grabber/ lesson starter as it is fun and a bit silly, and likely to get the children talking. They may also be able to make connections if they have heard the English version.
Throughout the workshop, Carrie demonstrated and had us participate in various active learning strategies. One of these was to watch and then repeat an action and french word (for example, Carrie would wave her hand while saying ‘Bonjour’ and then the class was expected to do the same). I felt that this activity was effective as there was lots of repetition, and the action added meaning to the word. The act of responding as a whole class, or even in table groups removed the fear of ‘getting it wrong’ and encouraged everyone to participate. There were also ways that this activity could be extended such as adding a ‘Simon Says’ competitive element.
At the end of the session, we were asked to devise an activity to reinforce talking and listening skills.
A simple activity which I feel I could use to develop these skills is to bring some simple instructional language into PE.
The teacher would likely begin by being the instructor, but children could also have turns to call out the words; reinforcing speaking skills. To check comprehension, the teacher could have the children shout out the meaning as they do the action. Once the children become confident, the teacher could also swap between giving the instruction in French or in English.
The workshop helped me to recognise that there are some big gaps in my knowledge. In order to continue to develop my own modern language skills I have begun using the website Duolingo. This teaches through various methods such as:
matching the picture and the meaning,
listening to words and phrases in the modern language and translating them into English,
And opportunities to test pronunciation using your computer’s microphone.
I don’t think that I will ever become a fantastically fluent French speaker, however I aim to learn enough to allow me to be confident when providing examples or modelling pronunciation to my class.
Kirch, C. (2012) Teaching Foreign Languages in the Primary School. London: Continuum. p4
I love a good story! Whether it’s in a book, a TV show, a movie or even a friend telling me about their weekend – stories are what keep me interested. How boring life would be if we just told each other the straight facts.
Over the last couple of weeks, our lectures and workshops have involved looking at all kinds of children’s literature, and thinking about how we might use these to support children’s language development (talking and listening, reading and writing.) Continuing with this, I have decided to look at a picture book in more depth and explore some of the ways that I might use it within the classroom.
The book I have chosen is: “I’m the Best” by Lucy Cousins
As you may be able to tell – this book is aimed at younger children (early years or early primary.) It is very eye catching and appealing as it uses bright colours and bold illustrations as well as simple text which describes what is happening in each picture.
Before reading the book, I would spend some time with the children, talking about the front cover – identifying the key features such as the title and the author. I would also ask them if they could guess what the story is going to be about, supporting them in looking for the clues. I may also ask the children to think of things that they are ‘the best’ at.
After that, it’s time to begin reading. This story is about Dog and his friends. Dog is good at identifying the things that he can do well, but he continually boasts that he is ‘the best’!
While reading, I would encourage the children to join in with the repeated phrases (“I won. I’m the best.”) I would also ask the children to look at the expressions on the faces of the characters and think about how they might be feeling. Why do they think that they are feeling that way? Do they think that Dog is being a good friend?
As a reader, I would ensure to use intonation and expression in my voice to exaggerate and emphasise the meaning behind the text.
At the half way point in the book, the story changes. The other animals decide to show the dog that he isn’t the best at everything and that they are the best at certain things. Before moving on to this second half of the story I would ask the children to predict what they think might happen next. Doing this can support children’s logical reasoning skills. It may also help them to think about what they may do in that situation.
As we continue, I would again ask the children to think about how the characters are feeling. What has changed from before?
Don’t worry – the book has a happy ending! Dog is feeling sad that he isn’t the best at all of the things that he thought he was, but his friends reassure him that he is the best at being their friend and they point out the things that make Dog special.
Feelings and the language of emotions can be difficult for children to master, which is one of the reasons why I really like this book. It is obvious how the character is feeling (through the illustration) and at the turning point in the middle of the book, the characters express that they are feeling sad. The conversations between the children and the teacher, as they read this story could also help to develop the children’s vocabulary and language skills in this area. Learning the language of feelings can help children to manage their emotions, or approach someone if they are needing support. These are critical life skills.
I feel that this book would also be a great starting point for discussion about how everyone is different and special in their own ways. This could link into activities to do with the Growth Mindset (Dweck 2012.) The children could be asked to identify something that they believe they are good at, and something that they would like to improve.
Another direction would be to use this book to support learning about social skills and how to be a good friend to others. A lovely activity (which I have seen on Pinterest) could be to encourage the children to write down/ say something about another person that they do well.
Following story time, I would provide opportunities for the children to explore and extend the story by themselves. I would create a ‘story table’ with puppets or props from the story so that the children can role play or play out the story in a small world setting. I would also display some of the pictures from the book in the art/ creative area so that the children may be inspired to create their own illustrations. A ‘word wall’ could also be created to display the new vocalbulary that children have learned. These new words may not necessarily come straight out of the book (as it uses fairly simple language) but also from the discussions that have arisen.
I would ensure that the story book was readily available for the children in the reading area and I would also re-visit the story multiple times, so that the children become familiar with it and can begin to think of new questions or comments.
One of the key points that I’ve picked up from our Language lectures is that it is absolutely VITAL to instil a love of reading into our children and to continue to nurture this as the children grow and develop. I am a keen reader at home and I have always loved story times in nurseries. I hope to bring this love into my teaching with primary school children.
It is at story time that the teacher’s enthusiasm for books is transmitted regularly to children. – Ann Browne (1996)
During my teaching placement I was able to see how much the children enjoyed and responded to the class novel, however this was just ‘fitted in’ when there was a free 10 minutes. As a teacher, I hope to be able to devote appropriate time and space to stories – showing my children how much I value reading and a good book.
A common theme has started to occur throughout our ‘Teaching Across the Curriculum’ inputs; we need to work on expanding our own knowledge.
Of course, this means that we must to continue with our academic reading; ploughing through the textbooks and journal articles, but it also means that we should be brushing up on the vast amount of other information that isn’t covered within university but is oh so important? Let’s be honest, how many of us can remember all about friction or about the bronze age without a little revision?
It is impossible for anyone (even a teacher!) to know absolutely everything. However I feel that having a strong general level of knowledge and understanding in a wide array of areas will stand me in good stead when I am working in the classroom. I’d much rather have a moment of “hold on, I think I read something about that…” than “I have no idea what they’re talking about!” It is also clear that a teacher with a greater subject knowledge, will be able to expect greater outcomes from their class (see this article from TES and this paper for more about subject knowledge.) This is due to a number of factors, but an important one to me is confidence. If I am to teach a subject or a concept; I want to feel confident that I can discuss it with my students and answer any questions that they may have.
Having identified this need, I began searching for some accessible general information to get me started, and that’s when I came across BBC iWonder.
I stumbled across this lovely resource when I was browsing the BBC news website. All of a sudden, and for no particular reason, I noticed the menu at the top of the page. This menu contains links to other areas of the BBC such as iPlayer, travel and radio but it also contains a link to a page that I had never heard of before; iWonder.
BBC iWonder is a homepage filled with all sorts of information, including:
Nature and natural sciences
Religion and ethics
The page is set out with various ‘cards’ which correspond to items in the news, recent television programs or just general knowledge. It is easy to browse and pick out any topics which take your fancy. There is also the possibility of looking at wider topics individually, such as only seeing Science related articles.
The reason that I like iWonder is that it provides accessible, visual and interesting information that can act as a starting point for further reading and research. I would urge others who, (like me,) feel a little overwhelmed when diving straight into a lot of reading, to take a look.
This came as quite a shock! With the constant development of new technology and brilliant educational software, I had assumed that more and more teachers would be embracing devices (mobile phones, tablets and laptops), however this article suggests otherwise.
The figures within this article suggest that; while teachers acknowledge that technology can have a positive impact on teaching and learning, the level of distraction is a huge concern. On reading some further comments on the subject, it appears that mobile phones are often ‘blanket banned’ in schools as they are seen to be the biggest distraction. One commenter writes that ipads are used in their classroom with success, while another states that classrooms are about interpersonal interaction and expresses concern that personal devices are too individual. (Read the comments here.)
Despite the negative attitudes of some, it is clear that many educators are welcoming devices and technology within their classrooms. Sources such as this post from Teach Hub point out the many benefits to allowing personal devices, including:
Teaching children to use and make the most of the technology that is available to them. In a society which is increasingly technology driven, these are important skills.
Addressing important issues (such as cyber bullying)
Differentiation as more able children may be able to take their learning further
and student engagement. We know that children learn the most when they are engaged and interested. This means that teachers should aim to use resources that stimulate and excite their pupils.
There are, of course, disadvantages that must be considered (besides the distraction aspect!)
This post from Bright Hub Education points out that if children are encouraged to bring and use their own devices, it could raise issues where some children may not have the ‘best’/ newest devices (if they even have one at all!) This could lead to bullying and can impact negatively on a child’s self esteem. Theft may also be an issue if children are bringing expensive devices into school. The above issues could perhaps be avoided if the school is able to provide devices, however budgets often cannot accommodate this.
The Bright Hub Education post also makes a valid point; that ‘old school’ teaching should not be forgotten. I agree with this sentiment because, as great as technology and devices are, they should be used alongside other varied teaching and learning methods in order to meet the needs of all children.
The use of technology within the classroom will be an area of interest for me when I go out into my placement schools. Previously, I have seen smartboards and PC’s used effectively, but I have yet to see the use of personal devices. I would be interested to see how a teacher can tackle the problems of distraction and of division between privileged and less privileged pupils.
During a brilliant ICT input with Sharon Tonner last week, we were shown how to use various pieces of software to teach children about Animation!
My favourite part of the session was to create a ‘Wallace and Gromit’ style, stop motion animation. We were introduced to a piece of software called ZU3D, which (when hooked up to a webcam) allows the user to take the frames of the animation, even adding the ‘onion skin’ effect so that you can see the precious placements of each model and movement.
My partner and I created this short animation:
Within the curriculum, a similar lesson/ set of lessons could cover the outcomes of:
I explore and experiment with the features and functions of computer technology and I can use what I learn to support and enhance my learning in different contexts. TCH 2-04a
I can create, capture and manipulate sounds, text and images to communicate experiences, ideas and information in creative and engaging ways. TCH 2-04b
Alongside the ICT skills; children may also develop numerous other skills including;
Creative modeling (Working out what kind of models work best for this purpose),
and problem solving.
In order to allow the children enough time to grasp the different elements involved in this project, the learning should take place over a series of lessons. I found it really helpful that Sharon showed us ways in which we could engage the children and make connections between each section of this learning; leading up to the finished product.
A teacher may face a variety of challenges when delivering ICT lessons of this type. One challenge may be that the children are over excited distracted when allowed to use the equipment. This issue can be tackled by the teacher spending time explaining their expectations and making clear the rules.
Another challenge could be a lack of resources. There are many schools which do not have the facilities to allow every student in a class to work on a computer simultaneously. This means that the teacher would need to schedule time when groups of children could use the ICT resources.
Despite the challenges; I can see how these lessons can inspire and stimulate children to learn. I felt very proud of my animation and can imagine that a child would experience similar satisfaction. I also feel that ICT skills are invaluable within the modern world, and fun lessons like these can help children to embrace technology and its many possibilities.
It’s no secret that science was far from my favourite subject at school. While I can remember exploring imaginary worlds in English and laughing with my friends in PE, my memories of science lessons consist of boring teaching and Bunsen burners that we were told not to touch!
My attitudes towards science changed a little as I moved into my role as an early years educator. I was lucky enough to attend a CPD session, held by the Dundee Science Centre, which aimed to encourage practitioners to embrace science with young children. I vividly remember the session, as it involved plenty of wonderfully easy and stimulating activities which we could take and try for ourselves. I came away from the session feeling inspired and confident that I was going to make science a larger part of my children’s experiences.
Throughout my work with pre-schoolers, I feel that I was able to provide inviting and age appropriate experiences which touched on some scientific concepts and ideas. I am now looking forward to being able to explore these areas in more depth as I begin my work with older children.
This week, I attended my first Science input. As an introductory activity; everyone was asked to prepare a short experiment which we shared with a partner. My chosen experiment was to push sharpened pencils through a plastic bag containing water. Rather than causing a horrible, wet mess on the floor (as you might expect) the bag remains water tight. This is because plastic bags are made of polymers which are long chains of molecules. When the pencil pushes through, it simply separates the chain rather than breaking it.
In Science (as with many of the curricular areas,) practical activities are extremely beneficial to learning. While chains of molecules could be a difficult concept for children to grasp; presenting the information as an experiment makes it stimulating and engaging, as well as bringing the information into a real world context.
Following the input, we were set a TDT which involves planning a science lesson.
I have chosen to focus on Space, and am using the current show at the Dundee Science Centre (entitled ‘Destination Space’) as a stimulus.
The Experiences and Outcomes relating to this area are:
Planet Earth (continued)
SpaceLearners develop their understanding of the Earth’s position within the universe while developing a sense of time and scale. They develop their understanding of how our knowledge of the universe has changed over time and explore ideas of future space exploration and the likelihood of life beyond planet Earth.
I have experienced the wonder of looking at the vastness of the sky, and can recognise the sun, moon and stars and link them to daily patterns of life.SCN 0-06a
By safely observing and recording the sun and moon at various times, I can describe their patterns of movement and changes over time. I can relate these to the length of a day, a month and a year.SCN 1-06a
By observing and researching features of our solar system, I can use simple models to communicate my understanding of size, scale, time and relative motion within it.SCN 2-06a
By using my knowledge of our solar system and the basic needs of living things, I can produce a reasoned argument on the likelihood of life existing elsewhere in the universe.SCN 3-06a
By researching developments used to observe or explore space, I can illustrate how our knowledge of the universe has evolved over time.SCN 4-06a
My SMART Targets:
Specific – I will plan a lesson for a primary 5 class on the topic of space, meeting the criteria for SC2-06a.
Measurable – I will create a 2 A4 page plan
Achievable – I will use the internet and university resources to gather information. I will discuss ideas with classmates and will visit Dundee Science Centre to find out more about the ‘Destination Space’ event.
Relevant – The recent launch of the British astronaut; Tim Peake, has been in the news and it is likely that pupils may have heard about it.
Time bound – I will complete this plan by the end of my 2 week observation block.
I hope that through the planning and hypothetical preparation of this lesson, I will develop my own scientific knowledge in this area. It is also a good opportunity for me to practice the planning process which will be a big part of my future career.