As I reflect back over my pre visit placement week, I am thrilled how it went. My school is warm and welcoming and I am working with a teacher who has similar values to myself. I thoroughly enjoyed working with individuals and groups, and I taught 2 class lessons – both of which went well.
I was lucky enough to receive lots of encouragement, advice, and support on many aspects of my teaching so far, however the one piece of positive feedback that meant the most to me was:
You have a nice way with the children and they seem to respond to you well.
The reason that this is so important to me is my firm brief in the value of relationships. I feel that these are crucial and if positive relationships are not formed then a teacher cannot be truly successful. For me, relationships come before the learning. This is related to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs where feelings of safety and security, and feelings of belonging are essential before the individual can reach their full potential (for an overview of Maslow’s hierarchy see https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html).
Some of the ways in which I have tried to build relationships with the pupils over my first week include:
Learning and using their names quickly,
Circulating and making the effort to spend time interacting with every individual,
Smiling and being warm,
Finding out about their interests (through general conversation where appropriate as well as through my ‘getting to know you lesson’- see below),
Telling them a little about myself (again through my getting to know you lesson).
Some of these methods are recommended in this article which notes the importance of positive teacher-student relationships in terms of learning and behaviour management.
Getting to Know You
During my first placement, I didn’t teach a ‘getting to know you lesson’, and regretted it because I felt that I had missed an opportunity to find out a bit about what made the children tick. On this placement I hope to be able to use some of the interests of the children to engage them in their learning.
I began my lesson with a large box (which I had lovingly covered with a patchwork of wrapping paper scraps). Inside the box was a few different items which were clues to tell the class something about me, for example I had a rolling pin which suggested that I like to bake. The children were very quick to work out my clues, but appeared to enjoy the task none-the-less. I used shoulder partner talk and lolly-sticks to avoid shouting out and to avoid the same children putting their hands up.
After this activity I told the class that they were going to tell me a bit about themselves using ice creams! I demonstrated the activity on the board and set them to task. They all created wonderful ‘ice-creams’ with pictures and words on each scoop.
I was very pleased with how the activity turned out and also the enthusiasm that the children showed when completing their work! I had asked for a minimum of 3 scoops but some children completed many more, with one ice-cream ending up 20 scoops tall!
I have made a note of some of the interests, hobbies, and other information that the children shared in the hope that I can use them at a later date.
My lesson, as well as my efforts throughout the week, have allowed me to start to meet some of the Standards for Registration. These include:
1.2.1 I demonstrate openness, honesty, courage and wisdom.
1.3.2 I provide and ensure a safe and secure environment for all learners within a caring and compassionate ethos and with an understanding of wellbeing.
1.3.3 I demonstrate a commitment to motivating and inspiring learners, acknowledging their social and economic context, individuality and specific learning needs and taking into consideration barriers to learning.
I am a huge fan of outdoor learning! I think my passion has mostly stemmed from my experiences working in a nature nursery, where I saw many of the benefits of the outdoor environment for my children. Unfortunately, I see much less outdoor learning taking place in school.
Outdoor Learning as a purposeful and planned experience in the outdoors. It’s a broad term that includes discovery, experimentation, learning about and connecting to the natural world, and engaging in outdoor sports and adventure activities.
To expand on this, I see outdoor learning as making the most of natural surroundings and resources, it is certainly NOT picking up your worksheets/ puzzles from indoors and taking them out into the garden! Sadly, this is something hat I have seen all too often, from well-meaning practitioners who are not sure about what outdoor learning really is. That’s not to say that there’s no value in taking your indoor learning activities outside – if it’s a nice day and the children will benefit from getting out of the classroom, I completely agree with picking up your books or whatnot and making the most of the sunshine, but it’s important to recognise the difference between this (learning outdoors) to actual outdoor learning.
That brings me to another bugbear of mine – those teachers or practitioners that refuse to take children outdoors if it’s a bit rainy, a bit cold, or a bit muddy! My favourite saying is “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing!” (a quote which has been attributed to various different authors). This aversion to taking children outdoors appears to be quite common at this time of year, and I wrote a little about it on my Early Years blog – “Now that the weather’s turning cold”. On the other hand though, health and safety must be a concern. At the nursery where I used to work, the one type of weather that would keep us indoors was high winds, due to the numerous trees around us and the danger of falling branches. Other than that, rain or shine, we were outdoors!
Health and safety is an important consideration when taking learning outside of the classroom. Firstly, ratios must be adhered to. The NSPCC provides the following recommendations for adult: child ratios within the school grounds:
4 – 8 years
1 adult to 6 children
9 – 12 years
1 adult to 8 children
13 – 18 years
1 adult to 10 children
And the Scottish Government state that during excursions with children and young people under the age of 18, the ratios should be:
1 adult to 15-20 group members for excursions where the element of risk to be encountered is similar to that normally encountered in daily life, e.g. excursions to sites of historic interest, most field work, local walks etc
Additionally, the requirements of any children with additional support needs, the general behaviour of a class, and the perceived level of risk of the activity must also be carefully considered when taking children away from school premises. For safeguarding purposes, it is also recommended that there are always 2 adults present.
Before taking children to a site for outdoor learning, a risk assessment should be carried out. This means that the teacher should visit the location and note down any of the potential dangers (including during the travel there and back), and the measures that will be taken to prevent/ reduce these dangers. Within the wonderful book ‘Dirty Teaching’ by Juliet Robertson, it is suggested that risk assessments can also be conducted with the children. This allows them to take ownership of their own safety.
Outdoor learning can provide brilliant opportunities for ‘Risky Play’. This is the type of play that is exciting, pushes boundaries, and has the potential for injury. It is through this type of play that children learn to manage risk, and also learn resilience. While adults can sometimes be anxious about allowing children to engage in this type of play, Play Scotland states that children often associate their risky play with positive emotions such as fun, thrilling, and pride.
In this BBC Radio broadcast Sian Williams explores resilience and the science behind it. Resilience describes the ability to ‘bounce back’ from difficulties. Some of the points raised in this documentary include:
it is important that individuals recognise and appreciate their feelings. Allowing yourself to recognise that you are feeling sad or scared can help your brain to recover,
it is important that individuals are taught strategies to support them in dealing with future adversities,
resilience should be taught from a young age,
From a personal perspective, I feel that it is important that a teacher has good levels of resilience, as it is a job where we will likely be faced with many challenges and difficulties. A lack of resilience could lead to teachers suffering with mental health issues such as stress and anxiety, and could also cause some to decide to leave the profession all together. This is something that I need to be aware of within myself, as I have suffered with anxiety in the past and I have a habit of taking criticism personally.
With regard to the pupils in my future class, I feel that it is critical that I give the children chances talk about their feelings and emotions in various circumstances. I also agree with allowing children to ‘fail’ or ‘get it wrong’, as this provides opportunities for growth and learning. I am personally against the rise of the ‘everyone gets a medal at sports day’ culture that I have seen in some settings, as I feel that this is not reflective of real life. In the real world, there will be situations where you do not win or succeed. What is important is the way that we deal with this, learn from it, and move on.
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.
As mentioned in one of my previous posts, I hope to spend this year working on developing into my own kind of teacher, rather than simply imitating my ‘host’ teacher. That is not to say that I wont use the elements of good practice that I observe, or wont follow the advice and guidance of my teacher, but it means that I will also try to approach teaching in my own way.
I also recently attended an input where we considered some of the early pioneers of education. During this input, I was encouraged to consider what my fundamental beliefs are about childhood, child development, and the role of education in this. My ideas of childhood are influenced by my own experiences as a child, and my own work and
observations of young children. These are some of my strongest beliefs about childhood:
Children are naturally curious, inquisitive, and eager to learn,
The Early Years have a HUGE impact on children’s personal and academic lives,
Children flourish from spending time outdoors in nature,
The best way that young children learn is through play (a combination of planned and spontaneous).
I am a big fan of the theorist Froebel (1782-1852), who believed that “play is the highest expression of human development in childhood for it alone is the free expression of what is in the child’s soul.” This statement echoes my feelings that play is essential and children MUST be given time to play, but unlike Froebel’s structured play approach, I feel that they should be able to play it in their own way. Here is more information about Froebel and his approach.
*EDIT* Following today’s input, where we continued to look at the early pioneers of education, I discovered that my previous experience and ideas of the Montessori approach are misguided, and that I actually agree with many of her ideas. Previously, I had seen an example of ‘montessori’ as children picking pre-designed and adult created drawers, with resources that were designed to develop a skill (for example opening and closing buckles, poppers, zips, etc). I found this to be very limiting and extremely structured. What I now understand is that the Montessori approach emphasises the importance of a well designed environment and that children should be able to play and explore without too much adult intervention. These are elements that I wholeheartedly agree with.
In my opinion, school does not currently tap into the most effective ways for children to learn and develop. I feel that children are too quickly pushed into the ‘sit down and get on with your work’ model, particularly when they begin school in p1! Of course, some schools/ classes may have different approaches, perhaps allowing a little more time for play, but ultimately they are bound by the overall system (traditional and results driven). I feel that the lower end of primary school should be arranged more like nursery, where children’s interests are sensitively followed and their learning is self-directed through play, while being skillfully scaffolded by qualified adults.
The idea of children beginning ‘formal school’ too soon in the UK is one that has been discussed in the news, and is the focus of the Upstart Scotland Campaign.
So, on the back of all of this, I’ve been thinking about what kind of teacher I want to be. This list is influenced by my experiences in Early Years, my reflections on my first year, and learning from life placements, my personality, and my overall beliefs about what makes an effective educator:
One who gets excited about lessons,
One who attempts to get children actively involved in their learning,
One that does not rely on worksheets and textbooks,
One that tries new things,
One that gets outdoors,
One that embraces technology but isn’t dependent on it,
One that sings!,
One that has a sense of humour and is fun (as much as is appropriate),
One that uses children’s interests and passions in their learning,
One that takes the time to build meaningful relationships with all of my children.
While I know that this list may grow/change during the rest of my course, and as I get into my teaching career, I feel it is a helpful starting point for my professional identity.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I love stories! I’ve always got at least 2 books sitting on my bedside table, and when I’m working in nursery, story time is among my favourite times of day. It’s a chance to calm down, relax, and lose yourself in another world.
During this afternoon’s RME input, we discussed how various story books could be used to explore children’s moral development. These stories could be religious (such as parables from the Bible, or stories any of the other religious texts), or can be non-religious (such as traditional fairy tales or other children’s books).
In this post, I have chosen a story which I feel could be used with a class to explore moral actions.
The story I have chosen is:
The Smartest Giant In Town (Julia Donaldson). This story would be appropriate for children at the younger stages of Primary school.
In this story, George the Giant is fed up of looking scruffy, and treats himself to some smart new clothes. Feeling pleased, he begins his trip home where he happens upon various characters who are in need of help. George is a kind Giant, and happily helps his friends, in ways that just happen to involve his nice new items of clothing! In the end, he has given up all of his new clothes, and ends up wearing his old scruffy robe again. Then, when George finally arrives home, all of the friends that he helped are there to thank him and give him a present.
What I took from the story:
George is willing to make sacrifices to do what he thinks is right – even giving up his brand new clothes that gave him so much happiness.
By helping others, George is able to spread his happiness around, and in the end, discovers an even greater happiness with his friends.
If using this story in the classroom, I would use a ‘reading the text’ approach where we interpret the text and think about the meaning. I would stop at regular intervals to encourage the children to talk about what the characters may be feeling. After reading, I would encourage the children to think about a time when someone was kind to them, or when they were kind to someone else.
The idea of kindness and helping others is one that is also covered in religious texts (such as ‘The Good Samaritan), and it would be interesting to make some comparisons.
I think that a lesson like this could cover the following E’s and O’s:
I am developing an increasing awareness and understanding of my own beliefs and I put them into action in positive ways. RME 1-08a / RME 2-08a / RME 3-08a / RME 4-08a
I can show my understanding of values such as caring, sharing, fairness, equality and love. RME 1-09b
I can hardly believe it! 3rd year is almost here, and this is the point where all my hard work starts to count towards my final qualification!
My first 2 years at university have been brilliant so far, and I have learned so much – not only about the course content, but also about myself. I’ve discovered that I really enjoy learning, and (for the most part) I find assignments to be positively challenging.
1.Continue to get involved in extra activities and opportunities (beginning with being a ‘buddy’ for the new MA1’s.)
2.Continue to work hard to achieve the grades that I want.
3.Approach my Science elective with a positive attitude and open mind (despite being a little nervous about it as science is far from my favourite subject!)
4.READ! Read and read and read and read some more. I was beginning to get better at this during MA1 but feel that I can manage my time better to ensure plenty of time for extended reading. I particularly want to read more journals and academic writing.
5.Find a Learning from Life placement which will be challenging with plenty of transferable skills.
1. I feel that I have achieved my first target, as I have attended 2 #Pedagoo events and am looking to work with a few course-mates to perhaps arrange an event of our own at the uni.
There have been some barriers to this goal; Although I signed up to be a buddy, and attended the first meeting session, I have not found any opportunity to work with or support the first year students.
Another barrier is that I moved house, from Dundee to Fife, in November. This move has made it more difficult to attend extra-curricular activities such as the Christmas choir. Now that I am more settled and have worked out travel arrangements, I hope that I will be able to get involved again.
2. I have continued to work hard and have mostly achieved the grades that I aim for. There was only one assignment which resulted in a lower grade than I’d hoped, but after discussing this with the marker, I was satisfied thatI had been ‘on the verge’ of my preferred grade, and I could see how I could improve my work in the future.
3. I am not sure whether I achieved this goal. I attempted to embrace my science elective, but found it very difficult. I felt that the content and delivery was slightly more aimed at those who had more of a science background than myself (I haven’t done science since high school – and that was 14 years ago!) Never the less, I worked hard and was able to pass the assignment.
4. I have definitely begun to read more around all of my subjects, using the ‘big picture’ documents to guide me towards academic journals and other additional reading. Despite this, I feel that I could continue to improve this, and I have begun to read even wider, including literature which is not necessarily on the reading list or directly related to my modules, but which I feel will support me as a teacher.
5. Now this is a goal which I can confidently say I have achieved! I was thrilled to find a learning from life placement which was interesting, challenging, and incredibly rewarding.
Goals for MA3
Become my own kind of teacher. In other words, I want to be the kind of teacher that I want to be! In my first placement I very much imitated my mentor teacher – due to anxiety about the year group, and about teaching in general. Now that I have had more experience, and have built up my professional knowledge in a variety of areas, I feel that I am more able to approach teaching in my own way (See my next post where I consider what this means).
It also helps that my MA3 placement is in the ‘Early Years’ area of primary, which is the age group that I am most comfortable with. In order to achieve this goal, I need to really think about the kind of teacher that I am going to be – but that is a topic for another post!
Be more experimental. I recently read a blog which gave advice to student teachers. One of the pieces of advice was to try things out and be experimental, as now is the time to give things a go! This has struck a chord with me, and also links with my first point. I don’t want to be a ‘worksheet’ teacher. I really want to connect with my class and give them experiences (and learning) that will engage, inspire, and stay with them.
Keep on reading! I have begun to keep a record of literature that I have read/ want to read for my own professional development. This is not necessarily reading which is directly linked to the course, assignments, modules, or lectures, rather it may be books recommended by teachers on twitter, or blogs that I come across during my general browsing.
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.
After a seemingly endless summer, it’s almost time for me to get stuck into second year!
With that in mind, I thought that this is a good time for me to reflect on the last year, and think about what I want to achieve and get from MA2.
Thinking back (MA1)
My first year at university was an absolutely fantastic experience. I met lots of new people and started to find my feet in the new academic setting. I worked hard to complete essays and assignments, read about all sorts of theories and strategies, attended lectures and shared via social media. Despite all of that, I think that the most challenging and rewarding experience of the whole year was my first teaching placement.
It’s impossible to know what to expect when you go into a school as a student teacher. What will the school be like? What kind of resources will they have? Will my teacher be supportive? Will I get on with the class? Am I ready for this?? I was additionally nervous because I was going into a P5 class – a big step from my comfort zone in the Early Years. Luckily, during my observation weeks I quickly found that my class teacher was incredibly patient and supportive, and the class (though a bit hyper and excitable) were a fantastic bunch of children.
So… What went well?
Aspects of this first placement that I felt were successful include:
Building relationships with the pupils:
My placement school placed high importance on supporting the whole child while considering their individual situations and needs. During placement, I really enjoyed spending time with each child finding out about what they enjoy and their current abilities. I attempted to use the little details that I found out in conversations and lessons; ensuring that the children knew that I had listened to them (for example, asking a child how they got on at their first Karate lesson the night before).
As I got to know the children, I also began to think about ways in which I could support them during teaching and learning. As well as more formal differentiation and support strategies, I also thought about the children who were perhaps a little shy to contribute their ideas, and so planned more opportunities for partner talk or thinking time to support them.
Working with others:
During my placement, I had the opportunity to work with many talented and passionate individuals. I worked closely with my class teacher, discussing all aspects of my practice as well as the children’s needs and development. I also worked with other teachers in the school and witnessed how the team works together to support each other. An example of this were the staff in the nurture room, who worked closely with some children in the school. I observed my class teacher speaking and sharing with these staff regularly in order to support the pupils in the best way possible. I witnessed staff sharing teaching ideas and providing guidance to each other, and I became part of this – sharing the resources which I had put together for a lesson with another class.
I was inspired by the commitment of all staff within the school. Almost every teacher was involved in some sort of extra curricular club – either at lunch time or after school. I tried to become a part of this by helping at art club on a Wednesday at lunch time, attempting to plan a few simple activities. If the placement had been longer then I would have liked to become more involved in this, planning more interesting and exciting activities which could be completed over a few weeks.
Planning engaging and interesting lessons:
This was perhaps my favourite part of the whole experience. I thoroughly enjoyed planning for lessons which would grab the children’s interests and engage them with various learning activities. I worked hard to prepare resources and experiences which involved practical, active learning, discussion, investigation and times for group/pair/individual work.
My favourite lesson was entitled ‘Character Detectives’ and was developed from an idea which I’d come across online. This lesson involved the children working in their tables groups to decipher clues to provide them with information about a character. Each table had a box with items inside such as fake text messages, family photographs, plane tickets, junk food wrappers… Once the children had looked at all of their clues and discussed together the meaning behind each one, they were then required to write a paragraph about that character. I felt that this lesson was very successful as the children were engaged and had lots of imaginative and creative ideas. I had made sure to place the focus of the lesson onto the discussion parts, as I have read that the best creative writing happens when children have had the time to talk through their ideas.
Delivering this lesson has given me some insight into the type of classroom that I hope to have in the future. I want to encourage the type of environment where children can share and explore ideas together, being creative and supportive of each other.
Areas for development
There were many challenges for me during this first placement. I felt that there was a lot to learn and at times it felt a little overwhelming. I quickly learned to start using my time wisely and making the most of any free moment at school.
Timing and Pacing:
I knew that this would be a challenge when I began this placement, as I am used to working in
nursery settings where children have the whole day to work on activities and skills. In a primary school however, this is not the case – and lessons occur in very short blocks! I found that I regularly had to change my plans, particularly my plenaries due to a lack of time at the end of the lesson. This also affected my pacing in terms of the ‘teaching’ sections of my lessons, and I found that an over-awareness of time caused me to rush.
I tried a few different methods to address this issue such as writing key times onto my plan and online timers, however this continues to be an area that I will work in in future placements. I hope that through experience, I will be able to better judge how long each part of the lesson will take.
Classroom and behaviour management:
Every class in every school has different behaviour challenges to deal with and my placement class was no different. There were a few challenging characters, but mostly the class were just a little excitable and hyper.
I worked hard throughout my time in the class to develop my ability to manage behaviour, using the strategies in place at the school. Some of the methods which I found effective were non-verbal gestures and cues, warnings and positive praise. My class teacher advised me to develop my use of tone of voice to make it very clear when I am being serious/ stern.
Throughout my placement, I was supported, advised and encouraged by my class teacher and my university tutor. I feel that I learned so much which I can take away and use to positively influence my next teaching placement.
Looking forward (MA2)
I have set the following goals for MA2:
Continue to get involved in extra activities and opportunities (beginning with being a ‘buddy’ for the new MA1’s.)
Continue to work hard to achieve the grades that I want.
Approach my Science elective with a positive attitude and open mind (despite being a little nervous about it as science is far from my favourite subject!)
READ! Read and read and read and read some more. I was beginning to get better at this during MA1 but feel that I can manage my time better to ensure plenty of time for extended reading. I particularly want to read more journals and academic writing.
Find a Learning from Life placement which will be challenging with plenty of transferable skills.
This morning my brain is buzzing with a thousand thoughts. Through a connection on Twitter (did I mention that I love social media?) I was advised to listen to a wonderful show on BBC iPlayer entitled ‘My Teacher is an App‘.
This is a fascinating piece about the ever increasing role of technology in education. Much of it is centred around America’s ‘Silicon Valley’, but the points made are equally valid in a UK context.
On the show, various professionals discussed their opinion of where education is headed. At the beginning of the show, it was mentioned that we are moving towards a society of one to one computing in an educational situation. Some of the proposed advantages of this include:
high levels of engagement
Up to date information and resources (as opposed to textbooks which quickly date and become obsolete)
The radio program introduced us to Salman Khan; the creator of Khan Academy. Khan Academy is a non-profit organisation which provides short instructional videos/ lectures in the form of Youtube videos. This means that they are accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Khan proposes that our current models of teaching (involving grouping students and standardised testing) are vastly outdated and suggests that the Khan Academy model is more suited to the learners of today.
Below is a ‘Ted Talks’ video of Salman Khan discussing the use of his videos in learning:
As Sarah Montague (the radio presenter) points out; one of the huge benefits of teaching in this way is that pupils can learn at their own pace. A video can be paused, rewound or re-watched as many times as a learner requires in order for them to grasp the concept. There is also no fear of ridicule from peers, as no-one needs to know how quickly or slowly you are learning.
Within his talk, Khan mentions the idea of the ‘flipped classroom’. This is a model where traditional teaching and learning methods are reversed. Students are required to watch short educational videos at home before the lesson, and in class time they undertake tasks which are more like traditional homework activities. It is suggested that this method will allow teachers to spend more time addressing children’s individual needs, whether that be support for specific problems, or challenge for the more able.
The BBC radio show also discusses the use of video gaming in learning. Nolan Bushnell, the “father of modern video gaming” and founder of Atari, discusses his online resource: Brain Rush. This is a website full of short, educational games, designed to allow learners to develop skills quickly. Bushnell speaks about making learning fun and addictive, claiming that children can learn almost anything through gaming. It is also suggested that gaming can help pupils to review and memorise information, although these claims cannot yet be substantiated.
One group of schools in America which have embraced the use of technology is Rocketship Education. In these schools, children spend around a quarter of their school day online. Results in these schools are said to be very high and Rocketship suppose that this model of teaching will help to close the attainment gap. One of the issues of this model of teaching and learning is that the use of technology means that fewer teachers are employed. On the other hand, those teachers who are employed, are paid very competitive rates compared to standard teachers.
Taking digital learning even further, is the idea of ‘Virtual Schools’. In this situation, students do not attend school in the traditional sense, rather, they are responsible for undertaking their own learning via the internet and technology.
I find the idea of technology gradually replacing teachers rather unsettling. While I am completely on board with personalised learning and tapping in to the tools which engage children, I do not feel that the social and emotional aspects of development can be met without building the strong and important relationships with teachers and significant adults. In my opinion, technology and digital tools should be used alongside teachers and lessons, in ways that extend and deepen pupils’ knowledge and understanding.
When discussing Virtual Schools on the radio show, Sarah Montague raised the same issue that immediately popped into my head – what is keeping the children from becoming distracted and going off to do something else? While pupils may be motivated to learn about subjects that interest them, I cannot imagine them maintaining the self discipline to persevere at more challenging subjects, when temptations such as video games or TV are close by.
Never the less, virtual schools are a concept which may be appearing within the UK. In 2014, the Telegraph posted THIS ARTICLE proposing plans for a state funded ‘virtual school’.
Towards the end of ‘My Teacher is an App’, listeners were presented with a theory of learning and education which contrasts completely with the previous, highly technology based models.
The Waldorf approach places focus on child development through free play and expression through art, music and nature. These schools emphasise playing and exploring through natural and organic experiences. In this type of education, the use of technology is discouraged until children are older (around 13 years) and it is even suggested that technology could impact negatively on children’s ability to form relationships and express themselves creatively. Find out more about the Waldorf approach HERE.
Shields and Behrman (2000) also believe that excessive use of technology may have numerous dangerous effects on children, including access to unsuitable content, and reducing physical activity which may lead to obesity. In THIS JOURNAL, they discuss the need to limits and strict controls on the use of technology with children.
I am fascinated by the idea of the Khan Academy, Brain Rush, and the flipped classroom, and would love to see it in action within a real class. Despite this, I have to wonder whether it could actually work in our schools. While many pupils do have access to computers, tablets, phones or other devices to access the internet, there are those who do not. How does this model of teaching and learning support those who cannot access the videos before the class? Maybe a school which uses this model would provide access to ICT facilities before/ after school so that all pupils have the opportunity to access the resources?
Another issue of using technology in education is that many schools do not have the budget to provide computers/ devices for all pupils to use. Or, some schools do have computers, but they are old, slow, outdated machines which take an age to load and are perhaps cannot run the software that you want to use. I wonder if the rise of technology in education will create further inequality between schools, where some can access resources which others cannot.
I find it interesting that there appears to be a divide between the big push for outdoor learning and learning through nature (such as Forest Schools), and the growing role of technology in education. My opinion is that, like everything in life, there needs to be a balance. I firmly believe in the value of free play and natural play, but can also see that technology has an important and increasing role to play in children’s learning. It is the role of the teacher to provide opportunities for both.
Listening to the radio show has opened my eyes to some of the wonderful digital tools and resources which exist, and ways in which technology may start to change the way in which our education system works. Whether or not Virtual Schools take off, or the ‘flipped classroom’ begins to appear in more schools; I can see how teachers and educational professionals must continue to be flexible and reflective as discover the best ways to teach their pupils.
Recently, I was lucky enough to be asked to host #ScotEdChat. This is an hour long Twitter discussion, where teachers and other professionals can share their thoughts and ideas on a given topic. Our topic was the use of blogging and social media in a professional context.
(Click the image to read the ‘Storify’ log of the evening’s tweets).
#ScotEdChat was a brilliant experience with a lively chat. Many people participated by Tweeting about their own experiences with social media and blogs, both personally and professionally.
Following the chat, I’ve been thinking about the value of social media and online digital spaces for the purpose of shared professional practice. The Standards for Registration (GTCS) note the importance of sharing and collaboration. This can be seen in Professional Values and Personal Commitment:
Engaging with all aspects of professional practice and working collegiately with all members of our educational communities with enthusiasm, adaptability and constructive criticality.
Committing to lifelong enquiry, learning, professional development and leadership as core aspects of professionalism and collaborative practice.
and also in 3.4.2. Professional Reflection and Communication:
Adopt an enquiring approach to their professional practice and engage in professional enquiry and professional dialogue.
As a student teacher, I feel that any support, advice, guidance and ideas which I can gather from experienced professionals is invaluable. Of course, these can come from my lecturers and teachers in my placement schools; but why not extend my knowledge even further by discussing pedagogy with teachers and experts around the country or even around the world? That’s where Social Media comes in.
There are numerous different forms of Social Media which a teacher may wish to become involved in:
Facebook is a site where users create a profile and can share statuses, photos, videos, links etc with other users.
Pros: As you probably know, Facebook is hugely popular and widely used. In 2013, 28.9 million UK users accessed the social network (statistica.com) and this number is projected to continue to grow. Facebook includes groups which can be public or private. Some teachers choose to share ideas for activities as well as teaching advice through these groups. Here is a list of some teaching Facebook groups.
Cons: While many people like to use Facebook for personal use. There are concerns about privacy on the site and it is vital that teachers take precautions to protect themselves online.
Yammer is accessible to anyone with a glow login. This means that it can be used by teachers, professionals and pupils alike. It is a space where individuals can share posts and links; enabling collaboration as well as discussion.
Pros: ‘Public’ posts are still only viewable by other glow users. This may be appealing to those who are not comfortable sharing with everyone on sites such as Twitter. Yammer also includes groups and hashtags so that posts can be directed to specific audiences. One major advantage of Yammer is that it can be a place for pupils to connect and share.
Cons: Although it is growing, Yammer is still relatively small. This means that there is currently less sharing than on larger sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Twitter is a place where you can follow other professionals, creating a ‘feed’ of their posts. You can also share short, 140 character, updates including text, links or media.
This is my personal favourite social media site to use on a professional basis. As an Early Years Practitioner, I have engaged with thousands of like minded individuals and have found twitter to be an invaluable resource. As a student teacher, I am continually discovering useful articles which others have shared.
Pros: Twitter is a popular website for teaching professionals to connect and share. Hashtags are used to collect ‘tweets’ together (for example: all tweets with the hashtag #uodedu appear in one search/ list) and this is the way in which twitter chats are organised. With millions of users, Twitter allows individuals to easily connect with practitioners all around the globe.
Cons: Twitter can be a little hard to get into – with chats being fast paced, as well as many people using short-hand (due to the 140 character limit) and specific lingo. It can appear daunting for new users.
One of the wonderful things about social media is the accessibility. Around 76% of adults in the UK own a smartphone (deloitte.co.uk, 2015) which means that they can access the internet (and social media sites) almost 24/7. Whereas in the past, a teacher may have had to wait until the next day to ask the advice of a colleague, they can now post a question onto Twitter/ Yammer/ Facebook etc and often receive an answer very quickly.
Another positive aspect of professional sharing and connecting in this way is the support which teachers can offer each other. It is no secret that teaching is a difficult profession, but having a large support network of like-minded individuals can help to reassure and encourage.
Professionals in the education sector are required to undertake continual professional learning such as attending training courses or professional reading. I have also seen professionals in the Early Years sector using Twitter chats as CPD – keeping records of the conversations using Storify and then recording their own reflections. I feel that this could be a valuable additional resource for teachers.
Finally, becoming involved in social media can allow teachers to keep up to date with current issues, legislation and changes to the curriculum. As students; even if we do not yet feel in a position to comment on these issues/ changes; it is essential that we remain informed while beginning to develop our own professional opinions.
It must be noted that not everyone is convinced about using social media as a tool for professional development. Pregio (2011) writes that “perception and usage of social media varies wildly, and due to the inherently fluid and malleable nature of the platforms themselves we are still in the process of assessing all their possibilities.”
During #scotedchat, it was mentioned that some people do not feel comfortable putting their own opinions and perspectives out there. HERE is a wonderful blog post from Susan Ward, who discusses the fear and unpleasantness associated with negative comments, feedback and even bullying over the internet. This anxiety is an idea that many of my fellow students have explored when discussing feedback on our ePortfolios. I can fully sympathise with this as I often worry about what others think of me, and whether I am ‘good enough’. However, I feel that in order to develop and grow as professionals, it is important that engage with important issues. During another chat, last night, this issue was again raised and the common consensus was that very often there is no RIGHT answer or 100% correct way of doing things.
As teachers, it is our responsibility to prepare pupils for life and the wider world of work. In today’s society, this increasingly involves the use of digital technologies as well as social media. I believe that, In order for us as teachers to be able to engage and support students, it is essential that we have an understanding of the tools ourselves. While I am confident with some aspects of these, I know that there is much more that I can learn. In my next post, I will explore some of the uses of digital and online resources in primary schools. I look forward to discovering more of the Office tools through Glow, while reflecting upon how I may use these resources to further teaching and learning in the classroom.
There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to teaching! Throughout planning, implementation and reflection, it is essential for a primary teacher to recognize that every pupil is an individual. This means that there are numerous learning approaches and preferences throughout any class.
In 1987, Niel Flemming devised categories of learning in order to encourage teachers and students to think about different learning styles. This is known as the VARK model.
VARK stands for:
Visual: learners who have a preference for images or visual representations of information,
Auditory: learners who prefer to listen to information (for example in lectures) or perhaps use music to aid learning,
Read/Write: learners get the most out of reading texts and writing information
Kinesthetic: learners prefer practical, hands on experiences.
If you would like to find out your learning style; there are many online tests available. I used THIS test which revealed that I have a multimodal learning style with a preference for the read/write and visual approaches.
While I agree with this result to some extent, I feel that my preferences depend on the type of learning that I am involved in. For example; if I am trying to learn facts and figures for a test, then I prefer to read and write, however if I am learning how to bake a cake or sculpt a model, I would choose visual and kinesthetic methods.
There has been much debate around the validity of learning styles. One of the main criticisms is that there is no empirical evidence that the use of learning styles improves student performance within education. In fact, it has even been suggested that focus on learning styles may have a detrimental impact (Venable, 2011.) Lafferty and Burley (2009) argue strongly against the use of learning styles, stating that “Learning styles are subject dependent, they are teacher dependent, they are temperature dependent, they are emotion dependent etc. In fact they are dependent on so many things, that they are on a continuum and therefore not measurable, and do not exist.” This supports my own feelings about my learning and therefore, as a teacher, I would avoid grouping pupils due to their perceived VARK preference.
On the other hand, I feel that learning styles are a helpful concept to know, as they encourage teachers to reflect upon the ways in which they deliver lessons. This relates back to my “one size fits all” comment; as a teacher who only presents information in a didactic way is not appropriately supporting those pupils who may learn best in a practical way. It may also be beneficial for students to be able to recognize which learning styles work for them. Flemming and Baume (2006) point out that “any inventory that encourages a learner to think about the way that he or she learns is a useful step towards understanding, and hence improving, learning.”
As a primary teacher, I will strive to deliver lessons which provide opportunities for all different styles of learning (albeit not necessarily all at the same time!) I hope to avoid the mindset that these styles are fixed but rather to encourage children to continually explore the different approaches to their learning.
This week, we were set a TDT which got me excited – designing your own classroom.
As tempting as it is to get carried away, making everything pretty. The input helped me to recognise the amount of thought and preparation that goes into a classroom set up. Everything has a place, and every place is there for a reason.
While thinking about my imaginary classroom set up, I watched this YouTube video:
I really liked the horseshoe layout and the benches as this could be a great way to encourage group work. Unfortunately, I felt that the children who were sat behind the horseshoe (those who the teacher says are good at working independently) may not be able to be involved in group discussions in the same way, or else would need to move to sit on the benches or the mat. While this is manageable, it would be important to consider the needs of the children in the class.
I liked the point that this teacher made about how she considers how the classroom looks to the children. Every seat in the classroom should have a clear view of the board and should be able to hear the teacher. By sitting in the seats, it is also possible to identify any possible distractions or issues.
The TDT task stipulated that we were to plan a classroom for 28 children. I began with the horseshoe layout, but quickly identified that it is a challenge to make space for a large number of children without having some backs to you (unless you are lucky enough to have a very large classroom!) I also found that my horseshoe took up a very large portion of the room and left little space for other areas.
I then decided to design a classroom using group tables.
In both designs, I included a circle table which could be used for small group work, or could also be used if children wish to move away from a larger group and work quietly. Rather than having a traditional teachers desk, I chose a kidney table so that I could work with small groups of children.
I would also create a cosy reading area which would hopefully encourage children to engage with reading as well as being another area that could be used for group work.
When teaching whole class lessons I would move around the classroom, ensuring that all children are able to hear the teaching and instructions.
While working in nurseries, I found myself moving the room around on a semi-regular basis. I found that by moving an area from one part of the room to another, it was given a new lease of life, and the children were suddenly interested in it again. While I would not like to move my classroom around too often, making it confusing and distracting for my pupils; I would not be adverse to trying new things and would try to remain observant and open to when certain aspects of the room are not working as they should.
Another important aspect of the classroom design in the use of displays. As an avid fan of pinterest, I’ve been snooping at other classrooms and ‘pinning’ lots of lovely ideas. Within my classroom I would aim to have a balance between different kinds of displays.
I would use some space to display children’s work. I feel that having work on the walls creates a sense of ownership for the children, and also serves to raise confidence and self esteem as they can feel proud of their achievements.
I would have displays which are interactive. This means that the display has aspects which the children can engage with and can extend their learning.
I would also have displays which act as signs, for example displaying the classroom rules. I believe that it is important to have these on show so that the teacher can refer to them and reinforce them regularly. This allows the children to see that the teaching is being fair and consistent.
Finally (and if there is room) I would try to display interesting pictures or art work which may spark discussion and interest. This may be appropriate in the reading area.
When creating displays and considering my décor, I would be aware that, although I want my classroom to be attractive and inviting – large areas of bright primary colours can sometimes be overwhelming, and busy patterns can make it difficult for some children to focus. For displays with signs and important information, I would try to keep the display uncluttered and clear. I also like to use pastel colours and natural tones for backing paper where possible.
(Here is a brilliant website where you can look at a variety of different classroom set ups and layouts: The School Supply Addict)
Completing this task has helped me to recognise the importance of the classroom layout. It is now very clear that a lot of thought and reflection has gone into the set up of each class. When I return to my placement, I will be able to observe the room with new eyes, considering the use of space and also the displays and information provided for the children.
Currently, I am in two minds about lesson planning. Part of me enjoys the creativity of coming up with ideas that will (hopefully) engage and inspire the learners, while the other part finds it very challenging to figure out how these ideas will work in practice. Of course, I realise that this will become easier in time, and also when I am planning for a class of real children, rather than hypothetically which has previously been the case.
With that in mind, I attempted to complete the Language TDT while thinking about the primary 5 class that I will be working with on placement. Our task was to create a lesson plan, based on a children’s book, which would meet the following outcome:
recognise the relevance of the writer’s theme and how this relates to my own and others’ experiences
discuss the writer’s style and other features appropriate to genre.
The novel that I chose for this lesson plan is the wonderful: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I decided to plan an introductory lesson, while focusing on just one aspect of the learning outcome – setting.
Within the first chapter of the book, the character of Lucy stumbles into the magical land of Narnia. C.S. Lewis describes her journey through the wardrobe and into another world. My lesson plan involves reading this section and noticing the description given. The children must then use the description to draw their own interpretation of what Narnia may look like. They would then write their own brief description.
As with my previous attempts at planning, I found the Plenary section to be difficult. When I go into my school placement I will observe how the class teacher finishes her lessons and will try to incorporate some of her methods.
I am looking forward to planning lessons that will be implemented as I feel that putting it into practice will allow me to further grasp how timings and assessment methods work.
Earlier this week, I attended the launch of the Upstart Scotland campaign. This is a campaign aimed at raising the starting age of children into schools to 7 years; following the example of many high achieving countries such as Poland, Estonia and Finland.
Currently, children in Scotland start school at age 4-5. It is suggested that this early starting age could be having negative impacts on our children, not only academically, but also in their overall wellbeing. In answer to this, Upstart Scotland proposes that a kindergarten stage should be introduced, delaying formal education and extending the amount of time that children can spend just being children.
The Upstart launch consisted of talks by 2, fascinating and very knowledgeable women. Sue Palmer is the founder of the movement. She is also a literacy specialist and focuses on early education and play. Dr Suzanne Zeedyk is a developmental psychology specialist from within the University of Dundee.
Both speakers placed great emphasis on the importance of play. Now, I am a big advocate of play of all kinds and I always get excited when people recognise its value and worth. Throughout the evening, it was mentioned that we should not have to JUSTIFY play, as if it were an indulgence. Here here! Following this, a point was made that at first I agreed with, but on further reflection I just can’t get my head around:
Why does it always have to be LEARNING THROUGH play?
(Please don’t quote me on the exact wording, but this was the idea.) The suggestion was that play should just be allowed to be play, without the learning emphasis.
The reason for my initial agreement is that, yes, I do feel that children should be given the time, space and freedom to play without adults intervening or guiding in order to meet outcomes.
However, when I was thinking it over at home, I realised that:
Play IS Learning!
In my opinion, there simply is no such thing as playing without learning. As hard as I tried, I could not think of an example of play where no learning was taking place.
Take splashing in puddles for example, on first glance this might appear to be pure play, without any purpose or learning. Then take a minute to think. The child is learning to control their body so that they can land in the puddle. They are learning that if they jump or stamp then the water will splash. They are perhaps learning to take turns, if someone else is splashing in the same puddle. They are learning that if they splash in a puddle wearing their trainers, then they get wet feet, however if they wear their wellies then they can stay dry… You may not be able to map all of these against the curriculum, but learning is certainly taking place.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m sure that Sue and Suzanne would agree with me, and that the point was aimed at ‘play based learning’, which is a very different thing. Play based learning is usually planned experiences with a planned outcome. It is adult lead and has the clear goal of learning a skill or consolidating knowledge. This is the type of play which appears more often within schools rather than free play which is intrinsically led and spontaneous with no obvious goal.
Personally, I cannot see a problem with the phrase ‘Learning through play’ because that is what children are doing all of the time. In fact, I believe that this is what the Upstart campaign is all about! By raising the starting age of formal school, we are giving children more time to investigate their world, explore and establish relationships, develop innate motivation and wonder. We are giving them more time to learn through play.
For more information about the Upstart Scotland Campaign please visit: