Gifted??

One of the questions in my Mathematical Mindsets MOOC was about gifted children and our labelling of people as gifted.

Since the mid 00’s there has been a requirement to highlight ‘gifted and talented’ children in classes in the schools I have taught in England and Scotland, but on reflection, this flies in the face of a ‘growth mindset’ approach to education.

Here is how I answered the question What do you think the “gifted” label does to young children and their teachers?

If we start by thinking of a gift, we might think of something which is given to us without our needing to do anything to recieve it. i.e. You get your birthday gift, but we didn’t really contribute a lot to being born…

To a child who believes themselves to be gifted, this might mean that they feel they don’t have to work hard, as they have been given something extra which others don’t have. It might mean that when they come across something they can’t do they feel they ‘don’t have the gift’ in this so it’s not worth trying.

Children hearing others described as having a gift are likely to see that child’s work in a subject as unrelated to effort. Therefore there is no point in that child trying that little bit harder, as they are not gifted. However hard they try, they are not going to get to be good enough.

Teachers who believe in, or label children as gifted (as well as discouraging many children) may not see the point in putting efforts in to certain groups or children. I remember my Y3 team leader in my first year of teaching explaining that if I hadn’t given children the chance to do something, then they certainly would not be able to do it. They may also be inclined to put children into groupings for subjects from which they can never escape, as they are never given the opportunity to do the same work as ‘the other group’.

Mathematical Mindsets – Jo Boaler.

I am working on (and shall be over the summer holidays) an online MOOC – Mathematical Mindsets, run by Jo Boaler.

If you haven’t come across Jo before, find her on the Twitter, google her or read her books. I love her methods for maths and the way she links them with growth mindsets.

I intend publishing some of my work here.

In my first piece, Jo shared three pieces of research onto brain growth with us and asked us to share our feelings about how this should impact schools.

 

Taxi Driver Evidence.

“You may have seen me show the evidence from London black cab drivers who have to undergo complex spatial training, at the end of which, they have a significantly larger hippocampus in the brain. At the end of being taxi drivers, when they retire, the hippocampus shrinks back down again.”

 

Taxi driver response:

This research shows that a brain that is being used develops and grows and that when the brain is not being used it regresses to its initial state. So in school I guess this means that we need to keep children thinking about their maths. The children who probably end up thinking about their maths are the mid-ability ones upwards who, if we are not careful are fed a diet of ‘more of the same with bigger numbers’. These are the children who are ‘high fliers’ who then plateau in their maths learning.

We need to use real-life challenging problems and investigations and games with all learners to ensure brains keep growing.

 

 

Half-Brain Case-study. “You may also have seen me show the girl who had half her brain removed. The doctors expected her to be paralyzed for many years or even for her whole life, but she shocked them by regrowing the connections she needed in a really

short space of time.”

 

Half-Brain response:

This research shows that the brain is a wonderful thing which scientists are still understanding…slowly in some cases.

In school we need to encourage our children to make connections within their brains to ensure that they keep developing. Brains don’t get full! We need to share this learning about re-wiring of brains with the children so they come to associate hard learning with something like a gym visit or fitness training – a development; and improver.

 

Stanford Case Study: “They brought 7 to 9-year-old children into the labs at Stanford, and half of them had been diagnosed as having mathematics learning disabilities, and half of them hadn’t. And they had these children work on maths under brain scans.

And lo and behold, they found actual brain differences. And the children diagnosed with learning disabilities actually

had more brain activity than the other children, more areas of their brain were lighting up when they worked on maths.”

 

Stanford response: Initially, this research seems to show that pupils who are thought have learning disabilities are working harder to keep up with (and by definition be not as good at maths as) their peers. Their brains are working harder, which means they will feel more tired during a maths lesson, be more stressed and require more breaks. We need to think in schools how we treat these children who are working harder, and it’s certainly not good enough to say X is not good at maths. It also suggests that schools need to find time to work closely with our ‘poorer maths attainers’ to get an understanding of where there learning is and to give them strategies to learn and develop their maths. – In an ideal world this can be done through group work and talk partners also.

Teachmeet Firestarter 2017.

It was cold. Cold like winter. In fact, it was winter, but 15 teachers from across the region started fires, literally and metaphorically.

The first part of the teachmeet involved using steel and flints to spark onto a cotton wool pad which had some vaseline on it. It was huge fun. I think your class would like it.

Once we’d managed a spark and ignited the cotton wool we added the kindle we’d been taught how to split and gradually built our fires. Some were in Kelly Cans and one was in a colander with a trivet on the top. Simple, but huge fun. We boiled the water in the Kelly Cans and mashed ourselves a cup of tea. I know my class would love this, all of them and when they went home that night I reckon they’d tell their folks.

Matt from Grounds for Learning explained how to keep it safe, how to use the equipment and gave examples of the ages of children who’ve done this. You’d be surprised.

Aileen gave out some red strips of paper to add to the fire with our reasons we don’t do more outdoor learning. For me it’s really a bit of laziness. I know when I’ve gone outside with my classes they’ve loved it and they are engaged. Engaging children is something I believe is vital to our children getting the most from school life. I burned my laziness paper, I need to do a bit better.

The more traditional teachmeet section that followed was, as always, interesting. Listening to teachers talk about what they do, why they do it and the impact it has always is. Listening to Aileen talk about children needing recent experiences to talk and write about sparked my thoughts. I need to get my class outdoors a bit more. Teacher after teacher talked about outdoor experiences they had with their classes and each one spoke of the engagement with the traditionally ‘hard to reach’ groups of children.

Our final challenge was to write and then share:

‘What fires are you going to start:

In yourself?

In your class?

In your school?’

 

Well, I am going to take my class out once a week for at least half an hour of learning – I’m thinking this will be maths as this is an area I feel comfortable with and happy to challenge myself with.

In my school, I’m going to tell people how much my class enjoyed going out and offer to share the learning we’ve done and resources we’ve used.

In myself, I’m going to get my outdoor clothing organised so I can go out whatever the weather with my class!

 

Many thanks to Matt and Aileen. Grounds for Learning is know in the rest of the UK as ‘Learning Through Landscapes’.  Their website has lots of resources and ideas.

It really was cold, but it was worth it and I will make sure my children’s learning benefits.

 

Resources for science – light.

My new headteacher introduced me to Onenote and after having a look at it, I realised that it would be a good way to collate resources for different subjects and topics in school.

In a few months I’ve built up lots of pages of links with brief descriptions of what the link is.

I’m going to share these resources I’ve collated and used on my blog space here.

I hope you find them useful.

I’m going to start with some links I used for our science topic on Light.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/topics/zbssgk7/videos/1 class clips

 

http://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/pattern-distortions-seen-through-a-glass-of-water

 

http://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/79356632627  Reversing arrow experiment

 

http://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/52798138998 Optical cloaking

 

http://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/71224654988 T-rex

 

http://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/60505868597 Can you trust your eyes?

 

http://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/how-do-animals-see-in-the-dark-color-ted-ed How do animals see (and humans for that matter)

http://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/how-do-glasses-help-us-see-ted-ed Human eyes and glasses.

 

http://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/how-do-your-eyes-see-color-physics-girl How do your eyes see colour?

 

http://www.color-blindness.com/color-blindness-tests/ Colour vision tests

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/ks2/science/physical_processes/light/read/1/ Bitesize Light.

Educational reforms.

As soon as the PISA results came out, the questions, accusations and incriminations began. Blame it on the CfE, blame it on the SNP, blame it on the boogie. I’m not going to blame anyone, there’s plenty of stuff written by plenty of people on the internet already, indeed I’m not sure the PISA results are something to aim for or worry about – Finland seems not to be too concerned – but I am going to write about working through major education reforms in my career to date.

The two major reforms which took place whilst I’ve been a teacher occurred in England and Scotland. In England, I taught through the time of the National Literacy Strategy, the National Numeracy Strategy, the QCA units, the QCA unit plans, SATS tests and OfSTED inspections every four years in a range of schools in England.  In Scotland I’ve taught throughout the implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence, and seen at first hand via The Girl, the national assessment procedures.

The reforms in England were massive and to a large degree micro-managed. The Government wanted improvements in literacy and numeracy and wrote strategies to make sure this happened. If there was debate around what ‘good’ literacy and numeracy should look like, I wasn’t part of (I was in my 20s though, so I knew everything anyway). The strategies were written by a group of literacy experts and then rolled out to schools in the autumn and winter to be put into place for the start of the next school year.

I recall the literacy strategy being rolled out in 2 hour staff meetings after school – I hate after school meetings, I’ve done a day of teaching, there is assessment to do and I’m tired: You’re not going to get the best out of me. These meetings were scripted by the government, the trainers read out what we needed to know and we worked through units of work which explained how the strategy worked, how we should plan, how we should teach reading,writing and spelling. We soon spotted that the answers to the trainers’ questions were usually on the next page of the document! For this training we were given a complete strategy, various unit breakdowns of our own, resources (which we needed to make up in school) and some examples of expected work. It was a slog but by September we had stuff in place and away we went with it. The lessons I taught from the strategy weren’t perfect, but there was a structure in place to help me.

Of course, your school didn’t HAVE to follow the literacy strategy, but if you didn’t and the OfSTED or local authority came a calling, your school literacy strategy had better be an improvement on the national strategy. If your SATS results weren’t up to standard then OfSTED might make an extra visit and again, you’d better be getting the national strategy in place or else (or else usually meant your HT retiring or resigning).

Once we had successfully implemented that – well actually by October of that same year – the National Numeracy Strategy was launched. If you’ve had the misfortune to chat to me about this, you’ll know I love the NNS! The Government spotted some of the problems with the literacy strategy and made some key improvements.

The NNS contained examples of questions and ideas you could use, straight out of the folder. The document, like the NLS had learning objectives for each term of each year group (meaning for differentiation there was a progression mapped out). However, the NNS was supplemented with two things I thought were brilliant.

Firstly, there was a 5 day maths course for every teacher in the UK. 5 days out of class (in a hotel at times) to discover the document, talk about it with colleagues from other schools, plan how you would implement it with your class, look at all the resources. Like the NLS it too was scripted, so the Government really were leading this change in EXACTLY the way they wanted it to go. The 5 days were back to back. A full week thinking about nothing more than numeracy. It changed my teaching approach to maths from ‘here’s the book kids’ to something I love to this day. And really it bloody well should have done, bearing in mind the cost of this to the UK taxpayer.

The other wonderful thing was the resources the NNS team made and shared. They created some wonderful teaching programs which I use to this day and they wrote the unit plans. These were highly detailed documents for each unit of work. Unit one was place value it contained 5 plans, one for each day of the week. Each plan was A4 and was pretty much a script for the lesson. There in the same folder (and latterly on CD-ROMS) were the resources (including worksheets) you needed for the lesson. Differentiated. The idea was that these plans were a start point, you changed them to suit the needs of your class. Lots of teachers did and that was great, but even if you didn’t (because you were, like so many teachers lazy 😉 what you delivered was good quality, written by numeracy experts, lessons. If you were new to the job it allowed you to know where to pitch an average lesson and how to piece your maths teaching together over a term. I loved them and still did out the ideas for a concept which my class find tricky to see if I’ve missed anything.

After a year or two, the Government did it again. They released the QCA topic documents. These detailed the teaching for all of the non-core subjects on a lesson by lesson basis. Again, all the information you needed to teach the lesson was contained in the folder. You adapted it, changed the order, added bits in, took bits out but the basic lessons for all your Art, DT, History, Geography, Music, Science, RME and PSE were there. Concurrent to that, the Government noticed that problem solving and investigations was not progressing as well as they wanted, so they created more problem-solving resource and ran another 5 day maths course for two teachers in each school to upskill them in teaching this. Again, resources and knowledge I still use to this day.

Looking back, it seems a great time, with resources aplenty, cash aplenty, but it was hard, hard work at times, with the pressure of OfSTED ready to pounce and the pressure of SATS scores needing to meet targets for school and local authority. For me, giving me start points close to a finished article of a lesson plan or termly plan allowed me to focus on the delivery of the lesson, moving children to their next target (of which they had many) and how I might make these at time dry lessons interesting and meaningful for the children. For teachers, new to the profession it certainly offered a proven scaffold to begin their careers. I loved the support the strategies and unit plans gave me and the time it freed up to think about the needs of the children in my care.

I will discuss the education reforms since I’ve moved to Scotland in my next post. I think it’s possible I moved out of England before things took a turn for the worse, but I’m happy to hear comments from people who disagree with that thought or with things as I recall them from the late 90s and early 2000s

Daily Maths Work.

I’ve been using a daily maths sheet which I found here, in addition to our brilliant in-house Minute Maths resource recently. I loved it as it reinforced so many aspects of maths which needed a steady drip feed before they became confident and embedded.

I decided that some of the parts of the sheet were still required this term, but I also wanted to add some aspects of maths which we still needed practice with. So, I made up my own sheet and adapted it to the needs of my class. In line with my last post, I’m offering it for free from here as a PDF, or e-mail me for the adaptable publisher doc. I’ll also put it on Pinterest.

 

TES Resource

“Hello, Just following up on the last message. We would love to hear back from you to see whether you are interested in the £50 reward for uploading…”

 

The TES came a calling. Offering cash incentives.

 

“£50 reward for uploading 3 premium teaching resources to our website. “

 

I had a look.

 

What is a premium resource? It’s a resource on the TES site that you pay for.

 

I have enough problems remembering my login for the TES site.

 

I had a read of this post again. It’s about why i teach. I’ve done it for a while now. I still love it. It’s about the changing, the learning, the everyday being new, the unlocking of potential. It’s not about the money.

 

I am more than happy to share any knowledge, resources I have with anyone. For free. Get in touch and I’ll send you what I can.

 

I feel that the sharing of ideas, resources, skills and knowledge is a key part of teaching. It’s how we are going to improve our education system, our curriculum. It’s how we are going to prepare our young people for the future.

 

It’s also what we ask the children in our care to do when we plan group work.

 

As well as an ethical issue in getting paid for sharing my resources, there’s a further issue.

 

If I make a resource on my council computer, in my council lit, council heated classroom and maybe print out a few test copies on the council maintained printer, is it fully my resource to charge for?

 

If I use the knowledge that I have developed through the inspiring, knowledgeable teachers I have worked with, is it fully my resource to charge for?

 

If I use an idea that I have seen on someone else’s resource, even if I have adapted it, is it fully my resource to charge for?

 

I am lucky.  I work, and have worked, with some wonderfully knowledgeable, inspiring people. I learn loads from them. I see how they do things, I improve my practice, I incorporate their ideas and I steal a copy of their resources from them and use them with my class. Should I offer them money when I do this?

 

Sharing. It’s a fundamental part of education, it’s how we personally improve and it’s how we are going to improve the lives of our young people.

Hopefully I do it.

And it’s useful.

And I do it for free.

 

#Blimage – Seating

Photo - Steve Wheeler.

Photo – Steve Wheeler.

 

When I first saw this particular #blimage it struck a chord with me immediately. Seating arrangements! One of the things in teaching I’ve read up about and tried out lots of to get the best learning out of my class (and in my early years tried to improve behaviour with too).

 

What can seating look like in primary schools?

 

Well those desks suggest the old style of rows to me. The type of thing that was actually being phased out when I went through primary schools in the 1980s. I’m not sure of the benefit of rows. If you were partnered (as our desks were double desks) with the ‘wrong person’ it made school life miserable. (My step-daughter who is a hard-working girl who isn’t easily distracted and tries her best ‘won’ the seat next to the class ‘naughty’ boy who was very talkative. She was sat there for a couple of terms…say it quickly it doesn’t sound a lot does it. Two block of 8 weeks maybe. 80 days then. 6 hours a day. 560 hours of school. With no planned benefits to her, only unhappiness because she’s not sat with the rest of her group). So maybe that seating wasn’t of the 70s and 80s? I’ve seen it used in classes in schools I’ve taught in. I assume (though never asked) to stop off task interactions.

 

A more traditional seating arrangement in primary school is the ‘table’ of around 6 children. Why do we do this? To create group interactions? Because it what primary classrooms look like – (thanks to SMT who’ve shared that gem in the past)? So that we can engineer groupings to ‘settle’ the behaviours of some children? In the early stage of my teaching life I used table groups and changed them regularly, twice a year (or moved ‘individuals’ around as a behaviour measure). I dread to think.

 

In latter years (after working with Shirley Clarke in Gateshead) I used tables of 6 children and changed them every Monday using lollipop sticks. The purpose behind this being to get the children interacting with as many different children in the class as possible. Finding out the skills and positive features that people they had never worked with had, as well as developing their own skills, through sharing their ideas and supporting each other in group work. It worked really well, and some of the feedback from the children about things they found out about each other was amazing. Of course if this happens you can’t have table points, table captains, table winners or table losers, you will need children to be self-motivated and working hard for themselves and not for external reward.

 

For the best part of a year I put all my tables together to form one large table in the classroom and mixed up the children weekly again using lollipop sticks. I did this after reading a book about how Apple and Google create spaces for ‘chance’ interactions. The class enjoyed working in this way and again reported that working with different people made for exciting learning time and exciting school time. (Behaviour, to my observation, was no worse using a ‘random’ approach to tables and seating than having ‘planned’ seating).

 

This coming year I am going for a horseshoe in my classroom with seating positions again changed weekly by random means. As well as the horseshoe, I have a table of 4 in the middle and a table for 8 for group teaching purposes. I will encourage the children to move furniture around for different tasks as they feel it suits their learning.

However, before all of this happens I will spend time in the first couple of weeks setting up the reasons behind our seating arrangements and setting up ground rules as well as discussing growth mindsets and key aspect of formative assessment. You can find loads of reading and resources about developing a growth mindset in the classroom all over the internet, and I have collected a few of the articles I have found useful here.

 

I’d be delighted to hear any of your ideas, arrangements etc in the comments.

 

.

 

Highers – Follow up.

Since writing about my step-daughter and highers last week, I’ve received some good feedback from and MSP, parents, teachers and educationalists.

Before I go into that, an update. It’s now Wednesday of the holidays and my step-daughter has been into school on ever weekday of the holiday, apart from Easter Monday. She’s also done lots of work when at home. She’s not really her normal self, is a bit tetchy and showing some signs of being fed up. (I offer cups of tea, hugs and chocolate feeling a bit helpess)

I have found out that the school my step-daughter attends is paying staff to work in the Easter holidays. For me that raises many, many questions. What else could be done with that money? What if your family have already booked a holiday in the Easter holidays (because booking in term-time is strongly discouraged by schools, but encouraged by pricing structures of the holiday sector), surely you don’t have equality of opportunity for this use of public money? Are the teachers being paid a universal teacher rate (i.e. teachers daily rater or supply rates) ? How much pressure is put on teachers to do this? Do the public know teachers are being paid overtime to get the grades which will be trumpeted as a triumph for Scottish Education/ Government / Political Parties when the results are announced? Do we have a true financial cost?

Feedback: You can read Amanda Wilson’s feelings in the comments below the original post. Thanks again for your time

Mark Priestley said:

and

Iain Gray MSP said:

Angela Constance replied:

I will publish her reply in full when I receive it.

Jak tweeted:

As well as these reponses I have received a long and sincere e-mail from a teacher who sympathises and dislikes the current system.

I have also received many favourable comments on FB as well as face to face when meeting parents of children of all ages in person.

I ended my initial post thus: This isn’t progress. This isn’t creating an education system better than the oft-mocked English system I described earlier. This isn’t good enough.

It seems I’m not alone in those thoughts.

css.php