Tag Archives: design

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

35,000 Images.

There are over 35,000 images which you can freely download  from the National Galleries website. This is a great resource and has loads of uses in class. I’ve always found that children really enjoy looking at different pictures and whilst not as good as a trip to a gallery, it’s a great resource.

Guy Claxton – 5 things to try.

I was able to attend a talk by Prof Guy Claxton yesterday. Despite the room being way too warm and forgetting to take my bottle of water, it was a really thought provoking talk and left me with some things I want to try in school on Monday (and beyond) and certainly made me want to find out more about the Building Learning Power programme.

1. Distraction fingers. Probably 1 to use with my younger classes. When a distraction occurs, ask the children to show fingers for how distracted they were. 1 to 5. The idea behind this being to raise the awareness of the effects of distraction across the class. The children then develop their own awareness of the distractions the make and adjust behaviour accordingly.

2. A learning diary needs to be an ongoing tool, almost like an artists sketchbook, by the child’s side every minute, ready to jot down ideas, things they find hard and how they tried to overcome those things. I’m teaching across the school music and RCCT cover currently. If I was in class I’d definitely being using learning diaries more in this way.

3. More open feedback, encouraging the child to find the improvement point more. So, rather than highlighting the words to be improved, the teacher (or peer ideally) would leave a comment such as ‘You could improve a part of this paragraph, can you find out which part, and try to improve it’. That seems a more powerful statement to me as it requires that extra bit of work from the writer.

4. Once again, the important role of questions was spoken about – this is an ongoing theme across many educationalists I hear and read. It’s something I try to work at, 3 question answers, lollipop sticks, the basketball approach, using higher level questioning. Something I would like to create in my room is a display of questions children could ask about pieces of music -published and their own music- to further their understanding about music. I also love the idea of a questions wall with ‘wonder questions’ about anything. Some may be answered, some may not, it’s not the answering that matters it’s the asking of the question.

5. A diving mark scheme. I thought this idea was simple and clever. Children choose their ‘level’ to work at and that ‘level’ has a tarrif which the final score is multiplied by. This encourages children to stretch themselves and moves them away from a ‘safe haven’ whilst offering an encouragement for this. I can see this needs careful observing but it’s something quite close to a techniques I’ve used before in maths lessons. I will have a range of sums for the children to do on addition, subtraction etc. The children choose their start sheet, but are allowed to move in lesson between sheets as they feel. If they are finding it too hard they can go to a sheet with smaller numbers and consolidate and if they’re up for it, they can go straight for the harder challenge. The children are soon able to talk about their choices and any moves they make in lessons.

 

I have made more notes than this so please get in touch for more information or visit Guy’s sites.

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New Skills, New Questions.

I read this article and it got me thinking about school, learning, young people today etc.

The article discusses how skills are learned, how creating neural pathways link and create stronger pathways and how a good way to develop these skills is by not using help guides, asking other people etc but puzzling it out for yourself.

My experience is that children are the masters at that. They use tech, never read an instruction manual, dive in and work it out. Only if they are really stuck do they ever seek help from a youtube video, social media friends or maybe sometimes…their parents.

How does that learning model compare to schools?

How many lessons does the same children sit through where there is an input (or teach) first and then a series of activities ‘designed’ to develop this skills/learning?

How does the waiting for help (if required) compare to the immediacy of youtube or other web based help technologies?

How does the ‘blocking’ of lessons sometimes days apart hold back the development of skills in those areas, when the best way to develop the skills is everyday practice?

Do we connect enough of our learning together? I think primaries do, but there is always talk of splitting back into more subject based learning and less topic/project learning? Why? Where is the evidence for success in this approach?

The role of failure is key to learning in this way, yet if our children do not have enough ‘self-esteem chips’ as Richard Gerver brilliantly calls them our children will not be able to enjoy the freedom to fail. Do schools do enough to balance out the differential between the haves and have-nots of self-esteem? If not, why?

Which countries ARE getting it right and how are they doing it? Our young people are going to develop more and more skills in these ways, are our schools going to support them in that or hold them back?

296747265_eef6c2e32cSkills Drop Off – by Squacco

 

5 Words to describe my class.

If you had to choose five words to describe your class, what would they be? -Dave Burgess
I found this idea and quotation here and thought it was a fantastic idea for teachers, but also a great idea to start the new school year off with a new class.
Messy.
Interactive.
Inquisitive.
Energetic,
Happy.
I wonder what words my class from last year would come up with?
Henti Smith fmgbain
Inquisitive Fascincation – Henti Smith

Badger, badger, badger, badger.

There’s a lot of work going on at the moment about using badges for crediting skills, experience in education and the workplace. I came across this template for designing your own badges and shared it last night in the #dlchat. People in the chat seemed to like it, so I thought it might be worth posting it here also. Getting my Digital Leaders becoming badge creators and awarders is an aim for my Digital Leader project next year, as it has multiple benefits. I hope they’re keen to be badgers.

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Learning Spaces.

An area I wanted to develop this term in class was my use of displays. I feel ‘traditional’ primary school displays are not a natural strength of mine, and I’ve always wondered about the effectiveness of the display in effecting children’s learning. I’m open to any researched ideas about the effects if you’d like to post in the comments or e-mail me I’d be grateful.

In March time I came across No Tosh’s posts on learning spaces and was really interested in some of the ideas in the post. I was particularly interested in the learning wall idea, and set about creating one in my class using plastic wallets to display the children’s work in a respectful manner as well as allowing the much needed fluidity for the display’s success.

We launched our topic in April, Beavers – back after 400 years, and I explained the ideas to the children, and waited…and waited…and waited. Well this week we had a bit of a breakthrough. A couple of children brought work in on Tuesday, a couple more on Wednesday and today I had a child asking to stay in through lunchtime to create her work for the display. I have to say I am delighted that the idea seems to be taking off. I hope to have more work to add to the display coming in thick and fast now.

How does it compare to ‘traditional’ displays? Well, the children are very interested by what is on the display and clearly as work is beginning to come in they are motivated by what they see and want to copy, build on and develop their peers work. Could this happen on a ‘traditional’ display? Well yes it could, but my experience (and/or lack of artistic eye) means through my career it hasn’t happened as much as I’d have liked, and certainly not as much as the time and physical resources used in a display should have impacted. It is certainly something I will be using again next school year and I hope it will have the same motivational effect.

Here is the work the children have created to date.

 

 

Web 2.0, week 2

This week, as you can read below, we’ve used a range of IT across the curriculum in P7.

Our maths has used the wii extensively for work on mean, mode and median averages, and we have used mind42.com to create online mindmaps about how to make Buddy Bear famous. There is more about using mind42.com in the post below.

We also used wallwisher to suggest ideas about how we could make Buddy famous. This has been done entirely out of school and can be seen here. Hopefully we’ll get a stream of ideas going onto this page. Again,I like wallwisher as it is a simple way of children putting down their simple thoughts about something, a book, a unit of work etc and it is also a kept record of their ideas (as opposed to the piece of large paper with post-its beginning to fall off). 4 of my class have now created their own walls using wallwisher to post (with their friends) their favourite pets, sports etc. This suggests to me that they find using the software both stimulating and effective.

I have created a blog for Buddy Bear, using blogger. The idea behind this came from the postings on wallwisher suggesting we put a film of Buddy on youtube and post some pictures of him onto the internet. Blogger seemed a good way of bringing all of these online ideas together. I will also use that blog site to allow the children to tell the world of Buddy’s adventures when they get to take him him. Buddy’s blog can be found here.

I read Tom Barrett’s excellent articles on bloggging, specifically the ones about using Blogger with his class. This seemed like a good option for Buddy Bear’s Blog, as I wanted to have text (his diary entry) and pictures (of his visits) and eventually video all in the same place. By adding some tools to the basic blog my class can gauge how successful they are in making buddy famous around the world. The tools I added were a feedjit live traffic feed, a clustrmap and a simple hit counter. The class enjoy looking at the blog and some have viewed it at home, but as yet only I have left a comment.

I created a picasa account for the project which I will put pictures of Buddy in as the children take them. Blogger runs using google accounts so the account for the blog provides a picasa account and an e-mail account to which the children can e-mail their pictures in as they take them.

Mind42.com

We began our new topic this week, it’s all about trying to make Buddy Bear into a famous film star. He’s not been successful so far, and he wants our P7 classes to help him. Much of the planning of this topic needs to come from the ideas the children have, so an obvious place to start, I thought was with a mind map.

I’ve made mindmaps before using Publisher very successfully, but our LA doesn’t seem to support Publisher in primary schools, so I wondered if there was an online web 2.0 type alternative. I posted on twitter and 10 minutes later I got a response from @atstewart suggesting mind42.com I had a look at it on Tuesday evening and had a bit of a play and it seemed really simple to use.

I liked the fact that it could easily use pictures from the internet (it has a built in google image search), as well as the fact that I found it a really simple, but smart piece of software to use. It created good quality mindmaps easily. It took away the need for rubbers, rulers that don’t have a ‘nick’ in them and felt tips that don’t work and allowed the children the chance to edit their maps as they went along, without making a mess.

When we used the program on Wednesday, the children soon worked their way around it and as ever helped each other out and found out quickly what could be done. The program autosaves work to the account it is signed in to. It allows the maps to be saved and then printed by a variety of means, including pdf. There is also a publish to web option.

You do need a sign-in to use the program, but I created a temporary one (in that I deleted the account after the lesson) and shared the username and password with the whole class. Through using their GLOW passwords the children invited their friends to collaborate on their  mindmaps.  As I hoped, the children are beginning to move past the ‘msn’ novelty of collaborative work and are just adding to and editting each other maps.

I thought this was a really good piece of web based software which I feel we will use regularly in class and hopefully the children will use it out of school too.

Here is a vimeo to watch explaining it all!

Mind42: Introduction from Stefan Schuster on Vimeo.

Wordle

I’ve been using wordle with my class this term for our class assembly.
It is a program which creates word clouds for text entered into the program. You can copy and paste text in, or type text in directly to the program. I find typing into word and then saving the list a better option as the program crashed a couple of times when being used on our school network.

Primary Pete @primarypete_ has created this video tutorial on how to use wordle.

Wordle from Peter Richardson on Vimeo.

I liked the program as I feel it highlights the design element of using IT in class. I like the idea of children selecting carefully their typeface/fonts that they work with for different projects and purposes.

Tom Barrett’s site edte.ch.blog has this interesting ways to use presentation created on it.

http://edte.ch/blog/interesting-ways/

And Ann Carnevale has ideas about how to use it in class also on her blog. http://anncarnevale.edublogs.org/2009/09/23/website-wednesday/

Finally, here are the examples from my class’s blog page of the wordles we created about our favourite foods.
http://blogs.wled.org.uk/uphallps-p7/2009/10/16/our-wordles/

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