Tag Archives: English

Highers? The best we can do?

It’s Easter Monday, (Bank holiday in the UK) and it’s 8:47 PM. My step-daughter is holed up in her room. Listening to music? Watching YouTube vloggers? Reading? Watching Games of Thrones via illegal feed? None of the above. She’s studying. This time for English Higher. Saturday it was for Art, Friday for RMPS.  Wednesday night she was up until 2:45 AM working on her Graphic Communication project which was due in. (She was up against a wholly unrealistic time scale, as the previous teacher ‘misunderstood’ what was required for the exam. I wonder if they were up at 2:45 and then ready for school next morning??) To be fair to her she didn’t start work until 10:00 PM on the Wednesday night.

 

Would you like to guess why she began work so late? She was organising a music concert at her school along with other S5’s. This wasn’t part of her course: It was over and above. It was her and her friends taking a leading role in school life. The Curriculum for Excellence says this is a thing to aspire to for schools and pupils, yet due to some inadequate work from a teacher, her reward for this was working until 2:45 AM.

 

Well at least it’s the holiday now. Except it’s not quite the holidays, as my step-daughter is attending revision classes in the school on different days of the holiday. These are being provided by teachers who are clearly committed to their pupils getting the best grades they can in their exams, so committed in fact that they are ignoring national guidelines on holidays for pupils and teachers to deliver them.

 

Perhaps she’s having to cram as she’s not done enough work previously? Maybe she slacks off and works hard in the ‘exam season’. I can tell you she’s not angelic. She leaves the toilet lid up, doesn’t wash her food pots and has even been known not to replace the butter in the butter in the butter dish! She does work very hard at her studies however, pushes herself hard, as well as trying to develop other areas of her life (like attending animation classes, organising concerts for the school, volunteering in a hospice shop when she can).

 

Our ‘new’ Curriculum for Excellence (published in 2004) has strong ideals and ethics in it. It aims to create “successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.” I’m not sure how these fit with holiday revision classes, weekends where homework is all that gets done in a household, time taken off school to complete ‘vital’ homework tasks. To my mind they don’t. The conditions of work my step-daughter is working to are likely to turn our young people away from education for a lengthy period of time. I dare not think too long about the effects this amount of work and pressure has on her (and her many friends) mental health. This was not the aim of the 2002 consultation paper on education, yet this is where we are.

 

Charlie Love wrote a great blog post about National 4 exams and the effect that working Nat 4 courses had on pupils, it’s well worth a read. It is not just Highers, it’s the National 4 and 5 exams which don’t appear to be working also.

A quick google for problems with Highers brings up a few news reports but nothing too recent. It seems that the political will to create a system where our young succeed and lead balanced, healthy lives is not there. When I did my ‘A’ levels (in England), I (like everyone else) took two years of study to pass them. It was a wonderful time of my life, some hard work, some enjoyment of a different side of school life, even some maturing! The key was the time afforded to work, think and develop inside the school week. I had at least one 1hr 15 period of study time each day. Sometimes more. My step-daughter gets nothing, it’s wall to wall teaching.. Yet, apparently this amount of teaching time isn’t enough, she still has to work so much ‘extra’ time in the evenings and holidays.

 

I’d be delighted to hear from Angela Constance and Iain Gray about pupils being overworked in order to pass National Exams. I’d also be interested to hear of anyone else’s experiences. Please tweet me @robertd1981 or e-mail me at robertdrummond@gmail.com if you wish to contact me, but not leave a public comment.

 

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.

 

Questions?

I really like the idea of using open ended questions as a starter for lessons and often use the Thunks website from Independent Thinking. I found a new site which I called Thought Questions  which has questions in a similar vein although the questions on there are often a bit deeper. They could certainly lead to good ‘citizenship’ and PSHE discussions. There are also some lovely images which go with each question.

I am going to use the images from the site to create an interactive thinking display in my room. The questions will be in the middle of the display and the children will  add their answers/ideas on post-it notes around the display.

Have a look at the site and see what you think.

Apple Smoking In The Darkness

Web 2.0 Week 3.

Before I post, I’ve noticed that some of the keys on this laptop are a bit sticky,so apologies for any typo’s.

I’ve not used a lot in the way of web 2.0 in class this week, which I feel in an odd way is a positive things. Whilst one of my aims for 2010 was to utilise the web 2.0 more in class, it’s important that it’s used to enhance what is already there, not just to ‘show off’ what is there on the internet or what my new ‘find’ of the week is.

What we have done this week is used word to edit some stories. My experience is that using word for this gives the redrafting process a lift as well as producing good-looking stories at the end of the process. I feel that children like the edit process on a word processing tool. Unlike a rubber there is no grubby mark left in word!

Also by word processing it is then a short step to publishing on the web, which I have made a start on this week on my class’s blog page and on Buddy Bear’s Diary page.

My class are using some of our web tools out of school now which I am pleased about. Several children have created their own wallwisher sites. There have been the first set of comments left on the blog and I received an e-mail through GLOW on Sunday asking for some help with writing up Buddy’s weekend diary. I’m pleased at the beginnings of what I hope is taking learning beyond the classroom walls.

Next week we will be using simple wikipedia to do some research on movie making. I’ve forgotten now whom I got the link from for that site, but I’ve had a look around it and it’s really good. It gives children just the facts they need without them getting bogged down in technical language.

Web 2.0. Week 1

I don’t know if I’ll keep this up, but I thought when I use a new program in class (which I’m aiming to do a lot of this year) I’ll post on here to say how it’s gone.

My first application/program I used was wallwisher. My class enjoyed this and have produced their reflections of 2009 and ideas for 2010 here. One of my class went home and made her own wall for favourite animals which I was really pleased about. We’ve also done walls for our class novel and for some snow haiku we wrote.

I’ve had a couple of problems with it which I feel I should share.

Firstly I embedded our 2009-2010 wall onto our class blog page. I noticed after a couple of days that when I was logged into the wall to approve and edit, it also allowed people viewing on the blog page to approve and edit! I decided that for now the best idea was to take off the embedding and replace with a link.

Secondly, on our haiku wall I showed the children how to put a picture on. In showing one of my class how to do this I seemed to have planted the picture on the wall, completely independently of the wall. I cannot edit the picture, nor delete it! It has become detached from the writing as well. I may begin a new wall. Apart from those hiccups it’s been great. I now need to ask the LA to unblock it from Pupil Internet access as so far I’m entering them up on my machine only.

The other program I used was primary pad. This was really popular with the children, with comments like ‘this is better than MSN’, and children asking how they could share a pad with someone at home. We created a word list for snow poems and this seemed to work really well with 18 different users on the pad at once. What was interesting was how thoughtful the children were about not overtyping. I hadn’t used it with so many children in one go so I didn’t really know what to expect (or how our internet would hold up). They coped really well and were considerate of other people’s feelings and word ideas.

I will try to find the opportunity to do some more collaborative writing using primary pad in the next couple of weeks and we will certainly continue with wallwisher.

Literacy Starters

Primary Pete has posted on Twitter asking about favourite literacy starter ideas. He said he liked the ideas on everybody writes which features the ideas of Pie Corbett. I was lucky enough to attend a writing conference run by Pie Corbett in Jan 2007, and despite a raging toothache (mine,not his!) I thought he was great. Great enthusiasm for writing and really good ideas. I’d not come across the everybody writes site before, but I will be using it a lot in class I think for English starters.

The main resource I use for starting English lessons are the VCOP activities I downloaded from the TES resource bank. The link for these resources is here. The activities are self-explanatory and allow for focus on one of the VCOP areas. Importantly when I use these activities there is a buzz around the class with the children wanting to take part and try out new and interesting ideas. These ideas are often reflected in their subsequent writing.

Wallwisher.

My aim for 2010 is to make better use of all of the collaborative tools and sites that are available, with my class.

The ideas to inspire site gives loads of ideas in which these pieces of software can be used. http://www.ideastoinspire.co.uk/index.html#1

I’m going to start these ideas off straight away with the children using wallwisher to create a wall of their achievements of 2009 and their aims for 2010.

Here is the link to wallwisher http://wallwisher.com/ and here is a link to my class wall so far. http://wallwisher.com/wall/PrimarysevenA

Thanks again to Tom Barrett and the people who have contributed on the ideas to inspire site.

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