Author Archives: Miss Teasdale

End of 2011-2012 review

Standard

As the end of the summer holidays draws near, it’s time to review my goals from last year!

1. Go through threshold

I’m due to go onto the upper pay scale this year, so I want to make sure I have checked out all the paperwork thoroughly and fulfil all the criteria. A straightforward goal but important!

This target was achieved!

2. Improve organisation

I want to work really hard on improving my personal organisation this year. This means having a level of filing and paperwork that I would describe as “Ofsted Ready”! We are expecting them this year so I want to make sure I am totally on top of things. Even if it wasn’t for Ofsted, I would want to get this sorted anyway! I have developed a great system at home – when post comes in, it comes to the kitchen table to be opened. All the junk goes straight in the recycling bin, things to be actioned go on the pin board, and I have a hole punch and lever arch file with section dividers in the kitchen right by the table so that important paperwork gets filed immediately. This has been a revolution – saving me lots of time hunting for paperwork and also getting rid of the old towering intray I used to have. I want to set up similar systems in school – so that planning, assessment, absence notes, APP, anything I might need to file has a definite place to be and goes there straight away.

This goal was almost completed, but I think there is still a little work to do. We were expecting Ofsted this year, but found out that due to our standards remaining high we will not be visited until at least summer 2013 – which means that I must ensure I fully achieve this goal as of September!

What did work well was:

I began an assessment record right from the start of the year – mainly focusing on oral work and group projects – in which I kept records of the contributions each child had made, any special efforts and achievements, etc. This was invaluable when it came to writing the annual reports, because so much of our work is group based, such as our Aztec exhibition, and without the notes it would have been very hard for me to recall exactly what each child had achieved.

I also kept absence notes filed right from the start of the year which was very helpful!

Planning started off being filed well, but I have found it is very difficult when so much of it is stored online and is subject to change and editing as we go through a week or a unit. It’s hard to know whether it’s always worthwhile printing the plans off, but I will be trying to keep on top of this better, especially as it’s handy to have a hard copy to jot down assessment notes on.

I have Year 3 next year so I have a feeling there will be even more filing needing to be done – records of reading books and interventions, phonics etc. I’ve got a fulltime TA so I’m hoping we can work together to keep track of everything through notes, photos, etc.

3. Be a good _____ co-ordinator

Still waiting to hear which co-ordinator post/s I have been allocated, but I intend to work really hard on doing a great job with these!

I’m the RE and Drama co-ordinator – RE went very well this year, with everyone knowing their topics well. I provided some new plans to everyone which I think they found useful. Of course, just as we were getting fully to grips with it there is a new syllabus launching this year so I will have to rethink our approach! In terms of Drama, I applied for Artsmark this year but we fell short on a few areas – I am working on addressing these so that we can reapply in January.

4. Continue to integrate ICT and drama across curriculum

I want to continue with the work I started last year, making sure I don’t get complacent and am always looking to make good use of drama and ICT. We have already written a new topic called “PROGRAMMING” into our ICT curriculum map for the year, which will be great! I also want to introduce other staff to ideas that they can use so that they can see the effect it can have on learning too. I am hoping to possibly persuade one or two to have their own blog and maybe even Quadblog by the end of the year! This autumn I am in a quad that includes schools across the UK and also in Australia, I’m really looking forward to connecting with them!

The whole school now has a VLE and our feeder infant school are used to that, as well as blogging. We will be introducing blogging across Year 3 from September to build on this experience the children are coming to us with. My class blog this year became very much about the children’s writing and I block-booked a 40 minute weekly slot as part of our literacy lessons. This worked very well – we did blogging followed by 30 minutes of focused grammar work and got into a great routine with it. I’m still unsure about how to balance what I see as the dual roles of a blog – one to allow children to write for an audience, the other to engage parents in the life of the school and to share learning stories and examples of work to help parents and children communicate about what goes on in school. My thoughts are guiding me towards having two blogs, but then would anyone check both and do I have the time to moderate both? Lots to think about!

Generally the integration of drama and ICT continues to work very well and at the end of the year I was involved in an excellent project with the UEA involving both – a digital literacy project in which we used Powerpoint to create Greek myths featuring lots of digital assets such as photos, scanned drawings, sound effects, music and narration. It really engaged the children and they created some fantastic work!

5. Maths teaching

I am having a complete change in focus with my maths teaching this year. I will be teaching the small group (about 15) of lower ability children for 3 days a week, then teaching the same children combined with the 3rd set on the 4th day of the week, with the final day being class maths. This will be a new challenge for me, as for the past 5 years I have always taught either the 1st or 2nd set, which is a completely different way of working. I will have to do lots of research and find great resources. I am looking forward to hopefully building their confidence in maths and helping them to succeed!

I enjoyed teaching my set this year and they definitely ended up feeling more confident and with a greater enjoyment of maths. It was more difficult for me to teach this set and required a complete rethink of how I usually teach, but it was a good challenge.

6. ‘Big writing’

We have decided to try to take on some of the Big Writing principles in school. We are going to teach literacy units as normal, then plan in opportunities during our Creative Curriculum time to use these skills in a piece of cross-curricular writing. For example, we are beginning the year with “Significant Children’s Authors – Michael Morpurgo”, so next half term when we study migration I might ask the children to write a story about someone who was forced to leave their home, writing in the style of Michael Morpurgo. Of course I’ve used literacy skills across the curriculum in previous years, but not in such a structured and deliberate way. I’m hoping this will be great for enabling the children to revisit topics and embed their understanding of the different genres, in a way that is hopefully interesting and relevant.

Hmm…this didn’t really happen as much as I had hoped. There was some revisiting of material, but not in such a structured manner. It was effective, though, and our APP was praised as it could be seen that we were applying literacy skills across the curriculum.

7. Self-directed learning

This was working brilliantly towards the end of last year, so I want to make sure I introduce this right from the start of this year. This is where children set themselves a target of something they would like to improve, and work towards this in specific scheduled time or whenever theyhave completed their class work early. I look forward to seeing what impact this has!

This was very popular with the children! They loved having their folders and working on a variety of topics. It may even be being picked up across the school. It is sometimes hard for me to let go of that control and let the children have free rein to select the topic of their choice – for every ten children who choose a challenging but achievable target and work hard to improve, there is always one who chooses something very simple as the “easy option” and is resistant to pushing themselves, so that is something I would like to work on. I also noticed a great tendency towards art-based topics – but I think that is because so many children love to draw and in truth there isn’t always that much time for it across the curriculum. They definitely improved their artistic skills, anyway! I think it’s really important to keep this going, because a positive attitude towards learning for its own sake is one of the values I hope to inspire in children.

All in all, I had a really good year. There were lots of challenges, and at times the education news made me feel very anxious about all the changes that are taking place. However, I believe you have to stay positive and make sure that you are providing the children with the very best learning environment that you can, no matter what.

Awesome Aztecs

Standard

We have just completed a cross-curricular unit all about the Aztecs. I found it really interesting as I didn’t personally know anything about them at all before we started, so I learnt as much as the kids did!

To start the topic we took the kids into the hall in the guise of giving them a talk on Aztecs, then some TAs led the Deputy Head in in chains and sacrificed him to the Sun God on the stage (hehe!) The TAs were excellent actors and pretended to cut him open then pulled out a massive stuffed paper heart with tissue paper veins and arteries coming out!!! After that they kicked him down the steps of the stage and threw a bucket of fake blood (red torn up paper) onto the front row. What a great start to the topic!

Some other things we did were:

Located Mexico on a map

Watched the Horrible Histories “Aztec Come Dine With Me” about maize and beans and the Aztec Priests song

Constructed a timeline by laying out string across the classroom floor. The children had to write out post its of any historical periods they had heard of, then try to put them in order and add dates if they knew them

Gave them an out-of-order set of Aztec dates and events for them to match up and order

Comparing similarities and differences between Aztec times and now

Looking at flags/coats of arms and their symbolism and designing an Aztec flag based on chn’s knowledge (eg yellow to represent sun god, cocoa beans to show their importance)

Designing an Aztec themed wrapper for a cup and the teacher made Aztec hot chocolate for children to try

Playing the game Patolli and then designing their own Aztec board game and writing instructions for it

The main thing we did though was to create an Aztec Museum – we talked about what makes a good museum (interactivity, lots of info, pictures etc) and then we set the children into groups and challenged them to create an exhibition on a particular aspect of the Aztecs – we had lots of topics including sacrifice, daily life, food, gods & religion, architecture, events, sports & games, weapons etc, and each group did a different topic so that the final museum would have lots of information. They had time in class to research using books and the internet and could also do work at home for homework – making booklets, models etc. We had the exhibition on Wednesday and invited the parents in and they were told what the success criteria were (interactive, informative, well presented, and for the children at each stall to show depth of knowledge). They then got 2 votes to vote for the best stall (their own child’s and another!) and we gave a prize to the stall with the most votes. It was great because the children had a real purpose for their work, got to research in detail and learn about a topic in lots of depth, and we then got them to set it up again and go round the other stalls the next day with a worksheet to fill in 2 interesting facts from each stall, so they were also learning from each other and enjoying each other’s work. Really very very good!

Inspired writing!

Standard

For the past three weeks we have been carrying out an intensive study of Michael Morpurgo (the year 5 unit “Significant Children’s Authors”). This has led to some really amazing writing so I thought I would share what we have been doing.

We began by studying the book “Blodin the Beast”. This is an excellent allegory about the oil industry and a really classic tale. We spent the first week completely immersing ourselves in the story, covering a few pages at a time and using drama to explore what might happen next. The children took on the roles of villagers and we improvised and developed role plays. After reading the whole book, we looked in detail at Morpurgo’s use of language. Specifically, we looked at how Morpurgo uses very specific nouns (something Pie Corbett often mentions as an important element of Talk for Writing) and lots of WOW words for verbs and adjectives. Each child was given a photocopied page on which to highlight nouns, adjectives and verbs and to think about what it is that makes them so effective. They also used a thesaurus to look up exciting alternative words and we added these to a working wall.

In the second week we moved slightly away from Morpurgo by looking at the poem The Magic Box by Kit Wright. Wright uses many of the same techniques as Morpurgo in his choices of nouns and adjectives, and this gave us even more ideas for WOW words that could be used in our writing. The children really enjoyed studying this poem and the other two classes went on to write their own poem “The Magic Carpet”, linking to Shanga’s carpet from “Blodin the Beast”. We did not have time to do this unfortunately as we were preparing to perform our own version of Blodin for our class assembly! Something really excellent that came out of this was some indepth discussion on alliteration. I was able to move the children on from an awareness that alliteration is when several words start with the same letter, to realising that authors deliberately choose to do this for effect. (for example, in The Magic Box the words “wash ashore” contain “sh” sounds mirroring the sound of the sea)

In week 3 we moved from immersion and analysis into creating our own versions of the text. On the first day we continued work on alliteration. Thanks to an inspired suggestion from @robsteadman, I began by showing some pictures on the IWB – a snowy scene, the sea, a lake and a jungle. First the children created a soundscape by repeating a sound that they would associate with each scene. EG: fffff or c-c-c-c for cold, sh for the sea, l and p sounds to create the effect of lapping water, etc. After this we moved to choosing a word that begins with that letter and could go with the scene. So for example, with the icy picture, the c-c-c sounds became a soundscape of words such as crystal, cool, clear, calm. The children really got the hang of this well and it was an excellent way to explore alliteration. They went on to create alliterative sentences based on the picture of their choice, using a dictionary to help them find interesting words. These were added to the working wall and the children loved seeing each other’s ideas.

The next day we focused in on nouns and played a game of verbal tennis where I gave the children a root word such as “tree” and they had to work in pairs to take turns saying lots of alternatives – eg oak, sycamore, willow, ash. We repeated this with words such as bird, big cat, blue, red, etc. Afterwards we worked on writing sentences starting with an adverb and including very specific nouns and adjectives.

I had explained to the children at the beginning that we were working up to creating our own scene in the style of Michael Morpurgo and so as we went through the weeks we had been adding to the working wall and also creating a marking ladder with success criteria based on their observations of what it is that makes his style so special. We are also reading “Running Wild” as our class reader which supported their ideas based on Blodin the Beast.

On the last 2 days, the children worked on making a plan for their piece. I showed them the picture “Surprised” by Henri Rousseau as their prompt and this proved to be a very inspirational picture. The weather is stormy, there are wild animals and many interesting details to look at. They spent one lesson just putting together their ideas – planning alliterative sentences they could use, selecting nouns and adjectives using a dictionary and thesaurus, and exploring their ideas ready for the final day.

In the last lesson all I had to do was to remind them of the success criteria they had decided on – I put on the Big Writing timer for 45 minutes with the Surprised image on view all the time, and they were away!

I am so pleased with the work they have produced. There are some absolutely fantastic word choices and they have really absorbed and recreated the elements of Morpurgo’s work that we had hoped they would. Here is a link to one example: http://avenue5d2011.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/amazing-writing-from-sarah/

I would definitely recommend this approach and have found it has inspired some truly fantastic work – especially as this is only halfway through the first half term of year 5!

Writing Club update

Standard

Today I put out a sign-up sheet for my writing club and was amazed and delighted to have 103 children sign up to take part this year!!! It has grown and grown, from 40 kids the first year I ran it, to 60 last year and now 103 this year! The great thing is that there are pretty much equal numbers of girls and boys and also quite an even split between years 5 and 6.

The only trouble is that there are only 18 computers in the ICT suite. Several people are going to pair up and work together, but there still wasn’t enough room for everyone in 3 sessions a week. I asked the Head if I could do an extra session, but she quite rightly said that I might burn out if I try to take on too much and that 3 lunchtimes a week was quite enough with everything else I have to do too! So I have decided I will split them into 2 groups and children will come every other week rather than every week. That way, everyone gets to take part without it overwhelming all my lunch breaks. The children will be able to work on their novels in between sessions and I have advised them to bring a USB stick or to learn their email address so they can use google docs or email their book to themself.

I’m so happy that so many children are joining the club – I never thought it would become so popular. Can’t wait to get going on Monday!

Say hello to the new Drama Co-ordinator!

Standard

Found out today that I am going to be the new Drama Leader in school, as well as continuing to co-ordinate RE! I am very excited about this new opportunity! I’m hoping to be able to help everyone to integrate drama seamlessly into their planning and share lots of ideas so that they feel really confident and happy about using it in class.

I have already started off by arranging for two drama teachers from Australia to come in to school to see how we use drama in education in the UK. To be fair I had already organised that before I knew I had been given this responsibility – it’s like it was meant to be 🙂

I’ve also completely revamped our RE planning using the Cambridge scheme linked to by @theotheralig. Everyone was really pleased and happy to be given the chance to change things up a bit – our old plans were getting a bit stale so this has come at a great time for everyone.

We had a good day today overall. Lots of information was given out in the mornings and we had some good discussion about how we do spellings, homework and what “outstanding” teaching looks like. At lunchtime we had a shared lunch where everyone had brought in something to share such as quiche, couscous salad, cheese, bread, tabbouleh, cookies and cakes. It was delicious and really nice to catch up with everyone!

I was starting to feel a bit frazzled by the end of the afternoon with all of the things we need to remember to talk to the children about, routines, plans and everything else. Feeling a lot more ready now though, I just need to write everything down in a list to make sure I don’t forget anything! Looking forward to seeing the new class tomorrow!

Setting up the classroom

Standard

Today I have been working hard on setting up my classroom!


Here is my desk – tidy for once! I have this tucked in the back corner of the room. It’s my own personal space, but I never sit at it when the children are in the room! You can see my poetry books, NaNoWriMo winner’s certificates, magic wands, a little sparkly heart-shaped mirror I got as a present from one of the children, photo of my mum with Felix when he was one day old, and you may be able to see the little finger puppet – Pablo the Peruvian Thought Fox who used to help me teach Spanish when I taught Year 3!

Here’s the idea I got from @egalr’s NQT blog! One pencil pot for blunt pencils and one for sharp pencils! Children come up and swap a blunt one for a sharp one! I have Y6 classroom assistants who will be happy to sharpen the blunt ones for us 🙂

I don’t have any room for a proper reading corner, but I have covered a cupboard with this nice blanket and put out a selection of my most popular reading books along with my guided reading things.

This is my maths zone, featuring cubes, protractors, compasses, calculators, 3D shapes, dominoes, and the (rarely ever used) textbooks. I love having these things all on offer, especially during class maths when the resource managers are able to come up and collect anything they need. I’m only teaching maths in my own room twice a week as I will be taking my little group out to another room for their lessons. I have prepared a basket of equipment to take up with me, containing pencils, whiteboards, whiteboard pens and rulers.

Here is the class computer – I have also set up a mini display using the model Titanic we made last year, books and posters, including a book written by one of my class’s grandad!

Our classes this year are all named after British Olympians and Paralympians. I got an idea from @amyxxx21 about encouraging the children to aspire to the Olympic and Paralympic values – equality, excellence, courage, determination, inspiration, friendship and respect. This display should help us get off to a good start!

Here you can see all my tables set up! I am having 6 tables of 4 and 2 tables of 5 as I have 34 children over 8 tables – I find group work is best in small groups. Each table has a caddy of stationery and a basket of felt tip pens. On the back wall I have put up the shields that my class drew on the changeover day back in July, and I am keeping up my maths target board and literacy “planets” target board. On the maths board the children are aiming for layered targets and can move their darts up through the targets as they achieve them, with some aiming for platinum. In literacy, the children have their own individual targets and have a rocket that they colour in which moves up towards the planet each time they can show me they have achieved their writing target in a piece of work.

My windows have been fixed over the summer and now all open to let in the lovely fresh autumn air! Under the windows I have my exercise books sorted into boxes, which is very handy. You can also see on the radiator our class cuddly toys – Punky on the left and Steven Gerrard on the right. He doesn’t look much like Steven Gerrard but I won him in a “Name The Teddy” contest the year 6s were running a few years ago and that really is his name!

I had a great time setting my room up today and by the end of the day I was sitting there feeling very comfy and cosy. All it needs now is some great children to come along and do some learning!

New year – new challenges!

Standard

Time to set targets for the upcoming year!

1. Go through threshold

I’m due to go onto the upper pay scale this year, so I want to make sure I have checked out all the paperwork thoroughly and fulfil all the criteria. A striaghtforward goal but important!

2. Improve organisation

I want to work really hard on improving my personal organisation this year. This means having a level of filing and paperwork that I would describe as “Ofsted Ready”! We are expecting them this year so I want to make sure I am totally on top of things. Even if it wasn’t for Ofsted, I would want to get this sorted anyway! I have developed a great system at home – when post comes in, it comes to the kitchen table to be opened. All the junk goes straight in the recycling bin, things to be actioned go on the pin board, and I have a hole punch and lever arch file with section dividers in the kitchen right by the table so that important paperwork gets filed immediately. This has been a revolution – saving me lots of time hunting for paperwork and also getting rid of the old towering intray I used to have. I want to set up similar systems in school – so that planning, assessment, absence notes, APP, anything I might need to file has a definite place to be and goes there straight away.

3. Be a good _____ co-ordinator

Still waiting to hear which co-ordinator post/s I have been allocated, but I intend to work really hard on doing a great job with these!

4. Continue to integrate ICT and drama across curriculum

I want to continue with the work I started last year, making sure I don’t get complacent and am always looking to make good use of drama and ICT. We have already written a new topic called “PROGRAMMING” into our ICT curriculum map for the year, which will be great! I also want to introduce other staff to ideas that they can use so that they can see the effect it can have on learning too. I am hoping to possibly persuade one or two to have their own blog and maybe even Quadblog by the end of the year! This autumn I am in a quad that includes schools across the UK and also in Australia, I’m really looking forward to connecting with them!

5. Maths teaching

I am having a complete change in focus with my maths teaching this year. I will be teaching the small group (about 15) of lower ability children for 3 days a week, then teaching the same children combined with the 3rd set on the 4th day of the week, with the final day being class maths. This will be a new challenge for me, as for the past 5 years I have always taught either the 1st or 2nd set, which is a completely different way of working. I will have to do lots of research and find great resources. I am looking forward to hopefully building their confidence in maths and helping them to succeed!

6. ‘Big writing’

We have decided to try to take on some of the Big Writing principles in school. We are going to teach literacy units as normal, then plan in opportunities during our Creative Curriculum time to use these skills in a piece of cross-curricular writing. For example, we are beginning the year with “Significant Children’s Authors – Michael Morpurgo”, so next half term when we study migration I might ask the children to write a story about someone who was forced to leave their home, writing in the style of Michael Morpurgo. Of course I’ve used literacy skills across the curriculum in previous years, but not in such a structured and deliberate way. I’m hoping this will be great for enabling the children to revisit topics and embed their understanding of the different genres, in a way that is hopefully interesting and relevant.

7. Self-directed learning

This was working brilliantly towards the end of last year, so I want to make sure I introduce this right from the start of this year. This is where children set themselves a target of something they would like to improve, and work towards this in specific scheduled time or whenever theyhave completed their class work early. I look forward to seeing what impact this has!

Those are my main targets for the year ahead – I’m also keen to run a few more extra-curricular clubs – I have Creative Writing Club, which will of course continue, and the newspaper club, which is going completely online this year. I would also like to run a Scratch club and maybe even offer Latin! I’m going to wait and see how my workload is first though and make sure I have the time and energy to do them justice.

Looking forward to a great year ahead!