Tag Archives: children

Term Time Holidays

It seems in recent years that around the Easter holiday, stakeholders in children’s education in the UK get in a fuss about…holidays. Specifically, the cost of a family to try and get away to sun-soaked destinations for a week or so to bond, de-stress and build wonderful memories as a family. Of course, the default stance in the UK is that children should not be taken out of school for holidays during term time. The official rules read as such:

Holidays in term time

You have to get permission from the head teacher if you want to take your child out of school during term time.

You can only do this if:

  • you make an application to the head teacher in advance (as a parent the child normally lives with)
  • there are exceptional circumstances

It’s up to the head teacher how many days your child can be away from school if leave is granted.

You can be fined for taking your child on holiday during term time without the school’s permission.

Now, it is clearly stated here that children should not be taken out of term time but there are exceptions, as there quite rightly should be. The issue comes when people interpret these rules in different ways. Recently, this has come to a head with a recent court ruling against a family who took their children out of term time. Now, before I dig into this a little deeper, I’m not sure why this has caused such uproar amongst parents. The guidelines are pretty clear, the sanction explicitly stated (down to the actual amount) and it’s pretty much common knowledge anyway. As a parent myself, I know that I usually would not be allowed to take my children out of school. However, because it has been enforced, everyone is now questioning this rigorous stance (everyone will probably have forgotten about it in a month).

Over the day or two afterwards, I heard all sorts over the radio about this news. I struggle to find any sympathy for the parents I heard, not because I didn’t agree, but because their reasons for why they should be able to take their children out during term time were confusing at the very best. I’ll list a few here:

What some parents say

“It is just not fair for parents”
Right okay. So…therefore we should inhibit your child’s learning and have them miss hours of progress they could make in their education? Is that fair on them? I relate to this – I don’t think it is fair that I can’t take my children on holidays for prices that other people would be able to pay, or could even afford! However, the stakes of what they will be missing make this a difficult argument.

“Fine doesn’t matter”
This is sadly true and probably why we don’t hear about this rule much. Any parents who are fined for taking their child out of school receive a fine for £60 (if it is paid within 21 days). If the government really want to enforce this law and make attendance in schools increase, the sanction needs to be a larger penalty then what they are gaining. A quick bit of research by The Guardian stated:

“The results are predictable but no less frustrating for parents: every single holiday cost more in August with the average holiday costing £905 more than in July and £1,310 more than in June while in one case the price of a holiday jumped by 126% between June and August, a £1,903 difference.”

So a 60 quid fine starts to look a little more tempting…

“If my child is on track for where they need to be why can’t they miss some days?”
This one made my blood boil. The nerve of this parent to say that the rules shouldn’t apply because their child is (in Maths and English) achieving what they should in school. This is dangerous talk. I am careful to say that they are not saying their child is doing better than others (although if the recent KS2 SATs results say anything, which is debateable, then it’s only a very minute majority that are achieving what they should). However we are opening very dodgy ground here – what about children with SEN? The issues with this mentality go on…and if parents are going to state their rights are being taken away because they can’t take their child out during term time, then how much more are schools in control in their child needs a certain teacher assessment from their teacher! No – bad idea!

So – as this is quite a divisive topic I took to Twitter (in a most reliable method) to see if I could uncover any opinions. Not much response but:

12

This was quite interesting. Three main messages are here for me:

  • Almost an identical percentage of parents and teachers felt that children should be allowed a certain amount of time during term out of school.
  • A higher proportion of teachers felt that children should not be allowed to take time out of school
  • A proportion of parents (although very low) felt they should be allowed to take their child out of school for any amount of time, whilst no teacher did

Interestingly, there is one thing that unites all sides of the debate in this – they are all seeking the best for the children. So to explore all stakeholders I want to briefly look out how each of them are indeed aiming for getting the best for the most important benefactor in all of this – the child.

Teachers (and Governors)
There will be some teachers who are worried for their data – particularly Year 2 and 6 teachers – when children are taken out of school during term time. I’m one of them, I just had a child taken out for 3 weeks before Easter claiming exceptional circumstances. I worry for them in the SATs. However, hopefully, I’m sure most teachers want every child in every day because it is in their job role to help all children make as much progress as possible and help them achieve all they are expected to.

The poll I ran on Twitter tells an interesting story though – that not all teachers believe what is best for the child is to keep them in school. 32% did, but the majority felt that they should be allowed a certain amount of time. Also, the 4% who selected other basically said they should be allowed but for very understandable reasons in close discussion with the Headteacher, so I see that as 68% say children should be able to be taken out (but some feel with a good reason). So does that mean that the best thing for the child is not necessarily keeping them in school through the whole term? Or perhaps to enable the child to live a whole, complete life, some teachers recognise the need to allow children to be out of term time when occasion allows?

Parents
In this wide-ranging debate, I know that parents also want what’s best for their children. Most, if not all, recognise the value of their child’s education and want to work with the school to help their child achieve their attention. A lot of parents also want to be able to provide memorable experiences for their child but a number find it difficult to provide these at the costs that are found in the school holidays. I know my family will struggle. The question is this – is it not the parent’s right to take their child out of school? This is a very difficult question. If the parent has agreed to the relevant home-school agreement so the school can educate their child – don’t they agree then that they will endeavour to ensure their child attends school as much as possible? Then the schools agrees to take them on their role? I will not attempt to make a decision here but this question suddenly becomes very complicated///

Government
Of course, the government wants the best for the children – I’m sure. They want all children to be in school all the time so that they make the most progress and become assets to the society they live in. As such, they have cracked down on guidelines to keep all learners in school during term time. I suppose that this group would be less aware or sympathetic to parents who want to take children out during term time but the question they have to consider would have to be this: How they keep attendance at a high whilst being flexible for families?

Holiday Companies
I suspect this group have less care for children’s learning but are devoted to providing life-changing memories. Now, it would be very easy for me to accuse holiday companies for being the ‘enemy’ here for taking advantage of young families, knowing full well they have to pay out for half-term dates. However, I am trying to be diplomatic here – perhaps they bump prices up because their services cost them more during this time due to high demand in the destinations they send customers to? Maybe. I hope so. Surely they don’t just do this to make more profit? If so, then I think instead of looking at cracking down on families, the government need to look to the root of the problem.

Being a teacher myself – this also means I will not be able to take my growing family on decent holidays at a decent price. But no one is worried about us teachers taking time off for our families to have more affordable breaks away…

Advertisements

The Stressing Abominable Tests or The Shameful Aggrandisation of Tests? by @Mroberts90Matt

It’s January. That means the start of crazy season for Year 6. Incredible targets never before seen in the children’s lives are set, staff give up their mornings for booster sessions (not because they’ve been asked to but just because they want the children/school/performance management to get the results required) and children are suddenly hit with a larger amount of testing. All those who have worked around Year 6 know this feeling. However, as this circumstance impacts a large sphere of influence (other teachers, parents, governors, governments and so on) it creates a wide array of opinions.

I think there is one clear consensus – the current climate of testing in the Education System in England is not healthy. Children, teachers and schools are under strain to perform. It is not necessarily the expectation that is too high, but the emphasis placed on these results that causes extreme pressure. As I was looking at this issue I came across two excellent blog posts which identified contrasting views but both gave points which I fully agreed with. I would encourage you to have a look at them:

https://debrakiddmum.wordpress.com/2016/04/20/whose-child-is-it-anyway/

This post written by well-known Debra Kidd (who I had the pleasure of being taught by at University) and it hit home with me. She was always inspirational in her sessions and it was at the time I was being taught by her that she decided to leave the University and go back into teaching.

I have a 4 year old son. He loves dinosaurs, cars, Paw Patrol and playing with his parents and his little sister. He loves being read to and is starting to read letters and sounds as well as simple high frequency words (he doesn’t enjoy that quite as much though). Basically he is a typical 4 year old boy. However, in a year and a few months he will be sitting his first ‘test’. He will be tested on his ability to decode and read phonic letters and sounds. Now whilst I know this is not like the SATs and less emphasis may be placed on it, it represents the beginning of a school career of testing.

She states: “The new tests are so demanding and the results from last year so unreliable that schools are in a blind panic about not meeting the floor target. They are concerned that poor data will lead to a poor Ofsted inspection. They are right to be worried. This is the government that declared they wanted all pupils to be above average, demonstrating a poorer understanding of mathematics than they expect of their 11 year olds.”

I agree that schools are in a panic and that they are trying to shift their results in assessments that are of a higher standard so they reach high expectations. Due to schools being deemed as ‘requiring improvement’ if their pupils only achieve expected progress (wow, I would hate for my child to be in those schools that provide the progress that the government expects, because that are requiring improvement!) they are in a frenzy to push results up. Ofsted are changing their ways to put less of an impact of their judgements on hour long lesson obervations, but because of this they are relying more on data. We have heard the stories of inspections where the watchdog have walked in already with a judgement in their mind after having received a RaiseOnline analysis, and the school has to prove them wrong. I heard of a school where the inspector came in, did their findings, then said that the school was requires improvement. When asked for the points to improve on, they did not have any!! All from the results of these high-stakes tests.

Debra calls for parents to stand up and make their voice heard. A sticking point with some teachers on Twitter was the assumption that Debra suggests that parents should take their children out of the SATs pressure. Firstly, she does not suggest this – in fact she clearly states that she is not saying this: “That’s not to say we should all boycott – that’s a matter of personal choice, made between each parent and each child.”  I agree that changes need to be made. Hopefully parents can work together to make their voices heard. Unfortunately, I work with some parents that probably aren’t even aware their children are sitting tests this year (despite discussing it at Parents Evening with them). And this is where the issue arises – across the nation there will be parents who recognise the need for change but there will be a greater number who will be unaware of this issue. Can the current minority make their voice heard enough? Hopefully…

Then I came across this post by The Quirky Teacher:

https://thequirkyteacher.wordpress.com/2017/01/14/the-trouble-with-sats/

Again, several points were made in this well-written article, which was a direct response to Debra Kidd’s post. Out of the points that were made, two stood out to me.

The first was that the SATs were not the problem. Again, another point I can agree with. Schools must be accountable to the part they play in educating our children. If that performance was not measured then progress will slow. I hate having my performance monitored as much as anyone else but it is necessary in order to make sure children are making the progress required. As a result, some schools feel that they need to motivate children by saying these results will have an impact on their secondary school experience. This is plain lying. The children will be tested when they enter secondary school as the results they come up with are not always an accurate measure anyway. For example, I taught a child in 2014-15 who was not achieving more than 10/50 in the Old Curriculum Reading Test in March (in other words, just lower than a 3c). He left our school with a Level 4. I to this day do not know how that child pulled it off but I know that when he walked into that secondary school with that level attributed to him they would have wondered what happened in the Summer of 2015 between schools.

Speaking of that child walking into the secondary school with that level, it was stated with the introduction of the SATs that the system was simply there to measure the schools ability to educate and progress children’s learning. That actually should still be the case. But schools under pressure, parents wanting children to succeed and children being trained into this exam culture influence change the landscape of the purpose of the SATs. This was probably a naïve statement from the government at the time, but it is not a problem with the SATs themselves, it is a problem of those involved in the SATs.

The second point made was that parents must bear the brunt of the problems that have arisen. The point made is that parents are allowing their children to slack in their educational progress due to today’s culture of YouTube, quick meals and previous progressive education. Whilst to a point I agree with this notion, there is a comment I disagree with.

“…there was a time in the not-so-distant past when children mostly achieved these standards without too much fuss.”

Yes the standards are not astronomical. They are attainable and challenging and I agree with this. However, these standards have indeed been raised. If a child taught under the Old Curriculum for the past 7 years sat the New Curriculum assessments then they would struggle a lot more. This can clearly be seen in the number of children meeting the expected standard in Reading, Writing and Maths in 2014-15 compared to 2015-16 nationally. Why is this? The standards have changed.

However, I am not saying that the standards that have been raised to where they shouldn’t have been. And yes, as a general rule, children today do not have the same opportunities for learning at home then they did previously. This certainly is not the case for all but for most. Being a parent myself I know as much as any how difficult it can be to keep children focused on their learning and make sure they make as much progress as they can.

Simply put, I agree with both of these great educators in their points of view to a point. However, I think there is something we can all agree with – the current KS2 Assessments are not completely fit for purpose due to the impact their results can have for schools, not the fact we have tests or with the tests themselves.

Reasons why the 2015-16 SATs should NOT be abandoned by @Mroberts90Matt

Another attempt from me to try and blog regularly – we shall see…:

Many teachers (particularly Year 6 teachers such as myself) will have heard this news on Tuesday and felt a small spark of anticipation: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/nut-calls-sats-be-suspended-after-widespread-criticism-new-assessment

Yes, the teaching unions have finally decided enough is enough with the upcoming assessments in May and have called for the 2015-16 SATs to be abandoned for a number of reasons: over-realistic targets, too short a time between exemplifications and assessment and chaos over schools monitoring of progress and attainment with no clear way offered by government to support this being a few of the arguments.

Such arguments are founded on sound reasoning but here I list a few reasons why this current Year 6 should sit the national assessments this May:

1. To keep schools accountable for progression in learning

The main principle of statutory assessment in primary education is to keep schools in check to ensure they are not doing our children a disservice in poor quality learning. They do not take these results with them into their future lives and it will not have an impact on which secondary school they are placed in. As such, this has to be considered when deciding whether to abandon the SATs. If the SATs were to be abandoned, then how could Ofsted possibly decide before they enter a school how well the children learn and progress in the school and make a pre-judgement?
(Although…due to the clear lack of communication about how the new assessments link to previous levels and no direction on how even to monitor progression in schools, a single result this summer will not represent progression that this cohort have made since Reception…so forget that).

2. To assist secondary schools in providing well-pitched teaching and learning from September

Whilst children’s SATs results do not influence what secondary school they are placed in, they do help the high school determine what level children are at (approximately) so they can provide the sufficient support or challenge for each child. This indication is vital if the secondary school is to help children hit the ground running in their learning and make as much progress as possible from when they start in September. If the SATs are abandoned with this cohort, they will be denied the opportunity to make this effective start as secondary school will only have the primary schools assessment and, with multiple schools feeding children into the high school, it won’t be possible to effectively discern a child’s level of understanding.
(Although…let’s be honest, most secondary schools assess the new intake within the first few weeks anyway because time has elapsed over summer since the SATs – as well as a Summer 2 term of limbo – and a one time assessment in May is only a snapshot of a child’s abilities. I had a child who was achieving Level 2/3 in their Reading test as we prepared for the SATs consistently and when the real ones came he achieved a Level 4! To this day I don’t what the secondary school he went to thought when they received this child who has a Level 4 in Reading and then sees what he can actually do…so that point is void!)

3. To help parents see which schools help children learn the best

The SATs are an effective measure for parents to see which schools they would want their children to go to because they can see what percentage of children achieve what they’re meant to if they attend this school. Not only this, but the very helpful leaders in education collate all this data into league tables, helping the world to see just which schools should be sought after.
(Although…if educators and schools are in a state of confusion about what assessment is these days I’m not sure what these poor parents will make of it. They live busy enough lives as it is without trying to decipher where their child is at in their learning. The number of puzzled faces I got when I told these parents “Your child is meeting the current expectation of a Year 6 child in Maths” was embarrassing. Although I guess I can now pull out a handy exemplification document which shows them exactly what that means…all in a 10 minute Parents Evening appointment! So…I don’t think that point has much standing either…)

I think by now you may have recognised my view on this. Usually, I am not one to say that SATs are a waste of time/are useless/have an adverse effect on children – but with the poor organisation, communication and expectations imposed, I am struggling to see how this year’s SATs will be bemeficial to the children sitting them. The reasons for having them are in disrepair due to how they have been implemented. The unions are meeting today – I shall look forward to the next installment of this saga…

Mathematical Fluency Part Two by @Mroberts90Matt

This is the second in a three-part series that I have developed when I have been thinking about Mathematical Fluency. Fluency in Maths has been highlighted as an aim in the National Curriculum and it is down to us as educators to ensure children are equipped with the tools needed to access such fluency. Last week I posted about the power in children teaching others to develop their fluency. This week I will focus on building their understanding of concepts and in the final week I will unpick problem solving.

2. Conceptual Understanding
When we teach children methods in Maths, there is a danger that we overlook teaching them why we do certain things. A classic example is teaching a written method for addition. When children are eventually taught the standardised column method (as in the Appendix of the National Curriculum, following on from non-formal methods such as the number line) they are taught to ‘carry over the one’ or some other vague comment meaning we carry a remainder over from the previous place value. Do all children understand that ‘one’ is actually a hundred being carried over from the addition in the ten column? Maybe, maybe not. It is such conceptual understanding that is vital in developing the mathematical fluency in a child’s knowledge of working with number.

Recently, as mentioned last week, our school had an Ofsted inspection. In a discussion with Year 5 pupils, the understanding of this sign was brought up ‘=’. The children were fine with this (x+5=9, what is x?) but there was slight confusion when this problem was shown (x+5=6+y – what is the value of x and y?). These children, according to National Assessments, were competent mathematicians. The problem was not in being able to ‘do’ Maths but in ‘understanding’ – that ‘=’ doesn’t just mean ‘makes’ or ‘comes to’ but literally means ‘is equal to’. Our school has an extremely high proportion of children who speak English as an Additional Language so it may come as no surprise that the most challenging area in Maths might be in language and terminology rather than in ‘doing’ the Maths.

How do we help develop children’s conceptional understanding rather than just training them in the ability to go through the mechanics of methods? There will be a number of ways. Recently, my wife became an Usborne Independent Organiser. Basically she promotes a love of reading through organising parties based around the Usborne Book Publisher and tries to generate interest. In the Beginner Pack she received, there was a ‘First Illustrated Maths Dictionary’. See link below:

First illustrated maths dictionary

http://www.usborne.com/catalogue/catalogue.aspx?area=MTH&subcat=MD&id=5913

This was the first I had heard of a ‘Maths Dictionary’ (and this post is not to sell the book to you, I’m sure many other Maths Dictionaries are available – although if you would like a copy then let me know ;P)

Having had a look through it, I thought it was a brilliant book! Very colourful, engaging and goes through concepts found in the National Curriculum. There is also a 7+ version and 11+ version. These publications go through the language used in Maths (including the ‘=’ sign mentioned before) as well as many other mathematical concepts. I think this is another medium through which we can try to develop children’s mathematical fluency by consolidating their conceptual understanding.

Are there any other publications that you are aware of that could support children’s Maths understanding? It is pretty clear that if we develop children’s conceptual understanding then this will improve their fluency – but do you have any ideas or techniques that have worked in the classroom?

Too Much to Report by @Mroberts90Matt

As the Whit Half Term Holiday begins, so does the realisation that most of it will be spent focusing on reporting to parents how their little darlings have learnt, behaved, achieved, disappointed, excelled, shocked…all in all performed in (mostly) one room every weekday for most weeks of the year. Where to start…?

As I have sat and contemplated over the past week on how to tackle this overwhelming but exciting prospect, I’ve realised that this is an almost impossible task, for the following reasons:

1: Consistency

The things that I write in these reports are meant to be a reflection of a child’s entire year of learning in school. Ok, we have had two parents evenings and, where necessary, homework diaries to keep them informed up to now anyway so it shouldn’t be totally new news. Yet, this is an end of year report, not just a way to avoid having a Parents Evening in the Summer Term. So one would presume that everything should be covered and we should give an accurate snapshot of the child in school for the year.

However, things change. They are changing even as I sit and tap continuously on this battered, tortured keyboard. A perfect example happened just this week! By Thursday I had already written three reports despite Ofsted being in for a subject specific inspection this week (was feeling very impressed with my productive self). So as the day ended on Thursday and I was in my PPA Time, my teaching assistant popped in to give some news (never a good sign on a Thursday afternoon in my PPA Time). Four boys had been rude to another child in Maths and were being spoken to by the Head of KS2. I guessed three of the boys and said that I would also speak to them, but I could not think who the fourth might have been. When I heard the child’s name I literally dropped my jaw. HIM?! “But he’s been brilliant all year!” I exclaimed. The TA agreed wholeheartedly but assured me it was the case because he was seen and admitted himself he was involved. Not only this, but this child had also deliberately upset another boy. His words: “Yeah, I wanted to upset him.” (This being whilst the other boy was in tears)! I was astonished. Then, I remembered that I had written the report for this boy – and I had written that he was a perfect example of behaviour in and out of the classroom and could be counted on to always do the right thing…So now what? Do I change what I am sending home as a reflection of his whole school year and overlook this deliberate act of emotional maliciousness? Do I mention it as something to work on? This, I think, is one of the problems with report writing, it will be impossible to paint an exact picture of what the child’s year has been like as children do not learn, progress or behave the same way throughout the whole year.

2: Brutual Honesty, Woolly Statements or somewhere In the Middle?

I’m certain that those of us who have written end of year of reports may have wanted to say something like: “Your child simply can’t be bothered, has a detrimental impact on their peers learning, has the amount of respect for adults that I would expect a virus to have and just not a very likeable human being.” Now I would say that I would never make such comments about an actual child even to other members of staff that may feel the same way – but this illustrates a point. I am currently considering a report for a child who (whilst they are nowhere near the description above) has some areas to improve on in their attitude to learning. Surely if it is said to softly that message may not get across with the impact we need it to have. But, of course, if I were to receive a report like the one mentioned above I would wonder why that adult was being allowed to work with children (again, I have not even had those thoughts about an actual child, just to make that clear)!

3: Painting the Big Picture

I’m starting to liken the End of Year Report as a completed paint canvas. When we get the class at the start of the year we have a blank canvas, a new year to experience excellent education and create a masterpiece. We need to give the completed painting to the parents, to be able to say “This is where your child is now.” However, what I’m finding is this is most difficult because a painting is not made instantly, it is made brushstroke by brushstroke. Each little experience followed by another. It is impossible to accurately describe how their child has learnt over the year. We have books and data to help us orientate ourselves with how well they’ve produced an outcome, or done in a particular test, but not the journey itself. One thing I plan on doing to help me with this is to create an easy to access record where I can note down good things children in my class do on a day-to-day basis so when I write the reports at the end of next year I have this to refer back to and mention great things the child has done throughout the year.

These are just a few thoughts I’ve had – I’ve done 3/10 of my reports, so I’m getting along – I now need to try and get more done but make sure it is one they will remember for the right reasons.

How do you make your End of Year Reports memorable? Do you have any ways of making them effective snapshots of your child’s learning in the class?

Engaging Lessons Solve Behaviour Problems in the Classroom? by @Mroberts90Matt

Early into my second year of Initial Teacher Training we were taking in a session on Behaviour Management. As young teachers who had only delivered a handful of sessions thus far in our development, behaviour management was a looming issue in our inexperienced minds. As such, we came with expectations that we would come away with some valuable tips and ideas on how we could get the little lovelies to behave when we are trying to demonstrate we can piece pedagogy together. Imagine our surprise when the educator informed us that the best way to handle behaviour management was to…make our lessons as engaging as possible!

Now, this post is not to decry the concept that if we engage children more in their learning then behaviour in the classroom will improve. In fact, I do agree with this. However it must be thought through seriously – learning is affected when classroom management is poor (Charles 2002, Evertson, Emmer and and Worsham 2003) and so all possibilities must be considered.

In my short teaching experience, lessons which might be deemed more engaging have indeed had less behaviour management disruptions. Shindler (2009) states that classroom management is founded on how and what we teach, as do other studies. When children are more engaged behaviour can be managed – however that brings up some questions! What is deemed as an ‘engaging lesson’? What might be engaging to one person might not be engaging for another. Also, is it physically possible for a teacher to plan, teach, assess and evaluate a fully engaging lesson in every session that they teach? As a Year 6 teacher drilling (a.k.a. preparing) their pupils for the upcoming SATs, I feel the answer is in the negative. And finally, even with the most engaging lesson, if a teacher does not have a basic grasp on behaviour management techniques, will they never encounter disruptive behaviour in their lessons?…

Therefore, can it really be said that engaging lessons will solve behaviour difficulties? It certainly will reduce the amount of disruption. However, I went away from that University session feeling a bit let down. Since then, I have been to other presentations on behaviour management and, whilst they also have heavily relied on the assumption that behaviour management can be solved by engaging lessons, they have also given useful suggestions. These include:

  • Set, consistent classroom rules
  • Constructive praise
  • Proximinal praise
  • Regular routines
  • Sanctions that are followed through
  • Having an engaging personality with some humour
  • Using technology to assist pedagogy and rule-enforcing (Class Dojo as an example)

These and many more would be useful to have had discussed early on in my training. One of these is proximinal praise which was only introduced to me in one of my NQT observations by my Headteacher. It involves noting the desired behaviour next to a child who is not showing the desired behaviour. Rather than focusing on the negative behaviour it sheds more light on the behaviour expected in the classroom. I have found this to be extremely effective and would encourage any teachers looking for behaviour management tips to try this out in their classroom.

2614476028_717e2c47b8_n

Behaviour management will always be a topic discussed by leading educators and organisations (for example the recent publication by Ofsted on low-level disruption in the classroom) – therefore it will be necessary for all educators to not only plan more engaging sessions (for that does have an impact on classroom management) but also to develop an inventory of techniques and tools to aid focus and concentration in their learning environments.

References

Charles, C. M., 2002. Elementary Classroom Management. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Evertson, C. M., Emmer, E. M. and Worsham, M. E., 2003. Classroom Management for Secondary Teachers. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Shindler, J., 2009. Transformative Classroom Management. [Online] [14th April 2015] http://web.calstatela.edu/faculty/jshindl/cm/Chapter11pedagogy-final.htm

Temple Run in Writing by @Mroberts90Matt

Once again, another attempt to get onto the blogging bandwagon – however, we are into the midst of the Easter Holidays and I am fully aware of the fact that when we get back into the run-up to SATs, this will fall flat on it’s face again…

Just a quick post to share another idea. This was not my original idea but it’s one that created a lot of enthusiasm for writing so why not?

In January we began our Topic on the Mayas and so I was contemplating ways to link our writing into the Meso-American civilisation. Ancient temples, mysterious lands, ancient artefacts, varied landscapes…I then thought of this:untitled

Of course, when I mentioned that we were going to use Temple Run as a stimulus for writing the children were hooked immediately! Then I showed them news stories about how film makers were looking into creating a ‘Temple Run Movie’ (see http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/warner-bros-david-heyman-bring-650948 as one example of a possible example). Instantaneously this created discussion, talk, communication – How? What? When? They expressed that it would be a boring film because all the game involved was a man running away from a monster…

We used post it notes children to consider some questions: Who is the man running away? What is the creature in pursuit? Why is the creature chasing the man with the idol? Why is the idol so important/valuable? Where is this Temple? What traps did the adventurer have to avoid? When did the creature start to chase the man – before or after he grabbed the idol?

After these discussions, in pairs, the children used a six block storyboard to assist them in building a story, using the ideas that had been generated with peer-assessing along the way. There was only one condition: there had to be two boxes that involved traps in the Maya Temple which could build suspense in their story.

The results were amazing. Unfortunately they are at school and I am not so I will have to upload some examples later – but I would strongly encourage using this idea (which again is not originally mine – see Lee Parkinson’s excellent blog for the original – http://mrparkinsonict.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/using-popular-ipad-games-as-stimulus-in.html)

Teacher Voice Poll w/b 2nd March 2015

I posted a recent blog focusing on a strategy which has really helped improve a child’s handwriting in my class. It has led me to think about handwriting and the role it plays in education.

From Reception, we encourage children to make marks, write their name and more – that means from 4 years old we are educating children in the art of calligraphy (or, at least, the starting point of it). Children are encouraged to them move onto short writing tasks and their writing is assessed. Short letters, instructions and more are examined and created.

However, in a day where the average physically writes very little, if at all, is handwriting as high a priority as it had been in the past? What do you think?

image

photo credit: Embossed Children’s Poem Post Card, 1907 – Child with white cat via photopin (license)

Anyone for Long Division? by @Mroberts90Matt

Calculation methods in Maths form a core skill set that students need to acquire in order to progress and attain. A child who can master the skills of written methods in Maths week most likely go on to be very successful in future Maths problems as they will have that basic skill set to build upon.

Therefore, when it came to teaching my Year 6 children how to tackle long division, a skull which they had not yet come across, I knew that it would require something really engaging to make sure they got it (as with every area of learning in my classroom really)!

The Idea
I had recently been in a staff meeting led by @ICT_MrP who showed the staff an app which I’d come across recently – Explain Everything. This app allowed you to easily create videos with voice recording and annotating images. What this does is allow the user to create short tutorials with visual aids on the screen.

Linking this to the long division need, I remembered the saying where people learn only a small amount of what they listen to/are shown but they learn a higher proportion of things that they teach others. Suddenly, the way became clear, children could use this Explain Everything tool to encouraged use of language and internalisation when acquiring this long division skill. From what I understand this is a strategy called something like ‘Role of the Mantle/Expert’.

The Method
After teaching the chn the method suggested by the Maths Coordinator in our school, I decided this would be a good time to implement making a Long Division Tutorial to consolidate their learning so they could apply the calculation.
The result can be found on the school website here: http://www.kingsroadschool.com/year-6/

(We would have posted them onto our class blog but we’re with Primary Site and I’m personally hoping we get off it!)
image

photo credit: Learning is Required via photopin (license)

Improving Handwriting by @Mroberts90Matt

wrI recently attended a NQT Conference led by @ActionDyslexia (Neil Mackay) where a number of ideas and thoughts were discussed surrounding children who have dyslexia, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD and other needs. During the discussions, there was one child in my class who was on my mind. They have not been diagnosed as ‘dyslexic’ but there definitely are certain traits. In terms of her reading and inference ability they are great. But when it comes to forming their ideas onto paper they really struggle.

So what are the methods of getting children to improve their handwriting? Focussed handwriting practise? Getting the child to verbalise answers and then write it on a whiteboard for them to copy? Have the child type it onto a laptop then transcribe by hand? (This, of course, is motivated by the fact this child has to be able to write by hand – no matter how little they may actually handwrite when they leave school). Used a handwriting book that has the special extra line to identify how tall the lower case letters should be (they then write perfectly in that handwriting book but cannot transfer that onto regular lined paper)? I and other more experienced professionals had tried all these and more with this child – a little improvement occurred but not the needed amount. What’s more, even though she had progressed between Sept-Nov 2014, from December 2014-Feb 2015 it had gotten worse. This was a typical example of one of her better pieces of work recently:

Before1

Keep in mind this is a Year 6 child. Now, I know some may see this and say “I have Year 7’s, 8’s etc with worse handwriting than that!” It can be a huge problem, not just to people trying to mark this child’s work but, more importantly, to the child’s self-esteem. This particular child expressed that she knew her handwriting was not good and did not feel happy about not being able to produce similar quality work as her peers. Neil Mackay showed us NQT’s a ‘quick fix’ that can help children who struggle to form their writing. This is the same child using this method – please note that the last two sentences the child constructed completely by herself:

AfterThe highlighted lines serve simply as the handwriting book line which identifies the height of a lower case letter. While this clearly isn’t perfect – what an improvement! I was shocked! Then came the child’s reaction. She said how she felt good about what she was writing and she saw the difference compared to [turned to previous work and pointed out the differences]. What I love about this is that, not only has it allowed her writing to be more legible, but it’s a time effective method also, with little extra effort on her part. It took her an extra 5-10secs to place the highlighted line, and then she wrote. That’s it! She has been given the power to write her thoughts and ideas legibly!

What an experience – if you have any children in your class who struggle with any aspect of writing, I strongly suggest you try this out. It isn’t 100% certain to be effective, but it is likely.