A short while ago, I was trying to explain how I plan English to a student; I found it extremely difficult. This concerned me because I felt as though my poor attempts at explaining were reflective of my approach, rendering my methods useless, yet I was also extremely aware that no idea is original, and that there must be others who plan in the same way I do (just they can articulate it in a clearer voice).
So my post today comes with two aims:
I’m a big believer in teaching a concept before expecting the children to apply it. Many will do both at the same time; model a series of skills while applying them. Personally, I’ve found it difficult to do this. I prefer to break down a process and teach the steps, then model how to use the steps to create success. In my class, this often means that Success Criteria can be the same for a few days in a row, as we gain confidence and learn about each piece of the criteria. Over time, I have found my children more able to retain their learning through this method, as I try to make the learning more explicit before attempting the applying.
To illustrate, I’m going to give a commentary of my decision making process, alongside a fictitious sequence to demonstrate what I mean.
To be continued...
When I first qualified, I went all out; several months' rent on classroom resources, every possible shape of sticky note and a savings account worth of laminating pouches. I also, very proudly, dithered about with at least 3 bags. One had my laptop in it, one was for food and the other was full of folders...that I never used. You'd think one of them would be to transport marking, but no; I had a plastic box for that.
Back in the day of the 'Lesson Observation' grid, there was a specific box for use of ICT. Seems a little silly now, to require a 'good' teacher to HAVE to use technology, but maybe schools were trying to get their money's worth. Either way, technology still plays a huge part in our job, and provides a greater deal of flexibility and ease. Whether it's making resources, lesson planning, tracking data, or communicating, we are at the mercy of electronics. To help me, I have 3 items:
2. Reference Books
Although 'it's only primary education', it can still be tricky to know everything, and even trickier to explain it to a small person. I carry a couple of revision guides with me just to check the definitions of what I'm saying. I also think this shows the children a good work ethic; seeking answers and being prepared to be wrong. Children's revision guides are also very useful for finding new ways to ask the same question. It can be hard to think of new word problems, or an interesting puzzle to rehearse addition of decimals, so a stray textbook can really ignite the idea for that lesson you needed.
3. Health & Safety
Teaching is surprisingly physical. A good lunch, decent snacks and plenty of water are required to keep you alert. I also recommend those simple cold and flu remedies for when you wake up with man-flu (the worst flu); trying to teach fractions while not being able to breathe never goes well. While you'll find yourself in your classroom most of the time, such is the life of an Educator that you might be sent outside on that fire drill you weren't warned about, or you'll kindly offer to cover your friend's playground duty; gloves, my friend, you can never be too careful.
4. Quality Reading for YOU and THEM.
Whether a book you're using as part of your English lesson, or a book you keep for the joy of sharing at the end of the day, carry some form of reading that you can use with the children. This is my, increasingly old, copy of Stormbreaker; my most favourite book in the world (alongside Peter Rabbit). However, I feel it's also important to read the occasional 'teacher' book every now and then. Some of mine were gifts, others were recommended to me. They fire up thoughts and ideas when you need them most, if you're feeling disillusioned with it all, or feel like you're running out of strategies.
5. My Notepad
My notepad is my life and I tell the children they always need to know where I left it. By July it's falling apart and bursting with little papers, but it does the job. I'm not one of those who has a notepad for 'to-do lists', a notepad for Staff Meetings, a diary, a separate little book for planning or data, etc. EVERYTHING goes in this one place. Taking the plastic off the new one in September is one of life's little joys.
Good teaching doesn't require bells and whistles. It doesn't matter what shape your sticky notes are, or how thick your folder is. It's all about you, in your class, with your kids. Equip yourself, both physically and metaphorically, with the tools you need to do that.