The first thing I ever wanted to be was a teacher. Inside my bedroom, I made displays on the backs of my wardrobe doors, had a small collection of exercise books from the local stationers, and I sometimes transformed my room into a 'trip', where I'd laid out non-fiction texts and guide books from places I'd been with my family.
As I grew up, I went through a series of other professions as my target. In many ways, I think I am lucky to have returned to my original idea of becoming a teacher; it gave me a path to follow and a clear end goal. It also meant, whenever I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I had an obvious answer.
But what are you to do if you're not sure? Rush into a decision? Lie? Say you don't know?
I like to think I would have gone for option 3, but I suppose I'll never know. At what point do you need to choose? At what point are you allowed to change your mind? Would we become greater successes, with more time to plan ahead, to make our options?
With this in mind, a teacher at my school wanted to open our children's minds to the sorts of jobs out there, and it was one of the most rewarding things I've ever been part of. It wasn't an occasion to pigeon-hole them into a job at 10 years old, but a rare opportunity for them to speak to a huge variety of people about what on Earth they do all day!
It all started with a simple letter to parents, asking if they'd be willing to volunteer their time to speak to our Year 5 and 6 children about their profession. We waited for the exact details of how to organise the event until we knew the sort of response we would get.
A few weeks flew and we received just over 20 replies, all from a wide variety of industries. The response was so good, our teacher decided to hold the event across an entire day. We split the volunteers across 4 classes (5 in each) and the children rotated around each room for each lesson of the day. It was fantastically organised - with a throw-back school lunch thrown in too - and our children gained so much from the experience.
We had a foster carer who explained the 24/7 nature of her job.
A few people from banks, customer service roles and international companies.
We had a midwife, who explained the reason for her profession was to help other mothers.
We had a globe-trotting businessman who explained how his schedule impacts on family life.
There was a publisher who's recently worked with a famous British Vlogger.
A professional footballer who explained his plan B after a career-shattering injury.
A couple of firefighters, a policeman and a few engineers.
We had a clinical psychologist and an occupational therapist.
A student teacher, childminder and Civil Servant.
In a spare hour between meetings, our Head Teacher even came to sit with a group!
Our children were totally inspired. As an anchor, we prepared a small booklet featuring the names of all our volunteers, with space for the children to write questions and make notes. We started the day with what they'd like to be, if they knew, and ended the day with the same question. It was not expected that they changed their mind as a way to 'show progress', but it was interesting to hear how many of them came up with 'but if that doesn't work out...' or had a clearer idea of a route to help them get to where they wanted.
Qualifications, experience and further education are all very samey from your teacher's voice. It verges on nagging. But to hear about the value of effort and hard work, from a wide range of different people, was invaluable.
The day was a complete success; the product of a teacher's work, another example of supporting our learners. I'd recommend you try it yourself. We will definitely repeat it, although maybe spread it across a few half-days; our volunteers essentially had the same conversation 20 times, which can be tricky.
Thank you to our teacher, who masterminded the whole thing, and thank you to our volunteers who I don't think will ever realise the impact they have had.
A while ago, I wrote about the time I showed my class various articles, regarding teachers' requests for an extended data submission date, in light of the late receipt of the exemplification materials. I showed them the video message, from our Education Secretary, addressing teacher's concerns regarding assessment, where the MP clarified some of the surrounding myths.
It wasn't a lesson on indoctrination, as one might think, but my hook for a unit of Poetry.
We talked about the pros and cons of exams. I explained how I use them as a teacher. They said why they think they're useful for life. We shared experiences of tests and how we feel while preparing for them, taking them and hearing our result; the downs and the ups.
After that, we read this poem, by Michael Rosen. It's his hauntingly accurate Guide To Education.
Later, we read the poem "The Minister for Exams" by Brian Patten. We discussed the message behind it and I was careful to ensure they understood its apparent breaking of 'the rules'; I hadn't spent months banging on about proper use of capital letters for them to take this example as gospel. We noticed how, while punctuation was used normally, capital letters appeared at every new line, rather than new sentence.
We read the poems, and I showed them this video too...
While Patten's is a little more sombre, Rosen's penultimate line lightened the mood a little - "Education is getting better because there is much more testing". It really struck a chord and I was very impressed with the children's ideas and responses to the poem; they had a lot to say.
I was using the poems, video and discussion as a stimulus for children to write their own poetry inspired by Patten and Rosen, but I felt like part of it became a life lesson; a chance for them to think about their future and how to get there, beginning to understand some of the hurdles that they might need to overcome on the way; this strange idea that, sometimes (despite our own best efforts) our successes are completely down to whether someone else agrees with our answer!
Our next lesson started with me teaching the difference between open and closed questions. We gave examples of each and talked about how an open question can have many answers, and that our answer might differ from someone else's...so who is correct? If anyone? Apples or leaves?
Later, we started to make up our answers to open questions, thinking about how we could include our different writing tools: metaphors, similes, etc.
After our annotating of the poem, rehearsal of open and closed questions, it was time for the children to write their own. Many of them came from a real place. It was so interesting to read their final verses. Patten uses a road-sweeper as the result of his 'failure', and we took some time to discuss our own ideas of a job we would dislike. The whole point of the unit was to discuss how differing opinions are part of life, and job choice was the same. We were careful to ensure your idea of an awful job, might actually be someone's dream career (my younger brother always wanted to be a bin-man; he used to sit at the window and wave through the glass!)
While we 'ticked off' a few Poetry objectives, we gained so much more. We learnt that the discomfort of exam season is almost universal, but in a sense it's a rite of passage, the storm after the calm. We learnt about how people will always have different opinions to ours, but it's what we do about it that's important. We learnt how, sometimes, we can give our all, but if that key person disagrees, it might not get us where we need.
Not fair? Ask the Minister for Exams.
Let's teach children the idea of a Plan B and equip them with the skills to cope with possible failure, because there are times in life when we could have done no more, at the hands of an unknown authority.
While completing my studies, an ever-increasing number of years ago, we studied a module called "Cross-Curricular Learning". There was a big push on this approach at the time and it differed from my own schooling, where we had subjects taught discretely. Although my compulsory education has finished, throughout my studies as a teacher, both in and out of the classroom, I have experienced and enjoyed the benefits of teaching skills applied in various subjects, linked to the same 'topic'.
As a teacher, I've previously written of how pleasantly challenging it is to plan a 'topic'; piecing together sensible chunks of learning, making links between curriculum areas in order to best example exhibiting a particular skill. However, in a profession where every conclusion is "one size doesn't fit all", is a cross curricular approach always best?
Teaching in a cross-curricular way means that so much more of the learning can be transferred across different areas of the timetable. Not only is this almost a time saver, it also means that each lesson throughout the day scaffolds the next. For this reason, learners find a great deal of confidence from a cross curricular approach; increased self-esteem and being more willing to participate. It's as if they were taught the answer before this lesson, and now they can apply it to their task.
It's a real skill for a teacher to be able to match up the various learning objectives, in order to ensure the children are reading a book in English, that links to a period of History, that took place in that specific Geographical area, allowing a study of Technological advances during the time (and maybe designing and making a version of your own) while immersing yourselves in the the culture (music, religion, art, etc) of the area it all happened in!
Such a focus on a particular area gets the class fired up; with one buzz-word or topic on their mind, they are free to do their own research. Outside of the classroom, parents are able to talk to their children about, or take them to visit, or help them investigate a variety of things linked to this single subject they are coming home to talk about!
Linking curriculum areas allows better rehearsal of the most basic skills, wrapped up in an exciting context; writing the newspaper article about..., solving a problem linked to…, etc. So much of the vocabulary can be used, outside of lesson it was introduced in, as they may require it for a piece of writing or to aid them in their reasoning.
All of the above only counts if the 'topic' is something the children care about. While much of it is down to delivery (some elements of the curriculum need real acting skills to model how 'exciting' they are), perhaps there are just some curriculum targets that some learners aren't interested in?
Picture this, a cross-curricular theme that the quietest, most polite learners really disengage with, you'd never know because they don't make a fuss; learners in your room that don't give two hoots about different mountain ranges around the globe, the explorers that climbed them, writing a diary entry from their 'journal' and plotting a graph about the heights of each. Or that group of children who aren't fussed by the gory details of the Egyptians, writing a story of an archaeologist, or investigating different types of triangle that didn't make it to the final pyramid design. Through a topic that's solely about either of those, that's potentially 6 weeks of learning missing the key ingredient; motivation.
Equally, while I write above that planning a topic that requires a huge amount of skill, there are some elements that just don't fit. Consequently, we run the 2 main risks:
The solution? Well, you can't ignore the objectives they find boring or that you can't make purposeful links with. It's in the curriculum; they need to learn about it at some point. So perhaps teaching the mountains in Geography and the Egyptians in History, as discrete lessons, means you can appeal to more interests over a longer average period of time, without missing as many curriculum ideas.
My most recent setting has really got me thinking; it's less 'cross-curricular' than I was used to, and I have been really surprised by the differences I have seen.
First of all, I have never seen a group of children so excited about the different curriculum areas; they have a real passion for particular subjects, and this differs from child to child. Now, some will say that we need to get them excited about ALL of the different subjects, but common sense will tell you that's not likely to happen. They keep checking the visual timetable for when Science or History is, or whether Music or RE is coming up. I've never experienced this before, but this is likely due to the fact I never made the 'lines' between the subjects clear enough; we were never learning 'History', we were learning about the Romans (and within that we tackled so many other subjects, that I also didn't specifically state).
Secondly, I've been thinking about how cross-curricular learning, in a sense, could potentially be counter-productive for making the links at the core of being cross-curricular. What links are the children making, when we've been the ones to package it up so neatly for them? My brain ticked over again, and considered how this could also hinder meta-cognition and training the brain to retain and apply information and skills; if I have planned for you to complete a 6 week topic, does that mean you delete everything in time for the next topic to start, or do I need to plan a further week, to revisit this topic, in a few months time to see what you've remembered?
Perhaps a weekly discrete lesson, for more than 6 weeks, encourages the brain to store information more efficiently, over an extended period of time, because you're required to use it more often, with greater gaps between each instance? Like how Maths and English are a constant cycle of revision and extension to ensure the appropriate method of addition, use of adverbial phrases or how to find equivalent fractions, spell homophones or convert to digital time are less likely to be forgotten!
In conclusion, while teaching is extremely fad-led, don't lose sight of making the best choices for your class. Ask them how they learn best, or how they would like to tackle something. At different points in your year, plan chances to be cross-curricular but also remember that everyone in your room has different tastes; perhaps a single unit in a subject would be an enjoyable breather?
What do you think? Cross-curricular all the time, or back to how you and I were taught?
Return of the old National Curriculum and the associated levels? No.
My entry today comes with 2 objectives:
The previous curriculum was built around cycles of objectives that got continuously harder before the year had finished. For those able to keep up, it was great; the challenge was always there, pre-set. However, for those who struggled with the previous objective, whether you understood or not, you were pushed to move on. Common sense will tell you that the teacher would keep track of everyone's success, able to tailor the lesson as best as they could so everyone was stretched. This includes every best effort to organise timely intervention. However, the awful levels culture skewed this ideology somewhat. In a world fuelled by numbers, practitioners and their school leaders found themselves in a wicked game to create the illusion of success, by having your numbers as high as possible, to be superficially judged by those the other side of the gate.
This was a 2 fold problem:
The results of this were self explanatory; the gaps among the learners got wider, and many were left behind when others were forced on, while other groups were left unprepared for the next year because they were never given the time to fully understand all of the learning they had just skimmed (but were able to scrape together the satisfactory amount of evidence in order to be judged as the 'higher' band on a single occasion, likely encompassing a heavy amount of modelling and very little independence).
Grossly unfair on all counts, and completely impractical as they continue through the education process.
The 2014 National Curriculum is our chance to rebalance our classrooms and provide support for those who need it most, while also providing open ended application for those who relish a challenge.
Rather than needing to understand a concept in 2 days, before revisiting it, at a harder level, in 3 months time, we now have a set of objectives that you have a year to engage with and understand; emerge into, and aim to master. For the first time in my career, I have a curriculum encouraging the use of manipulatives and imagery to enable the children to build up a bank of practical experiences to help them solve problems. Yes, there are a lot of objectives, but through your Assessment For Learning, you can decide which ones require the most time allocation (made easier because the objectives stay the same).
Rather than pushing your children through a set of criteria to reach the highest number as quickly as possible, we now have a system that encourages them to stay within their set of criteria, but experiment with the application of everything they have learnt during that time; depth, not breadth.
This is likely the part many teachers are finding the most difficult; it's the biggest difference between the 2 curriculums, and therefore ignites the most fear. Whereas, before, you would steam through adding and subtracting 3 digit numbers, up to 4 digits, to money, through to decimals, we are now being asked to provide other challenges that stay with the 3 digit numbers; word problems, number puzzles, proving/disproving statements, investigations, missing digit problems, using the inverse, etc. The fear is visual; "you're still doing 3 digit numbers", so where's the progress? Simple. The progress comes from the complexity and level of understanding required to complete a problem successfully; much more beneficial in the long term, compared to, "Now try this 4 digit number."
Why? The new system is about checking understanding. Really, if you've understood the place value behind adding and subtracting, and how to use the columns in a written method, you'll be successful regardless of how big the number is, so the only thing you were stretching was the question! Now you can provide opportunities to apply the learning, and you don't need to touch the next set of objectives in order to do that; touching the next year group's objectives isn't a signal of attainment.
The successes of this are also 2 fold:
While it's had some teething problems, I am a firm believer in the 2014 National Curriculum and the Assessment changes it has brought along with it. It will just take time. The problem is not the new curriculum or the 'standards' it is written with, but the expectation that pupils, who have only just completed a year of the new system, will be able to be fairly assessed on an order of events they haven't partaken in, within a wider community of schools and their families who haven't had a chance to catch up with the new system in a mutually understood language - we are not even convinced those who wrote the system fully understand it!
Teachers, calm down; you're clouding yourselves. We are conditioned to respond to criticism and jump through hoops to achieve criteria we spent years learning. Now that the criteria is different, we panic because know the same critics will come, expecting to see the same professional practice with little REAL time to adjust. Use this chance to work together to create a system that works for you; a system you'll be able to confidently explain to a critic.
Critics, please don't touch the curriculum for at least 6 years. Give it time to filter through, for at least one cohort to get through the whole process. Let us make sense of it; we are more qualified than you.
It is our job to make the most of what we are given, to equip these children for the rest of their lives. A daunting prospect when led by a less-qualified, higher power with a more numerical aim, but we can do it!
Many have forgotten the most important aspect of this; the children. The learners should be at the forefront of as many decisions as possible. And if those in charge find that difficult, then it's down to you to do the moulding. If what you're doing is showing promise, why would you change it? This is the wonderful opinion of my current setting. Conversely, if the approach advised isn't working as well as you hoped, then amend it. Make edits based on the learners and use them as your guide; not the heading on those PowerPoint slides you were handed at last week's meeting.
Too many decisions are already made by those who haven't set foot in your school to see the learners in action. So do them a favour and make good choices on the children's behalf. Speak to your class, involve the families and come to a common understanding in a profession that is already diluted.
Predictably, the conclusion of every single assignment/research/debate/discussion will be along the lines of, "one size doesn't fit all", and, ironically, I don't see that changing. So if that teacher chooses to do that thing you heard about, and you feel it's not right for your class, don't do it.
At times, you will feel like you're breaking the rules, and you will most certainly be taking some risks, but have the learners as your end goal, and you can't go wrong.
We need strong-willed people like you to lead our young people to a successful future! Positivity and the love of a challenge create success. It's Kommon Cents.
Underneath the smiling, I was secretly horrified at what my teachers used to get away with in regards to marking. Through the pointing, I was extremely embarrassed at some of the mistakes I had made. But behind the giggling, my brain was coming to an odd conclusion; "this all looks very familiar!"
All of these photographs are taken of my secondary school Maths books, ranging from Year 8 to GCSE level. I finished compulsory education in about 2006 (I think) and I'll caption these photos with direct quotes from the Standards of the 2014 National Curriculum. You'll see my point quite quickly.
I was sitting on the floor at the time when the penny dropped; I was intending on teaching my own class some of these things in the coming weeks. Thanks to my forward planning, mapping out how much time was available to teach, I'd read the expectations for my year countless times; yet I was seeing evidence of it in the pages of my own books as a teenager!
My conclusion is simple; at some point, what used to be expected of a 14 year old, has become the intended outcome of a child (on average) 5 years younger! Incredible. Have brains got bigger? Is there some new implant at birth that has allowed these modern day children to acquire more knowledge? Are there suddenly fewer steps to learning such things in order to get to the same place earlier?
Give your learners some credit and protect them from the pressures they can't control; teach them to manage their distractions and the emotional fall-back of failure in order to work towards these shifted targets.
Someone decided that 'this is no longer for the teenagers. Let's give it to the little people.' More is expected of them now than ever before and, in my opinion, for them to even begin to understand and apply it (5 years before they USED to be expected to) is an astonishing achievement; no wonder we all find it tricky at times!
It shows our young people to be more resourceful than ever before and more resilient in the face of challenge.
Learners, keep doing what you're doing, because apparently it's going really well! You might not feel like it sometimes and you'll rarely get a public mention (exams are always getting easier after all), but you are going further at your age than any child older than you. It's the only excuse for so many aspects of your education shifting 5 years backwards, alongside the unreasonable expectation for you to catch up with at least 1 year of these new standards, while also attempting to master the skills in your own programme of study; a minimum of 2 years worth of learning in a single 12 months!
Teachers, keep doing what you're doing, because apparently you're doing splendidly! It's the only logical explanation for many aspects of the curriculum shifting half a decade! You might not feel like it sometimes and you'll rarely get a public mention (likely due to all that holiday we get), but you are working harder than any teacher before you, signified by the rate at which your children are progressing! Helping these children make up the difference between both curriculums is a huge task; the difficulty is proving the improvement in the middle ground between 2 sets of expectations.
Looking through my old secondary books, and noticing the new primary curriculum, is both a blessing and a curse. It's a scary realisation about how high the target has been set, based on no real objective other than greedy bosses wanting to beat other nations. However, it's also a pleasing challenge and fresh reorganisation. When interpreted in the correct way, by those who engage with it the most (US!), it will pay dividends as long as we are given the time to implement it properly.
It was never like this in my day!
My week of teaching started with me showing my class the video message from Nicky Morgan MP (Secretary for Education), regarding the changes in Primary Assessment, and explaining how teachers got together to change the submission date for their own moderation of KS2 Writing. I explained how the Government were a little late with the 'homework' they had promised us (by releasing their exemplification materials a little too out of time), yet still expected it to be 'marked' by the same deadline. This led to a fascinating discussion; a great stimulus for a unit of work on poetry (which I will share at another time).
I felt it was important for the children to understand, that many of the demands we make of them aren't necessarily coming from us. Some will say this was too heavy, but they had some interesting and extremely valid thoughts; I'd recommend you bring up the subject with the older children in your own school. I was incredibly impressed with how mature their ideas were regarding tests; why we take them, the pros and cons, etc. In many cases, their opinions were very profound. It also enabled them to put some of the difficulties they will face, with the system, into perspective against their ambitious futures because, ultimately, the assessment system means nothing to them at this point in their life.
Teaching is acting; we must make things appear to be of higher importance in the mind of a child. Take Statutory Assessments, for example. Depending on your angle, I believe you have 2 options:
In a sense, it's similar to AT1 and AT2 in Religious Education; Learning about... and Learning from...
A great teacher will help the children learn FROM their experiences of preparing for assessments. By this, I mean they will promote the behaviours in preparing for a test, the attitudes while taking the test, and the reaction when you hear the result.
A different teacher will educate the children ABOUT taking the assessments. By this, I mean they will only cover topics needed for the test (because why would you need to know anything else?), coach you to answer the different types of question required in the test, and encourage you to judge yourself based upon the result, as if this test has defined you.
Not too long ago, and even still now (as some refuse to accept the glorious disappearance of meaninglessly inflated 'levels'), I would cringe when hearing children boast about their grade when, quite simply, you would look across the classroom at the child who had received a much lower result, but put in far more effort leading to great improvement! Equally, you would hear of the person barking at their class to include various vocabulary, because someone had considered it to be "a Level 5 word" (what even IS that!?!) Even more heart-breaking was the experienced teacher calling out their children because they were "still only a 2B!"
Now, there's no denying that qualifications can impact your future, and that children experience various styles of assessment throughout their primary career, but I firmly believe these should be used as something to learn FROM, rather than ABOUT; if they have to do them, make them as useful as possible. Life, after all, is full of tests.
As well as a tool for tailoring holistic learning, a great teacher, in my opinion, will use statutory tests, in-house assessments, etc, for the following:
Finally, demonstrate the value of improvement. Why? Because you might feel your 50% result wasn't good enough, compared to the person who gets a consistent 74% every time. But the fact you used to get zero, and continued to put in the effort, to achieve your ever-increasing personal best, is far more important. In the same way that using the lessons above, and applying yourself consistently, will launch you into a life of varied fulfilment, respect from the right characters and an internal sense of self-worth, knowing you worked hard to get you to whatever dream you had when that different teacher told you "your result isn't good enough".
The test you're about to take doesn't mean much; but your education is everything. Learn FROM the process, not ABOUT the process.
How many times have you left a Maths lesson with one of these conclusions?
“They steamed through that, even when I set that extra challenge!”
“They really struggled with that, should have used the dienes. We will have another go tomorrow.”
First of all, it’s important to note, that teachers have little middle ground when it comes to their lessons. We are extremely self-critical and always wanting the best; especially when we have poured hours into planning and preparing. It’s really rather terrible that we don’t acknowledge our input when the lesson went well, only when we feel it wasn’t as great as it could be.
For this reason, I wanted to find a way to fine tune the content of my lessons and make the most of our time in class.
On a previous adventure, in a bid to find out what the children could already do, this started with what I called a “Plug In”; a question for the children to answer, linking to the objective of that day, to ascertain whether they could already “do it”. This was followed by a “Switch On” at the end of the lesson; another question to judge whether they had been successful. It was a great way to clearly show what the children had learnt and a clear signal to the learners themselves that they had made a small gain that day.
However (and I would imagine you have already asked yourself), what if the Plug In already showed they could “do something”? How do you show progress at the “Switch On”?
Fortunately, I am part of an amazing team that allow each other to share ideas and try new things. I changed my “Plug In” idea, to become an “Entry Quiz”, and I am really seeing the benefits. My rationale? I have always seen a Gap Analysis completed AFTER an assessment, when everything has been ‘taught’, regardless of what the children already knew. So why not find the strengths and weaknesses first, and teach what they need? Just 15 minutes of one lesson helps to prevent wasting the whole hour of another, because you would have found out they’re pretty competent already!
Examples of Entry Quizzes.
What is an Entry Quiz?
I have been teaching the 2014 Curriculum, splitting each Maths topic into a 2 week unit; a fortnight on Number and Place Value, a fortnight on Addition and Subtraction, etc. The first day of each unit starts with an Entry Quiz.
An Entry Quiz is where I have written (on average) 10 questions, to be answered in around 15 minutes, linked to the unit expectations that I’m planning on teaching in that fortnight; we want depth, not breadth. Let’s not forget, the expectations are designed to be mastered across the year, the end product; there are no longer ‘blocks’ of increasingly harder objectives that get updated as we move from Block A through E, Units 1, 2 and 3, regardless of whether the children were ‘keeping up’ with them or not.
The children answer the questions, fully aware that they might get every single one wrong, simply because they don’t know it yet; they have a year to tackle them! However, it’s surprising how quickly they make links from the expectations the previous year. For example, once you have been able to add 4 digit numbers as part of the Year 4 expectations, it’s not the biggest challenge to add numbers to 1 million in Year 5. As a result, in some cases, a smaller teaching input could be used and more time can be spent on the objectives they find hardest.
Examples of the learning completed as a result of the Entry Quizzes.
Using the results of the Entry Quizzes, I have been able to adapt my lessons to best suit the gaps that I have been made aware of. For example, the Number and Place Value quiz told me that my children were pretty good at partitioning numbers to 1 million, yet writing them in words was proving tricky. It’s amazing how the children almost teach themselves little tricks. Having made this small discovery, I was able to efficiently plan the time in lessons to cover the largest weaknesses; reading numbers.
Equally, our Addition and Subtraction Entry Quiz showed me some of their most common misconceptions regarding lining up the digits, the use of place holders and using the inverse to solve problems. Both the correct and incorrect answers have allowed me to pitch my lessons more accurately from the outset. I have been able to find different challenges, opportunities for application and reasoning to try and push my learners a little further based on the knowledge their answers gave me, alongside the findings of day-to-day Assessment for Learning.
My Entry Quiz for Multiplication and Division showed me that all of my children were confident at multiplying large numbers by a single digit. Therefore, I edited my questions for the day I would have ‘taught’ that, to be solely about multiplying by tens and ones. By single digits proved to be a great confidence builder for the learners, but I was able to maximise time in order to teach the gaps in their learning.
An example of an Exit Quiz.
I take my classroom almost too seriously. It needs to be practical, attractive and inspiring but also easily maintained. Every summer, for a couple of weeks, I rope in as many helpers as I can get to help sort my creative chaos; a series of bright ideas, with the best intentions, all aimed at promoting independent learning and community spirit.
This is the result of Summer2015's efforts:
Our Learning Walls
Much to the frustration of a previous colleague, I used to back ALL my boards in white. However, I soon realised that posters, models/images and reminders, often on white themselves, would get lost in the background. With that in mind, I chose black backing with borders the same colour as the subjects' respective exercise book.
Why the little whiteboards?
I have a grand plan to write up my week's objectives, so the children can see where our learning is heading; the end product of the hard work we will be putting in. Whether that's solving a problem using the methods we learnt, or writing something including the skills we rehearsed, I'm hoping my learners will be able to move their name tag along the lessons to show they are ready to move on. It'll be a good way for me to focus my feedback and organise extra support and revision where needed.
My English wall features a "Spelling Spy". I was inspired by my class last year, who used to enjoy finding words that could have belonged in their spelling list that week. The number of times quiet reading would be disturbed by, "Mr N! I've found another word with 'tion'!". I decided to capitalise on that this year, and provide a space for the words to be collected.
With the changes in the English Curriculum, and the apparent disappearance of 'Writing Genres', teaching writing got a little blurred; too many people with too many ideas of what 'good writing' is. In my opinion, the genres were a great way of showing off various types of language in different contexts. Writing instructions, for example, to best show off time conjunctions, or descriptive writing to best see the impact of adjectives and use of the senses. I can only assume we became too reliant on the genres and writing became very predictable. I will use this Tool Box idea to keep a reminder of all the different strategies we learn, so we can use them at any time; aiming to remedy the previous problem regarding genres, that we only use brackets in a newspaper to reveal a spectator's age!
My new school teach subjects fairly discretely. I've not worked in this way for a long time so I am looking forward to experiencing it again. Therefore, rather than a 'topic/theme' display, I have chosen to give an area for each subject. Whereas the Vocabulary board is dedicated to important language, posters and reminders, this board is solely for children's work and successes. Photos of PE, annotated maps or creative timelines, reports and fact-files; this board will become a scrapbook of each term's learning completed by the students.
And there you have it! My 2015/16 classroom! I'd love to hear what you think, any suggestions for additions and ideas for next year! Our classrooms are where we spend most of our teaching lives, so take pride in them and make them yours; the children will appreciate your efforts!