Subject Specific (33)
For the past 5/6 years, my school has been using Big Writing in literacy to provide a focused time for children to write. As time has passed we have moulded our approach to include other useful aspects of literacy. We now tend to use our Big Writing session as a final piece to a particular text type focus, unless it is an assessed piece and has to be a standalone lesson. Often we use a Big Writing lesson at the start of a text type to assess what the children already know or can remember from previous years. This is a great way of informing future planning. For example, if you were covering 'Instructions' and few children used imperative verbs, this would inform you to focus on this in your planning.
After a year or so of using Big Writing, I started to think about the whole writing process. It was advised that during the next Big Writing session children should be given time to read back on their work, look at the comments and, as a class, decide on some “goal scorers.” This is a good way of revising, but I felt it wasn't enough; also, if it was a whole week or two later, the activity is long forgotten by the children. I am sure if you ask any author they will always say that the revising and editing part of writing is possibly the most important. But how can we teach this and instil a reflective approach in children? Timed writing sessions don’t provide this quality time to reflect on your writing. It led me to make a resource which I have found invaluable ever since.
Almost everyone who studied maths at school will at some point have bumped into BIDMAS or its twin, BODMAS.
BIDMAS stands for Brackets, Indices (powers), Division and Multiplication, Addition and Subtraction. BODMAS is identical, except “indices” are called “Order”. Both acronyms tell us the same thing: the order in which to tackle the operators in an equation.
For example, in the sum 1 + 22 - (3 + 2) x 4, we must first evaluate the contents of the brackets. Indices (powers) would be next, then division and multiplication, then finally addition and subtraction.
This order of precedence is crucial in all arithmetic. To do things in a different order (to start solving the above sum by doing 1 + 2, for example) would often lead to a different and incorrect answer.
1. Comic life - creating conversations as a comic.
I remember being taught French at high school, and the first thing everybody had to do was a simple conversation with a partner. This is my third year teaching Spanish to Year 6, and I have always started with that same topic. To freshen up this tried and tested formula, though, I have the children create comic strips of their conversation. Most children use pictures of themselves (using the iPad's camera) Whilst others will copy pictures from the internet, or even use images from their photo library of other family members, friends or even pets to create a 'Que tal' conversation.
Sample questions from the Government's new “back to basics” grammar, spelling and punctuation test for 11-year-olds were released this week.
Here are three superb literacy-related resources for all teachers - whether they're looking for a way to improve pupils' punctuation, a refresher course on comma conventions, or some intriguing information about where grammar came from and why it matters.
1. "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips" website
Mignon Forgarty, otherwise known as Grammar Girl, maintains and writes for this site, which contains tips and guidance about writing. She and other contributors frequently (though, as literacy buffs will note, not always regularly) post articles about common grammatical errors, usage, style, idiom, word choice, etc. Though most posts are written by Americans, the website generally mentions British English alternatives when necessary. The site's archive is particularly useful for those who are uncertain about a convention, and for anyone with a general enthusiasm for writing accurately and effectively.
In part 2 of The Lost Art of Listening, we started to look at how we can analyse music through the process of identifying our initial impulses and reactions to it and then begin to think about the building blocks that go to produce these.
To briefly recap, we quickly and uncritically wrote down a list of qualitative words in response to hearing a piece of music. We then thought, in non-technical terms, about what produced these impressions and sought to label each of our responses according to the 5 fundamentals of: Timbre, Volume, Pitch, Texture and Time.
Today I went on my first geocaching experience. For those that don’t know, a geocache is a container that is hidden somewhere in the world. It has coordinates assigned to it and then using these coordinates (or an app) people go and look for the boxes. Inside the box could be a number of things, but usually there is a notepad to sign to show you found it.
Why did we do it? I’ll come back to this later.
We started with getting an app. I used the official geocaching.com app called Groundspeak. This is £6 which in app-world, makes it very expensive, but consider the fact that I was out and about using it for two hours today and it only cost me £6. Plus I get to use it over and over again. It is well worth it in my opinion.
Understanding how to use the internet has become a cornerstone issue for students. No longer do they complete their research on projects solely in the library. Now, there is a vast landscape of resources available on the internet.
But with wealth comes responsibility. As soon as children begin to visit the online world, they need the knowledge to do that safely, securely, and responsibly.
Here's a list of 55 links for teaching and learning digital citizenship.
This year, all the pupils in year 6 are using their own iPod in lessons, and they all have their own blog space as part of our class blog. In order to make the most of this technology and potential audience, we have introduced several new features to the way we teach. One of these developments is the introduction of a weekly “Guest Marker” project, where their blog is used to share written work with people from varied and specialist backgrounds who have agreed to provide feedback for the pupils. This is based on an idea discussed in Jim Smith’s excellent Lazy Teacher’s Handbook.
The idea of teaching persuasive writing using the App Store was designed to be part of the Guest Marker Project - and the “guest” who had kindly agreed to mark the work was Katie Hart, Head of External Sales at 2Simple Software.
Using Apple TV and an iPad, the App Store was mirrored onto the interactive whiteboard. A screenshot of FIFA 2013 and The Room was opened in Skitch. The pupils were asked to highlight and identify language features of persuasive advertisements as the iPad was passed around the children, who then used the 'highlight tool' in Skitch to identify persuasive words, phrases and rhetorical questions.
One of the remarkable things about laughter is that it occurs unconsciously. You don’t decide to do it. While we can consciously inhibit it, we don’t consciously produce laughter. That’s why it’s very hard to laugh on command or to fake laughter.
Local history is a bit like this in that students acquire local historical knowledge unconsciously, but we find that use of this knowledge is inhibited by its unconscious acquisition; it is not ‘learned’, thus, it seems, students regard it to be of much lesser value than knowledge acquired more formally. On the other hand, I have found many students to be insular, most would find it difficult to place people and events in their correct historical context, as they did not have sufficient knowledge of the world beyond their local area. With a keen interest myself in local history, I found this enabled me to build strong relationships with students, as I was taking an interest in them and the places they were familiar with.
This article aims, therefore, to overcome students' usual inhibitions, and help them to use their local knowledge to drive forward their historical understanding, to expand their knowledge and horizons.
In a MacTaggart lecture full of sound advice - reduce regulation, listen to the Victorians, ignore Alan Sugar - perhaps the most important suggestion made by Eric Schmidt was that computer science be taught properly in schools.
This means, as the Google Chairman pointed out, teaching children how to make computer programs rather than merely how to use them.
But in an era when GCSE marks are awarded for linking a picture of a football to the word “le football”, can pupils really cope with the protean rigours of computer programming?
Of course they can. Today’s children grow up surrounded by software. They enjoy using it so much that they are largely self-taught. They eagerly upgrade to the latest mobile phone, even if this means learning to use an entirely new operation system. Such enthusiasm and confidence are the perfect foundations on which to learn to program.
I've heard of QR codes and have seen them used in mobile advertising. I've even heard of some really good ideas on how to use them in class, including a QR code scavenger hunt. Our school is 1:1 with iPads in grades 9-12, and I've been pondering for a while on how I could use QR codes in my own classroom.
As we approached Ch. 6 & 7 of Huckleberry Finn, an idea struck me. In those chapters, Huck stages a crime scene to make it look like how he was murdered. Brilliant, I know. But most students don't see his genius behind this. So I decided to do a QR code crime scene prior to reading these two chapters.
Many teachers jump straight into teaching students code. They log on, load up the interface and start typing out lines of code. Those students, who can copy from the board, do so and are successful. For those students who can’t or who miss a part of the code, then the program fails and some students are just turned off, straight away. The key to enabling students to learn to code is getting them interested and teaching them to think about what they want the program to do before they start coding.
When first introducing programming, it is useful to get students to notate on paper how to direct a student around the tables in a classroom. It is good fun and gets the students thinking about the commands they need to create and when to use them. More able students can be stretched by allowing them only ten instructions or only the use of a whistle. A remote control car is great for lower ability students to develop the concept of control and getting them to plan what turns they will need to make and in which order, to direct the car accurately around a course.