Aim 4: Challenge Zone tracking via a stamp

When work is complete my pupils take themselves off to the challenge zone. Last year I would see them working away ‘in the zone’ and smile, but I didn’t track it. This year, I intend to do so by providing a stamp in the zone. They will stamp their book and say which activities they did. Why bother doing this? Because it will help me track those quick completers who may need more in depth work or less support/structure in their everyday assignments.

I use a custom made loyalty stamp which is very small. It will hang by a short chain from a cupboard handle in the challenge zone. The pupils will be trained to stamp their book when they enter ‘the zone’.

Aim 3: Pupils track their own Learning Objectives

In my previous school, I ensured a Learning Objective sticker would be stuck on the top of each page. They were simple bullet points, in kid-speak, of what the kids were supposed to learn, as pertained to the curriculum. They weren’t something the kids particularly used and in some ways, limited the lesson because there was no ‘discovery’ – the kids new exactly what they would be learning from the get-go. It also meant that time was spent at the start of the lesson getting these stuck into the books. The advantage was the kids easily knew what that page covered when revising.

During a recent book trawl, I noticed it wasn’t always clear what my pupils had learned, especially when it was a skill such as identifying an independent variable. Therefore, I’m bringing LO stickers back out again but with a small difference. To make them more valuable to the pupils (and me), I’m going to include an unfilled bullet point next to each statement. The pupils can then colour code the LO to say if they met, exceeded or didn’t meet the LO in their opinion. I may add another bullet point to add whether I think they have met the LO too. I think a traffic light colour scheme for colour coding would be best, although this has the drawback that I will also have to tote around a red, orange and green pen. (Why doesn’t anyone sell a Bic-style ‘traffic light’ pen?)

Here is a draft layout of the ‘sticker’:Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 17.52.50

The alternative version which wouldn’t require a red, orange and green pen/pencil:Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 18.04.02

I like that option 2 needs no specific coloured pens/pencils and also includes the title (saves the kids from having to write it). The only problem is ensuring the correct circle is selected for red, orange or green. This could be overcome with a colour poster above the whiteboard and a bit of training. The other downside of option 2 is it’s also not as quick to look at when quickly reviewing the books for reports. I could always get the kids to quickly go over their (and my) selections with appropriately coloured highlighters when doing revision though.

Therefore, I am going with option 2. Let’s see how long this lasts shall we?

Love, cuddles & death stares,

TSTN signature

Aim 1: Tracking What is Achieved in Individual Lessons

In my new teaching year resolutions I spoke of my aim to better track what is achieved in each lesson. I need to do this because I teach the same lesson to 3 classes; often back to back. This is fantastic for planning but not so great when one class has a 70 minute lesson and another a 50 minute lesson. I often struggle to recall what an individual class has achieved from lesson to lesson.

Now, instead of constantly asking 'have we done this?', I'm going to start tracking myself. Of course, I could grab a planner and scribble on it, but that isn't how I plan. Therefore, my attendance, homework monitoring, behaviour monitoring, class achievements and completed tasks are going to be in a simple class book. That's right. I'm going to have a class book exactly like the pupils in my class (except with a few more details).

As I often end up demoing what I want the class notes to look like and often write in correct answers on worksheets when we peer mark – what is the harm in actually making my own book for each class?

I hope this will eliminate the sadly common occurrence of:

lesson 1: ask pupil to write date and title, get started on practical but write nothing down.

lesson 2: pupil leaves prior page (lesson 1) completely blank and writes date and title again, on a fresh page, when asked to write their experiment up.

What a waste of paper! Hopefully if they can see me modelling how their book should look I can save some more trees!

Love, cuddles & death stares,

2017-2018 New Teaching Year Resolutions

Since getting back on the 'blogging horse' I have written about how this blog is useful to me (even if no-one reads it) and I've reviewed the 2016-17 academic year. Now is the time to repeat the cycle and set forth my new resolutions.

The future academic year holds quite a bit for me; ownership of our Green Committee and a new team member to train, not to mention the enormous task of putting together a Theme Day.

I will still be making some New Teaching Year Resolutions though too! Here we go:

  1. Keep a track of what each of my classes achieve in a lesson.
  2. Alter my lesson planning format.
  3. Ensure pupils can track their success with lesson objectives in a quick, visible method.
  4. Find a way to track Challenge Zone participation.

Hmmmm… it would seem the theme of 2017-18 is… tracking!

2016-17 Reviewing Last Years Resolutions

A year ago I started this blog with an aim to improve my reflective teaching practice. I set myself some aims, explained how I was going to complete them and shared them with the world to give myself some accountability.

Here’s the question: Did I manage do upkeep all of my new teaching year resolutions?

Continue reading “2016-17 Reviewing Last Years Resolutions”

Aim 2: Alter My Planning Methods

I have used the iDoceo app for about 5 years now. It was an incredible tool in my previous school where I was doing something completely novel with each class that crossed my path.

However, times have changed. I now find myself in the envious position of repeating 6 lessons 3 times in a week. Yes, that’s right, I only have to plan a grand total of 6 lessons each week and simply tweak them to meet my learners needs or time constraints.

I actually have time to plan a beautiful lesson! With complete resources! Which will be used time and time again! My days of using iDoceo to scribble down ideas which didn’t need custom resources are over. Hooray! (Did I cram enough exclamation points in there?)

So what have I done instead? I’ve gone back to the Stone Age of course! I have an A3 paper calendar with my classes on. I scribble on the lesson name and note any calendar clashes (for example sports day, swimming galas etc). My actual lesson plans are part of my Keynote/Powerpoint presentation, stored in the presenter notes section. My lessons, for some time now, have been ordered 1a, 1b, 2a, 3a, 3b, 4a etc. Each lesson has it’s own number. Then all the resources linked to it are given a letter with the main keynote/Powerpoint having the ‘a’ designation. This makes it so easy to find resources and without the need for endless amounts of folders within folders.

I have trialled this calendar for a month. There are certainly some issues – the need for tippex is the main one! I also don’t have quite enough space to write some details on. I think that is because I’m tempted to write more on the calendar than I need to. I must remember the details of the starters, plenaries etc are on my MacBook.

Maybe I could look into using a digital calendar? Perhaps a thought for next year!

Love, cuddles and death stares,

TSTN signature

A year in review…

After not logging onto my site, let alone posting anything, for months now, I wonder if setting up this blog has been worth it.

TSTN

The answer is, yes. Those initial blogs, written in the summer when I had loads of energy and enthusiasm, did indeed set the tone for the year. I put in place some practices which I am proud of and will use again next year. Other things were less successful… but surely that is the point of CPD? Constantly pushing yourself and being unafraid to experiment with something new?

I have, however, failed to update this blog regularly. There were two main reasons for this. Firstly, it became onerous. These weren’t my private notes. They were articles, each written and edited with the appropriate pictures, pinterest worthy pins and links. Just remembering to take photographs was too much effort, let alone editing them! For any full time teacher this is far too much work on top of our usual workload.

Secondly, I was afraid to be judged by my colleagues and found lacking. In my head, the expectation was that every teacher knows how to write a snappy article with an easy to follow ‘voice’. My writing is, quite simply, not like that.

I also feared backlash should this blog be linked to the real me, in my real job. What would my head say if she knew I ‘accidentally’ misplaced some homework sheets when my mountain of marking became too much? It was too much risk.

So I’m going to allow this blog to become itself. To truly become a teaching diary of successes and failures. And failures there will be a plenty! Should my Head Teacher get wind of it – well, I won’t be mentioning my school by name so I’m hoping by not pulling the school into disrepute I’ll get away with it. Let’s see how that pans out shall we?

Love, cuddles & death stares,

TSTN

Teacher Hack 2

I learned this from an experienced teacher well over a decade ago and I still do this EVERY year. 

By using a small amount of electrical tape (or these days washi tape) on the spine of kids books you can dramatically cut down time spend looking for missing books.

I simply skim the pile and can instantly pull out any books from a different teacher or another of my classes. 

 I designated one colour per class many years ago and still use the same code today. I’m a little OCD and the tape colour also matches their book bin colour and the classes designated colour in my planner… but that’s a separate post in itself!

Love, cuddles & death stares,

TSTN

Interactive Display: Units

My classroom is accessed via a long narrow corridor which opens up onto the stairs. Therefore, I have lots of display space outside of my classroom. One of my boards is one of the most seen boards in the school because it is next to one of the main doors. Baring that in mind, I wanted this board to be relevant to all, science related and a fun (or as fun as possible!) learning opportunity to boot. 

So I dreamed up this creation: the interactive units display. 

The main focus of this display is a set of 12 laminated questions on individual ‘flaps’. Lift the flap and the answer is revealed underneath. I laminated these prior to folding which makes them designed to automatically pop open – a circular number *just* holds the flap in place. The overall effect is quite 3D which I really like because the flaps seem to invite you to have a peek underneath. 

I also included a score board and attached pencil so those who have ‘had a go’ can jot down their score proudly. 


The real heart warming moment came when I saw people using it. You see, I didn’t tell anyone that it was an interactive board. It wasn’t promoted in any way. Yet, here we are, a week after its conception and there are 5 members of staff (!!) and 22 kids across 7 different classes who have listed their scores on the board. 

The REALLY fantastic thing about all this? Not everyone got 12/12 but they were proud of their scores and wrote them up anyway. No fear of judgement. To me, this just shows what a fantastic set of growth mindset kids we have. I hope they will have another go soon and show they can improve their score. 

Now I’m brainstorming other ways to make an interactive display! Ideas anyone?

Love, cuddles & death stares,

TSTN

Practical Assessment: Circuit Building

I love this set of lessons. They are fun for me (now I have mastered the classroom management of it) and instill a confidence boost to the kids early in the year, whilst also ticking lots of management boxes. 

It goes like this:

At the start of their electricity unit, I like to find out what level of prior knowledge my year 6 group have. They were previously taught this topic in year 4 but much of that information whittles away because it is not something an average  9/10 year old comes across in their everyday lives. 
I start by asking them to draw a circuit at the start of their very first lesson. They tend to look at me like I’m crazy. I can actually see their panicked thoughts, ‘You haven’t taught us anything yet!’, ‘I don’t want the first thing in my book to be wrong!’ and ‘What’s a circuit?’ all flash through their eyes. Yet, they persevere, take on the challenge and draw something. I then tell them no one got it correct. Firstly, because they didn’t and secondly, so they all know they are in the same boat. We then celebrate the fact that their book WILL show progress and learning the next time they tackle that task. 

Here are some of the fruits of their 4 minute (timed) labour. 


During the next lesson, I break out the surprise circuit building assessment. (Cue the groans and moans). 

 There is skill in how you handle this task to make sure the rest of the class don’t riot while you assess 4 pupils at a time. 

1. Give everyone their electrical safety comprehension sheet which they will do, independently, while others are tested. 

2. Go through the answers (verbally) to electrical safety comprehension very quickly. 

3. Ban anyone from asking questions during the assessments. This is VERY important or you will be mobbed by questions whilst trying to assess the kids and ensure that one kid is not doing something they shouldn’t at the back of the room. 

4. Give the whole class the practical assessment sheet and ask them to write on their chosen level; easy, medium or hard in ballpoint pen. They are not allowed to change this.  I have this rule to prevent the first wave of kids who are assessed from saying, ‘Don’t do hard! It’s sooooo hard!’ and causing others to self doubt. 

5. Turn on the chill out music and/or digital noise meter. I prefer the chill out music as I find they get more work done,  and stay calm(er) under pressure. 

6. Set up 4 stations, each with a basket of components. Make sure dividers separate the stations so no cheating can occur. I set the desks up so the assess-ees have their backs to the rest of the class. Therefore, I can see the rest of the class while I make progress notes on the assessment and the kids building the circuits are not distracted. 


7. I choose my first 4 students, sit them down and set up their books so their practical assessment sheets face me.

This allows me to make notes on their progress while they build.  


8. I have 4 laminated copies of a task sheet which tells them which circuits to build. There are 3 different versions, hard, medium and easy. In truth, they are the same circuits but presented differently. I look at the level they chose in their books and pass them the appropriate task sheet each. No one else knows what level they chose. 

9. I start the timer for 3 minutes and 10 seconds. (I LOVE MY MEGA TIMER!). Ready, set… build!

10. When a circuit is built, I tick off the child’s sheet. If they ask for help or build incorrectly I make a note of it. 

11. After the time is up, each child reflects on how they did and how they could improve. 

12. We will reassess (in exactly the same way) in 4 weeks and see a dramatic improvement. 

I love this activity because:

  • I know exactly what level all the kids start at. A bit of prior knowledge assessment will never set a teacher wrong. 
  • Everyone has to get involved. With teaching girls I find some shy away from the practical side because they aren’t as confident as others in their group. They can’t do that here!
  • Kids, parents and SMT all love to see progress and self reflection. This is on the second page in their books and will scream progress when we reassess in 4 weeks. It’s a huge confidence boost for the kids to be reassured they have learned something. As it is at the front of their books they will see ‘I can improve and learn!’ whenever they open their books. 
  • Not all kids are great at written tests. The nature of this test allows those who may not always shine to do so. Another confidence boost right at the start of the year. 
  • Knowing that the re-assessment is coming up everyone is on task when it comes to any circuit building practical lessons. They all want to improve. This makes my follow up lessons a lot easier to manage. 

Love, cuddles & death states,

TSTN