Tuesday, 1 August 2017

@bbcTeaching Interview With @thatboycanteach

Ben at BBC Teaching (no, not THAT BBC) is interviewing a whole host of teachers this summer. Have a read of mine and then stick around to discover the stories of more inspiring teachers:

http://bbcteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/a-bbc-interview-with-that-boy-can-teach.html

Up next is Mr. Mystery himself 'That Boy Can Teach' or, as I like to call him, 'Batman'. I am one of the privileged few to have always known his secret identity, and was just about to sell him out to the papers when he removed his cloak of secrecy himself. Well, sort of.

Please introduce yourself, as vaguely as you like.


My real identity is out there and easy enough to find - I'll leave readers to sleuth that one out for themselves.

I've just completed my 11th year of teaching having done a 4 year teaching degree (with art) straight after 6th form. I've worked at three very different schools in the Bradford area - my current one is in a deprived city centre location where the majority of children have English as an additional language.

For the last 5 years I've taught in year 6 (in two schools) but have taught in all KS2 year groups (despite specialising in KS1 at uni).

I've been an assistant principal for the last three years leading the UKS2 phase and maths across the school. Next year I'll be leading LKS2 and mentoring NQTs and SCITT students and continuing with Maths for three days a week - the other two days I'll be working as Primary Lead Practitioner with the other primaries in our MAT on various projects.


What made you become a teacher?

http://bbcteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/a-bbc-interview-with-that-boy-can-teach.html

From the @TES Blog: 10 Tips For Successfully Leading a Subject

https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/10-tips-successfully-leading-a-subject

So you've been given a subject to lead. But where do you start? And how do you get everyone interested enough to teach your subject effectively in an already overcrowded primary timetable?

If you are leading on a non-core subject, the challenges can be particularly difficult to overcome. But by following these 10 steps, you will be better placed to make your subject shine.

https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/10-tips-successfully-leading-a-subject

Monday, 31 July 2017

Songs of Summer: Teacher Wellbeing in the Holidays

The clichés of summer are all about us now: the skies are the bluest of blue, greenery explodes in a million hues, warmth hangs in the air lethargically and I even heard some seagulls this morning, despite my school's city centre location. 

Summer and music go together for me and plenty of songs feature on my summer playlist, but for the purposes of this, my final blogpost of this academic year, I've gone for some of the most obvious - the ones that really make sure you know they're about summer.

Ray Charles said "Music is powerful. As people listen to it, they can be affected. They respond." Here's how I plan to respond to some of my favourite summer tracks:

"...Summertime, time to sit back and unwind..."

The idea that teachers might be tightly wound by the end of a school year isn't a far-fetched one. The stress (not necessarily a bad thing) of the job can often see us beginning holidays as a tensed up ball of emotion. I find the best way to relieve that is to wind down gradually - going from full-throttle working to 100% relaxing is not the way for me. I prefer to spend some time in reflection (perhaps expect more blog posts in this vein), sorting through all my thoughts and feelings about the year just gone.

Confucius said 'By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.' Forget lesson planning and classroom decorating - the real preparation for next year comes by reflecting on the year just gone.

I also enjoy doing jobs around the house that I've not had time to do during term time - this way I get to be productive without it being work-related

"...Lazing on a sunny afternoon, in the summertime..."

Well, the Fresh Prince already mentioned sitting back, and here we have that summer ideal: lazing around, ideally in great weather. And for me, there has to be some time to be lazy - my perception of what that means has changed over the years, particularly since children have been on the scene, but having time with no plans whatsoever are key to my wellbeing in holiday times. Having some time where there are no commitments hanging over me really helps me to clear my mind.


"...I'm staying out for the summer..."

Of course, summer is all about doing all the things you can't normally do - whatever that may be. There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to wellbeing - get out there and do what you want to do. Last summer I rediscovered rollerblading and actually managed to continue doing it during term time; if you get out there and do this summer, it might just become a habit that you make time for once you're back at work.

"...Summertime, and the livin' is easy..."
It has been said that life is all about relationships; certainly for me that is true. And what better time to invest in relationships that matter than when you have 5 or 6 weeks free to do so? It's not even yet my holidays but this weekend I've been to dinner with my sister and brother-in-law, had my parents round for brunch, had a friend for lunch, met up with our NCT friends for a child's birthday and been to some friends' for a BBQ. I've also spent some lovely time with my daughters, including making thank you cards for their teachers. If living is about relationships, and living is easy in the summer, then summer is a good time to make relationships easier, simply because there is more time, lack of which is the number one barrier to conducting relationships. 
Of course, even I couldn't maintain the level of social interactions I've had this weekend. I have to be careful about how much I do with others - there has to be a balance! However, without any time spent on relationships my wellbeing surely would suffer!
I wish you all a very good, and I'm sure well-deserved, break. I'm planning to be a little more scarce on Twitter although I'm sure I'll pop up occasionally to catch up and I've got a few blog posts in the pipeline too.
I'd love to hear what your summer songs are and how they help you to make the right choices during the holidays! One final one to finish with:
"...Summer breeze, makes me feel fine..."

To My Excellent Year Five Teachers

To my excellent year five teachers,

Thank you so much for all your hard work this year - that sounds like such a standard, stock phrase but I really couldn't mean it more.

I couldn't have asked for a better year 5 team - you have been the perfect combination of high standards and nurture and as a result the children have been transformed under your care. You don't really need me to tell you of the amazing changes that have taken place, but by way of celebration I will:

In terms of behaviour, the group of children you've taught this year is unrecognisable. I always believed that together you would make a difference very quickly and you really did - but just because it happened so rapidly that doesn't mean we shouldn't be celebrating it now. I know that the management of their behaviour has been an ongoing task but since you make it look so easy, it can often go unnoticed!

Because of the much-improved conduct the attitude towards learning has sky-rocketed. You both have classes who are so dedicated to learning, who really care about their education. You have modelled to the cohort how important their time in the classroom is and ensured that it has been time well-spent. They are now characterised by being one of the hardest-working cohorts in the school.

As a result, the progress those children have made this year has been so pleasing to see. From very low starting points you have really worked with precision to make sure that individual needs are addressed and worked on. With diligence you have prioritised the education of each child, giving those children the best possible launchpad to their final year with us.

As a result of that grounding, I am confident that these children will write the next chapter in our success story when, next year, results day rolls around. But, as we are all very aware, although it might not always feel like it, it is not all about results, and actually, because of your teaching ('teaching' sounds very crude, because you've done so much more than just teach) these children are well-rounded human beings who appreciate life in so many ways. You have allowed them to be themselves, but have helped and encouraged them to be better versions of themselves.

As for you being members of my team, I couldn't be more grateful. It was one of my main aims this year to lead a team who were a real team - and we have been just that, and that is down to your commitment to our school, our children and your colleagues. It's not going to be easy to leave such a dedicated group of people, but I know that I'm leaving you together and that team spirit won't die with my leaving - I feel very confident of that.

In the summer I wrote a letter to myself which I only re-read lately; in the letter I wrote, aspirationally, that this year would be a year that I would always be proud of, and it has been - it's been a year we should all be proud of. We have achieved so much, but because we are always aiming higher, we don't always just stop to take stock of what we've accomplished. I hope this summer, and perhaps prompted by this letter, you will take time to reflect and congratulate yourselves on all the successes of this year.

Thank you, once again, although I know you don't do it for the accolades - you do it because you care for the children.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Book Review: 'Making Every Primary Lesson Count' by Jo Payne & Mel Scott

To write a book about effective classroom practice without once mentioning Ofsted, national testing or the Department for Education is no mean feat, and this book should be celebrated for that alone. After all, the goalposts imposed on us change so often, but good teaching will always be good teaching.

But, Making Every Primary Lesson Count deserves to be recognised for more than just that. This is a no-frills, plainly-written book (and I mean that VERY positively) containing what I'd call sensible advice about how to make the most of those few hours in a day when children are supposed to be engaged in learning.

As an experienced teacher I found myself nodding along - I recognised that much of the content reflected the way I have learnt to teach over the years, often in spite of the way I've been told to teach. I also made plenty of notes - this old dog is always willing to learn new tricks, and  as Jo and Mel share examples from their own practice, and that of others they've known, there is plenty for even the longest-toothed teacher to glean.

Next year, I'll be mentoring three NQTs and two SCITT trainees - I certainly read this with them in mind. In fact, the book is being delivered straight into the hands of one of those NQTs who will also be working in my team next year. I wish I'd had this as an NQT - I might not have had to spend 10 years trying to get my approach right if I had!

The book is just the right mix of summary of evidence from research, comment on what works from experience, and solid, tried-and-tested, practical ideas to use in the classroom - the sort you could take away and try the next day without any difficulty. It comes across as academic but accessible, which for the majority of the workforce, is absolutely perfectly pitched.

Making Every Primary Lesson Count has something for new and old teachers alike and is worthy of a place in your CPD library, whether that's your personal one, or your school's. This easy-read would not be a bad volume to spend the summer holidays reading - one chapter per week and come September you'd be ready to spin those plates once more, giving you the best shot at making the most of the children's time with you.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Can That Boy Teach?

It was my first year in post as assistant head. In reality I was a full time year 6 class teacher. The headteacher (well known in the area, if you catch my meaning) from the school next door (yes, we share a boundary wall with a three-form entry primary - we're two-form) observed me teaching (for whatever reason - local partnership review day or something). The lesson didn't set the world alight (I remember it being graded as 'Good' back when we did that sort of thing) but, as reported to me by the headteacher, as he closed my classroom door he uttered the words 'That Boy Can Teach'.

I suppose I can. It'd be a travesty if I'd got the position I'm in now without that being the case.

And what position am I in now? Well, I'm finishing my third year of being an assistant head (actually, now an assistant (vice) principal) with responsibilities for upper key stage two and whole school maths and year 6 teacher, but there are changes afoot. In September I'll be leading the year 3 and 4 phase, mentoring three NQTs and two Schools Direct students and leading a maths team. I'll also be working two days for the MAT that my school is part of - I'll be Lead Primary Practitioner working on various projects in three other primaries as well as working on the NQT, RQT and middle leaders programmes (and probably another, currently secret, aspect of the academy's work).

But I won't be teaching. Or at least, I won't have a regular teaching commitment.

My teaching commitment (roughly 70% timetable these last two years) has been my bread and butter - the thing which has garnered me respect and credibility; my team know that if I'm asking them to do something, then I'll be doing it too. Because I've been teaching, I've been able to represent the voice of the classroom teacher in SLT meetings - I was the one truly 'on the ground' so I knew the impact on teacher's lives of our requirements. It's also given me plenty of tweet and blog fodder.

And classroom teaching, day in, day out, is what has kept me going - I know this now I've stopped. I absolutely love it - you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone; absence makes the heart grow fonder. I savour the feeling of having achieved many things, all in the space of one morning. I thrive on the challenge of trying to teach children things, especially the process of creating and implementing more effective ways of teaching. I have, quite simply, enjoyed my 11 years as a teacher. And I'll miss it a lot.

So, can I teach? Or will I teach? Will I be able to somehow teach as part of my new roles? I hope so. I'll be looking for every opportunity to get in those classrooms to work with the children where the magic happens. I anticipate team teaching with my NQTs, teaching model lessons for my students, covering my team members to allow them to carry out other tasks. I'll no doubt want to do some interventions and definitely some 1:1s (so effective for improving writing I've found). Whilst none of that will compare to having my own class (oh, how sweet it felt as an NQT to finally have my own class instead of teaching someone else's) I am hoping that it will satisfy the need to teach children.

I've been told by a couple of wise heads now that my class will be the teams I work with. I've also been warned of the 'slow' nature of non-teaching work - how you have to adjust to working with longer term goals. I hope that I will manage these changes, as well as others that I'm sure I've not even thought of yet. And if it doesn't suit me, I'm sure there will be a classroom somewhere that'll have me back. But I hope to make a good go of my new roles, even if it means my Twitter/blog name might seem a bit irrelevant.

I'd love to hear from you if this transition from classroom teacher to non-classroom 'teacher' is something you've managed effectively. Please get in touch via the comments or on Twitter with your wise and wisdomous advice.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Changing The Teaching of Reading: Did It Work?


Disclaimer: Although this blog post is all about SATs data, it's not what I'm all about, nor has it been our singular focus this year. This blog post merely serves to analyse test data, however flawed it is turning out to be, in the spirit of transparency.

Regular readers will know I've blogged quite a lot about reading over the last year (slight understatement). I've developed ways of teaching reading (based on research, not just whim) which I've shared with others, and which others have used in their own classrooms. I've been eager to share my approaches because I've been excited about them, but there was always a question in the back of my mind: "What if they don't work?"

So, as results day approached, I was worried for more than just one reason: I hoped I had not let my own school down, and I hoped as well that I hadn't sent those who'd tried some of my ideas down the wrong path.

And because I've shouted loudly about how we've tackled our approach to teaching reading, particularly in year 6, it's only really right that I share something of our results with my readers.

I feel that first off I must signpost an excellent blog post by Mr. Jennings: 29% to 92%, a reading journey! The blog is an in-depth exploration of everything his school did to make a supremely impressive jump in their percentage of children reaching the 100 scaled score in the 2017 key stage 2 reading test. I feel honoured to have been mentioned in the blog post as part of Mr. Jennings' journey, but I now hail him as my new hero! What an achievement! I shall be learning from all the amazing work he has done this year.

Attainment

Well, we didn't quite get a 63 percentage point increase in our reading results - ours was a much more modest 21 percentage point increase, meaning that roughly half of our 60-strong cohort reached the magic 100 mark.

I was pleased with the increase - I've been told that a school working very hard to improve something can expect a 10 percentage point increase in results on average.

However, I was hoping that we would get 60% of children reaching the pass mark. Looking into the data, I found there were a number of children who were between 1 and 4 marks off getting 26 marks - these children would have brought the percentage of children reaching the 100 scaled score to my desired 60%. (I am hoping to have 3 of these children's scripts remarked.)

Progress

So, whilst our attainment was low, it wasn't a surprise. Our school's history and context (in short: Inadequate Ofsted December 2013 leading to academy conversion January 2015, 94% EAL, 37% disadvantage) means that our children haven't consistently had good teaching.

A review of historical data shows that only 22.2% of this cohort made average or above average progress during their time in lower key stage 2, and, as a result, only 5.6% of them were working at age related expectations in reading at the end of year 4. This figure was 26% (at ARE) by the end of year 5.

Our online tracking system (SPTO) takes a CTF file from the NCA Tools website and assigns points to the different scaled scores. Using this data, this 94.8% of this cohort have shown to have made average or above progress. In fact, 91.4% made accelerated progress. Looking at progress from official key stage 1 data shows that only 10% of children didn't make expected progress - at the beginning of the year that figure was 43% not making expected progress across the key stage.

So, even though our attainment results don't yet reflect the progress being made due to low starting points, there is considerable reason to believe that the approaches we took in the teaching of reading have had a positive impact on the children.

Test to Test

One or two of you may remember that I reported that before Christmas almost 50% of the cohort achieved the pass mark on the 2016 reading test. This is something that has caused me quite a bit of consternation: did no progress occur between December and May, given that the same percentage of children passed in May as in the December?

So, I spent some time looking into the data. Thankfully, I'd kept the scores from when the children tried the 2016 test as we wanted to see if taking the 2016 test was a good indicator of how well children would do on the actual test so that we could rely on using it as a practice paper in the future.

Positively, I discovered that:

  • two extra children 'passed' in May who hadn't passed in December (one child who had 'passed' in December didn't 'pass' in May).
  • of the aforementioned children who had scaled scores of 97, 98 or 99, all of them got significantly more marks (between 6 and 12) than on the 2016 test and all but one of them (the one who 'passed' in December but not May) got a higher scaled score, for example one child moved from a scaled score of 90 to 97.
  • most of our lowest attaining children, and our SEND children, made the most progress between the two tests: some of the most vulnerable children getting a double digit increase in both their scaled score and number of marks gained.
  • overall, children had made progress, some very impressive, from one test to the next, even if this did not mean that they achieved the 100 scaled score.
Interestingly, I also found that a number of children who 'passed' both the tests achieved lower scaled scores in the 2017 test than in the 2016 test, with an average of a -2 points difference. For some children it appeared that the 2017 test, although easier, with its raised pass mark was actually harder to pass than the more difficult 2016 test with its low pass mark.

So, is the 2016 test a good indicator of how well a child might do in the 2017 test? Yes, although some children may get an equal, or lower, scaled score on the more recent test as it could be considered harder to pass.

And does the fact that our percentage of children passing both tests despite the extra teaching time in the middle mean that our approach to teaching reading didn't work? I believe not as most children made progress between the two tests, gaining both extra marks and higher scaled scores - this was particularly evident for lower attainers. 

However, it draws attention to a group of children who were scoring in the 90s on the 2016 test in December who would have benefited from some additionality - this is the challenge for next year: what does that intervention look like? What do those children need in order to be more consistent when answering comprehension questions? Are there other factors that meant these particular children struggled to reach the pass mark, despite showing progress?

I hope that this blog post has been read with interest and without judgement - I only seek to be transparent. I am fairly certain that I can conclude that what we have done in reading has been successful on the whole, and that like most new approaches, now just needs some adjustments and additions. However, I do share this hoping that I might gain insight from outsiders on how else I might interpret the data and make conclusions - for example, if it seems to you that my approach hasn't at all worked, I'd prefer to know that and not waste any more time on it!

A small request: I'd be interested if you would share with me, publicly or privately, the increase in percentage you have experienced between the 2016 and 2017 reading results (between last year's cohort and this year's).

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Going Deeper With Dahl


Recent research shows that many teachers have an over-dependency on Dahl. Indeed, his books are excellent so he is certainly a best-selling children's author, and one who everyone is aware of: it's no surprise that he continues to be well-loved and well-read. And whilst I would be the first to advocate promoting a wider range of authors and books, I don't think we should throw the baby out with the bath water.

We often read Dahl books with young children (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was the first 'proper' book I remember reading to myself at the age of 7) because the plot lines are easy to follow, the characters are wild and wacky and the stories are exciting and funny.

So, when reading with younger children, we can easily skip over the more horrific details and focus on the heart-warming stories and crazy words. But it is in these details that we have the opportunity to explore so much more: sadness, tolerance, difference, poverty, neglect, bullying, abuse, evil, animal cruelty, safety, unrequited love - all of these in his most-popular children's titles without touching his lesser-known books, or his publications for adults.

With this in mind, anyone who is familiar with Dahl would be able to mentally flick through their library of his books and identify how the stories could be used to help children understand the world and themselves a little better - especially with those trickier issues that we don't always know how to broach with children.

Five ways to go deeper with Dahl:

Family

I've always been fascinated with the fact that so many stories for children are about children with no parents (nearly all Disney films, for example). The Witches, James and the Giant Peach and The BFG all fall into this category. Why do story tellers do this? Do young readers fantasise about having adventures, and if so, do they get the impression they can only have them if parents are out of the picture? That would certainly be an interesting discussion to have with children. These books all provide great opportunities to discuss how many children all over the world are not brought up in a traditional family unit - an opportunity for our young people to empathise with others.

Abuse

Even where parents are present, as is the case in Matilda, relationships might not always be as they should be. Reading as an adult it is quite shocking how the Wormwoods treat their daughter, and indeed how the Trunchbull treats Miss Honey and the children in her school. Work here could go beyond the identification of good and bad characters to discuss right and wrong, looking at human rights for children and what is and isn't safe for children to be exposed to. Opportunities to study intertextuality are available here too: James' aunts’ treatment of him could be studied alongside.

Poverty

Poverty is a recurring theme too - most prevalent in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Dahl paints a bleak picture of Charlie's family's lack of means, and again, this can be used as a starter point to discuss how many people in the world, including in our own country, our own towns, are less fortunate than ourselves. Another opportunity to link texts lies here with the depiction of Miss Honey's simple lifestyle in Matilda. In both stories we actually see the nicest characters being the poorest - perhaps a good debate topic can be derived here: Is it better to be rich and unkind, or poor and kind? Or something along those lines to help children to assess what the most important things in life are.

Difference and Diversity

What Dahl book doesn't deal with difference in some shape or form? The BFG's a friendly, vegetarian giant in a world full of vicious, human-eating brutes, and when he's not in giant country he's still a giant, making him very different to the humans he meets. Willy Wonka is quite something else, as are his Oompa Loompas, not to mention how different each one of the children are. Matilda has special powers. Danny lives in a caravan and poaches pheasants. The bugs inside the peach are a very diverse bunch. It might seem contrived to use these characters to explore difference and diversity but actually, to children, these things matter, and make sense - in the context of these stories they will be able to explore ideas that they would find difficult to begin to understand from real-world examples.

Consequences of Choices

Finally, Dahl's books provide fertile ground for discussing choices and how consequences can affect us. Again, in the safe space of fiction children can discuss the negative effects of meddling with prescription drugs (George's Marvellous Medicine), the possible outcomes of contravening safety rules and not listening to adults (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) or the potential results of being unkind (The Twits). Whilst discussing the actual events of the books (which are quite ridiculous), it would be easy enough to open up more general discussions that relate more to real-life scenarios that children might encounter.

Next time you pick up a Dahl book, think twice before you pass over it and decide to use something else. Consider the themes mentioned above; even if you don't use the whole book (many children are familiar with the stories anyway), consider how you might link a Dahl novel to another story you are reading. And next time you read Roald Dahl remember that there are opportunities to go deep with the content - perhaps you'll find further ways to get children thinking and empathising as they read the magical and wonderful adventures of Dahl's colourful characters.

And if you're a Roald Dahl fan, look out for ReadingWise's free Roald Dahl pack in July. It includes extracts from The Witches and George’s Marvellous Medicine and will focus on teaching 12 ‘mini-skills’ comprehension strategies allowing the children to explore the extracts and make meaning – great for struggling readers. It also includes a SATs-style ‘challenge test’ for each extract. This will be followed by an available-to-buy pack including extracts from a further eight Roald Dahl stories.

http://readingwise.com/dahl

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

KS2 Tests 2017 Maths SATs Round-Up


https://www.thirdspacelearning.com/blog/2017/ks2-sats-results-2017-what-they-mean-what-they-ll-never-tell-you-what-to-do-next

I produced a quick response to the KS2 maths SATs results for the Third Space Learning blog.

In it I cover what to do once results are opened: support staff, conduct a marking review, report sensitively to parents and children, learn from the results and look for the positives in the results.

Monday, 3 July 2017

To My Brilliant Year Six Teachers

To my brilliant year six teachers,

Thank you and well done for all your incredibly hard work this year. I could not have asked for more commitment and dedication to the children of our school. They have received top-notch teaching and a highly-tailored curriculum this year - you have thought of each and every one, assessing their needs and then working on them meticulously to help them to make, in so many cases, very rapid progress.

You have had the highest of expectations for all the children in your care and have not let anyone get away with anything sub-standard. At the time, that might make you feel like an ogre, but, it is absolutely necessary in ensuring that the children have the best possible chance of present and future success.

It has been so encouraging to see how you have worked together, trying out new things and analysing their success. You have really made every effort to be excellent teachers - and it has paid off. Your self-reflectiveness and your desire to always better yourself has been an absolute gift, both to me as your leader and to the children.

And so, whatever the 2017 KS2 tests results say, I stand with you and support you. Should they be good, we will celebrate. Should they be disappointing, we will look for and celebrate the successes that are sure to be there. And we will optimistically plan for the future, resolutely seeking ways to better our practice from this year. 

Yes, I am now speaking about 'we' and not 'you' because, although your personal commitment is independently commendable, we are a team and we did this together. This is not a case of 'you', it is 'us' - that 'us' includes all the school's leaders and every other member of staff who has touched the lives of our outgoing year sixes. We did this together and we will stand together.

Thank you though for all the times you felt you were on your own, but you kept on going anyway - you truly do put the children at the centre of all you do.

When those results come in, think not of them as the only measure of each child's achievements, no matter how well they have done. They do not measure all the things that you have told me, and that I have seen, throughout the year: the small wins and the big successes. That child who was working on year two objectives who can now successfully demonstrate understanding of many year six objectives. That child who only started with us this year, having not been in school for a good while. That child who has discovered a love of reading, of writing, of maths, of history, of Shakespeare. That child who now speaks up in class. All those children who are raring to go to secondary school, confident that they are learners and that they will be successful as long as they hold high expectations for themselves. You did that. 

They might not thank you for it. But I do. And in years to come they will look back and remember all that you have done and they will wish that they had thanked you. 

But I know you don't do it for the thanks. You do it because you care. There is not enough thanks to cover that.

A vast understatement to finish, because anything attempting to sum it up would sound far too hyperbolic and platitudinous: this has been a great year and you should be proud of what you have achieved with the children.

This was re-blogged on the TES site: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/sats-year-6-teachers-results-day-there-arent-enough-words-say-thank

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Using 100% Sheets (AKA Knowledge Organisers) In Primary


What are 100% Sheets?

Well, you may have heard of them by another name: Knowledge Organisers.

There are plenty of great blogs out there about knowledge organisers (see the links at the end) so I am only adding my paltry information to more in-depth pieces available to you. However, what I hope to do is present a very simple account of how 100% Sheets can be used.

So, why the name '100% Sheet'? 

Because basically children have to learn everything on it by heart - 100% of the contents of the sheet need to be known by each child.

What does one look like?

They vary in appearance but the ones I have made and used involve images as well as text. See some examples here: https://padlet.com/jack_helen12/czfxn9ft6n8o

What's the point of them?
  • They help children learn the key facts - this is the main point of 100% Sheets.
  • They give teachers an outline for a unit
  • They guide lesson content
  • They provide teachers with simple ways to explain ideas
  • They can be used to inspire homework
  • They aid assessment (along with the accompanying 'quizzes')
How are they used?

Here's a simple sequence:
  1. Provide children with 100% Sheet before the holiday
  2. Set a homework project based on the 100% Sheet, this should include learning the information by heart
  3. After the holiday, use the exact same phrases, words and diagrams from the 100% Sheet in lessons
  4. Base lessons on the content of the 100% Sheet - the lesson is an opportunity for you to expand on the knowledge, teach linked skills, carry out investigations, and even do supporting creative activities
  5. Conduct regular ‘quizzes’ based on the tests – children retake the test until they get 100% right. The first quiz can be given fairly soon after the holiday - this will give you a baseline of who has been learning the information and who hasn't.
What should I consider when creating 100% Sheets?

Ask yourself:
  • What are the objectives I need to cover in this unit?
  • What basic facts do children need to know in order to achieve the objectives?
Think about including:
  • Explanations
  • Word meanings
  • Diagrams
Ensure that:
  • the layout is not confusing
  • the information is carefully written in child-friendly, but challenging, language (I use lots of different web-based resources to help with this, for example, BBC Bitesize)
  • the amount of information is realistic - remember, they have to learn it all!
Why quiz?

Low stakes testing aids retrieval and using of memorised facts, whereas revising from a 100% Sheet only aids the acquisition and storage of facts. This is referred to as the 'testing effect' and it helps to embed learning in the memory.

The practice of taking the quizzes, self-marking and self-correcting them provides more opportunities for children to revisit the information that they need to know.

What should I consider when creating the quizzes?
  • Include different question types:
    • Multiple choice
    • Fill the gap
    • Choose the word
    • Join the word to its definition
    • Complete the sentence
  • Each time a test is taken, change the order of the multiple choice answers, for example (so they can’t just learn that it’s the second option)
  • Have a question for every aspect of the 100% sheet
What are the benefits?

  • Children learn important information off by heart
  • Many children come to lessons knowing key vocabulary, key facts and even complete concepts leaving teachers with more time to explore ideas more deeply, or to teach more creatively - the 100% Sheet covers the curriculum requirements so the teacher has 'time and space in the school day and in each week, term and year to range beyond the national curriculum specifications.' and so teachers can 'develop exciting and stimulating lessons to promote the development of pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills as part of the wider school curriculum.'  (The National Curriculum, page 6)
  • If carefully created, teachers have a good reference document to use for planning, teaching and assessment
Other blog posts about Knowledge Organisers:

Monday, 26 June 2017

From the @TES Blog: Primary and Secondary Teachers Need Each Other — And We Need To Start Viewing Each Other In A More Positive Light

https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/primary-and-secondary-teachers-need-each-other-and-we-need-start

Transition time is fast approaching, and along with it the inevitable discussions about how we can make the move from primary to secondary school smoother for pupils.

Unfortunately, no amount of tutor visits or collaborative projects between key stage 2 and 3 teachers will really bridge the chasm that exists between these two stages.

Attempts to help children cross the threshold are important, and should be continued, but without a more joined-up approach in curriculum and assessment our efforts will never be able to ensure that the learning journey of each child is seamless. For that we need systemic change — something that may not be in our power to effect.

What we do have the power to change, though, is our view of each other.

Click here to read on

Friday, 23 June 2017

Relight My Fire: Advice For Teachers Who Need To Get Re-inspired

To be honest, I wasn't asking theoretically, or for a friend, when I tweeted this recently:


Thankfully, plenty of my Twitter friends had some great advice to share. As I'm sure loss of inspiration, a certain amount of boredom and sometimes even unfulfillment is a common experience amongst those who work in education, I thought I'd pool together the advice for future reference.

"Reflect, stay neutral and get curious. All of this helps come back to your WHY." - Jaz Ampaw-Farr @jazampawfarr (see the video she recorded inspired by my tweet: The Importance of Why)

"Remember WHY. Why is more important than what. Then go and look at the faces in front of you. See them older and happy. That's why." - IWilson‏ @linainiwos

Many find that inspiration comes from spending time with the children, and rightly so. As educators, the children are our 'why' so it stands to reason that in order to feel reinvigorated we should go to them:


"So much inspiration depends on the children. I think it must be harder to get mojo back if you're not in classroom. Take class and have fun!" - Janette de Voil‏ @Janetteww

"Go back to the basics. Spend time with the kids. Do the things you like to do with them. Find the positives." - Mister Unwin‏ @misterunwin

"Ignore adults for a while, have fun with the kids. Remember how enjoyable their company is, then teach them something (anything). Feels great!" - Kymberley‏ @open_door_teach

"Sit and talk to the children. Not just fleetingly but proper talk. They will inspire you." - Suzanna C‏ @sing0utsue

"Talk to children. Sit in the playground, watch, listen and then talk to them. Always inspires me to get on with it." - Simon Smith‏ @smithsmm

"If I’m having a dodgy time I always go and soak up the good vibes from the playground!" - Rebecca Stacey‏ @bekblayton

"Sit down and be in the moment with kids." - The Trainee Teacher‏ @TrainingToTeach

"Spend a day in reception - but... take your 'teacher head' off and just inhale the joy and energy and play, play, play." - Maeve‏ @MaeveBeg

"Being out of the class is tough so I go back into class; I also spend some time in Early Years! Watching and learning from others-inspiring!" - StJamesChurchPrim‏ @church_prim

"Work with children with special needs - always something to reflect on that will make you remember why!" - scatti1‏ @scatti1

Others advised doing something linked to the job that we know we will enjoy:


"Choose a topic to teach that YOU love not just one the kids will or that needs covering." - Emma‏ @HeyMissPrice

"Plan projects that excite you. A blog series, a club, a unit of work, a display. Anything that you can throw yourself into." - Sam Daunt‏ @samdaunt

But many respondents talked about other ways of feeling re-inspired. Whilst some identified Twitter as a means for regaining inspiration, others advised having a break from the potential overload that Twitter can generate:


"Twitter. And writing. And looking at old keepsakes from parents and children. And Twitter." Mr. Phillips‏ @Mr_P_Hillips

"Meeting other teachers, listening to inspirational workshops and even conversations on here [Twitter] have reignited my passion. I think you take it with a pinch of salt but reading blogs like yours and others and seeing #whatItaughttoday makes me miss classroom teaching." - Lisa C‏ @Elsie2110

"Take a Twitter break. It's good for you. I'm looking forward to turning my Twitter off over the summer. I put a special Twitter break avi up. What I find it does is it reinforces the physical IRL relationships I have. The other thing is the significant number of mood hoovers on the edu-Twittersphere. I am constantly inspired by my children and my partner." Mark Anderson‏ @ICTEvangelist (Mark went on to write a whole blog post about this idea: https://ictevangelist.com/have-a-break-have-a-twitter-break/)

Rebecca Stacey sums that contrast up well:

"Spend time in class with inspirational teachers. Read. Use Twitter wisely." - Rebecca Stacey‏ @bekblayton

Many teachers recommend stepping out of the comfort zone and trying something new:


"New challenge outside of your comfort zone." - Joe O'Reilly‏ @Edu_Wellbeing

"Take risks. Ignore the curriculum. Turn a drinking game into a classroom one. Think about experiences you want for your pupils first." Parky_teaches‏ @Parky_teaches

"Try to carve out enough time to study something new. Often gives a new frame of reference to defamiliarise what may feel stale. Self care. Varies from person to person. My recharging usually comes from new knowledge but there are are different roads." - Diane Leedham‏ @DiLeed

"Refocus your attention onto a new pedagogical idea or project to trial and then implement or roll out." - Steven Fox‏ @SteveFoxAST

"What worked for me was moving age groups, working with new people and a new HT who didn't micro-manage." - Just Teaching‏ @RunningToLearn

Sometimes, its not even a risk or a challenge that is needed, only a change:


"Change the way you do things. Just mix it up a bit." - Kat Schofield‏ @PearlOchreRose

"Swap year groups, move school, change subject lead, take a risk, take a student, visit other schools, go on residential... Be a grape not a raisin! Grapes are engorged, juicy, sweet - full of ideas. Raisins are dried up, shrivelled, hard. We start as grapes and if we are not careful we end up as raisins." - Kate Aspin‏ @etaknipsa

"Do something completely different in school, dump an afternoon you'd planned and do big art work, plan topic on the wall using marker pens then do something like that at home like let the kids choose everything for a day. Don't over think it." - Dorastar1‏ @Dorastar1

Many turn to books, conferences and personal learning to revitalise their teaching mojo:


"For me, continuous learning, being a student again, e.g. doing my MEd." - Dr Vincent Lien‏ @fratribus

"I found the #NAHTConf really got me re-fired up. As does #TMSussex & reading edu-books. I hear there's a new one out for primary teachers..." - Jo Payne‏ @MrsPTeach (Jo, alongside Mel Scott, has just had published her book 'Making Every Primary Lesson Count')

"I have been in a slump since January and going to a wellbeing conference the other day reinspired me. It was obviously the right content. But also the right time. Sometimes life can combine with school and make one or the other challenging. I think sometimes a slump ends when it ends but we can try to speed it up. It took me being surrounded by people and ideas."  - Mr Wiltshire‏ @secretsforabuck

"I've been listening to a lot of the TED talks on Youtube. Some are absolutely brilliant. Lots are not about teaching but still relevant!" - James Heeley‏ @lhpHeeley

"Attending inspiring courses/CPD, which fill you with ideas, that you just can't wait to try out in class!" - Mr Mclugash‏ @MrMclugash

"Twitter, Conferences and Teachmeets, reading books. Trawling the internet for ideas I can adapt. Talking to other Teachers." - The Hectic Teacher‏ @HecticTeacher

Then there's Nancy Gedge's (@nancygedge) suggestion: "Take a break." It might seem counter-intuitive to stop when we should be seeking to remotivate ourselves but it is very possible that an overload of work (including using Twitter, reading blogs and books and going to conferences) is what leads to a lack of inspiration. Some more ideas which expand on Nancy's straight-talking comment:


"Attempt to switch off from all the logistical stuff during holidays, but still spend time recharging the creativity and imagination. I don't honestly switch off in the holidays; I feel I 'switch back' to the reasons I wanted to do it in the first place." - Jonny Walker‏ @jonnywalker_edu

"Lots of the time it's less inspiration required and more feeling burned out. Making time for myself is key. That can be as simple as putting leave-in conditioner on my hair & watching Netflix all of Sunday, or going out with friends/family/boyfriend. Nice to recharge. If it's genuine lack of inspiration, talking to other teachers helps. At school or Twitter etc. Sharing ideas and triumphs is important." - Arithma-ticks‏ @Arithmaticks

"Can I respond with a rhetorical question: what fills your tank? Do more of that! Different for each of us. Tank not being filled = imbalance." - Anita Devi | FRSA‏ @Butterflycolour

"Spend time with those who inspire you and motivate you to be better than you ever thought possible. Relax. Refocus. Go again." - Charlotte Briggs‏ @missb_teach

Focusing on the positive difference that we have the potential to make in the lives of others, and indeed the impact we have already had, was one of m particular favourite responses to my question:


"Take a step back, look at the positives you're making in 30 lives. Failing that I look through my teachers memory box!" - Alex‏ @MrCYear5

"Think about the children, the difference you have made and continue to make and the impact it has." - Nicole Moore (Anand)‏ @MooreNixie8

"Look back at some of the things that have gone well, and look to the future and know I have to make a difference for them." - Beckie‏ @beckie_edu

Connecting with other professionals in different ways seems also to be a popular activity to get inspiration, an understandably so:


"Visit other schools." - Katharine Elwis‏ @KElwis

"Great colleagues re-energise me. Their enthusiasm, drive and willingness to take risks curbs any complacency in me." - Lee Card‏ @eduCardtion

"Go and visit other schools!" - Dan Nixon‏ @pruman21

"I go and observe colleagues teaching. Seeing their enthusiasm in the classroom usually brings back my "mojo"!" - Jess @jrmdola

"Team teaching with other colleagues, collaborative planning sessions, Observe colleagues and letting my students lead the learning." - Bethan Schofield @1Bethanlouise

"Observe others teaching, that ALWAYS inspires me. We'll all work with some amazing professionals but are too busy to see this sometimes." - Laura Jackson‏ @MrsJacksonMusic

There were many more replies to this Twitter thread, and more replies keep being added. To read everything, and to keep up-to-date with it, here is the link: https://twitter.com/thatboycanteach/status/877262764905041921

Monday, 19 June 2017

Collective Wellbeing: How We Can Work Together To Help Each Other

I've always had the privilege of working in schools where a network of teachers look out for one another and support each other's wellbeing in numerous ways. Even at moments when it seemed that the leaders didn't have wellbeing at the top of their list, the relationships between members of staff kept us all afloat in the more testing times. Although I think I have the ultimate responsibility for my own wellbeing (after all, I'm the one who knows my own triggers, warning signs and limits) I have also recognised the value of these relationships where teacher wellbeing is concerned.

To continue reading, follow the link: http://www.innovatemyschool.com/ideas/why-teacher-wellbeing-is-so-vital-and-what-we-can-do

Monday, 12 June 2017

6 Books That Encourage Children To #ReadForEmpathy

empathy
noun
the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

"Reading allows us to see and understand the world through the eyes of others. A good book is an empathy engine." - Chris Riddell

If our wonderful former children's laureate is right (he is), every good book can help it's reader to understand and share the feelings of another because every good book introduces us to new and different characters. Whenever a reader immerses themselves in a new world, fictional or firmly based in reality, they open themselves up to the thoughts, feelings and ideas of another. For children, whose life experiences are limited by their years, books are the portal to limitless experiences that their short lives couldn't realistically provide.

And that's why EmpathyLab, a new organisation with a mission to use stories to help us understand each other better, have set up Empathy Day on June 13th. As well as encouraging everyone to share their favourite books which develop empathy with the hashtag #ReadForEmpathy they will be publishing their Read for Empathy guide for 4-11 year-olds - a selection of 21 books which help to build children's empathy.

In the wake of events such as the London Bridge and Manchester Arena attacks and their surrounding media attention, children need safe spaces to explore the issues they are faced with - that safe space can be found within the pages of a book.

With that in mind I'd like to share with you 6 children's novels that, as they feel empathy for book characters, will develop children's empathy for people in real life:


The Unforgotten Coat - Frank Cottrell Boyce

As featured in the Read for Empathy guide, this simple but wonderful story will leave you questioning where the line between reality and imagination lies. The reader joins Julie as she remembers how, as a year 6 child, she was brought into the fascinating world of two Mongolian brothers seeking refuge in Liverpool. The journal-like presentation and its Polaroid pictures bring the story squarely into the realms of a 10-year-old and provide children with the chance to understand from a child's perspective what it's like to be on the run from the authorities.

Oranges in No Man's Land - Elizabeth Laird

Set in Lebanon, this short novel introduces children to the life of an orphaned girl who, whilst in charge of her siblings and grandmother, navigates the bombed-out streets of Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. The horrors of being a child in a war-torn country are laid bare as Ayesha attempts to cross no-man's-land into enemy territory to find a doctor. At a time when children may very well be living alongside those displaced by war it is so important that books like this exist to help children understand what it is so many are fleeing. Elizabeth Laird's 'Welcome to Nowhere' features on the EmpathyLab Read for Empathy guide.

The Goldfish Boy - Lisa Thompson

One of my favourite books this year, The Goldfish Boy, is also featured in the Read for Empathy guide. Set in a typical street in a typical English town is this mystery thriller for kids. It features no refugees, foreign countries or racism but it does feature a boy house-bound by his obsessive compulsive disorder. Whilst in the grips of a brilliantly-told whodunnit, children will gain a unique insight into the mind of someone who suffers from a mental illness. Read my full review here.

My Dad's A Birdman - David Almond

My 7-year-old daughter loved this short book by Skelling author David Almond. It's a whacky tale describing a father-daughter relationship which is attempting to cope with the loss of a wife/mother. I suspect adults and children will read into this very differently but it is a great starting point for helping children to think outside of the box when it comes to dealing with grief and loss. The fact that this is also a very funny story is testament to Almond's ability to perfectly walk the fine line between contrasting emotions.

Tall Story - Candy Gourlay

This easy-to-read story for year 6 - 8 children tells the tale of how a half-brother and sister meet for the first time, and how they learn to love one another despite their differences. Teenagers Andi and Bernardo meet for the first time when Bernardo, who at 8 feet tall is affected by gigantism, travels from the Philippines to come to live in London with his mum. The story weaves folk tales of giants into a story of modern life in two very different parts of the world and would be a perfect accompaniment to RJ Palacio's 'Wonder'.

Noah Barleywater Runs Away - John Boyne

Blurring the boundaries between fairy tales and real life, John Boyne, author of 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas', invites his reader to explore the escapist world of a boy struggling to come to terms with (spoiler alert) what turns out to be his mother's terminal illness. Written from an innocent point of view the adult reader will understand more than a child, yet it is entirely accessible to children at their own level. For those who long to use Patrick Ness' 'A Monster Calls' in the primary classroom but feel it is too grown up, this is the book you are waiting for.

I've chosen my #ReadForEmpathy books - what would yours be? Please share on social media using the hashtag.

To find out more about EmpathyLab's experimental work in primary schools, go to: http://www.empathylab.uk/empathylab-school-trial

And remember:

“Reading is an exercise in empathy; an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while.” – Malorie Blackman

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Book Review: 'Cogheart' by Peter Bunzl


I must admit that I was skeptical about reading 'Cogheart' in the way that I'm skeptical about most popular things. That attitude probably comes from the regular confusion I feel when I hear the music that gets into the charts - how can so many people be so wrong?

However, I laid aside my misgivings, trusted the scores of teachers (on Twitter) who actually bother to read children's books and picked up a copy of Peter Bunzl's debut effort.

With its oh-so-en-vogue strong female lead (Lily will be held up as a role-model for my three girls) this rip-roaring adventure travels through a steam-powered, alternative-history Victorian landscape which is largely signified by the plethora of airships and steam-powered vehicles. Oh and the automatons.

And it's the book's wonderful 'mechanicals' and 'mechanimals' who steal the show. They are clockwork machines, robots essentially, who have been created largely to perform menial tasks - cook, butler, chauffeur and so on. Malkin, a mechanical fox and one of the book's most integral characters, is a little different - he was created as a companion. 

As a teacher I'm always on the look-out for books with the potential to provoke discussion and exploration of contemporary issues. In 'Cogheart' it's the relationship between humans and mechanicals that provides the most scope for developing empathy in children. The book provides a safe space to discuss why people use difference as an excuse for hatred. The fact that the book portrays the automatons to display more feelings than some of the human characters leaves the reader thinkingthat the machines really should be treated equally - children would enjoy debating this issue, and without belittling issues such as slavery, racism, sexism and so on, they could easily be introduced to the arguments and ideas behind the need for equality.

Without spoiling the story too much there are also multiple opportunities to explore moral dilemmas as the characters have to make decisions where neither option is particularly inviting.

Key stage 2 children will love the pacy action and the danger at every turn but you might want to be careful who you recommend it to - it deals a lot with death of family members. All in all, 'Cogheart' is a brilliant story of good triumphing over the considerably stronger evil of some truly fearsome criminals and is a portrait painted especially for children of how greed and desire corrupts. Definitely worth a read - I'm glad I followed the crowd!

Monday, 5 June 2017

From The @TES Blog: Ten Ways To Maximise Learning Time In Lessons

Written with newer teachers in mind, this 10-point article is a run down of all the simple things to bear in mind when planning and delivering a lesson to ensure that time is not wasted. Although many of the points may seem obvious, it's actually quite a juggling act even for the most experienced teacher to keep all the balls in the air.

Every teacher wants to make the most of the time children spend sitting in their classroom. And by "making the most of" I mean that we want them to be learning.
But how streamlined are your lessons in reality? Here's a 10-point checklist to run through to see if your teaching really is maximising learning as much as it could be.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

From The @TES Blog: Why Every Primary School Needs To Embrace Non-Fiction

Everyone has their favourite children’s book. And it is almost always a work of fiction. While children do read a lot of non-fiction, it is not venerated in the same way as the novels and picturebooks beloved to us all.

Unfortunately, this can make non-fiction seem somehow less important and some can even question its place in the primary classroom.

We need to fight this denigration of the genre: non-fiction books are essential tools in the primary classroom. Here is why:

Click here to read on over on the TES blog: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/six-reasons-why-every-primary-school-needs-embrace-non-fiction

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

How To Stay Sane Now The KS2 SATs Are Over


The fourth and final post in my series of blog posts for Third Space Learning focusing on teacher and pupil wellbeing during the key stage 2 SATs testing period:

An almost audible collective sigh of relief rises from Year 6 teachers and KS2 pupils across the realm. Suddenly, the prospect of life beyond SATs becomes tantalisingly real and, at least for now, it is there to be enjoyed.

Feelings during the next few weeks will (though I hate to have to remind you) morph from the relief that the end of the SATs week brings into the impatient wait for results day on July 4th.

Click here to read my five tips for staying sane now that the key stage 2 test are over: https://www.thirdspacelearning.com/blog/2017/sayonara-sats2017-5-golden-rules-for-year-6-teachers-to-make-the-most-of-lessons-after-sats

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Being A Writing Teacher: 6 Reasons Why Teachers Should Write


"No one would say 'I can't read', so why do people say 'I can't do maths'?" We've probably all heard that frustration expressed before, and it's a point worth making. But, where primary school teachers are concerned, it doesn't make a difference if they say they can't, they have to anyway. As in, they will teach concepts by modelling them and will solve problems at least in order to work out what the right answers are. They can do maths despite what they say.

But this isn't about maths. This is about writing. And what you will never hear is 'I can't write.' And that's not because they can write and they do write. It's because they think they can't write, know they don't write, and are perhaps are bit ashamed of that. And I'm not even talking about writing for pleasure in their own time, I'm talking about modelling writing in the classroom. I know that there are teachers out there who will avoid writing if they can help it.

It's understandable - good writers are revered, and rightly so. Writing has become the preserve of a select few - those who have truly mastered our language and appear to effortlessly produce flowing prose. Writing isn't for everyone... except for every single child in the education system! We expect them to write, yet many of us teachers have opted out of being writers, having done our time during our own schooling. 

I've said before that teachers should all be readers and actually that's an easy pill to swallow compared to this: all teachers should be writers. Primary teachers should at least be able to write at the level expected of the most able writers in the school. This of course means that secondary teachers should be even more proficient.

How can we teach children to write well if we don't write at all? Even if you are fairly confident in modelling writing in class, ask yourself how good it really is. If you only ever write for those few minutes every now and then in class, are you really honing your skills? Would you benefit from writing for pleasure a little more? This is as much a challenge to myself as it is to anyone who may be reading this - I do not claim to be an expert writer and I know I could do better.

These thoughts have been whirring round my head for some time now, at least since the beginning of the year when I encouraged people to join the #WeeklyBlogChallenge. In fact, on further reflection, I've been acutely aware of the need for teachers to be writers since giving some training where, actually, I think I encountered some fairly reluctant writers.

The benefits of striving to be a proficient writer are, as you can imagine, many fold. I'd suggest six main benefits, though:

1) You will understand the pressure that children feel when you present them with a cold task, or even a task that they are well-prepared for. And when you've experienced that feeling of having a mind as blank as the page in front of you, then your writing lessons will get a whole lot better. If you are someone experienced in seeking inspiration, then you will become a teacher who is better at providing helpful stimuli.

2) Your modelled writing will inspire the children: sometimes all they need is a few words from a good example of writing to get them going. For this reason, many resources (such as the excellent Pobble 365 website) provide exemplar paragraphs and openers, but there is power in the children experiencing the writing created in front of them...

3) The act of modelling writing will inspire the children. I've noticed many times that when a teacher joins in an activity, be it Art, PE or an assault course on residential, that children respond more enthusiastically too. I know not of the pedagogical reasons behind this, only that it is what I've observed to be true.

4) You will feel more confident to share your writing. If you write regularly, even if progress is slow-going, words, sentences and paragraphs will come more naturally to you. If this is the case then you will feel far better prepared to stand up and 'perform' a piece of writing. You'll also find it easier to complete shared pieces of writing as you will know how to weave the pupils' words and ideas into a great piece of text.

5) You will be able to model the editing and revising process more realistically. Children at the top of the primary age range are expected to choose words for meaning and to understand the impact that the chosen words might have on the reader. Often, teachers model editing and revision as an exercise in word swapping, but with very little purpose. Someone with a little more  experience of writing will more naturally model a process where choices are made for a reason, and they will be able to verbalise those reasons too. 

6) You will give more effective feedback to the children about their writing. No matter how your policy dictates you provide feedback, it remains that someone with more experience as a writer is better placed to identify strengths and weaknesses in another's work. Based on your own experience of writing, you will be able to work out exactly what it is a child needs to do next to improve their written work.

The act of writing is an act of creativity, and there are many other benefits to self that being creative brings. There is a sense of great achievement to be had from writing something, whether that's something that helps one to explore one's own thoughts, feelings or ideas, or something that can be shared with others. And achievement is enjoyable: if you begin to enjoy the creative process of writing then this will no doubt translate into an enthusiasm for teaching writing - and enthusiasm is infectious. 

Here's the challenge, teachers: become a writer and begin to infect your pupils with a love of producing the written word. Will you accept?

Read the Arvon/University of Exeter/Open University research 'Teachers as Writers' here: http://www.teachersaswriters.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Arvon-Teachers-as-Writers.pdf

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Twas The Night Before SATs by @parky_teaches


Twas the night before SATs, and all through the land
Not a teacher was stirring, the curriculum banned.
Past papers pored over, practised just so,
Fingers are crossed that thresholds are low.

The children were fretful, nervous in their beds
While visions of ticking clocks danced in their heads.
Heads in their offices give keyboards a tap
Writing excuses for that OFSTED chap.

When out in the playground arose such a chatter
Of parents and media to see what was the matter.
They could not believe just what they had heard, 
And started to panic about things like adverbs.

Would the Reading test reduce children to tears?
This was just the first of their fears.
Revision packs bought, tutors booked up
Parents stressed out, leaving nothing to luck.

A courier arrives, so lively and quick,
The papers are locked in the safe with a click.
Staff arrive early, their visages bleak,
Year 6 teachers wishing for just a quick peek.

"Now, Kirsty! now, Donna! now, Seb and Mina!
On, Holly! On, Dev! On Connor and Tina!
To your new seating plan! Right next to the  wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As children that before the biggest challenge try
When they're met with a SAT they let out a cry
"Not more past progressive, not more long division
We can take no more of the government's indecision!"

And then, in a twinkling flash of inspiration,
Memories flicker across the nation.
The teacher sits, fidget spinner in hand,
Hoping beyond hope things go just as planned.

They were just about dressed, from their head to their feet, 
And their eyelids droopy from the lack of sleep
A bundle of assessments, flung on their back, 
In case a standardised score is starting to slack.

His pupils - how they twinkled! (Well they did in year 5)!
Now they were dull, barely alive
Drilled into submission, all out of fear
That somebody's job might be gone next year.

The stumps of pencils found gnawed by teeth, 
And clumps of hair torn out in disbelief 
Looking over shoulders, "Is that a four or a nine?"
Mentally of course, we don't want a fine.

Once the first one is over, it's onto the next
They're really relentless, they are, these tests.
We jump hoops through SPaG, through every last trick,
Then it's onto the maths, the ol 'rithmetic!

They spoke not a word (they weren't allowed),
But when the time was up, they cheered and they howled, 
And laying aside their pencils and pens, 
They breathed a sigh of relief, along with their friends.

Teachers sprang to their desks, to their teams gave a whistle,
And outside they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard them exclaim, ‘ere they drove out of sight,
"Oh wait, it's writing moderation next, bugger..."