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.