Monday, 26 March 2018

Class assemblies are a great stage for learning!

I have just watched a Year 2 class assembly. I am always blown away by what articulate, confident and poised students we have at Bradbury. I remember these children's first days at school and it is a real credit to their Year 1 and current teachers and to their parents, that these little ones have come so far in their learning. I'm not just meaning academic learning, but social and emotional as well.

One of our IB Learner Profile traits is to be courageous. I know many adults who would not even contemplate standing up in a hall full of adults and children and talk, let alone sing and dance! And yet our youngest students are able to do this with ease.

This is about preparing our children for their future. We know that many of them will enter into careers that have not even been invented yet. Who would ever have contemplated 'blogger' as a profession 10 years ago? While we do not have a clear understanding of the knowledge they will need for their future (think about how emails have changed the need for knowledge around how to correctly format a letter) we do know that skills such as cooperation, collaboration, problems solving, and conceptual thinking will form a big part of the requisite skills. Along with this is the need for resilience and the ability to see things as a possibility, rather than a limitation.

This is the mandate for us as educators, educating our children who will be our world leaders, politicians and teachers of the future. They need to be able to think with flexibility and agility and to have strong sense of self efficacy.

How does this relate to class assemblies? Each small aspect of life that we teach to our students builds for them a strong future. This morning, our students told us about how they see our world in 2038. They told us that the oceans would be clean because of our actions today in 2018- no more single use plastic! They told us landfill would be reduced because we would need less clothing.

This tells me that maybe the most important thing that we are teaching our children is a sense of optimism and hope...based on our actions, no matter how small today. So... maybe
 no need to use that green plastic stirring stick at Starbucks!

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Planning for learning

Teaching is an amazingly positive profession and I have always been thankful that I made the choice to become a teacher, at the tender age of 16. At that age, I had no idea about what a challenging (but always positive!) profession I had chosen. It requires many complex skills and a deep level of understanding on so many levels. In any one day a teacher can be, in addition to their teaching role, a social worker, counsellor, coach, guide, administration worker, decorator, artist, chaperone, monitor...

One of the most important professional undertakings of a teacher is to plan their lessons so that each student in their care receives a quality education, one that also nurtures, challenges and extends them.

Typically, teachers plan on three levels:

Long term plans (LTP)- these are often in the form of the curriculum and  learning outcomes at each level on a continuum basis. At Bradbury, these take the form, for example of our Scope and Sequence documents, or our Programme of Inquiry (PoI) overview. These are 'big picture' plans and are broad and generic.

Medium term plans- these are based on the Long Term Plans and outline the intense learning for a shorter period of time, maybe a term, or perhaps over one Unit of Inquiry. These will give a more detailed breakdown of how the learning outcomes will be addressed. They are still fairly generic, although maybe personalised to a year group. These are usually worked on collaboratively. They are expected to include a sequential/developmental build-up of skills i.e. a progression of skills over a period of time based on the Bradbury School and ESF continuums.

Short term plans- this is where the real personalisation of deliberate teaching to meet individual needs occurs. These are completed by each teacher for each area of the curriculum, for example, literacy and maths. In these, learning objectives are clearly stated along with the learning activities, which need to match/reinforce the learning objectives – these may be current objectives or be for maintenance and reinforcement. They need to detail differentiation strategies, showing how different ability levels, learning styles or flexible groups of students are catered for. They also need to include the assessment strategies to be used, resources, how the EA will be used, and need to be completed weekly showing learning activities for each day. These can be modified throughout the week. Teachers can record their planning, to reflect individual preferences. They are detailed, precise and specific plans that require lots of professional knowledge to 'get right'.

In order to achieve all of the above, a good working knowledge of developmental stages of growth- both physical and cognitive, in depth curriculum knowledge and high level pedagogical knowledge is necessary.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

The importance of feeling proud

All of us, no matter our age, like to feel good about ourselves and that we have degree of control over our lives. This includes our attitude to how we see ourselves as learners and our ability to achieve or accomplish the tasks we set out to do- our self efficacy. A strong sense of internal control helps us respond in an appropriate way to negative events. This also relates to our ability to be resilient.

We want our children to have a positive self efficacy around their attitude to their learning, to feel that they can learn and can achieve their dreams and goals. One way of doing this is to ensure that they have something,  even just one thing that they can do well and are proud of. I mean, that they can do genuinely well.

Something that they have worked hard at, have practiced, honed and can deliver on. Not something we tell them they are good at, just to make them feel good (although encouragement has its own role to play!) This is important because it is all too easy to count up the things that we may not be good at, which may result in us feeling bad about ourselves.

I once heard that one thing that we are good at, our 'proud thing', called a compensation factor. The idea was that this one thing (there may be more, of course!) is our compensation for when we come across something we know that we are not good at. The internal dialogue would go something along the lines of : "well I know I am not good at X, but that's ok, because I am good at Y".

In my own family, I have a sister who excelled at sports when we were children. I did not. Where she won, I lost, time after time, year after year. However, I had a love of art and was good at it, winning competitions and pursuing it to a tertiary  level. Art was my compensation factor.

I have to say that I would have preferred to win a race rather than lose it, but I knew there was something else that I was good at and that losing a race was not the sum of me- it was just a small part.

I would encourage you to seek out and find your child's compensation factor if you don't already know it. It may not be something you want them to be good at or can coerce, it will be something that they love to do and are passionate about.  Art remains a love and passion of mine and as I have grown older I have added lots of other compensation factors to my life...although I would still lose every race I competed in!

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Christmas Reading

As Christmas draws closer and our holidays loom large, many of us think about a good book to take away on holiday with us to read and relax with. Some of us specifically enjoy a 'trashy novel', the sort that we perhaps would not normally enjoy, but the mood and context makes it fun.

Our children are no different. They too enjoy the appropriate equivalent of a 'trashy novel', although it may be in the form of a comic or a book that parents consider to be 'too easy' for their child to read.
My advice and actually my plea, is to let them enjoy reading whatever they want to these holidays.

Reading comics does not inhibit literacy development, in fact, it can even enhance it! Some of our reluctant readers need a hook to pull them in to the joy of reading. Comics can do this. Elley (1994) investigated the relationship between comic reading and reading achievement in 9 &10 year olds across 27 countries. The findings confirmed that comics can have a positive impact on reading, which is counter to some widely held views to the contrary.

What about books that you may consider too easy for your child? Again, the evidence seems to suggest that light to easy reading provides the competence and motivation to continue reading and to read more harder books. This makes sense- after all, all of us enjoy becoming good at something and increasing the challenge is often a part of that pleasure.

So, pop a comic into your child's stocking this Christmas and watch them love reading it. Hopefully sitting alongside you reading your trashy holiday novel!

Happy holidays everyone!

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Rediscovering the joy of stories

Recently, I upgraded my iPhone 4 to an iPhone8. Probably, within that very first sentence, you have already formed an opinion of how up to date I am with technology in my personal life. However, I should have perhaps have said that I reverted to my iPhone 4 after my much newer phone, bought to replace it, died.

With this new phone, it suddenly seems that a world previously denied to me, mainly because I was not able to update the old phone with newer apps, was suddenly opened up, including access to podcasts.

So I have joined the throngs of the permanently connected, walking around Central, catching a bus, riding in a taxi, with my buds in my ears listening to the dulcet tones of an experienced reader, telling stories which have enchanted and enraptured me.

I love this new world of storytelling, I love the spoken word and I love the way in which being told a story, previously the domain of children, is now available to me as an adult.

It has made me reflect on how this pleasure, instilled as children, never leaves us. It has reminded me about the importance of introducing our children to the joy of the spoken word and how comforting it is to settle down and just...listen.

For me now,  it is my grand children I am reading to. Not for them the technology of a podcast, but instead the delight of a book,
read to just them. We have our old favourites, read time after time and now we even make reference to the story at other times as well. One of our favourite stories refers to going on an escalator as 'climbing a mountain' and so that it what we say when we get on one. It is like an inside joke that we share together and helps them to make connections to the bigger and wider world around them.

Night time routines are something most of us follow when organising our children into bed. If you don't already, I would definitely encourage you to make a story part of this. Of course, stories are great anytime, even when walking along Central!