Play Based NE Transition – Week 1

So, began with my 4 new New Entrants this week on a play based learning programme. Bit strange with only 4 and I’m still figuring out my role. I need to find a way to be involved in their play without leading or directing as the teacher in me wants! I found myself using the time they were occupied in play to prep the next activity – again, a very teacher thing to do, as opposed to being involved with their play and benefitting from the observation.

I’m thinking I will try to actually play with them, by building my own construction, playing with the sand toys too and therefore interacting with them. I think another valuable role I could play is modelling good relationship etiquette – saying please, thank you, asking for a toy nicely, offering a toy, offering to help, etc. I think an observation in ECC would be beneficial to see what preschool teachers do during this play based time.

A benefit I’ve experienced in this less regimented timetable is to get to know the students more quickly as they have the freedom to be themselves more, by making their own choices and being involved in a discussion about choosing what to do. I already feel like I’m building a good understanding of each of them in the very short time I’ve been working with them.

RTCs 1, 6, 7

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Spatial Reasoning in Maths

Came across this:

https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2017/01/29/why-spatial-reasoning-is-crucial-for-early-math-education/

Plan to introduce this to my New Entrant class as part of their play based learning and maths programme. Excited by how it demonstrates strengths in children that seem to find traditional pen and paper maths challenging. Will be sharing this with staff to experiment with as well.

Initial Plans for NE Transition

Setting: New position as New Entrant teacher in new school. First batch of new entrants beginning next week (4), followed soon after by 2 more.

Thinking:

Communication with parents well before visits start.

New Entrant Pack prepared – contains: parent/teacher questionnaire (to give a heads up about child’s dispositions, likes/dislikes, behaviour); starting school booklet; set of digit cards; first set of sight words with ‘window’ tool (viewing card to focus on one word at a time).

4 – 6 visits, starting with short morning where parent is invited to stay, followed by gradually increasing visits (one per week), until visit 4 (and 5/6) are full day visits, the final visit in the same week as the start day if possible. Aim is to be flexible to the child’s needs, so if more visits are required they can be arranged and once the child has started, a day off here and there to adjust to tiredness levels can be taken into account.

Aiming to build relationship with ECEs (3 that feed into school), by visiting soon to establish contacts, then subsequent visits to meet prospective new entrants in an environment they are comfortable in prior to their first school visit.

With a pure new entrant class (no year 1s), I want to explore a more play-based learning environment that gradually introduces more routines as their time at school goes on, inspired by the CORE research report into re-inventing a new-entrant classroom to provide richer learning opportunities in a play-based environment that encourages student agency and focusses on key-competencies:

http://www.core-ed.org/assets/Uploads/CORE-Research-Report-New-Entrants-in-the-Re-making.pdf.

Plan for first 4 NEs who are starting:

8:30-10:30 (with 9-9:30 whole school activity): play based, student led, creative time, building relationships, oral language, observing.

11:00-1:00: more routined, formal learning, by drawing students from their chosen play based activities in groups for explicit teaching of maths, phonics, reading and writing, drawing on what’s been observed throughout the morning.

2:00-3:00: Depends on level of student engagement and interest – physical activity, swimming (during T1), story time, celebrating learning from the day, class admin.

I plan to record formal learning and curriculum coverage using a series of checklists that note who I’ve worked with on what and when, not aiming for a formal maths – reading – writing timetable. This allows flexibility around students’ interests and engagement, giving students choice as well.

Want to explore the use of “Ferre Laevers emotional well being and involvement scales” to monitor engagement and well being. Link to blog that discusses this and other things around setting up a classroom for engagement and well being:

http://www.earlylearninghq.org.uk/earlylearninghq-blog/the-leuven-well-being-and-involvement-scales/

iPads in the Junior Classroom

Here’s my attempt to share my own 3-4 year learning journey in the use of iPads (teaching use, not management use – managing a class sets of iPads is a whole other post that I will write sometime!)

So, I’ve been using iPads in my Junior Class (5-8yr olds) for maybe 3 years now. Certainly in the first year, I fell foul of adding a billion apps, categorising them into folders ‘Maths’, ‘Reading’, ‘Writing’, ‘Games’, etc. I thought it was awesome, look at how engaged the children were in number bonds to 10!! Well, so I thought!

The main purpose for using iPads was for the children to have an independent activity, that kept them engaged (i.e. away from me and the group I was trying to teach – vital in a multi-age class!), and some constructive learning thrown in too.

I quickly realised that many apps certainly engaged the children, but not in a meaningful way. For example, they’d find the pairs that made 10 by ‘random tapping’ to hear the funny sounds (getting as much pleasure from the incorrect sound as the correct one!), rather than actually learning any pairs to 10. Hmph. So, I set about finding cheap (i.e. free!) apps that provided self-correction, as in the children really wanted to get it right, not just play a random tapping game. That was tough – I can probably list on one hand, really good apps that do this that don’t cost a small fortune (small school – our budget is teeny weeny!).

Over the last year, I have come to the conclusion that this is just not the way to use iPads. I was beginning to use them as a reward – finish this and you can go on an iPad. Egh – not the teaching attitude I wanted to adopt and definitely NOT what I wanted the children to associate iPads with – reward only. I have tried to use the SAMR model and although I understand it, and have made a concerted effort to truly be transformational in their use, it is tough!

I feel now that I have finally made the leap from knowing all of this ‘good practice’ with iPad stuff, to now really figuring out how to apply it. So, what I’ve done is remove all the ‘babysitting’ apps from the tablets and only added apps that allow research and creation. As an independent activity in Maths for example, the students no longer play a pairs to 10 game, they make their own pairs to 10 lesson in ShowMe. Well, this is the plan – I’m a week into binning all the babysitting apps (for all the iPads in the school).

As I’m writing this, I am remembering all of this stuff that amazing and inspirational people have told me over the last few years and I’m finally at the stage where I can apply it. So, my advice to you, whatever stage you’re at, is to take your time, keep pushing yourself and challenging the boundaries of the box you’re in, but don’t expect to create this incredible transformational class overnight! It’s a very cool journey to be on, enjoy it.

Digital Citizenship Challenge

So, I launched a digital citizenship challenge with students in Year 4-8 today. It consisted of a shared Google Doc (I learnt how to smart share through Hapara!).

The challenge consists of 5 smaller challenges, and through completing each one, students learn the main elements of being a good digital citizen. They accumulate points and bonus points as they go along. The winning student will receive a Digital Citizen award at our end of year prize giving.

I talked a small amount about the importance of digital citizenship, then showed them the Doc on the Apple TV. I didn’t discuss any of the challenges with them – part of the challenge is recognising when they need help and asking for it. Time wise, they have about 4 weeks. They can complete it in their own time and in negotiated time with their teacher.

Well, it seems to have struck a chord with a few. As I write this, I have emails flying in from several students as they begin their challenges.

I am very excited about this, but also, as a bit of a control freak teacher, a bit scared as I feel I’ve unleashed something that will grow of its own accord. I shall keep you updated!

Year 3 Digital Writing

So, update on my first post. I explained to my 8 Year 3 students that as they were moving into the next class in the new year where they would be receiving Google Drive accounts, they would be required to do far more typing. Therefore, their ‘challenge’ for the remainder of the year was to complete all their writing digitally.

They would use ‘Popplet’ to plan their writing (my Year 3s LOVE Popplet!), and then Pages on an iPad to do all their writing. As we are not using cloud storage in this classroom at the moment, they have all been allocated a specific iPad for the duration of each writing lesson, so all their writing is saved on it.

So far so good. They worked on a piece of descriptive writing called ‘Magic Leaf’ last week. Then, 3 boys presented their completed writing to an audience of students and parents at our sharing assembly. They had written so much! I hazard to say, far more than they would have written by hand. There were the ‘normal’ issues that arise during writing, such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, structure issues, but as they had written more than usual, there was more material to use as learning points. Redrafting was a simple case of selecting and retyping a misspelt word, or adding a comma, instead of copying the whole lot out again to publish! Publishing can now be as simple as printing out.

Future thoughts … I would really like to get next year’s Year 3s set up with their own Google accounts. It will really push the typing skills and I can learn the best way to teach younger students with email accounts and cloud storage. Good way to get parents involved, as they can access it from home too! Watch this space …

Writing Epiphany!

Have meant to start a blog for ages, as over the last few years have developed and grown as a teacher a lot! Anyway, here’s my first post.

Setting the scene: These thoughts were inspired as I made my way through a stack of writing samples to form my OTJs before moderation with another school. At the start of each assessment, the children had to rate how much they liked writing, how good at writing they thought they were and how good I and their parents thought they were.

Train of thought: Despite varying reflections on the answers, the common theme was that none of them liked writing. From my struggling writers to my high flying (writing 2 years above the standard!) type, they all agreed on one thing. They don’t like writing. So I began to think about why, and stumbled upon this train of thought … Maybe because they only associate writing with old school pen on paper. Maybe, if I reminded them that writing on a computer is still writing (and I know they enjoy that!), maybe their enjoyment of writing would increase.

I began to reflect on this. Do any of us like writing? I asked my husband who was nearby. A resounding NO. “I do not like putting pen to paper”. And you know what? I DON’T EITHER! And I’m a teacher!! I asked myself this question: When did I last hand write a piece of writing as long as what I have been asking my Year 3 students to write? (FYI about 1 side of A4). I can’t remember when I last hand wrote that much!!!!

Epiphany! So, WHY THE HELL AM I ASKING MY CHILDREN TO DO IT, WHEN THEY MAY NEVER HAVE TO DO IT IN THIS TECHNOLOGICALLY ADVANCED WORLD?!!!
I ran this thought past hubby and he said, well, they’re children, they should learn to write using pen and paper. I agree, they should be able to form letters, etc. but once they can write in a legible way, should we always get them to write reams and reams of hand written stuff? Hubby pointed out that technology is transient and ever changing. I argued that although that is true, the one thing that technology has been consistent with is the ability to word process – be it the first typewriter, to the latest wireless, flexible keyboards.

Result: I reckon that once my Junior Students have got to the stage where they CAN write an A4 side of legible writing should I ask them to, then I encourage them to write everything digitally. You could also argue that it is more vital than ever that they learn to type sooner rather than later in their education, as in the Senior class, they are set up with Google Drive and Gmail, so they need to be able to type efficiently. I’ll keep you posted on how this pans out … will be trialling this for the remainder of this term with my Year 3s!