Sunday, 27 December 2009

The Noughties - the decade to remember?

There have been a number of list programmes on TV over the last couple of weeks. For some reason these have always been a guilty pleasure of mine. I enjoy looking back and remembering things that I have seen/heard etc. The most recent shows have focused on the events of the last decade.

It's incredible how quickly this decade has gone. My memory of celebrating the new millenium ten years ago is so clear (although very fuzzy at the same time if you know what I mean). So much has happened in my life - graduating from uni, getting my teaching job, moving out of home, moving house and getting married are just a few of the major events that would feature in my Top Events of the Decade programme.

But right now I'm not thinking about the major events. I can remember those. No, I'm thinking about the little things - the thousands of little things that have happened every year - the songs, the TV shows (and the adverts in between) the films, the nights out, the holidays and the visits. During the last few years Web 2.0 internet tools have provided the opportunity to record all aspects of your life.

These are a few of the tools that have helped me record the last few years of the decade:
Flickr - brilliant for collecting all of my photos. This facility enables me to share photos of places we have visited and record special moments easily. The facility to add descriptions and geotag the pictures means that I can easily remember the stories behind the photos.
Twitter - not only is Twitter brilliant for sharing and discussion and for being inspired, looking back through my profile helps me to remember lots of little, sometimes insignifican, things that I have done. Now I know that writing about mundane events is something that Twitter has been criticised for, but it provides a permanent reminder of things my lifestyle.
Blogger - I have been able to record my thoughts on various aspects of teaching and education using this.
Blippr - a great service for recording which films and DVD box sets I have watched and also what I thought of them. I just wish I knew of a similar service for TV shows.
Facebook - for the last few years there has been no better way of keeping up-to-date with what my friends have been up to. Many of them, however, seem to be getting bored with it - I hope this doesn't last!
Shelfari - perfect for keeping a record of what I have read. - now I can remember which songs were out and when thanks to this fascinating site.

Friendfeed is a site that combines lots of these sites so that all of the information appears in the same place.Timeglider is a site which allows you to create a timeline of your life (or your school's life, perhaps).

I just wish that all of $these tools were available in the early part of the decade.

I fear that I am becoming obsessed with remembering things. Maybe it's the thought that I might lose my long term memory. But I feel it's so important to be reminded of the things which help make you the person you are.

Could the Teenies be the decade in which we can record everything and forget nothing?

Monday, 21 December 2009

Polydron 3D Shapes

During the last few weeks, when we have been busy with our Christmas play, I needed an exciting maths project to keep the children focused during lessons. Earlier in the year we purchased Polydron apparatus for exploring 3D shapes.

I decided that I would use this as part of our study of 3D shapes.

We used the prisms and pyramids packs to explore the properties of these shapes. This created lots of discussion about edges, faces and vertices. It was fun to predict this for different prisms and pyramids.

We then used Polydron squares to find the eleven faces of a cube. Only one group found all eleven! In the past, this activity was done using card which the children had to draw their nets on and then test the shape. Using Polydron was so much quicker. We also had time to find the eleven nets of an octahedron in the same way.

We then talked about which 3D shapes could be considered to be 'regular'. These shapes are called 'platonic'. They are tetrahedrons, octahedrons and icosahedrons which all use triangles; cubes (squares) and the dodecahedron (pentagon). Each shape was described with the number of faces which meet at each vertice. Once each one had been designed, we explored the different nets of these shapes.

We also spend some time exploring archimedean solids - solids which are made up of faces of different shapes. Each shape was described using notation like 3.8.8 which meant a triangle, octagon and another octagon meet at each vertice. We had great fun building all sorts of different shapes. We had chance to explore the difference between a dodecahedron, an icosidodecahedron a rhombicosidodecahedron and a truncated dodecahedron. We find out what it means to truncate a shape.

The work was lots of fun and did keep the children focused. They learned about being systematic when it comes to investigating - and the equipment allows them to work more quickly. They learned the properties of the shapes. They considered how to modify the shapes.

The Polydron packs that we used were the Prisms, Pyramids and Archimedean Solids. They aren't very cheap at all, but if you interested, they are available here.

Pictures of our work can be found on our Year Six blog here.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Rose Blanche

In the middle of all of our rehearsals for our Christmas production of Peace Child we delivered a short poetry unit of work based around Rose Blanche by Ian McEwan and Roberto Innocenti. This is a sad tale about the discovery of a concentration camp through the eyes of a little girl, Rose Blanche. (Incidentally, it reminds me of The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas which I watched recently - what an ending!)

I wanted to try to inspire the children and ensure that I got good work from them even though their minds were on something else. I enjoyed reading about @arsenalchris's experiences of Voicethread and have used Wallwisher in our school website. So I decided to try these two excellent sites for the first time in the classroom.

Voicethread allows you to comment on a picture. After uploading a picture, you login and then use your microphone to record your comment. As many comments as you like can be added. The picture then plays back with the comments over the top.

Wallwisher allows you to gather messages by adding 'sticky notes' to the wall.

The children were asked to write a haiku based on the one of the pictures in Rose Blanche. Once they had drafted and edited their work, they added their work to a Wallwisher. This was a great way to see all of the poems at once. Something that I wish I had done was to produce a Wordle of all of the poems so that the children could see the strong themes that were emerging.

After adding their work to Wallwisher they shared their poem on a Voicethread. Each child was given an identity so that they could add their poems. The first time using this website proved to be remarkable simple.

The entire unit of work only lasted for a couple of days so I think with more time the quality of work could have been a little better. But the use of these two websites certainly kept the children focused at a time when it's easy for them to lose interest.

Now, as I've said, this was the first time I've used both in the classroom. After Christmas I plan to use them in more detail. Our first unit when we return in January is one based on The Borrowers. I wonder if we can use them in this unit...

Sunday, 13 December 2009

ICT Survey

After reading @DeputyMitchell's blog recently I was inspired to carry out my own survey of the social networking skills of the pupils in the year group.

The results were interesting and one thing they did reveal was that there was a big difference the use of computers at home between our two classes. One class had hardly anyone with a computer in their bedroom whilst the other had quite a few.

The questions I asked were the same as the ones asked by @DeputyMitchell.

Number surveyed was 49.
47 children have a computer at home. (96%)
47 children use the computer at least once a week. (96%)
7 children use the computer each day. (14%)
Pupil computer usage:
1 to 30 minutes: 9 children
31 to 60 minutes: 30 children
1 to 2 hours: 2 children
2 to 4 hours: 5 children.

10 children (20%) use social networking websites and 3 children's parents helped to setup their account.
11 children (22%) have a computer in their bedroom. 5 of these have webcams.
20 children (41%) know that their parents check their internet history. (Isn't this poor? Maybe parents just don't know how to do this.)
12 children (24%) know how to delete their internet history. (Interesting.)
20 children (41%) have buddies in MSN.
8 children (16%) have buddies they have never met or they don't know who they are. (Very worrying.)
18 children (37%) admitted to seeing things on the internet they know they shouldn't have seen. (And I'd like to bet that they haven't talked about what they have seen with parents.)

We also asked the questions about toilets that @DeputyMitchell used in his survey.
9 children avoid going to the toiler whilst at school.
5 children drink less water on purpose to make sure they don't need to go to the toilet.

I plan to repeat the survey each term to find out about changing attitudes in the year group. Next time I will also ask questions about use of mobile phones.

E-Safety is something that has featured in the news a lot this week. One thing I have been able to do is invite an LA advisor in to talk to parents about e-safety. I think it would be worth sharing these results with parents too... Lots of food for thought.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Leadership Pathways: Revisiting Community

The second online unit I completed for this course was Revisiting Community. I found this rather a odd title for the unit. I mean, I hadn't actually 'visited' the commuity yet on the course. Ah well.

Overall I much preferred this unit to the last one as I found it contained practical advice and strategies for developing as a leader making clear references to the standards for headship.

The unit begins with a rather deep notion - that the school and its head should be entirely accountable to the community. Blimey; is this unit really going to suggest that the school should be accountable to the local community as well as being accountable to its pupils, parents, governors, LA and DCSF? The thinkpiece article even goes as far as to suggest that the community owns the school. Luckily I realise that this is very theoretical and is not being promoted as fact. I strongly agreed with the idea that the school should be a hub for the community. Hmm... could this be a possibility for my change project?

There was an exemplar of a brilliant ICT project from a school that refurbished and redistributed computer equipment to its parents to enable home learning.

Later in the unit I considered the ways that our school informs, consults with, involves, collaborates with and empowers the community. I realised that we are very good at informing, involving and collaborating with the community. Perhaps my change project could look into ways that we consult and empower the community.

After completing this unit I finally feel like I'm making some headway in selecting the change project which I must begin in order to complete the course. I want my project to be about involving the community, and I could use some of the learning conversation skills that I learned in the previous unit.

So after nearly 9 hours of online work I've completed 2 online units. Only three more to go!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Leadership Pathways: Leading Through Influence

The first online unit I completed in the course was Leading Through Influence. I wish I'd began with a different unit as this one wasn't exactly inspiring. But it did include some good practical advice.

The first part of the unit looked at learning conversations and made you think about how to get the most out of a conversation so that a conclusion is reached and each party can be satisfied.

Next I looked at communication and the way that communication should always be two-way. This was hardly groundbreaking stuff.

The next part was a bit more interesting. It was about psychological contracts. "What on earth are they?" I hear you ask! Well these are unwritten agreements that a member of staff has with the school. This might include leading an after school club, for example. The unit explored the effects of breaking psychological contracts on staff morale. It made me realise that we need to be aware of the psychological contracts in school so that I am aware of the efforts from every member of staff. At the same time I wouldn't want to turn them into written or spoken about contracts. When wanting to make changes I must consider the mutual trust between school and its staff.

I learned that staff meetings should begin with a 'checking in' where staff share ideas and thoughts from the week. They should end with 'checking out' where the main points of the meeting are reviewed.

There were different 'frames' suggested for conversations which could apply to different situations. Workshops are used when the conversation group comes together to share resources and create new ideas and solutions. Consultations are used when the group comes together to share knowledge about the focus and receive feedback. A forum is used to problem solve and debate and challenge. Hotseating is used when a member of the group needs to share their personal learning journey and so the group learns by asking questions.

The process of stakeholder analysis was a brilliant concept. When introducing change it makes sense to prioritise the stakeholders. You consider each person for their power and influence and for their interest in the change. You then decide where best to channel your efforts.
Overall I gained some good ideas about how to organise staff meetings and departmental meetings etc.
Diagram from 'Stakeholder Analysis and Management: Winning support for your projects' by R Manktelow.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Leadership Pathways

Over the last few months one of the things I have been busy with is this interesting course from the NCSL.

The course involves several processes through which you make changes and improvements to your leadership skills.

It began with a questionnaire which needed 10 people to complete some really awkward questions about you and the way you work. I also had to answer the questions about myself. The results were then amalgamated and I received a printout showing the average results with a comparison of my own answers. This all revealled that I actually had quite a good understanding of what people thought of my skills. It also highlighted areas that I could develop as a leader.

The areas were then used to help me choose online units and skills workshops which will help me to improve skills.

I am midway through the whole process now, so it's time I recorded some of my thoughts. Over the next few weeks I'll try to post these.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Printer chaos

During the last couple of weeks in school I've broken the news to staff that nearly £2000 has been spent on printer inks.

What an obscene amount of money!

The first step I have taken in order to try and reduce this amount is to write a policy stating where things can and cannot be printed. In a nutshell, the policy states that our printers in the computer suites are far more expensive to run and so these should purely be used by the children to print out work. All professional work must be printed using our classroom printers.

But after speaking about it on Twitter I have realised that the problem goes deeper. I mean, what exactly are people printing anyway? What was so important to be printed that the best part of £2000 needed to be spent?

The general message from people on Twitter was that we should be trying to print as little as possible. Indeed one Twitter user is trying to make his primary school paperless. Now, I realise that we are a million miles away from achieving that goal, but we must take drastic steps to reduce the amount of printing that we are currently producing.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Useful websites

Now it's the summer holidays I thought I'd share some websites that I have discovered during the last academic year which I plan to embed firmly in the Year Six curriculum next year.

Twitter: I know that this is hardly 'a discovery' as it's been hard to escape from it this year. But Twitter is a brilliant social networking website which school has used to share news about events. This year we have used the site simply as a reporting tool, but next year we plan to use it to engage with our parents more effectively. Our Friends of the school could use it to communicate, too.

Wallwisher: This website will be useful for creating class surveys, but also for sharing thoughts. Next year I want to use it for character studies in English to give the children a way of sharing their ideas. In Maths I can use it for problem solving so that the children can share solutions. It's also great for simply celebrating news events - allowing pupils to offer their own best wishes.

Vimeo: Owing to the number of digital cameras the school has purchased (many through voucher collection schemes) videos of the children's work are becoming more frequent. We have created a channel on Vimeo (which I just feel is safer than YouTube for our children) to share videos.

Wordle: Since introducing Wordle to staff it has mainly been used for display purposes. I intend to use it as a tool for analysing the main messages in a piece of work. It could also be used for examining language choices and investigating the features of a style of writing.

Flickr: We use Flickr for sharing photos from school. Our school newspaper reporters use it to find suitable pictures for their articles. We also use it for work on Photo Story and PowerPoint as it's so easy to find pictures to illustrate our work.

Voicethread: A recent discovery is Voicethread where pupils can have a conversation about a picture together. It is really clever and very easy to use. I think we could use this to explore settings and characters in English and also to use it as a basis for problem solving in maths.

Webspiration: Great for mindmapping and for planning!

Etherpad: This is an awesome collaborative writing website. Up to 8 people can work on the same piece of writing at the same time. We used this to work on radio advert writing and also for writing play scripts. I just think of all the times that I've asked pupils to work as a pair on one piece of writing and then seen only one person doing the work. Never again!

Memiary: This very simple website allows you to share five things that you have done today. Next year I plan to use this as a daily review of what we have learned.

Do you have any new websites that you plan to use with the children next year?

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Grow A Pound Week

In June we held our annual Grow A Pound Week.

Each child was given a pound by our Friends of the school association with the intention of growing their pound into more.

The children had to form companies of up to 4 people. Each company had to carry out some market research at break times before preparing a business plan where they indicated what service they planned to offer to the other children. Business ideas included lots of game stalls, jewellery making and hats and headwear.

Each company had to prepare a billboard poster, a radio advert (using Audacity) which was played in the school corridors and give a presentation to the children in an assembly.

The week went well and the children were really busy during their lunchtimes offering their services and goods for sale.

Each day the children kept accounts to show the sales and expenses for their company. They also wrote a 'secrets of our success'-style business biography about their stall.

In the end they made over £450 (in four days), meaning their pounds grew into over £7.50 each! The money raised was used to fund a leavers' treat and also to purchase a few items for the school. The two top stalls chose how the money should be spent.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Careers Day

One of our Summer topics is money and careers. As part of this topic, this year we organised a new special event - Careers Day.

Now I know that Year Six is very early to start thinking about careers, but the idea of the day was to encourage the children to develop goals and aspirations, not necessarily to force them to choose a career. It was intended to be a very exciting and inspirational day where they got to hear about different jobs and ask questions.

A few weeks before we sent out a request to parents in Year Six to ask if they would be prepared to come in to speak to the children about their career. We had eight responses and our headteacher agreed to make this up to nine.

The children heard from a human resources director, a bank manager, a policeman, a graphics designer, a librarian, an animal behaviour councillor, an NHS manager, a teacher and a semi-professional footballer. It was amazing to see how every person had taken the brief for the day and approached it in a completely different way.

The children were enthralled. Many of them had a career in mind before the day, but they said that listening to the speakers had encouraged them to think about personal qualities they needed to develop for the job, and to think about necessary qualifications. Some pupils were inspired by our speakers and decided they might go down a similar career path. Others still couldn't make their minds up. Whatever they felt about their careers, everyone said they had thoroughly enjoyed the day.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Maths Papers A and B and Mental Maths

To end the SATs week the children tried the Maths Papers.

Paper A: I didn't think this was an easy paper, but it was do-able. The children at school worked well, but it was frustrating that things they can do in class just went out of the heads for the SATs. The number of children that weren't sure how to do the multiplication question!! The Equivalent fractions question was difficult for them too, even though they can do it in class! There were only a couple of explanation questions which is good!

Paper B: I thought this was comparable with Paper A in terms of difficultly. Once again the children rose to the occasion and did really well. The square number question infuriated me - the number of children who wrote 13, 14 and 15 instead of the square numbers.

Mental Maths: What a variety of topics covered in the test! I thought that the questions were of varying difficulty as you would expect. But question 20 was horrible: Four oranges cost 95p. How much does each orange cost to the nearest penny?

So that's SATs all done with for another year. Now we have to wait and see if another marking fiasco develops over the next few months. We all have to pray that Mr Balls finally finds his and makes this the last year that children have to endure this damaging effect to their education.

There have been a number of tweets about the SATs over this last week. Search for #SATs to read what people have had to say on Twitter!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Reading Comprehension SATs

Today it was the last of the English SATs - the Reading Comprehension paper.

Today the children had to read a series of letters and notes to a boy who decided to live in his tree house. This was really funny and the children said how much they'd enjoyed reading them. This might be a really good idea for a letter writing project next year!

They also had to read an insert about an environmentally friendly house called the Earthship. Again, this was interesting and the children enjoyed it.

I felt that the questions were fair and do-able. They did, I felt, involve more writing than usual. There weren't many tick the box, join up the statements or write in numbers questions. Most of the questions needed a short phrase or sentence to answer.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

English Writing SATs

Overall I was pleased with today's Writing SATs.

The only paper I wasn't keen on was the short writing task. The children had to write a description of a busy place. Not too bad if you can imagine somewhere busy. It really helped to think of somewhere busy that you had actually been to. But describing has never been a strong point for my literacy class (Set Two). We have focused such a lot on organising and structuring work but this short writing task didn't need any of it. However it did involve lots of VCOP so that was good. I was disappointed when I spotted a few pupils' descriptions had turned into a story...

The Spelling Paper wasn't too bad but there were a few tricky words, 'fascinated' for one. There were a couple of tricky words for the reader too!!

The Long Writing Task was fantastic. For the second year running the genre was a genre we study in Year Six - report writing. The task was virtually identical to the Pack-it-in-Bag paper from about 10 years ago, and luckily my class had tried this just a month ago! You could see their eyes light up as they read it!

Monday, 11 May 2009

Science SATs

Science Paper A
A good variety of questions (humans, investigations, forces, plants, solids/liquids/gases, light and electricity). The questions made a lot of use of diagrams and pictures.

Science Paper B
Lots of reading in this paper making it more demanding. I wasn't too keen on the Heart Rate question, nor the Shadows and Space where I found the questions a little confusing, with unusual contexts.

I can't believe that there was nothing on animals, sound or micro-organisms.

Any thoughts?

Use to read about #SATs.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Science SATs to be scrapped

It's hard to believe the timing of the news about Science SATs. In our school we've just spent five school weeks revising for the Science SATs, and just a few days before the children get stuck in, they get the news that next year's Science SATs won't even take place. How frustrating for this year's children! I'm sure it's going to have a negative effect on this year's Science results, too. After all the children are now bound to think that they are pointless. What's the point - they are about to be scrapped!

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the SATs being scrapped altogether, but once again Ed hasn't got the Balls to do the right thing and has only agreed to drop one of the three subjects. Teacher assessment clearly gives a better representation of a child's ability. But, for the time being, apparently tests give a better indication of standards in English and Maths.

If the SATs are set to continue, I wonder how long it will be before an ICT SAT is introduced...

The Guardian reports:
Ed Balls, the education secretary, today backed a drive to improve teacher assessment to the point where it is robust enough to replace national Sats tests in England.

Accepting a report from an expert group on assessment, he announced that Sats tests in maths and English for 11-year olds would be retained, but tests in science would be scrapped in favour of teacher assessment.

The review argued that while the current tests were beneficial and gave parents objective information, teacher assessment provided a richer picture of children's learning, and it appeared to open the way for scrapping Sats in the long term. This type of national testing was dropped in
Wales and is not used in Scotland.

The group, including the former chief inspector Sir Jim Rose, urged the government to "invest in, strengthen and monitor the reliability of teacher assessment, to judge whether a move away from externally marked national tests might be viable at a future date".

Rose told a press briefing: "Clearly if you had a situation where you had teacher assessment that was so robust that you were confident the information it was delivering was as good, or better, than national testing, then by God wouldn't you go for it? Meanwhile, you would want to run both together, wouldn't you? We want a belt and braces job."

But retaining Sats in the short term sets the stage for a confrontation with two of England's biggest teaching unions, the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Head Teachers, who are to ballot on boycotting next year's tests if they are not scrapped.
A move towards teacher assessment has already happened for seven- and 14-year olds, and will now take place in science at the end of primary school. Single-level tests – taken by children when the teacher thinks they are ready – also involve more teacher input. A pilot study of these tests in 400
schools has been extended for a third year, and they could form part of the eventual replacement for Sats.

League tables based on Sats results will not be abolished, but Balls accepted the expert group's recommendation that report cards sumarising a wider range of information on each school's performance should be developed.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Using Etherpad

I heard about Etherpad via Twitter, and also Mark Warner's blog, Etherpad is a website where people can work collaboratively on the same document. Brilliant!!

It really is simple to use. Just go to Etherpad and create a new pad. You can then email the link for the pad to other people. Up to 8 can work on the same pad all at once. You can see people editing the document before your very eyes!

The potential for use in school is unlimited. There are many opportunities for using it with staff - all those times where we've put a document together with just one scribe? Well now everyone can get involved! It could also be used for communication!

The classroom possibilities are where the strengths of Etherpad really lie. I have used it with the class this week. Bearing in mind it was the first time using it, it did come with one or two problems, but I'm pleased to just get the ball rolling!

We have been working on balanced report writing for the last few weeks. The trainee teacher that had been teaching the class finished her successful placement on the Friday and so I wanted an exciting project to end the focus on reports. I decided that we could write a balanced report on bedtimes. I presented the children with a biased report explaining why children should go to bed early. The children used Etherpad to plan ideas for the other side of the argument. I used our blog to set up links for each table to find their Etherpad. It went really well and I was pleased with the work produced.

Later in the week we used Etherpad again, this time to prepare a script for a radio talk show. The children had to prepare a radio show where callers would phone to offer their arguments, for or against the issue. The children elected host DJs for each team. They had to write an introduction to the show whilst the others would enter information from the callers. It was really good fun. The DJs did find it a little difficult to keep up with the arguments being presented from all of the callers. With hindsight, perhaps we needed more DJs!

I found that the connections to the Etherpads were a little unreliable, but I think this had more to do with our painfully slow internet connection this week rather than with Etherpad itself. The children became frustrated with the connection continually breaking, so the quality of work was not as good as I'm sure it could have been.

I'm looking forward to finding further opportunities to use Etherpad in the classroom. Have you used Etherpad? How have you used it?

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Residential in France

Yesterday I returned from a week in France with our Year Sixes.

This is the third year that we have enjoyed a visit to France, and I'm delighted to say that it has once again been a very successful week!

We set off from school at 6.30am on Monday and arrived at our chateau 11 hours later! Our accomodation is fantastic and the grounds in which we stayed were beautiful.

On Tuesday we toured the local town of Rue. In the afternoon we visited a nearby goat farm where the children had chance to hold some of the goats, rabbits and chicks. We also visited a delicious chocolate factory.

On Wednesday we travelled to Amiens, the nearest city, with one of the most incredible buildings I've ever seen. The cathedral takes my breath away every time I see it! We then set off for an underground city which was used by local villagers to hide during WW2.

On Thursday we travelled to Abbeville to explore the local shops and sample a French cafe. In the afternoon we learned to play petanque and braved the muddiest blind trail!

On Friday we visited Nausicaa, a fantastic aqarium before setting off home again.

It is wonderful to see how much the children gained in confidence and independence during the week. Their French skills developed well.

This year, for the first time, we created a blog which we used to communicate to parents. This was experimental, as we weren't really sure what internet facilities we could use. We used Posterous, and linked to it from our school website. We then simply used Googlemail to send an email with news about the events of the day. The feedback from parents was really positive and lots of them added comments.

Next year we plan to add photos whilst we are away by taking a laptop with us. We will use a wireless connection to upload lots of exciting news. We will also experiment with Twitter so that we can add updates via mobile phone so that little snippets can be added. Before then I want to learn to feed Twitter directly into Posterous.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009


Recently I read the book Fish! after having watched the famous film about the Seattle Fish Market workers. I enjoyed learning about four main principles for developing a happy and productive workplace.
  • Choose your attitude
  • Play
  • Make Their Day
  • Be There
As I was reading the book I wondered how the principles can apply to schools. Here are just a few general thoughts.

Choose Your Attitude:
Here are the benefits of Choose Your Attitude:
  • By accepting that you choose your attitude, you demonstrate a level of personal accountability.
  • Our best qualities are brought to work.
  • It means that we can escape for a while from any problems or distractions out of work.
  • "The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude" - William James (1842 - 1910)
For children:
It means that postive behaviour management schemes should be used to encourage children to choose the correct attitude to display. It encourages a positive and energised ethos.
For staff:
It means that we can enjoy our work and concentrate on helping the children to learn. You can let problems and issues at work affect your attitude and you are guaranteed to have a bad day. Or we can choose a positive attitude and do our best to enjoy ourselves.
For parents:
Encouraging the same values from our parents is important to foster good healthy relationships.

Here are the benefits of play:
  • Happy people treat others well.
  • Fun leads to creativity.
  • Time passes quickly.
  • Having a good time is healthy.
  • Work becomes a reward and not just a way to rewards.
For children:
I think Play is about what we all try to do already - making school and lessons fun so that the pupils enjoy coming to school to learn and enjoy success. It encourages positive behaviour management strategies.
For staff:
It doesn't mean that we abandon our professionalism just to have a laugh. It means that laughs become part of the job. We try to avoid letting the stresses of school stop us from enjoying life. If we can have fun then the children can have fun.
For parents:
We communicate well with parents and involve them in their child's learning. They are comfortable to visit the classroom and enjoy coming to support the school in events.

Make Their Day:
The benefits of Make Their Day are:
  • It is good for business.
  • Serving our 'customers' well will give us the satisfaction that comes to those who serve others. We focus our attention on to how we can make a positive difference to others.
For children:
We want every day to be special for the children. It's about helping them to enjoy success on whatever level and make them feel special.
For staff:
We want to make staff feel special, too. They should also enjoy success in work. It means that staff make the effort to get to know each other and encouraging kindness and co-operation.
For parents:
It means that we should try to communicate as often as we can with parents, especially to share children's successes.

Be There:
The benefits of Be There:
  • It makes everyone feel valued and special.
  • It makes us feel that the benefits for others will be reciprocated towards ourselves.
For children:
This means we should continue to be there for the children, showing a caring demeanour to them. It means we should help and encourage them in lessons. This is really about all of the professional duties of being a teacher.
For staff:
This means being committed to truly listening and caring towards each other. It means making the time to commit to a team.
For parents:
It means being available to parents. It means good communication and honesty.

I enjoyed reading this motivational piece in the book:
As you enter this place of work please choose to make today a great day. Your colleagues, customers, team members, and you yourself will be thankful. Find ways to play. We can be serious about our work without being serious about ourselves. Stay focused in order to be there when for your customers and team members most need you. And should you feel your energy lapsing, try this surefire remedy: Find someone who needs a helping hand, a word of support, or a good ear - and make their day.

Good advice!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Collection Boxes

After reading David Allen's book "Getting Things Done" I have begun to revise the ways that I 'collect' and organise jobs that I need to do. A couple of Web 2.0 tools have been really useful for this.

When I started teaching 7 and a half years ago I quickly began to realise how poor an auditory learner I am. I really need to see or read things for them to sink in; trying or doing something makes a real impact on me. But I am awful at learning by listening. I find myself becoming fidgety in courses and meetings unless I am actively engaged. For the same reasons I have now begun to realise how poor my memory when I am asked to do a task or think of an idea in conversation. I now know that unless I write something down I am bound to forget it.

I now record shopping lists, tasks for work, issues in class, jobs around the house, errands, emails, texts, wedding preparation, ideas and thoughts. These are some of the ways I use to record everything:
  • Good old-fashioned Post-its. You just can't beat them for making quick notes. The important thing with Post-its, though, is that they must be kept and organised somewhere regularly or they will be lost. Post-its are great in the very short term.
  • I keep two diaries - one containing appointments and details of events happening at home and in school each day and one is used as a 'day book'. I use my diary to plan where I need to be each day - everything is written down as soon as I find out about it. My day book is used to record things I have need to do, things I have learned and ideas. Information from Post-its is often added to my day book. I keep any flyers or information needed for a specific day with that page in the book. Of course, this is great for making notes and making my focus for the day very clear, but I still need a way to remember things that need to be done regularly and things that I'd like to try or things that I want to need in the longer term. For these jobs I use a couple of useful websites.
  • Toodledo is a brilliant To Do list. Since discovering it I wonder how I ever survived without it. I use it to record tasks that I need to do - a bit like a still photo of all the plates that I am spinning. It tells me what I need to do and when. I can set tasks to repeat. I can remind me about things that need to be done months in advance. I will never forget what needs to be prepared for a meeting. It even reminds me when to order new asthmas inhalers. It stores everything I need to remember. Some of its greatest features are the notebook which can be used to record an agenda for meetings or details of a project; the subtask facility which ensures that I can record all the steps I need to take to complete a project; and the ability to text (via Twitter) tasks directly to my to do list using my phone.
  • Wikispaces is the final tool that I use for collection. This is used to record details of events from one year to another. Now, I can keep a record of what was good and what was not so good about an event, a project, a lesson or something else. This way I can make it even better for next year! I keep notes from courses I have attended. My Wikispaces page tends to be a place to record my long term ideas - things I know I can't try in the next few months. It also acts as a reference tool for information wherever I need it. I pay to make the wikispace private so that it is completely personal.
I hope that these ideas could help you to. Another collection tool I plan to look into further is Evernote which also looks useful. I also want to find an online shopping list to remind me about everything I need to buy from groceries to other items.

Does anyone use any other tools for collecting jobs or reminders?

Saturday, 24 January 2009

3D Shapes - Polydron

Earlier this week we had fun in Maths making 3D shapes using the Polydron Archimedean Solids set. This can be purchased from here.

The idea of the set is that children can explore the properties of solid shapes by constructing them using framework pieces. Polydron sets are very child friendly and the teacher's guide and instruction sheets are very user friendly.

The children really enjoyed making the shapes and it was interesting to examine the names of shapes to discover their properties, e.g. the cuboctahedron.

After constructing the shapes we experimented with them, adding faces to augment and removing faces to diminish. They enjoyed making snub shapes where solids 'explode' and spaces are filled with triangles.

I'm certain that the children will remember the lessons and the properties of the shapes.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Very short stories

During our study of different fiction genres we read Short! by Kevin Crossley-Holland. We used the story 'Talk About Short' as inspiration for writing our own short stories. The children wrote stories using less than 140 characters and then uploaded them to our school's Twitter page.

I then used Wordle to create a display of the words they used. Lots of fun!