Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Year Six Teacher is dead... Long live Year Three Teacher!!

It is a sad day for me (not just because it's the last day of the summer holidays) because as from today I will no longer be Year Six Teacher. From tomorrow I will be teaching Year Three!

This change is an exciting one, but one that also fills me with nerves!

I am moving from Year Six for one reason only - to gain more experience. I have taught Year Six since I qualified as a teacher back in 2001 and I love it! Each year I have seen our curriculum evolve and become exciting and interesting for the children and for the teachers! It really is a brilliant year group to teach and I will miss it terribly. Amongst other things, I will miss the humour of the children, the visits (especially the trip to France), the ability of the children, the way that the children approach their responsibilities so professionally, the indepenence of the children and the curriculum that we teach. However, after nine years in Year Six (and in the same classroom), it is more than time for a change.

Year Three promises to be really exciting and I'm looking forward to teaching a new curriculum, moving to a new classroom, new situations, new visits and the opportunity to help shape the Year Group into something I am very proud of. However, I am not afraid to admit that the move makes me really nervous. For the first time in nine years I'm not really clear about what I'm teaching from day to day. I'm worried that I'll pitch the lessons all wrong until I adjust. It will be a challenge to tackle situations with children with needs that I'm unfamiliar with. I will miss my old classroom too!

Over the last few years this blog has evolved into a place for me to share ideas and thoughts about issues that affect Year Six, management, technology and education in general. I wish to continue with this but there will also be an opportunity to reflect on my experiences as I move year group.

Thank you to all Year Six teachers who have supported the blog over the years and I hope that they find my thoughts as a Year Three teacher interesting. This blog will remain live for the time being, but all my new posts will be at the new blog. My Twitter username will change to @y3teacher

The new blog url is: www.y3teacher.blogspot.com

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Weeknote 7

This week I have...

Been on holiday
We've enjoyed a great week in North Devon. We booked a holiday apartment for a week in Ilfracombe. We had two days of glorious sunshine and we spent these two days at the beach in Woolacombe. From the Tuesday onwards it rained... and rained... and rained. It was torrential at times! We managed to visit various places: Combe Martin, Clovelly, Croyde, Barnstaple, Bideford, Great Torrington, Westward Ho! and Appledore. We had a good day at Exmoor Zoo and watched a stunt show on the Tuesday evening. It was great to be sent some recommendations about where to eat using Twitter!

Realised that I need a Twitter cull
I have read lots of tweets using Tweetdeck during the week and I've realised that I follow so many people that it's hard to find usefulness and meaning from all those tweets. I need to look more carefully at the profiles of the people I follow.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Weeknote 6

I'm writing this from our holiday in Devon!

This week I have...

I've caught up on blogging during the week. I wrote a review of a book by Terry Freedman which he has linked to from his website at www.ictineducation.com.

I've been painting the fence in an effort to keep up with the targets I set in my monthly review.

Set up my classroom
The drawers and cupboards are now labelled and the room is set out how I want it.

Been to a wedding
We had a fabulous day at a wedding in Whitchurch.

The journey to Ilfracombe was a nightmare thanks to an overturned caravan which held up up for two hours. Still, we are here now, and looking forward to a great week!!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Engaging with families

 A couple of months ago I raided the Becta website for publications in the fear that they might suddenly disappear. Fortunately the government's cost cutting initiatives haven't included cutting bandwidth to the Becta website just yet, so the document I refer to hasn't disappeared yet. (Incidentally, I wonder what will happen to the publications when Becta does fold?)

Messages from the evidence: Engaging with Families talks about how technology can be used to engage with  parents more effectively. It is based on research from a 2009 survey and is intended to help schools to use what technology has to offer to improve parental engagement. There is an expectation for all primary schools to offer secure online access for parents to information about their child's learning and school life (assuming this expectation still exists).

Now I am well aware that many schools are miles in advance of our school, but here are some things that our school does to use technology to engage with families and what I would like the school to do in the not too distant future.
  • Text messages - we subscribed to a school texting system around 18 months ago and it has proved to be a massive hit! Staff love it because it is simple to use and it is an effective way to contact parents. the feedback from parents has been fantastic. I'm not sure how it will work, but next year I want to enable to function where parents can reply to the texts. I don't know if it will become over-complicated for our office staff to manage.
  • Emails - the same texting system now offers an email package. We mainly use the system to send newsletters home, reducing the number of printed letters by 75% in the process. In the next year I want to extend this to other letters (e.g. trip letters and after school club letters). This will save time and paper.
  • Twitter - although it's hard to tell how effective our Twitter feed is unless people start to follow, I'm sure the fact that our tweets are displayed at the very top of our website means that people must take some note of the news items that pop up daily. I only wish that the Local Authority would unblock it so it can be shared with the children in school.
  • Blogs - the Year Six blog that my colleague and I ran has been extremely popular amongst our pupils. Next year it's time to extend this throughout the school and one of my challenges for the learning platform is to demonstrate to staff how to use the blogging tool and get them using it! A blog about our visit to France and a visit in another year group proved to be very well received! It will be important to demonstrate to parents how and where to leave comments.
  • The school website (learning platform) - we are just scratching on the surface of the possibilities this offers. During the summer I will be redesigning the school's homepage to make it easier for parents to find essential information like holiday dates, diary dates and news. (I'm sure that I found a statistic somewhere about how many clicks within a website that a visitor will make before they get frustrated and leave. I want to reduce the number of clicks in order to find these items.)
  • 'Enable parents to book appointments and consultations online' - blimey! The document recommends this and it would be really cool. I just haven't got a clue how to do it!
  • Links on the school website - our Delicious bookmarks feed into our website (using RSS feeds) but I need to add links for parents like local council websites.
  • Homework - A survey of parents in 2009 showed that 97% had internet access. I wonder if I could set staff the challenge to distribute some homework to be completed online only?
  • Sessions for parents - I would like to offer sessions for parents to demonstrate how to use the school website and the different technologies we offer.
  • Online reports - Next year we will be revamping our reporting process. I wonder if we can make the reports available online?
Of course, the document reminds us that,
"No one-size fits all. Good communication includes a range of options to fit around parents' different needs and circumstances, including technology strategies and non-technology strategies."
I guess you can't beat face-to-face interaction in the end! But I'd love to hear from people about how they engage with parents using technology.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Teachers Pet

In the process of setting up my brand new Year Three classroom I looked around for some classroom labels that would be good for labelling drawers, pegs and a few other bits and pieces like a visual timetable.

I was delighted to find some fantastic items on the Teachers Pet website (www.tpet.co.uk) which is completely free! I loved the animal labels in particular which I have used to create drawer labels, and the visual timetable will be perfect to use on the wall. It was good to find resources which are editable too!

If you have any labels needed for your classroom, I cannot recommend this site enough.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Go On, Bore 'Em by Terry Freedman

I wanted to write a quick review of this book by Terry Freedman which is available here which talks about why some ICT lessons can be excruciatingly dull.

Whilst very much aimed at secondary ICT teachers, I actually think a lot of his ideas can be transferred to primary school teachers, and not just for ICT.

The starter activity
The logical and scientific way that he explains the need for a starter activity is superb. When I work with trainee teachers I will pass them the book so that they can read this chapter to help them to understand the need to plan an engaging starter activity.
"In one lesson I observed, as part of an ICT inspection I was undertaking, it was 8 minutes between the first student entering the room and the last one entereing the room... The first student to enter had 8 minutes in which he was expected to sit down and say and do nothing. The second student had slightly less than 8 minutes for the same thing, and so on. In other words, by the time the last student entered the room, most of the students already in the room were now virtually unmanageable."
Doesn't that make sense? I think it really highlights the importance of planning a starter activity.

The myth of students' superior technical knowledge
I thought that this chapter would help me to get through to teachers who plan activities in ICT without planning a purpose for the challenge. It will help to show the need for the need to plan a task where pupils can apply their skills and knowledge and show real understanding of ICT.

The chapter on too much talking by the teacher will also be invaluable advice for students. I guess we all have lessons where we 'go on a bit', but again the logical reasons he uses to justify his advice are spot on!

Moving to Year Three next year is something that's on my mind. I'm not quite clear yet what the homework routine will be in this year group, but the advice about homework in this book will be useful. He argues that homework is not a bolt-on, but should be an integral part of the lesson. He writes that homework, "Should help ensure that what goes on in the lesson itself is useful and meaningful and that the time in the lesson is well-spent." This is great justifucation for making greater use of our learning platform and its forums and wikis at home to form part of the homework routine.

There's more great advice which I will offer to trainee teachers about good plenaries, but I also found the chapter on data to be very interesting, particularly after my work on data in my Leadership Pathways course.

Go On, Bore 'Em by Terry Freedman is a worthwhile read. It can be purchased here.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Weeknote 5

I knew that 'Weeknote' was over-ambitious. I know I've said it before, but I've just been so busy. There's literally been something on every weekend since the end of May and unfortunately blogging didn't get done.

Time to get back on track...

This week I have...

Sorted my iTunes
Music is so important to me that I enjoy spending time editing the information about each an every tune. When I started to use iTunes in February I didn't think the process of making sure all of the song details are up-to-date would take as long as it has, but the end is now in sight - I've finished all of the songs beginning by artists from M to Z which means that I've don't over half of the alphabet. M took forever (due to hundreds of Michael Jackson, Michael Buble etc. songs)

Watched films
It's been nice to relax with my wife and watch a few films. We watched Toy Story 3 the other day (enjoyable film). A while ago I bought the Two and a Half Men series one boxset and we've enjoyed watching these too!

Been ill
I felt really poorly from Tuesday night to Thursday morning. On Wednesday I went to bed at 6 and was in bed until 10 on Thursday morning. It's not like me to do that. Still I'm better now.

Caught up on jobs in my office
All of the pictures taken at school and home over the last few months have been uploaded to the relevant Flickr collection. I've sorted various things that needed doing in the office.

Begun to prepare for my new class
Moving to Year Three promises to be very exciting and I can't wait, but I don't mind admitting that I'm very nervous about it. So it was a relief this week to meet up with my colleague and begin to plan the year.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Monthly Review August 2010

Well, I have to say that my monthly review process has been an absolute waste of time. Of the targets I set, I have achieved very few, in particular my personal targets. I have learned a lesson which I need to try to address next year, that basically my life has been devoted to school for the last two months. The last half-term at school has been so busy that when I came home each evening I didn't really feel like doing much. But with loads of social events (I know I shouldn't complain, but there were so many) I found fitting in anything productive at home very difficult.



Go running eight times - Disaster! Just after writing my monthly review I injured my ankle whilst running and could barely walk for a week. It meant that I didn't go running for two months! I am back on track now though.
Start playing squash again - Disaster! I didn't play at all - with many evening events with school and various social events over the last couple of months I just didn't get chance.
Begin to tidy up the garage - Disaster! I can only blame my lack on enthusiasm and lack of time for this one.

Organise the school's 'university' project - Done! Read my blog post here.
Write my school reports - Done! Arrrgghhh! I need to write much less next year! 
Collate the pupil questionnaires - Done, although quite late. Unfortunately I had other priorities during the last few weeks at school that these sort of fell by the wayside.

New Targets:

Go running eight times - I must do this!!

Start playing squash again - I'm looking forward to doing this
Begin to tidy up the garage - I need to do this.
Paint the garden fence - (I just need motivation and good weather)

Tidy up my office at home - That means complete all of the work that I've piled up in there!
Set up my brand new classroom - I'm moving to Year Three - more on this soon!
Move in to my office at school properly!
Plan my first lessons for Year Three
Revamp my blog and Twitter - Year3Teacher!
I plan for August to be a more productive month!! (I promise!)