Sunday, May 27, 2012

My thinking space

Darrow Lane

Like many teachers I find that the most valuable thinking space is usually the journey to and from work. Sometimes however, I don't want to think about school. I just want to enjoy the beautiful scenery around me and scan the fields for 'my' barn owls. 

Taken just outside Bressingham

Darrow Lane

There are three. I know this because I have seen three in one morning. Winnie (found on Winfarthing Road), Bertie (Boyland common) and Bessie (the outskirts of Bressingham village). I have some shaky film clips and some bog standard photos of this beautiful creature.

Some folks on twitter may be aware of my 'slight' owl cam obsession and this is why. I am fascinated by these beautiful birds of prey. At certain times of year I regularly see them on the way to and from work. I always have my camera with me - just in case.
Common Road

So my thinking space is also the place that often offers much needed distraction and takes my thoughts back to the important things in life. I hope you enjoy the rest of my photos (coming soon!) and would love to know if your journey to work or your thinking space is as lovely as mine!

So here is a snapshot of my daily journey (28th May 2012).

Leaving Banham ...
a stone throw from my house.
Quiet lanes. A fantastic thinking space on the way to work, but also places where I can lose my thoughts and just appreciate the beauty of my surroundings on the way home.  

Another quiet lane about 1/2 km from work.
I would love to know if your journey to work inspires you in any way.

Taken 23rd September 2009. Not fantastic photos, just fantastic skies.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Jacek Yerka

I have waxed lyrical about the art work of Jacek Yerka a couple of times this week (again) and so thought I would add a quick post about this extraordinary artist. I have used his work during BIG writing sessions, for oral storytelling and talk time. Last weekend I used one of his pictures during a livewriting session.
So here are a few of my favourites, but there are many more amazing pieces. They can engage and inspire children of all ages (and adults too!) My year 2/1 children have showed amazing creative writing skills when presented with the artwork (I will add a piece of their writing shortly).
I intend to use Yerka's art as a hook in an exciting new digital literacy project, inspired by the work of Kate Pullinger. Keep your eye out for a blog post in July!

In the meantime, if they could answer, what questions would you ask these pictures? What would the pictures say in response?

What is in the well?
Where have you come from? Is anyone driving you?
What are you for?
Who built you?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Collaboration, inspiration and #tmeast

On Saturday afternoon I caught up with a group of people at the teach meet in Norwich organised by @tomhenzley - people that I have a huge amount of respect for. I enjoyed the afternoon very much because of this, but also because of the new ideas and inspiration that it brings. This post is a reflection of the teachmeet and some of the people who contributed. It is also testament to the friends you can make via twitter and how you can both learn from and inspire other people. 

I'm not going to shout about them all (you can watch them on the live stream site) but will share some notables. I also admit that my concentration is poor at times and I intend to watch some of those near to the end of the teachmeet again to digest them, particularly @BenRogersova's talk about evolutionary psychology and @teachitso's presentation. I admit I was distracted at times by the cake, the company and @JenniH68's new hair and nails!

Circus skills, forest schools and menus!

 I am always keen to try out new things and @MissRead10 showed how circus skills can provide great brain breaks for children. This is especially relevant when you have a class full of jiggery children who need to get up and move around. Likewise, @normal_for_JP talked about his inspirational forest school work and growth mindsets. He reminded us how intelligences can be developed and failure is an important part of learning.  I often feel constrained by the classroom and envy the fact that he has beautiful woodland on his doorstep. 

@MissJStanton shared her fab work on tri-planning  with google docs, demonstrating how effective it can be across schools. I was in awe of @kezzmerelda and her amazing EYFS digital learning stories and @julian3576, who shares some of my passions (another mantle of the expert/tech fan), when he talked about developing a menu for learning and creating magic moments. @TomHenzley showed some great maths apps, @wigglemyears some great embeddable ict stuff and @jodieworld a free screen casting tool.


My presentations covered the digital leader network, livewriting using coverit live and the power of three - twitter, drama and ICT. These presentations had a common theme - the power of collaborative working. They demonstrated the dedication of teachers and what can be achieved when people go the extra mile to support one other. Twitter has been pivotal in the way I work collaboratively, because the only person mentioned here I worked with BT (before twitter!) was Jenni. 
Whilst I was demonstrating the livewriting, the forces behind it - Cherise Duxbury (@Cherise_Duxbury) and Michelle Brayford (@mbrayford) -  were adding content and sharing ideas. Lisa P (@QueenyPrior) was supporting the flow. I had met Cherise briefly at the start of the Bett Show teachmeet, but it is through twitter that I have got to know her better. How wonderful that these three lovely ladies gave up time on a Saturday afternoon to support me. Does that not show dedication and passion for what they believe in?

I am going to watch some of the videos from the teachmeet again, because I know that I will learn even more with a second viewing - bits that I missed first time. I will wait until my brain can cope with more learning!

Believe it or not, I hate the mic!

My very last shout out goes to @rosiegirl7005 who came despite being poorly and showed me again her intelligence, wit and dedication to children's learning. We could all do with a Steph supporting us in the classroom!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Livewriting at teachmeet east

I have been inspired by top tweeting teachers - @Cherise_Duxbury and @MBrayford - to try out coveritlive as a form of livewriting. Having participated in the sessions that they have run, I had a go myself with my digital leaders and during outreach work. It is wonderful! The standard of writing that is produced from it is amazing.

So come on! Join in with me during the teachmeet and see for yourself! :)

Art work by Jacek Yerka

Monday, May 14, 2012


On Sunday I heard of another new (to me) online resource from @jobadge called answergarden. I thought I'd have a play, so asked some of my PLN to answer my question. As always they rose to the challenge. Proof again of the value of twitter friends! I'm going to show answergarden next week in a staff meeting, to show how it could be used in class. 

You can add to this answergarden here if the embedded form below doesn't work. 

The question: What do you want to learn about next?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Trumpet blowing!

I've had a drama article published in Creative Teaching and Learning Magazine! I had written a blog post called 'A Waspish Sort of Problem' about a drama day that I had led, based on a book called 'The Giant Jam Sandwich'. 

I had blogged about the event and shared it on twitter and was subsequently approached to write the arcticle. I admit that I was unsure at first, because of time limitations and  my ability to do a good job.
 So, now that I have done it, I am going to blow my own trumpet! Fitting it in was a miracle in itself (the week before the google teacher academy and during those google app tests). I have no intention to 'tweet brag' about the article or this blog post, but am blogging just because I am wearing a *proud face* right now and want to have a 'look what I've done' moment! 

Drama in the classroom: the power of twitter

Many people know what a drama queen I am. Not always in real life; as a true Gemini I can go from confidently outspoken to self-conscious, uber-relaxed to hyperactive at the drop of a hat. But I do love a drama in the classroom and I enjoy taking risks and trying new things. Dressing up and pretending to be someone else takes me back to my childhood and, whilst I have no acting ambitions, I like the reaction I get from the children. It is amazing to see how some of them can drop into the drama with me, instantly.

I have been lucky in the past to have other staff who are willing to dress up and drop in with me too. My previous headteacher has kindly been Samuel Pepys, Percy the Park Keeper, Henry V111, a French chocolate spy and a space cadet before. Teaching assistants have been in role as such people as Maid Marion’s lady in waiting and Jacqueline Wilson. This is not part of their job description, they do it because they enjoy it and can see the benefits.

I have roped some of my family into playing a role too. My dad and sister have been giants complaining about small cakes, my son is regularly a manager, employee or traveller. Sometimes you need a fresh face though. So a few weeks ago I asked on twitter if anyone could help. Within 30 minutes I had a video message from Miss Read ( @MissRead10 )  asking for help from Badger Publishing company.  

She was going on holiday and didn't have enough room in the case for her daughter's favourite book - The Hungry Caterpillar. She wanted to know if we could help. I wanted the children (in role as publishers) to come up with the idea that creating a book on the ipad would solve this problem. The initial problem was that my class were really indignant that Miss Read couldn't remove some clothes and put the book in! 'It's quite small after all!' Luckily, one of my chaps said, 'Well we could make a book and email it to her", which then prompted the ibook idea. We had used book creator before, but I wanted them to make an animated story, so I joined in as I always do (as an employee) and dripped some more ideas in.  The videos below are examples of what Badger Publishing company created.

This was a what I would class as a mini-mantle. Dropping into a drama for a short time (2-3 lessons) to achieve the desired outcome, usually covering only one or two curriculum areas.

 The next mantle I wanted to do would involve many more curriculum areas. It needed to incorporate learning about night time and nocturnal animals as part of our work towards SATs. I asked another fellow tweeter (@normal_for_JP) if he would do me a small favour. I wanted a way of getting the children to try and deduce the difficulties of capturing nocturnal animals on film. I was expecting a short audio/film clip request for help to film creatures. I was absolutely amazed at what I actually got! See for yourself!

The mantle had already started in the morning with a letter of complaint 
from a fellow nature lover, who said that the WPIT website was not very informative. Creating dilemmas is what gets a drama started and keeps it going.

WPIT decided very quickly that they needed to add more content and should probably make sure that their animal facts were accurate, so they set to work. It was at the end of the morning session that I showed the film. 
Initially we discussed the problem and the children reasoned why the animals weren't being captured. In the afternoon the WPIT employees filmed tips like the one below as a response for Backwoods Bill, which you can see on our class blog

We carried on working on our company website that afternoon whilst I was plotting ways of extending the problem solving and learning from Billy's film. It turned out that I didn't have to do much thinking (as usual!) I had tweeted about the post on our class blog and by the morning we had a response from Ross Mannell (@RossMannell) in Australia! Even more incredible was the fact that he had responded with a post of his own! We studied it carefully and came to the conclusion that Backwood's Bill might not even know anything about the creatures he was trying to film. WPIT's solution to that problem - create a guide book for him. Great! Enquiry learning with outcomes and success criteria naturally set by the children.

As another part of our work on night time I wanted the children to learn 'Be Safe, Be Seen.' So cheekily I asked JP if he could drop into role again and have an accident ... Once again a brilliant film was delivered that kept the drama going. It allowed me to cover objectives, but once again my class thought that they had made the decisions about the learning and the outcomes. 

So what can I say but a HUGE thank you to three fellow tweeters who have taken the time and made a big effort to add a bit of variety to my classroom.

What about me? Well I did make the effort in the end and drop into role as Backwoods Belinda - Billy's team mate. No film clip I'm afraid. My Australian accent was dubious and it was one of those times when I was glad that I was on my own in the classroom!

Backwoods Belinda
If you want to read more, you can see our class blog here