Friday, April 26, 2013


I put this video together for EPPS ipad evening. I really like hopscotch because it is another free resource that complements our existing resources for the new computing curriculum. Simple and accessible! Ant Evans (@skinnyboyevans) has explored it too and very kindly let me use his video within mine, to show what can be achieved with it. You can see his existing posts here.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Self assessments as a reflective tool

Before teaching in mainstream I taught in a fish bowl. It was a new school for children with autistic spectrum disorders and therefore constantly visited by HMI, psychologists and other professionals. I was very self critical, partly because at that time I was unqualified and felt I had much to prove. I always wanted to do better. The school principle said once that it was my best and worst quality. I didn't need anyone else analysing my practice, I could do it well enough on my own.
I strongly believe that this underpins good teaching. Self assessing is a regular part of my practice, because it has a dual purpose - it helps the children focus on their strengths and areas to develop and it also helps me understand mine. At the end of each half term I want the children to spend a bit of time reflecting on their learning and also their proudest moments.We start by thinking and talking about all the things we have learned in class, what we have achieved and our thoughts in general. They then talk to their partners about what they have got better at and things they are proud of.

 I ask them to be frank and to tell me what would have made it even better for them in class as this helps me become a better teacher. It is their chance to be frank with me. Whilst I understand that the fact that these are not anonymous could influence what the children feel comfortable saying, I do also believe that our youngest children have the power to be frank when asked.

So here is what I learned from this set of self assessments:

  • Older children often focus on their improvements in writing (especially handwriting) and maths. Although this is not that dissimilar for my year 2/1s, my children also identified improvements in singing, sewing and behaviour such as sitting/listening on the carpet.
  • My children are very proud of a range of things: the puppets that they made, their stories that scared Mr BB, a range of maths subjects, their clay work, singing and a range of writing. This is good because I feel it shows how all learning is valued.
  • A lot of children identified that the noise levels in class sometimes prevented them from concentrating. This became a great discussion point and has provided a reference point for when I ask them to use indoor voices/turn their volume down in the future. 
  • Some children wrote that they have had a lot of help in class, from adults and from their friends. They seemed very able to identify that they are well supported. 
  • There were still too many blank spaces for the 'This would have helped with my learning...' section. When I asked children they told me that they were happy, that they had enough help and that they didn't know what to put in there or how it could be better. Some children went away and added 'I have enjoyed everything'. It is difficult to get them to add anything more constructive without putting words into their mouths.
  • One child had written that it would help if there were 10 Miss BBs ;-)
  • A G&T child wrote: 'I have enjoyed having lots more hard work, because the other maths is too easy.' Although I thought I had been stretching her, her 100% accuracy was not making her feel challenged. She prefers it when she struggles slightly as she knows that she is learning (I can relate to this). This is a fine balance though, but at the moment it seems to be the right balance.
  • They have enjoyed a range of subjects that we have covered. 
  • Identifying specifics is difficult for this age group. They might know that they want to improve their maths, but may not be clear exactly which part.
  • If my children had their choice next half term they would like to learn about: airplanes, the world, cats, tsunamis, dinosaurs, body and bones, Norwich, transport, squirrels, experiments I can do at home, polar bears, fish, how to bake cakes, the Hulk, horses, all about artists, Spanish, more numbers, poisons, another language, bears, Swedish, Spanish and French. A third of children gave reasons for their choices.

Now I can definitely cover some of these, but not all. This is why my team teacher and I made the decision to let our children make their own choices about their learning in the form of self study projects, at least twice a year. It is something that I have always done with older children, but it has proved very successful and enjoyable with my year 2/1s too. They enjoy the process and all children produce work of a standard that is high for them. They put a lot of effort in.

I have made brief notes from these self evaluations to inform my planning for next term, but more than that I enjoyed reading them. They were a pleasure to read and follow up on.

Example of PE self assessments

A little further (more academic) reading: 

The reflective teacher-McGraw Hill
Towards reflective teaching
The reflective teacher - Geoff Petty
Becoming a reflective teacher - Sage Publishing

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A little holiday food for thought

Today I have been catching up on some tweets/blog posts that I  favourited on twitter. I thought that some of them were worth sharing. 

The first post I re-read this morning was Oliver Quinlan's Knowing Creativity. I took time to reply directly on the post, but had ipad failure once again and it deleted my comment. Next time I will try to remember to copy before I press send... In a very small nutshell (I recommend reading it for yourself), Oliver's post explores the idea of creativity being less of a result of inspiration and more as hard graft. I agree with this as it reflects my practice and who I am as a teacher/learner. My colleagues have described me as a creative teacher, but the approaches and ideas I use in the classroom have all been adapted or inspired from other people's ideas and practices. In short, I am a magpie - unashamedly so. It's not that all my ideas are pinched directly from other people, it's just that I could probably identify the initial inspiration for most of them (even if they do not seem at all related-my thought processes are not a uniform thing!) The more 'unique' ideas that I have had have not always worked so well, but I like to try them out, even if I fail. Taking risks is a big part of my learning. I would like to point out here though that if the idea ends up being a big one, I am always careful to attribute the source of my inspiration. 

Another related piece of reading and  TEDTalk is by Sir Ken Robinson 'Do school's kill creativity?' which I believe all edcuators should watch (2006 but very relevant).


The third favourite was from @digitalmaverick about the Scratch Literacy Project between schools in London and Prague. This project involves year 8 children, but could be a great thing to adapt for younger children. 

Nick Chater also shared this youtube tutorial - how to create a duck hunt style game using Scratch. A great share for our digital leaders.


This next favourite is a 'Bloom's taxonomy' in apps shared by @ethinking, created by @aangeli. Lots of great apps, even if you don't necessarily agree with their position in the table.

This was also shared by @ethinking and is a chart of key apps and a 'master plan for a 1:1 ipad programme.

And a final favourite that I felt important to share is this:

In an interview, children reckon that writing the objective at the top of their work had never helped - personal targets and good marking do

Need I say any more?


Some creative ideas that haven't reached fruition. Yet...

1. A set of story books based around the 'Fairytale Advice Bureau' ... seriously! I've written one. It's got chapters and everything!
2. A set of eco-friendly picture story books. Quentin Clancy lives in a beach hut ...
3. Betty Buttercup's recipe book. (A spin-off from the 'Fairytale Advice Bureau)
4. A blog by 'Billy Buttercup' that shares his personal, social and emotional problems, requiring children to help him through with their comments. (Another spin-off) 

There are more ...