Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Creating iBooks in year 2

I have blogged about the Book Creator app before, but have learned how to print our iBooks this week, so thought I would dedicate a post to them. I know printing is not the point of them, but until we are at the point where our children have their own Dropbox or wiki spaces it's the only way they get to keep their work. 

They look great! Each book has between 5-9 pages and my year twos have been using all sorts of wordprocessing/publishing skills. They worked to success criteria that they generated and I typed for them. This helped them be independent and largely successful. 

If you do plan to create these yourself, make sure you allow enough time. Written pieces might be produced over a couple of lessons, with maybe a little extra time for additional research. These books were the culmination of almost 6 lessons!  We used guided reading sessions to research facts from a range of sources: information books, print outs and internet research. For the latter, essential digital literacy skills were reinforced, such as reliable sources and checking facts. 
We learned about the features of non-fiction books and also practised note-taking skills so that their writing would be in their own words. You also have to take into account that typing is slow due to lack of keyboard familiarity and editing can be disastrous. Children have accidentally deleted work, then forgotten about the back button. I truly believe they need to experience this (making mistakes and 'breaking' things) to learn effectively. The emotional disappointment of losing work, then remembering they can retrieve it is fab! 

As you'd expect, the stronger writers wrote more complex sentences, but they all experimented with layout and formatting. I'm dead chuffed! You can see their work on the class blog and check out the learning@home pages too - some children took their skills home with them (more pics will be added soon). Perfect! 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Being SENDco part 6: Graduated response and monitoring schedule

Paperwork is not my strong point. Creating or completing it is absolutely fine, filing it is the problem. For any one piece of paperwork there seems to be a range of places that it could be filed. I am a 'piler' who is working hard to develop organised systems where I can put my finger on things quickly. I have tried to learn from my previous deputy head and from my current head, who both have the kind of systems that I am in awe of. For SEN the whole system has to be organised, meaningful and most importantly, simple to use. The latter is extremely important in order to be inclusive.

Last year I simplified our school's IEPs and introduced GEPs based on ones created by my friend Cassie's (@ca51bee). Because of the changes brought about by the new Code of Pratice, quite a few of our children came off the SEN register, because provision was part of our normal differentiated curriculum. We needed a clear way of to recognise the continuum of SEN and appropriate provision, thus we needed to adopt a graduated response that would encompass what we do at East Harling. 

Before creating our graduated response I did my usual internet research to see which formats I liked best. I decided on creating a flow chart as it seemed like the easiest way of presenting information. The one I liked best was created by Lucy Pearce for Milton on Stour VE CA Primary School. I used her template and created my own using publisher. If you would like to copy and tweak your own, you should be able to download it here

I think it is simple, easy to follow and it provides guidance for families and school staff. This was completed before our OfSTED inspection and added to my 'OfSTED folder', which was very well received by the lead inspector. I am not a fan of doing things for OfSTED and believe that our focus should always be on pupil progress, but I also know that I needed to organise everything in one place so that hard copies can be found quickly. 

More recently I have started to create a monitoring schedule to sit alongside my SEN action plan. This document  is in response to OfSTED, who wrote:

  • The special educational needs coordinator is not given enough time to check on the effectiveness of the support provided for pupils who need extra help.


  • The deputy headteacher is also the special educational needs coordinator. She provides a positive role model for colleagues in her own teaching practice, but does not have enough opportunities to check on how effective the provision is for disabled pupils and those who have special educational needs.

The report acknowledges the progress that children with SEN make, and were very positive about what I was doing, whilst being clear that monitoring was not rigorous enough. They recommended that I should be observing TAs and children with SEN, including during our Read, Write inc sessions, which are already rigorously monitored by our RWi coordinator. 'You will be looking for different things,' was the rationale. I could not argue, I had observed our TAs delivering First Class @Number sessions, but these were ad hoc and not recorded. It would seem that this is common - schools have limited funds and the catch 22 is that I have to observe in the morning, so my class lose their teacher again. I'm not saying it shouldn't happen, it should. I care about all children's progress, not just those in my class, but year 2 is a key year when progress is measured. I want the best for them - they deserve it. 

So now I have extra time for SEN monitoring, but am wondering if it will really fulfil what the inspection team expects. It has to be at the same time each week for continuity, not just for my class and I, but for the HLTA who covers my lesson and the loss of her support to the teacher she is usually with. This in itself is limiting, but justifiable as it cannot be a moveable feast. Schools can't be expected to work in that way.

The other dilemma is that the Code of Practice is clear that children with SEN need quality first teaching, from a teacher. They should not always be with TAs, the weakest children deserve the strongest teaching. When I have tried to organise observations some teachers have said that they are working with the lower ability groups, which is great. So who do I observe, the children with SEN or the TAs? 

I guess it will all balance out in the end and there are other ways of monitoring, hence the monitoring schedule. Once again I found somebody else's format that I liked - I assume that folk share things on the web and they don't mind them being replicated. It saved me a job anyway as lots of the foci were similar to mine. I'm ashamed to say that I can't remember where I found it, but when I locate it, the source will be acknowledged here. You can view mine here and of course download it to tweak for your own use. It actually does feel like a good safety net and now I have recorded evidence of usual practice, with the observations added in. 

It would be great to know what you do in your school!

Drawing Carl

Talking Carl was the first app I had seen on an iPhone and after my friend showed it to me it started off a giggling domino effect. When I saw the drawing Carl app I wondered if it would compete with the other drawing apps available, but it was free at the time so I had nothing to lose. 

I think that this is a lovely app for EYFS and KS1, to prepare children for art apps like brushes. It has some nice features, as well as the ones that you would expect to find. What I really liked is the 'smoothness' in which you can draw. At £2.49 it's not one of the cheapest apps available, but it might just keep your little artists amused in the holidays!

There are a lot of options for wallpaper with different colours and styles.

Stamps are easy to use and easy to change colour.

If you are happy you can save and share your picture.

Creating a new colour is simple

and there are some nice effects that you can apply.

The part I like the best is the ability to add features to create your own talking monsters.

It giggles like Talking Carl and it is fun to experiment with the mouths. 

These features will keep children amused for hours! (Well a while any way)

Game Press - game creation in primary schools

This game creating app is a nice way to let your children explore their creativity, whilst covering aspects of the new computing curriculum. It reminds me somewhat of Sketch Nation, which my year 6 digital leaders loved. I learned about it through @ictmagic and the #ukedchat magazine.

A tutorial takes you through the core elements of the app and lets you test out as you are working through it. 

You initially create a moving character that jumps, an enemy who will end the game of you collide, and some coins for a score. It walks you through all of these points so that you can then go off and create your own.

There are a number of backgrounds and elements to add or change and the tutorials along the way are handy.

You can pause your gameplay and presumably record it (mine's not good enough to record!) 

I added some more characters to mine and have realised already that I need to debug as once my main character goes off screen, he doesn't come back. I'm not sure if I would use this app in class, but I will definitely let my code club children explore it to gain their views. It could be a good early introduction to game creation - I shall have to ask my year 5s what they think. If you have used it successfully, please let me know! 

Winky Think - computational thinking in EYFS

It's Saturday morning and the time when I usually test out some new apps. So the first one today is Winky Think. I really liked this! As always I need to find some 3-5 year olds to see if it keeps them engaged, but I thought it was great for problem solving. 

The aim is to navigate your shape to its home. When you are successful it turns green and stars sprinkle out of it - accompanied by an appropriate sound effect. It's a good motivator and I think it would be great for children with SEN too.

There are different elements that you have to think about, such as colour and shape matching.

You have to appy logical reasoning when shapes need to be in a specific order,

and when elements are covered up.

Sometimes the shapes in the way are on elastic, so both hands are needed.

The logical reasoning aspect gets increasingly more difficult.

Mazes are introduced to encourage motor control

and then you find that there are doors in the way, 

Some of which need you to be pressing your shape on the button to keep them open.

There are times when doors move and you have to dodge them. I have got up to around level 54 and wasn't bored, I just wanted to play something else. It will be interesting to see what our youngsters think of it. I shall endeavour to find some beta testers during the holiday! 

If you have any thoughts about this, please let me know!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Proud of my #Selfie

I have always acknowledged that my better ideas are inspired by other's work, thoughts, throw away remarks and/or challenges and I always try to accredited my sources. The only reason I started teaching through mantle of the expert was because my HT at that point mentioned it in a staff meeting (not what it was, he just asked if I'd heard of it). Off I went to research it, because I was intrigued and because I hate not knowing something! My first class blog post in 2007 was written for the very same reason - my head had said 'I wonder if it would be a good way of commincating ...' 

So this week I was inspired by tweets between Claire Lotriet (@ohlottie - a fellow GTAUK friend, year 6 teacher extraordinaire and computing expert) and Amy Harvey (@Ms_Jamdangory - fellow Talent Pool/ teachmeet supporter/bonkers Norfolk friend). Claire's post, #proudofmyselfie, shoes how her students take photos of themselves and the achievements they are proud of, then share them via social media. 

I loved this idea and immediately thought of a child in my class who finds it difficult to accept praise and will rarely think that they have achieved or done something they should feel proud of. At some point we will get a school twitter account, but as always I wanted to do something immediately with my year 2s. Only last week I had been talking to a colleague about giving each child their own display space so that they could choose what they put up. I have limited wall space though and talked myself out of it as I wouldn't be able to give each child an A3 sized piece. Our class blog is our extended display space, so I decided that I should give a bit of control back to the children about when their work gets posted. On Monday night I created some 'stickets' - tickets that children can stick on the work they are proud of.

 I created the blog on Tuesday and told the children about it at the end of Wednesday morning. In the afternoon we were working on some backgrounds for our art and I grabbed a couple of children to go through some misconceptions from the morning. One child's lightbulbs went on and she said, 'I'm proud of my selfie!' Bingo! She stuck in her sticket and I took her photo. 

I've often championed the blogger app and this shows how brilliant it is, as 30 seconds later it was online. I will teach my children to blog themselves, or my mini digital leaders will do it, but as a model I have done the first ones myself. Today has been the best feeling though as 11 children collected their own stickets because they were proud of their BIG writing achievements. I haven't read their writing yet, but the fact that they are proud of it is perfect. I have already achieved what I set out to achieve too as the aforementioned child collected a sticket. How wonderful when they go home and show their families. 

If you want to see for yourself, click on the Proud of my #Selfie tab on our class blog. 

Thank you Claire for the inspiration!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Forest Schools in Beautiful School Grounds - A Two Part Story!

This post tells the story of two school grounds and how they have been developed to create valued learning spaces outside the classroom. A post about how buildings speak is a long time coming as it is more research based than my usual posts, but these outdoor classrooms speak for themselves. Think about your most powerful memories from childhood. Mine are mostly things that have happened outside - are yours?

Bug sculptures with my year 5/4s
Back in 2009 I organised a sustainability week at the school I worked in to celebrate (and add to) the work on developing the school grounds. 

The first tree planting
My class with our bug hotel

At this point in my career I was an AST, but was also heavily involved in a cluster sustainability project. I  worked with our school eco team to gain the silver eco award and was desperate to become a green flag school. The grounds were very sports oriented and the 'wild area' had been blocked off for a while as it was so overgrown. With a colleague who shared my passion for the outdoors we redesigned the wild area into a quiet reading and reflection area (with nooks and crannies to explore) and relocated the 'wild area' to the corner of the school away from the road, backing onto a disused barn and rough ground. A perfect position to attract wildlife. You can see some of the work in my eco blog. From the first dig, to filling the pond, planting trees and creating an organic, wild area it was a wonderful adventure.

Digging the new pond - badly!

Supported and advised by Tim the Ranger at every step

Creating an 'entrance' into the wild area

Within the wild area we had log piles, log stepping stones that we didn't step on because they were bug homes, wild flower mounds and an area at the back of the pond that belonged to the wildlife, not us. Although the area had to be fenced off, we planted trees and had wild grass areas that flowed out to keep it organic looking. Tim taught us how to stomp and cut pathways through so that we could sweep for bugs. We learned so much from him about keeping it as natural as possible whilst creating a haven for wildlife. 

The mounds 2 years on

We were very proud when our nature club won the Kingfisher Award for our nature and conservation work. 

Once established, our wild area became a haven for all sorts of wildlife, which was much appreciated by nature club and classes alike.

Our marvellous natural pond

So now to 2015 and the delightful transformation of a corner of the field at East Harling Primary and Nursery into our new forest schools area. We are very fortunate to have three members of staff with the forest schools award. I am naturally very envious of this as it was an aim of mine, but I understand that you can't do everything! I feel very fortunate that one of our passionate teachers has taken the lead in a massive way and organised the whole marvellous shebang! The photos really do not do it justice, so I will blog again later in the year when the willow has established and the trees are in leaf. My impatience won't let me keep this under wraps that long - I want others to see what can be achieved! 

Look closely and you will see the willow hedge that borders this (to be named) area
Jane is the driving force behind this and she has enlisted the support of the school community through her hard work and determination. She organised two working parties to help plant 50 established trees that were geberously donated by a local nursery - Robin Tacchi Plants - and a copse pack from the woodland trust. She has persuaded local businesses to provide natural resources and gained funding to purchase a shed and some essential forest school 'tools'.  

Broadland tree services donated the seating for our outdoor classroom and I cannot wait to teach outside! It feels wonderful out there!

Last year our lovely TA, Zoe, persuaded her partner to deliver some branches suitable for den building. We will probably still walk down to our local fen to den build, but this is wonderful for small groups of children and for nurture activities.

More seating arrived yesterday from the forestry commission. It shows just how generous people are with their time as well as resources.

The 'tunnel' of established trees leads all the way down to our pond area, which could be on the agenda for future development. 

This account is merely the bare bones of our forest school story, but I know that there will be many stories to come in the future - and lots of happy memories! Thank goodness for Jane, her vision and her determination to create an amazing outside space for our school community. Having been through that process myself, from initial planning to realising the dream, I know what a time consuming, but worthwhile and soul-hugging process it is.