May 6, 2013
What a treat on a friday that leads into a bank holiday weekend! David Mitchell, he of the fantastic results in writing through blogging, spent the day with us down here in Devon sharing the ways in which he used blogging to transform writing in his school.
The bank holiday weekend has given me plenty of time to reflect upon the day, whilst pulling bindweed out of my garden, and to make links with what I know about learning in literacy.
What became really clear to me was how David inspired the children to write. Blogging was the tool that allowed the children to write at home and at school but it was the audience for the writing that really got the children going. David reported that some of his children had written 100,000 words on their blogs and this is not just at school but at home as well – in fact for some children mostly at home! For me this linked with one of my project schools who have been focusing on increasing the amount that children read. The outcome of this is increased levels in reading attainment, improved perceptions of themselves as learners and readers and an improvement in writing. If just reading more can do this, then writing more must have a similar impact. Practise makes perfect!
David showed us what it was to listen to children and to be driven by their needs. This was a theme which flowed throughout the day and shows us that insisting on a specfic way of using the blogs is counterproductive. Each class must find their own way with the blog but audience is critical. An interested audience on twitter can really help here. Who knows where your connections might take you.
I loved the use of QR codes in literacy books to take you to the blog post that the writing had set up and the responses from around the world.
At half past three were all still working on our tools for the blog that we had set up , no one was clock watching adn we had new people on twitter and 40 classrooms with blogs ready for children to use. I look forward to reading posts from children in these classes.
Thank you David. It was fantastic!
April 28, 2013
Want to get ready for grammar teaching next year? Wondering how you can introduce the grammar terminology to children so that it will stick? Want a copy of our new publication Sentence Toolkit for Teachers plus ideas to use in the classroom? Come and join us on the 10th May for our first Sentence Toolkit for Teachers day. This course is offered at a reduced rate so it is on a first come first served basis. Other dates are available.
On the day we will share ways in which grammar terminology can be introduced to children through activities based on real texts (texts that teach) which includes film. Each activity will cover the subject knowledge necessary to teach the aspect plus ideas for introducing and teaching it in the classroom. Delegates will receive a copy of our Sentence Toolkit for Teachers which offers a set of tools that act as a visual and kinaesthetic mnemonic for children to make the terminology ‘sticky’. The toolkit includes tools for a wall display, stickers to use when giving feedback and most importantly activities to use the tools in grammar teaching. These are accessed via our blog through the use of a password available in the publication and are added to regularly.
March 4, 2013
Because grammar is about improving writing. And passing the test is a by product of good grammar teaching.
Because grammar will be boring for those who have to put up with 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 years of this.
Because grammar should be fun.
Because grammar teaching should take place in context with authentic texts and discussion about the impact.
Because preparation for the test is important but only needs 3 or 4 weeks.
Because if we don’t hold on to what is important in grammar teaching, no one else will.
January 27, 2013
At present we are working with Yr1 teachers on phonics teaching. As a result of this project we have asked the teachers to share with us the best games or activities that they have found for whole class/group teaching which allows for differentiation and therefore all to take part. Over the next few weeks we will be collecting these examples and sharing them.
Here is one to get us started. As you will see, they are usually based on games/activities we all know but adapted in some way. This one is called Matching with Meaning and is based on the matching pictures and sentences activity. It’s purpose is to ensure that children are not just decoding the words but focusing on meaning through linking the text and images so I try not to make all the images too literal. It is an activity for the apply part of a phonics session.
You will need a range of words, captions or sentences for the children to read . I usually try to use 3for each pair of children but it will depend upon the reading speed of your class. The differentiation is found in terms of the amount of text that you give a child or pair to read and the phase from which it comes. Some children at the very beginning of phase 2 will have 3 words, those in phase 5 will have 3 sentences using the phonemes they are working on and anything in between these two that is needed.
On the whiteboard, images are shown that link to the words, captions and sentences that the children have and when they have something that links with the image they stand up and read it to the class. There are some interesting discussions when more than one pair stand up because then the class need to decide if they are both right or not.
You will find the resources for this activity here.
What’s your favourite activity that allows for differentiation for the whole class?
January 20, 2013
The Fishing Trip by Rodriguez is a wonderful wordless book that I will be adding to the list of wordless books on our texts that teach list. Thanks @madaboutbooks for the recommendation.
The book tells the story of Fox, Chicken and Crab who open the fridge to find the cupboard bare. Chicken and Crab then go off on a fishing trip to catch some food. They catch a large fish, only for a cross eagle-type bird to catch hold of the fish and drag Chicken and Crab off. They end up entangled with a nasty-looking sea-snake and escape back home. There a big surprise awaits them and I laughed out loud when I turned to the last page and saw what they were having for tea.
The book would work particularly well with units of literacy in Yrs2 – 4 where a traditional tale is being looked at, as the story lends itself to that type of story telling. It would fit into the capturing ideas part of a teaching sequence providing a structure for children to retell their own story. We are in discussion about the blueprint – voyage and return or quest. It fits both and the one you would choose would be dependent upon how strongly you felt the desire was to go on a journey to solve the problem of no food .
I was delighted to see that there were more books in the series: The Chicken Thief, Fox and Hen Together, Rooster’s Revenge and The Treasure Thief due out at the end of this month. I am going to have to start collecting them!
Have you come across any good books recently?
January 12, 2013
My copy of The High Street arrived on Christmas Eve so I had to wait a while to settle down and enjoy it. I was not disappointed. This is a book of lists (Yr1 teachers will be pleased to hear) and visits to the local shops.
This book is the antonym of cumulative – I am not sure what that is! Decumulate? When I looked it up it is subtractive which makes sense. So, this book has a subtractive structure due to the fact that there is a shopping list and as Sally visits each shop she is able to cross an item off her list of 10 items.
This book would be great for anyone looking at their local environment and able to visit local shops, draw them and study what they have to sell in them. It would also work well for Yr1 in the autumn term to go with the labels, lists and captions block of work.
Each page of the shop is folded over so that when you open it you can see the inside of the shop, both downstair and upstairs. This will involve children in detailed drawings of the shop fronts and what they imagine to be upstairs.
This is a wonderful book that deserves to be on our texts that teach list is a model that children can innovate upon or use to invent. For invent I was thinking of a Yr1 class I have been recently working with who have used Tell Me a Dragon as a model to write about the animals that they had visited at the zoo. Before they went the class had drawn up a list of animals that they wanted to see. Instead of a version of The High Street, the children could create a version called The Zoo where they cross the animals off their list once they have seen them.
If you are thinking about the things that we need to teach children prior to the Yr6 end of KS2 grammar test, this book shows the use of the possesive apostrophe well.
That aside, it is wonderful!
January 6, 2013
I read a lot off instructions written by children and love to find different ways of presenting this writing as it can lack variety on occasions.
In fact I thought I never wanted to see another set if instructions for a cup of tea until I found Alice Melvin’s wonderful little book Fancy a Brew? a guide to the perfect cuppa
What I love most about this book is that it is about paper folding, writing and illustrating (that’s just about everything about the book).
The book is made out of out of 2 pieces of paper folded in the middle with a cardboard cover sewn on. The front and back cover open out to show what is needed to make the perfect cuppa, a table where you can fill in where and when you had a perfect cuppa and then at the end a tea bag stapled in to make a cuppa with.
The writing is uncomplicated and the illustrations are beautiful. Similar illustrations could be created with a black felt pen and one other colour.
This is just a fantastic way to present your instructions. The book reminds me of Paul Johnson’s book Literacy Through the Book Arts which is all about paper folding and pop-ups as a way to stimulate and present children’s work.
I am waiting for a copy of her latest book The High Street to arrive. It looks like it might be a contender for our texts that teach books.
Did you get any good books for christmas?
January 5, 2013
Whilst I couldn’t agree more with Pie Corbett’s response to the new curriculum and Alan Peat’s letter about the new grammar, punctuation and spelling test, I am a pragmatist and have to deal with the fact that we have the test.
We have been running briefings for schools about the test and as a result of them have devised a few more resources. The first one is an overview of the grammar terminology and when children should be familiar with it. It obviously can not be down to Yr6 to learn and use it all – we need to share that responsibility out across the school. So we have drawn up a chart which details the vocabulary that we think children should be familiar with and able to use in each year group. We do want to make it clear that this is not the first time the children will have come across the term or played around with the idea. For instance children in Yr2 start to play around with complex sentences but they do not need to be able to use that terminology until Yr5. To see the overview click here. There is a downloadable version below the chart.
Linked to each year group are videos that explore the subject knowledge that teachers need to teach each aspect of grammar. These take the form of videos, links to Think Writing and examples of texts which offer the opportunity to teach that aspect of grammar.
Finally we asked Yr6 teachers to go through the test and draw up a list of challenges that children might face. Having done this we then asked them to come up with some strategies that they could use with children to help ensure that they do the best that they can when they sit down to take the test. These ideas are linked in the Yr6 column.
If you have any comments about our grammar pages, please do complete our very short survey (about 3 questions) and enter into the draw to receive a copy of our publications Think Reading and Think Writing.
November 26, 2012
We are all teaching quite a lot of phonics with our projects at the moment and I had a thought about linking advent calendars with phonics. However, I soon let go of the link as I looked around at calendars that could be made in the classroom. Here are my favourites that I think would be suitable for children to have a go at.
I think this is possibly my favourite just because it is so easy to make. Inside the envelopes I was thinking of a little message giving the class a different task to undertake each day – or you could put chocolate! If it was a phonics calendar, you could put the sound/phoneme or high frequency word of the day!
Boxes of all sort feature heavily in handmade advent calendars. I like the arrangement of these boxes.
November 20, 2012
I have written before about my collection of christmas books by Carol Ann Duffy. This year’s addition to the collection is Wenceslas with illustrations by Stuart Kolakovic.
The book tells the story of the Christmas Pie for Wenceslas; of the swan stuffed with heron, stuffed with a crane, stuffed with a goose all the way down to a lark with an olive in its beak. If you know the carol you will know the story that involves a poor man gathering winter fuel or as we would sing it fuuuuuuueeeel.
The language is rich – I love the variety of verbs to describe the placing of one bird inside the other. I used stuffed but Duffy uses harboured and jammed and describes it as winter hand wear
a partridge, purse to a Plover,
a Plover, glove to a Quail;
and caught in the mitt of the Quail,
What is your favourite christmas book this year?