A character’s bedroom

April 2, 2014

We finally did it.  Having read The Paradise Garden by Colin Thompson, we created the main character’s bedroom.  It was fascinating because this was the second time that we had read the book and so the Trainees saw even more in it.  Because we were trying to make links with a child’s bedroom, we read the book differently and so noticed that red symbolises escape or travel and that there were other characters that appeared on many of the pages.

I had set up a bedroom just inside the door of the room that we use for breaks and break out groups.  This is just the bare bones.

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And here is the bedroom after it had been dressed. If you know the book you will recognise some of the items and be able to make your own mind up about why we included them.

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It is a hedgehog and duck on the bed.  They appear on every single page and so have great relevance for Peter. Perhaps they had been favourite cuddly toys that were comforters and so went with him everywhere. At one point a helping dog came in to the building, hopped on to the bed and started to chew the hedgehog!  I didn’t manage to get a picture but if you have visted Colin Thompson’s website and read his pages about dogs, you will recognise the link to Cafe Max that appears on many of his pages.

What role play area do you have in your classroom?

 

 

 

 

 


Paradise Garden and holiday monster

March 12, 2014

If you are a fan of Colin Thompson’s books then you will no doubt already enjoy The Paradise Garden.  We love this book for a range of reasons: it is just perfect; it shows a great voyage and return blueprint; it speaks to most children; the images are very engaging.

What I love most about it though, is the language and sentence construction (I am a primary literacy adviser!).  I particularly enjoy the first three pages where the sentences get longer and longer as Peter relaxes in to his new environment.  Whilst working with the latest group of SCITT trainees we were wrestling with contexts in which we could get children to do the same thing.  One trainee mentioned being uptight before going on holiday and then relaxing as you get to your destination.

That jogged our memories about the advert where Simon the Ogre goes on holiday, gradually relaxes and then becomes a normal human being.  A perfect context for playing with sentence length.  The more he relaxes, the longer our sentences get.  Brilliant!


Assessment – evolve not devolve

March 9, 2014

Like many, I thought I would sit back and wait to see what would happen with assessment under the new national curriculum.  However, I have come to accept that the government have said what they are going to say and now it is over to us. One document that might help those who use talk for writing is Transforming Writing which is an evaluation of Pie’s work. This talks in detail about the improving activities that teachers engaged in with their class.

Sadly, I have  watched on twitter those who have developed their own assessment procedures patronise and denigrate those who are still using Assessing Pupil Progress (APP).  Acceptance that not everyone is in the same place is crucial if we are to move forward, each of us at our own pace.

The NAHT commissoned a report on assessment and whilst it was a little vague, it was  full of principles but light on what we should actually do. There were some interesting parts to it.  One was ‘Don’t Panic’ and the other one that stuck in my memory was evolve; don’t throw everything out and start with a blank piece of paper.

So, if you are using APP, how do you start to evolve?  Well there are all sorts of ways but some of them  might be:

  • Use an elicitation task before starting your teaching sequence.  This will enable you to ensure that your must/should/could statements really do meet the needs of your class.  An elicitation task asks children to write in as similar way as possible to the key outcome.  It is not a test, so support the children with the content through speaking and listening activities, but don’t support the way in which the children write it.
  • Use this to determine the must/should/could statements to ensure that they meet the needs of the children.
  • Mark and identify the innovate writing in order that elements for further teaching are identified and then included in the invent stage of writing.
  • Following on from the invent writing, identfiy what the children need next.  This might mean that you don’t teach the text type that you were expecting to, but  teach a different one that allows the children the opportunity to develop what they need next.  One example of this is that I was working with a school on a narrative unit and found that the key outcome suggested that the next steps were to develop vocabulary choices.  The next unit that the teacher had planned was a non-chronological report.  In fact, what the children needed was a poetry unit. This is a major change for some.  Coverage is not the issue under the new national curriculum.  Responding to the needs of the children is!
  • Don’t plan out a year’s work of literacy in advance.  If you take the above point seriously, you you will understand that this is not possible.  Collect the text types taught and the titles used each half-term and reflect upon genre covered and those that now need to be addressed.
  • Understand the role of testing in assessment procedures.  Some schools that I talk to insist that testing for reading is the way in which reliable reading results will be achieved. If as a school you believe this to be true, then follow it and keep up to date with publishers. (I am sure that when Gove invited the publishers to be involved in assessment, this would be the end result.)  If testing is not your preferred method of assessment, how will you assess reading? If APP is embedded in practice, then start to collect information about what the children can do and what next the next steps might be

There are of course, many other ways in which schools could start to evolve in terms of their assessment procedures.  What are you doing?


What would his bedroom look like?

February 2, 2014

Imagine a friday night.  You sit down with your glass of wine and think I will just check in with facebook and twitter and then stop working.  And then, twitter manages to show you something that you think about all weekend.  An idea  so inspiring that even when you are choosing the oranges in Tescos you are thinking – How could I use this?

Hats off to St Peters in Bournemouth!  What an exciting place to work and to be a student.  The blog post Pimp my Classroom: 8 ways to confuse the cleaner was what set me off, in particular the images from No.4 The Expert’s Bedroom and the timeline displayed at the top of the post.  What I  have thought about all weekend is how could I use them and so, DPSCITT trainees, I have come up with some ways.

The timeline was based on an idea from Sara Fanelli at the Tate.  I have her book The Onion’s Great Escape which invites the reader to

timeline2smalltimelinerespond in the book by drawing, doodling and reflecting. I think the timeline may do the same.  It is created as a small, fan  folded piece of card in an envelope.  This I love!  After much thought, I think I can best use this when we look at reading and explore  children’s literature.  We could make a timeline  of significant children’s authors with links to current authors, e.g. if you like this, then you might also like this.  Amazon does this nowadays and it is the very essence of a good bookshop and school library.  It is what teachers need to do to encourage and broaden children’s reading experiences.

It is The Expert’s Bedroom that I am most excited about.

expertbedroom Imagine what a  particular person’s bedroom looked like when they were a child.  I think that this great idea could be used as an outcome for an author study.  Imagine what the bedroom of Eric Carle as a child would be like.  This is exactly what I intend to do with the trainee teachers, and then create it!  Through this activity we can explore Eric Carle but we can also discuss how to negotiate setting up role play areas with children and how we can use challenges to alter their play in the space.

The images are organised as a timeline and tell the story as you go round.  I still can’t tell how they created the wardrobe on the doorway though!  I might not be able to create that part.

There are other things though on the blog that I am still thinking about, e.g. critique gallerys, Austin’s butterfly (surely that is what writing is all about) and teachers as reasearchers.

What have you donne in your learning environment that will stimulate your learners?


Hello Mr Hulot – welcome to guided reading

January 27, 2014

 

Hello Mr Hulot by David Meveille is a wonderful wordless book that made me laugh out loud and I don’t often do that.

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The book is strongly patterned in terms of the way that the pictures are framed – 4 to 6 frames on the first page followed by a one page frame when you turn over.  It is this that lends the book to being used in guided reading.    It would be very good to use a reciprocal reading type session where the children predict from the first page and then draw what they think the last image would be after having studied The Heart of Paris and Hulot the Plumber.  The children could then generate questions that can be answered by the text and summarise it.

See  a YouTube version here.  This book is going on our guided reading list for level 4 readers.


How To Wash a Woolly Mammoth by Robinson and Hindley

January 12, 2014

cover   We have been on the lookout for a book that has a good set of instructions for KS1 and look what turned up from Amazon this evening!

This set of instructions sets out how to wash a woolly mammoth with a great sense of humour.  I love the back cover with the bottles of shampoo and soap such as Tusk Whitener and Antibacterial Hoof Wash.

The instructions reassure the owner of the mammoth that they can wash the animal with a few clever tricks.  Step three just says ‘Add mammoth.’ and is then followed by a series of images showing ways in which the mammoth can be encouraged into the bath using a broom or a spooky mask.  This page lends itself to children writing a series of sentences to explain what is happening in the images.

The voice of the text is informative ‘ Don’t forget to wash behind those ears….’ and ensures the owner   undertakes this task successfully ‘CAREFUL – a mammoth’s tummy is terribly tickly!’

hairdoI love the hair styles that the little girl makes when she washes his topknot – a mammoth mullet anyone?

I wondered about using this book with The Night Zookeeper where children could make their own imaginary animal and then write a set of instructions about caring for it in some way.  This could be washing it but it could also be feeding, exercising or clipping it. Maybe that last one isn’t really for KS1 children! I was getting carried away by the TV programme that showed competitive poodle clipping and colouring.

This is one title that will end up in our Teaching Sequence subscription service based on the new national curriculum.  These are the titles that we have written teaching sequences.  More will be added to the list as we write them.


Connected learning in grammar

January 5, 2014

Many people will be aware of Haylock and Cockburn’s connective model of learning in mathematics.  It is based on the idea that a developing

mathsconnective understanding is constructed through making connections between what we already know/experience and new knowledge and experiences.

If we cannot make connections then we have to resort to trying to learn by rote. The more connected are our experiences, the more secure and the more useful is the learning. (Haylock with Thangata)

The four aspects of this diagram are linked by arrows in all directions which represent the talk that is the means by which children make the connections.  When reading this, I was struck by the similarity with grammar teaching and learning.  Debra Myhill’s literature reveiw of grammar teaching identified elements necessary for effective learning.  Myhill talks about looking at grammar in context, offering the children patterns or models to base their ideas around.  Without this, grammar becomes a very abstract idea and leads to misunderstandings.  In very simplified terms this can be shown by the fact that when looking at word classes we don’t say that  a word belongs to a particular word class, e.g light is a noun.  It could be used as a verb, noun or adjective depending upon the context it is in.

The language in the model is about the technical terminology so we call a verb a verb rather than a doing word.  This means that when children are talking and investigating a particular aspect of grammar we are using the terminology and actively encouraging them to name it in their talk,  not as rote learning but as a way of describing what they are doing and what they are trying to achieve.

The images is an interesting aspect because we don’t have images for grammar but we could!  The idea behind our Sentence Toolkit is that for each element we have a real tool that provides a way of linking what can sometimes be quite an absract idea to a concrete one.  For example, we use a tape measure for expanded noun phrases and as we model ways of making noun phrases, we stretch our tape measure.  This then brings in the fourth element which is an action.  Here the stretching symbolises what is happening when we modify the nouns.  Hammering our fist into our palm when we hear verbs reflects the necessity for a verb in a sentence and indicates where it is.

gapsconnectionsAll of this brings us to our connective model of grammar learning.  We have the context, terminology, symbol and action all connected by talk.  Without all the elements, the connections will be shallower and the learning less useful to the children.

It provides us with a useful model that enables us to build rich learning experiences for children that will help them develop their writing and pass the grammar test.


Spelling in the new curriculum – everything you need!

December 15, 2013

Most people have by now looked at the  spelling and grammar expectations in the new curriculum and tests.  Spelling’s time has finally come!  Anecdotal evidence suggests that those schools who were disappointed with their grammar and spelling test results in the summer often cited the spelling element of the test as the area that needs development. In fact the spelling results went from 14% of the marks uner the old regime to 29% of the marks in the GaPS test.

Back at Literacy Headquarters we have been working away at this aspect of the new curriculum for some time and have finally managed to share  the resources that we have created. (All can be found here.)  We are recommending that KS2 will need at least 15 X 15 minute spelling sessions each half-term.  The further away from the age-related expectations, the more spelling you will need, so the fifteen sessions are just a starting point.

First, we have produced a term by term pathway through the spelling for each year group.  You will know that the objectives in the curriculum are in one big bundle for Yrs3 and 4 and Yrs5 and 6 and so what Angela has done is to decide how to divide these up .  This suddenly makes the spelling curriculum look more manageable.  Included in the pathway are signposts to resources and ways of teaching elements that are included in The Spelling Bank and Support for Spelling.

Secondly, we have now started to think about the pattern of teaching across the fifteen sessions.  We are continuing to use the revisit/review, teach, practise and apply structure introduced in Support for Spelling because it is a familiar structure to those moving from kS1 to KS2.  However, in KS2 each element is taught on a different day rather than all occurring in one session.  To make this clear we have now created a day to day pathway for the spring term of each year group. (Click on term 2 to find the planning for each year group) As for all of the above, these are only suggestions and can be changed and moved around to suit your class.

There are certain elements that appear in each year group:

  • homophones
  • rare grapheme/phoneme correspondences (GPCs)
  • prefixes and suffixes
  • letter strings
  • word endings (that are not suffixes)
  • learning and remembering spellings
  • proof-reading

This means that it is very easy to differentiate across a class be it single or mixed age.  The whole class can be working on homophones but different ones can be used for particular groups of children.

Finally, Sandra has created an excel spreadsheet that analyses the spelling results of the test.  So if you plan to give your children the spelling test from the 2013 paper, you can now analyse the results and identify areas to focus on in your teaching.

We hope that this will get you started.  If you use the resources, let us know what you think.

See other spelling posts here.


Back blogging! Level 6 readers in primary schools

December 6, 2013

It is such a long time since I last blogged.  Basically, I have been so busy I haven’t even had time to think, never mind write. That isn’t changing  but I hate not having time to think about things and develop them, and I know blogging allows me to do that so – time to blog again!

Today we ran our first level 6 reading course.  It has been an interesting journey over the last few years as far as level 6 is concerned: more children achieving level 6 in writing than in reading in primary schools, a pattern not seen at other levels.  We think there are more level 6 readers than writers, they are just not used to writing in the way they need to to pass the test.This has led us to consider why and what we need to do about it.

burger for level 61 We introduced the burger of response as a way of supporting children to think about responding to texts.  In fact wehen Becca and I get together we often link what we are doing to food.  We already had the doughnut of inference and now we have the burger .  Imagine our disappointment when @RTDurant , our secondary colleague, told us that secondary schools have been using it for some time!

 

 

This led us to thinking about the texts that we use with level 6 readers.  We came to the conclusion that there needs to be an emphasis on trying out the skills on a wide range of texts and that means that we can’t always work with longer novels, but need to use shorter texts. Poetry is an excellent way in as are short stories. Not extracts though! Other resources that may help are our texts for level 6 readers independent reading.

If you are in a primary school, what are you doing for level 6 readers?  We would love to know.


Swag Books

September 25, 2013

Thanks to Pie Corbett, we have been talking about swag bags/books and magpie-ing for some time now as a support for writing. Swag books or magpie books are basically journals to collect ideas in but up until now there has been very little sharing of what they could look like.

Jackie Morris (she of Tell Me a Dragon, I am Cat and Ice Bear amongst many others) posted on her blog about journals and what writing journals  look like from many well-known authors.  It would be a great idea to share these with children, discussing what the authors do in them and how they set them out.

Ideas that stand out are writing on the right-hand side and revising on the left-hand side of the journal.  This would be a great way for children to show how they are improving their writing and so much easier to see than writing squashed in on the same line as the original.  I also loved  the lists of rolling ryhmes that Dylan Thomas used.  Children could have their own lists of words and phrases to use when needed.  I particularly liked the fact that they were hanging in his sight line so were easy to use.  Roz Maine using the whole of a very large table to plan a book will be a very familiar sight to many primary school classrooms.

So many of these journals have sketches in them, some have paintings, cartoons and items collected and stuck in.

Here in a second post, Jackie shares her first journals when she thought she might like to be a writer.  I love the first ones in a diary, page-a-day.  It really shows that discipline of writing a little every day regardless of how you are feeling.  It reminds me of a quote from Neil Gaimon about waiting for inspiration.

If you’re only going to write when you’re inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet, but you will never be a novelist — because you’re going to have to make your word count today, and those words aren’t going to wait for you, whether you’re inspired or not. So you have to write when you’re not “inspired.” … And the weird thing is that six months later, or a year later, you’re going to look back and you’re not going to remember which scenes you wrote when you were inspired and which scenes you wrote because they had to be written.   From Brainpickings

 

notebooksBeing a bit of a stationery fan, I was interested to see what types of books were used.  I think it matters that they feel pleasing and so really like these from Notebookism.  And it matters because if we want children to use writing journals, then we must model using them and be prepared to share them.

Are you using writing journals in an interesting way?