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.
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.
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 likefrom 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
Being 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?
I have recently been reading quite a few blog posts about staff meetings and what people really hate about them. Lots of things judging by this blog postand the comments below!
As someone who leads quite a few staff meetings and non-pupil days, this set me thinking. Over the summer holidays I remember hearing about a hospital trust who started to invite patients in to their meetings to tell their storyabout their visit and treatment at the hospital. They did this by filming patients and it had a significant impact on those in the meeting and their understanding of what they do from a patients point of view. It led to dramatic changes in the way in which they approached certain types of care and treatment.
This made me wonder if we should be inviting past pupils to talk to us on film about their time in school, those that did well and those that struggled for whatever reasons. I would love to know what was memorable for them, what they found the most useful , what didn’t work and why. I was in tears listening to the woman on the radio talking about her treatment and care and why it didn’t work. I would be as emotional listening to children who told me what hadn’t worked in school.
At long last we now have some informationabout assessment and the new national curriculum. There isn’t a lot of detail because there is no national assessment. Each school will be able to develop its own assessment procedures although there will be examples of best practice that schools could adopt. I am interested in the need for educational publishers to be involved in this process.
I wonder if the range of approaches will be based on any principles and if so what they are? The article talks about formative assessment but what about summative assessment?
What should the principles be that underlie an assessment system? Perhaps we need to go back to this research based document : The 10 Priniciples of AfL.
I look forward to the signposts and to hearing from the NAHT about the ways forward.
Well it is that time of year again. The time when we get together with our wonderful school library service and update our texts that teach list and our guided reading list. Imagine a day spent looking at wonderful books. I love it, as we all do, and every year end up with a favourite book. This year I have a few but my all time favourite is The Usborne Illustrated Thesaurus.
This is not the usual sort of book that I would choose as a favourite, but I have fallen in love with it. The pages are clearly laid out and the text is not too dense. Every table in a classroom should have one of these on it so that children can refer to it easily and regularly.
What I like most about it are the themed word boxes, some of which are for particular genre. Now you might start to see why I like it so much! For instance the fantasy box has different characters and settings that are used in fantasy stories. The lists make a great model for collecting vocabulary for the text type that you are working on at the moment but also provide a wonderful list of words that can be used for warming up the word activities, from talk for writing, that allow the children to roll the language over their tongues and eventually for it to become their own.
One game it lends itself to is ‘Usual words in unusual combinations’. Most of the words in the lists are adjectives and nouns and so work well together. Children could pick words from different columns and put them together to see how they sound. The trick is to do this quickly and not to worry if the phrase doesn’t sound right. I came up with
terrifying, tangled curse
mesmerising, hushed library
bewitching, impenetrable swamp
You get the idea.
Children could also use the ideas on these themed lists to create a story as the characters and settings plus problems are all there.
Another way the book could be used is to look up a usual word that is overused in writing, e.g. angry and look up the synonyms for the word. Taking a paint chart sample, children then order the words in terms of intensity and record them on the sample card. These can then be displayed and children encouraged to choose a different word to fit the context they are writing about.
Other great activities for using a thesaurus can be found by clicking on the links below:
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.
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.