In assembly this morning, I asked the children to tell me about their ‘coolest’ learning moments from last week. Year 6 put me straight: “‘Cool’ isn’t cool any more Mr Rees. You need to ask us what our ‘epic’ learning moments were from last week…”
So, with this minor setback behind me, I asked them for their ‘epic’ learning moments and I’m glad I did!
I heard about tarantulas and snakes in school, someone who had nailed grid multiplication down in an hour, an exited Year 6 who told me about her key skills homework and lots more. Thomas told me how he had new targets set for him and that he was working on three digit numbers now in Year 2!
Here’s something that I thought was epic from the BETT show last week, which I shared with the children in assembly this morning. Why not tell me something from your week that was epic by commenting on this post?
While you’re at home today, make a snowman (or think about a snowman) and write 5 words to describe it. Then put those words into sentences using the connectives we are learning- and, so, but, because. If you really want to improve your writing, use an interesting opener to make your sentence more exciting.
You can bring these to school tomorrow or post them as a comment on this blog.
We’re sorry that we can’t be at school today but hope that you have fun in the snow.
Here are some things for you to do at home today (as well as building great Snowmen!).
Numeracy: Use nos 1 , 2, 4 and 8. How many different numbers can you make? You have to use all the numbers but only once for each answer. You can add, subtract, times, divide or try several of these.
Literacy: We will be reading and working with ‘Ice Palace’ by Robert Swindells this week. We will be describing settings and characters using adjectives, similes and powerful verbs. So…look out of your window (or venture into your garden) and find 10 powerful adjectives to describe the scene. Remember to ‘zoom in’ and look at tiny details! Can you create some similes such as ‘As cold as a polar bears toes’? For a real literacy workout, walk around your garden and try to come up with some powerful verbs to replace ‘walking’ in the snow.
You can post any answers or comments to us in the comments section below!
But that doesn’t mean that learning stands still! I’m hoping that children who are able to access our blog site will be able to keep in touch and tell us what they are up to and how they are spending their day.
Some of the teachers have already sent me messages to put up in the morning for their classes so watch this space!
You can start off by commenting on this blog post by telling me what you are looking forward to doing on your Snow Day and what you’ve enjoyed doing over the weekend. Tomorrow, I hope to find a way for you to send me your pictures so we can post these.
Today was the first NorthantsBLT development day this academic year and saw a different approach to the focus and structure of historic events.
Previously, the days have focused around lots of sharing from schools with lots of opportunities to swap opinions on apps, use of online tools and ideas for using these in the classroom. This year, we have tried to focus more around the ‘B’ and the ‘L’ in BLT: Better Learning.
We were delighted to welcome Ewan McIntosh to lead the day who set up our thinking with an inspiring keynote on the theme: Visable thinking, visual learning. There were so many gems that came out of this session and here’s my reflections on a couple of things that have stuck with me throughout the day…
Design Thinking is clearly a passion of Notosh and Ewan and, having recently become familiar with the concept, I can see what an effective model this would be for structuring learning in a school. In particular, I agree that often as teachers we can hold on to the divergent creative thinking aspect and introduce learning already packaged up to children in a format we’ve decided on.
Incidentally, when I returned to school this evening, a teacher proudly brought me two pieces of ‘home learning’ that children had excelled in based on their recent visit to an Indian wedding. He told me that he couldn’t believe how much better the writing was compared to what he sees in the literacy books day in day out. When we unpicked what was different about the task, it became clear. The home learning was open ended, it was based on a real experience and children were allowed to choose which aspect of the Indian wedding they wanted to focus on, how to present it and how much to do. Both children had owned the divergent phases of the design thinking model and the results were spectacular. I’ll certainly be revisiting this model as we develop our Learning model at school.
Prototyping was another aspect that struck a chord with me. Ewan talked about 18 prototypes being an optimum number within a design phase and we were asked to reflect on how many opportunities children have to ‘prototype’ their work within a lesson or unit of work. Typical responses were possibly 1 and at best 2 but in most instances we expect learners to move straight to a finished article from a set of instructions, modelling, demonstration or explanation. If we want to develop resilient learners, we have to give them opportunities to fail, reflect and improve – something that prototyping seemed to describe well.
THE ‘TESTS Vs GENUINE LEARNING’ ARGUEMENT
Often, when you’re exposed to inspirational ideas like today, the concern for lots of colleagues is that they would love to implement some of these practices but they feel that there’s a conflict between develop genuinely great learning and the testing/progress agenda in schools.
I find myself having this discussion with colleagues a lot (and I know I’m in the minority) but I don’t think that testing conflicts with great learning. I think that if you create great learners, they are more than likely to be able to become capable readers, writers and mathematicians and take tests in their stride. If you like, success in tests is a by-product of being a great learner.
The one exception to this (I believe)is the Year 1 phonics test – something I’m yet to find a supporter of!
PARENTING CHILDREN AT SCHOOL
Today, Ewan described the age old issue of asking children what they learned at school when they got home and the standard response that parents get. All parents in the room (including myself) nodded in agreement and talked about how from 4-18, ‘nothing’ followed by a range of confrontational and avoidance behaviours is the norm in almost every household. It made me realise that we’re all stuck in this repeating cycle of asking children questions, being disappointed by the response and then bemoaning either the school or the child respectively for either not providing enough memorable learning or for not being interested in education. A thought struck me: Perhaps our questions are wrong and not the answers.
When I came home this evening, I decided to take a different approach. Instead of asking Stanley the questions that I wanted the answers to – I asked him questions that I thought he would be interested in answering. Who’s the tallest in your class? Who’s the naughtiest in your class? If you could bring any bit of your school home, which bit would it be? What’s the silliest thing that’s happened at school this week? Tonight I had a much more talkative Stanley about school and found out lots about his school day!
So today got me thinking and I hope others found it provocative too. Yet again, it reminds us that while technology is a great tool for learning, it’s the skill of teaching and a well developed approach to learning which is the key to making it effective.
Thanks to Peter and Ewan for leading today and to Helen and Gareth at the University of Northampton for providing the venue and being great hosts. Here’s to more successful BLT events in the future: Better Learning with (or without) Technology
I’m looking forward to posting here with news, updates, thoughts and anything else that I think might be of interest about our school. It’s been a busy and exciting start to the year for me and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the staff, children and parents at Simon de Senlis.
The photo above is me in the school playground; doesn’t school look quiet in this picture?
The picture below is from our recent trip to France with Year 6 and shows a view of ‘No Man’s Land’ from the Newfoundland Memorial Park. Of all the pictures I took and places I saw, this was the most memorable. Apparently the view is almost unchanged since 1916 and it was on this field on the 1st July when many Canadians lost their lives.