Friday, 28 December 2018

On the @TES Blog: Top Children's Books of 2018


I had the immense pleasure and privilege of putting together a list of some of the best primary children's books of 2018. I ended up selecting 25 out of a huge number of excellent books that I'd read out of an even huger number of books actually published. I'm absolutely certain that all of my choices rank among the best, but there may be some that I didn't get a chance to read that should be there too.

A couple of such books which I read after submitting the piece were The Boy At The Back Of The Class by Onjali Q. Raúf and A Darkness of Dragons by SA Patrick.

Follow the link to find out what I chose as my favourite books of 2018: https://www.tes.com/news/top-childrens-books-2018

Friday, 21 December 2018

A Model For Teaching The Wider Curriculum

After two half terms in my new school, and since curriculum planning and delivery is a hot topic, I thought I'd share a document I put together to help us visualise and explain the logistics of how we teach the wider curriculum.

The purpose of organising the delivery of the curriculum this way is to achieve the following, which we consider to be aspects of the school's culture which help us to deliver on our vision and values:
  • Responding to misconceptions through same day intervention
  • Setting children learning challenges (Apprentice Tasks) that are open-ended and encourage decision making (and time management)
  • Setting up inspirational areas of provision within the environment
  • Providing frequent masterclasses which communicate age-appropriate skills in all areas of the curriculum
  • Supporting children to critique their own work and that of others
By delivering the curriculum this way we hope to ensure that all areas of the curriculum are covered and that they aren't being squeezed out by Maths and English. We also hope that as a result of taking this approach children will not produce near-identical pieces of work. As well as this we aim to provide children with less structured time which gives them opportunities to engage in decision making and time management. Because there is less structured time than in a more traditional timetable teachers are also freed up to spend time on same day interventions based on feedback gained during all lessons, including Maths and English.

The green sequence shows what the adults are doing during the sessions; the turquoise sequence shows how children are grouped.
Units of Work

Each unit of work runs for one half term. The length of the half term will dictate the number of Apprentice Tasks set and the number of Masterclasses that take place.

Each unit of work is based on a book. Units of work cover National Curriculum objectives as well as objectives taken from the school’s own skills continuums for painting, drawing, clay work, woodwork etc. Long Term Planning documents ensure coverage of all objectives.

Each unit of work is also centres around a question which should be answered by the end of the unit using information learned during the half term.

Units of work usually cover a range of national curriculum subjects although there is often a predominant subject e.g. Space covers mainly Science but also some History and Geography, Castles covers mainly History but also some Geography. Currently most Science is taught discretely by a cover teacher during teachers’ PPA.

Key Fact Sheets

Knowledge teaching is supported by Key Fact Sheets which contain 10 key facts for the topic and 10 key pieces of vocabulary. This information is learned by heart supported by various retrieval practice activities. A Key Fact Sheet is produced per unit of work prior to the planning of the unit to ensure teachers know what it is they want children to know by the end.

Facts on the Key Fact Sheets should spark intrigue and should be a gateway to further learning. They should provoke children to ask questions and to want to find out more.

Key vocabulary words should be linked to the theme of the unit and should be words that will be used regularly in both spoken and written language during the unit. Child-friendly definitions should be written by teachers.

Diagrams and useful images may be included on the Key Fact Sheet.

The Showcase

The Showcase event provides an audience and purpose to all the apprentice tasks. It might be in the form of an exhibition, gallery, exposition or a screening. Alternative audiences/purposes might be a website, a tea party (e.g if the unit is formed around Alice in Wonderland) or a show. This event is decided upon before planning the Apprentice Tasks to ensure all tasks feed into this final event.

Apprentice Tasks and Masterclasses

Apprentice Tasks are open-ended tasks which allow children to operate with some freedom and creativity. However, each task has a set of objectives that should be demonstrated in the final piece. The expectation is that each child produces unique and original pieces of work.

Each Apprentice Task, or sequence of Masterclasses, is typically controlled by one member of staff: they source or make exemplars, research information further to the core information contained on the Key Fact Sheets, deliver the masterclasses and support children during the independent application stage.

One Apprentice Task might require more than one sequence of Masterclasses running consecutively. For example, an Apprentice Task which requires children to produce a painting might have two sequences of Masterclasses: drawing skills and painting skills.

During a Masterclass focusing on creative skills such as woodwork, painting, drawing or clay work, children will create studies which will help them to practise the skills they will need to complete the Apprentice Task.

Not all Masterclasses focus on skills teaching. There are also regular Masterclasses focusing on knowledge teaching, particularly linked to Science, Geography and History. These Masterclasses expand on the Key Facts from the Key Facts Sheets.

Some Masterclasses may focus on producing a final piece for an Apprentice Task – this would occur when children need more adult input, for example if it is too soon to expect independent application of the skills.

Some Apprentice Tasks may be group tasks, most are individual tasks.

Some Apprentice Tasks may be worked on as part of the English lessons, particularly where writing is a major component e.g. a script for a documentary, a poem, a story, a report. In this case, the Masterclasses become the whole class/half class teaching inputs.

Logistics and Organisation

Although a detailed Medium Term Plan is produced, logistical and organisational planning takes place weekly to ensure best use of time and adults. This might sometimes making decisions to provide whole class inputs rather than repeated group inputs, making decisions about length of time needed to complete a Masterclass carousel and so on. No two weeks look exactly the same where timetabling is concerned.

Most of this work takes place in afternoons once Maths and English has been taught. However, English is sometimes taught in half-class (or smaller) groups whilst some children complete a Masterclass or work on their Apprentice tasks.

Materials needed to complete Apprentice Tasks are readily available either in classrooms or in shared areas. Most of them are displayed in sight and not kept in cupboards – children can access what they need when they need it without needing to ask for it.

The Environment

As well as the Apprentice Tasks and the Masterclasses there are also further activities (linked to prior teaching in all subjects) which children can access (usually independently) during the time set aside for work on the wider curriculum. These will be set up in classrooms in the same way that Early Years classrooms have activities set up in areas of provision.

Equipment for all subjects is available to the children at all times enabling them to continue to practise skills learnt in Masterclasses.

The following are some images of the studio area we have developed outside of the classroom as an additional learning environment. The classrooms in year 5 are set up as fairly traditional classrooms with a bank of 5 computers each - the size of the rooms and the size of the children meant that to provide the aforementioned items in our environment we had to use some other space.







Monday, 10 December 2018

On the @TES Blog: Saying No To The Non-Essentials (or Why Tweeting and Blogging is Bad for Me)


Perhaps the phrase "work-life balance" is a misnomer. Or at least it was rather too simple a term to help me to get things in check.

I’d always been very careful to attempt to preserve a good balance between work and life. Naturally, some weeks are fuller with work than others, but then the balance can instead be found longer term; when a quieter week presented itself, I made the most of it. But what I had been less cautious about was the "life" category.

Read the rest: https://www.tes.com/news/how-i-learned-say-no-non-essentials

Saturday, 8 December 2018

What You're Forgetting When You Teach Writing


Time in a primary classroom is at a premium: there are so many things to try to fit in. Even under the umbrella of English there is handwriting, spelling, grammar, punctuation, composition, reading, and more. It’s so difficult to make sure that everything is covered. And there are certain parts of the writing process which are either misunderstood or don’t always get a look in because of time constraints.

The 7 stages of the writing process

The writing process, according to the EEF’s ‘Improving Literacy In Key Stage 2’ guidance report, can be broken down into 7 stages: Planning, Drafting, Sharing, Evaluating,Revising, Editing and Publishing.

In a recent training session, when I asked a group of school leaders and teachers to write down elements of current practice in their own schools for the teaching of writing, we found that most of the time was spent on planning, drafting and editing. In fact, there were very few examples of how the other stages were being taught.

Click here to read more: https://bradford.researchschool.org.uk/2018/12/08/895/

In summary

  • Set a clear purpose and audience before beginning the writing process;
  • Teachers complete the task themselves;
  • Allow children to work at each of the seven stages of the writing process as they work towards a final piece;
  • Model each of the seven stages to the children using the I/We/You approach at each stage; and
  • Evaluate,share and revise by checking the writing fulfils its purpose.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Making Geometric Stars: An Investigative Christmas Maths Teaching Sequence

So Christmas is upon us and, as a conscientious teacher, you don't want the learning to stop (or the craziness to begin), but you also want to make the most of the Christmas context/the kids are pestering you for a 'fun' lesson. You've got something for writing (please don't let it be letters to Santa - so much wrong with that - go with writing a list of presents they'd like to give others, preferably not bought ones either) and RE is sorted - so's reading as there are so many Christmas-themed texts out there.

But what've you got for maths? Some Christmas-themed word problems? If I eat 24 mince pies over the Christmas season and mince pies come in boxes of 6, how many boxes of mince pies have I eaten? Bit tenuous. Let not mighty dread seize your troubled mind. Try this investigative teaching sequence which culminates in making some lovely geometric stars:

Step 1: Investigate the size of internal angles in regular polygons

Begin with triangles, discussing what they already know about the sum of the internal angles in any triangle. A tangent here could be to check a number of different triangles, not just equilateral ones, to see if indeed all the angles add to 180 degrees - doing this will also provide important protractor use practice for later on. It might be worth pointing out that the half-circle protractor also measures 180 degrees.

Move onto squares, rectangles and other quadrilaterals. Again, call on prior knowledge: all of a square's internal angles are right angles, right angles are all 90 degrees and that multiplying 90 by 4 is 360 so a square, and a rectangle, has interior angles which add up to 360 degrees. You could mention at this point that circles also contain 360 degrees. You could also get them to check a range of different quadrilaterals, reinforcing their names and other important shape
vocabulary.

Although probably too early, you could ask children to make conjectures about what the internal angles of a 5-sided shape - a pentagon - might total. Some may point out that from the triangle to the square the number doubled so may predict that a pentagon's internal angles might add to 720 degrees. Others may point out that from the 3-sided shape to the 4-sided shape the number of degrees increased by 180 and therefore predict that the pentagon might have internal angles totalling 540 degrees. If both of these conjectures are brought up you can discuss how it is too early to be sure of any pattern and that it is important to continue testing the hypotheses.

Provide a printed sheet containing at least a pentagon - it's also worth including a hexagon, a heptagon and an octogon (you could even include a nonagon and a decagon). Allow the children to further investigate the sum of the internal angles in these shapes. At the same time ask them to create a table to record their findings.

Shape
Number of sides
Each angle (in a regular shape)
Sum of internal angles




Triangle
3
60 o
180o
Quadrilateral
4
90 o
360o
Pentagon
5
108 o
540o
Hexagon
6
120 o
720o
Heptagon
7
128.57… o
900o
Octagon
8
135 o
1020o

After measuring and totalling (this could be by multiplication or repeated addition - discuss efficient methods) the internal angles of each shape they should make further conjectures about what the next one will total - before moving onto the hexagon they should be almost certain that each time a side is added to a shape another 180 degrees are added to the sum of its internal angles.

It should be noted that some of their measuring almost certainly won't be accurate and that some mathematical reasoning will have to be applied, for example:

"If I measured one angle as 107, another at 109 and another at 108, which is most likely to be?"
"I've predicted the sum of the internal angles to be 720 degrees but it is coming out as 723 degrees - which is wrong, my prediction or my angle measuring?"

Once findings are recorded in a table it becomes easier for children to begin to find a way of expressing a rule for finding the sum of the internal angles of a shape with any number of sides. I have worked with year 6 children who have managed to generate a formula for this. Even if they cannot yet write it down, some will be able to verbalise the rule:

"Number of sides subtract 2, then multiply that by 180"

To get to this point it helps to talk about the triangle being the first shape, the quadrilateral being the second shape, the pentagon being the third shape, and so on. With this as a starting point they can generate something like this:

Shape
Shape Number
Number of sides
Sum of internal angles




Triangle
1
3
180o
Quadrilateral
2
4
360o
Pentagon
3
5
540o
Hexagon
4
6
720o
Heptagon
5
7
900o
Octagon
6
8
1020o

Now that they have the shape number next to the number of sides in the shape they will much more easily be able to see that the difference is two therefore subtracting two from the number of sides results in the number that 180 must be divided by to find the sum of the internal angles.

If children don't have prior experience of writing this as a formula they can be shown how to record this:

Sum of interior angles = (n-2) × 180° (where n = number of sides)

And that each angle (of a regular polygon) = (n-2) × 180° / n

Step 2: Investigate drawing stars within circles

Nrich has a couple of great activities for this:

Path to the Stars: https://nrich.maths.org/1097 (their printable resources page has circles with pre-printed dots on it for this ativity: https://nrich.maths.org/8506)

Stars: https://nrich.maths.org/2669 (this is an interactive resource)

Round and Round the Circle: https://nrich.maths.org/86

In these activities it is worth drawing out rules such as:
  • if you draw a line straight to the next dot you get a regular polygon
  • with an odd number of dots, if you a draw a line which skips a dot you get a star shape
  • with an odd number of dots which isn't a mulitple of 3, if you draw a line which skips two dots you get a star shape with longer points than when you just skip one dot (doesn't work for 5 dots as there aren't enough dots - skipping two is the same as skipping one in the opposite direction)
  • if you skip just one dot when there are an even number of dots you get a regular polygon with have the number of sides and vertices as the the original number of dots
There are many more rules such as these to notice and discuss.

You could also experiment with Nrich's Mystic Rose activity (another great interactive resource: https://nrich.maths.org/6703) which does more than just create star shapes.

Step 3: Practise drawing regular shapes using a protractor


Model to children how to draw the shapes from step 1 using the angles they discovered and by deciding on a particular side length. Impress upon them the importance of accuracy in measurements - perhaps demonstrate how even being a few degrees/millimetres off once or twice will result in an irregular shape.

Children should mark a starting point and draw a line of the side length they have decided. Then they should measure the internal angle according to their findings in step 1 and draw a second side of the same length to the shape. This should be repeated until they reach their starting point again.

It will be best to do this exercise on scrap (and/or large) paper as often the children will find that their chosen side lengths lead to their shape becoming too big for the paper! In this case they will have to readjust and start again.

Step 4: Make stars!

Once children have mastered the drawing of regular shapes in step 3 they can move onto making their stars. Give children coloured/decorated card in festive hues/patterns to draw their regular shapes out onto.

From protractor to tree!

Once they have drawn out their shapes they can use what they experimented with in step 2 to join the vertices of their shape in different patterns to form stars.

If you carried out the Mystic Rose activity in step 2 you will need to ensure the children can identify a regular pattern where they will cut (there will be many options). It is a good idea to give them a pen to go over the lines that they want to cut before they take their scissors to their carefully drawn out shape. The mystic rose patterns that they have drawn will provide interesting decoration to their finished stars.

Alternatives:

If you don't have time to follow the whole sequence, or teach children too young to be able to do all aspects of it, there are alternatives to the above sequence which avoid the lengthier steps 1 and 3:
  • Just do one of the activities from step 2 then make large print outs of the Nrich templates on coloured card so that children can make their stars.
  • Teach children to use a pair of compasses to draw their own circles then teach them to use a protractor to divide the circle into equal sections by dividing 360 by the number of points they want ( 5 points = 72°; 6 points = 60°; 7 points = 51.42...°; 8 points = 45°; 9 points = 40°; 10 points = 36°). They can then use these to create star or Mystic Rose patterns on coloured card to cut out.
A colourful hexagonal mystic rose pattern - the green part will have been cut off to form a star.

A well-drawn nonagon with mystic rose pattern and a heptagon with mystic rose pattern that has already been transformed into a star.

If completed on plain card children can decorate their stars - perhaps in more festive colours than this one!

If children can draw a perfect hexagon then they can also make and fold shapes which can be cut into snowflake shapes which will have a realistic six lines of symmetry.

    Friday, 30 November 2018

    Book Review: 'Football School Seasons 1, 2 and 3' by Alex Bellos and Ben Lyttleton

    Knowledge-rich curricula are all the rage in schools at the moment, and rightly so. And what better than knowledge-rich books to supplement what's being taught at school? I'll tell you: really interesting, really fun knowledge-rich books. Such books as Alex Bellos and Ben Lyttleton have written together: the Football School books.

    The front cover of each of the three books carries the tagline 'Where football explains the world'. And although on each book the word 'explains' is crossed out and replaced (by 'rules', 'saves' and 'tackles') it really isn't just rhetoric. These books truly transcend football by using it as a conduit through which to explore a whole world of general knowledge as well as the football trivia.

    The three books all follow the same format, kicking off with a contents page designed like a school timetable covering traditional subjects such as PSHE, History, Geography as well as some more specialist ones like Psychology, Philosophy, Business Studies and Computer Science.

    Football lovers will devour the wealth of facts about football teams, players, team strips and will enjoy picking up playing tips too: there's a whole section on the psychology of taking a penalty, for example!

    But the books' really majesty is in the fact that they are full of general knowledge that is unrelated to football. From sections about World War 1 to profiles of famous footballing countries such as Brazil readers will come away knowing about much more than just football. Book 3 even has a whole section about sleep which introduces its readers to terminology such as 'transitional phase' and 'circadian rhythm'.

    And, just to make sure that some of the information is remembered, each section (or lesson) ends with a quiz about the chapter. With a multiple choice format these quizzes don't just focus on the football information but also on the general knowledge featured in the books.

    But this sort of book wouldn't get a look-in without illustrations - Spike Gerrell's cartoon style makes for that winning formula of facts plus funny pictures; that format made popular by the Horrible Histories books. Children who love those and who are fans of books such as Diary of the Wimpy kid will be immediately drawn to these books. And it's not just the illustrations and the texts that appeal - the layout keeps things fresh with every page has its own interesting layout. Boredom will not be an issue whilst children (or adults) read these books.

    With their simple yet engaging language the Football School books are pretty much an essential for any school bookshelf. Not that they would stay on the shelf for long - these are the exact sort of books that non-fiction lovers will be queuing up to borrow.

    Book Review: 'Roy of the Rovers: Scouted' by Tom Palmer

    This isn't just another football book to hook reluctant boys into reading. And it most certainly isn't a poor spin-off of the Roy of the Rovers comic strip which first appeared over 60 years ago in British comic Tiger. No, this is so much more and Tom Palmer has more than done justice to the Roy Race of old.

    As a non-football fan I approached the book somewhat hesitantly thinking that maybe it wasn't for me. However, that hesitance was tempered by the knowledge that Tom Palmer really does write a good book - if there was any football novel I was going to like, it was going to be this one.

    What this book, and its follow-up 'Kick-Off' (a graphic novel by Rob Williams and Ben Willsher), has made me realise is that one of the reasons why people love football so much is the narrative, the story, that goes along with it. It isn't just 22 players kicking a pumped up bit of leather around a piece of grass - it's everything that happens in between as well: the pre- and post-match analysis, the news stories about signings and finance, the drama of a game as seen from both the pitch and the stands, the rivalry between fans, the common ground it provides. It is the individual and interweaving human stories that make football the world's favourite sport - and Tom Palmer portrays that so well.

    But 'Roy of the Rovers: Scouted' goes much further than just the football. Roy's dad's brain tumour operation went wrong and now he's paralysed down his left side and can't speak. Roy's mum is trying to work enough to provide for the family and lots of the caring falls to Roy and his sister. This theme is explored sensitively throughout as Roy's loyalty to both his game and his beloved dad are tested. Themes of love, bullying, friendship and commitment are weaved throughout the whole plot making this such a rich, emotional text.

    There's also very strong female representation in the book - both Roy's sister, Rocky, and his new friend, Ffion, are excellent footballers and die-hard football fans - there's a great part near the end where Ffion calls Roy on his ignorance of women's football right before Rocky discovers that there is a team she can play for.

    Football-lovers will love the description of on-pitch action which is pacy yet satisfyingly detailed. Lisa Henke's stylish illustrations, in particular cases are works of art - it's a shame her bold and stylised images didn't make it onto the front cover.

    This is a book that I am looking forward to putting on the shelves at school - I know already that it will be a popular title amongst our football-loving children (not just boys!). The fact that is part of a growing 'saga', published by Rebellion, is another plus point - those who are hooked by the first two books will hopefully have more to access afterwards, not to mention Tom Palmer's own back catalogue of sport-related books.

    Tuesday, 20 November 2018

    Reading For Displeasure: 13 Books To Take Children Out Of Their Comfort Zone


    Reading for pleasure is all the rage in schools, but how often do we, and the children we teach, read for displeasure? Or, perhaps more accurately, for discomfort?

    Ask any number of readers what they like about reading and there will be plenty of replies on the theme of escapism. Internet memes carry lines such as "Books: a cosy doorway to paradise".

    Actually, for many, it should be that books are a doorway out of a cosy paradise.

    Click here for more, including 13 recommendations of books for a range of ages which will take children out of their comfort zone and into the shoes of others: https://www.tes.com/news/13-books-take-primary-pupils-out-their-comfort-zone

    Note: This article does not cover the whole range of uncomfortable life situations that people find themselves in. I have focused in this article on issues such as loss (of a loved one, of a sense of safety, of a sense of community) as well as racism. It is by no means a definitive list. I would suggest that there could be plenty more articles submitted to the TES highlighting books that will help children to understand other life circumstances.

    Monday, 19 November 2018

    Building Sticky Note Sentences

    The EEF's KS2 Literacy Guidance has as one of its recommendations that teachers should 'develop pupils' transcription and sentence construction skills through extensive practice' (recommendation 5).

    It states that 'it is important to promote the basic skills of writing—skills that need to become increasingly automatic so that pupils can concentrate on writing composition... this includes the sentence construction. If these skills are slow or effortful then this will hinder progress in writing composition. High-quality practice is essential to develop fluent transcription skills.'

    Writing grammatically accurate sentences is something that many children really struggle with. This is particularly so for those who have less exposure to the English language either orally or in print. As a result, children for whom English is an additional language and children from low income backgrounds, for example, may need a more step-by-step approach to learning how to write sentences.

    The EEF guidance goes on to say that'sentence construction can be developed through activities like sentence-combining where simple sentences are combined so that varied and more complex multi-clause sentences are produced. Initially, the teacher can model this, but pupils should go on to work collaboratively and independently. Pupils need to learn to construct increasingly sophisticated sentences, for meaning and effect, with speed.'

    Now, the activity that I am going to write about in this blog post is neither innovative nor complicated - it is a very simple activity carried out by teachers all over the world and it is not something I claim to have created (in fact, I'm very sure I've received training from Alison Philipson, Philip Webb and Jane Considine on very similar activities). However, the fact that it does seem to help children means that it is worth sharing here on my blog.

    The Context

    The lesson that the photos come from was with a mixed attaining group of year 4 children. They had been reading the beginning of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and the work completed in the session was based on Chapter 1.

    This activity could be adapted for any year group - more on this later.

    The Activity

    The purpose of this particular lesson was solely to help children to write grammatically accurate sentences. However, this could be used to cover many writing objectives, for example, using connectives, writing fronted adverbials, including parenthesis, using accurate punctuation, etc.

    To begin with, based on the chapter of the book, we generated some very simple sentences based on the summary of the chapter that they had written during their reading lesson. With one group I wrote all the words on the board - they had to transfer the words one onto each sticky note and then rearrange them into 4 sentences (they knew there were four as there were four full stops and four capital letters).

    Two children rearranging the words to write the 4 sentences.
    With the 4 sentences I deliberately demonstrated how simple and short sentences can be. We discussed whether or not a sentence with only two words was really a sentence - we decided it was although I didn't completely go into the language of 'subject' and 'predicate'! Instead we talked about it having a noun and a verb. Some children were surprised that two words could make a full sentence.

    Here are the four sentences we generated for use in the rest of the activity:

    The four sentences we generated as a starting point
    The first sentence edited to give information
    about 'where' and 'when'. This was written after the
    sticky note activity.
    For this activity we decided to help the children to think about the potential content of a sentence using some of the 5Ws (Who, What, Where, Why, When). We worked out that so far all of the sentences we had written contained the 'who' and the 'what' (we planned to leave the 'why' to another day as it would involve a greater range of conjunctions).

    Next, I modelled how to include the 'when' and the 'where' by adding information to the sentences. Once we had transfered the additional words onto sticky notes we were able to play with the sentence, moving parts and making changes to things like capital letters and full stops and adding in commas.

    By moving parts of the sentence around we were able to reinforce some prior learning about fronted adverbials.

    In our particular example we discussed how certain rearrangements didn't really sound right and didn't make much sense ('Sitting on a bank, Alice was on a hot day and she was bored'). Instead we opted for: 'On a hot day, Alice was sitting on a bank and she was bored.'

    The fact that the words of the sentence were written one on each sticky note meant that children were physically able to rearrange the words in order to find something that made sense. The children did not struggle to move entire clauses because they had seen the whole clause added at once (and knew that the purpose of it was either to add information about 'where' or 'when' something happened).

    The children worked in pairs - here is one example of the first sentence before the 'when' clause was added.

    Here is one example of the first full sentence before it was rearranged.

    My example on the board. An alternative way to model from the front is to use larger pieces of paper folded in half and
    hung over a 'washing line'.

    Once this had been modelled, and the children had had a go at playing with the modelled example, I asked the children to have a go at adding 'where' and 'when' clauses to another of the sentences: 'The rabbit ran'. Children first worked on sticky notes but were soon able to form their sentences orally before writing them in their books.

    Some children demonstrated an over-reliance on the use of 'on a hot day' so I challenged them to use either 'before' or 'after' to write about 'when' the rabbit ran.

    Adapting this activity

    This activity, or versions of it, could be used from the very beginning of a child's writing journey. Here are just a few ideas:

    • Ordering words in sentences
    • Adding adjectives or adverbs
    • Replacing nouns with pronouns
    • Improving vocabulary
    • Including action and/or dialogue into descriptive writing
    • Using commas, colons, semi-colons, dashes, brackets
    • Joining two sentences with conjunctions
    • Adding relative clauses
    • Changing tense
    • Editing and revising to add/remove information
    With any of these as a focus the basic requirement is to have something to write about (a picture, a story, a video clip) and to start off by writing the simplest sentence possible (2-4 words is all that is needed). Sentences can then be quickly built to the point where the desired objective becomes the focus.

    I would love to hear from those who've done this kind of thing before and from those who try it for the first time.; please share examples of the work you and your class create!

    Wednesday, 14 November 2018

    From the @TES Blog: Times Tables Check: What Do I Need To Know?


    We’ve known about the proposed key stage 2 multiplication check for a while now, but have so far been waiting for more information about exactly what the check will entail. With the publishing of the 2018 'Key stage 2 multiplication tables check assessment framework' this month, we now have a greater insight into what we can expect of the tests.

    Click here to read the rest on the TES site: https://www.tes.com/news/times-tables-check-what-do-i-need-know

    Thursday, 8 November 2018

    Reading Roles Linked To Reading Comprehension Strategies

    Recently someone contacted me through my blog asking a very important question:
    I have recently come across your Reading Roles. From 2016 you have the weather forecaster etc ones and then from 2018 there are also the student/quiz master roles - do you recommend using all of these to cover content domain or focus on the newer ones? It seems like a lot of roles to remember.
     And here's my answer:
    I would focus on the ones that are reading strategies, rather than ones which are only areas of the content domain from the test frameworks: 
    Professor: Activating Prior Knowledge
    Quiz Master: Questioning
    Director: Visualization
    Student: Monitoring/Clarifying (this one covers the Translator and the Interpreter so those two can go, although there needs to be a heavy focus on the vocab)
    Detective: Drawing Inferences
    Editor: Summarising 
    I need to blog about this properly, so thanks for the prompt!
    So here's my blog post:

    When I initially developed the Reading Roles I focused solely on the areas of the content domain taken from the KS2 test framework. This was in reaction to the infamous 2016 KS2 reading test.

    As time has gone by I have learned more about reading strategies as opposed to the reading skills that are tested. Some of the research-backed strategies are linked to the reading skills that are tested (inferencing, summarising, predicting) but not all of them are. This led me to add to the Reading Roles that I initially developed in order to shift the focus to learning metacognitive strategies that children can apply in order to better comprehend what they read.

    Now, as in my answer above, I would advocate a much heavier focus on developing the reading strategies instead of just getting children to prtactise skills (by answering test-style questions, for example). Thus, whilst the other Reading Roles might still be used, I suggest that anyone choosing to use the Reading Roles might choose to focus on the following:

    Click here to download this as a PDF: https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/reading-roles-linked-to-reading-comprehension-strategies-12016559
    These reading strategies are recommended in the EEF's KS2 Literacy Guidance under recommendation 3:


    Another useful document giving a summary of reading strategies is the IES Practice Guide 'Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade' where its first recommendation is to teach students how to use reading comprehension strategies (pages 10 - 16).

    Both the EEF's guidance document and the IES practice guide point out that responsibility for the use of these strategies should gradually be transferred to the child. The intention of assigning familiar job titles to reading strategies is that children are given an easy-to-refer-to system for being more deliberate with their thinking during reading, with the ultimate goal of being able to comprehend texts. Therefore, Reading Roles should only be used until children are using the strategies automatically.

    In addition to this, DT Willingham, in his article Can Reading Comprehension Be Taught?, says that research shows that "the strategies are helpful but they are quickly learned and don’t require a lot of practice... And there is actually plenty of data showing that extended practice of reading comprehension strategies instruction yields no benefit compared to briefer review... Ten sessions yield the same benefit as fifty sessions."

    Again, to reiterate, these Reading Role strategies should only be described, modeled and practised collaboratively and individually until the strategies are seen to be internalised - this will most likely occur at different points for different children.

    It is also worth mentioning that the Reading Roles are not designed to be assigned one to each child in a group. Children should be working towards being able to select strategies to use and therefore should be allowed to practise all of them. Having said this, in some sessions you may choose to only focus on one strategy at a time whilst the children become familiar with them.

    Further reading:

    To find out more about the Quiz Master, Student, Professor and Director Reading Roles, please click here: http://www.thatboycanteach.co.uk/2018/04/reading-roles-metacognitive-reading-strategies.html

    To find out about a generic reading activity that uses the Director, Student, Professor, Quiz Master and Editor roles, click here: http://www.thatboycanteach.co.uk/2018/09/reading-roles-plus-generic-reading.html

    To see the generic Reading Roles reading activity exemplified, click here: http://www.thatboycanteach.co.uk/2018/09/reading-roles-plus-comprehension-strategy.html

    This blog post goes into much more detail about HOW we might teach reading comprehension strategies: http://www.thatboycanteach.co.uk/2018/03/reading-strategies-isolation-combination.html

    Tuesday, 6 November 2018

    Explicitly Teach Metacognition to Boost Maths Skills


    Anyone who has ever taught primary maths will, most likely at many points, have asked themselves, ‘Why on earth did they do it like that?’.

    You know, when a child completes a full written calculation just for adding 10 to another number or attempts to divide a huge number by reverting to drawing hundreds of little dots.

    And it’s an absolute certainty that every primary teacher will have asked the following question, but this time with a little more frustration: ‘Why didn’t they check their answer?’.

    Click here to read the rest on the Teach Primary website: https://www.teachwire.net/news/we-need-to-explicitly-teach-metacognition-to-boost-maths-skills

    From the @tes Blog: The Myth of Pupil Data Groups


    Once upon a time there was a spreadsheet and on that spreadsheet there was lots of interesting pupil data.

    Very helpfully, the spreadsheet had made some calculations so as to inform the teacher of how well the children were doing with their learning. The spreadsheet told of how many pupils had: made expected progress, achieved age-related expectations, achieved accelerated progress and who were sadly working below the expected standard as a result of making slow progress.

    "Thank you, spreadsheet – that is very useful," said the busy teacher.

    "But that's not all I have, teacher." replied the spreadsheet. "I can also provide for you this very day some group data."

    "Indeed?" asked the teacher. "Do show me more of what you have to offer."

    Click here to read more on the TES site: https://www.tes.com/news/you-cant-reduce-child-spreadsheet-number

    Thursday, 1 November 2018

    Book Review: 'Little Bits of Sky' by S.E. Durrant

    If I were to be lazy I'd describe 'Little Bits of Sky' as an emotional rollercoaster of a story about two children in care. But I have to do better than that - this book really deserves a review that does it justice.

    In any case, it's not truly an emotional rollercoaster because S.E. Durrant so accurately depicts how life, even in tough circumstances, runs on the parallel tracks of opposing emotions. Siblings Ira (real name Miracle) and Zac live in a children's home and they know only too well how any given moment can be both joyful and full of sorrow. Readers of this book will experience just that - within a paragraph they will likely feel the urge to laugh aloud but be stopped from doing so by the lump in their throat.

    And it is Durrant's beautiful prose that makes this possible. The writing is supremely believable as the thoughts of a child, recorded in a semi-diary form. The authenticty comes as a result of the inclusion of the small details that an optimistic child wanting to make the best of their life would focus on. Surprisingly it is these small details that keep the reader hooked - the storyline itself is slow-moving allowing plenty of space for a realistic portrayal of the world Ira, Zac and their fellow housemates live in: the coming and going, the behaviour of other children, school days, the relationships with social workers, siblings, teachers, friends, the coping mechanisms, the questions about parents.

    What this everyday-ness ultimately achieves is a real feeling of empathy towards the children and a sense of mounting elation (and some dashed expectations) as the children go away to stay with Martha, a retired teacher who lives in a town outside of London. The story also contains some great twists as well as a surprising amount of history: the previously unchartered waters (in children's fiction) of the Poll Tax Riots in the late 80s are the setting for this brilliant novel.

    Old or young, this moving story prompts reflection on the need for love and a sense of belonging, and the human ability to overcome adversity. Quite frankly, I wish every book I read were like this one - its gentle exploration of what it is to be a child, to be a person, is stimulating and somehow satisfyingly enjoyable. Substance, meaning and authenticity flow out of every page of 'Little Bits of Sky'. Do read it - everyone I've recommended it to so far has not been disappointed.

    Tuesday, 23 October 2018

    Guest Post: How To Write Non-Fiction by Alex Bellos and Ben Lyttleton

    Alex Bellos and Ben Lyttleton are the authors of the Football School series (as well as newspaper articles and several grown up books about maths, football, and... colouring in). Currently on book number three in the Football School series, Alex and Ben are experts at writing about facts and information. Here they give some advice to teachers and children about how to write those tricky non-fiction pieces of writing.

    1) Choose a subject that you are passionate about. If you love something, then this passion will come through in the text.

    2) Read! Non-fiction is writing with facts in it. Before you start writing you need to find facts about the subject you are writing about. One way to do this is to read: you can read websites, magazine articles and books. Make notes on what you read.

    3) Speak to people! Another way to get facts is to ask people questions. For example, just say you want to write about pizza. You might want to go to your local pizzaria and ask the pizza chef some questions. They will know a lot about pizzas! Write down what they say.

    4) Plan! Once you have done your research, you should have a few pages of notes. Read the notes and work out roughly plan the text. If you have several facts, choose a sensible order for the facts.

    5) Clarity! The best writing is clear writing. There are tricks to writing clearly. One is to write in short sentences. Another is always to use simple language. Even if the ideas are complicated, keep the language simple.
    6) Repetition. Avoid repeating the same words again and again, since this will make your text boring to read.

    7) Don’t make assumptions. In other words, don't assume that your readers will know as much as you. If you refer to something that happened in the past, be sure to explain exactly what did happen the past so the reader isn’t left confused.

    8) Do not use technical terms that only a specialist will understand. Make sure that every word you use would be understandable to a classmate who doesn’t share the same interests as you.

    9) Don’t use cliche. A cliche is a phrase that is over-used, like “cool as a cucumber”, or “110 per cent”. Cliches make the text feel predictable and boring.

    10) Have a conclusion. It is always nice to end a piece of text with either a summary of what has come before, or a final thought.

    Sunday, 21 October 2018

    From The Third Space Learning Blog: The New Ofsted Inspection Framework 2019: What You Need To Know And How To Prepare For It


    The new Ofsted Framework for 2019 is on its way and recent announcements from Ofsted and Amanda Spielman, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, have highlighted some of the key changes. But is this a welcome change for schools AND colleges? Here’s what Senior Leaders should know at this stage. As more information is released we will provide more guidance.

    According to Ofsted’s press release we can expect that ‘these changes will move Ofsted’s focus away from headline data to look instead at how schools are achieving these results, and whether they are offering a curriculum that is broad, rich and deep, or simply teaching to the test’, so what can we take from Amanda Spielman’s most recent speech on 11th October 2018?

    Click here to continue reading over at Third Space Learning.

    Book Review: Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me by Eloise Greenfield and Ehsan Abdollahi

    In this heartwarming book of poems from Tiny Owl, poet Eloise Greenfield and illustrator Ehsan Abdollahi have collaborated to entertain and educate their young readers.

    Veteran author Elosie Greenfield convincingly occupies the mind of both a young boy (Jace) and his puppy (Thinker). The majority of the poems in ‘Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me’ – kind of a book version of a concept album – are written from the perspective of the puppy, and the results are far better than that makes it sound. The naïve and innocent view point of the dog will cause young readers to stop, wonder and to consider the world they live in – adults too.

    “tell me, why cold, cold water turns to ice, why some folks are mean and some are nice…”

    And this isn’t just a collection of poems. They are sequenced in a chronological order so that a story is told: the puppy arrives, he is named, he gets to know his family, he wants to go to school with his boy but can’t, he stays home with his boy’s little sister, then triumph! he is allowed to go to pets day at school – the proud crescendo of this lovely little book.

    As children read they will be unwittingly exposed to a wide range of poetry – much of it free verse, but not exclusively. There’s also a haiku, a rap and other forms which are intriguing to explore and possibly emulate with children (Birds Fly has a 2/3/4/4/3/2 syllable structure). Greenfield herself leaves a short comment on poetry at the end of the book helping children to understand a little more about what they have just read or heard.

    Abdollahi brings a great deal to the table here too. Tiny Owl’s mission to bring a “greater awareness of the diverse and colourful world we live in” to their readers is helped massively by the vibrant pictures which accompany the text, and sometimes occupy whole double-page spreads. This is an impeccably-presented book making it seem more than the sum of its already considerable parts – in fact, it feels like a gift, something to be treasured.

    Children and adults alike will love the inspiring philosophical playfulness of this beautiful tome: it’d make a perfect family present – one which will allow all generations to share in the joy of these poems.