Busy Busy Busy

After nearly two months away from a classroom, returning on Monday morning was weird.

I had a fairly restless night’s sleep on the Sunday night and I awoke early Monday morning being very nervous. I noticed a tense feeling in my chest and it was something I would have for the majority of the week. Stepping back in to the classroom and I immediately remembered the table names – Red, Blue and Yellow. The names sprung to mind quickly as it reminded me of the first three Pokemon games (although I sincerely doubt that was the logic behind choosing the names).

I had been in contact with the teachers for the class about what lessons I was to teach for Monday – a PE lesson. I went in Monday with a plan in hand for the PE lesson and observed the teacher in action. They took the time then to ask me about what I had observed and what I’d take from that and if there was anything I’d do a little differently. It was a very helpful conversation and helped calm me somewhat. The PE lesson, rather surprisingly went off without a hitch. I had set out five activities all related to throwing and aiming and had each station numbered to avoid confusion when moving groups from activity to activity. I also had a chat with the other teacher about targets for the placement, organising a visit from a university tutor, and what the areas of focus are for the term. All in all, Monday was busy but a nice start to the first week back. 

Tuesday did not go as well. I taught a writing lesson which I thought I had prepared sufficiently for but I had underestimated the length of time and the amount of instruction that was needed and suffice to say, I was very disappointed with it. I left the school on Tuesday rather annoyed with myself but went in to the university to use the IT facilities to prepare for what I wanted to be a great lesson on subtraction. I prepared a game on Powerpoint using hyperlinks with subtraction questions, making an effort to use some of the different words for subtraction – take away, minus, subtract, less. I was, in a sense, cautious of relying too much on a memory stick for  what I thought was a good method of teaching subtraction and so I made sure to save the Powerpoint on my memory stick, Google Drive and printed out the slides – just in case.

I was hoping the lesson on subtraction would go well on Wednesday and beforehand, that now familiar tense feeling was present. Thankfully, the Powerpoint game worked perfectly. It opened from my memory stick with no problems and the children loved the smiley face that popped up if they selected the right answer. Smiles all around and as a result – the tension dissipated for the day. The teacher told me they were very impressed with the use of the different words for subtraction as it was important that the children become familiar with them early on. 

Thursday I used a similar game as the subtraction lesson for a lesson on ‘br’, ‘cr’, and ‘dr’ words. I thought it had worked well but there appeared to be a little confusion on mixing up the ‘br’ and ‘dr’ words so I spoke to the teacher about this afterwards and they assured me that the lesson went well and that the confusion didn’t mean the lesson was the cause of confusion but just a sign that more work was needed in that area. I also took a mental maths lesson in which the focus was on counting backwards from 20. I used a large number line to count backwards with them first time round and then blocked the number line from view. We then played a number game show in which I would hold up a card with a number and they had to tell me the number before the one displayed. They loved it and I was pleasantly surprised to see some of the class’ quieter characters put their hand up to join in on the game show. To finish off, we sang Ten Green Bottles. I won’t lie, I found that terrifying! Obviously, I can give a virtuoso performance of Blame It On The Boogie and other similar classics when I’m singing into the shower head but I felt terrified by singing in front of an early years class. What made it even scarier for me was the class teacher returned in to the classroom when there was 8 of the bottles still on the wall! ‘Oh sweet Jesus’ I thought when I saw the teacher walk in. Thankfully, after hearing that another green bottle had accidentally fallen, they joined in with the class singing the story of the final seven bottles. The children loved singing the song and I think I’ll be more ready to sing in a class again. 

Friday I was taking another writing lesson and another PE lesson. Both lessons went very well and when the class teacher and I were discussing them afterwards, they told me that they thought the lessons had went well but gave me an area for improvement. They told me that they felt the class sometimes gets too noisy. We agreed that a noise-ometer would be an appropriate way to lower the volume in the classroom. All in all, I thought the week had gone well and so I relaxed sufficiently to allow myself a game of pool or two with a friend from work on the Friday evening and an episode or two of Scandal when I got home. 

I have a nice bit of work to do now for today, including a noise-ometer to make! One of the lessons i’m currently planning involved using A Bug’s Life (as gardens and mini-beasts is the topic for the term) to inspire us to write our own story for Flik. Admittedly, I’m looking forward to that lesson particularly. 

Anywho. That’s all my news I think for this week. so I’ll post this and close the tab, maybe share the post on Twitter and then return to planning for the week ahead. Busy busy busy. 

G’luck!

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Calm Before The Storm

5 weeks of placement start tomorrow so I’d like to wish everyone starting placement the very best of luck. There’s a tough slog ahead but I’m ready to knuckle down and get some serious work done over the next few weeks. 

There is not a whole lot to report for the week before placement. We had one day of workshops during the week which were enjoyable but in terms of lectures, very little happened.

The workshop day started with a speech from David Cameron (@realdcameron) which was incredible. He spoke passionately about inspiring pupils which captivated his audience. The Real David Cameron told us that the most important thing for a teacher to do is to inspire a future for a child, not a destiny. That really hit home for me. It’s a theme I touched upon in my interview for the course over a year ago – I had told the interviewer that I didn’t want to become a teacher to inspire everyone to be doctors or rocket scientists but to inspire them to pursue their own dream, not someone else’s. He also showed us how we could use websites such as pedagoo.org to inform our practice and that is something I will be looking to do over the next few weeks. Mr Cameron and another guest speaker told us the best advice they can give us is to take our time at the beginning of our probationary year to get to know the children – what they like and dislike and use their strengths to inform lessons. The other guest speaker also advised us to get involved in absolutely everything you possibly can because everything is an opportunity to add a feather to your cap. Hopefully I’ll be organised enough over the next year to do that!

I also attended a guest lecture from a group of students who were part of an ASN group in a school. They told us about all the things they have done with the school that have changed their lives. It was incredible to see these students stand up and speak to us about how they used to be nervous in crowds and didn’t like to talk and here they were, talking to a room of about 30 adults. Incredible. The teachers involved spoke of their pride for what the group had achieved collectively and individually and I think those teachers should feel very proud of themselves for being involved with the group. 

I think it’s time for me to finish preparing this school experience folder and then put my feet up for half an hour to chill out and calm myself before what will be a whirlwind 5 weeks. I’ve no doubt there will be plenty to write about over the next few weeks so hopefully I’ll have my first week’s worth of reflections up for your perusal by Friday evening. 

Until then amigos. 

TGIF

Wow. This week went well but it was far from easy. It’s not that didn’t enjoy it, it was just tough going. 

My laminator broke at the start of the week. As the placement is with the early years, the laminator is a vital resource. I shouted such a stream of abuse at that laminator. I’ve been using the laminator in the school so it hasn’t been a crisis here but it was a nuisance. My phone broke aswell. Naturally, the only way to fix the phone was to wipe everything off it. That was far from ideal. Oh ya, I also lost my memory stick at the start of the week too. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. Some kind soul sellotaped the memory stick to the wall on Wednesday so I got that back!

On the teaching front, it was a very difficult week but I feel as though I am learning from the challenges but these challenges do come thick and fast. Teaching on St Patrick’s Day was weird. I’d never experienced a school day on St Patrick’s Day and my sister living in a different part of Scotland text me admitting she too felt weird working on St Patrick’s Day. 

On St Patrick’s Day I taught a spelling lesson and a gym lesson. The spelling lesson went well but my timing was a bit off. Not everyone got a chance to try each activity. One of the activities was a noughts & crosses style game with the new spelling words which was a cool idea. It wasn’t mine. The person who came up with that idea I know reads this so I’d like to thank them for that idea! The gym lesson…oh my… The activities, my observing teacher told me, were perfect for a gym lesson. The class’ behaviour was all over the place and the class teacher’s suggestion was to use a whistle next time round. I’ll have to! 

Tuesday I was looking at number bonds and then Victorian schools. The number bond lesson could certainly have gone better. It was planned that I’d do the lesson outside but it rained. Thankfully I had planned for that possibility. Obviously, I am on placement to learn but it is remarkable how many little things you learn and realise during a lesson. You wouldn’t believe how often during the course of the day I say to myself “Jesus, how did I not think of that?”. I write things down on my lesson plans to remind myself and then a child runs up to tell me that their working partner won’t share the eraser and these little things slip my mind. The lesson on Victorian schools was a disaster. I just couldn’t get them to focus. I felt terrible after. I’ve had lows on placement but Tuesday was a new feeling of low. My class teacher spent a while trying to cheer me up and gave me loads of tips to help with the problems I had. I left the school, bought a packet of Skittles, returned to the house and just started planning for Wednesday. I’ve mentioned it before but it sometimes surprises me how well I switch off from school. 

Wednesday went pretty well. I had a writing lesson – we were writing about pirates – yaaaaaaar! I used positive praise very effectively on a class I had struggled with the day before and it worked a treat. The standard of the writing was good and it was particularly difficult to select star writers for the day. I felt elated after going from such a bad day on the Tuesday to the writing lesson going very smoothly. I also took a number bond lesson after and that went well aswell. It was one of the children’s birthdays so I had a cake and candles display to learn about the number bonds of 6. The area where I fell down was I had not considered the different ways they could record what they were learning. I had a worksheet from the day previous but the children were mostly finished those but the teacher told me a few ways to record the learning and consolidate the learning and I appreciated that feedback. 

On Thursday I took the class for a drama lesson and a follow up lesson on Victorian schools. The Victorian schools lesson went well according to my class teacher but oddly, I felt it could have gone better. I think if I was to identify one area of my planning that needs particular development – it’s judging how much activities are needed and how long they take. That will only come with experience though so I just have to keep plugging away. The drama lesson was an interesting one, and one I learned a lot from. I wrote a short story about a Pirate called Pete. It went like this – 

Pirate Pete sailed on the sea. His boots were filled with sand.

When he looked through his telescope, he was looking for the land.

He wanted to stop and fix his ship. It needed a coat of paint.

Pirate Pete felt so tired, he thought that he would faint!

When Pirate Pete stopped on land, he found a treasure map.

He got his ship ready to sail, and put on his pirate cap.

Pirate Pete needed help. His helper’s name was Casper.

They found a treasure chest full of gold, and lived happily ever after. 

I had come up with a drama lesson in which we would do actions for some of the story. I thought it would be helpful to scaffold the lesson a little by coming up with some actions to go with the drama but I focused too much on that. The class teacher pointed this out to me and when they said it – I was bitterly disappointed. I had worked hard on coming up with an enjoyable story and I ruined the lesson by structuring it too much. I was proud of the story I had written and I will look to write more short stories for lessons but I will certainly be taking care not to make the same mistake with regards the drama lesson. It’s only after dawning on me now that I know someone who teaches drama to young kids on Saturdays so I really should contact them to bounce ideas off them for drama! How have I only thought of that now?

Today went well. I forgot one or two things with a lesson on patterns, but again, it’s an experience I will learn from. When I make these mistakes, and I normally recognise it myself when I do, it’s always a little kick in the teeth but I do feel wiser from these. The teacher told me that I did well today and this week and I’m moving in the right direction so that is encouraging! 

I’ll leave ye there lads. I won’t lie, I’m going to return to a Criminal Minds binge. Unconfirmed reports of apple crumble and raspberry ice cream in the vicinity but as I said, unconfirmed reports. 

 

G’luck, g’luck, g’luck!

…And A Poet

Strange title for this week’s post but today was a strange day. So many kids seemed in bad form for a Friday but one of them came up with an absolute gem. We were preparing fact sheets on interesting Scottish people for our topic work and one student chose Robert Burns (of Auld Lang Syne fame). Here is what was submitted to me –
image

I couldn’t contain my laughter I must admit. The student and I both agreed the photo was certainly on the lesser side of suitable for our class display but they could see that they were not in trouble. I thought it was creative so I didn’t think it would be right for that child to feel as if they had done something wrong.

I am delighted to be back in school. I have missed it. It’s a million miles an hour in comparison to the lectures but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Monday was a nice introduction to my second block of placement. I was asked to look after one group for maths – we were looking at area. I enjoyed working with them and for both Monday and Tuesday we got to grips with area using graph paper – we linked multiplication to the counting squares method AND we calculated the area of our names by drawing them on graph paper using block capitals. They all really enjoyed it with one pupil who never engages with anything ending up helping everyone else!

On Wednesday I took maths and English for the whole class. We continued on with area in maths but as a whole class, we were calculating the size of Tetris shapes. I was happy with the learning but disappointed with the behaviour of a minority so I made sure to express my disappointment before allowing them to leave for lunch and sure enough, everyone who hadn’t behaved returned after lunch with an apology for me. In English, we were looking at grammar and punctuation. I wrote sentences and a story with atrocious grammar and punctuation. They enjoyed correcting me on all my mistakes so I turned it round and said that if they were this good at correcting my mistakes, they should take care in not making the same ones I had made.

Yesterday we spent the majority of the day in a science museum. The class has undertaken a science challenge in which they have to carry out science experiments and then show these experiments to younger children and essentially pass on their knowledge. While the trip was enjoyable, I saw the amount of organisation involved in a small excursion so it made me grateful for the trips to Dublin, Bundoran, the Aillwee caves or the cliffs of Moher. That must have been a nightmare for those teachers! I spent last night watching Youtube videos of science experiments to try and carry out with the class.

Today then was a strange day as I said. I spent the first part of the morning correcting homework and then I did the ICT lesson with the class. Myself and the class teacher then discussed next week at a bit of length. We had previously agreed that I would start my continuous teaching a week before I was due to because it suits everyone for me to do this. I have prepared plenty worksheets and exercises for us to do next week but I will have to spend some of this weekend making lesson plans. The aim is that I get everything ready in advance so the only work I will have to do each evening is alterations to the plans I already have, as opposed to starting afresh each night. That’s the plan but let’s see how that one pans out.

Anywho, I might just make a burst on a few plans now before retiring to bed kinda early tonight. I’m so boring I know, but up at 7am tomorrow for work so an early night tonight will give me a better chance of a late night of planning tomorrow! I’m also in the early stages of developing an app for schools (for smartphones/tablets). My initial attempts at building the app hit a stumbling block but a contact I have made through the school I am in on my placement has agreed to help me. Luckily, he has a background in that field so hopefully things will take shape over the course of the next few weeks and months!

Anyone looking for a nice break from their work – you could do worse than having a look at Brooklyn Nine Nine. It’s a very funny TV series about New York detectives who have an unorthodox approach to their work. I’m currently reading Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abagnale but I probably should be reading some of the course recommended reading. Ah well!

I’ll be off so now. Right. Bye bye, bye. Bye. Bye bye, bye bye bye bye bye bye bye bye.