7 minute writes….getting creative quickly!

For many years I used the start of the school day as ‘thinking time’ – an opportunity to get the creative juices flowing, even if it was for ten minutes.  I shared a writing prompt – a picture or words – and let my class write.  The children’s ideas could be shared with their table or as a class, but their was no pressure as writing could be refined at a later date.  These exercise books  became the equivalent of a writer’s notebook, where a multitude of ideas were stored.

These were the days before the creation of Pobble 365 (an amazing tool!) and I took great delight in saving thousands of images on Pinterest (it was an addiction at the time).

The evidence can be found in the link below…don’t judge me…

A couple of my favourite sites for my daily prompts were –

https://promptuarium.wordpress.com/category/writing-prompt/

http://writingprompts.tumblr.com/

I also stumbled across this quick video on one of the links and it clearly explains exactly what I was aiming to do but they refer to it as a ‘7 minute write’ which I like better than my ten and will use from now on!!

And now, just to indulge, I will shared some of my favorite images which have been the catalyst for some amazing writing….

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I hope you enjoy them!

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Greater Depth Reading for Year 2….

An essential element of accurate teacher assessment in Year 2 is knowing the reading habits of your children and ensuring they have an appropriate diet of challenging texts to allow for a greater depth of understanding and fluency.

Put down the reading scheme….it is vital that these pupils are given lots of access to high quality texts that lack predictability of structure and vocab and are not neatly slotted into any colour band!! I have collated a list of picture books that will, hopefully, be exciting and challenging…and can be used, if read independently, as part of the evidence needed to support teacher assessment judgments at greater depth.

The Princess’ Blankets

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The Tear Thief

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The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark

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Traction Man Meets Turbodog

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Traction Man Is Here

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Classic books for primary children….?

Over twenty years of teaching some of the most inspirational books I have used are classic texts (sometimes known as heritage texts).  There are a variety of ways to introduce these potentially complex stories to children – read Bob Cox’s Opening Doors books – one of which is to use reimaginings or retellings and I have collected my ideas in a Padlet below…

Made with Padlet

Do still read the original texts to children and make sure there are copies of the books in the classroom for those who are inspired to read more.

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These classic texts are essential to introduce patterns of language children may never have come across before, but there are also vital elements of cultural capital they introduce that every pupil has the right to experience, which they will meet again and again across a variety of media including films, books and even adverts and memes.

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Phonics fever: Preparing for the screening check.

Whether I agree with the phonics screening check or not, many Year 1 teachers are now beginning to prepare themselves and the children for the week beginning June 11th.  There are a few handy tips, reminders and resources that I have discovered across the years…

Firstly, read the Phonics screening check: administration guidance 2018, which was published in April.  It makes clear exactly what you need to know (I always used to annotate and highlight the bits I felt were key) and will ensure you have no fear of maladministration.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/701134/2018_phonics_screening_check_administration_guidance.pdf

I always re-watch the video to make sure I consistently apply the correct scoring rules.  There is always a possibility that someone from the LA could visit to check the test is administered correctly and that the papers are held securely.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/phonics-screening-check-sample-materials-and-training-video

The test must be administered by a teacher not a TA or HLTA (* edited to say!! unless you are confident that they are well versed and trained in phonics!) and preferably with a member of staff the the children know well and are comfortable with.

https://www.twinkl.co.uk/resource/T-L-035-Phase-5-Sound-button-word-cards

A point often overlooked is that blank sound button cards can be used if sound buttons are used in regular classroom practice.  This can really instill confidence and give extra support to a wobbly child.

Twinkl have free sound button word cards for phase 4 and phase 5 words – start using them now!

Coloured overlays can be used or coloured card for children with Irlens Syndrome or other literacy difficulties. Remember that rest breaks can be used at different points throughout the test, depending on the individuals needs, and can really help with children who lack stamina or might find the who situation a little overwhelming.

There are some great resources out there to help with preparation including morning starters from Twinkl:

https://www.twinkl.co.uk/resource/t-l-526421-phonics-screening-check-weekly-morning-starter-powerpoint

There are phonics screening bingo cards:

https://www.twinkl.co.uk/resource/t-t-2546066-year-1-phonics-screening-check-words-bingo

Phonics play has lots of activities that can help children prepare through interactive games:

https://www.phonicsplay.co.uk/freeIndex.htm

I also love the blog and ideas on ABC does:

https://abcdoes.com/abc-does-a-blog/

Where and if possible make the test as fuss free and ‘enjoyable’ as possible and don’t forget to using brilliant and beautiful books so children remember that reading is a wonderfully engaging and pleasurable experience!!

 

 

In a hole in the ground: An approach to whole class guided reading.

 

I love to use classic and challenging texts in guided reading sessions ( even more so if there is a film or graphic novel version of the text to really help to contextualise for my EAL students ).  One of my absolute favourites is ‘The Hobbit’ which I have used with Year 5 and 6 pupils over the past 20 years (wincing slightly at the size of that number because in my head I am 27). Anything with a dragon in it is a winner in my book…

If you feel inspired to use a classic text then I advise you read the Bob Cox books on ‘Opening Doors’ which given practical approaches when using them to teach whole classes.

 

I always believe in starting a new text with activating schema, where I will encourage children to bring their prior knowledge to the text and make connections.  For The Hobbit I set the scene by playing music from the sound track and sharing a variety of magical images from my collection…

After initial schema activation I like to do a bit of prediction and drip in inferential questioning throughout the teaching sequence.  Inference is such a difficult concept and yet is very much favoured on the SATs papers so it needs to be explicitly taught, modeled and used frequently.

In a hole in the ground…

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In a perfect world the full text should be available in class for reading by those children who are really switched on by the guided reading sessions, but free text extracts can be found online in a variety of places…

http://readingzone.com/index.php?zone=sz&page=extracts_download

https://www.writerswrite.com/books/excerpts/childrens/

https://www.worldbookday.com/resources/extracts/

http://www.lovereading4kids.co.uk/

I always make sure that fluency is part of the daily session and will share extracts of the start of the story, using fluency strategies such as cloze, choral and echo reading.

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I would need to discuss the meaning of some of the vocabulary in context, but would plan to spend a least one guided reading lesson on investigating key words in more depth. In doing so I would look at etymology and morphology as well as multiple meanings in different contexts.

I believe fluency and vocabulary are still key teaching elements in a reading  lesson – even in year 6 – and then, and only then, can you really hope that the children can infer….then work on exam rubric, which is the cherry on the icing on the cake!

What does the sentence ‘No going upstairs…’ tell you about hobbits?  This is the ideal time to model thought processes, not expecting children to simply guess what is in your head.  My explanation starts with ‘ Well maybe hobbits don’t like going upstairs so it could mean that they are a bit lazy or they avoid physical exertion, but it might also mean that hobbits find it difficult to get up and downstairs due to some physical constraint.’

Children can draw what they see in their minds eye – it is a great skill to get them to play ‘movies’ in their heads and acknowledge this by get them to visually represent what they are seeing there.

I tend to end a Year 6 session with a bit of exam rubric by formulating a SAT style question based on the text.  It is important that they get to experience the kind of language and layout that they will come across in the test.

My children really struggle with the word ‘impression’ so my second session might end with the question ‘What impression do you get of the hobbit?’ – this would lead to either a written or an oral response that could be discussed.

This trailer is a lovely way of introducing the children to the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, at the start of the next session (always watch videos first as you will know then whether it is suitable for your pupils to view)…

For exam rubric questions I like to use the question stems from Primary English Educational Consultants.

http://primaryenglished.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/2015-GR-question-prompts_KS2.pdf

An interesting comparison can be made between the text and the opening of the 1977 animation…(I think I have a vague memory of this as a very young child!)

Which do the children prefer and why?  What similarities are there?  Why do they think the creators of the animation changed things?

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I would continue reading, looking at the explanation of what a hobbit is, again using echo or choral reading to develop fluency for all. I would then discuss the explanation.  For example the phrase ‘there is little or no magic about them’ indicates what?  There is an expectation that magic is to be expected…so this cannot be our world…or at least as we know it today. Is there anything in the text that might make one think that this is our world in a time long gone?

I would discuss the meaning of the word blundering, asking children to see if there is information in the text to help understanding or if the suffix can help us know what type of word it is.

My session would end with an exam rubric question:

Circle one word below that best describes the character of a hobbit:

small            frightened               resentful                 respectable

There are endless activities and approaches which can be used with this wonderful book.  The key elements to remember with any guided reading approach is that without fluency and understanding of key vocabulary there is no comprehension and that exam rubric needs to be built on strong foundation.

 

SATs Stretches…

As the Year 6 teachers around the country start the serious countdown (and consumption of adult beverages) to SATs week I have brought together some of my favourite resources to ease us into the potentially manic after Easter prep…

I truly believe in little and often and think that a carefully planned timetable of SATs prep activities can ensure focused and meaningful use of the school day rather than hours on ploughing through past papers (if you do use SATs papers it is most effective if worked on in pairs).

EGPS:

Really useful daily EGPS sessions are a must and to resource these I have used a variety of ready made resources. If you have a Twinkl subscription then the Year 6 Grammar Revision Guide and Quick Quiz Bumper Pack are great for clear explanations of each key grammar objective and the use SATs style questions to test understanding.

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http://www.twinkl.co.uk/resource/t2-e-2139-year-6-grammer-revision-guide-and-quick-quiz-passive-and-active-voice

 

To mix things up a bit there are Follow Me cards….

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http://www.teachingideas.co.uk/sites/default/files/spagfollowmecards_0.pdf

The fantastic Grammarsaurus have a free YouTube channel with songs to help remember rules and great tutorials giving simple explanations for some of the most complex rules which are essential for the SAT.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMhWKrdwzFr994ZhwqG4nlA/videos

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If you have a subscription to Grammarsaurus then there is an amazing quantity of EGPS resources for you to choose from – the site is well worth investing in.

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Reading:

Again I follow the mantra of little and often when preparing for the reading SAT.  These RIC activities created by MrsP Teach are great at getting children to look at texts in different way, including thinking about the ever elusive inference.  These can be used daily to start English lessons, guided reading or to drop in at any time of day…

http://www.mrspteach.com/2015/04/ric-starter-examples.html

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Use SATs style questions with the text you are using in English or guided reading lessons.  These question stems from Primary English Educational Consultancy are really useful…

http://primaryenglished.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/2015-GR-question-prompts_KS2.pdf

Also there are some great question stems from Alison Philipson Literacy – these are usefully colour coded to show which past paper they were taken from…

Y6 Reading Question Stems Based on Content Domain of the KS2 Test

I have put together my Year 6 reading intervention (written one Summer hols when I had no life…) on TES which encourages fluency and vocabulary focus as well as comprehension.  Some of you might find it useful I hope.

https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/sats-reading-revision-intervention-11532769

Good luck…and remember it takes a team to teach the children not just the Year 6 teacher!

1.Boosting ideas…

The ‘Boosting’ season is approaching fast and the rapidly-aging Year 6 teachers will be considering the extra-prep nightmare for the early morning sessions that lie ahead.  Having taught Year 6 since 199…something I have always had my eyes peeled for new and effective approaches that are high impact, but low prep.

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing useful resources that I have come across over the years.

In this first blog I will start with Twinkl (I always explain that I get a free subscription for sharing my views…but these are very much my views!!).  Most teachers I know have a subscription so have access to these resources that can buy you back a few hours of your life!

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I would use these Year 6 Bumper Assessment Packs for Boosting and revision.  Each one contains a very specific teaching PowerPoint that highlights the key approaches needed to understand the text and answer the questions which could be used for ‘Boosting’.  I would use the question papers either during the previous sessions or as a home learning task.

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The Reading Revision Activity Mats are short and focused texts with questions.  I have used these really successfully as early morning focus work, whilst I do the register etc or a re-focus after lunchtime, again whilst I do the register etc.  Each one will not take more than ten minutes to complete, and some even less. However, they are useful for getting students used to reading unseen pieces of text under a time constraint.

SATs are an inevitable part of our teaching lives at the moment sorrowful-emoji but by sharing ideas and resources we can make life a little bit easier big_smile_happy_face_drawer_knob_srf-r95f84f7818be4b3aa45a36488e23c00d_zp2d5_324 whilst having a greater impact on final outcomes.