When I return to school in September we start the year with the best topic ever – Heroes and Monsters! It is loosely based on the history objectives of Ancient Greece. We use lots of myths and legends in literacy sessions such as Anthony Horowitz’s ‘The Gorgon’s Head’.
And moved swiftly on to modern day monsters….cryptids!
We began with my absolute favourites…Dragons (see previous blog post). We read non-fiction texts on The Frost Dragon and using Talk 4 Writing approaches we trapped dragons (instructional text) and wrote information texts (using various ‘Dragonology’ books as our model texts), we used documentaries, poems…the list is endless.
The children were excited and engaged…but it was about to get better.
As a school we decided to use Twitter and blogging to encourage children to write for a bigger audience, so each class set up their own twitter account. I then decided that the next cryptid to be investigated by us would be Bigfoot! I had been inspired by a (crazy) TV programme I had caught a glimpse of called ‘Finding Bigfoot’…people go ‘squatching’ and refer to themselves as ‘squatchers’. It is true! I then used twitter to search for ‘squatchers’ and sent them messages from the children.
One morning we had a tweet alert. On opening it we saw we had received a message from the States…from a Bigfoot hunter! The children were on the edge of their seats. It simply said ‘All you need to know is he is real’ (I still shiver when I read it!). It was like setting light to the touchpaper! Boys chose to stay in at playtime and research Bigfoot, home-learning came alive with children researching and blogging their findings. We used google-earth street view to look at the areas where there had been reported Bigfoot encounters. I even purchased a map.
We watched documentaries, wrote information texts (using T4W approaches), trapped Bigfoot, made models, wrote persuasive and balanced arguments. The children could look at a world map and locate California, Washington…and of course Bluff Creek!!! Here are some of the resources I used below –
As a teacher of many years it is still important for me to be excited and engaged with what I am teaching. I love those topic with broad headings and following the interests of the children, even in Year 6.
I watched a TED talk the other day that really got me thinking…and I entirely agree with the points being made.
As someone who has the privileged of supporting new and trainee teachers I have often seen the struggle to engage pupils. Some people are naturally good storytellers and performers who can bring the children to the very edge of their seats, they can inspire and excite by the change in tone of the voice, a raised eyebrow or a gesture.
In our school our very often very well behaved but passive children really thrive when a teacher can bring that magic to their teaching. Sadly, many new teachers are not prepared by colleges / university to ‘perform’ and capture their audience…the key elements of good storytelling and no matter how well they plan the lesson they fail to fully engage the pupils. I really want my children to have a lifelong love of learning so school has to switch on the light!
I speak from personal experience. I was a nightmare pupil and still can be. Often staff don’t want to sit next to me during training as I can become very distracting, very quickly, if I lose focus. I know I am doing it and have taught myself ways to politely look like I am attentively listening…IPads are a fantastic invention as is Pinterest…. I remember reading a book by Barbara Prashnig when I was a young teacher and suddenly realising that I was hugely kinaesthetic and that my whole education had been torturous due to being made to sit still and listen for hours…ahhhh! From that moment onwards I explicitly planned for a variety of learning styles and always succeeded with ‘naughty’ boys where others had failed. They too were often very kinaesthetic and overheated easily. Windows are always open in my room!
Yes it is true…I am an addict. I love Pinterest! Whenever I get a moment I can be found avidly searching and pinning. I have lots of followers so I guess I’m not the only one!
To be honest it helps me to collect all my thoughts and ideas in one place so that at any point I can go back and be inspired, use the idea, read the article, watch the video, make the recipe….it is endless. My most recent pinning has revolved around developing my ‘Guided Reading’ CPD for the staff at school and a group of NQTs. The ideas I came across were often brilliantly practical and shared by teacher who had had success with these approaches.
I love the positivity of American teacher-bloggers and was particularly inspired by many of their ideas….there are hundreds and thousands of blogs to read!!
However my biggest addiction is my ‘Stuff to write about’ board. I have collected thousands of ideas which I use in a variety of ways….mainly for ‘Morning work’ to focus my children’s thinking and get the creative juices flowing for ten or fifteen minutes every morning when they first enter the classroom. It also means they come in ready to learn and relatively fuss-free.
I enjoy secret pinning when bored…and that can happen during meetings, CPD, waiting rooms, insomnia…!
It has been a ridiculously long time since I put my thoughts and ideas down on here. So much water has passed under the bridge…but my passion for learning has not wavered and with renewed energy and focus I will continue!
In many respects the title of the blog is apt…
Being a control freak I have rather enjoyed this newly discovered approach to crafting amazing writing with my Year 5 and 6 pupils. Browsing through blogs and Pinterest one day, I came across the idea of ‘slow writing’ where the writing process is controlled sentence by sentence to making vivid the impact of using a variety of sentence structures.
Using a photo or film clip as a stimulus I guide the children in creating a descriptive paragraph by creating a list of what each sentence structure must be…
1. Start the sentence with an -ly opener.
2. End with an exclamation mark.
3. Use a simile.
4. Use an emotion.
5. End with a question mark.
6. Use an ‘if, if, if, then’ sentence.
I linked this to Alan Peat sentence types that we had learned. I can’t recommend his resources highly enough, both his ‘Exciting Sentences’ books and apps are easy to use and effective.
I continued in this way for six or seven sentences. I taught this whole class, although the children worked individually and we shared and discussed good examples as we went (lots of opportunity for ‘magpieing’). The children really enjoyed the process as no one got stuck for ideas and they were really pleased with the resulting paragraph. The pace of writing was slow, but the learning was tangible. Children of all abilities discussed the impact of sentence types and experimented with words, no one was afraid of getting it wrong.
The impact was instant, children continued their writing specifically choosing sentences for effect! Try it…I will use it again soon and might challenge children to follow lists independently…my NQTs used it and loved it too.
After a fantastic training session with Pie Corbett I became obsessed with creating a dragon themed topic. After much reading and watching weird ‘Youtube’ videos I came up with loads of useful materials which the kids in KS1 and 2 loved. It all begins with a brilliant documentary I found produced by The Animal Channel.
I focused on visual texts to support EAL learners and to allow all children to access it at some level. Some of the books that worked brilliantly are…
George and the dragon – Chris Wormell
The Dragon Snatcher – M.P. Robertson
The Snow Dragon -Vivian French
The Egg – M.P. Robertson
Ignis – Gina Wilson
The Dragon Machine – Helen Ward
The Great Dragon Rescue – M.P. Robertson
Another fantasically useful website is ‘Love Reading 4 Kids’
If you register with them (which is free) you can download extracts from hundreds of books. It also guides you as to age / interest suitability and links you to the cheapest place to purchase them.
These books are fantastic to use as model texts for non-fiction (the Pie Corbett idea of using fantasy in non-fiction). I did a really easy but effective ‘How to trap a dragon’ using ‘Talk for Writing’ approaches (information on this can still be found on the old Primary Framework site – easy to read and understand – have look!) which eventually the children used as a template for real life instructions.
Ok here I go, my very first blog…
The purpose of this blog is to continue my consultant role in a virtual way. Also it gives me a place to keep all my ideas and thoughts and experiences together.
My story so far is…
I taught for 10 years (mainly in Year 6 – very hard to escape!) becoming a Literacy Advanced Skills Teacher for the last 3. For a change of pace and the opportunity to develop my subject knowledge further I became a Literacy and ICT consultant for the National Strategies popping back into school as a Deputy for a while. After 4 brilliant years in post I have made a decision to develop my senior management experience and am heading back to school for good!! However I still get a big kick from sharing ideas and supporting other colleagues, so this is why I have created this blog…