Tag Archives: teaching ideas

Fi Fi Fo Fum

 

Inspired by the creative potential of the new BFG film (I will let you in to a secret…I could not stand the animated version, his voice grated…!) I have put together a Key Stage 2 topic ‘Fi Fi Fo Fum’ ready to use when we return to school for a new term.

 

I have used some of these stories already in a ‘Heroes and Monsters’ topic in Year 5/6 and it went down a storm. I have even used some texts with KS1 and EYFS because there are giants everywhere in literature – ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, ‘The Selfish Giant’ and ‘Harry Potter’ – and across all cultures so they are a concept all children very easily relate to no matter what their age or background.

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These are just some of the books that I used.  My absolute favourite has to be ‘The Giant book of Giants’ which is a beautiful collection of giant stories from around the world, but the very, very best bit is the enormous 3D poster of a giant that comes with it.

giant poster

The children love interacting with it…particularly looking up his kilt!!! I have him as a stimulus for writing character descriptions in Year 2 and as a story stimulus for KS2. Children have drawn and labelled their own giant and created stories for the strange objects he carries.

 

 

I have used picture like these above, which have led to fantastic discussions on the existence of giants. This can be the stimulus needed for a newspaper article or a persuasive argument.

It also reminded me of an old unit of work from the original Literacy Strategy based around the story ‘The Giant’s Necklace’.  It had some super ideas for teaching a full unit of work, which over time I had forgotten about.  I discovered the originals on-line the other day…well worth taking a look at!

http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/4825/4/nls_y6t2exunits075202narr2.pdf

 

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The Joy of Teaching…

Last week was fantastic.  Why? I remembered that I have the best job ever.

I was in the midst of being smothered by the political gubbins that is being shoved in our faces…  There was lot of gnashing of teeth (mine included and with good reason) and I was forgetting that I like what I do…that I love what I do.  I forgot that I like to take risks when I teach, that I turn left when everyone else goes right…until I spent the day with the very special Shonette Bason-Wood.  She gave me permission to be happy – it is what she does.

http://spreadthehappiness.co.uk/

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She told us that these constant political changes don’t mean that you can’t be exciting.  It is true.  I work in a school where we work really hard to just get to age related expectations, but when I enjoy it so do the children and their work reflects this.

These are the things I enjoy the most:

Music:

Play it to set the scene.  I like to have a picture on the whiteboard with music to heighten mood so that when the children enter the classroom they immediately engage in learning.  In school we believe every second counts. I often use ‘Pobble 365’ or some of the images on ‘The Literacy Shed’.  The bonus with both of these sites is the high level questioning and writing stimulus, plus SPaG ideas that are already prepared and totally free to use.  I also compulsively collect stuff to write about:

https://uk.pinterest.com/thelitleader/stuff-to-write-about/

All of the ideas above take a few minutes to download.  Win.

I love using the soundtrack to ‘The Lord of the Rings’, ‘Jurassic Park’ or ‘Harry Potter’.  Each of these can be used as a stimulus for creative writing and are brilliant for changes in mood and tension building.

At the other end of the scale I use giddy music to energise – choose something that you enjoy listening to when you are getting ready to go out.  Due to my age these are mainly songs from the 80s where the lyrics tend to be safe. I love Kylie – you can’t beat the old Stock, Aitken and Waterman classics!

Try a little ‘Dough Disco’ to get fingers warmed up ready for writing…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-IfzeG1aC4

Dressing up:

And yes I have done this with Year 6.  Sometimes just wearing my Professor McGonagall hat cheers me and them right up.  It also gives me permission to be someone else and tell stories that somehow seem more believable.  Many times I have gone into Nursery dressed up which has led to mark-making opportunities (and a little bit of screaming!) including notes to the naughty witch and instructions on what to feed a crocodile.

Follow the children’s interests:

And yes I have done this with Year 6.  Because I am a teacher I can tell a good story and given a captive audience I am in heaven!  It also helps if you involve a member of staff with your fabrication (my poor Principal has seen the Loch Ness Monster, strange lights in the night sky and found a trap door that leads to an abandoned Victorian cellars beneath school).

I love teaching non-fiction texts because I use Pie Corbett’s principles of using fantasy.  I have trapped dragons, persuaded Brian Cox that aliens do exist, written information texts about Bigfoot and created a travel brochure for the planet Pandora (see the brilliant video clip from Avatar).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBGDmin_38E

Twitter:

The day your Year 6 class gets a tweet from a Bigfoot hunter in America is the best day ever! We asked various Sasquatch experts (yes they do exist!), via Twitter, what they could tell us about Bigfoot.  This is what we got back…

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My football-playing boys stayed in at playtime, blogging and tweeting about the potential existence of Sasquatch. It was the best two weeks of writing I have ever experienced…

We used ‘Google Earth’ to visit Ohio and imaged what it would be like to walk through the woods that Bigfoot is supposed to stalk.

Film:

I use film for teaching reading as well as writing.  My first port of call is ‘The Literacy Shed’ because the collection there is vast.  Again lots of the work has been done for you, questions, writing ideas, top links, age appropriateness…

I love the focus and engagement film brings, especially for my EAL pupils or those with literacy difficulties.  It is a brilliant way into a text, comparing film to the written version or to activate schema before starting a new story.  We discuss how to recreate the tension seen in a film on the page, how playing with the order of the sentence changes the focus of the reader and how varying sentence lengths controls the pace and rhythm of a story.

Be brave and enjoy your job.

As Shonette would say don’t let the lemon-suckers suck out your happy juice!

 

 

 

Dragon Tales – a compendium.

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My first ever blog post, years ago, was all about dragons.  Since then I have stumbled across endless magnificent examples of dragons and dreamed up new ways to use them in my teaching.  Dragons are the most perfect topic to use across the whole of primary school –  last week, in nursery, I introduced the children to George the friendly dragon and we flew around the classroom, zooming, soaring and breathing flames.  They made Chinese dragons and learned about New Year celebration.  Whereas in Year 6 we watched video footage of the awakening of Smaug and played with words and sentence structures in an attempt to build the palpable tension Bilbo feels as he begins to stir from his deep slumber.

Dragons go well with Vikings…

The beautiful scene above invites children to draw and make their own particular breed of dragon.  The whole classroom could become a giant dragon’s nest of baby dragons.  I have pinned lots of art ideas as I think it works well as a stimulus for writing, giving children a real sense of ownership of their dragon.

Paper plate dragons -super easy and fun art and craft project to make with the kids!:

Upcycle: Milk Jug Wizardry! DIY dragon:

If you need a non-fiction dragon book to model some information text writing then look no further than the ‘Ology’ collection of books…

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I tend to use these as a model for my Talk 4 Writing ‘washing-line’ about the Beeston Bull Dragon.  If you search for Pie Corbett and dragons you will get a link that will explain the processes he uses to teach non-fiction texts through fantasy.  I bought ‘Talk for Writing Across the Curriculum’ which beautifully explains how to use these interactive and very physical approaches to teaching writing.  It has had a really positive impact on engagement with writing throughout my school…

Instructions!:

I often use this very funny book about dragon ownership as a starting point for instructions on how to keep a dragon as a pet.  Other instructional writing can be ‘How to trap a dragon’.  Again Pie Corbett does a really good explanation of this in his book (see above).

Dragon’s egg make for a beautiful descriptive writing stimulus as there are lots of textures involved as well as shades of colour.  I use paper mache with the children to create enormous eggs which look stunning all together on a giant nest…or you can leave one lying in the playground and see where the children think it came from and what will hatch out of it…

All this gorgeous dragon’s egg takes to make is a plastic egg, a hot glue gun and some paint! Dragon loves, Game of Thrones fans and those who like fantasy in general will LOVE this! It’s sure to be a conversation piece if displayed anywhere in your home.: MUST DO THIS! Accio Lacquer: What Does One Name An Egg Such As This: Make your own Dragon Eggs. An easy alternative craft for Easter/Eostre/Ostara.:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My absolute favourite documentary to use for information text writing is ‘Dragons – a fantasy made real’. In this programme, which can be watched in 10 minute or so sections on YouTube, (my secret crush) Patrick Stuart, in a highly dramatic style, narrates the finding of a body (dragon) and how scientist can now explain how it flew, breathed fire etc. It is spellbinding.

I detest the film version of ‘Eragon’, but love and devoured the books. A good read for Upper Key Stage 2 pupils.  I do use clips from the film and still images to model descriptive writing of Saphira.

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A greatly under-used narrative poem is ‘The Lambton Worm’.  It has origins in the North East and is best listened to in an appropriate accent.

This tells the story of a young squire returning from wars abroad to slay the ‘worm’ that was killing people in his home village.

This can link well with the story of ‘St George and the dragon’.  Sometimes I feel we don’t look at the origin of patron saints enough…I am pretty sure my children in Year 6 will be hazy as to who the patron saint of England is let alone the story of how he became so famous!

http://resources.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/stgeorge2.html

Above is a clear, easy to understand version from Woodlands Junior School.  I have made a mental note to show this to Key Stage 2 in an assembly next half term.

Here is my pinterest board with hundreds of ideas, links and images to help you plan an exciting dragon topic…

Grammar and spelling ideas to wake up writing…

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I recently delivered some SPaG training (Spelling, punctuation and grammar) for both NQTs and experienced staff, which was all too necessary due to the fact that in the UK the KS2 SPaG test has changed AGAIN to include far more complex objectives.  In fact, as a child of the 70s grammar was something of a mystery to me…I seem to remember school was somewhere I enjoyed going to play, sing and make things.  Recently I find myself constantly have to ‘up-skill’ just so I can keep teachers updated.

I am becoming more concerned that instead of us teaching grammar and punctuation to allow children to write more effectively we are simply preparing them for tests.  This is really rather unavoidable when the subjunctive is on the list of things to learn….!!!!!  So instead of delighting in the beauty of the language and playing and experimenting with words and phrases grammar can become dull, dry and time to turn off.

Some of the ideas I shared in my training sessions are, hopefully, a way to shake things up and embed and excite.

Image from http://properenglishusage.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/36a1e67c169cc8f7fcd0879a0e73e180.jpg?w=300&h=210.:

Would you pass your SATs in 2016?

http://www.sats2016.co.uk/think-youd-pass-your-sats-in-2016/

Go on, try it.  The staff were shocked.  Especially those who do not teach the top end of KS2.

Multi-sensory spelling…

When it comes to spelling make it multi-sensory. I have a box full of pipe-cleaners, glitter trays, play-dough, silver foil…anything that can be used to make or feel words. Repetition is also key.

 

  • Create a rainbow (use a different colour for each letter)
  • Drill across the page
  • Fill the page
  • Beat the clock

Always make the children say the letter name or sound as they write it out.  Find words in words, emphasise it Wed -nes – day…use magnetic letters.  The more active the more effective.

Investigate words…

word Alan Peat’s Word Games is really useful.

wordsTry ‘Teachers pay Teachers’ for some fantastic word investigation mats.  They are free and created by Jen Bengel.

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Vocabulary-Placemat-Printable-Graphic-Organizer-for-Learning-New-Words-329865

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What about creating a display were children can place their spellings in the box that reflects their knowledge of the words….over the week they should gradually all move into the green zone!

I always find that the Babcock Consultants’ website has really good ideas for what spellings to teach, when to teach them and how.  They also have links to old National Strategy resources such as Spelling Bank, that are really useful.

http://www.babcock-education.co.uk/ldp/v.asp?rootid=17&depth=3&level1=17&level2=391&level3=872&folderid=872&level2id=391

Grammar…

As a school we use Alan Peat’s ‘Exciting Sentences’ app and books.  They are fantastically simple sentence types to introduce throughout school.  It ensures that year after year there is consistency in language used to describe sentence types and that there is progress across the key stages.  If you ever get chance to attend any of Alan’s training grab it with both hands.  The man is hugely relevant and is a brilliant presenter.

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There are Alan Peat sentence type posters on TES and videos on Youtube.  His punctuation app is brilliant too.

I love using film extracts as a stimulus to model sentences.  I always use The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to support teaching quest myths.  I have used this clip for fronted adverbial sentences…’Gently cradling the ring, Bilbo wept.’

Again, I highly recommend using The Literacy Shed for hundreds of fantastic film clips.

http://www.literacyshed.com/

Pobble is another fantastic resource that has daily grammar activities to go with exciting pictures.  The story ideas are brilliant for writing too.

http://pobble365.com/flying/

Grammar Puss for Parents has lovely explanations to support home learning, with some super activities.

http://grammarpussforparents.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/happy-families-present-and-past.html

The one above addresses the past progressive verb form.

I like to use music wherever possible…

This is a fun figurative language song.

Lots of songs have figurative language in them the fun is getting the children to listen and spot it!  The one above contains hyperbole.

I also enjoy using TESSpag.  This resource costs £9.99 for a year and has loads of interactive quizzes (great for up-skilling adults as it goes right up to Secondary level), plus explanatory powerpoints.

 

On the theme of tough concepts this is the best way I have found to explain the subjunctive.  Basically, Skee-Lo got it wrong but Beyonce got it right…it should be ‘If I were…’ not ‘If I was…’!!!

The most important points I want to make are that grammar should be embedded and it should be exciting and playful…Enjoy!!

 

 

How to make children better readers.

A simple objective? The children need to be better at reading…However, the complexities of meeting this challenge can have you reaching for a large glass of gin (or is that just me?).

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There are endless numbers of beautiful books out there that our children would devour… One of the greatest joys of being a teacher, for me anyway, is sharing a book I am really excited about with my class.  I love seeing and hearing their responses to a story. I love the gasp of sadness at the end of ‘War Games’ by M. Foreman, the intrigue and puzzlement after the first page of ‘Skellig’ by D. Almond…

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…the laughter and tears of ‘Gangster Granny’ by D. Walliams and the change of opinion and challenging stereotype of ‘Friend or Foe’ by M. Morpurgo…

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So how can we help children to access these amazing stories and get the most out of them.  I tried to simplify and clarify the strategies I would use to teach reading so I knew specifically what experiences to plan for when introducing a text.

Activating schema:

Before we even open a book we need to encourage the children to think about what they are going to read.  What prior experiences can they bring to the story? They need to make text-to-self connections, text-to-text connections and text-to-world connections.  You can tackle this by simply looking at the book cover and talking about it, you can show pictures that might be from the text or linked to the genre or, with a little more effort, provide a bag of objects e.g. for Harry Potter – a wand, glasses, toy dragon… Model questions like ‘This reminds me of..’, ‘I know another…’, ‘I’ve read another…’, ‘I remember when…’.

I used this picture to introduce the genre of ‘The Graveyard Book’…

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http://www.cruzine.com/2014/05/09/creative-art-alex-noreaga/

Making Predictions:

This is also about prior knowledge.  Encourage children to make predictions and educated guesses about what might happen next.  The important point to make clear though is that it is okay to constantly monitor and modify your views as you experience the story.  There are some lovely ideas for recording this in reading journals.  I used the one below…

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https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Making-Predictions-Crystal-Ball-1388638

Visualising:

The children need to create a bank of images in their head.  When they close their eyes what can they see?  Ask the children to listen to part of the text and draw what they see in their mind’s eye. Character portraits are also a good idea to get them to engage and potentially empathise.

Vocabulary:

The more words you know the easier it is to learn more words.  Pre-teaching is a key strategy here so that you are not always breaking the flow of a story to explain and so that EAL / new to English pupils can access the text with ease. Chose key words and teach them in a context before the reading – sometimes this only needs to be done with a small group of children.  Never, ever chose to ‘dumb down’ your word choices, let them children play and explore language.  I often use word warm-ups at the beginning of a literacy session which encourages children to take risks with words.

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http://mallonmessages.blogspot.co.uk/2007/11/vocabulary-is-alive-in-reading-and-math.html

Questioning:

Questions need to be as open-ended as possible.  I often focus on a particular question type and use some brilliant, time saving resources from ‘Teachers pay Teachers’…

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http://www.rundesroom.com/2012/08/comprehension-question-fans.html

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http://www.totallyterrificintexas.com/2012/12/blooms-buttons.html

This is a brief summary of the main strategies I plan for (summarising being another one!).  I have collected together my thoughts and ideas on my Pinterest board below..

Guided Reading?

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I loathe guided reading…dull. dull, dull.  Or at least I did until I decided it really was time to change things.

The first thing was the name.  No more ‘Guided Reading’ instead it became ‘Book Club’.  If we are focusing on reading for pleasure then it had to sound like it might possibly be about enjoying books.

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And that led to the all important decision to throw away all our guided reading scheme books.  A brave decision, but one we really believed would make reading come alive for our children.  They have such limited experience of books that it was only right that we shared as many real books with them as possible so they could begin to develop views and opinions about favourite authors and genres.  This meant a massive investment from the school budget which is still ongoing as we don’t keep tatty or damaged books, we try to teach the children to look after what they read. I have the joyful job of choosing most of the books we buy (kiddie in sweet shop!!) , but we encourage the classes to choose too and use book vouchers as rewards for competitions like ‘Best Reading Corner’.

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It is vital that the children have a special place to read, where they choose to spend time relaxing and reading.

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Book Club sessions were still not really working.  Most of the children were not learning about reading in a time designated on the timetable for reading.  There were lots of low level ‘holding’ activities.  The only children who were making progress in the lesson were those reading with the teacher.

I did lots of reading around – Pinterest is a great place to start – and came to the conclusion that, for us, the carousel style of teaching was not working.

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There are some really interesting blogs that discuss the merits of using whole class teaching and explain why all the children should have a reading learning objective during the session.

http://www.mrspteach.com/2014/03/the-problems-with-guided-reading.html

http://www.literacyshedblog.com/blog/guided-reading-just-how-i-do-it

We took this on board across the school.  It is easier to plan for to be honest and the children’s learning is evident.  We use films and pictures as well as books as it is easier to access for those children who are new to English or EAL or who struggle with the technical aspects of reading. High level questioning is still possible so lots of inference and deduction can be tackled.  There are some lovely questions that I enjoy using with KS1 and KS2 which can be found on ‘Teachers Pay Teachers’ called ‘Bloom’s Buttons’.  A lovely interactive resource that children can use independently.

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Here are some of the films we use…

Reading through some of the blogs from the United States I discovered the idea of a ‘Book Club Basket’.  A simple idea – the teacher has a collection of resources that can be used to support the teaching of reading in one box or basket.  I bought the staff some resources that were cheap, cheerful and sometimes silly – the sort of thing that can be found in pound shops.  The aim was to make the organisation of the session easier, but also to encourage the teachers to make the session more interactive and fun.  There are loads of ideas on Pinterest again!

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Another simple idea was to give the teachers a ‘Book Club Folder’ with all the key documents in it they need to plan, teach and assess reading. The resources meant that staff would find planning easier and the assessment of the children could easily be handed over and understood by all teachers.  Consistency throughout school means transition is easier too.

Here are some of the ideas I collected during my research.  I will keep adding to them.

I love Post-its!!!

All teachers love stationery – I get giddy at the thought of a visit to Staples. I seem to collect endless types of notebooks and I really, really do have a pencil case of favourite felt-tip pens that I refuse to lend to anyone.  Sad, but true. However, the most useful and multifunctional of all this delicious stationery is the post-it note.  It comes in an endless array of colours, shapes and sizes which merely adds to my love of it…Here are some of the ways in which I have used the beauties…

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Summarising – starting with the largest post-it and gradually decreasing their size down the page.  The children can fit less and less wordage in each one, ending up with a few key points.

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Feedback – stick them in exercise books so they are poking out pointing out where pupils need to do  corrections / feedback / wishes.  It makes it easy for you to see who needs to do corrections.  Pupils can remove the post-it when they have responded to feedback.

Guided Reading groups – I just use the sticky bits to write children’s names on and then laminate my group list.  This means I can really easily move my groups around.

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Story timelines – use post-its to sequence the key elements in a story.  They can either be linked with arrows or stuck along a line.  The children can then play around with the story sequence or structure very easily.

Mind-mapping – I like to use pictures to stimulate descriptive writing, creating word banks to describe the mood.  I laminate my favourites and choose an appropriate one to stick in the middle of a large piece of sugar paper.  In groups, children mind-map words and phrases on post-its and organise them around the image.  I can then ask them to group their words and phrases under subheading.  These might end up being used as the basis for sentences or paragraphs.

Prepositions – saw this anchor chart and thought it looked brilliantly simple!

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I also like this idea for apostrophes…

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And this noticing punctuation…

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Teaching onomatopoeia with speech bubble shaped post-its…

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Organising sentence types…

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This could also be done to classify words.

Classification and organisation of information for scientific or topic writing, creating keys and food chains.

Explanation texts – organise life cycles into a circular flow chart using post-its for each key point, drawing arrows in between.  Add notes on post-its at each key point.  These notes can then be moved and organised into paragraphs where they can then be expanded into full sentences under sub-headings.

Text marking – this will encourage close reading of texts.  It is really important to model how to do this first so children don’t spend too long sticking post-it notes in books.

AfL – use post-its to evidence learning in a lesson as an ‘exit slip’.

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They make post-its in amazing shapes, sizes and colours…their uses are endless…and I love them!

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Teaching magic.

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!

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My Pinterest addiction.

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…!