Monday, 29 February 2016
The development of students' writing skills is a complex business. Providing exciting, purposeful and developmentally appropriate writing opportunities is crucial in giving students a positive message about mark making. If your writing area provides students with a reason to write, and gives them access to the tools that are appropriate to their level of development, it will ensure that they experience success.
Brilliant Ideas for your Writing Area
Mark Making Matters
There is a great article about rote learning this week on David Daidu's Learning Spy blog this week, in which David looks in a measured way at when rote learning, much maligned as it has been in recent years, can in fact be effective.
Reading and Talk
If children’s main experience of stories is that they will be required to have an opinion or will be quizzed about the content, then we run the risk of putting children off reading. Positive reading involves becoming engaged in the story, as well as deepening understanding and appreciation through drama, art, music, dance, research and, of course, discussion, in which children talk their way towards deeper comprehension. Even as an adult, I find that I don’t really know about a book until I have talked about it. Talking one’s way into a deeper understanding is crucial for developing the ability critically to appreciate literature; answering comprehension questions may test understanding and challenge thinking but it is in the discussion that the ability to think critically can be developed. It is worth remembering that for some children comprehension does not magically develop on its own. It has to be taught, modelled by the teacher ‘thinking aloud’ and teasing at an issue. In particular, the sort of discussion in which the children have time to think collectively, tentatively proposing and reshaping their understanding, is essential for developing readers.
What is ‘book-talk’?
‘Book-talk’ is about the ability to talk about books, developing the confidence to offer ideas and then reshape them in the light of other contributions. It helps children to trust their own ideas and interpretations, to talk effectively about a book, deepening their understanding, shifting their ideas, thinking together as a group and moving comprehension forwards.
‘Book-talk’ only works if the books have anything worth saying about them. The quality of the book determines the depth of discussion. It is important to accept all answers positively from as many children as possible. Indeed, I often say that ‘all comments are accepted’ – but that does not mean that all comments are necessarily sensible interpretations. Children can and should expect to change their minds in the light of what others say. Children are encouraged to raise questions as well as make points and suggestions. Children’s responses are nothing to do with guessing what the teacher has in mind.
The teacher acts as an interested listener. It helps to use a phrase such as ‘tell me about…’ to invite extended thinking. It also helps to use ‘mirroring’ to encourage further and deeper thinking, often drawing children back to the text or asking them to dig deeper. It helps if the children get into the habit of using tentative language, for example:
I’m not sure but… I was wondering whether… Perhaps… Does anyone else think that…?
These can be used with any book to get interpretation started:
What sorts of things did you like or dislike? Was there anything that puzzled you?
Encourage children to raise questions.
Ask questions such as:
Have you read any other books like this? How did they compare? Which parts of the book stay in your mind most vividly? How did the main character change? What surprises are there in the book?
These are specific to the book being discussed and should help to deepen understanding.
For example, for Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne:
How long did it take the story to happen? Where did the story happen? Which character interested you most? Who was telling the story? Talk about the links between the story and the illustrations.
Book Talk Cards
Book Talk Ideas
100 Book Talk Ideas
5 Top Tips to Planning for National Curriculum Coverage
In the video below, Sarah Brown, Head of the IPC, shares her top 5 tips for effective and efficient unit planning, including methods to ensure English National Curriculum coverage for schools following this curriculum in England and abroad.
Tuesday, 23 February 2016
"There are only two things that I have come across in the last 35 years that have a dramatic effect on progress. The first is when teachers discover how to teach phonics effectively, as this liberates writing. The second is the process of “storymaking”, which involves moving from telling into writing, using shared writing. My experience is that most teachers do not use shared writing and therefore do not teach writing." Pie Corbett
Talk for Writing, developed by Pie Corbett and supported by Julia Strong, is a powerful classroom tool because it is based on the guiding principles of how children learn. Talk for Writing enables children to imitate the key language orally they need for a particular topic before they try reading and analysing it. Through fun activities that help them rehearse the words and structures of the language they need, followed by shared writing to show them how to craft their writing, children are helped to write in the same style. Pie Corbett has an amazing Facebook page that is full of his latest ideas and work in schools.
Warming up the word games work on the same principle as the practise that musicians or sports people put in daily in order to play at their peak
These games can be used as part of literacy sessions or can be played in a spare 5 minutes are specifically developed to make some of the skills of writing explicit. The essential idea is to play the game again and again so that the children become ‘fluent’ at it and really develop the skills that lie behind it.
Tom Barrett has a great resource on his Educational Technology website called the “Interesting Ways” series. In this series he has asked teachers to work collaboratively to share the wisdom of their collective classroom practices. This method of sharing is called “crowdsourcing”, where he asks teachers to share ideas, or “interesting ways”, of approaching a topic or methodology in the classroom.
These ideas are all put together in shared Google Docs and are available to peruse or to add to. They are a rich source of knowledge and ideas and are well put together by classroom practitioners. As mainly teachers have added the ideas, they are generally “tried and tested” in the classroom, so you know that they are ideas that work.
The site is well worth a visit if you are looking for inspirational ideas for using technology in the classroom:
iPads are a hugely versatile tool when it comes to educating and supporting students' learning. Here are some of the best apps and features you can make use of in the classroom – some of which you have to pay for and others that are free.
In October of last year I had the opportunity of taking part in an online workshop supported by Staff Development. The workshop was focused on one of the IB Music course components, the 'Musical Links Investigation', which requires a music student to examine one or more musical pieces from different cultures, regions and eras, seeking similarities and contrasts between them. The final work is a text that may be presented in any multimedia format, where the evidence found is indicated and discussed.
In one of the modules of the course, the participants, which comprised music teachers from all over the world, were invited to upload works written under their supervision, to be used by all participants as references and sources to debate.
Last week I was contacted by the workshop leader, Ms. Mary Jo West, who requested our authorisation to use one of the student's works that I uploaded in that opportunity as a consulting source linked to an e-book she is writing, which will be published by Oxford Press.
The serious and meaningful tutoring done in the Music Department has been testified by a sequence of outstanding GCSE and IB results achieved by some of our students in the last years. However, having a student's work used as a consulting example in an e-book published by an editing company such as Oxford cannot go unnoticed, as an everyday fact.
Besides thanking Staff Development Department for having provided me this opportunity for professional growth, I would like to congratulate the author of this work, our ex-student Gabriel Cohen, who submitted his MLI back in 2011, and who has just graduated in Berklee College of Music, Boston, USA, for what I believe to be an outstanding acknowledgement.
Head of Senior Music - Urca
Extra Curricular Music Coordinator
GCSE results: fall in numbers taking foreign languages 'a cause for concern'
Number of students taking German at GCSE fell to its lowest ever level this year, while the number studying French also saw a steep decline.
GCSE results 2015: Pass rate rises but A* grades dip
Tuesday, 16 February 2016
I hope that you found this year's Inset inspiring and useful from the choices of Talk for Writing, Behaviour Management and the Role of the Tutor, the Duke of Edinburgh's Award and ISAMs. I shall soon send out a short survey to you and hope that you will provide feedback. Have a great term ahead!
Following the Talk for Writing training, we would like to offer any interested teachers support with unit planning and ideas at these times:
Botafogo: Mondays, 15:15 - 16:15
Barra: Tuesdays, 15:15 - 16:15
Please contact Anna and/or Craig beforehand to book a time and date.
Over the coming weeks, please keep an eye out for lots of Talk for Writing resources!
The term ‘working walls’ is used to describe displays that support the attainment of curricular targets and students' learning during specific units of work. The content of a working wall should change regularly to support learning and teaching as it develops in the classroom. The ultimate aim is for students to access prior learning, make links to what they already know and apply this to future learning. A working wall enables students to refer to concepts and resources, supporting them to become more secure and independent learners. It is the public display of the learning process. It is important for long term learning objectives and short term intentions to be displayed on the working wall. When success criteria are appropriate, they are developed with the students and clearly displayed on the wall, demonstrating to students how they will be able to achieve the agreed learning intention.
Creating effective working walls
Working walls display those concepts, ideas, conclusions, strategies and findings that have been captured to support further learning. Captured work can be referred to over a period of time and built upon at a later date. Work captured in this way does not necessarily need to be neat or rewritten: part of how students will use this information later rests upon how they have visually recorded it in their minds at the time of composition, so to rewrite in a different format or in different colours or font may detract from the purpose. Key vocabulary for the learning can also be displayed on the working wall whilst mind mapping, modelled examples, re-drafting and students’ examples can also be regular features.
By building up the learning over time and adding to a working wall, students and teachers have access to the learning through a sequence which becomes known by all; it becomes transparent how one lesson builds upon another and leads ultimately to the final outcome. When students understand the pathway they are taking, they are empowered as learners and are better equipped to make links between concepts and to apply the knowledge and skills they have to other areas.
Working walls are effective in:
• supporting curricular targets
• sharing objectives and reviewing learning
• capturing visual prompts and interactive resources
• promoting key vocabulary
Resources and inspiration:
Diamond 9 Game
Students are instructed to rank each statement and arrange them in a diamond formation. The criterion for ranking can be simple and general like “importance, relevance, significance” or can be detailed and content specific.
Students must place the statement with the highest priority at the top of the formation and the least important statement at the bottom. The second, third and fourth row consists of statements that are ranked with descending priority, with each row having two, three and two statements respectively.
After completing the task, each group is asked to explain their choice of ranking.
More Icebreaker games