Collaborative writing is one of my favourite methods of writing. I kind of made it up originally as a way for them to write endings, but here we’ve used it to kick-start writing. This way of writing takes the fear out of that blank piece of paper. The children begin in pairs, supporting each other and pooling their ideas. Even if one partner takes the lead, the other learns from their technique. Then, they do some fine-editing work. At this point, they often see punctuation errors as they cannot fluently read and understand mis-punctuated sentences at first. They also learn to really edit like a write, reading the sentences aloud and thinking of the way they sound, the effect on the reader, what can be cut and what order sounds best. Take a look at how I do it and the results:
Creating the Sentences
We brainstormed some different vocabulary that we could use for a shipwreck story. We decided to set our story in the 1500s so I showed them the opening scene of Disney’s Pocahontas to give them a visual to draw from and we added to our vocab bank.
In teams (the children work in mixed-ability teams of 4), they thought about the 5 senses and the emotions of the crowded dock as a ship prepares to leave.
(Okay, maybe not my best example of modelling neat writing, but I get excited and rush!)
That’s when I did my usual trick and changed my lesson because I had an idea!! I handed out hurriedly cut strips of paper then assigned each pair an item from our mindmap. Their challenge was to write just one sentence to describe it. Not just any sentence…a STONKING SENTENCE! I encouraged them to draw on all of the descriptive techniques they know – personification, oxymoron (they love a bit of that!), metaphor, simile, ‘show me, don’t tell me’ – and write the best sentence they can.
Select and Edit
For the next lesson, I photocopied every strip onto one sheet and gave each pair a copy. These formed the backbone of their opening paragraph. With their partner, they read, edited, eliminated and ordered sentences to form a good paragraph. They didn’t cut them out and physically re-arrange, because I want them to orally rehearse to listen for sense and style, but with a younger class this might be an idea.
The activity gave the children the opportunity to work together and share their skills, then to steal ideas and sentence structures from their peers. It was also a chance to practise their editing skills and the result was fantastic!
Next, the children practised these skills independently in a similar story, but this time it was their mission to Mars that ended in disaster, fitting in perfectly with our topic. It was amazing to see the children steal and adapt the techniques and sentence structures they had seen in this collaborative activity. Success!
If you try this, please share your results! You can either comment on here or post them on facebook, but I'd love to see how it goes!
I've said it so many times: "If only I'd known...!" So, here are the things I wish I'd been told when I started out as a young teacher, who thought enthusiasm meant colour printing and laminating everything that stayed still for 3 minutes, being prepared meant filling my classroom display boards before the children even set foot in the room and knowing what I was doing meant knowing what everyone else was going on about!
#1: Ask what the acronyms mean
You will be bamboozled with them at first: People love to drop them into conversation (sometimes deliberately, I'm sure) and you feel like an idiot for not knowing what they mean. Don't! They change constantly (case-in-point, SEN / SEND / SENDB), you won't have heard of half of them anyway and sometimes they're just completely made up!
#2: TAs will help you way more than judge you
"Don't worry! There'll be a TA with you for your whole first day to help you out." ARGH!! That is sooo much worse! So someone who's experienced, knows the school and has seen lots of teachers will be in there watching me make a mess of everything and silently (I hope) judging my every move?! Seriously, though, they know the kids, they know the routines, they are your biggest source of help. Still scary, though!
#3: Shave your legs
Some of the children will spend a lot of time looking at your ankles. Some of them will stroke them.
#4: You can teach
You've done your training. You've been observed a lot. Trust me, someone would have let you know by now if you were rubbish. That being said...
#5: You'll change
One day, you will look back and cringe at some of the things you did/said/thought as an NQT. But then, they said that about shoulder pads and they still rock.
#6: Tell them your name
Takes the fun out of it a bit, but my first name is not a secret or a dirty word. I just let them know that it's not seen as polite to use it. (Don't get me started on that one...)
#7: Stop making worksheets
Come on, people. From Year 3 upwards, 99% of lessons should be worksheet-free. They need to learn how to start on a blank piece of paper. That way, I'll never have to repeat the experience of asking a 9-year-old to draw a table, only to find them sketching their dining furniture!
#8: They're not too old
My Year 6s still loved their class minion teddy and sock monkeys. They also loved being read to (and no, not just because they could sit there and not doing anything! They didn't even want to go home if we were at a good part!). Let them be kids.
#9: Class decor is not a competition
Usually. Although, if it was, I'd better win. Just saying.
#10: Hide the felt tips!
No matter what you say, how clear you are, how many reasons you give (it'll soak through, they're too thick for the detail...), someone will definitely use felt-tip pens in every lesson! Just give them out when they are appropriate.
#11: Don't take mackerel for lunch
The other staff will hate you. They may even hang your lunch from the top-most rung of the climbing frame. Plus, no-one wants the children to ask them why they smell of fish.
#12: Let the walls display the children's work, not yours
I still struggle with this! Go nuts on your reading area, hook them in with a cool door, but let the bulk of the classroom either help or celebrate them.
#13: Stop laminating!!!
How do you make sure you are prepared? Why, laminate everything you see, of course! No. Just no. Unless it's going to be handled a lot and definitely used again, stop it! Wastes time, money and the reflection can make things hard to see.
You MUST have things you'd have loved to say to your NQT self! Comment them below - I'd love to read them!
Step 1: Type-up work
I prefer to get the to work straight onto the computers, but you could have them hand-write it first if that suits you/them better. It's a step I don't find particularly useful. At this stage, you can show them where to find their word count if that's relevant. It was in this case.
Step 2: Track Changes
From the tabs at the top, select 'Review', then click 'Track Changes'.
Step 3: Show Balloons
You can either view changes in balloons (bubbles at the side of the document) or in-line (crossings out and changes within the text). I prefer balloons, as it makes it easier to read the text. To do this, click 'Show Markup', then 'Balloons', then 'Show Revisions in Balloons'.
Step 4: Make the Changes
As you do, you'll see the changes you make appear in balloons down the right-hand side. I recommend enlarging the text size to spread out the balloons and give you a better view of what's been done.
Tip: If there are any changes you don't want to see, right click and press 'accept changes' and the bubble will vanish.
You can click on the drop-down menu to switch between viewing the changes, the original and the final one without the bubbles:
This way, you can print with or without the editing on show.
So, there you have it. I use this feature of Word for all sorts, including editing. There are other uses, however. Check out this way of magpie-ing sentence structures using the review tool.
Okay, I don’t want to excite anyone here, but I have found the three BEST ways to demonstrate the Greater Depth objectives! Seriously. They’re amazing.
I took over my Year 6 class at Easter, after their teacher left. I had them in Years 4 and 5 so was the natural choice, but it hasn’t exactly been easy! As well as last-minute preparations for the NC Tests (forever to be known as SATs, regardless of their name change), we’re being moderated for writing. Our school has only been open for 4 years and this cohort will be our first ever Year 6 group, so we knew we would be. So, I have had to pull out all of my tricks to get the evidence I need! Most pieces easily demonstrate the Working Towards and Working at Expected Standard objectives, but it’s bloody tough to find ways to actually show the three Greater Depth ones. So, without further ado, here are the very best ways to show off those tricky targets. All 3 ideas can easily demonstrate all GD objectives.
1. A Witness Statement
I’m not going to go into too much detail here about the many creative and imaginative ways to hook the children into this one: set up a crime scene, link to a recent event, use a video stimulus, get some drama going on… you get the idea. For our piece, I used another awesome Literacy Shed video, The Black Hole. (Blog to come on this set of lessons).
Structure:Introduction: formal, present tense, something along the lines of ‘The following is a true and accurate record of the oral statement given by___, regarding ______.’
Main body: informal, past tense, recount of events. Use a couple of colloquialisms, opinions, question tags and contractions, e.g. ‘Oh I know I shouldn’t have; I couldn’t resist. We all give in to temptation sometimes, don’t we?’. Avoid actual grammatical errors, even if deliberate. Note the semi-colon cheekily slipped in for good measure.
Conclusion: formal, modal verbs, say what’s going to happen to the document – a good chance to show off passive voice and even a colon, e.g. ‘This statement may be used in evidence. Copies are to be sent to the witness, the investigating officer and any legal representatives involved in the case. All information on this document is private and confidential: information must not be shared.’
2. Explanation Myth
I didn’t even do this activity with a view to exemplifying Greater Depth, but it was great for it! So, by explanation myth, I mean a myth that gives an origin or reason for something, usual a natural phenomenon. We first read the myth of Typhon, the volcano monster, which explains why Mount Etna is a volcano. After that, we looked at some pictures and videos of the aurora borealis / Northern Lights. You could easily use tornados, earthquakes, the wind… Each child then thought of a 5-point story, using their hands remember it (no writing). For those of you who haven’t done this before, they use their fingers and each finger represents a part of the story:
The oral retelling is important for myths, so I really wanted to focus on that first. I had the children tell their story to their shoulder partner (sat next to them). Next, each child told the story they had just heard to their face partner (sat opposite them), focussing on embellishing the story. It’s best to tell them in advance that they are doing this – remember, the point is to get them to listen, not to catch them out for not doing.
We then wrote the myths independently. They understood that they were very welcome to steal from the stories they’d heard (each child should now have 3 stories: their own, the one they heard from their shoulder partner and the one they heard from their face partner).
Structure:Introduction: present tense, talk about the natural phenomenon seen today: ‘For centuries, travellers have marvelled at the mysterious lights that illuminate the night sky over Norway. There are many stories, legends and myths surrounding them, but only this one is the truth.’
Main body: past tense, their myth. Lots of opportunity to showcase expanded noun phrases atmosphere when describing the settings; adverbs and dialogue for the adventure and characters and it’s always good to throw in a king of the gods or ruler of the underworld who speaks very formally and uses the passive voice (e.g. ‘Who dares to enter my domain? Only terror comes to those who trespass in this realm!’ Include an informal character and…boom! Shifts in formality!
Conclusion: present, bring us back to the present to round up: ‘Now you are one of the few who know the truth about this wonder of nature’ and so on.
Here’s an example of a full myth. However, this child isn’t really aiming for Greater Depth, so please forgive some spelling and punctuation errors. What I love, is the ‘rising tides raise all ships’ effect here: she has included the Greater Depth features because she’s heard children talking about them. Awesome attitude!
3. Public Service Announcement
Okay, I have saved the best ’til last. This one is the creme-de-la-creme of Greater Depth pieces and if you only have chance to do one, this is it. This could be about anything at all and is just a slant on an information text or a guide. In fact, a travel guide has similar structure and some of the benefits but isn’t quite as effective, in my opinion. I did this as more of our project on Literacy Shed’s The Black Hole. So, check out the GD on this bad boy:
StructureIntroduction: present tense, formal, some passive, say what is happening and why you’re writing the report: ‘There have been many sightings of…. In the event of ….. this guide should be carefully followed.’
I really hope that these ideas are helpful to at least some of you. I would LOVE to hear how you got on, so please comment below if you try any!
This is a great, quick and impressive project to do with children. You could make them as gifts or as part of a fashion topic. In fact, it would be perfect for an environmental project on 'up cycling'.
Cut off the sleeves.
Cut the neck into a scoop. The deeper the scoop, the longer the handles. Then, turn it inside out.
Cut slits all along the bottom, about an inch apart and 2-3 inches long. Cut through the front and back of the t-shirt at the same time. Make sure you cut the far left and far right ones in two (along the seem).
For every pair, tie the front strip to the back strip in a single knot.
Look at your first three knots. Take the left-hand strand of the middle knot and tie it to the right-hand strand of the left knot. Then, take the right-hand strand of the middle knot and tie it to the left-hand strand of the right knot. (The ones I'm touching in the pictures). Then, take the right-hand strand of the right knot and tie it to the left-hand strand of the next knot. Continue this all along.
Turn it inside-out and voila! You have your very own t-shirt tote bag!
Sorry,...couldn't resist the pun! So, there are lots of ways to demonstrate the rock cycle: cakes, melting jelly beans...but many of them are demonstrations rather than hands-on activities that the children can really get into.
Anyway, I had an idea. Unsurprisingly, I was eating chocolate when it came to me (how many of my ideas have been inspired by food or drink?)
The leg-work comes in grating bars of white, milk and dark chocolate
I put this into bowls in the middle of each table and told the children that it was sediment. (We'd had a look at a diagram of the rock cycle first). They spooned layers of each into little pots lined with cling film. This represented the layers of sediment building up over time.
We then used the cling film to lift out the 'rocks' and broke them open to see what had formed. I was thrilled with what we saw!
Voila! Sedimentary rock - made by applying pressure to layers of sediment. They even had the crumbly texture of sedimentary rocks. At each stage, the children drew diagrams of what formed and noted how.
Next, we wrapped the 'rocks' back up in their cling film, then applied heat and pressure by squashing and squishing them (technical terms!). We did this for a couple of minutes whilst talking about the heat from our hands. We unwrapped them and...metamorphic rock! You can still see the different parts of the original sediment.
I loved this project! It really showed the children how different rock types form and that a rock can move from one type to the other under the right conditions. We had so much fun with this hand-on science lesson and the children really gained a good understanding of how rocks form. This helped a lot when we moved on to fossil formation and they had no trouble suggesting reasons for fossils being most common in sedimentary rock.
I wanted to teach my Year 6s about showing movement through art, but didn't want the children drawing stiff pictures of each other in a frozen mid-run pose!
We looked at he artwork of David Ndambuki, an incredible artist who paints stunning images of the Maasai. Many depict them dancing or hunting, generally moving in various ways.
We watched some video footage of the Maasai dancers and had a go ourselves! After pulling out the features of Ndambuki's art, we created our own pieces inspired by them.
The background was created by blending chalky pastels. For bodies of the Maasai, we stippled red and yellow poster paint and used black poster paint for the heads, flicking it for the limbs.
I think these have a real sense of movement, but also show the emotion of the dances. I like working with mixed media love exploring abstract art! One of my favourite things about this project, was that children who are not very dexterous still managed to create a beautiful piece of art.
Hi! I'm Mrs P: passionate primary school teacher!