A really quick idea here. Even though I'm not a big TV fan, I do love Christmas adverts! One that has always stuck with me is a Boots ad from 2013, in which a teenage boy appears to be up to no good, but in actual fact is leaving gifts for people anonymously. You might remember it:
So, inspired by this, my class are going to make some anonymous Christmas cards. I'll show them the video first and pause it at 20s to ask what they think the boy is up to. At the end, we'll chat about why he might have left the presents anonymously.
We're going to think about who helps us at school and why we are grateful to them. We'll write this inside a card and leave it somewhere for them. It could be their foreign language teacher, the office lady, one of the cleaning team, our handyman, the headmistress... but they must think about why they want to leave them a card. Thoughtful is the key. Each child will make 3 cards and the challenge is to leave them without anyone knowing. When they have, they let me know and get a high five in return. That's it. Simple. The reward is knowing you made someone's day.
I'm going to leave them to be free and creative with their cards for this particular project. I want them to be able to design cards that they know the recipient will love!
I love a good Christmas lesson, so when I heard that I could use the FX Guru app to create a video clip of reindeer dancing through my classroom, I just had to use it! It's so easy: you just film your room for 30 seconds, it shows you an outline of where the reindeer will appear and then, voila!
Take a look at mine:
I decided to use the video as a stimulus for the children to write a witness statement for the police. This is something I've done before and I particularly like it to show Greater Depth with Year 6. (I used another here, with the Greater Depth elements explained)
All resources used can be found in the free PDF download at the bottom of the post.
Lesson 1 – Hook & feature hunt
Support: careful peer partnering, teacher checking understanding, scaffolded sheet for planning
Stretch: questioning – why is this what we find in a statement? Look at the tense shifts.
Lesson 2 – Write
You can structure this however you like. You could use paired writing, guided or independent. Below is a plan for independent writing.
Lesson 3 – Editing Stations
Give children time to read their work from yesterday. They should have a pencil in their hand as they do this, so they can make changes if needed.
NOTE: after this lesson, it’s nice for the children to ‘publish’ their work. You could ask them to write it neatly, set it as a homework task, let them use pen if they don’t usually, ask them to type it... I don’t do this for every piece of work, s it becomes tedious for some, but it’s a good way to apply and embed the changes.
So, there you have it! Please like and share this post and please share your experiences of it on my Facebook page so I can see how it went!
We've all been there: you share the WALT. You do the input where you carefully demonstrate and explain the learning. Of course, you don't just talk at the children anymore: you use mini-whiteboards to check understanding and you've asked them to talk to their partner at least twice. You then explain the activity (or activities, with 3-way differentiation) in enough detail that they don't ask you 48 questions before they start. Then you set them off on their task. Then they ask you 48 questions. By the time they actually start, the lesson is almost over so the activity is really rushed and there's no time for reflection or sharing. The result: they've done a bit of learning, but had no chance to secure their knowledge or explore the concept further. Plus, they're probably bored. All that planning was a waste.
But how can we avoid this?
As you'll guess from my page title, I like to talk. A lot. So I've spent a significant amount of time battling this problem and I've come up with 5 go-to ways to avoid it!
1. Start with an investigation
This one is easy really. Don't 'teach' them anything. Let them learn it.
For example, next week we are learning about speech marks. They're a pain in the bum to teach and there are so many rules! So, I'm just going to begin the lesson with the question How do we use speech marks? Then, I'm going to give the children some books and let them come up with a set of rules (presented however they like - see point 2). Then at the end, we'll come back and discuss.
There are some real benefits to this:
2. Allow choice of presentation - this means NO WORKSHEETS!
Teachers hate this: giving the children free-reign?? How will I mark it? They might be messy!
IT DOESN'T MATTER! Just teach them the concept, then give them a quick overview of the activity and off they go.
Example: sorting regular and irregular verbs.
They don't need a sheet for this, that you have to make, print, trim and they have to glue in. They also don't need you to tell them to draw a table or Venn diagram. Neither do they need you to show them 5 different ways they could present this. Just tell them to organise the words into regular and irregular. I give only 2 criteria: it must be neat and clear. That's it. You want to see if they know the difference between regular and irregular verbs. Some will do a table, others will fold their page in half, some will write regular verbs in blue and irregular verbs in orange. So you can spend the time teaching them what regular and irregular verbs are but not waste time on the activity instructions.
This works for lots of different activities. Most, in fact.
In addition to reducing your input time, this strategy also has 3 other key benefits:
3. Limit differentiation by activity
I VERY rarely set different activities or different sheets (I don't like sheets much) for different children. I don't like capping their learning, I don't like singling children out. I don't like spending my evenings thinking of 3 different ways to do an activity.
It takes forever to explain all the different activities and answer questions about each.
I tend to differentiate by support, expectation, outcome, questioning, peer support. Saves a ton of explanation time and your 'talking time' can be focussed on actually teaching the concept.
4. Just display instructions
Another very simple one. Don't talk at all. Display the instructions for a task and let them go. You can answer questions and troubleshoot as they go, but encourage them to have a go first. This relies on them being secure in the knowledge that they won't 'get in trouble' for doing it wrong - an atmosphere you need to foster over time. This one works best if they either have prior knowledge or if they are doing an investigation (see point 1).
Another option here is to display the task and instructions but don't ask them to start. Ask them to discuss it with their team and decide what to do. Then they could ask a couple of questions before getting going.
So, there you have it: my top tips to being a slightly less talkative teacher! I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments below!
Okay, I admit it...I'm a Christmas-oholic! I LOVE it and celebrations start on the 1st of December in our class! Below is our Advent calendar. Each day, there is a song to sing and dance to, a challenge or good deed for the day and a little treat or activity (sometimes a lesson we'd have been doing anyway, but a Christmassy one!). On the back are 2 names - children who get to wear a Christmas hat all day.
However, there is not a film day or Christmas Busy Book in sight. I try not to be critical on here, but the idea of a workbook full of Christmas wordsearches and mazes makes me grumpy! They are great...for indoor play! I completely get the time thing - there are times when some children are out rehearsing for plays or when you were supposed to watch the Reception Nativity but Borris was sick on the stage so it's been postponed, but surely we can do better than this!
My Tips For KS2 at Christmas
1) Have a few simple crafts with instructions ready to go. My children have table boxes with a zip-wallet in and they can have the equipment in there without it looking a mess. Here are a couple of mine:
Made just like the lotus flowers, but pull out the 'petals' from the top and the bottom to give a fuller look. Pretty hung up in the classroom or on the windowsills.
So simple to make! Instructions attached, thanks to Arian Armstrong for the instructions. I've made a printable version here:
2) Have a project on the go, something they can pick up ad get on with. This is best if it's something open-ended. This year, my class are making a website using Weebly. This has been a bit tricky because of the security settings on the children's laptops, but now I've got it susses, we're cooking with gas! I intended this as a bit of a consolidation task for our weather topic, but the learning is never-ending! Working in teams of 4, they choose a weather topic and planned out what they'd like to include and discussed whose skills suited which task(s). They then drafted and worked on the laptops. They have needed mixed amounts of support but have managed to get on well independently when necessary. There has also been a LOT of peer support and even some Googling to find out how to do what they want. They have worked on Microsoft Office and some websites, then have come to my desktop and imported their work, copied and pasted it into the appropriate places and figured out how to attach files etc.
I am overwhelmed by the success of this project! They have all done different things and used different skills, but didn't seem to feel at all restricted by what they already knew; they instead decided what they wanted to do and found a way to do it. Some examples include:
It's been a fab project that they can pick up and continue with in their own way. I haven't had anyone sat doing nothing or asking me what to do because they've finished; when they've finished, they chat to their team-mates about what would be good to add or what help they need. They are all active and all learning. I love it!
UPDATE: IT'S FINISHED!!! Click here to see Year 5's website!!
3) Involve them more in the Christmas production. I'm not going to lie, this one takes a bit of work and a lot of Pinterest trawling, but I think it's worth it. Let's be honest, the beauty of a project like the one above is that my planning reads "Website Work"... and that's pretty much all I can say! I have been involving them in the design and making of some of the costumes. There are some great ideas for easy no-sew costumes - check these out on my 'Sewing' Pinterest board (yes, I realise that I said no-sew, but I do sew so they're all mixed in, I'm afraid), especially tutus or tunics. I will DEFINITELY post some pictures of ours soon.
I also allow them to run lines in the little foyer to our classroom (we are in temporary port-a-cabin-style rooms so mine has its own little entrance, which is very handy!). The ones without a main part can help them, give them tips, direct and read the lines of those in other classes to prompt them.
The children without main parts who are quite interested in technology have been helping me to organise and trim the songs. We have bought-in a play that comes with all of the songs and sound effects, but some of the sound effects are repeated, so we have created a numbered playlist with them repeated as necessary to make it easy just to run though (you can do this easily by renaming them with a track number in front). Some of the sound effects were also way too long for us, so they have used Audacity to trim them and make them fade out.
Tip 2 helps with this kind of thing - some children are making costumes while others continue with their website.
Christmas in a primary school is exhausting, but still one of the best times of the year...if you make it be! Enjoy!
Hi! I'm Mrs P: passionate primary school teacher!