I love to read. There is no greater gift we can give to the children in our charge than a love of reading. Saying you don't like to read is like saying you don't like films because you watched Scream 2 and didn't enjoy yourself. You just haven't found the right book!
With so many distractions outside of school - dance class, computer games, homework, family time - it can be hard for children (and adults!) to find the time to choose and get into a good book. So, why not build it into the school day? Now, I know what you're thinking: when?! Luckily, many of the reading objectives can be covered through other lessons: topics you're covering, writing lessons, etc. So, really, dedicating some of the English slots to building a love of reading is not too much of an ask. Plus, the impact is well worth it. Plus, it's worth noting that I hate, hate, HATE Guided Reading! So, for me, this is one of many reading activities that replaces that time-drain. It's like having their own little book club!
Without further ado, here is my guide for implementing Paired Reading:
You've probably heard about this. It certainly isn't my idea. Pinterest and Instagram are full of wonderful, elaborate set-ups with table cloths, menus and all that jazz. I didn't do this. So, here's how I did it:
Each time we read, the children start by discussing what they've read so far and where they're up to. (The first time, they discussed what they expected). I give them a choice of four ways to share the book:
Quite often, we just do the reading. Sometimes, I give them something to do as a reflection task. These include:
Well, the idea came from the fact that hardly any of my Year 4 class had every read a chapter book!!! It can be very daunting. This way:
Final tip: if they give the book a try and don't like it, let them change it! There is nothing harder than reading a book you don't like. Plus, that wouldn't exactly help foster that love of reading!!
So, this week I have been trying something new.
At my school, we use the Maths No Problem scheme. For those of you who haven’t come across it, this is a Singapore Maths scheme that uses equipment, textbooks and workbooks. The lessons start with an ‘In Focus’ task, in which the children discuss approaches to a problem and then share their ideas.
To prepare for this, I have recently started giving the children ten minutes with the textbook at the end of each day. They ‘pre-study’ the lesson. They just take some time to look at it. They think about it. They can discuss it with their partner. Many of them flick back to the previous day’s lesson and begin to make links between their learning. Today, one pair even asked me if they could grab the equipment to start to make tenths and hundredths.
Only a few days in, this is already proving to be a very useful ten minutes. When I start the Maths lesson the next day, many of the children already have ideas or questions about the topic. They have begun to think about the Maths involved.
It is also encouraging independence. The children are learning to be less reliant. They are using study skills and reading skills along with the visuals in the book. I think that as we go on, I will be able to accelerate through some of the lessons, allowing more time for using the Maths Journals, which are used for deepening understanding, explaining different methods and reasoning.
My tips on how to implement this
(...so far! I'm sure that I'll have far more to add to this once I've been doing it for a while!)
Plans to expand!
So, obviously time is an issue here, but I'd like to roll this out across more of the curriculum. My plan is to give them some notes to study before some topics. We have LearnPads, so I'm going to put some presentations, notes and maybe even video clips (we have headphones!) on there about grammar topics, Science units etc. It's very similar to what we did for revision before the exams, but kind of in reverse. I think it might have a bigger impact than revising, but we'll see.
If you've done anything like this, please do comment and let me know any ideas or tips! Thanks!
Don't forget to comment and share if you like this or have anything to add (or if you spot one of my frequent typos!).
So often, we ask children to 'check their work'. We may even give them a little ticklist of what to tick: full stops at the end of sentences, capital letters for names , check spellings. These are great to help the children to focus and to check for 'silly mistakes', if they know how to correct them. But what if they don't?
There's a difference between checking and learning.
I have heard a lot about editing stations. I was keen to try them but wanted to ensure that they were not a lesson-long ticklist, but an actual way to learn how to improve writing.
I am still toying around with it. So far, I have tried it a few times and they have worked very successfully. I now want to refine them to really get the most out of them So, here's how I have been using them:
After writing the first draft, we have a lesson of Editing Stations. The children are already in 6 teams of 4. On each table, I put an activity and the resources needed. The children begin at their own table, where they usually feel most comfortable and get going the quickest. I set a timer for 7 or 8 minutes. When the timer goes off, they put the table back as they found it (an important step) then move to the next one with ONLY their book.
By far the best thing I thing I've learnt was a bit of an accident! After the lesson, I put the editing station papers on display on the wall. I found that the children asked me could they 'do an editing station' after they'd finished their next piece of writing! I now display them all and have hung some from the wall in plastic wallets, so they can take them to their tables.
As you can see, some of mine and hand-written. However, the 4 printed ones are below to download for free and get you started (file below the pics). In addition to these, I sometimes have a 'next step spot', where they check their next step from their previous piece of writing.
Here is what I think makes great editing stations:
So, there you have it. My experience so far of editing stations. I'd love to hear from you if you have a go, so please do leave a comment to let me know how it went, if you have any advice, if you've done them any other way... ideas always welcome! I'll do another post when I have a bit more experience of them and I'll try to get some pics of them 'in action', so you can see the impact it's had on writing. Enjoy!
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!
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!
There's been a lot of kerfuffle about spelling since the new curriculum came in. This often follows change and we have certainly seen that in abundance when it comes to spelling. We now have, in addition to the spelling patterns and rules, a Statutory Words List to contend with. Since this came in, I have heard numerous reports of insane amounts of stress for children and their families. Liz Dashwood explains this perfectly here. I would hate to think that I had a hand in inflicting this kind of negativity. Ultimately, that will never help children to learn - how can we hope to foster a love of English if they are filled with dread weekly? So, here's how I have been working with the children since the new list came in. I have been developing these methods for the past two years and am thrilled with the results. I begin the year by teaching the statutory word list, as this gives you a good basis from which to draw (e.g. "If you know how to spell ......., then how might you spell............?")
1. I don't test them
Testing has its place. This isn't it. Testing is just that. Testing. Not learning. I begin by chatting to the children about the word list and explaining that these are words that a lot of adults get wrong and it makes them feel less confident. I explain that we are trying to avoid that and to give children this confidence in their writing. Each child is given a copy of the list to stick into their books. They then need to figure out which to learn. To do this, they pair up and test each other until they find just five that they need to learn. Their partner highlights those they get right and leaves the others.
There are a couple of things to note here:
2. Children learn them in school
We don't expect parents to teach children how to identify a modal verb, find prime factors or explain the phrases of the moon, so why would we ask parents to teach them to spell? Extra practice at home - great! We all know that not all children have this luxury for a myriad of possible reasons. It is a vital part of English education, so should be taught in school. So, we have daily practice of spellings. I have several 10-15 minute slots on my timetable, but if you don't, you could start or end each day with it or take the first ten minutes of the English lesson. Trust me, it's worth it. The children then practise their spellings in various ways. I don't follow a completely strict timetable of practice, but I generally have Wednesday as a test day. I like the mid-week placement. On the other 4 days, they usually have practice of just their five spellings. Here are some of my faves:
I've also made a couple of games to print. One is Scrabble Spelling, where children work out the scrabble value of their words. The other is my version of Roll-a-Word.
Download these here:
As part of our English lessons, I include regular practice of words the children should know, common error words and words I am particularly keen for them to know. I use a lot of Kagan collaborative learning structures for this, most often:
Check out my Freebies page for cards to use for these.
Other faves include:
4. Give them the tools to learn at home if they can / wish
I've sent home a list of all of these methods. The children know them and use them in school, but it's a little reminder and a help to parents. If they wish to / can spend time on them at home, this makes that time effective and purposeful.
5. NO EXCUSES!
Accept NO excuses for mistakes with words they are copying, know the rule for or have learnt. We say this at least three times every day. Usually, I just say "It's copied, so..." and they finish "NO EXCUSES"! Tell them to check that their partner has copied carefully, tell them to show someone else how carefully they've copied, ask them to wave if they've copied carefully. Drum it in. It's vital.
6. Give them chance to try
Don't keep giving them spellings. I rarely give a spelling to a child, unless it's a really challenging word that I'm pleased they're trying to use. Tell them to use their phonics, have a good go, think about words that sound similar that they can compare it to. I also hardly ever write the date and WALT / Learning Objective on the board unless there is a particular spelling I'd like them to see. Usually, I dictate it to them. It also means they all have to keep up, so you aren't left waiting for that one who's sharpening their pencil down to a nub before starting!
The Statutory Word Lists don't have to ruin your week, or that of the children and their families. My class love practising their spellings and it's very easy to teach with little resourcing or preparation needed. Of course, you need to make sure the children begin with a spelling list that is at the right level for them and you need to keep an eye on their progress. I do sometimes spot-quiz them on words they say they know, but have not yet found them cheating as there is no reason for them to do this. As with all learning, keep it fun, keep it purposeful and put the learning in their hands.
I love using some of the fabulous short films from Literacy Shed as a hook into writing.
This year, I did a narrative unit with my Year 5 class and they produced stunning pieces of writing so I thought I'd do a little run-down of what we did.
Before watching the film clip, we recapped the imagery techniques we have previously covered: simile, metaphor, personification.
This film is the perfect opportunity to describe something usually seen as ugly in a way that makes it appear beautiful. To start this off, I gave each child a picture of a scrapyard. They each revised their descriptive skills by trying to include every type in a paragraph to describe the rubbish tip. There were some wonderful ones, like this:
We watched the film through, pausing it at different points for the children to make comments and predictions. You can find it here or on You Tube (something about our school's security makes the Literacy Shed website very sluggish, so I often use their You Tube links. Also, this You Tube version has a beautiful piano score throughout.
We then watched this Sky advert for audio described programming. It's a wonderful advert to use and could be used to inspire all kinds of writing and artwork.
I made a transcript of this description and uploaded it to our school's shared drive. The children logged on to their laptops in pairs and saved a copy of the document to their own drive. Then, we watched Treasure once more. We essentially stole each sentence structure from the advertisement's description and changed it to describe the scrapyard in Treasure, thus creating the opening paragraph of our stories. Take a look at the beautiful paragraphs they produced:
Now that our introduction was completed (and stuck into books), we moved on to the main body. This was a lengthy but very simple and very successful process. I played a VERY short clip from the film - 1-3 seconds only. I then gave the children a particular sentence type to use or a specific thing to include. The children then worked in pairs to compose their sentence. Some types of sentence or things to included: open with a preposition, include an oxymoron or juxtaposition (I taught these as a new feature as we were doing this), open with two verbs (e.g. Rummaging and clattering, she...), start with a subordinate clause, include a relative clause etc. This was also a great way to embed some of our grammar work. As you can imagine, this takes a long time but really was worth it. Their writing was fantastic. Take a look at some of our paragraphs:
We have struggled in the past with our closing paragraphs. The children are inclined to rush at the end. To try to prevent this, I used the same technique I used at the start of our Shipwrecked stories - we watched the closing scene, in which the old lady in the story has created a magical scene from the scraps she has collected. We identified all of the different things we could see and each pair took one (e.g. the shadows on the walls, the light from the candle, the expression on her face) and wrote a 'stonking sentence' - the best sentence they could compose together, using all of their 'powers' and selecting which techniques to use. They wrote these sentences on strips of paper. I stuck these all to one A3 sheet and photocopied one each.
The children then looked at all of the sentences, decided which to use and in what order and edited them as they liked.
Here are a couple of their final paragraphs. You can see how they have used the same sentences differently:
I know that this is a very supported and guided way of writing, but they then wrote another story independently as an assessment. For this, I played them a few seconds of the film The Lighthouse and they selected a sentence type to include (from a list on our display) and they composed independently. Their stories were beautiful and they included lots of the techniques we had looked at, showing that they really could apply those skills.
Finally, here are some examples of our completed stories. Some are over a couple of pages so are in a couple of photographs. Don't miss the introduction - it's the typed paragraph at the start. Enjoy!
Half term is here!!!! Meaning I finally have time to update this!
I really was pleased with how well this topic went. It is usually only found in KS1 but this was definitely a challenging KS2 topic.
We started with amateur reviews from Trip Advisor. First, we looked at some. It was harder than you'd imagine to find some that were suitable, so I have attached mine below the pic to save you a job if you decide to do this! We pulled out the features and thought about their content. As you can see, some children couldn't resist correcting the mistakes in them too!
After finding the features, we then went on to panning our own. We've been working on writing in notes when planning, which is coming on. Oh, and they LOVED creating their profile! I tweaked the planning sheet a bit after using it and have attached the improved one below.
You can guess what's coming next...we wrote them! However, we did this with a twist. I realised a while ago that my chatty children tend to...shall we say...take after their teacher! In short, they are wafflers! So, to combat this, I had them write their reviews on the computers. As you can imagine this helped in no way, as expected. However, I then showed them how to find their word count and (after working out for myself!) how to use the 'Review' tools on Word. Now, this is a little confusing, as it has nothing to do with writing a review! The name refers to 'reviewing' your work.
Here's a quick run-down of how to use these tools. I have written a short paragraph of nonsense with which to demonstrate! Take a look.
So, after learning how to do this, I challenged the children to cut their review down to 120 words. This was a great challenge and we learnt the words concise and succinct very quickly!
As you can see, we added comments too. You'll find these in the same 'Review' section of Word.
After this work on amateur, informal reviews, we moved on to professional ones. We used a Venn diagram to compare them - like the Maths link?
Then, we looked at formal language and wrote some 'professional' reviews of our own.
I completely get how important good grammar is, but I have to admit, it's a bit of a challenge to make it engaging!
I have recently been using computers to liven it up a bit. We first tried this with punctuating speech. The children could see the changes they needed to make but didn't have to copy out scores sentences! We have also added basic punctuation and corrected incorrect pieces. All I need to do is put a document on the shared drive and it makes a great independent activity.
Last week, we looked at word classes by colour-coding.
We also had a bit of fun making silly sentences with silly synonyms, using the 'synonym' feature when you right-click in Word:
I also have the children on the hunt for real-life grammar errors, usually involving apostrophes. They're bringing / emailing in their photos for a display. (Yes, I know, I'm turning them into those people everybody just loves who point out other people's grammatical inaccuracies!). I found this little gem in the doctor's office of all places - how many intelligent people should have seen this stuck to the fire exit?!
So, to be clear: use this door all the time, not just when there's a fire!
Hi! I'm Mrs P: passionate primary school teacher!