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!
Far more to come, but here's a first tease of my Harry Potter topic: a video tutorial on how to make a howler (the letter that yells at Ron Weasley after he steals his dad's magical car).
Check back soon for more, including examples of the Howlers made by the children, potions lessons and displays!
A sewing project?! With CHILDREN?! Argh! I know what you're thinking - 15,000 unthreaded needles, fabric sewn to their school trousers... the nightmare is never-ending. For all of these reasons, you may want to work with small groups. This project is probably best for a craft or sewing after school club, spanning a few weeks.
Turn the sock inside out and cut off the cuff. Lie the sock with the heel in the centre, facing you.
Draw on the feet just above where you cut off the cuff. and sew over through both layers of the sock with a basic running stitch (in and out).
Draw on the ears: 2 parallel straight lines dunning from just above the heel to the toe, about 1-2cm apart. Sew along them through both sides of the sock using running stitch, beginning and ending just as you did before. Sew each line separately, beginning and ending each line.
Cut straight down between the two lines until just above the heel. This will leave a hole where your stitching ends. Use this hole to turn the whole thing inside out, including the ears.
Sew the ears closed. Do this by sewing a running stitch around the base of the ear, sewing through one layer of the sock all the way around. Then, pull the thread and it should gather. Fasten off before sewing the second ear.
Tear the stuffing into tiny pieces. Stuff a little at a time, pushing the stuffing right down to the feet to begin with. When you've finished this step, it should look kinda like a minion!
Make the head: 'strangle' the bunny (feels mean!) to see where you'd like the head. Then, sew in the same way you did for the ears: attach the thread, sew a running stitch all around the body where you'd like the neck, then pull tight and fasten off.
Sewing tip: To hide the end of the thread, push the needle back into the finish point and out of the bunny a couple of inches away. Pull a little and cut the thread. The end will pop inside the bunny.
Close the head with ladder stitch. This is one of my favourite stitches because it's like a magic invisible stitch! Look at the pictures below really closely.
Make the feet. Pinch with your fingers to decide where you want them. Attach the thread on the back, then sew a running stitch straight through the bunny, pulling a little to create the shape. Hide the end of the thread as you did for the head.
Step 9a - optional
Optional: make the sweater. Take another sock. Cut off below the heel (make the cut nearer the toe than the cuff if you'd like a hood. Stretch out a little and slip onto the bunny before moving on to step 10.
Sew the arms in the same way as you did the feet, pinching to test first. Mine are a little wonky, but they usually are!) When you pinch, check that you have enough stuffing in the shoulders. If not, squash it around a bit to rearrange.
Embroider the face. You can do this however you like, but I like to keep it really, really simple. The face, particularly the eyes, can make or break a toy. They can look really creepy! For kids, you could just Sharpie them on if you're losing the will to live by this point, but it really is very simple. All you do is the starting stitch, so going over and over the same spot. I use normal sewing thread (so I don't have to buy embroidery thread) and go over about 8 times. Leave a long 'tail' on your thread at the start and end so it's easy to hide by pushing into the 'eye' and out of the other side, as for the head. I do the same for the nose and then just a couple of lines for the mouth.
Note: Button eyes are the creepiest thing I have ever seen. Seriously. No.
Congratulations! You've made a sock bunny!
Options and variations
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!
Hi! I'm Mrs P: passionate primary school teacher!