Saturday, December 10, 2011

Rubics for Website use.

As the terms work comes to a close, my thoughts turned towards assessing the children's work. I have to admit that visiting every child's website has been a chore. I have been done it three times this term. That's twenty five children to a class, five forms a year group, two year groups. Roughly 250 websites. Visiting topic webpages and blog reflections. Then to have to do the same whilst recording NC levels to feed back to the children and then have them do nothing. It is to a degree soul destroying. The answer is Assessment for Learning. I did this in two different ways.
I went first with the year six classes and broke down NC levels 3, 4 and 5 into sentences to describe websites. Level 3 focused on some evidence of work. Level 4 was a well presented website whilst level 5 showed a clear awareness of the audience as the website was constructed. I asked the children to use the teams (discussed in previous post here) to review each team members website and match the work that they had done with the sentences. The children then identified the level of best fit and a target of something to do next. I did this exercise with some three weeks of work left so that the children could then put into action their self appointed target and improve their work. The exercise worked very well and the children responded enthusiastically.
The year five groups worked in a slightly different way. We listed all the features that the children had been working on over the last few weeks on their websites. These included: Title, pages, subtitles, text, pictures and layout. The children then worked in pairs to construct sentences about each of these that described work 'At the expected level for the class', 'below the expected level for the class' and 'Above the expected level for the class'. The children started slowly and needed two to three worked examples across the statements but responded as the lesson went on and feedback during the plenary to create a whole picture. The children were also able to identify what level of the statements applied to their own websites. They were particularly honest too.

Friday, November 18, 2011

In the Zone: Characteristics of Scaffolded Learners

I have always like the expression 'In the Zone'. A statement that refers to a flow of actions or thinking where each is done in an optimal if not peak performing way. Sports people are often described as 'in the zone' when they are performing on the field, court or track consistently at their best.

The best example of this was game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals for Basketball in 1994. The New York Nicks vs. The Indiana Pacers. After each team won the home games from the first two matches, The Pacers visited The Nicks at Madison Square Garden in New York. The game looked to be going the Nicks way until the Pacers star man Reggie Miller got 'in the zone'. He scored 39 points in the game but 25 of them came in the 4th quarter to give the Pacers a 93-86 victory. With Reggie in the zone he was scoring from all over the court, particularly with every long 3 point throw going through the hoop. There is one moment where he intercepts the ball and in a split second turns and steps out of the area in order to shoot (and score) 3 points.

How does this translate to learning? The expression 'in the zone' evokes thoughts of Vygotsky's zone of proximal development. This zone represents the edge of a child's learning; the limits of his or her constructions of what they understand of the world. If children are taught with this in mind the content of a lesson is planned to where the child is at. A child's personal learning is considered. Learning is scaffolded to support and fit around the child's developmental zone of proximal learning.

What does a child look like when they are learning in their zone?

Characteristics of children 'in the zone'

  • are excited and on task
  • have a clear understanding of what they are learning
  • feel comfortably challenged
  • are able to act independently of the teacher
  • can identify the relevant skills or knowledge they already possess that relates to the learning experience
  • know how to find support to parts of the learning that is difficult
  • are 'in the zone' in relation to the stage of development they are at
Teachers who want to create learning experiences for a child to work in their zone must do so from where the child is at. This means that they must make assessments. Sometimes formal but often informal verbal and observational,frequent quick assessments can ensure that learning is facilitated at the right level or in the right place for the pupil.

I suppose in the analogy with Reggie Miller 'in the zone' then surely that makes Spike Lee the bad teacher?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Schools of Tomorrow: Part 2 - Group Roles and Collaborative Learning

    Group roles in the classroom is something that has interested me for a long time. Two weeks ago I used grouped or collaborative learning in my ICT lessons and had some of the best lessons I have had in years.

    Using collaborative learning in the classroom has many benefits:
    • Active learning that engages a range of intelligences and learning styles
    • A motivating and powerful learning environment due to peer and teacher influence
    • Develops cooperation and other social skills whilst learning content 
    • Real life relevance that shifts emphasis away from academic focus (although it doesn't remove it)
    • Optimises classroom resources (particularly technology)
    The roles consisted of a leader, a timekeeper, a scribe and a computer technician. Although my lesson had a room of 26 computer workstations, I limited each group to the use of one computer. I started by explaining each of the roles. A showed the importance of the timekeeper in tracking the different tasks, ensuring that their group completed each part and finished everything on time. The computer technician was the only person allowed to touch the computer. They did the typing and clicking and I didn't let the other team members touch the computer, giving the computer technician the kudos for the role. I spent some time highlighting the different dimensions of the leadership role. The role required the leader to keep all the other roles doing their jobs - the timekeeper keeping time, the scribe scribing and the computer technician teching. I also warned that if the group wasn't doing what they should be doing then I would take the leaders to task about it. I said it was their job to ensure the group worked. Further I said that at the end of the lesson, instead of highlighting students that I was particularly impressed with, I would say well done to the leader of the team that had worked well and it was their job to in turn say well done to their team.

    The task revolved around the websites that each of the children had been building on Weebly for the previous five weeks. I had reached a point where I needed the children to look at what different levels of attainment meant in developing their websites. We had a list of criteria but the children were not really motivated to include the relevant parts. I had spent the previous weekend trawling the 120 fledgling websites and I had picked out the best 3-4 out of each class. I linked them to my Class ICT websites as current examples of good practice. The group were tasked with going to each linked website and identifying the items that had been developed on the website. We called this looking at good website practice. I gave the children twenty minutes to do this and it was the job of the timekeeper to ensure the group looked at enough websites. All of the children became engrossed in the task. As the twenty minutes went by, I reviewed the progress of the groups to ensure they had a list long enough for the next stage of the lesson.

    I found that a couple of groups (and far from being the usual suspects) had not made enough progress. As I had warned at the beginning of the lesson, I told the leaders of the groups that it was not good enough and their group had to improve their progress. The result of this was fantastic. Each group stepped up and ensured the tasks were completed.

    As I surveyed each of the classes that I had that day, I could see every child engaged. Some children took me completely by surprise and chose roles that led to do things that they would not normally do. A child, who I'll call Acer, chose to be the scribe and I could see him with his head down for the duration of the lesson, listening to the others and writing what they had to say.

    The Timekeepers then signalled to each of their groups to switch task and they moved on. The end task was for the children to review each of the websites in their group. Then use the list of 'good practice' that they had compiled from reviewing the example websites to give each member of the group a target for their website. Even the tidying up went so much better with every leader being told it was their responsibility to ensure their area was left spotless.

    At the beginning of this post I identified reasons for involving children in collaborative learning. One of those reasons was the optimisation of resources. Particularly in this modern world where we encounter new technology every month, I want to be able to use these things with my class. The latest meaningful trend is the tablet for the classroom. If you are trying to provide for every child or even every pair of children, it can mean buying at least fourteen new computers. Not a budgeting figure that means schools can react to the latest technology. But if you consider the use of the technology in the above group roles scenario,  a class of twenty-four could have six teams of four. Six teams would need only one tablet per team. Six iPads or Samsung Galaxy Tabs is a budgeting figure that is far more easily considered.

    Group learning or collaborative learning can transform any classroom. It can bring an energy and direction that involves every child in the classroom. I found that once it was under way, I was able to work with individual children on their key skills. I demonstrated tabbing for speeding up the task and went through adding favourites with a couple of groups that had obviously not picked it up when I had taught it previously as a whole class exercise. It will be how I will approach the planning for the next half term.

    I started to think about what other roles would be of use in the classroom. The role of  presenter is a natural addition to the group. It would have been good to have one child present their groups findings. I thought that four in a group worked very well so therefore I would be left with the conundrum of which person to take on the extra role. This problem arose a number of times during the day and I had a number of groups of three. I had thought that the timekeeper role would double up with the computer technician as the clocks we were using were on the computers but the children had other ideas. I recognized that this was a decision taken far better at group level.

    You can find my developmental ideas below:

    And can be found at:

    Although an ongoing project, one area that I am going to develop further is the use of stock phrases. For the children to take on the role, they need to speak in that role. This doesn't come naturally so scaffolding the speaking, by providing a bank of stock phrases that can be used, will be important. You can see in the diagram where I have started to add them. Also you will find links to the research websites and resources I have come across. If you have any resources that I could add you could contact me through twitter or comment below.


      Friday, October 28, 2011

      Schools of Tomorrow: Part 1 - Play

      “It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.” ~ Leo Buscaglia (author, educator)
       Following on from my last post that concerned play in the EYFS, I want to turn my attention to play as we go up through the primary school. Play should be ever constant in the primary school; all the way up to year 6.
      “The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things.” ~ Plato (Greek philosopher)
      It is not play for play's sake. This kind of play needs careful structuring. Or, rather than structuring, it needs nurturing.

      Play should be of different types:
      • playing with each other
      • playing with toys
      • playing roles
      • talk in play
      • playing sporting games
      • making up games to play
      Playing with each other means that children have to accept others points of view. Isn't this something we, as adults, find just as difficult in the world of work. Playing with each other is the roots of team work. Team work is the essentials of the modern world of work (see next post on team work)
      “It is becoming increasingly clear through research on the brain, as well as in other areas of study, that childhood needs play. Play acts as a forward feed mechanism into courageous, creative, rigorous thinking in adulthood.” ~ Tina Bruce (Professor, London Metropolitan University)
      Playing with toys involves all of the rules and routines that go with it. Children learn to play by a set of conditions. These conditions are not always pleasurable. If you take the game of snakes and ladders and watch as a child hits that square that has the head of the snake. Children often shake their heads and show denial. Children will miscount their die throw or if the finishing square is in sight, a slide down the snakes head can be enough to upset the balance and game. Counters and die can be upturned in one swift tantrum. Surely having children become comfortable with the pitfalls of games makes the first foundation for the ups and downs of life.

      Playing Roles whether in the wendy house, imaginary school or further playing the roles linked to the theme currently being studied: all prepare children to step into other people's shoes. Play with inherent roles must be carefully set-up and also must push children to play in those roles that they are unfamiliar with. These roles can be extended further into the fun hot-seating that goes on as the children get older and are able to explore fiction with developed characters in it.
       “As astronauts and space travellers children puzzle over the future; as dinosaurs and princesses they unearth the past. As weather reporters and restaurant workers they make sense of reality; as monsters and gremlins they make sense of the unreal.” ~ Gretchen Owocki (childhood educator)
      Talk in Play should not be left to chance. As educators we should be scaffolding or supporting talk so that it is useful or purposeful. Setting up a shop is not enough. Children given parts of dialogue will more enthusiastically throw themselves into play. Teachers must lead by modelling the importance of the words spoken in play and this will promote its place in play. Children will not just want to wear the best 'policeman's' hat but will want to say the lines of dialogue explaining to their fellow classmate why they have just been arrested.(This dialogue helps to support any writing based on the theme of the play). Higher up, children given the right words in team games will help to motivate and encourage their team to work together.

      Playing Sporting Games builds upon many of the same principals mentioned above. Children have to accept their part in a large group whilst developing the physical coordination that they can use throughout their lives. Individuals again have to conform to the rules whilst relying on another. Basic principals that govern many of our working and social situations.

      Making up Games to Play is vastly underestimated in the modern school. It doesn't happen spontaneously. It has to be built upon the basics of game play from the  regular use of games in school. Games with the elements and rules identified and taken apart. Again laying a scaffolding for the children forming their own games. This leads to good level of creativity.
      “Almost all creativity involves purposeful play.” ~ Abraham Maslow (psychologist)
      The proposal that play belongs across the whole of the primary school can be taken a whole stage further. Educationalists across the world are promoting the place of the computer game in the classroom. Both as a motivator and as a more complex combination of skills brought together. Latest research also shows that those adults that engage in regular 'game play' such as chess, soduku or crosswords, live with their marbles in tact to a much brighter age.
       “Play is the highest form of research.” ~ Albert Einstein (scientist)
      What is play like in your school? Start with a play audit. Identify where it occurs and to what extent it is structured. From there you will be able to target areas of play for development. Time set aside will ensure that the planning. scaffolding or structuring can be done in a thorough way. Then all there will be left to do is for the children to play.
      “It’s not so much what children learn through play, but what they won’t learn if we don’t give them the chance to play. Many functional skills like literacy and  arithmetic can be learned either through play or through instruction – the issue is the amount of stress on the child. However, many coping skills like compassion, self-regulation, self-confidence, the habit of active engagement, and the motivation to learn and be literate cannot be instructed. They can only be learned through self-directed experience (i.e. play). ~ Susan J. Oliver (author, Playing for Keeps)

      Thursday, October 20, 2011

      I'm sure I went to 'playschool' rather than Nursery.

      My daughter, who is almost two years of age, currently goes to a Nursery. At some point in the next twelve months, my wife and I will probably sit down to decide whether or when to move her to the pre-school at the primary school. This is a place I know well as I work in KS1 and 2 in the primary.

      This pre-school (like a number that I have witnessed), has a formal feel to it. The room is a reflection of the latter stages of primary schooling with its set number of tables (often five) that six children can sit round. This structure then leads to stale lessons with children sat in their chairs all day. This seems an inescapable consequence in current secondary eduction but do we need to resort to it in primaries? It is definitely not a pre-school regime I want my child to go through but what do other people think?

      This blog post by Frank Chalk promotes the opposite to what I suggest. It states that children should be moved into a formal setting as soon as possible. What is interesting is some of the comments that are added to the post.

      A couple of comments point out the Finish model, which is recognised as the current number one model of best practice, where children don't start any kind of formal education to the age of six.

      But a number of comments support this view:

      "...I just felt that the teacher should be stood at the front teaching them, otherwise why do you need a teacher at all?..."

      "...I want my child taught to read, write, sit still and listen by an intelligent teacher...."

      We have to recognise that there are a percentage of our pupils' parents that may feel this way. (These were two out of fourteen comments so I make it about 15%) If we have some parents that think this way we have to look at why?

      'Play' is the term that confuses them. Play to these parents just means children left to their own devices. Successful play in the pre-school though refers to the areas of learning carefully crafted by the teacher. Areas include construction, role-play, art, literacy, numeracy and a tactile area. These areas are centred around themes and are refreshed more than once a week. This is the play that is often referred to but 'play' used as a term by a teacher and 'play' as perceived by the everyday parent are two different concepts.

      I recall my early years before I joined school in year one. I went to a playschool. Till this day the images of that time are some of the strongest I have of my pre-school years. (These and filling my Wellingtons with drain water - eugh!) When I visit my child's nursery I see those different areas carefully crafted and I know that it is this 'play' that I want my child to learn through as long as possible.

      Further reading:

      BBC article 1
      BBC article 2
      Scholastic education poll of opinion

      Thursday, October 13, 2011

      Using Fairy Tales to Learn to Write Stories

      We ask children from a very young age to produce writing. Producing writing is, in itself, a complicated art form. Further, we ask children (as young as six years of age!) to produce original works of fiction. Not that long ago, many teachers still asked children to produce a piece of writing from just a title starting point - 'A Snowy Day' or 'My Holiday Adventure'! Astoundingly, many children would go away and do this and I imagine that there are some successful and sophisticated authors out there who started out in early schooling that way.

      But engaging children in writing must start with engaging children in story structures. Some of the best stories to use are basic fairy tales. Use Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and The Three Billy Goats Gruff. 

      The children need to internalise these stories: break them down; explore the characters; have the children retell the stories to each other; use pictures to represent the cards or a story prompts or have the children create a comic strip. This internalisation means that the story is visited at least three times, more if possible.

      Once the children reach that level of comfort, then they are ready to reproduce them as pieces of writing. Children as young as six will write extended narratives following the solid structure of the fairy tale chosen.

      Support the younger children by building a word wall with the words needed to tell the story. Allow the children to concentrate on the technical side of sentence construction, grammar and punctuation.

      As the children move up the school, have them reproduce the stories but with alternative characters. Sven year old children may simply write the story of Little Blue Riding Hood with a tiger playing the role of baddie. Try The Three Hairy Deers as an alternative to The Three Billy Goats Gruff with an ugly Giraffe living under the bridge.

      Ten and eleven year old children could take the narrative structure of Little Red riding Hood and twist it into a murder/kidnap mystery with a detective little girl arriving at grandma's house and finding it empty. She could find clues that lead her to the wolf who she has to trap.

      Familiarity in the form of fairy tales breeds confidence in the worried writer but allows the flexibility for children of any level to develop technical elements of writing.

      Sunday, October 9, 2011

      Make Websites with Children Easily

      Website making is easy with Weebly. Sign up for a free account and make your free website. You can add up to 40 children's websites controlled through your own account. Add multiples of children by creating an excel spreadsheet but save as a .csv file. This is a comma separated values document which uploads lists of information easily.

      To make the website just drag boxes onto the page. To create two columns, just drag the two columns onto the page. Two create a four column page, split each of the first two columns by dragging another two columns box onto each one.

      Drag the type of content that you want in each box. For example drag a picture icon into a box where you may want a picture. Or drag a simple title and text into another box.

      Once the page is set-up the way you want it, then add your content.

      Click here to see the fledgling site I have started this October 2011.

      Friday, August 26, 2011

      Text Marking: Using Colouring Pencils in Class

      Back to School

      For many, August coming to an end and the beginning of September heralds the start of a new academic year. Children return to school after a long summer holiday and seem, to the new teacher, to be a lot further behind than what last year's teacher had promised. Research data shows that children can lose up to 50% of what they gained the previous year. Therefore the first two weeks or up to a month of the school year is  a crucial period in recovering the basics in numeracy and literacy and setting in the routines and structures of the new classroom.

      Coloured Pencils

      One idea that can transform the tedium of revision into excitement is to use coloured pencils. A much over looked part of most children's equipment (and very cheap to get hold of in the supermarkets), coloured pencils can be used to pull out the prior knowledge and understanding.

      1. Photocopy a page of a reading book that is at the level of the children on the table
      2. After comprehending the text ask the children to mark alternate sentences using two colours and a ruler to underline
      3. Mark the capital letters and full stops
      4. Use a colour to identify nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs etc.
      5. Mark simple and complex sentences, highlight the conjunction
      6. Use wipe-boards to write out sentences and then model sentences using the same structures
      Follow Up

      Use coloured pencils when children are peer marking work. Ask children to use specific colours to identify the learning intention in the child's work, followed with a written comment and target.

      Tuesday, August 23, 2011

      Writing an Alphabet Poem

      A simple poem structure can still let you, as the teacher, explore a number of poetic elements. Here I look at using the alphabet poem. Often thought of as over simplistic, this poem will grab all of your students' attention. They will laugh outloud as they explore the different sound effects. All writers, from the weakest to the most boyish, will be happy to have a go.The individual lines are sophisticated enough to stretch the most able of children.You will find the poem linked below with a writing scaffolding template linked as well. Alternatively I have often just put the first few lines on the board (IWB or hand--written) and the structure speaks for itself.

      Start a lesson by asking children if they have ever made a sound for a gun while playing a game. Go around the class listening to suggested sounds and phonetically transcribe the sounds on the board for all to see.

      Introduce the next poem as about an alien that comes to earth in a spaceship and shoots lots of different things before returning to space. Ask the children to think about the size of the things that the Gwolsh shoots and to decide if this might give an idea to the size of the Gwolsh.

      Read A Gwolsh with a Gun by Tricky McDee.

      Using the Poem

      1. Look at the structure of the poem - identify the alphabetic pattern
      2. Look at the pattern from line to line where the alphabetic pattern starts (sound effect first word, three words of alliteration, animal/object in the middle of line, effect or what happens on the end)
      3. Spot changes to the pattern - does it matter?
      4. Write their own part to the poem using the writing scaffolding frame here
      5. older or higher ability children can attempt the writing scaffolding without seeing the original poem
      Follow Up

      Sound effects are for saying out loud. The children should read the poems putting as much effort into making their sound effect words as possible.

      Saturday, August 20, 2011

      Larry's Helmet: Poem and Resources 6-11 yrs of Age

      Larry’s Helmet

      Larry had a helmet.
      He brought it into school.
      We all crowded round him,
      Thought he looked so cool.
      But when you put it on,
      It was the strangest of things.
      Weird ideas in your head.
      New powers at your fingers.

      You could make it fire out
      Orange lasers at your friends.
      Teleport them to the roof,
      Till they accept your demands.
      Invisibly walk around
      Pushing little ‘uns out your way.
      Make them think a monster
      Had descended on their day.

      But the thing I liked the most
      Was the timely teacher test.
      A smack around the head was when
      The helmet worked the best.
      Larry's Helmet is a poem by children's poet Tricky McDee. It is a poem that rhymes and that rhyme scheme can be explored. A good source of discussion is whether lines 6 and 8 rhyme. Older children can be introduced to the term half rhyme and could brainstorm half rhyme pairs on their table wipe-boards. 'ing' would be a good place to start with half rhyme creation.

      Although Larry's Helmet contains rhyme, it does not mean it needs rhyme to make it a poem. This point must be stressed when teaching. This can be reinforced by asking the children to write their own poems. I will advocate a structured procedure below, but if you have children that understand and appreciate poetry writing, then don't tie them into this procedure. Just ask them to brainstorm around some areas before they set off writing.

      The poem can be downloaded here.

      6-8 Years of Age

      Read the poem a couple of times. Have the children imagine they were putting the helmet on. What powers would it give them?

      Write a poem by following the defined structure.
      1. Decide on a child's name and ask them to describe their helmet
      2. Write a line about what the helmet will do to their friends
      3. Write a line about what their helmet will do in class
      4. Write a line about a good/bad thing that the helmet will do (depends on the bias of the first two lines - third should be opposite)
      5. Write a line about when the helmet works the best
      For the younger children or in an ESL setting I would brainstorm each of these on the whiteboard; writing the answers given by the children in note form. The lowest ability children will then be able to choose lines from each category; cutting and pasting their ideas together to form their poem.

      9-11 years

      I would still follow the above structure but ask the children to write rhyming paired lines for each of the lines above. I would also ask the children to consider each of the senses to add depth to the poem. (Consider sight and add a colour - if it fits, consider sound and a suitable adjective.)

      Follow up

      The writing process should be:
      • think
      • write
      • edit
      • re-draft
      • final draft
      Above we covered think and write. The children should be given the opportunity to re-draft and finally do a presentation piece on a regular basis. (At least once every three weeks.) I like to use line guides behind plain white paper. Once they have written it out on paper, ensure they give their work a title and include a design or illustration or illustrated border.


      Friday, August 19, 2011

      Scaffolding for Learning: A Supportive Framework for Early Learning

      "One way in which writing can be nurtured is through scaffolding. Scaffolding essentially means doing some of the work for the student who isn't quite ready to accomplish a task independently. Like the supports that construction workers use on buildings, scaffolding is intended to be temporary. It is there to aid the completion of a task and it is eventually removed."
      Clare et al (1994)
      Scaffolding is the support mechanism that is put into place to support learning before learners can work independently.In writing this is many of the elements that go into the writing process, from grammar and punctuation to style and structure. The structure itself of a piece of writing can be broken down and scaffolded as individual elements.
      "How teachers interact with students as they complete a task is important to the students' ability to perform the activity. Scaffolding is an instructional technique whereby the teacher models the desired learning strategy or task, then gradually shifts responsibility to the students."
      North Central Regional Educational Laboratory

      Vytgosky and the Zone of Proximal Development
      "Inherent in scaffolded instruction is Lev Vygotsky’s (1978) idea of the zone of proximal development. Vygotsky suggests that there are two parts of a learner’s developmental level: the “actual developmental level” and the “potential developmental level”. The zone of proximal development is “the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotsky, 1978). The zone of proximal development (ZPD) can also be described as the area between what a learner can do by himself and that which can be attained with the help of a ‘more knowledgeable other’ adult or peer. The ‘more knowledgeable other’, or MKO, shares knowledge with the student to bridge the gap between what is known and what is not known. Once the student has expanded his knowledge, the actual developmental level has been expanded and the ZPD has shifted. The ZPD is always changing as the student expands and gains knowledge, so scaffolded instruction must constantly be individualized to address the changing ZPD of each student."

      Cooking Up Writing

       The different elements needed for a piece of writing.

      We can see quite clearly that writing has an amazing number of elements or skills that need to be combined to create a successful piece of writing. Scaffolding means making children familiar with all of these, so that they can be included in their own writing. Unfortunately as soon as we ask children to produce an original narrative, their technical writing skills are forgotten. I advocate starting out writing by using the already familiar. This means using fairy tales and traditional tales. And using them again and again.

      Children in Year 1/Grade 2 can start reproducing the fairytale and therefore allowing them to concentrate on the technical side of writing, i.e. writing in sentences and spelling common words correctly. 

      Children in Year 2 and 3/Grade 3 and 4 now familiar with a number of fairy tales can start to replace one or more of the structure elements as they move towards original stories. E.g. Changing the characters but keeping the setting and story line the same.

      Children from Year 4/Grade 5 onwards could change a number of elements or even all of them (characters, setting, story ending) but keep the basic structure of the narrative the same.

      See later posts that will take this structure and run through it with specific stories. It will also have scaffolding resources that you can access and use in your own classroom.

      Twitter as a Teacher Resource

      Try these hashtags in the search bar for good (up to date) resources for all teachers: (slight international teaching bias due to current circumstances - see hashtag web-page resource below for larger sample.)


      Go here for a larger selection of education based twitter hashtags.

      Watch this slide show to show you how twitter can help your teaching practice whether new to the profession, a mature teacher who needs to keep up to date or the teacher who thinks they have all the tools at their finger tips.

      Thursday, August 18, 2011

      Original Authors from the Age of Six

      We ask children from a very young age to produce writing. Producing writing is, in itself, a complicated art form. Further, we ask children (as young as six years of age!) to produce original works of fiction.

      Not that long ago, many teachers still asked children to produce a piece of writing from just a title starting point - 'A Snowy Day' or 'My Holiday Adventure'! Astoundingly many children would go away and do this and I imagine that there are some successful and sophisticated authors out there who started out in early schooling this way.

      Teaching children to write from a young age can be an arduous task. It can feel like you are having to write each line with every child: identifying spelling mistake after spelling mistake in each un-punctuated line; marking the sentences where exciting vocabulary needs to be inserted into the sentence to raise the level of the piece; and then asking them to write 'a little bit more'.

      Here at 'House of Teacher' we believe that young children can write but must start of doing so in a highly structured way. When talking about structure we may refer to scaffolding. Scaffolding is put up while a the foundations are laid for a new building. Once it can stand on its own , the scaffolding is taken away. Scaffolding writing takes many different forms from resources and pedagogy to active learning and traditional repetition. Whatever the strategy, the aim is always to produce a happy writer.