Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Hand Pointers

Sorry it has been a while since my last post!! I was browsing the internet looking for some teaching and learning resources that would engage children in learning. I found these pretty cool hand pointers on Amazon, that I wanted to share with you:

(They are larger in size approximately the size of a ruler)
I thought they would be really helpful in encouraging the children to follow the text when working collectively as a whole class during shared reading. I personally would allow a child to be elected pointer, giving them responsibility to point to the text as we read together. This would also act as a behaviour management strategy, as you may wish to give a child this role if they are easily distracted during carpet time. After reading you could hand over the pointer to individuals, this would be in order for them to respond to the text, by for example pointing to verbs, adjectives and similes. Overall I envisage that they will greatly help to foster children's enthusiasm towards reading and possible follow up activities, as children see the opportunity of using them as an incentive to participate. 

I hope you like them as much as I do,
Thank you for your continued support!

Ben :-) 

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Getting Arty - My Journey to School

Art is one of my favourite lessons as I enjoy seeing the children expressing their creativity and imagination. Within this post I aim to inspire you with a unique art style, for focusing a series of art lessons upon. Can you draw a picture without lifting your pencil off of a piece of paper? I would like to credit my university art and design tutor for recommending use of this technique to me. 

Before beginning the lesson the children should be encouraged to think about their journey to school. Here are some examples:
-Where did you go?
-What did you pass on the way?
-What was on the left/right of your route?
-What did you see?
-How big were the things you saw?

After the children should draw their 'route', this should be a simple line based upon the directions they travelled in from home to school

Next the children should begin to add detail of what the saw on the way to school. This could be absolutely anything. In my example I began by drawing a hotel.

Continue to draw, BUT remember not to take your pencil off the page! I continued by drawing a bench, trees and a church.

To finish the picture off I added a title, this fitted in nicely with handwriting too. 

Now you can take your pencil off of the paper and view your creation!

On reflection this is just a snapshot of what you could do with this art form. With older year groups they could draw their route to represent what they saw on the left and right of the route, instead of writing a title. You could also allow children to experience different media for example charcoal or coloured pencils. Overall I believe that the quality of art produced would make a fantastic display for your classroom and children will really enjoy working on their pictures.

I hope you enjoy a lot of success using this technique,
best wishes,

Ben :-) 

Monday, 4 February 2013

Using Drama as a Stimulus for Children's Writing

When teaching, regardless of which year group, I really enjoy using drama as a hook to foster children's interest in writing. Within this post I recall a previous lesson where I used a drama conversion called 'the mantle of the expert'. I would like to take the time to thank my host class teacher from my second year placement, for recommending this approach and inspiring me to take a more creative approach to my teaching. I am sorry for the length of the post, but I hope this in depth analysis will inspire you to use a similar example within your classroom.

What is the Mantle of the Expert?
The mantle of the expert is where pupils within a class are made to believe they are working for a real life company, or project. They are seen as the experts in the selected field and are working for a 'real life' client, who is in fact completely fictional. In this activity the teacher is seen as a knowledgeable colleague, working alongside and guiding the children through the process. Everyone must take part in the fictional scenario to deliver the results needed for the client in a set time scale, this approach to learning can often take a series of drama based lessons to complete the task set.   

Year Four Scenario- Naturalist Team

When I was on placement teaching a year four class, they were doing a topic based around explanation texts in literacy and mini beasts in science. Therefore I thought it would be nice to approach this topic in a cross-curricular manner. I set up a scenario where the local library had unfortunately suffered a fire and their mini beast records were destroyed. I made a fictional client called, 'Professor Spark' and set the children off on the task of recreating explanation texts about mini beasts for the library.

To begin with I started the literacy lesson as normal, like every other day, but little did my class know I had placed a dummy phone on my desk. During the starter to the lesson I unexpectedly played a ringtone through the classroom speakers and began to head towards the dummy phone. As I walked to the phone on the other side of the classroom, it stopped ringing. I told my class that I had received a voice mail and I questioned them to see if we should listen to it. They were keen to hear it, so I played the message through the classroom speakers. This was recorded by a teaching assistant prior to the lesson, explaining the task to the children and asking for their help. As you can imagine this generated excitement, as it was not like an ordinary school day. We then discussed if we should accept or reject the task.

We decided to accept the task:       

I pretended to phone Professor Spark to let him know the news that we were eager to complete the task for him, this motivated the children and they seemed very keen to write. Professor Spark then sent us an email enclosing the contract that the class had to agree to and sign in order to carry out the task. A key reason why this was used was to deal with behaviour management issues during the drama based lessons. After this we discussed a class plan of action and agreed that the literacy lessons this week would follow this structure:

Monday - Planning task  
Tuesday - Research (book based)
Wednesday - Research (internet based)
Thursday - Plan/first draft of explanation writing
Friday - Big write, final version of explanation text. 

During the lessons I gave the children name badges to make them feel important and part of a team, as well as help them interact with the drama activity. I created an email address for Professor Spark and pretended that he was emailing us to see how the project was progressing. We would then email him at the end of each lesson to inform him of how we were coping with the job in hand. 

Finally at the end of the week once the finished pieces of explanation text were completed in the form of a big write, Professor Spark turned up to collect them. This was a teaching assistant at the school in a fancy dress outfit. We shared examples of our work, in addition we discussed and reviewed the project as a whole. The children really enjoyed this as they finally saw all their hard work pay off. 

Overall we all had great fun learning in this way and I really enjoyed teaching through the use of drama. The children had a clear stimulus for their writing, therefore I believe this improved the quality of their written work as they were motivated, engaged and passionate about the task in hand. It was also great to hear some of the discussions that were initiated within the classroom as well as seeing the children working together effectively. 

I hope you have as much of a success using this fantastic teaching and learning strategy within your classroom.

All the best, 

Ben :-)    

Friday, 1 February 2013

From Shore to Sea

From Shore to Sea is a behaviour management technique that I created for use within the classroom. I was recently placed at a school with a positive behaviour management policy, therefore this strategy was perfect to implement into my lessons. The idea is simple, each boat is assigned to a different table and the aim of the game is to see which table is the first to sail to the reward zone over a set period of time. This could be a particular lesson, a day or even a week, you can choose what suits your teaching best. Whenever you notice positive behaviour from a table group collectively within your class, move their boat towards the reward zone.   

I mainly made use of this teaching and learning strategy to motivate the children to work in a calm, sensible and productive fashion when on task. I also used it to reward the transition the children made when moving around the classroom, for example between carpet and table time, or lining up for assembly.   

Below is an example of how the chart might look during use:

As you can clearly see the table with the pirate ship would win on this occasion. Normally I like to give the children, on each table, an opportunity to agree upon a name to label their boat with and decorate them. This is so that the boats are special and represent each group of children. Ideally I like to use many kinds of rewards such as stickers, sweets or even a prize box. However, the reward can be anything you decide as long as it motivates your class and maintains the effectiveness of preventing behaviour management issues.

You could also use the strategy to work on key vocabulary:

Here is an example reinforcing terms based around distance:

This would allow children the chance to describe where their boat is situated in relation to them reaching their target, the 'reward zone'. I believe this would provide children in lower year groups support with ordering spoken language, as well as support with spelling and implementation in writing with higher year groupings. 

As it is a positive behaviour management technique I would strongly recommend against moving the boats backwards, in result of any kind of negative behaviour. This would ensure that you remain positive in your approach and maintain a real life scenario, of a boat sailing towards a location. Overall I believe it would make a very creative and engaging display for your classroom, but do not over use the technique. This could result in a negative impact on what you are trying to achieve through its use. 
I hope you really like my idea and put it to good use! If you would like any of the illustrations please drop me a message and I can forward them to you personally.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Joe Sutherland for these awesome illustrations to my concept and it would be great if you could support his blog:

That's it from me until next time,
All the best, 

Ben :-) 

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The Lucky or Unlucky Draw

As a trainee teacher, I sometimes use lollipop sticks within the classroom when teaching. I usually write the names of each child in the class onto a lollipop stick, corresponding to the colour of their table and place them into a jar. When carrying out whole class teaching children often have a reluctance to put their hands up, even though the majority of the time they know the answer to what has been asked. Also I have found some children deviate off task. The use of lollipop sticks help to keep children on their toes (anyone can be picked), encourage fair participation and also add excitement to the classroom. 

An alternative could be to draw a coloured lollipop stick and ask a child from that coloured table to contribute to the discussion. Other uses could be to determine which child takes the register or collects the books in at the end of the lesson. There are many ways in which you could use them, however it is important to use them sparingly, or the excitement generated by their use could be impacted. 

I hope you enjoy using them, 

Ben :-)

I would personally like to thank Professor Valsa Koshy, of Brunel University, for the critical analysis that she provided on this concept (in the comments below). She is a very experienced teacher and mathematical author, with many publications to date. Therefore I am delighted that she took the time to visit my blog.  

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The 'Coin Game'

The 'coin game' is one of my favourite mathematical mental and oral starters, the children always look forward to taking part in the activity. To carry out this with your class all you need is a mug and twelve 2p coins. 

"The aim of the game is to support children's counting and also reinforce learning of times tables". 

I usually begin by selecting a number to count in, corresponding to the relevant focus times table for the week. For example 2's, therefore the 2x table in this demonstration. The first stage of teaching usually involves the coins being dropped into the mug one by one. As the children hear a sound from each coin drop, they count on 2 from the previous number and chant the new number out loud as a class. To challenge the children I tend to increase the speed of the coin drops.

The second part of the activity involves the children closing their eyes and listening carefully for the coin drops (you need to be vigilant as some children try to peek!). This is where I begin to develop children's times table knowledge, the amount of dropped into the jar would represent how many lots of 2's. I usually drop a random number of coins into the mug one by one and then make the children write their end number onto their whiteboards. For example if we were counting in 2's, then should 5 coins have been dropped into the mug we would end on the number 10. 

I have recognised that there are two methods children regularly use:
- Listening to how many coin drops and then multiplying the amount of coin drops by the number we are counting in (Higher ability skill).
OR- simply counting on in the required number for coin drop. 

To reinforce learning you could ask questions like:
-If the answer is 10 how many coins were dropped?
-If 5 coins were dropped, how many lots of 2's make 10? 
-Can you give me the multiplication number sentence for that?
-If 2 coins were dropped we found the answer of 4, what would the end number be if I dropped 4 coins into the mug?
(Sometimes I allow quick bursts of paired talk so that children can work together in learning)

Finally, I like to let the children take control of their own learning. I give them the opportunity to come and 'be the teacher', sit on the 'teacher's chair' and drop the coins into the mug. They really enjoy this element of the game, but it is important to monitor which children have had a turn. This is to ensure all pupils have a fair opportunity to lead the activity.  

I HOPE you have as much fun using the activity as I do.

Ben :-) 

Monday, 28 January 2013

The Learning Tree

The 'learning tree' is a concept I was introduced to by one of my lecturers. It can be used either in the form of a classroom display, or as an activity children carry out independently. It is a good strategy to use when introducing a topic, particularly within the foundation subjects. 

The idea behind it is that the roots of the tree symbolise the skills needed for learning and the main part of the tree illustrates the potential learning that will take place. This allows children to have the opportunity to take control of their own learning. They will be able to hang or write onto the 'learning tree' the skills they believe they need for subject and things they find out from studying the new topic.  

I personally have not seen this used in school, so I would be delighted to hear from you if you was to use it as I believe it has huge potential!

Ben :-) 

Phonics Kites

Here are examples of phonics kites that I have used when teaching phonics in the primary classroom. I have found them to be a fantastic way to engage children in their learning, they also support visual learners. The words displayed on the kites were taken from the word banks within the relevant phase of the letters and sounds scheme. They can also be used to create a super display for your classroom wall. 

To make them I used: 
-Mount board 
-Coloured paper 
-Metallic paper 

AND of course....
-A stapler 

But ultimately, be creative there are many possible ways you could chose to make them. 

Good Luck 

Ben :-) 

Welcome to 'Being Ben'

Well I'm very pleased to be making my first of hopefully many posts...

I believe that sharing resources and ideas is a key element in teaching, this is what encouraged me to create this blog. I hope to network with other primary educators and inspire young teachers with 'useful' teaching and learning strategies for the classroom. I will also share some of my own personal teaching experiences along the way too.  

Ben :-)