Monday, 29 October 2012

Autumn Term... take 2!

Half term was last week, I can't believe how quickly those 7 weeks went or how quickly those 7 days off went! A 3 day trip away to Amsterdam with the boy combined with moving house (from where I now have a 90 mile round trip commute each day!) made for a very busy and not so relaxing half term. At the same time it was still a break from school and teaching, which was nice. Though I have to admit, sitting there taking the register this morning and seeing some of the cheeky grins of some of the monkeys in my class made it nice to be back.

It's been a crazy half term, such an intense learning curve. The thing that I've realised, more than anything else, is that I can do this. It's not been an easy half term but I've not given up and I'm getting better at things, quicker and far more confident. I'm not saying I don't ever have doubts anymore but those feelings of complete inadequacy and overwhelmingness have started to ebb away.

First day back today and I spent the afternoon out of class on a Maths for NQTs training session. In all honesty, I didn't have very high expectations. I thought it would end up covering a bit of subject knowledge and things like that and as someone who is pretty good and confident with maths, I wasn't sure what I was going to get from it but I went along with an open mind. I was pleasantly surprised and actually found it quite useful. Some of the things that we talked about, like how the Primary Framework works wasn't overly useful as it's something I'm quite familiar with. I came away feeling reassured about some of the things that I do, with some ideas for some things I could do and the realisation that there are some things that I need to improve on.

So, what am I doing well?

  • Using physical aids and resources in my lessons
  • Giving children the opportunity to ask questions
  • Giving children the opportunity to and encouraging them to use mathematical language
  • Differentiation
What do I need to do better and how will I do it?
  • Take charge of my TA! I dont' share my plans with her, I don't really get feedback from her either and I don't use her effectively in my lessons. I don't feel like I really get the opportunity to though to be honest. There are times when she's been sat doing something on the computer all through my teaching input and then come and asked me what we're doing just as we split into groups. So, what am I going to do about it?
    • Give her my weekly plan at the start of the week
    • Put on that plan what I want her to do
    • Ask her to work with an individual group during the oral and mental starter who may have struggled with something the day before
    • Ask her to make a few notes on the plan or something and give these to me as well as some verbal feedback at the end of each lesson or whenever is next possible
I don't really like taking charge like that, especially when she's such an experienced TA but I think that I need to. After all it's my class and at the end of the day, I'm the one who is ultimately responsible for them, their learning and their progression. I should have done this quite a while ago really.
  • Plenaries... I've never really been overly sure on what makes a good plenary, combine that with generally running out of time and I often don't do them but I should. So what will I do?
    • Make sure that I leave time at the end of each lesson for even a short 5 minute plenary, even if it means cutting activities short before they're finished
    • I'm going to ask to buy a giant foam dice with plastic pockets. In each pocket will be a question that we'll answer for the plenary, such as 'What have I learned today?' or 'How do I need to improve?'
    • I'm going to work on having challenging plenaries too that build on the lesson. This will be a more difficult one though I think, it's difficult to pitch it right when it's the whole class
So they're my two current targets/focuses for myself at the moment. I'll update you on how I do with them. Parents evening tomorrow, better go get things sorted. Eek!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Pupil Progress Meetings - Hello Rock... Hello Hard Place!

Staff meeting this morning, just what I love for a Friday morning! We were told that pupil progress meetings are next week. For the non-teachery types who read my blog, a pupil progress meeting is where I meet with my headteacher and the deputy head (my mentor) to talk about the progress that each child is making. 

It all involves looking at the levels that they were given at the end of the summer and the levels that I gave them a week or two ago. Out of 30 children, I gave 12 children a lower level in Maths, mostly just by one sub level, though some dropped two but I gave 21 out of 30 lower levels in Writing!! Now, here lies the problem. There are a few children who, having had a few more weeks, I can see didn't do their best in that writing task however quite a few, at least 10, I disagree with their summer levels on completely. As an NQT I don't really feel able to say that though, after all the teacher who leveled them is an experienced teacher, what do I know? The thing is, I moderated all of those writing tasks with my mentor and we agreed the levels so it's not just my opinion as an inexperienced NQT, it's the opinion of an experienced member of the SLT too. I really don't want to sit there and say that I think that someone else leveled children wrong but I don't want to set myself up for a fail by not making 3 sub levels of progress from a level where children weren't in the first place. Biggest problem is that the teach who had them 3 days a week last year is involved in teaching them this year and so will be in that pupil progress meeting too. Think I'm going to ask to have it separately though. 

Most definitely stuck between a rock and a hard place! Any advice?

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Dragon Happenings

Been a bit quiet on here lately but things have been really busy with school and moving house and I've not had a huge amount to say really. Classroom is now finally all set up properly, displays of children's work etc. are all up. People keep saying how lovely my classroom looks which is really nice to hear, will take a few photos to update on here tomorrow.

My school works to a creative curriculum so the majority of my teaching is all based on a theme - Turrets and Tiaras. So that's all things castles, dragons, princes, princesses and the like. I have to say this week has completely convinced me that a creative curriculum is worth while. We kicked off with a trip to Warwick Castle and have been doing some information writing all about castles but things got really exciting last week when we found a mysterious egg in our classroom on Monday morning!

Of course I knew absolutely nothing about the egg or where it came from... I HADN'T made it from paper mache the day before and only finished painting it that morning... The kids absolutely loved it and got so excited about it, though I did have to spend about 5 minutes convincing one boy that I hadn't made it because I don't know how to paper mache though his response was that of course I know how because I'm a grown up. We didn't know what the egg was, where it came from, how it got there and so we had a morning of brainstorming different ideas. Here they are...

As you can see, I have some lively imaginations in my class, though I think the best ideas were ones that we shared verbally rather than wrote down. I think my favourite idea was that a volcano must have erupted somewhere and that the egg was resting inside to keep warm and got blown in the air when the volcano erupted, it flew all the way over here and landed in our classroom, coming in through the window. It was a really good activity to do because it got them thinking and coming up with ideas but also reasons why. Anytime they shared an idea they had to say 'I think... because...' and not just 'I think'. 

So we looked after the egg, making sure that we kept it warm, dry and safe. On Thursday morning we went off to assembly and came back to find this...


The egg was gone! It was time to do some detective work. There were footprints, from that we decided that the egg must have cracked and then whatever it was climbed up onto our storage unit and stood in the paint, then it jumped from table to table and went out into the corridor. I must have forgotten to shut the door and it went outside. There were no footprints outside so we knew it was something that could fly. There was also some burnt paper on the table, that's when we knew it was a dragon because nothing else breathes fire! The children were so ridiculously excited but so disappointed that the egg and dragon were gone.

We spent the next few days writing a care guide all about how to look after a dragon in case anyone finds it or it comes back. This morning I shared a very exciting news report that I 'saw on the news last night'....

The kids of course went absolutely crazy with excitement! They came up with all kinds of fantastic theories. I explained that the news station wanted us to write some newspaper articles about what happened and suddenly they all thought they were going to become famous! We spent the entire morning working on these newspaper articles and I have to say, they're absolutely fantastic. There are some of the children that I've really struggled to get decent work out of since I started and some of those children did some absolutely amazing work today and they worked mostly independently. It really seemed to grab the interest of the boys, going to really milk this over the next couple of weeks before half term! If I had any doubts about a creative curriculum, they're gone now. I love my job, teaching is the best job in the world!