Tuesday, 2 January 2018

10 Uses for Google in the Primary Classroom

Since starting my teaching career, I have - so far - worked only in schools with Google Apps.  As I move to a new school which has a different cloud-based system, I wanted to pull together some things which I have found useful about the Google Suite.  I am sure I'll find, as I settle, that many of these things are possible with other cloud-based software as well.  Google Apps for Education is free and, after some set up, is fairly easy to manage.  I have always had a set of Chromebooks available. As Chromebooks are powered by Google, the Suite links flawlessly and logging in for pupils works a treat. 



1) Peer Assessment
Introduce pupils to the idea of showing their work to a friend using the Share option just once and they'll want to do this each time you use the Google Suite for work.  Pupils can control how much access their friends have using the "View only" or "Comment only" features.  It's important to show them the differences between "Suggesting" and "Editing" a document as this can cause confusions when pupils start to share documents with each other. 

2) E-Safety
Google Classroom forms a huge part of e-safety lessons.  We generally have two classrooms for each primary pupil: their class name which is for work and a "chat" classroom which is for their year group.  In the classroom for work, only teachers can post but pupils can comment. In the "chat" classroom, pupils can post.  This prompts discussions about what is and isn't useful.  We come back to only posting if something is necessary, kind or true.  In KS2, this is an ideal replacement for show and tell - rather than bringing in a trophy, pupils post a picture of it with an explanation on Google Classroom.  Teachers monitor the comments and posts and we regularly discuss these with pupils. 

3) Collecting and Organising digital work
Google Classroom makes it really easy for pupils and teachers to store and access digital work.  All "assignments" are saved in a folder in Google Drive called "Classroom".  One thing worth knowing is that, once pupils have handed an assignment in, they no longer have editing rights - it is passed to the teacher.  For this reason, I encourage pupils not to hand work in but to complete it and leave it so we can both continue editing later on.  

4) Learning essential skills for word processing
As well as regular use allowing practice of touch typing - an essential skill if you ask me - the Google Suite is organised in a similar way to Microsoft Office.  This means that pupils are practising the skills required to be successful in creating digital documents of different formats.  Ultimately, this means they can be flexible as they leave school and are ready to use different software. 

5) Questionnaires and quizzes (Forms)
The Google Forms app is great for collecting information and setting quizzes for the class.  Results can be views in a summary, which includes pie charts and bar graphs, or in a Google Sheets document.  I've used Google Forms to gather information from my pupils but I've also used it as an easy way of parents signing up for something - for example, requesting tickets to a show or booking a place on a workshop at school.  

6) Questioning
Google Classroom allows teachers to collect a huge amount of information from pupils almost immediately.  Children can comment on a post and read and reply to each others' comments.  They love doing this but it is so useful as a teacher. Rather than hearing from a handful of pupils, you can gauge the ideas of the whole class.  This is particularly useful for open questions or opinions. 

7) Gathering data (sheets)
Having a template Google Sheets document with the names of the class down one side makes it very easy to gather data quickly.  Children simply fill in the row which has their name on.  We've had 35 people editing the same document giving ideas and opinions.  They can all see each other's edits so it's important to consider when this is useful and appropriate. 

8) Collaborating
Pupils (and teachers) can work collaboratively on documents at home and at school.  I've found that this works best in pairs and is particularly useful in non-core subjects, when you want pupils to pool their thoughts and ideas with a finished outcome.  For example, in our Wisdom topic in R.E. last term, pupils collected quotations useful for life from their families and various sacred texts into Google Slides.  Doing this in pairs meant they could discuss the quotations and consider how to explain their meaning. 

9) Teacher Assessment
Providing pupils' work is shared with the teacher (this is automatic when it's set as an assignment in Google Classroom), the Google Suite is a great tool for assessment and feedback.  Teachers can use the "preview" option in a folder to quickly flick through the work of the whole class.  They can then provide feedback in the next lesson before pupils continue.  Alternatively, teachers can option the document and leave comments.  I use both options depending on the task, my expectations and how much time I have.  In my experience, children love getting comments on their work and are quick to edit and resolve any changes that are required.  Once a comment is "resolved" it is then archived but is available to view if anyone wants to see the trail of feedback for a document. 

10) Publishing work (Blogger)
Google's blogging platform, Blogger, is one I use a lot as it's so easy to publish posts and to create a collaborative blog.  Work can be embedded from Google Drive into a blog post with a basic understanding of HTML.  I learned this by searching "how to embed Google Slides in Blogger".  When pupils have a public audience for their work, it gives it purpose.  Blogging is the perfect means by which to do provide an audience and the great thing is, because it's a website, that audience is global.  Parents and governors can leave comments to further motivate pupils.  My favourite blogging moment was when a child's father, who was in Afghanistan with the army, commented on his son's work to congratulate him.  Pure joy! 

I'd be really interested to hear what you've done with Google or any other cloud-based system. Please leave a comment if you've got anything to add. 

Friday, 29 December 2017

Say Yes To New Adventures #Nurture1718


Last December, I sat in the leaving assembly for our long-standing deputy head teacher, Sue Smith, and I promised myself I wouldn't leave my school.  This year, that same assembly was one in which the staff, parents and pupils bade me farewell before I start at a new school in January.  

This candle was given to me by a pupil and her parent recently.  They informed me that they had bought it for me before I'd announced that I was leaving and said it was quite apt for it to be my Christmas/leaving present. 

Isn't it funny how the world works?

These "Nurture" posts have been quite therapeutic for me each year as a way of reflecting on the year that's passed and looking forward to the next 12 months.   This one will be 7 things for 2017 and 8 things for 2018.  Many of the highlights of 2017 have come about because I've had to say YES to opportunities I could have easily let pass me by. 

2017
  1. Family - Once again, cancer has played its part in the year my family have had, with chemo appointments and regular check-ups being normal.  Managing the emotions of this has been interesting but, with the support of family, friends and colleauges, we've made it to now still smiling.  We enjoyed a family holiday to Mexico between treatments which was really special. 
  2. Teaching Awards - I was fortunate enough to be nominated for the Outstanding Use of Technology Award this year.  Being awarded the Silver and getting the chance to meet many other teachers was wonderful.  The ceremony was really special and I'm glad that my head teacher and some family members were there to join in with the celebration.  
  3. Making Every Primary Lesson Count - This was such a great highlight of the year.  The whole book-writing process was really interesting and enjoyable.  We had a book launch event in a local pub to celebrate the new releases and I won't tire of seeing our book on Amazon! (P.S. If you've read it, please leave a review. We love reading the reviews!) 
  4. NAHT Conference - I had such a wonderful weekend with the NAHT Edge Advisory Council at conference this year.  It left me with renewed hope for our pupils and our profession.  You can read about this in my reflective blog post here.
  5. Moving house - We finally got around to moving into our lovely new house this year and we haven't really looked back.  Only recently have we put the final bits on the walls from our travels this year and I've loved getting it all dressed up for Christmas - it's so pretty!! 
  6. Applying for a new job - This was such a surprise to me but something I'm so glad I did.  There were lots of factors involved in this, including incredible support from my husband and parents.  One thing which really encouraged me to apply was the continued stream of advice I hear, see and read from Sheryl Sandberg.  Her book, Lean In, has stayed with me since I read it years ago and gave me any extra encouragement I needed to apply for this leadership role in a great school. 
  7. Going LIVE - I've enjoyed completing a couple more Livestream events this year. You can watch the one on whole-class reading lessons here and on supporting struggling readers in secondary schools here.  This is something I hope to do more of next year.

2018
  1. New Job - Well this is the big one! I'm so excited about getting started as deputy head at a new school in January.  There will be lots to learn, especially in the first term, with names being my first priority! I can't wait to teach children across the school, get to know the families and be a part of such a great team of staff.
  2. SRocks18 - Earlier this year, I was delighted to be asked to speak at Southern Rocks in February and run a workshop.  It's going to be a wonderful weekend as it's be so well-organised by David and Kristian.  I can't wait to meet fellow presenters and attendees, some of whom I've been tweeting with for ages! 
  3. Travels - We have some overseas adventures planned this year which involve a lot of new countries - we'll see how many we can visit in 12 months! 
  4. Music - With Taylor Swift, Nashville Concert, Hamilton and Kerry Ellis tickets already purchased, I'm looking forward to seeing which other gigs and shows we can get to. 
  5. Reading - Recently, I've joined GoodReads to keep track of the books I read. I tend to flit between literature for kids and that of the crime/thriller genre, while also keeping an edu-book on the go.  You can follow what I read in 2018 here
  6. Primary Deputies Network - Kate, Fliss and I set up this Twitter account after a brief discussion.  I can't wait to see what we do with it. At the moment, it's just facilitating discussion with like-minded primary deputies. 
  7. Moving to big NAHT - I'm a little sad about leaving NAHT Edge and the advisory council.  I've really enjoyed getting to know James and all the team.  I'll be joining the big kids in NAHT from January and am hoping to get involved as a deputy when I have the chance. 
  8. Saying YES to other new adventures... - watch this space.
You can read my previous Nurture posts here.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Whole-Class Reading VIDEO #TwinklTeach

Once again, I was asked by Twinkl to do a Livestream over on their KS2 Facebook Group.  Last time, I spoke about Feedback and Marking.  The topic of this more recent one was whole-class reading.  I could talk for a day (of INSET training!) about whole-class reading so it was difficult to squeeze everything in - I missed lots out.  I tried to cover many strategies which can be used in whole-class or carousel reading lessons so there's something for everyone to take away and try. As this was originally a Facebook Live video, you can hear me referring to people's questions in the comments and some links in the comments.  I've put the links which I refer to underneath the video on this page so please look there if you want to see it. 

You can view the video on YouTube below.  If you want to watch it on the YouTube site, click the video title and it will pop out into a new tab.



Links
Accelerated Reader Book Find (7 mins 56 secs)



Reading Reconsidered (24 mins 50 secs)
http://amzn.to/2hk5Mfv





Tom Palmer's Free Texts (34 mins 15 secs)
http://tompalmer.co.uk/free-stuff/

Fiction Express (35 mins 25 secs)
https://www.fictionexpress.co.uk/

First News (35 mins 35 secs)
https://www.firstnews.co.uk/


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Notes and Scribbles - Whole-Class Feedback in Primary

Marking has had some really bad press recently.  Time and again, it is blamed for teachers' workload and also for being ineffective and a waste of time.  "No Marking" policies do their rounds on the education blog-sphere every now and then.  Whole-class feedback is a popular replacement for marking, with teachers often filling out a grid with information from pupils' books instead of writing in the books themselves.  Despite this all being very persuasive and attractive, I still mark my pupils' books after every lesson. Our school has stripped our feedback policy of many marking statements but it still involves marking.  To see more about why marking is still worth doing, read the first half of this post by Chris Curtis.

By "marking", I mean a recognition of the work the child has done and an indication that the book has been checked with at least a tick or use of my most-used stamper, Checked By Your Teacher.  This helps pupils to be accountable for their work and encourages them to do their best as they know each piece will be seen by their teacher.  If necessary, I will write more in a book - particularly to praise the child for something specific or to highlight or circle errors.  To find out more about how I mark quickly and effectively, see this blog post.

In our book for primary teachers, we write about how checking is more effective than extensive marking of pupils' books.  We make it clear that recognition of the work completed is still important but that teachers can gain much from checking the work without necessarily writing anything on it.  The checking of work can then inform planning for the next lesson.

One way in which we've reduced marking expectations is to introduce whole-class feedback in the form of a journal.  I call mine "notes and scribbles" because that is simply what it is.  No grid is needed for me to gather my thoughts - I simply write what is necessary without constraints.  This is just an A4 exercise book which I use across the primary subjects.  I used to write my scribbles on post-it notes but I find this is quite useful to keep all the notes together. I write the title and date at the top of the page to track the work and then write down anything I need to remember as I'm checking books.  This includes:
  • issues to address with the whole class including spelling/grammar issues, repeated misconceptions, presentation reminders.
  • focus groups of children for intervention on a particular issue.
  • conversations to have with individual pupils about a misconception or error.  
  • strong pieces of work to show to the class or to use as a model piece for the following year.
  • a piece of work to look at as a class (I always ask for the child's permission to do this).
My notes are probably complete nonsense to anyone who hasn't checked the books.  Below you can see a page for an early piece of writing in which I'm gauging pupils' strengths and weaknesses, particularly in relation to their accuracy in basic writing skills (spelling, punctuation, paragraphing).  In every child's book, I underlined 3-5 spellings for them to correct (this indicates to the child that I've read their work).  

Annotated page in my Notes & Scribbles book. Click image to enlarge.
In the next lesson, while children are finding spelling corrections, editing their work or continuing their writing, I then set to, acting on the notes I took in the lesson.  

Child A has missed out many full stops.  When I was first a teacher, I used to write "please add in full stops" or something to that effect when faced with such errors.  However, missing full stops is often an indication that pupils struggle with sentence structure.  Therefore, rather than writing in this child's book for them to find where the full stops should be OR writing details about sentence structure at the end of their work, I spend a few minutes explaining sentences and then editing this work with the pupil.  We sat together with a highlighter and went through the paragraphs, putting a yellow line where the end of a sentence came.  Independently, the child then put in the appropriate full stops and capital letters; it wasn't how to put full stops that cause the misconception, it was why.  

(For more ideas to use when looking at sentences and sentence structure with pupils, see this post.) 

Child A's work after our discussion. Red pen = child editing. Green pen = me. Highlighter = work done together.
(You can also see she has corrected her spelling of discovered after my whole-class feedback.)
Child B has muddled her sentences in paragraphs.  Rather than writing "your paragraphs are muddled" or "please sort your paragraphs" or giving a detailed description of her error and how to correct it, I spent a few minutes with her discussing paragraphs.  She quickly realised where she went wrong and we used a highlighter to start sorting the sentences into appropriate paragraphs.  Independently, she continued highlighting and then rewrote the paragraphs.
Child B's work after our discussion. Green - S.C. Johnson.  Orange - the mission. Pink - the planet.
In looking at my pupils' exercise books, there's no indication about my checking and its impact on the pupil's learning but, combined with my notes and scribbles and with a quick explanation, it's clear that checking the work made a big difference to some pupils' understanding of the basics of writing.  Feedback isn't for someone scrutinising my books; it's entirely for the benefit of my pupils and I believe both checking and marking can have a part to play.

Please Note: All work is used with parents' permission.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

100 Books - Using lists to engage primary readers

Last year, I became aware of the lists of 100 books for Y1/2, Y3/4 and Y5/6 created by Ashley Booth.  I kept an eye on how people were using them and, having visited a local school which uses them and talking to the teachers about it, I decided it was something worth exploring this year at my school.  This post will outline what we're doing with the lists and the books and how we're using them to engage pupils in reading high-quality books. 

The Lists
We downloaded Ashley's lists from this link and spent some time looking at the books on the lists.  We removed books which children would be reading in class time, changed some books in favour of others and reformatted the lists so children could track which dates they finished a novel in a booklet.  It's important that children can read books appropriate to them so we renamed the lists to A (KS1), B (Y3/4) and C (Y5/6).  

The lists are full of great texts: classic novels, books which came out when I was at school and which I devoured, and some debuts by brilliant authors currently publishing amazing books for children each year.  Lots of the books are the first in a series so pupils can get hooked on a certain character or setting and read sequel after sequel.  There are a few books which overlap between lists and some non-fiction or poetry books included. We are still working on the KS1 list so that will follow. 

It's important pupils know that this is not a challenge - 100 books in Y5/6 would be 1 book a week.  Very few pupils (and teachers) would manage this.  Instead, we have stressed that these lists have great recommendations for books to read.  Children spent some time early in the year on the BookTrust website looking at the blurbs for these books.  They chose 5 they would like to read to start with.  

Click the image to view and download the lists.

The Books
Our English leader and SBM then proceeded to buy copies of the 100 books in the KS2 lists.  I've mentioned before that we fund a lot of the books we buy for whole-class reading lessons by doing two annual book fairs and using the commission.  We started by purchasing as many books as we could from the commission - aiming for all 100 in each KS2 year group.  This is a work in progress and will take some time.  We have found that purchasing these books has really enhanced the quality of the texts on our bookshelves as well as creating more buzz about reading.  

Each book has a number in the list so we numbered each book and wrote its list (A, B or C) on the sticker.  The 100 books have been put in one area for the 3 classes in the year group to use and are accessible during the school day to all children (within reason).  We have noticed over the last few years that books often go missing from our bookshelves so have started a signing in and out book for these 100 books to ensure we don't lose them to bedroom bookcases. 


Google Classroom
To enhance pupils' engagement with the 100 books lists, I created a Google Classroom for them to join and discuss the books they are reading.  This means we have children from across years 5 and 6  as well as their teachers communicating about books and reading.  They post selfies with their latest book, comment on each other's books and leave reviews and recommendations (with no spoilers!).  This is very easy to do with Google Classroom and Google Accounts already set up for pupils; we simply publish the class code in the booklet and children sign themselves up to join.  All posts are monitored by teachers and it's really got pupils (and teachers) engaging further with these book lists. 




The Future
Our next steps are to get the 100 books List A ready for KS1 to use and, of course, to purchase those books.  I hope we can keep the momentum going throughout the year and encourage more children to find a book they love.

Useful Links - all free
Ashley Booth's 100 Book lists can be downloaded here.
Our edited 100 Book Lists can be downloaded here.
Ben King's front covers and first pages of selected books from the Y5/6 list can be downloaded here.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Why do teachers share resources for free?

I saw an idea shared on Twitter that I fancied doing in my classroom. Twitter is a generous, collaborative network as a teacher (most of the time!) so I was sure I could find a copy of the basic outline of the resource somewhere online.  Yesterday I went looking for it.  I did find it. On TES resources. With a cost of £2. Being sold by the person who tweeted about it. 

Last year, I found someone selling my own resources on TES for £1-£3 per item.  Thankfully, after a quick email, those resources were removed (or reverted to have no cost).  I remembered this, so yesterday searched "Read with RIC" on TES Resources. 

There were RIC activities being sold at £2+ per item when there are over 50 free examples here (£100+ worth) and many more are freely shared by other teacher-bloggers.  As well as the RIC activities on TES, there are also two versions of Book Bingo sold at £2 each here and here.  My version is available for free, including editable downloads, on this blog post

This whole idea of teachers making a resource for their classroom and then selling it online makes me feel really uncomfortable.  The main reason for this is that so many teachers are sharing the resources they use in their classroom, for free.  James Theo outlines the other reasons in his very succinct blog post

So why do so many people share things for free? 
Firstly, I think it should be in a teacher's nature to help people.  Every teacher has used so many resources (ideas/activities/displays etc) that they were able to access for free, either online or through colleagues.  Quite simply, we're all in this together.  So we may as well help those who have helped us.  These resources, already created for a teacher's own classroom, have caused no extra work, over and above what they would normally do.  Therefore, the work requires no extra payment, over and above what they normally earn as their teacher salary.  Saying that, there are many teachers who have create resources over and above what they use in their own classroom and have provided them without cost to other teachers.

Secondly, many resources are created as an amalgamation of many people's ideas.  For example, the idea for RIC activities came about in a team meeting with 3 teachers, the logos are Screen Beans which were originally part of the Microsoft package and they are based on media (images, characters, sounds etc) which I did not create.  I would much rather share something for free which is so far from being entirely "mine".

Many teachers are very unaware of copyright terms so it's easier to share something for free than ask for money and be breaking copyright law.  (Please note: you can also be breaking copyright law when sharing something for free with copyrighted material).  When I started collating resources on this site, I looked up the copyright terms for the Microsoft images I use and it was clear that you could use them on items which had no cost.  It was unclear how to go about getting permission to use them on paid items.  In the same way, it is easier to share something for free than be earning an income through sites like TES and having to complete a tax return to declare it and pay tax on it.

There are so many teachers sharing amazing resources for free out there.  Click here to view a list of just a few that people on Twitter recommend.

Needless to say, I didn't purchase the original resource I was after.  

Further reading about teachers selling resources:
Schools Week
BBC

Monday, 14 August 2017

Books I Recommend (for Adults)

I always end up recommending the same books over and over again on Twitter, Facebook and in real life to adults with similar reading habits to me! This will be a working post where I'll collect the absolute best of the best of them.  Each image will take you to the Amazon page for that book which has a synopsis - generally I read them on Kindle when they reach a reasonable price.  All of these books are in the psychological thriller/crime genre and are generally quite fast-paced and gripping. Most were recommended to me by friends and others were recommended by Amazon (which seems to know my preferred genre pretty well by now!).