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 guided reading lessons so there's something for everyone to take away and try. 

You can view the video on YouTube below. 

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.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Read Theory Ranks Poster

Like many others, our school is using the free website Read Theory to enhance pupils' reading comprehension.  For more information about the website, see this blog from Ben King.  Read Theory uses Knowledge Points to motivate children; they move through ranks the more KPs they earn.  My pupils were asking about the orders of the ranks and how many points they need for each one.  I got in touch with Read Theory and they kindly sent me the list of ranks, how many points are required and the images for each one for me to make into a poster.  Feel free to download as an image or PDF below.
Click to download from the Google Drive folder.

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!).

Sunday, 9 July 2017

6 KS2 Free-Writing Sessions (The Literacy Shed)

"When is our next free-writing session?" 

This has been the most-asked question in my classroom over the last fortnight.  After Easter, we started weekly free-writing sessions to encourage a love of writing in our year four classes.  These have continued as and when possible.  Free-writing sessions have been so successful in help kids enjoy writing and become better writers, I thought it was worth sharing the slides and notes from these six sessions.  

Each lesson is based on a video which can be found on The Literacy Shed website.  Rob Smith has created an amazing resource for teachers to use to inspire pupils in their reading and writing.  Although called free-writing, we encourage the children to base their writing on the video stimulus for the week.

We used the videos in the session notes and slides (freely downloadable by clicking the image at the bottom of this post) in year four but they are equally transferable across KS2.  Please check the videos are appropriate for your cohort or class before using them - particularly Alma, which is a little creepy! 

Every lesson the following things happen which are not on the session notes as they are something we discussed as a team before starting these sessions: 
  • Pupils review their target from the previous week.
  • Teachers collect appropriate vocabulary from children on the main whiteboard.
  • Teachers model possible starters to different pieces of writing based on the stimulus.
  • Children are given talk time before they start writing to discuss their ideas.  
  • After talk time, pupils work silently.
  • Children write in a separate free-writing book.
  • Various word mats, sentence prompts and dictionaries/thesauruses are out at tables. 
  • Pupils edit their work throughout the writing time and afterwards. 
  • Children get the chance to read through someone else's writing and share their own. 
  • Teachers ask what theme or genre children would like a free writing lesson on for the following week. 
  • Teachers read and check children's work and simply mark with a target for the next week. 
We have found that by giving an incremental target for children to work on in the following session, weekly marginal gains have led to overall more effective pieces of writing.  It also doesn't take long to complete and it focuses the children on just one thing.  Before each session, we discuss any whole-class errors or areas for improvement.  Pupils are proud of the work they have done and we are happy with their progress since the first free-writing session.  

Here is an example of slides for one session (children requested one about sports) and below that is a clickable image for you to view and download all resources. 


From this, children wrote about clones in chess, gymnastics, skiing, netball, basketball and hockey as well as some great commentaries of the final game in the video. This really captured their imagination.

Click image to view and download all resources.