Sunday 17 August 2014

Download All Reading Resources for FREE

To view and download all resources including plans, logos, display materials, assessment sheets, book lists etc, please CLICK HERE, the image above or scroll to the end of the post where you can find a Google Drive public folder which will open in a new tab. Click on an item to preview it and then click the down arrow to download it.  All resources are completely free and available to download. However, some school servers and/or email accounts restrict access to Google Drive. If you are having trouble downloading anything, please log out of your school emails, try at home or try a different browser.  If that doesn't work, please do contact me and I'll ensure you gain access. 

Resources in the folder:
To find out more about our journey from carousel guided reading to whole-class lessons, click here (will open in a new tab). 

I appreciate any comments on the resources (including any errors or typos), links to other posts about Guided Reading or requests for more information - just leave them in the comments below or via Twitter. Also, if you use anything here to create other resources which you are happy to share, please get in touch via email so they can be added to the folder. 

To see all other blog posts about whole-class reading lessons, click here.

Friday 8 August 2014

Making Marking Meaningful

Ask any (KS2) teacher to name the task which takes them the most time and you are pretty much guaranteed to get the response, "marking".  At the beginning of your teaching career, it feels like an endless slog with no light at the end of a very long tunnel.  Along the way, you borrow or create certain strategies to reduce the amount of time you spend on it; providing answer sheets, peer marking and, a favourite of mine, using assessment stampers. But still, it is the task which takes the biggest proportion of your time.   

In my opinion, there are two main purposes for marking books:
Firstly, it tells me what I need to know in order to personalise the learning in the next lesson.  This may require me to change the learning objective, make activities easier or harder, move groups around or go back over something which has not been achieved.  It tells me who got it and is ready to move on, who struggled through and who doesn't have a clue.  Also, I gain an insight into the volume of work produced in the lesson; with 30+ children in a class, laziness can sometimes go under the radar if books are not checked regularly.  
Secondly, it gives me the perfect opportunity to truly personalise the learning for each individual child, through comments, questions, suggestions, instructions, quick revisions to support them in their learning, whatever point they're at. 

Marking will achieve the first purpose if children's learning is assessed every lesson.  This doesn't require any written comments or response but could be accompanied by a stamper for the sake of SLT/OfSTEd or anyone else you answer to! I usually like to use a piece of scrap paper, post it note or the back of the lesson plan to keep notes, write groups or reorganise the next plan.  However, it is the second purpose, which only becomes meaningful if acted on by the pupils, that I would like to focus on.

The Problem
Since working with @HTBruce, I have been a big believer in ensuring the time taken on a task results in an equal or better impact on the children's learning. Therefore it hit me hard in my NQT year when, despite my hours of effort marking their books, my class were not reading, let alone responding to, the personalised comments I had lovingly written or prepared for them.  I had learned at University the importance of feedback and my comments were appropriate and formative.  I was also aware of my school's assessment policy and was only marking in depth as often as was required of me.  However I hadn't learned the importance of routine and so the comments were making zero impact on the learning while making a big impact on my time - Definitely not the right way round.  

Early on, I discovered stampers and they helped me cut my marking time (read how and why here) but they still didn't solve my problem. How could I get the children to read and respond to every comment I made? After all, if I was going to spend even the smallest amount of time writing a comment, I needed to ensure it would be seen.  I started off giving time in the school day, here and there, to respond to comments. This solved a bit of the problem but there was still about a third of my class who just weren't reading them.  It wasn't until this last year, my third in teaching, that I created a routine that meant no comment was left unread or un-responded-to. Simultaneously it improved the quality of my feedback as I was seeing the impact it was having and could adjust it accordingly.  

My Solution - Gel Pens!
Having dabbled around in different routines and strategies, I started the new year armed with a class set of gel pens.  Basically the rule was this: no one was to write the title and date (as required by the school every lesson) without having initialed or responded to any previous comments in gel pen.  Why gel pen? I hear you cry! Simply because it creates a physical movement before and after responding to comments and the children LOVE using them! 

At the beginning of lessons, every child starts with a gel pen.  They initial all comments, including stampers, and then they respond appropriately.  This gives the added bonus of their corrections or new work being in a different colour so when I/SLT/OFSTEd/whoever looks through their books, the corrections are easy to distinguish from their original lesson work.  Once they have read, initialed and responded, they switch to their normal writing implement for the start of the lesson.  

Once it was clear the gel pens were working for my marking, I added to their use; they became our assessment tool.  As a class we discussed assessment and feedback and what it meant.  Then we came up with a list of what we would use gel pens for, as well as reading, initialling and responding to marking comments:
- doing corrections (at the end of a lesson or after I'd marked it)
- underlining the words which linked to the learning so they were obvious
- putting stars next to their favourite sentence/calculation/piece
- leaving questions for me at the end of a lesson
- leaving comments for me about how they found the lesson
- marking own or other people's work
- leaving comments on other people's work
- when they helped someone else in a lesson they used gel pen for their notes and initialed it so I knew
- circling where mistakes are in own/peer's book.

Using the gel pens has made my marking more meaningful.  The reading/responding of comments has increased to 100% and it has created learning conversations in books when there is no time in class.  Children have become much more willing to make mistakes and they enjoy hunting for corrections.  At the end of each lesson, they now reflect on their learning (in gel pen) and write any questions/comments about the lesson in their book.  They are expectant of comments or activities which will move them forward when they read my marking; that in turn makes me more willing to write them. Also, they make my marking more regular and focused on the children's learning, particularly because they call me up on it if I forget! Overall, I enjoy marking more (shock horror!) because of the anticipation of children's responses and the knowledge of the impact it will have; now the time I'm putting into marking is finally making a difference.

Gel pens in action:

Friday 1 August 2014

Classroom Management - My tips for NQTs

Starting out as a NQT: you've done the training and gained QTS.  You've jumped through the hoops on placements, in QTS tests and through assignments and, in a month, you will have your own class. Crazy! Scary!

I got SO much wrong in my NQT year...everybody does.  But I also learned SO much in that year and in the 2 years since completing it.  I remember being happy with the planning and curriculum side of things; I felt I did quite well with that. However it was all the other bits, the things you're not really prepared for on placement and that come with having your own class. So below are some things I've learned since qualifying which have made classroom management easier for me.

Routines - For certain parts of the day, having routines mean you don't have to spend a lot of time dishing out instructions.  It takes a bit of time at the start of the year but it is worth it.  End every lesson the same - I choose for them to tidy, put books away and stand behind their chairs. This gives me an opportunity to extend any plenary activities and continue questioning those who are ready to go.  It makes it easy for children to leave as chairs are already tucked in.  It's a small thing which makes life easier for me.  In the same way, they know what to do when they walk in the door in the morning.  Recently I've learned how a routine for them responding to feedback ensures they do this and helps them to get better at it (using gel pens). We have routines for lining up, collecting and handing in homework, using the laptops and handing out books and work, 

Marking - decide how and when you will mark their books so that you make sure it gets done.  This is something I wasn't too good at in my NQT year - I didn't plan the time to mark.  If you know you have a staff meeting or club, plan an "easy-to-mark" lesson - one where children mark their own or each other's or something which you can whizz through and stamp to get an idea of where they're at.  Plan your long marking sessions for the evenings when you can sit down as soon as they're gone and work through.  A colleague and I have marking parties, where we throw on some classic music and sit and mark together.  Getting some stampers makes this really easy and fast, while making your marking impact the next lesson. Never take more than one set of books home at night (chances are the second and third set will get left).  If you fall behind, you will end up marking work a week or two old so that marking has zero impact - you will be only doing that for the SLT and that is pointless! 

Behaviour - if at first they don't do it right, make them do it again...and again...and again until they get it perfect.  Repeat for as long as you need.  Time spent improving or perfecting behaviour is NOT time wasted.  I cannot stress the importance of this.  Start this on the first day so they know that you're serious and that you expect excellent behaviour and do it everyday if you need to. I learned a lot of how I manage behaviour for 'Getting the Buggers to Behave' by Sue Cowley. If you're going to read one book about behaviour management, let that be it - it's worth it.

Parents - a friend who is a parent of children in another school said to me when I started teaching that the best thing a teacher can do, in her eyes, is keep her well-informed. Parents want to know with good time when they need to do things, whether dress up, trips, special days or invites into school.  They also want to know how their child is tell them. Get a pack of 'note home' cards (I had some made on Vistaprint but PTS also sell them) and use them. Write in homework diaries and call parents with positive news.  They appreciate that more than you will ever know and it means, if you have to call with some bad news, they are more likely to support you.

Jobs - make them work harder than you. Give over time (5 minutes a day) for children to do jobs. Handing out letters, jumpers, writing tomorrow's date on the board, sorting the timetable, tidying and locking the laptops, stacking chairs, tidying tables and picking things off the floor. That 5 minutes will save you 50+ minutes at the end of the day tidying, sorting and organising and will mean you can put your time into assessing and re-planning. If, throughout the year, you find yourself doing the same meaningless thing over and over, simply add it to the jobs list.

Colleagues - the most important thing you must know in your NQT year is that nobody is perfect.  Not that teacher who all the parents love nor the one with beautiful, Pinterest-worthy display boards. Everyone will be behind in something and that's OK. Teaching is the job of the never-ending to-do lists.  Never will everything be done and so there's no point chasing perfection as a teacher. All you can do is aim to get better and you can do this by listening to, observing and asking others.  I learned so much through the other members of staff in my NQT year. My catchphrase became "I've just got a quick question..." and I'd delve into their expertise to try to enhance mine.  Also, the Twitter staffroom has helped me improve my practice and opened my eyes to how teachers do things in other schools, areas and countries.  So in short...ask! Ask your colleagues, ask your NQT friends, ask other teachers and ask on Twitter.

Everyone learns loads in their NQT year and it is a baptism of fire. These are things, aside from the day-to-day teaching which I've found to help me. If you have other tips, just leave them in the comments below - you never know who'll you'll help out.