Wednesday 31 December 2014

Fall Back to Spring Forward #Nurture1415

Last year, I got so much out of writing my #Nurture1314 blog post so I am here once again to reflect on the year that has passed and look forward to what may come! 

Falling Back - 2014 in review

  1. New York City - Without a doubt, this was the highlight of my year.  My husband and I talk about it every day without fail and are planning to return as soon as we can afford it.  I wrote a quick top 10 list about what we did (including photos) here
  2. Year Leader - When I wrote this on my 13/14 list last year I had no idea that the opportunity would arise so quickly.  With the incredibly sad departure of two superb year leaders to "up north", I was very grateful to be given the opportunity to take one of the roles.  It's felt like a baptism by fire but it was exactly the challenge I was after for my 4th year in teaching.  
  3. NQT - Last year, I was in the middle of supporting my husband through one of the hardest NQT years I've heard of.  Sadly, it just got harder for him but eventually he passed and is now a fully fledged, fully-qualified member of the profession! I'm so proud of him and am amazed at how he's pulled through.  He's survived 2 OfSTED inspections in his NQT year - not many people can say that!
  4. Blogging (School) - I have almost got my school onto the blogging wagon, with them now using a Writers Blog which I set up.
  5. Blogging (This one!) - Having stuck to the only-post-when-there-is-something-worth-saying mantra here, my posts are few and far between but I've enjoyed writing them and the feedback from people who use some of the ideas makes it worth it.  This year people have been interested in improving their marking and feedback and have had lots of questions about whole-class reading lessons.
  6. The Hardest Term - For many reasons, this last Autumn term has been the hardest of my teaching career so far.  I feel like surviving it with a smile has been a real achievement.  Hopefully the worst is over and I can enjoy the rest of the school year. 
  7. Writing - Through Twitter and this blog, many exciting opportunities to write for other organisations has arisen.  I've most enjoyed writing a couple of articles for Teach Primary magazine and reading fellow teachers' ideas in it.
  8. Reading - As always, I haven't read as much as I would have liked but I've still managed to read some crackers.  My three best author discoveries this year were M.J. Arlidge, Peter James and Harlen Coben, all of whom write in the crime/thriller genre.
  9. Theatre - I've seen a good bunch of shows this year including Jersey Boys, Billy Elliot and taking 17 people to see Wicked.  My theatre highlights of the year were seeing Kerry Ellis live in Horsham and the Pheasantry (London).  
  10. Reviewing - This year, I've re-started reviewing theatre for The Public Reviews.  As part of that, I've had the chance to see The Mousetrap, the Illegal Eagles and the Wicked UK tour for free (click the titles to read my reviews).
  11. Friends and Family - We've had the chance to head around the country this year to see various family members and friends.
  12. Having Students - I feel like mentoring is a rite of passage into leadership in schools.  It gave me a lot of skills and understanding ready for my year leader position and I hope to continue supporting students each year.
  13. Netball - This year, I've joined a team and absolutely loved playing every week.  Having never really been sporty before, I'm not competitive at all but completely enjoy the team spirit and exercise.  
  14. Trips and Gigs - Harry Potter Studios, McBusted and Taylor Swift have provided memorable trips out with treasured friends throughout the year! 
Springing Forward - Hopes for 2015
  1. Job Adventure - This year will start with my husband doing supply to find a settled role.  
  2. Moving House - Maybe this year....maybe not! 
  3. Blogging (at school) - I hope that the school will continue to enjoy blogging and that parents will see the benefit of commenting and interacting.  Our purpose is to enhance the place of writing so I hope that will be a side effect once blogging takes off. 
  4. Blogging (this one) - If I've got something to say, I'll continue to say it and maybe people will keep reading.
  5. Reading - I'm going to try to get through the Peter James series this year and maybe see one of his books as a play.
  6. Writing - If the opportunity arises this year to write articles or posts for publications or websites, I hope to be in a position to say "yes".  
  7. Theatre Reviewing - I'm hoping to do lots more of this in 2015, workload dependent of course.
  8. Double Family Holiday - this year we're going abroad with the in laws and the parents! We'll see how that goes but I'm looking forward to both.
  9. Wedding - not mine but my sisters! 
  10. Wycombe Wanderers - We scraped through to stay in league 2 last year...perhaps we could be promoted this year! I hope to see them play more in 2015 - maybe that will help!
  11. TeachMeet Sussex - Over 150 people have come to this event in 2014 - perhaps 2015 will be a bigger year.
  12. Saving Money - we're not very good at putting money aside each month so maybe this will be the year we crack this.
  13. Friends and Family - I hope this year will be full of more exciting trips around the country.
  14. General Election - Despite always voting, I've never really been interested in politics but this year I'll be keeping a close eye on what happens.
  15. Work/Life Balance - I said it would be here every year until retirement it is. I may be proved wrong, of course, if Nicky Morgan can sort it out!

Sunday 14 December 2014

Making Marking Speedy

I've previously written about how I use gel pens to Make Marking Meaningful, however I've tried a lot of strategies since my NQT year to enhance the speed of my marking.  Here are some of the ideas I've tried which work.  As with everything else in teaching, these are used when appropriate in a range of subjects! 

Note: particularly useful in maths or SPAG activities.
On the outside, this is very simple: have some form of answers available so the children can mark the work.  However, how the answers are used can affect the degree of learning taking place.  For example, sometimes children mark their own work at the end of a lesson.  They have time to complete any corrections in gel pen (read why here) and comment on their progress.  Alternatively, they check their answers halfway through the lesson to assess whether they are on track.  They then choose to continue working to become confident, move onto something more challenging or get some help to address their errors.  This ensures that all children are challenged at their own level.  Of course, children can mark each other's work and find errors that someone else has made. Sometimes I make the answers available to children throughout the lessons so they can check any one answer and get immediate feedback.  They find this really useful because they can get help straight away if it is incorrect and an adult or child can talk through the process when it is fresh in their mind.  This means any post-lesson marking can be focused on misconceptions and next steps as all corrections will have been made in the lesson.  

Peer Editing
Note: great for long pieces of writing in any subject.
I discovered this after reading through 31 fairly poor pieces of writing and despairing at the length of time it would take me to mark them.  Having looked through but not marked the work, I went back to my class and explained to them that I had chosen not to mark it because there were so many mistakes.  I felt so harsh but by the end of the next hour I knew I'd done the right thing.  Knowing their two main mistakes - tense and viewpoint (first/third person) - I'd prepared a piece of writing filled with those two errors to be the input of my next lesson.  As a class we read it through, the children realised that it sounded wrong and they corrected the errors.  Then, in pairs, they completed two activities.  Firstly, with no pens in sight, they simply read their partners work aloud back to them, word-for-word.  Both children did this as it was important to hear and realise that their errors were fairly similar early on.  Next, they edited for the mistakes, corrected spellings and improved words and phrases if they had time.  The quality of work I had back in was substantially higher than it had been and it meant my marking time was cut by over 50%.  At the end of the editing process, I asked the children to comment on how they found it.  It was clear from what they wrote that they had got a lot out of it and wanted to do it more often.  Therefore I've added a similar lesson during most long pieces of writing.  

Hold A Pen
Note: Useful in any lesson! 
Make sure you, your TA and any other adults are armed with a pen during the lesson.  Give the instruction that if they work with a child, they should quickly mark their work to get an idea of how they can help.  As a teacher, this means as you verbally check work you can leave a mark to show this and any workings done with you stand out.  This makes tracking progress easier as independent or adult-assisted work is obvious.  I've found children like having their work marked during the lesson if there's time and it's a wonderful feeling to open the next book in the massive pile and find it already marked! 

Note: This costs a bit at first (£5-10 each) but saves so much time in the long run and they last ages!
I have written at length about why I use stampers and which ones are most effective.  Quite simply, they are the one strategy which has had the biggest impact on reducing the time I spend marking.  I cannot recommend them highly enough and I'd encourage anyone aiming to reclaim some of their work-life balance to invest in a few effective ones.  

Note: Particularly useful in grammar activities and English lessons.
As part of the plenary in certain lessons, I ask children to underline in gel pen the main elements of the learning.  For example, if they have be learning to use subordinating conjunctions, then I ask them to underline the ones they have used.  That way I can see if they have used the correct conjunctions with commas if necessary and check whether the words they have used make sense in their sentences.  This sometimes highlights to children they they haven't used any or many and gives them a chance to correct this before the work is marked.  When I come to mark the work, the coloured lines guide my eyes to where I need to look to assess the extent to which children have achieved the learning objective.

Similar to underlining, I sometimes ask children to put a *star* by their favourite sentence, fact, calculation, word problem etc as is appropriate to the lesson.  I explain that I will look at all their work but will mark their favourite in detail.  Likewise, I sometimes ask children to circle any which they have struggled with or which they think are incorrect so I can look closely to help them with those.  Again, my eyes are drawn to the symbols used so that my marking can be completed quicker. 

Note: Useful for presentation errors.
Thankfully we don't have a whole-school marking code which I have to stick to religiously.  I'm not a big fan of long marking codes as children can spend longer deciphering the marking than actually learning from it.  That being said, I do use codes to improve children's presentation; mainly 4 symbols.  T indicates they need to write the title (as required by the school - only 1 or 2 words).  D shows they should write the date. U implies they should underline the title or date and I draw a simple tree if they are wasting too much paper (save the trees!).  These 4 codes take hardly any time to draw, save me writing sentences and ensure the children can understand and respond quickly to presentation errors.  

Primary Roll Call - Classroom Ideas

As part of a joint venture with Michael Tidd, I am collating some of the primary tweeters, bloggers and pinners who share exceptional practical ideas for the classroom.  This collection of educators, through their tweets, blogs and Pinterest boards, have had a direct impact on my teaching; their ideas are sound and they are certainly worth a "follow".

So, here goes, as Dermot says, "in no particular order":

Claire (OhLottie)
As the inventor of Graffiti Maths and an all-round inspirational primary teacher, Claire's ideas are always tried and tested and come with her own evaluation on their use.
She tweets, blogs and pins.

Sam (SAiston)
Sam provides a no-nonsense commentary on Education with lesson ideas and common sense theories for the primary classroom.
He tweets.

Rob (RedgieRob)
Famous for being the creator of The Literacy Shed, Rob also (somehow) manages to simultaneously be a fantastic primary teacher.  His twitter feed is full of good practice and useful resources.
He tweets.

Alison (AliMattWells)
This lady is a fount of practical classroom ideas; whether displays, English, maths, topic - she's got it covered!
She tweets.

Michelle (FootieFanMiss)
With extensive Pinterest boards covering a range of education themes, Michelle is well-worth following.  She is an advocate of Working Walls and has some brilliant examples on her blog and Pinterest boards.
She tweets, blogs and pins.

Ian (IanAddison)
As a former ICT advisor for Hampshire, Ian's posts about technology are really useful.  However, since moving back to the classroom, he provides useful ideas and resources to be used throughout primary lessons.
He tweets, blogs and pins.

Rachel (rpd1972)
Rachel's blog posts, tweets and articles focus on simple ideas which have made a difference in her primary classes.
She tweets and blogs.

Sarah (Sarah__wright1)
In the important job of training primary teachers, Sarah shares brilliant ideas for KS1 and 2 classrooms along with inspirational books and quotes from the training programme at Edge Hill University.
She tweets and pins.

Sway (SwayGrantham)
Sway is an important UK educator to follow if you are interested in the changes being made to technology in learning.  She has some specific advice relevant to BYOD and Rasperry Pi in primary education.
She tweets and blogs.

Lisa (TishlyLishly)
As Early Years queen, Lisa regularly shares early reading and maths ideas, impressive display photos and ways to enhance themed areas.
She tweets and pins.

BONUS - There are a few secondary bloggers, tweeters and pinners who give superb ideas which are easily transferable to the primary classroom.  However, Rachel Jones' fount of inspirational blog posts, tweets and pins stands out from the rest so I feel she deserves to be an honourary primary teacher for the sake of this list!

Michael has published a similar list of Primary leaders and thinkers here.  You can follow him on Twitter or his blog.  I collect and share ideas on Twitter, Pinterest and this blog.