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!).

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.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Necessary, Kind and True (A Friendship Song for Kids)

A few years ago, we wrote this song at my school to remind children to be kind to each other in how they communicate; both face-to-face and through texting/emailing and other online forms of communication.  We have been singing it in assemblies ever since and it is a useful reminder when dealing with behaviours which go against the message of the song.  You can listen to the song, see the lyrics and download all the related files for free in this post. 



Necessary, Kind and True
Music: Martin Garratt
Lyrics: Jo Payne
There’s a well known lie that’s told,
To children who are small,
That sticks and stones can break your bones,
But words don’t hurt at all.

The truth is: bruises fade,
But words stick with us longer.
By considering the words we say,
We make our friendship stronger.

So I’m trying to improve,
The words I say to you.
Before I say them out loud,
I try to think them through.

We talk when we’re at school,
But when we’re not together,
We send our words in messages,
Our texts; they live forever.

I don’t want to make you blue,
Or see you feeling down.
I hope my words encourage you,
And sad times turn around.

So I’m trying to improve,
The words I say to you.
Before I say them out loud,
I try to think them through.

Each one must be necessary,
I know they should be true.
I check that they are kind as well,
To make sure I don’t hurt you.

So I’m trying to improve,
The words I say to you.
Necessary, kind and true,
Necessary, kind and true,
Necessary, kind and true.



I've put the lyrics, piano score, audio track and sing-along video in this Google Drive folder for you to download for free and use as you wish. 


Monday, 12 June 2017

Making Every Primary Lesson Count

After reading Making Every Lesson Count, written by secondary teachers, Andy Tharby and Shaun Allison, I was delighted to be asked to co-write a primary version of the book with my colleague, Mel Scott.  We took the six principles discussed in the original book and put a primary spin on them, including examples from across the primary age range and curriculum.  We discuss challenge, questioning, feedback, modelling, explanation and practice in detail, referring to relevant research throughout and giving strategies embedded in classroom examples.  The book features ideas and comments from Michael Tidd, Adam Nicholls (@TeachMrN), Jim Smith (@TheLazyTeacher), Doug Lemov, Pie Corbett, Rob Smith (creator of the Literacy Shed) and many of our wonderful colleagues, as well as illustrations from Jason Ramasami which complement our points. 

If you want to find out more, there is a sneak peek of a few pages and the introduction if you click 'Look Inside' on Amazon.

The book will be available towards the end of June 2017 (next week)!  You can pre-order from Amazon by clicking this link or, to receive the book a few days earlier than Amazon customers, pre-order through Crown House on this link.  Scroll down to see some reviews from those who have already read it:

Click image to pre-order on Amazon.
"Making Every Primary Lesson Count is a boon for all those interested in honing their classroom skills through finding out more about the science of pedagogy. It uses key research to produce a range of practical tips and ideas which have clearly been used effectively in school settings. This book is both engaging and highly readable."
Will Ryan
Primary Education Consultant, Trainer and Author.
-------------------------------------
"This is a highly accessible, practical book for primary teachers with constant reference to relevant, current, powerful research evidence. Its  framework , as chapter headings, provides an essential underpinning of what matters most: challenge, explanation, modelling, deliberate practice, questioning and feedback.  The authors have taken all that we currently know about children’s learning and woven it into highly practical writing.  Each chapter begins with two real life scenarios which are then fully analysed and developed.  We are shown not only how key research tells us how we need to teach, but are also given a range of well sourced practical strategies and ideas. The book has several threads which run through the writing: the ethos of a growth mindset and the importance of struggle, the framework of formative assessment, high expectations for all with no false ceilings and the necessity of clarity, practice and modelling.  This book, if followed, will go a long way to helping teachers, as the authors say, ‘Guide children towards independence’."
Shirley Clarke
Formative Assessment Expert, Associate UCL Institute of Education
-------------------------------------
"In Making Every Primary Lesson Count Jo and Mel have done a great job of bringing together research and practice for primary teachers. Every chapter contains useful strategies for creating a more effective primary classroom, making good use of the best theory and research without ever forgetting that primary teaching is essentially about the relationships between teachers and their students in the classroom. New teachers will find it a great source of ideas for tackling the key aspects of great teaching, and more experienced teachers will recognise much and pick up a few new ideas along the way."
Michael Tidd
Deputy headteacher, Edgewood Primary School, Nottinghamshire
-------------------------------------
“What makes this book special is the way it is rooted in theory, yet at the same time packed full of practical examples. Jo and Mel draw on their extensive first-hand experience to show how teachers can turn evidenced-based principles into everyday classroom practice. As the authors demonstrate, great teaching isn’t about tricks or gimmicks, it’s about applying a set of core principles consistently well.  Regardless of whether they are NQTs taking their first steps into the classroom or experienced professionals refining their skills, this book will help all teachers take their practice to the next level.”

James Bowen
Director, NAHT Edge
-------------------------------------
"I really like two specific things about this book. The first thing I really like is that at the book’s heart is a list of six important considerations. The discussions around these educational touchstones create a very useful guide for any teacher which transcend top tips and quick fixes – the reader is invited to think. The second thing I really like about this book is that it is written by two teachers at the top of their game. Mel and Jo have produced a book that avoids empty preaching and instead offers relevant signposting for the hardworking teacher of today. An important addition to the Primary teacher’s bookshelf."

Hywel Roberts
Travelling Teach, Curriculum Imagineer and author of ‘Oops! Helping Children Learn Accidentally’
-------------------------------------
"Filled with relevant anecdotes and practical examples, Making Every Primary Lesson Count explains in detail how to get the very best from every pupil in your care. More than that, it will make you reflect on the visible difference you can make as a teacher. Now more than ever, this important book will help shape lessons from being dry and functional to serving an actual purpose."

Stephen Lockyer
Enrichment Leader, Lumen Learning Trust
-------------------------------------
"Using the familiar format of Making Every Lesson Count, Mel and Jo have brought a practical wisdom, rooted in primary classroom practice and experience, to this excellent book.  A manual and guide for primary practitioners, the values of excellence and growth have been exemplified in each chapter and invaluable guidance given.  Whether you are beginning your teaching career or looking to review and renew your practice this book will help, support and challenge you in equal measure ... keep it to hand rather than at the back of your teacher's cupboard."

Stephen Tierney (@LeadingLearner)
Author of Liminal Leadership

To order Making Every Primary Lesson Count, click here.
To order Making Every Lesson Count, click here.
To order Making Every English Lesson Count, click here.
To order Making Every Science Lesson Count, click here

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Whole-Class Reading - A New Method

Why a new method? 
After three years of teaching reading without using the guided reading carousel, we decided we needed to change the structure of whole-class reading lessons to get more out of the class texts.  This change was inspired by three things: the rigour of the 2016 reading KS2 test and the heavy focus on vocabulary for understanding, Reading Reconsidered by Doug Lemov, Colleen Driggs and Erica Woolway, and this blog post by Nick Hart.  

I met with Jess, our Y5 leader who is in charge of reading, to discuss how to move forward with whole-class reading in our school.  Jess had completed some observations across the school so had an idea what was happening in different year groups. I had recently read Nick Hart's blog post and Reading Reconsidered so these drove our discussion.  We talked through some options and put our plan into action.  We've been teaching using this new method since January in Y4 and Y5.  The other KS2 classes took it on after Easter.  

How does the new method work?
The aim of this new method is to expand pupils' vocabulary and deepen their understanding of the texts they are reading.  We do this through explicit teaching of vocabulary before reading the text and re-reading sections looking closely at the elements which require further understanding, keeping in mind that children must learn to retrieve information (R), interpret meaning (I) and comment on the author's choice of vocabulary or style (C).  Questions check pupils' understanding of previous extracts as well as the current text in order to enhance their memory. 

Vocabulary
There are three main elements to this. 
Explore - pupils spend time decoding the words, finding definitions in dictionaries, writing sentences using the new words. 
Teach - teachers clarify the meaning of words which will be encountered in the text using images, drama, actions and sentences of varying contexts. We explore links between words children already know and try to include the new vocabulary with prefixes, suffixes, synonyms and antonyms.
Vocabulary Teach Slide
Practice - teachers use various methods to revise the words previously learned: matching words definitions, providing definitions, images, missing letters, sentences from books with the word missing.
Vocabulary Practice Slide

Often, different words are used for explore and teach.  Some words are displayed in class to be referred to across the curriculum.  A huge array of activities are used to teach, explore and practise vocabulary; it really is so important to pupils' understanding of the texts they encounter in their own reading.  

Text Selection
The choice of texts is absolutely key in this.  Previously, we had chosen some texts because they linked perfectly with our themes and topics.  We had to be really honest with ourselves about some of the texts we use and we decided some simply weren't challenging enough and others were easily understood.  For these texts, the lessons we were teaching were superficial and not really teaching the pupils much.  

The Y3/4 and Y5/6 word lists form the basis of how we choose texts and the Amazon "Look Inside" feature is really useful for checking multiple texts quickly.  We aim for a text to be challenging and accessible for all so we are not looking for something pupils can easily read and understand already.  This is something we will continue to improve and check as we consider the books used throughout the year in each year group.  We may have to replace and rethink further text and topics.  

Lesson structures
Similar to our old method, this is based around 2 one-hour-long lessons each week.  These are structured as follows:
Lesson 1
Vocabulary - Teachers explicitly teach the vocabulary which pupils will encounter in this week's text. 
Reading - Teachers read aloud the text with pupils following along in their copy.  The text is often a whole chapter (or two) of the chosen book. Mostly, this is done without stopping so children experience the text as a whole.  Often, they spot the words mentioned in the vocabulary teaching earlier in the lesson. 
Summarising - Pupils write a summary of what they have heard.  This will be a personalised task.  Some children have prompts to help, some summarise orally or reread the text with the teacher, some use bullet points, some use full sentences, some include quotations, some challenge themselves to summarise without looking in the book, some are given summary sentences and they must fill in the gaps.

Lesson 2
Close Reading and Discussion (Notes) - The pupils take turns reading aloud and the teacher enables analysis to take place through questioning.  For this part, the section to be read aloud is an extract from the chapter(s) read in lesson one; generally, the extract which is most difficult to understand or has the most to be gained from discussion.  Pupils make notes on the text to help them understand further and answer questions later.  At first, teachers must model note-taking slowly and carefully, explaining how and why we take notes.  
Reading Aloud - Pupils read the extract aloud independently or in pairs.  Some children can read with the teacher or, if you have one, a TA.  This is where we encourage children to use expression and perform the extract, especially if it is a poem.  They really enjoy this part and the room is buzzing with excited voices as they read to their partner or group. 
Questions - Children use the notes they've taken on the extract to answer questions about the text.  These questions tackle all of the written curriculum objectives across a text but may focus on one objective for an extract.  Again, some children can start working on this with the teacher to support their understanding before working independently.  

Bolt-ons
Occasionally, we still use RIC activities when they are appropriate; for example, to explore a front cover of a new text or to gain some knowledge which will help with understanding the text.  Quizzes are used regularly for retrieval practice, to remind children of what they have previously learned about words and the text.  Also, we have sessions which are based on non-fiction texts and poems which complement pupils' understanding of the text; these are mostly structured like our old whole-class reading lessons.   We are continuing to have 30 minutes of quiet reading twice a week and are monitoring the books that pupils read.  In order to finish a book in 6-8 weeks, we read alternating chapters for pleasure between these lessons.  

Examples
You can view a sample plan for Y4, based on the book Romans on the Rampage by Jeremy Strong, by clicking here.  The slideshow below goes through one week's worth of lessons based on Chapter 6 of the book.  It has some practice, vocabulary and question slides. 

What has been the impact so far? 
The biggest impact has been on children's vocabulary.  Pupils have remember a vast majority of words taught, are quick to recognise them in other contexts and use them orally and in their writing.  This was one of the main reasons for changing methods so we are really pleased with this.  We were worried about how children would respond to the close reading part of this method and writing notes on an extract.  This was something we didn't experience until we were at secondary schools.  However, after some slow modelling of this over the first few weeks, children are now confident in making notes to enhance their understanding.  Our next step is to look further at the structure of the second lesson and see if there are some changes to be made to further improve our teaching of reading.

If you are interested in tweaking your teaching of reading to include any of these strategies, I'd highly recommend you start with Nick Hart's blog post and Reading Reconsidered.  They are must-reads for anyone interested in the teaching of reading. 

Monday, 1 May 2017

There Is Hope... #NAHTConf 2017

Last year, I joined a new union for teachers with leadership responsibilities, NAHT Edge.  I quickly applied to be on their Advisory Council: a group of members who meet regularly to discuss the direction the union should be taking.  Unbeknown to those of us who joined the council, such a position would earn us an invite to represent middle leaders among the head teachers at the annual NAHT Conference.  This year's conference was in Telford on the early May bank holiday weekend and I've very recently returned full of positivity for the future of our profession.  

What has caused such a surge in positive thinking at such a difficult time in education?  
During the weekend, there were various different events and opportunities for head teachers and us as the Edge advisory council.  I will outline these below with the thoughts I took away from each one.  The whole weekend had an aura of solution-driven thinking.  There has been so much moaning and whining in education recently that it's a surprise anyone is feeling positive.  Rather than complaining about what is wrong, these 400+ head teachers and the NAHT staff debated, recommended and discussed some clear solutions to the current biggest issues.  NAHT have set out their 5 priorities for the coming General Election which you can see in the image (click to enlarge). Personally, I feel they are spot on and cover exactly what politicians and educators should be discussing. 

Primary Assessment Workshop
It is clear that head teachers care about children and head teachers care about teachers.  It is also clear that head teachers are potentially more angry than teachers about the state of assessment and accountability in primary schools.  The NAHT policy team were keen to get the views of head teachers to inform their next steps in the fight to improve accountability in schools.  When asked to vote on whether best fit judgement should be used for the year 2017-18 for writing even though it is late notice, every hand went up together in agreement that it should. Each point of the assessment consultation was reviewed and discussed in detail.  The union has already seen victories in the area of primary assessment and this meeting will have solidified their next agenda. 

The government need to move on from their obsession with data...until they refuse to take data as absolute proof of achievement in schools, assessment for accountability doesn't work - Nick Brook

Speech by Dame Alison Peacock
One head teacher commented after Alison's speech that it was far more inspiring than Justine Greening's would have been, had she honoured her commitment to turn up.  Alison spoke with passion and determination about the Chartered College of Teaching, of which she is CEO.  Her vision is ambitious to say the least but if it works, as she suggested, the countries of the world will look to us for best practice in education rather than the UK looking elsewhere.  She made us laugh and cry, and she left me with no doubt of her passion to making the CCT work.  It was also a pleasure to meet her before her speech, having followed her on Twitter for ages.

NAHT Edge Advisory Council Meeting
During our first face-to-face meeting (normally we use the power of technology!), we discussed many of the issues which had been mentioned during the conference.  One issue we spent a lot of time discussing was the proposal of a four and a half day week.  I arrived at the meeting thinking it was a possibility but by the time we'd finished, it was clear that it would be no more than making a point and inconveniencing parents - much like a strike day.  It wouldn't actually save money in the long run and could endanger the lives of children.  We knew ahead of this meeting that we would be part of a select group who would be allowed to discuss current issues with Amanda Spielman, HMCI at OfSTED.  We discussed the questions we would like to ask and what we were hoping from that meeting.  

Private Q&A with Amanda Spielman
Amanda Spielman was supposed to be presenting to all the delegates at the conference but, due to the purdah rules in the lead up to the election, she was unable to.  The same rules prevent me from sharing what was discussed but there are two things you should know.  Firstly, all of our questions were answered in a short speech Amanda gave before the Q&A time.  She is well aware of what is important to teachers and head teachers.  Secondly, OfSTED is in very safe hands. I'm looking forward to seeing Amanda's vision play out in the coming years and I am hopeful that it will make a positive difference to those who work in education.  She stayed for the gala dinner (which was great fun and raised a huge amount of money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association) and we got to chat further and take an opportunity for a photo,

Speech by Jeremy Corbyn
I am sure you've seen the news coverage of Jeremy Corbyn's speech at the conference.  If not, you can watch some of it here.  There are simply two comments I'd like to make about this. Firstly, if he can get the opportunity to do what he plans to do, our education system will improve for pupils and for teachers.  Secondly, I believe him. 

Closing speech by Russell Hobby
Russell has worked tirelessly for the NAHT over 7 years and this was his final conference as he steps down from his role at the end of the school year.  Russell recapped, with humour and warmth, the many victories in education during his time as General Secretary.  He promised to hide away in a cave planning the demise of the fronted adverbial after he leaves NAHT.  Like Jeremy Corbyn - his support act, he joked! - he got a well-deserved standing ovation. 

So, after an amazing weekend, I am inspired for the next term and beyond to ensure that we continue to do the best for our children while reading, responding to and fighting for educational policies.  The team at NAHT were so welcoming to the Edge Advisory Council and it was a pleasure to spend the weekend together mixing among school leaders who are all passionate to make lasting changes which will improve the life chances of the children in our country.  

For the first time in a long time, I have hope for our profession.  And, as Barack Obama says about hope, we must "keep reaching, keep working and keep fighting."

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Recommend A Series (KS2)

Recently, my student teacher asked me to send her some of the series I recommend to children when they ask what they should try for their next independent book.  A series of books is powerful because it can hook a child in and encourage them to get lost in a group of characters or a particular setting.  These are the ones I recommend to children in my class, organised by estimated reading age - it's all guess work and very 'ish' so please don't get hung up on the year groups.  All these series have proved popular with different readers in my Y4 classes in the last few years and the school has often had to buy the rest of the books in the series when we've previously only had one or two random ones.   I accept, not all of them are the highest of quality writing and there are plenty missing (leave a comment to say which ones) and obviously lots of fantastic stand-alone books which don't get a mention here.  These are just the series I recommend to Y4 kids and which they recommend to each other!  I love hearing them say, "You can read the next one after me," and knowing that they are enjoying reading. 

Approx Y3 reading age:
Daisy series by Kes Gray
Harry Hammer series by Davy Ocean and Aaron Blecha
Jack Stalwart series by Elizabeth Singer Hunt
Sophie series by Dick King Smith

Approx Y4 reading age:
Ottoline series by Chris Riddell
Sniff series by Ian Whybrow
Hank Zipzer series by Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler (YES! Happy Days!)
Warrior Heroes series by Benjamin Hulme-Cross
Time Hunters series by Chris Blake
Football Academy series by Tom Palmer
I Was There series by various authors

Approx Y5 reading age:
The Roman Mysteries series (Books 1-10) by Caroline Lawrence
The My Story series by various authors. 
Muddle Earth series by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
Barnaby Grimes series by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
Harry Potter series by J.K.Rowling

Approx Y6 reading age:
The Edge Chronicles by (yes, it's them again!) Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
P.K.Pinkerton series by Caroline Lawrence
The 39 Clues series by various authors (including Rick Riordan and David Baldacci)
Percy Jackson series (and other books) by Rick Riordan