En francais s’il vous plait

I stunned my year 5 class yesterday afternoon by greeting them in french and telling them that we were going to be speaking french that afternoon. You could see the thoughts going through their heads: It’s Friday and the paint pots are out so why is she gibbering at us in french?

We are current looking at the art of Kandinsky who is one of my favourite artists but while I was looking for some other french resources, I stumbled across the CILT training videos. http://www.primarylanguages.org.uk/training_zone/media_library.aspx?criteria=19

They are brilliant resource showing teachers delivering french across the curriculum and there were two videos where the teacher was looking at Kandinsky. I watched the first one carefully and decided that it was within my limited french speaking capability  so I decided to give it a go.

It was a slower process than on the video, my children don’t have the french skills that those children did but they did eventually get the hang of it and felt proud of being able to translate ‘real’ french sentences.

French is one of the those subjects that is very easily squeezed out of the curriculum and I know that some schools who were teaching it, have now dropped it. We are still teaching it at the moment but it is hard to fit in. I have decided that I am going to try and deliver part of one lesson a week in french, even if only for 5 minutes or so. Hopefully this will provide a bit more exposure to the language for my pupils. I am lucky in that my husband is fairly fluent and so if the videos don’t fit then I can call on him for help.

The next lesson is going to be the water cycle!

Quadblogging

I heard a lot about this last term on Twitter and so this year I decided to be brave and sign my class up to be part of a quad. If you don’t know what on earth I’m talking about then have a look at this site http://quadblogging.net/

Quadblogging is the brainchild of David Mitchell and the aim is to get the children really involved in blogging and have a real audience for their work. The intention is that for one week, one blog is the focus for the other three schools. They will read and comment giving the children real feedback on what they have posted. I was really excited when I saw that we had been put in a quad with 3 other schools and couldn’t wait to tell the children.

I sent messages to the other schools but so far have only heard back from one. The school which is coordinating our blog is in New Zealand and we think that they are probably still on holiday (lucky them!). We have looked at the blog of 6SB at Gorseybank and posted a couple of comments and hope that they will do the same.  Hopefully our quad will soon be up and running properly and I’m really hoping that it generates some enthusiasm in more of my children.

If anyone wants to read our classblog then we are at http://5jdevoil.wordpress.com

If you do visit us, then please leave a comment to say what you think about our work.

Explanation Writing

It’s funny how sometimes you spend ages planning an activity and it simply doesn’t take off. For what ever reason, the children don’t get what you wanted out of it. Then another time you can do something off the cuff and it just works. This morning was an example of that.

We started our morning by doing a cloze procedure exercise from Pie Corbett’s Talk for Writing Across the Curriculum. It was a great activity to do during registration, difficult enough to keep them focussed but not so hard that they needed help. Then we moved into the English lesson proper and looked at how we could use the same language to improve some work we did yesterday on Stars. That was only about 5 minutes, the main lesson was looking at Until I met Dudley and the two types of explanations. I had planned to use 2 pages from the book but very quickly realised that there was not enough in that to occupy the whole lesson and I had forgotten to plan any independent work. Aaaaaagh

Thinking very quickly, I decided to use the words from the cloze procedure and see if the children could use them to ‘uplevel’ the paragraphs from the text. They had to take each step in turn and see if they could improve the causal language by using words such as ‘therefore’etc. It was brilliant. It was such a simple idea but the children loved it. There was lots of discussion as to whether consequently worked better than therefore etc. By discussing and trying out the different words and phrases, they were developing a really good understanding of the vocabulary.

One of my less confident writers said to me at the end of the lesson that he was really looking forward to writing his own explanation as he wanted to show off all the new words he had learned.

What’s your label?

Are you a hap or an aap? Or even worse, maybe you belong in that dreadful group of laps!  Puzzled? Confused? Not if you’re a teacher I bet! Some ideas die hard and none more so than the idea of the three groups of pupils in every class, the high ability, average ability (generally where your teaching is directed?) and the low ability.

Even in Reception, at the age of 3 or 4, one of these labels may well be applied to each and every child. It’s all done with the best intentions, dividing the children up into ability groups so that they can be taught more accurately.

The trouble is that with any label, it sticks and often doesn’t fall off. That low ability 4 year old may just have not liked his lessons at that time, not been ready for formal teaching, wanted to be back at home, any number of reasons totally unconnected with ability. Equally the high ability child may well have come from a home where they were given time and space to be heard and simply had confidence at school, not necessarily high abililty.

Where are they in 6 years time? The high ability child (probably a girl) is struggling to work in higher sets and her teachers keep being told that she needs to be pushed as ‘she is falling off target’, the lower ability child (almost certainly a boy) has gained a reputation for messing about and is still in lower sets despite showing signs of being clever.

Does this sound familiar? I hope that it doesn’t but I’ve certainly got both of those children in my class at the moment. It’s unavoidable to a certain extent with KS2 results still being extrapolated from foundation stage scores.

Some cchools I know have changed the label so that hap now stands for higher achieving pupil which doesn’t say anything about ability. But it’s still a label and it will still stick! I will carry on arguing this point in my own school and hope that people reading this are well past this stage already.

This post was inspired by something I read earlier today on the same subject but looking at older children
http://www.informededucation.com/?p=222

This struck a chord with me as I was advised not to do Maths A level as I only got a C at o level. I did it anyway and went on to do maths as part of my degree. From there I have gone on to becoming a Primary Maths Specialist.

Don’t label your children. Please.