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Batik, Science and the LNF January 5, 2014

Filed under: art,education — mrsthomas2 @ 12:30 pm
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This is a presentation I’ve made looking at how the LNF, particularly the Literacy aspects, can be covered by an artistic science lesson!

The children were inspired by it and it really encouraged speaking and listening skills, including some EAL children trying to describe and understand new words.


ICT in the infants for Teachmeet Carterton March 28, 2013

Filed under: education — fionathomasict @ 6:24 pm
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ICT in the infants for Teachmeet Carterton

Web sites and apps we have used in school and would recommend


ClassDojo February 17, 2013

Filed under: education — mrsthomas2 @ 12:20 pm

I started using ClassDojo a few years ago and quickly found that the children in my Year 5 class loved it. It is simple to use, an email and password and you are in.
There is a demo class set up for you to play with and then you make your own class or classes. You can add names individually or import a list, and an avatar is given to each child but you can change them. I let my children choose any avatar as long as it was their house colours. Then you customise behaviours. There are 6 positive and negative behaviours already for you to use- hard work, helping others, on task, participation, persistence and team work. You can then add anything which would be appropriate for your class. I used it for the rest of that year pretty much as it came adding a few behaviours as I thought of them.
This is the great part of ClassDojo. Although the children loved the rewarding ‘ping’ of a point on their avatar, I wondered how long the novelty would last. Then I realised that changing the behaviours would keep them on their toes. There was a point at the beginning of the summer term last year, when I felt that some of my Year 2 class had forgotten my beginning of year rules about listening. ‘Look at the speaker, sit or stand still, don’t talk over anyone else, etc.’ I added these to my ClassDojo behaviours and at the end of the lesson asked the children who they felt had deserved points for these behaviours. I asked them not to think of themselves but to look around and try to think not just who is good, but who did what well. They suggested a few names and had to tell me what they had done and we gave those children the relevant reward points. At the beginning of the next lesson, one child who had constantly found sitting and listening to instructions difficult, announced not so subtly that he was sitting quietly and looking at me. He did manage it for the brief carpet time and got his points at the end when someone suggested his name and his good behaviours.
As the children improved again in their listening skills, I changed the behaviours again. This time I thought about exactly what I wanted to reward the children for and what I wanted to encourage. I kept some of the default behaviours, such as ‘helping others’ and ‘persistence’ but changed the name of some others to reflect our school vocabulary. So we had ‘managing distractions’ instead of ‘on task’ and ‘working together’ instead of ‘teamwork’. This had really made me think. What did I mean by participation? I wanted the children to ‘ask questions’ and ‘share ideas’ so these became two more behaviours to reward. I wanted to encourage them to think for themselves and begin to work more independently of an adult. So ‘thinking and reflecting’ ‘reading and researching’ and ‘working independently’ were added. The children began to ask others before me if they needed help or to think or read before coming to ask. I had a couple who wanted to check everything before they committed pencil to paper, even when they knew what to do. They now began to take the risk without me saying ‘Yes, that’s right.’
Then in Science and Art, I noticed that some children were not really observing. They looked and thought they had seen but it was often cursory and all too quick. So ‘observing carefully’ was added. Soon after I wanted them to record accurately so ‘being accurate’ was added, as was ‘writing and recording neatly’.
We don’t go through these behaviour skills at the end of every lesson, but we do a couple of times a week. I don’t have to ask if they can think of someone who has used these skills any more. The children are keen to show me they have noticed it going on around them. Occasionally a child now comes up and says “Can Ben have a point for being really neat because he is really trying today?” or “Tom didn’t ask you for help today, isn’t that good?” Then we add the points as we go along.
ClassDojo is also available as an app on the iPad and phones, so sometimes I add rewards when I reflect on the behaviours of individuals or the whole class. Or I will add points in their books when I mark them to reflect on the skills I can see they are using. It has made us all think and that is great. I haven’t used the negative behaviour side at all. We are much too busy looking for good things going on around us!


Google Apps in the year 2 classroom February 3, 2013

Filed under: education — fionathomasict @ 6:37 pm

Google Apps in my classroom




Autumn Term 2012 – Blogging January 3, 2013

Filed under: education — mrsthomas2 @ 10:55 am
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What a fantastic term in terms of learning! I thought my learning curve was amazing last year and this term alone has beaten it. already Even better, it wasn’t just me. The whole primary staff and children have begun a digital learning journey which I hope they find as exciting as I have. There is so much in fact that I have split the blog into a couple of blog posts so as not to have one huge rambling post which bores the pants of the reader! It may still bore you but will be shorter now.

Year 1 and 2 began blogging early in the term. I had wanted to start blogging for a few years but various factors had stopped me. There had previously been a fear of the obvious e-safety issues, and a worry that the parents wouldn’t approve.

However, a new Head with an appreciation of digital learning and an actual desire for innovation inspired me to do it. I set up a blog for year 2 and added a couple of posts to show the parents at our introduction evening what sort of thing we would be doing and found that the parents loved the idea. We sent out a letter for parents to give permission for work and photos on the blog and a list of safety rules which we would be following and which we asked parents to adhere to as well.

Year 1 quickly followed suit. Our impetus was to start the 5 sentence challenge which needed a blog to showcase the children’s work, but we also wanted to show some of the other great activities which go on in the classrooms which is not always seen. One of the parents commented that it was so exciting to see what the children had been doing and to share their enthusiasm.

The blog and the 5 sentence challenge proved so successful that by the end of the term, I had been asked to give an INSET on setting up a blog and joining the 100 Word Challenge for the junior classes.

The 5 Sentence  Challenge/100 Word Challenge deserves a paragraph of its own here. Run by Julia Skinner, @TheHeadsOffice on Twitter, every other week, a picture or phrase is put on the 5SC or the 100WC blog to inspire the children to write 5 sentences/100 words. You link the children’s work on your blog to the original stimulus and find you get comments from all over Britain if not further afield. The comments are always encouraging but also point out where the writing could be improved. Comments are so exciting for the children and their teachers. I can still see the face of the year 1 teacher coming in to tell me that her class had had comments!

These comments can be used as targets for the next piece of writing.. Remember to try and put in ALL the full stops this week to make it easier for your readers. Can you add a descriptive word this week as was suggested?

The children improved so rapidly that we were amazed, not just in writing the 5 sentences which some couldn’t manage in the first week, but in stretching themselves and exploring how to improve their sentences. This extended into all their other work and their English writing levels went up one or two mini levels in one term.

The differentiation in the 5SC is intrinsic, for the children who couldn’t write 5 sentences, we put a group together to make 5. Come on write a sentence for your group to put in the blog, it is only 1 sentence . Later we found ourselves saying, you can do it, it is only 5 sentences (as every child could do it by December). For the more able and prolific writers, you tell them that they can only write 5 sentences, but they have to make them as interesting and grammatically correct as they can. I used David Didau’s idea of slow writing here, adapted for my year 2 class. In these 5 sentences, see if you can include… These connectives or/and 4 adjectives…. Start each of your sentences in different ways…And we found even the year 1 children whose target was to complete 5 sentences were including some of these ideas.

We did this as an extra literacy lesson, every other week, on a Friday afternoon, before our ‘activities’ sessions. You could also set it for homework, which I did as a optional extra at Christmas when we broke up earlier than some of the other schools in the country.

What did I learn through blogging with the children?

How to set up a blog, add writing, photos and videos. Ok I cheated a bit by setting up a personal blog and practising in the holidays.

How to add little exciting extras to make the blog more interesting and individual.

How to include different ways of presenting pictures and video clips – exploring photostory, movie maker, imovie, Animoto, photo peach.

That the children loved being able to access their work at home and share with family and a wider audience abroad.

That viewers to the blog came from all over the world.

That a blog is a really visual way of showing improvement over time.

That blogging really does improve the children’s writing.

That I wanted more access to computers for the  children. Half an hour a week was not enough!

What did the children learn from blogging?

That they could get a much wider audience for their work, including people they know and people they don’t.

So safety was as important as sharing.

That their work was deemed important and interesting.

That they could change their work slightly to make it even better and editing on the computer is easier than on paper.

That blogging made sharing their work immediate. A grandparent in India could see what you had written and tell you what they thought in the same day.

That they enjoyed writing!

If you haven’t done it yet, try it. It will inspire them and totally change the way your class write.

We are taking part in quadblogging in January!


End of the Autumn term 2012 December 11, 2012

Filed under: education — fionathomasict @ 12:17 pm

So it’s Christmas and we have had an amazing term. Really amazing. I started blogging with my class, joined the 5 sentence challenge and really haven’t looked back. The parents and the children love it. Year 1 have joined in, both with the blog and the 5 sentence challenge and we are really impressed with the amount of progress the children have made with their writing. Some of the other primary classes are also going to start after Christmas and a couple have started just before, including the Primary Head with a school blog as well as a class one.

I went to my first ever Teachmeet at Clevedon School and found it really stimulating and inspirational. I could not believe that you could learn so much in an evening. It would need a whole post just to say what I did, what I learnt and what I now want to do. I was an instant addict and left buzzing with ideas and desires to read more and follow up on ideas. One thing I did want was to share the excitement with the rest of the staff! Teachmmets are contagious! I did follow up fairly quickly with a visit to TMNewport with two more colleagues and then helped organise TMCardiff at my own school, sharing with everyone in one go! And I volunteered to speak! I was nervous and although I had practised, found that the time went quicker on the stage as I relaxed and I ran out of time! But have already put my name down for another one!

The class and the junior school are getting used to Google Apps. We haven’t had much time for training days on it yet but some of the staff are beginning to use it. Year 6 have used the email, Year 2 have typed up poems and used it for homework and Year 4 and Year 2 have made websites and all the staff have made a class website themselves. Small beginnings but its positive…

The Early Years have ipads and there has been great excitement amongst staff and children and so much learning going on! It is great to be in a staffroom and hear teachers coming in and saying ‘Have you seen this or that app?  We used it to….”  Then all the staff with ipads or iphones begin downloading and exploring!

Teachmeet Clevedon brought new ideas and books to my notice and this term I have read Jim Robinson- The Lazy Teacher and Zoe Elder – Full on Learning. I have also bought David Didau’s The Perfect English Ofsted Lesson and ordered Mark Anderson’s- The Perfect ICT Lesson. Due to the fact that I have also been reading the blogs associated with these prolific writers, I haven’t finished all of them yet but have found myself agreeing with what I am reading and wanting to try things out…This has to be good. More reading scheduled for the holidays.

Most importantly we have the new Principal who arrived in June and a new Deputy who arrived in September. They have filled the school with a new kind of buzz. New ideas are always greeted with trepidation by teachers who are already always busy and tired but these have in very different individual ways inspired the staff. They are working very hard behind the scenes but are visible throughout the school and come into the primary classrooms, join in with music lessons and even on infant trips! (It’s always impressive when secondary SLT do that if you are in a through school.) They have read and responded to the new primary school blogs and have been encouraging and enthusiastic. They have welcomed new ideas and innovation.

So next year 2013?

I have appointed 7 Digital Leaders to start working with in January and asked them to think about giving a presentation in the new year of something they have used and think is useful, interesting and why. Some of the staff who attended an Outstanding Teacher Programme are sharing their progress in an INSET at the beginning of term, I have a Teachmeet already lined up to attend and am going to the BETT show for the first time!

Now I am going to relax and do some knitting.

Happy Christmas.


Back to School September 2, 2012

Filed under: education — fionathomasict @ 5:46 pm
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Well, it’s the beginning of the new school year. And although I have been teaching for 26 years now, it is still exciting, because in school something changes every year.
This year I have the same year group, in the same school as last year, Year 2, which is rather nice as I know what to expect in general. However there are so many new things happening that it will not be the same.
We have a new Principal, although he has been in position since the summer half term, I am expecting quite a few changes this coming year. I may be wrong but I get the impression that he has been watching, making notes on his ipad and thinking about what needs doing. Change is necessary and a good thing, although I bet there will be more work involved at some point.
The ICT is changing in a huge way!. I went on a Google Apps course last summer after hearing about Google Apps for education at Lambeth CLC. I have set up the school and signed on the junior staff and the children from year 2 upwards. I am really excited about the prospect of the children being able to email this year. The children are often emailing each other at home. Now we can use their skills and hopefully instill the security and caution needed whilst they are on the internet. I am also looking forward to the children making web pages- we tried it through a different system in year 2 and 4 last year and it was difficult. Hopefully this will be easier, not least because I am actually aware of how the sites part of the Google Apps works as opposed to trying to learn about a new programme in the middle of the year. I have made a trial junior school website and a few of the staff have started their own class sites.
We used My Maths, Hamilton Trust and Espresso last year and started using Class Dojo as part of the housepoint system of the school. They were all successful. So this year we are also trialling Manga High (year 3+) and rejoining Tutpup (year1+) as My Maths is limited for year 2 and below.
We developed a school account with Delicious last year, but I am not sure about the demise of the stacks. We had everything neatly put into those files and now it appears that everything is one long list. It does not seem to be easier, is anyone else finding that?
This September we have quite a few members of staff using Pinterest and that may well replace the need for Delicious, which was to share any good sites and help us remember where/what they were!
I have started this blog to teach myself so that we can begin blogging with our children in school. I have the 100 word challenge to promote and maybe even quad blogging by next year. I had not even heard of them last September.
We have also got an enormous list of websites and new ideas to explore from Ian Addison’s book from Rising Stars Essentials: ICT, which is an absolute treasure trove. I have recommended it to all the staff and I may find out tomorrow who has read it. I will certainly see when they start to talk about their ICT planning! Of course all this innovation and change means that I will definitely have to think about the ICT scheme which is based on the QCA and is feeling OLD!
Luckily, I have seen a few links recently on Twitter, which will help me on my way. @ianaddison, @simonhaughton Thanks you for sharing. I have already changed my year 2 planning to incorporate Infant Encyclopedia!
This year we are starting the school year with 7 of our 9 staff on Twitter and that’s amazing as there was only 1 last September.
The learning curve has been huge already – from last September to this, one year of massive ICT input. What will be coming? Well I have just signed on for a first TeachMeet in Clevedon! I have seen clips and videos. Last September I hadn’t heard of them. This year I am going. There is a course on Scratch to look forward to in September…
Yes, after 26 years of teaching, I still find it exciting.