Just another site

Autumn Term 2012 – Blogging January 3, 2013

Filed under: education — mrsthomas2 @ 10:55 am
Tags: , , ,

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.


Stained Glass December 2, 2012

Filed under: art — fionathomasict @ 4:04 pm

I went back to Craft in the Bay last weekend, this time with Richard for his birthday present – two days of stained glass. Richard has read about this subject and has been meaning to give it a go since I met him 5 years ago. The original window that he wanted to glaze was in his house in Barry, but now there are two arched windows in our back door that he fancies doing. So I saw the course and decided that this might be what was needed to actually get a hands on feel and the confidence to start. Of course what also came was the experienced advice of the instructor, so now we know what Richard is getting for Christmas!
The pictures above show a mixture of his and my first attempts. We were given the template (cartoon) and told to start with cutting a circle. Richard’s was much better than mine! But we were actually pleased with our attempts and carried on choosing the next colour and cutting it to fit some of the various shapes of our cartoon. As the day went on, the cutting got easier and we began to hear the difference between a good cut and the differences between the different colours of glass. We leaded the window up and admired our work and went home pleased with our attempts. The following day we soldered the joints. I found it particularly tricky to control the amount of solder at first and my joints were not as neat as Richard’s. Then we started our next project, which was square based. We decided quickly that more colours were needed and we were quickly busy cutting the shapes. More time was spent now moving the colours around and deciding which to put where. The leading and the soldering were easier this second time round, particularly as the instructor lent us his soldering iron which was temperature controlled. This time I could feel that I was better. Richard, of course was fine and his previous experience showed!
We went home with two small windows each and are planning on integrating them into our door windows. I am getting Richard some equipment for Christmas and hopefully will have some pictures of our door to show in the new year!


Back to School September 2, 2012

Filed under: education — fionathomasict @ 5:46 pm
Tags: , , ,

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.


leather bags for sale August 24, 2012

Filed under: art — fionathomasict @ 5:02 pm
Tags: , ,

small hand sewn leather handbag, natural suede inside with magnetic clasp. 18x13cm £20 SOLD


inside showing suede detail and magnetic clasp SOLD

30x24cm stone button handbag SOLD


Overlapping stone button bag 24x22cm £30


buckle bag with inside pocket 24x29cm £30


inside buckle bag


bag big enough for A4 file, pockets for smaller objects. £30 44x32cm


inside big bag


28x27cm £40  SOLD


strap detail of button/bead bag   SOLD


hearts bag with inside pocket and magnetic clasp £40 26x26cm

Leave a message on the blog or email me at if you would like to buy a bag. At the moment there is just one of each bag available. Each one is individual and handmade. As I said in the previous blog, I don’t use a pattern so they really are one of a kind!


Leather Handbags August 20, 2012

Filed under: art — fionathomasict @ 6:53 pm
Tags: ,

Over this summer holiday, I have been making more leather handbags. I made my first two years ago after seeing one which I liked in a craft shop. I was pleased with how it turned out and it has worn well. I had a few comments and requests, so this summer I thought that I would do some more.

My original handbag

You need special leather sewing machine needles and a sharp cutter. I have also bought leather needles for hand sewing to add some details and some magnetic metal clasps which snap shut. Each bag is different as I don’t use a pattern but make a bag from the leather shapes.

A small shoulder bag with two buttons.

The small shoulder bag has been hand sewn and measures 18x13cm (7×5 inches). Inside it has the natural suede of the leather.

inside showing the suede contrast and the clasp.

The next two bags are similar, both have a heavy stone pendant covering the clasp.

This bag measures 24x22cm (9.5×9 inches)

This one measures 30×24 cm (12×9.5 inches)

Both bags are simple in style with only the natural leather lining and no pockets. The straps are attached with buttons.

Buttons attach the straps to the handbags

I have four more bags half done. Here is a glimpse to see what’s coming. I hope to have them finished by the end of the summer holidays.


Silver pendant design July 28, 2012

Filed under: art — fionathomasict @ 8:04 pm
Tags: , ,

Another fun and successful course at Craft in the Bay in Cardiff. This time Janet and I were joined by Liz, Alison, Tanya and my step daughter Zoe. The course was run by Suzie Horan and again we were welcomed warmly. Suzie designs and makes some beautiful rippled silver jewellery and you can see her designs at
We started by being shown some simple techniques of imprinting with stamps, engraving with stencils and cutting with a saw. Suzie then showed us some ways of making the silver matt by rubbing with different coarse papers – like sandpaper.
We went off armed with a piece of copper to experiment.




We used the punch tool to make indentations and as a guide to drilling a hole for the link. We tried different abrasives to see the effect on the copper.



The sawing was tricky as you had to move the metal very slowly to make a curve. If you forced it just a little, you tended to get the saw stuck or it snapped.



When we had tried different techniques and decided what we liked and what worked, we sketched out on paper some of ideas.
Then it was lunch time and the majority of us had ordered food from Kemi’s cafe again and were saved a table upstairs with a great view of the Bay. It was a beautiful day, so we had a quick sit outside after we’d eaten with a cup of tea. Then it was back to the workshop and the piece of silver we were to work with was handed out carefully.
Now we had to decide exactly what we wanted to make! It was actually quite nerve racking in a strange way as we knew that this was it and any mistakes may have to be incorporated into the finished article!
The front of the silver was covered in a protective plastic so that any work we may have wanted to do to the shape, could be completed without accidental scratching. So we began filing or sawing until we had the shape we wanted. We also drilled the hole for the link while the plastic was intact and then it was time to engrave, punch or abrade the surface.
We all started with a similar silver shape but everyone had quite different ideas and it was amazing to see the pendants taking shape.







The following photos show some of the finished pendants. The photos were taken quickly with a phone camera before everyone departed! Everyone wore their pendant home and was pleased with the result!






It was a great day and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone! No skills needed. Book with friends or individually.