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Monday, 23 May 2016

Introducting... READ WRITE PERFORM

I am so excited to announce a BRAND NEW approach to English I have developed alongside John Murray (@ReadingExplorer.)

The website is now LIVE. The approach covers every aspect of English - Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening.

We have created and released our first teaching pack. Each teaching pack provides teachers with a unit of planning for English lasting 2-3 weeks.

The following image gives an overview of the approach and how each pack works:

We know this approach works, as all the ideas have been tried and tested in the classroom. The quality of writing and performance from the pupils in my class was phenomenal! 

The pack encourages your learners to actively engage with a variety of media and get the most out of the learning experiences you provide. Technology is used as a tool to enhance children's learning and evidence their final creations. We focus on combining all the elements of writing into one meaningful project: reading into writing into performance. 

We not only have exemplar texts but exemplar performances. Within the pack are links to videos where a professional actor has demonstrated the performance element. The actors also provide workshops in schools and you can receive an exclusive discount when purchasing the teaching pack. 

The first pack is available now! The Battle Cry pack involves children writing and then performing their own compositions to try and persuade their fellow villagers to follow them into battle. 

The pack can be downloaded by any teacher worldwide. We have not tailored this approach to just one curriculum or year group. We feel this approach will fit into every curriculum and teachers will be able to adapt the ideas to fit with the stage of learning for their students. We would say most of the material is aimed towards KS2 and KS3, however, a Year 2 class shared some of their fantastic work- - 

You can buy the pack as an individual teacher licence for £10 or purchase a whole school licence for £25 so every teacher within your school can access the material. 

For more about the approach and teaching pack, watch this Facebook Live Video I did with John last night:

We have a whole range of other packs in the pipeline so watch this space...

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

10 things you find in every staffroom

This is my latest vlog sharing different things you find in every staffroom! Feel free to share -

Sunday, 8 May 2016

What can we learn from Tyrion about Teaching?

Like most, I am completely hooked on Game of Thrones! If you haven't seen my other Game of Thrones inspired post, check it out - 12 Game of Thrones Teachers You See in Every School. One of my favourite characters in the series has to be Tyrion. People have such little faith in him. Yet he is constantly proving people wrong and challenging their misconceptions about him.

He is almost the perfect metaphor for teachers as it seems the 'powers that be' have a similar faith in teachers. But we are constantly proving them wrong. This weekend, social media has been flooded with positive messages for teachers and students in preparation for the upcoming SATs that are asking A LOT from children, to say the least! Let these thoughts from Tyrion inspire you to get you through this week and motivate you to keep doing the amazing job you do day in day out. 

"You love your children. It's your one redeeming quality; that and your cheekbones."

Now, I am not saying that this is your only redeeming quality as a teacher, you will have plenty! But the love and care you show your pupils will be up there. I love the way he links her beauty with it;  there is no harm in being a great teacher and looking fabulous at the same time too!

"Everything's better with some wine in the belly."
Again, I am not trying to encourage teachers to turn to the bottle but try to take some time to relax, away from work and enjoy time with friends, family or just chilling out yourself. You will benefit, your pupils will and colleagues will too. If that isn't a possibility, remember with marking it IS always better with some wine in the belly. 

"Well, my brother has his sword, and I have my mind. And a mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone. That's why I read so much, Jon Snow."

Knowledge is power! We constantly encourage children to read and read for pleasure so set that example. In this day and age, reading comes in so many different forms. I found I am reading more than ever before because of the internet. Finding new ideas and resources through twitter and facebook and reading other teacher's blog posts has not only made me a better writer (I hope) but also improved my practice massively. 

"I am the gift."

You are a gift. A special gift to the pupils in your class and the staff in your school. You may not realise now but you are the most important tool in your classroom. No textbook, poster, app or device can replace an effective teacher. And you are an effective teacher. 

"A very small man can cast a very large shadow."

I know this quote didn't come from Tyrion however it shows that the impact a teacher can have on their students can last a lifetime. I still remember particular teachers who inspired and opened a whole world to me and I am forever thankful. To have the opportunity to do the same for other young ones is so powerful.

"Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armour, and it can never be used to hurt you."

 Even when things get tough, the pressure of SATs, Ofsted or another worry gets you to question yourself and your ability, remember why you became a teacher. Be proud of that, be proud of what you have done in your life that has taken you down the path of teaching and believe in yourself that you made the right decision.

While we are talking about SATs and Ofsted and that...

"It's hard to put a leash on a dog once you've put a crown on its head"

I think that this pretty much says what it needs to. Having people who have never worked in a classroom make decisions about education is the reason why things are the way they are at the minute.
I think this goes beyond Education too!

"I'm not particularly good at violence, but I'm good at convincing other people to do violence for me."

You will be familiar with the phrase: Those who can, do; those who can't, teach. However, how many of those who 'do' are doing it because of a great teacher who believed and inspired them? Don't get me wrong, I am by no means an expert in every area of the curriculum but effective teachers can still raise the expectations of their pupils to a level beyond their own and that is a unique skill in itself.

"I'll lead the attack!"

The moment Tyrion saved Kingslanding from the Baratheon army. Make sure you grow as a teacher, when things go well, share. Look after new members of staff and support them as much as you can. Remember, you were once in that place needing a more experienced teacher to have belief in you. Be prepared to lead and lead with confidence by being there on the frontline!

"Death is so final, yet life is full of possibilities."

Focus on the positives. Set that example. If you come into class with a smile on your face you are more likely to get the same reaction from your pupils. 

And finally, I am sure plenty of teachers can relate to this...

Thanks for reading and good luck with everything over the next couple of weeks.

Friday, 6 May 2016

15 examples of when the show "Friends" perfectly captured life as a teacher!

How many of these can you relate to?

Feel free to share!

Creating our own Minibeasts app!

In Year 1, our latest topic is Minibeasts. As a class, the children have turned all their knowledge into their own app!

Click the Link -

We started by splitting the class into groups of 3 and assigning them a minibeast to research. We tried to focus on three questions - 
  • What does it look like?
  • What does it eat?
  • Where does it live?
The children then had to use the iPads to research and try to find answers to the questions. They used the app Shadow Puppets Edu to create a short video to share their learning. 

Each group then worked alongside me to add their video into the app. The app was created in the brilliant Touch App Creator. 

For a more in-depth tutorial on how to use this app, check out my book - 50+ iPad lessons for Teaching Non-Fiction.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Designing Robots to Save Our School

Today, I had the pleasure of working with a group of Year 2 children. I decided to start the lesson by using the iPad to create a hook. This was the first thing the children were shown -

This was created using the app - FX Guru. The app has loads of special effect clips that you can film on top of any picture or video. As you can see from this clip, we created a scene showing a robot destroying the playground.

It worked, the children were totally hooked. I immediately hit them with their mission: they had to design a robot that would beat the rogue robot in the video and save the school.

Firstly, we had to report what had happened and so created a news report explaining the situation. This was done in our Media Suite using Greenscreen.

The children were all then given the opportunity to create their own robots. The fantastic app - Robot Factory allows children to build, play and interact with their own robots. The potential for using this app to inspire writing is huge: instructions, persuasive texts, explanation texts and even stories could easily be inspired through this app.

The children had a clear focus, their robots had to be designed to beat the robot attacking the school. They were hooked, the discussions and conversations were fantastic. Some were then challenged to create posters describing some of the features -

The children then had to use Tellagami Edu, to present, describe and explain their designs and how it would help save the school. This gave the children to opportunity to talk through their ideas and writing. 

The following video has all of the different elements together into one finished video -

We would love to know what you think! Please leave us a comment!

Saturday, 30 April 2016

12 Game of Thrones Characters You See in Every School - Which One Are You?

Everyone loves Game of Thrones! This fun blog post will share 12 characters from the popular show and the similarities to different teachers your see in every school:

1 - Ned Stark

You have seen more staff, curriculums and policy changes than anyone else. You have been around the block and know how things should be done. You are respected and good at your job even though you're not part of the SLT.

With the latest changes from the new regime (government,) you realise you are too proud to and honourable to subject the ones you love to this unnecessary and cruel rule of testing. Retirement is looming unless the new pressures get to you first.

2 - Drogo

Although the core subjects of English, Maths and Science aren't your strong point, when it comes to a subject like PE, there is no one as passionate.

Come rain or shine, whatever the weather you are outside leading by example. When it comes to a school competition, you are ready for the battle and take it seriously. Winning is everything! Despite your competitive side, you also have a soft and loving side and can make a belting brew.

3 - Daenerys

Despite starting your journey as a teacher with a teaching placement where you were under the guidance of a nightmare teacher, you have since blossomed into a great teacher.

You have the potential to go right to the top and be a headteacher. But first,  you want to get as much experience as possible. Therefore, you have pretty much been the coordinator in every subject.

You constantly look for guidance and help and see the value in working as a team. Because of this, you are able to control the scariest dragons (children) in the school.

4 - Jamie Lannister

The IT coordinator. 

People think you are full of it because you can turn a plug on/off at the mains. Others think you have a special skill set and have become respected as one of the best teachers in the school. 

However, when local building work meant the WiFi went down, your biggest asset was lost. You were distraught, felt like you couldn't continue. You appeared vulnerable and weak, yet you adapted to become a well-rounded teacher and do the best for your class.

5 - Joffrey

You haven't been around long but already you've jumped aboard the SLT train and heading for the top by any means necessary. 

Other staff may not see your ambition or mistake you for being ruthless, but honestly, you don't care. 

People may question your methods and the way you do things are different from what has been done before. Despite this, you get the job done and ultimately that's what matters.

6 - Arya Stark

You are fierce, independent and determined.

Your parent/s worked in education and you saw first hand the lack of work-life balance so are on a mission to change the profession.

You take on any new challenge and love to go on courses. Returning from the course, you want to change how everything is done in school no matter how it was done before. Even though this will ruffle a few feathers you're a trailblazer and don't care!

7 - Jon Snow

You teach with honour and integrity and do everything right.

You are reliable and always keep a promise. You do endless lunch time and after school clubs and seem to struggle to say 'no.'

The way you became a teacher is questionable and ambiguous with no one knowing whether you had a degree or not.  But you are quickly becoming a teacher that everyone respects, showing signs of being a great leader.

Despite the potential to be great, you feel isolated and question your ability. When an offer for a promotion comes from another school you turn it down as you are loyal to the school that gave you the opportunity and want to finish the job.

8 - Sansa Stark

As a younger teacher, you wanted to prove yourself and so decided to become the SENCO.

You didn't realise at the time how much time and effort this would take and how others would use and rely on you to arrange and attend meetings with outside agencies and filling in endless forms.

Through time in the role, you have adapted well and have learnt so much from the hardship of the role.  You are now a fantastic teacher who is tolerant and understanding of everyone, both pupils and staff.

9 - Tyrion Lannister

People are very surprised when you reveal you're a teacher. You don't look or act like a teacher and you know this. You are sarcastic and everyone notices with the witty comments you make in staff meetings.

Despite the sarcasm and wit, you get the job done and done well. You don't always follow policy and do things by the book but your class love you. When Ofsted visited and everyone panicked, doubted themselves, you were the one who stood up, took charge and inspired the other staff to victory!


10 - Cersei

No one is more protective of their class than you. You only want the best for them and this is reflected in your teaching.

Some do, however, believe you may go too far. You will go to any length to make sure your class are the best, fixing team point competitions.

The look on your face when your class don't win the attendance award is a picture. The midday assistants shake in fear if they have to tell you one of your class has misbehaved.

11 - Brienne of Tarth

Although you have all the qualities of an amazing teacher, as a TA, you're the best sidekick to have in the classroom. You will do anything for the teacher, endless photocopying, intervention groups even covering the class if needed.

You are intimidating in battle and no teacher wants to get on your wrong side. If a teacher is ever in a meeting with a feisty parent, you're right by the side of the teacher as a loyal and fierce companion.

12 - The Mountain

He isn't a teacher or TA but a valuable asset to the school.

If a job needs to be done that others wouldn't do, he is your man!

The caretaker builds, moves and fixes everything. He gets the job done by any means necessary and loves to get his hands dirty. Children, parents and even staff are scared of him and no one dares EVER step into his office!

So the question is... which one are you?