An international teacher who is constantly seeking new ideas to experiment with in the classroom. Always willing to take a leap and try something new, follow my highs and lows as I take steps outside of my comfort zone in an attempt to set out new paths in teaching and learning.
This week is a very exciting week for me. This week I will be (attempting to) 3D print models of Greek Temples designed by my class! I am so excited to use the 3D printers we have in school for the first time and see how the designs turn out.
Tinkercad is a web-based 3D design software which can be used to design just about anything! We had the Ancient Greeks topic coming up so I planned a short unit incorporating DT and ICT.
You can sign up on Tinkercad as a teacher and have a tinker yourself. Sign up here. I would recommend doing this first and get a feel for what you can create. If you click on the gallery, you will see what others have designed. I let my class use my login details and created groups for them to store their work in. After one lesson of introducing the software to them and allowing them time to explore, we were ready to get designing. I created a screencast of this tutorial session which some of the other teachers in my team used to help train themselves and their class.
After first learning about Greek Temples, my class then went about collaging some inspiration, before getting stuck into the Tinkercad design software. It only took about 3 lessons, and they were done. It really was much easier than I thought it would be and the students quickly became better designers than me.
Here are some of their final designs:
I can’t wait to plan another unit like this one. The possibilities are endless!
What does it look like? How does it work? Click here for a thinglink about thinglink!
What I love about thinglink is it’s another way of embedding specific content which I’d like my students to access, without worrying about them googling away and being exposed to unsuitable sites. Thinglink is essentially an interactive infographic where you can add links to websites, information, images, videos and quizzes for students to explore in a lesson. It’s all linked to a little icon placed on a larger image of your choice.
I’ve been training my students to create their own Thinglinks about our recent learning linked to Extreme Earth. On the free account, you can add students to your account and Thinglink will give them their own logins. It’s a great free tool and the students have loved being creative and tagging their own links. Here is an example:
Here are some ideas for how to use thinglink in your classroom:
For too many years, our society lived with a
view that children should be seen and not heard. Without listening to children and understanding children’s own views about their quality of life – how can we ever expect to improve the lives of children and young people?
Well-being and mindfulness are discussed more frequently now in the media and in education and educators are more aware of the benefits teaching these can have to students. However, curriculum commitments and school timetables can sometimes allow little room for teaching these soft skills and so they can sadly be the first thing to drop off the timetable when times get busy.
In my classroom I try to commit to supporting student well-being by setting aside one lesson a week which focuses on something linked to well-being and mindfulness. This does mean that a curriculum lesson gets put off another day, but my opinion is that student welfare and happiness is more important than teaching them the next lesson on the plan. My weekly sessions stem from the Worry box I have in my classroom. Students can anonymously write in this box, sharing a worry they have or a problem which is going on, knowing that I will read them and then we will discuss them as a class together in order to find a solution. The problem remains from an anonymous writer (although as a teacher you can tell who wrote the note from the handwriting!) and it means that everyone benefits from helping to solve the problem, creating a sense of togetherness and a community approach. It also means that the students effectively do my planning for me and I am supporting them with exactly what they need at the time they need it.
The structure of these sessions varies but usually looks something like this:
5 mins mindfulness meditation using a YouTube guided meditation video.
Warm-up game linked to what we will be talking about.
Present the problem. Either just verbally, with a teacher let drama or a video.
Paired/group discussions for solutions.
Share ideas and evaluate the successes of each.
Role play out the solution.
A recent document from Public Health England pointed to the value in a whole school approach to well-being, and noted the usefulness of a combination of taught skills as well as those learnt through the ‘hidden’ curriculum (Public Health England, 2014). I agree that values of honesty, happiness, being healthy etc., are often touched on in assemblies and expectations within school, but teachers should also be addressing these explicitly within the classroom too. The problem is, teachers experience pressure to keep on top of curriculum requirements, testing and assessment, which can lead to dropping lessons which are viewed as less important to a child’s attainment. It would be nice to see schools protecting a set amount of time each week specifically for teaching well-being and mindfulness to students, in addition to the planned PSHE lesson for that week. A top down approach is needed in order for teachers to be able to fulfil this important need, without worrying about how it might impact on their timetable or other lessons.
I am still new to mindfulness and am learning as I go, so I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got experience in this area and can point me in the direction of any other resources which could help.
I’ve found these few resources really helpful:
What some schools around the world are doing with mindfulness: Cognita Schools
A framework for teaching PSHE from the borough Kensington and Chelsea.
Disclaimer: This is as much for me as for anyone else. I hope that in writing this, I learn to listen to my own advice and give myself a break sometimes too!
There is never, ever enough time in the day to get everything done.
Teachers continuously have a never-ending list of things to get done and deadlines loom almost all year, but learn to be realistic. Don’t beat yourself up for not marking those last few books or creating that Smartboard you forgot to do. You will never achieve everything you want to do but you will achieve everything you need to do, everything else can wait. Try thinking about the impact of your actions, e.g. if I don’t do xyz, will it have a negative impact on my students? If the answer is no, then leave it until another day. Acknowledge that you won’t get it all done and learn to be at peace with that.
Don’t compare yourself to others. I am terrible for doing this. I continuously compare myself to my colleagues thinking I’m not working hard enough or marking thorough enough or sharing ideas enough. You are not the same as your colleagues. You might handle situations differently, react to things in a different way or feel more emotional about something, and that is OK. Don’t compare yourself to others. No-one else has got it all together either, no matter how it looks from the outside. Some people have a great skill of being able to portray an air of serenity whilst being insanely stressed out. A lovely lady I used to work with was fantastic at this, it turns out. It was a really busy time at school and she appeared to be really calm about it all. I was envious of her relaxed attitude! When I told her I wished I was as calm as her, she revealed that really she was actually like a swan – serene and calm on the outside but kicking like hell underneath to stay afloat. I’ve never forgotten that honesty and it’s definitely how I feel about 80% of the time! But it just goes to show that everyone else is also busy, worried and trying to keep on top of things, so you are not alone.
Prioritise you to-do list. A couple of years ago, a wonderful colleague (actually the same one as earlier), showed me her strategy of prioritising and I’ve used it ever since. This might not work for you, but ask around and find a strategy or a tool which does. Remember to put a few things on there you’ve just completed – it feels great crossing them off straight away and gives you the motivation to get going on the next items.
Talk about it. I cannot stress how important this has been for me. For the last couple of years, I have suffered with anxiety and a period of panic attacks. This was an utter nightmare to deal with as a teacher, especially when your anxiety can kick off at the most unhelpful of times, in front of 30 students! Not to mention going all guns blazing into a panic attack! (Thankfully, I’ve always managed to remove myself from the class before either of those have occured.) But the one thing which has really helped is seeing my psychotherapist. I am not ashamed to say it has been the best thing for me, talking through my emotions, my day and any issues which are worrying me. It might not be a therapist you need or want to talk to, but a good friend or family member can be just as helpful. Often just being open and honest is enough to help you feel better, the other person need not do more than listen and be there for you. If like me, you do suffer with anxiety, it might also be helpful to share how you’re doing with a colleague whose classroom is near to yours. That friend can be very helpful if you need 10 minutes out of the classroom to calm down.
Learn to ask, Is it in my control? If it’s not in your control, then let it go. Waste no time worrying what other people think about you – easier said than done, I know. But it’s true. A lot of my anxiety comes from a constant battle with my inner self doubt and second guessing what my line manager thinks about me, if my colleagues think I’m being lazy or if my head of school is concerned about my teaching. All totally ridiculous worries because I cannot control a single one of them. Switching your focus from pointless worries to something you actually can control, puts the power back in your court.
Self doubt is a tough one as a teacher because you have to find your own validation in thankful emails, happy students, progress, data etc. The times you are told you’re doing a good job are few and far between, but they’re there, you just need to look for them. I’ll come onto that in point 8.
Be mindful. In a busy school, with your never-ending list of things to do staring right at you on your desk, it is often difficult to stop and make some time to just breathe and be. Find some time, even just 5 minutes, where you take yourself away from your desk and away from your classroom. At my current school, we have a rooftop garden I enjoy sitting in for 5 minutes at lunch time. Take nothing with you, no phone, no laptop. Just sit. Listen to your breathing. Refocus yourself. And when you’re ready, go back to the classroom. If possible, don’t eat your lunch at your desk. Try to find time to stop and eat with colleagues in the staffroom or canteen. Give yourself some you time away from the marking, emails and assessments you have to do.
When at all possible, leave work at work. We all know teachers don’t actually work 9am – 3pm – wow wouldn’t those hours be amazing if we did! It can be tempting to bring your work laptop home, fire off some emails after dinner, finish off your planning or hunt for some resources whilst watching TV. I’m not saying any of that is bad, but it can lead to burn out. If you tend to do this every night, be strict with yourself. Give yourself a time cut-off, e.g. at 8pm, my laptop turns off. Or set yourself just one task to complete and focus on that, rather than doing 4 things at once. It comes back to, if I don’t complete xyz tonight, will it impact my students negatively? If the answer is no, then don’t do it tonight. Give yourself your evening back and don’t feel guilty about it. You could work every evening and still never get anything done, but you may well burn out and make yourself ill. Then that will have an impact on your students.
Count the positives. I love this one but it is a tough one to do on some days! At the end of each day, take a few moments to take stock and count the positives moments you’ve had that day. They could be as simple as:I woke up straight away without snoozing 5 times. One of my students thanked me today for helping them. My ECA went well today.When you’ve had a bad day, you can sometimes get bogged down with the negativity and forget about the successes you’ve experienced, however small they might be. Try it. I bet if you think really hard, even on a rubbish day, you can find at least 3 positives.
Pass on the love. How happy do you feel when you receive an email from a colleague or a parent thanking you for helping them with something? It feels great right? Pass on that love yourself. Make someone’s day by thanking them for something they’ve done above and beyond, or thanking them for helping you with something you were struggling with. It feels great to say thank you and make someone’s day!
Has anyone else lost the love of these ‘interactive’ smart boards which have become a standard feature of classrooms these days?
I am always looking to improve the way I use ICT in my classroom and how I can use the SAMR model to redefine technology in my lessons. It’s a constant learning curve and I’ve recently discovered Nearpod which is revolutionising how I deliver my lessons.
As a fan of flipped teaching and backwards teaching, I am passionate about AFL and individualising content as much as possible. Nearpod enables teachers to deliver a lesson either live or at the pace of students by allowing them to access the content of the presentation on their own device, via a student code.
The teacher can control the pace through Live teaching, as you would with a PowerPoint, Presi, Promethean or Smart presentation, but students also have access to the content and can answer questions, take quizzes and provide the teacher with valuable formative feedback on their learning. Polls can be used in the live teaching mode to engage students and quickly assess whether a concept has been understood.
If you opt for student paced learning, students can access the same content as above, yet this way they can move through the content at their own pace, allowing for students to go back, revise, practise or skip forward etc. Videos can be embedded to support those learners who need more teacher demonstration, whereas more confident learners can simply skip these videos and go onto the next slide of content.
I introduced this to my students this week and they have picked it up pretty quickly. Often I have morning activities going on in class as the students get into school and one of these Nearpod tasks served as a great task for this slot.
Data reports – Here is the great bit – data!
Whichever way the students access the content, live or at their own pace, their interactions and answers are recorded and the data can then be used for your assessment, for learning conversations with students and also with parents. After the lesson has ended, the data is stored in the lesson file, under your library. Clicking on the top of the lesson and then onto reports gives you the data from that lesson in an easy to read format with statistics for accuracy, participation and details of the questions which were answered correctly or incorrectly. This can handily be printed off in a PDF format, either in teacher or student friendly versions, depending on what purpose you’re using it for. You could print these reports and keep it in students’ books, if you wanted a written record.
Teacher report – whole class
Student friendly data report
Nearpod also has some awesome features such as 3D graphic models and virtual field trips, which I’ve yet to explore fully. I can’t wait to learn more about this programme and use it to its full capability in my classroom.
For me, the major benefit of this tool is its interactive features which mean students are really involved in the lesson and can access it at their own pace.
One quick way to try Nearpod in your classroom is to create an account (for free) and then download some of the content already created by other teachers. You can duplicate their content and add it to your library, where you can either use as it is or edit for your own students. I recommend trying this way first in order to see how others are using the programme. Some of the ready-made content is free while others charge a small fee.
Other tips on how to use Nearpod in your classroom:
Looking for some tips and tricks to put the ‘zing’ back into your teaching? Or perhaps you just want to stay ahead of the game and keep your teaching practice current. Either way, it can be a minefield finding some good quality resources to help you. Not to mention finding the time to look for and then read them! So I have gathered some resources which I find useful below.
(Thank you to all those contributors who I have cited!)
These come in the form of either online courses, which you can dip in and out of at your leisure, or webinars, which you can join online. Online courses and on-demand webinars have the advantage of being available whenever you are, whereas some webinars are virtual meetups online, so you need to join on a certain day and time.
Online courses and webinars on demand:
UDEMY– I love this website as you can search for a wealth of teacher-led courses. Some are free whilst others are only $19. There is some great content on there and lots of keep you going, if you’re happy to pay the small fee. What I love most about this website is that many of the deliverers are teachers themselves.
TurnItIn – A great variety of online webinars to watch and listen to for free on demand. ASCDwebinars are on demand and so are also available all the time. “Founded in 1943, ASCD (doing business as the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) is the global leader in developing and delivering innovative programs, products, and services that empower educators to support the success of each learner. The association provides expert and innovative solutions in professional development, capacity building, and educational leadership essential to the way educators learn, teach, and lead.” (“About ASCD”. Ascd.org. N.p., 2016. Web. 6 Oct. 2016.)
I try to read as many blogs as possible, written by other teachers, teacher trainers and PD providers. Check out the list of blogs I follow to the right of this page. There are some great ones out there. I love reading about other teachers’ adventures in the classroom and their learning journey. I fully encourage you to do the same and even start your own blog, if you’ve not done so already!
I really try to read as much as possible so that the choices I make about my teaching, the tools I use in the classroom, are founded in research and purpose. I might hear about a book from a colleague which is a good read and when you go searching on Amazon, you can see the “others also purchased…”. This is where I often end up clicking through and stumbling across some other great reads. Take a look at my Good Reads list on my home page.
There are some great videos out there which can up-skill even the busiest teacher in a matter of minutes. YouTube is a great resource for this. Here are a few videos I have come across which I have found useful.
I’ve just finished watching this on-demand webinar on the SAMR model of using technology in the classroom. Even as a teacher not new to this concept, this webinar was very useful in clarifying my understanding and giving me even more ideas. Check it out!
Technology is moving at an incredible pace and every day it seems that there is something new we could use in the classroom. But how often do we use technology in a way which actually adds something to our teaching and, more importantly, adds something to the learning of our students? The SAMR model, developed by Ruben Puentedura, demonstrates the thinking process that we as educators can go through in order to up-skill their use of technology in the classroom.
Using the SAMR model, we can begin to analyse how we are currently using technology and consider our next steps as teachers.
It can be tempting to stick to substitution when we use technology in the classroom, through the use of Office tools or research. Using an iPad to computer to research something which could equally be researched using a book is substitution. Using googlemaps instead of an atlas to locate a country is substitution. Writing up a student’s work on Word, Publisher or other programme is substitution. These are simply alternative methods which don’t necessarily add any more to the learning. However, the good news is that there are also many easy ways we can adapt how we use these same tools which do add to the learning. Yes – easy!
Word processing Original task: Writing a story. Improved using the SAMR model:
Substitution: A Word Processor replaces a Pen/Pencil in a Writing Assignment.Students type the story instead. Augmentation: The document is created using the Word Processor using a speech-to-text function to ‘type’ it – great for students who are learning English as a second language. Modification: Work is shared with peers/teacher so that feedback can be received and incorporated to help improve the quality of writing. This is easily done through Google Drive, if you have it, or can simply be saved onto the sever and a peer can then open and use the review mode to add comments, highlight sections, pose questions etc. Redefinition: Instead of a written assignment, students could ‘write’ their story using an iMovie, Comic Life app, youtellstory app or storybird. All of these apps allow you to add pictures and overlay audio to tell your story. There are so many of them out there.
Research lesson. Original task: research a country or city and share facts using books from library and magazine clippings. Improved using the SAMR model:
Substitution: Use presentation software (like Powerpoint or Prezi) to construct a presentation providing information about a selected area. Augmentation: Incorporate interactive multimedia – audio, video, hyperlinks – in the presentation to give more depth and provide more engaging presentation. Modification: Create a digital travel brochure that incorporates multimedia and student created video. Redefinition: Explore the locale with Google Earth; seek out and include interviews with people who have visited the local. A green screen video would add a sense of realness with the student interviewing people ‘in’ the city.
Science. Original task: label the features of the water cycle on a diagram. Improved using the SAMR model:
Substitution: Use the Smart board or other interactive whiteboard to drag and drop the labels onto the diagram. Augmentation: Use Quizlet online to create a matching game for parts of the diagram, definition and term. Modification: Use the app Educreations to model drawing the diagram and audio record the explanation. Redefinition: Use Aurasma app to bring a diagram ‘to life’ by embedding video explanations and/or drama created by the student.
How can I develop my practice using the SAMR model?
Take one step at a time and progress up through the model. Remember, substitution is not badbut we can improve our practice and the learning opportunities we create by moving up asking ourselves some key questions.
What apps work for this?
This blog has some great ideas for how to use this model in your classroom and links each section of the model to different apps.