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!
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.
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.
Whilst reading ‘Weaving creativity into every strand of your curriculum’ by Dr. Cyndi Burnett and Julia Figliotti, I was drawn to a question which they used as a hook for activating creative thoughts in students.
What things in the classroom might be missing in a classroom of the future?
As this question rolled around in my mind, I began to think about how teaching is changing and how the way I teach now, just 6 years after qualifying, is so vastly different to my training year. We have quickly moved from being teachers who provide students with the information they need to learn to providing students with the skills they need to find this information. As facilitators of learning, our role as teachers has dramatically changed. So then, it is almost inevitable that the environment we create for our students to learn in also changes.
What I can do to facilitate this change?
Technology. Developments in technology has led to some inspiring new apps and products on the market for education. Whilst not all schools and teachers have the funds or means to use all of these new technologies in their practice, some are free or nearly free. This blog post highlights some of these new technologies such as Augemented Reality and game based learning.
Flexible classroom environment. Check out my previous blog post about how flexible seating works in my classroom.
Student choice. Your next topic is the Vikings. The curriculum states what your students need to learn. Your planning guides you in what you need to share with your class and how they will demonstrate their knowledge. Or should it? Why not let your students choose? In my classroom, I allow my students an element of choice in how they demonstrate their knowledge to me. Whether it’s humanities, history, Science or Maths, it is really empowering watching students plan and design their own way of showing you their understanding. I’ve had student rap facts about the Anglo-Saxons, groups make Anglo-Saxon clothing in order to hold a fashion show, and even students produce a reenactment of an important event in history. The key here is, choice. The quality of the learning outcome is higher when students are more engaged and enthusiastic about their projects. Granted, it takes a whole lot of guts as a teacher to allow 30 students to choose different projects, but I promise, the outcome is well worth it!
How we measure learning. Ultimately, if there is to be this big paradigm sift then we need to revolutionise the way we measure attainment and progress. Many of the ways we currently measure attainment are content focused and not interactive or involve problem solving. You cannot reform the way we teach without also changing the way we measure learning. I am not sure what the solution is to this yet, but it is something I am currently researching. I’ll keep you posted on what I find!
For more on this topic, I recommend reading this blog by Rebecca Rosen.
As many teachers begin to unwind and enjoy the start of their holidays, for some it is the end of a chapter. Many teachers are losing faith in the education system in the UK and newspapers are continuously reporting worrying figures about the mental health of teachers in the UK. If the papers are anything to go by, they are leaving the profession in search of something less draining on their emotional and mental health and in the hope of a better work/life balance.
So, could teaching abroad be the answer?
When I left the UK for Thailand, I went under the notion “how bad can it really be?” Back then, I was sharing a house with 5 other random people, having been forced out of my home due to a relationship break up. I couldn’t afford the monthly costs of living on my own; rent, running a car, food, as well as having enough to enjoy some sort of a life. I endured a miserable year in a shared house in the Midlands before throwing it all in for the sunny beaches of Thailand. Or rather, Bangkok. And I have not looked back since!
That was 4 years ago and since then I have lived in Dubai as well and now am in the process of moving to Singapore.
Here are some of the realities I’ve experienced whilst working in an international school abroad.
You will work hard. Standards are usually very high, as are the expectations on you to perform well and give 110% to your job. If you like to leave early from work and do the minimum workload, international teaching may not be for you. However, a work/life balance is possible! I have worked in schools where managers would actively encourage you to leave promptly on a Friday and enjoy a work free weekend. Although many international schools have a campus which is accessible all evening and weekends, which can make it easy to just ‘nip in’ and end up spending all of your day off there!
The parents can be challenging. Paying for an education means that parents expect a lot from you. This can mean you experience some tricky parents with a lot of demands. Usually these parents just want to an open door of communication and so are reassured quickly by establishing this communication early on in the year. However, you aren’t on your own and line managers are there to support you. Ultimately, an understanding of the culture and of the school will certainly help you to relate to the parents you will encounter.
The holidays are amazing. I enjoy more holidays than I did when I worked back in the UK. Usually speaking, in addition to 13 weeks you have in a state school in the UK, I enjoy an extra 2 weeks. These vary from school to school but they tend to fall in the summer and at Christmas. And there are always those lovely public holidays where a nice 3 day weekend can be enjoyed on a beach somewhere!
The wages are better. Disclaimer- they have been for me but wages differ from country to country and school to school. Overall though, I earn maybe twice as much abroad as I did in the UK, as well as enjoying some added extras as part of the benefits package provided by the school; Private medical insurance, end of year bonus, housing allowance, shipping allowance and an annual flight allowance. You very quickly get used to a better lifestyle and enjoy eating out, holidaying and many teachers are able to save for the first time in their careers. This is certainly one of my reasons for being abroad.
It’s an opportunity to travel the world. One of the main reasons for moving away for me was to see the world. And I have! It’s easy to nip to another country for half term or to a beach for the weekend, and cheaper too! If travel is one of your motives for moving abroad, consider where you’d like to visit and perhaps consider a country nearby. That way flights are cheap and short.
I’ve developed a lot as a teacher. I have learnt so much from working alongside outstanding teachers. It really has been fantastic to share ideas and learn from a wealth of experience. International schools tend to be much bigger than UK schools and so have more staff. Some of the best CPD I’ve had has been through learning from all of the fantastic colleagues both within my department but also school wide. I have also worked in a school where they have paid for external PD opportunities, such as having Paul Ginnis visit the school. However, a PD programme is worth asking about at interview, as schools work very differently from each other.
Resources beyond belief. I remember being in the UK and trying to make glue sticks last for a whole term (no mean feat!) So when I moved to Thailand and my department had a whole resource cupboard, it was like Christmas had come early! What’s more, I could actually request more pencils, glue sticks and even Blu Tak. It would appear a few days after. Wow! I’ve worked in schools where students could work with wood to make moving models, used canvas in art and had some great IT resources. However, not all schools work in the same way and whilst some have plenty of resources, other do not. It depends on a variety of reasons, some being whether the school is for profit or non profit making and if year groups have their own budgets for resources or if they are dealt with centrally.
I have loved working internationally and as I begin my third post abroad, I am in no doubt that this is the right thing for me. I work hard for my students, and I do work some long hours occasionally, but I also enjoy much more of a life. When I’m sitting on the beach during a long weekend, I know that I’ve made a good decision! I have already booked my first long weekend away and am planning my October half term. Priorities!