It Never Did Me Any Harm

I never thought I’d be writing this. I’ve always been someone who’s erred more on the side of “it never did me any harm.” I actually feel slightly old writing this – sounding a little more like my dad each day.

But, I do believe kids access too much.

I remember my friends talking about Eminem’s album, The Marhsall Mathers LP back in… 2000? I was at primary school at the time and really wanted my own copy. We saw it whilst out one day and my dad told me I could buy it, but I had to wait until I was 11 to listen to it. He listened to it first, made me promise I wouldn’t listen to it with my brother (who’s younger than me), and I suspect even then he didn’t really want me to have it – I can’t remember if I waited until I was 11 to listen to it or not. Needless to say, I’m not sure it was entirely appropriate for an eleven year old all the same, even one who was pretty mature – but it never did me any harm.

I also remember watching Ali G and Austin Powers as a kid. Perhaps something that most parents at the time would’ve been slightly shocked that a child had seen. We had a Playstation and owned the first ever Grand Theft Auto (GTA) game.

But it never did me any harm.

Read more

All The Jargon

It’s funny how shops are now providing jargon busting pages on their websites – PC World has had one for a few years now to explain that an ‘8GB RAM with Intel Core i5 processor’ will likely be able to handle Microsoft Word and whatever other planning software you’re likely to use for your lessons.

It’s also funny how we need one for the National Curriculum. I know there’s the glossary at the back of the curriculum but I feel for the kids.

I’ve always been one for teaching the proper language when we’ve been learning about it. When we’ve written poetry and included imagery, I’ve used the term ‘figurative language’, and my children can mostly tell me what that means. We’ve looked at time and causal connectives, active and passive voice, subordinate clauses, prepositions, adverbs, adverbials, adjectives… I’ve ‘ad enough.

To some extent, I think it’s useful to know the proper term for specific written features. I also think it’s important to know the right words for mathematical concepts, computing stuff, scientific processes and other various parts of learning. It means that children can express exactly what they mean, just as adults can. It also means that they can be concise.

What I don’t think children aged 11 need to know are terms like ‘continuous present tense’ or ‘a relative clause’. I also think, whilst language can make children more concise, I think it can be confusing when children are faced with terms like ‘algorithms’, ‘programme’ and ‘instructions’ (which, although they have subtle differences, are more or less the same things). ‘Conjunctions’ and ‘connectives’ is another one. Even I don’t know the difference between those.

This doesn’t help make children more concise. Or adults, for that matter. It makes us confused.

I often see people posting in Facebook teacher groups (bless us, we even band together to spend our personal time talking about teaching) asking about specific terms within the curriculum. If it’s confusing the teachers, surely it’s confusing the kids.

Maybe we should ask the government to make a jargon buster for us.

Free: New Vocabulary Printable

Today I came across an interesting item on Pinterest. I’m very much into pushing my class to use new words. Regular readers of my blog may know I’ve banned certain ‘boring’ words (big, small, good, bad…) and consistently use wow words as a success criteria for almost everything we’re writing.

The image I found on Pinterest (if you didn’t click the link) showed a page which would be used to create a vocabulary book. The idea would be to introduce the new word, define it using a dictionary or class discussion, draw a picture of the word, and then use the word in a sentence. Steps which, when new words are learnt, are pretty important in developing an understanding.

The image I found looked great and for a moment I considered using it. However, I wanted to ensure it was consistent with the other books we’re going to be using next year and so I set about making my own.

Vocabulary Book

This version is, in my opinion, a little more simpler, cleaner and has just over 8mm between each line – consistent with the spacing in our writing books in September. It’s a high quality image designed with printing in mind.

Should you want to download this page, you can do so here.

The green, by the way, was chosen as it’s close to our school colour. If you’d like me to upload a few colour alternatives, feel free to contact me, using the contact page, or by leaving a comment below.

Belief and Confidence

Teaching a whole key stage on your own can sometimes be lonely. At least, that’s what I’ve found. It’s a daunting task sometimes to know that you’re going to inherit a class when the children are 7 and see them right through to their leaving date at the age of 11. When you’re the only one teaching this age group it can seem like you’re in a little bubble, plodding on doing what you think is right.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I’ve been doing it for two years now (that’s flown by so fast!) and I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s great to see the children mature into little adults as they pass through; there’s a really remarkable change in year 3s in their first year. It’s also a huge positive to be able to pick up where you left off each year with the same children. After all, who knows their strengths and weaknesses better than their previous teacher?

Assessment is also a pro. There’s no worries of inheriting a class with hugely inflated levels because the previous teacher was way out, or is now retiring. You’re the one that assesses and you’re the one that gets the assessment. It’s great knowing exactly where the children have come from and where they need to go.

Socially, you might think four year groups in one class is a bit awkward too. The older ones are getting towards their teenage years and the younger ones still believe everything they’ve ever been told. But it’s really not awkward. The older ones take leadership roles, take on responsibilities within the class, look after the younger ones and enjoy being ‘older sibling’ figures (if they’re not already actually their older siblings). The younger of the class learn from the older ones, mirror what they do and look up to responsible and enthusiastic others. Win-win.

So, before I get back to the point, this is not a moan. I’m a huge believer in mixed-age and mixed-ability education (and I never thought I’d say that before I took this job).

Read more

What purpose marking?

I entirely agree with the opinions of this article. I often find myself sat marking, thinking about what I could put as a star or a wish because I’ve learnt more about other areas that the child needs work with, instead of what the child knows about the learning objective of that particular lesson.