Friday, 30 August 2013

Calm down Jar

I came across this idea on Pinterest and have made a couple for the start of the new term.


There are loads of different webpages with these on; here is how I made mine.

Jars- didn't think that glass jam jars would really be suitable to give an angry/upset child so found some plastic ones on the web (300 ml seems a good size for little hands) which are "leakproof and unbreakable" ... we'll soon see.

Tried PVA glue- bad move as made the water opaque. So went for glitter glue (whole tube) some more glitter and some little beads and confetti (the type you get in a card shop made of plastic- not the wedding one HA!)

Then added a glug of glycerine (about 75 ml to the first jar which makes the glitter fall very slowly) and topped up with tap water right to the brim. Gave it a good shake and am pleased with the results.

Think I am going to superglue the lids on to be extra secure.

Plan is to use with children who are angry/upset...I have a couple of children starting with me next week who can find it difficult at times to calm down and this is something I haven't tried before. It certainly is very pretty when the glitter swirls around and it takes a few minutes to settle so not so long that it will become boring, but hopefully long enough to come down from seeing red.

Didn't have food colouring so used fountain pen ink which has given a more subtle colour. Not sure red would be a good choice!

Will blog once I have used them and share how they worked...



Monday, 5 August 2013

Job sharing in Primary- Making it work.


I have been working as part of a job share now for two and a half years. I’m still finding my feet with it but am writing this in the hope to help others who are thinking about it or starting. At the end of my first full year job sharing I blogged about how it had gone http://mrshalford.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/challenges-of-job.html

I have really enjoyed this year- no irony in that statement at all. Even with a large class (35 at times) with the huge pile of marking, extra parent sessions, reports… There is so much in the press about teachers leaving the profession http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2013/aug/01/why-are-teachers-leaving-education  Working part time for me has been the most positive step I have taken in my teaching career for some time. 

So, what works well in our class? Key has to be the communication. I have read about some teachers who are lucky to have some time each week when they are both in the class. Budgetary constraints don’t allow that at my school, but we do talk.
And talk.
And some more!

 We keep a book (filled two this year) in which we leave copious notes for each other. We talk on the phone at least twice a week. Oh yes, emails too! And the odd text.  Without that level of communication I can’t see how it could work effectively.  All the children and their parents know how regularly we talk about the class and this has helped us to build strong and positive relationships.  In an ideal world we would have one TA in the class who could be a consistent presence, but there are two of them as well! One works Monday and Friday, the other the middle part of the week.

We are very different in our personalities, in our teaching styles, in our interests. But what we share is our passion for teaching, for helping children to achieve their potential, to build their confidence and self esteem, to enable them to believe in themselves and to be proud of themselves, our class, our school.  We work in a school with a really well put together behaviour policy, that helps too.

When it comes to how we plan and deliver the curriculum that has been a constantly evolving process. Some subjects are split between us which works well. Maths and English (I know the terms are Literacy and Numeracy but I have a pet hate for those and insist on calling them maths and English !) Anyway, for the English this year I taught the majority of the genre work while my partner concentrated on the SPaG. This was commented on favourably by the subject leader during the course of the year through lesson observations and book moderation. We made good use of AFL so that areas that came up in my teaching needing reinforcement could be covered discretely and I would have a “zero tolerance” approach for the focus area each week. With the increased emphasis on SPaG we will definitely be carrying on with this next year. Of course there are also lots of opportunities for writing across the curriculum and we follow the Pie Corbett approach to non fiction writing and include all 6 areas each year so these are split between us.  http://www.talk4writing.com/index.html

Maths has been much more of a challenge. In the first year of job sharing we started by splitting the curriculum so that I did all the number work and my partner did all the shape,space, measure, data. This worked fairly well but my partner felt that she didn’t have enough knowledge of their ability in number.  We then tried to work as one teacher with one of us leaving plans for the other. It was a nice idea but planning for each other was very time consuming. This year we used the unit plans from the strategy and split the five units between us each term so that over the course of the yer we had both taught everything. This worked fairly well but is not the most consistent way for the children who would be doing one area Mon/Tues and another on Weds-Fri.

How are we going to organise it for this year? Not totally sure at the moment. Progress in maths was less than it was for reading and writing which would indicate that we need to look at how we are planning and teaching the subject. There have been some interesting ideas on twitter about planning the maths (http://www.broadbentmaths.com/)   Having asked the twittersphere’s opinions it seems that the number/everything else split is the most popular…

Why am I blogging about this? Partly to share what has worked well, partly to find out how others are making their job shares work well. It’s a constantly evolving process. Being able to communicate well, trust each other, share similar values are all key points. Most classes have at least one teacher with PPA cover so job sharing is more common than one might initially think. Having someone who knows the children as well as you is a real bonus.  


Challenge for next year is to get on top of the maths and be as effective as we possibly  can. Anyone who has any tips to share please do so. 

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Grouping children in class.

 Last year I wrote about my experience of my first full year job sharing  http://mrshalford.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/challenges-of-job.html
Here we are a year on.  So, how did it go?

Teaching children for two consecutive years certainly has its advantages. I knew those children very well- knew exactly what they needed to work on to make good progress and make good progress they certainly did.

Whilst analysing the data it soon became clear that the year five children had made excellent progress, but the year four children slightly less so. Interestingly some of the more able children had made less than expected progress. Why should this be?

One reason could be that I focussed a lot of my guided teaching time on my most able children (as laid out in our SDP). Sure, they got good results but this has made me think carefully about how much time I devote with each group. With another large class next year (33 year 4/5 ) it will be a challenge! Ideally I would spend the same amount of time with each group but as any teacher knows that is easier said than done. Yes of course my weekly overview would structure who I would work with and when, but when using AFL and changing plans to best meet the needs of the children the groups themselves are changing .

Could the fact that the younger children in a mixed age class can feel eclipsed by the older ones and does this inhibit their progress? Certainly the majority of year five children  I taught this year made a lot more progress than they had the previous year when I had taught them as year fours.  Was this all down to the fact that I knew their skills so well? That they were so confident in the class set up that they were able to flourish? That being the older ones in the class gave them a heightened sense of responsibility which in turn improved their capacity for learning? 

This September I will again have a y4/5 class  and be carrying on with 14 children from the 12/13 academic year.  It will be a challenging year with a large class, a lot of children on school action and school action plus (just like any other class) along with the fact that my job share partner has moved on and a new appointment will be made.

So, what are my priorities? 

First of all consistency is key so should my temporary job share partner not continue, it will be all about making a new partnership work effectively. Although new to job sharing I feel that it has been a very successful partnership ; I will blog about it over the summer.

Secondly grouping the children in mixed ability groups most of the time. I use working partners (thanks to all the brilliant AFL resources by the wonderful Shirley Clarke  http://shirleyclarke-education.org/) and have groups of children needing interventions as appropriate. I am thinking of having discrete groups of more able in maths/english (still focus on the SDP) but the rest of the groups to be mixed.  I have always used a variety of grouping methods but gone back to traditional ability groups for the majority of maths and english lessons.  Will it work? That’s the challenge.

So I would really like to research a bit more about grouping the children. All my colleagues favour ability grouping. I’ve always played it safe with grouping in abilities for the majority of maths and english lessons.

I make good use of scaffolds, TAs, top tips, success criteria and various other methods to enable children to access their learning. But when the children do work in mixed ability groups (always for science and practical subjects) there is so much more of a buzz going on.

Have you moved away from ability groups? How did you find it? What worked well and what didn’t?

I will blog about how it goes once the term is underway.