21 03 2009

I was running the blogging part of my blogging and wiki course again this week, twice, and was ashamed that I had not posted in so long as the attendees were using my blogroll to get to others.  I resolved to post that night (Monday) and yet here I am on Sat morning just getting round to it, although about two hours later than planned after catching up on loads of other peoples blogs and finding some great new ideas, especially new wikis that I can show at the wiki part of the course next week.

I have just felt too busy to blog even though I have had loads I could have written about this term.  I have been keeping my running one up to date as it is my training diary as well as a blog and so it has taken priority.

Work has been super busy, but brilliant, I have been trying to train for these crazy running races I am doing (which are getting frighteningly closer) and I this last couple of weeks I have travelling around the country a bit and organising my summer!

In the last two weeks I have been in Inverness, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow at a series of networking events for International Education masterclassers and others like global teachers and link schools.  I was there with the charity LINK that I went to Malawi with to highlight the glow group I am working on with them which will be primarily for global teachers and link schools but obviously for anyone else who wants to join as well.  It will sit within national international education glow group and one of the things I was doing was gathering resources from people to share within the group.

Glow was one of the things brought up quite often, especially when in the afternoons the groups split into their local authority groupings with some QIO’s present by this point.  It was fascinating to hear what different councils thought of Glow, obviously based on the experiences that they had to date and what stage their council were at in rolling it out.  It made me realise just how far SLC and other early adopters like Dundee had come when I when I came into contact with authorities who were at the very beginning stages.  I did feel bad talking about sharing resources and ideas etc on Glow when some teachers still seem very far away from getting a glow account.

There seem to be many different ways of rolling it out within authorities and I am not even going to pretend to begin to understand the work needed in setting up the infrastructure for local authorities when they sign up. However with the amount of content now on the national site both in terms of resources and in glow groups  it seems unfair for teachers not to at least get their username and password so that they can access the national site, even if nothing else is available for them at a school or local authority level.  I  did hear of this happening a bit in one council but I am sure there are very good reasons for it not happening too!

I had three brilliant days of co-operative learning training recently and have since been anxious to try it out with a class, particularly since I am now expected to deliver training on it.  So I asked at Castlefield and will be trying it out with a class who are particularly in need of some social skills!  I was amazed at the training at the things I thought I had been doing well in group work that were really just scratching surface and I now feel really enthused to try out things ‘properly’ like think, pair, share and peer teaching as just two examples.  I would previously have said I was doing these things, but now have an entirely new take on them!

I am going to tie in this work with Malawi.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  My school has recently become an official link school with the school I was in in Malawi (Gwengwe Primary) but I was was not feeling terribly enthused as I was unsure of how to take it forward when I was not actually there.  Going into the school this week to talk to the SMT about it and getting their support has helped, as did going to all of the networking events and getting ideas and the fact that just this week, after huge amounts of time on the phone, I have booked flights and trips for the summer.

I am going to Malawi for 2 weeks with one of the other teachers from the programme last year.  We are doing this independently although since we are both link schools the folk from LINK out there will give us a hand getting to our schools, either themselves or by arranging transport for us.  I am then leaving and going back to Nairobi to then travel to Tanzania and climing Mount Kiliminjaro.  I was talking about this last year so I had the idea before I knew about the celebs doing it!  I paid attention to what they did to prepare though and have watched the programme twice now so it was actually useful that they did it first!  In fact it persuaded me into spending yet more money to do a longer trek and not just doing the quickie, cheaper one to the top which you have less chance of getting to the top with anyway!  Not that I was trying to cut corners but with a brand new kitchen and huge total costs for this trip in total I was a bit worried!  When I saw how slowly Fearne Cotton was wallking and how much of a struggle it was for her I thought I would pay atttention!

Travelling back to Nairobi after that and going onto the Masai Mara for a three day camping safari and finishing with a couple of days in Nairobi.

The Kiliminjaro trek is partly to help raise funds for the teachers house I am raising money for in my village.  I am looking forward to going out and telling them that I am doing this for them and hopefully I will be past halfway by that point with a further very generous sum to come from someone if I make it to to the top of Kili.

I had sent letters asking about coming to stay again which unfortunately never arrived and so I had to text and ask but I got lovely texts back from my head teacher saying they would love to have me back:

“Caroline, your message has answered the dreams of a lot of people here.  They were asking me to call you and have a visit at Gwengwe school,  but I had nowhere to start.  Come and visit us.  You are most welcome.  The village headsmen, the family and all the teachers want to see you again.  The DEM and PEA say you are most welcome.  I am Jimu”

I since then asked them what they wanted to work on while I was there and they said english grammar, alphabetical order, global map, phonics and other things for maths.  Now despite my A at English higher I would not say my english grammar was the best and neither would my dad whenever he proof reads my assignments.  I am also not convinved that should really be a priority but I am going to keep thinking of it in terms of infants and maybe things like sentences and simple ideas of verbs, adjectives etc.  I would like to do more this year where I worked in english but the teachers helped the pupils to do it in Chichewa so they have a better understanding.

I would like to take out really simple jolly phonics books as well as teachers guides and other picture books and loads of other resources.  I will have to buy gradually over the next few months since I am already spending so much on the trip as a whole.  As part of the co-operative learning teaching I will try to enthuse the class I am working with at Castlefield to do things/make things/write to Malawi and work with the rest of the school to raise awareness and get behind the link and my visit.

More to follow on all of this after the holidays and a couple of questions to finish this one.

I signed up to twitter but have not really got into posting although I do log in and see what other people are saying.  It is blocked at work and I do not have present have internet access on my phone, although not sure if I can change this.  Can I send ordinary texts to twitter that would go on the web – that would be useful, and I hope interesting, when I was in Malawi again.  It was hard enough getting phone reception though never mind internet access so I doubt I would be able to do it through the internet even if I had it on my phone. 

Also I have been trying for a while to put powerpoints on slideshare, to then put on glow – it looks so nice!  These are all to do with Malawi and are reasonably big with lots of photos.  I am having terrible trouble getting them onto slideshare and just wanted to check if this was down to the photos and size of them – if it is I will just have to split them into smaller sections.

Better session on our rich task

6 02 2008

Thank goodness it went better today!  Everything that I wanted to get done on Monday but didn’t we got done today.  The children were really well behaved and on task for the first half of the session and although they got noisy in the second half they had got exctied and were noisy as they were trying to tell me so many things for our mind map!

I read them some well known fables first and they listened really well and provided some good thoughts on the morals of the stories.  They are not a class of readers but they really enjoyed hearing all of the stories I told them today which was great.  It is funny how it is often the ones I have to give into the most trouble for various things and who are not necessarily the cleverest children in the class who answer the most questions and they may not be the right answers (although with these questions it was more about opinions) but at least they are showing willing and are keen which is more than I can say for some of the others who I would expect more from.

I then read them a couple of examples of African stories, we talked about those and then I gave them stories in pairs and asked them to read to each other and decide what the moral or main idea of the story was.  They did very well and myself and my supprt assistant were able to go around and help because they were on task.

I had then intended reading them a couple more stories before we did a mind map together of what they had learned so far about the content of African stories.  However we got sidetracked and this is one of the things I love about a rich task/Curriculum for Excellence.  I showed them my book of Nelson Mandela’s favourite African folk tales and asked them if they knew who he was.  A couple of them did and we got into a 20 min discussion about apartheid in South Africa, the slave trade to America, the American civil rights movement and finally the news about Lewis Hamilton being racially abused.  This is where they began to get noisy as then it all started to relate to football and get out of hand!  However they had listened to me and each other really well about something they obviously found interesting and had loads of curious questions.  If one pupil goes away to find out more about any of those things I would be really pleased.  Where were we supposed to have time to do that with 5-14?!

Doing our mind map is where they got a little rowdy but they were full of ideas of all animals and other things that appeared in the stories and about words they did not understand.  I am now looking forward to the next day on this!

Good morning, bad afternoon

4 02 2008

The kids worked reasonably well this morning – they tried hard to get their non-fiction books finished before Mrs Reid came in to see what they were doing on Glow.  I thought I had it looking pretty good and directed them to what I wanted them to do first but of course typically when the head was coming there was a setting I had not changed so the children were unable to complete the surveys I had put on for them.  I managed to get this changed while they used the discussion pages I set up with questions on how well they had been working as a group.  I do not think though that they fully realised I would be able to see all of the comments and who wrote them as they got a bit of a shock!  They enjoyed doing the surveys and we will look together tomorrow to see the graphs etc it makes.

This afternoon we went onto the fiction side of the rich task and I had spent a long time preparing things for this.  However it was a very poor afternoon and we ended up swapping to a lot of written language work as they could not cope with listening and discussion work.  This was really unfortunate as I really wanted to get a good start on this today.  At only 3.30pm I am not sure what I could have done differently to change their behaviour, I am sure when I am more calm later I will think of something.  Tomorrow they have a lot of other things on and we will not be able to do the rich task which is unfortunate.

Tricky day

3 02 2008

The class were trying to finish their booklets today and most of them got most of the way there.  There were some groups that found it really hard to work together though by this point and for them all to be on task as there were only certain bits to finish and only 3 pieces of card were in use for each book so only 3 people could be working on these at any one time.  This left the other person or two people with little to do.  I did suggest ways around this but they seemed unable or unwilling to take me up on these.

Next time I think I would have 4 pieces of card for each group so they had a defined part each but stress they could have more pictures etc.  I found this session difficult because of this and did not seem to be able to find a way round it.  I am really impressed with how some people have pulled together.  There was one group which I maybe did not put together well – it has one high achieving boy, two capable but rowdy boys and one girl who really struggles with her reading and writing.  They have really worked well together to produce an excellent book and I was really pleased to see throughout the sessions the level of input that the girl has been able to put in and how the boys have encouraged her.  I really think that every one of my learning support pupils has been working to their full potential and really benefited so far from this rich task.  Of course one group are almost ready to fight now as they have had enough of each other but you can’t have everything! 

I am really impressed by how the books look and can’t wait for them to be fully finished and for them to have a good look at each others.  We will move on this week to looking at fiction stories; we are going to look at the moral of the stories, the comparisions to our fables and fairy tales and new words and phrases.

I am also going to be doing more on Glow; I can get on at home now and have been busy setting up more for their rich task on this and they are also going to start their science active learning open area sessions this week which will include GLow.


31 01 2008

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday having mentor training for Glow.  I had already set up quite a bit before I went to this with the help of the area mentor since we are an early adopter school and so it was nice to feel a bit ahead of the game – I still feel so unconfident in some areas that it was nice to feel I could do something.

I am really starting to see what the benefits will be of using Glow but it will be a while before it is all up and running, indeed there are some things I still cannot do that are available without RM coming in to do an update of Java.  I have been promised it this week!

I thought the video conferencing looked great and is about the only thing that is available that I had not tried or set up yet.  I am looking forward to trying this with Auldhouse Primary soon, as long as we can get some webcams.

I was asked to show to the rest of the group what I had set up already and it made it sound much better that I had thought it was when everyone sat and related it to Curriculum of Excellence.

My class survived without me very well and were able to tell the deputy head what they were supposed to be doing with their rich task so they were allowed to do it!  I was really impressed when I came in today and saw what they had achieved.  Their non-fiction books, although still needing a lot of work, look really good and they made some excellent african masks (we stole the idea from South Park).  It was great to see them all working really hard today and wanting them to look good.  The group that had worked together least well in doing their research had a book that looked really good.  It was obvious that they had thought hard about how to lay out and present it well.  They told me it was the best they had worked together so far and I am sure they are right.

Taking notes

18 01 2008

On Wednesday I gave the pupils some general information on Africa taken from the internet.  I asked them to highlight the points they thought they were relevant and then I put them into a mind map to show how this helps to take short notes so it is not copied from the original passage. 

Once I had demonstrated this the pupils then did another section by themselves and they did work very well in their groups today.  They self-assessed themselves again and I made sure they were positive about their work together today.

We tried to fill in the class blog altogether but this did not really work as they were getting restless by then and were not really listening or contributing.

Yesterday they started thinking about what subject they would really like to study for their booklet.  I had suggested they either pick one country or an aspect of Africa as a whole such as health, culture or education.

The groups have decided to do these things:





The Culture of South Africa, the Congo and Egypt,

Culture relating to food, fashion, sports and entertainment in Africa.

I though this was an interesting range of topics that would be covered although from looking myself I think the last one will be the hardest to find information on.

The children began to look for information on the internet yesterday and surprised themselves by what they found – for example the size and style of some of the more expensive houses in Africa!

Rich Task

16 01 2008

I set this blog up ages ago with great intentions and then did not even open it again!

I am going to make a concerted effort now to start and keep this up as my primary 7 class have just started a rich task on African books that myself and other teachers from our cluster wrote.

 Having discussed the fact that the standard of writing was poor in our classes we decided to make up  a rich task that would have the children writing in as many different forms as possible.  The context of Africa came about because I visited Malawi during the summer with LECT (League for exchange of Commonwealth countries) and have used this experience to share information with staff and pupils in my school and with others in the cluster.  Read more about my trip on our school website –

 The children began their rich task by filling out a pre-assessment sheet on how well they thought they were doing at things like language, ICT, creativity, independance and self-confidence.  They were then asked to highlight two areas that they felt needed work on from the answers they gave.  The children were invited to discuss these if they wished.  It was really interesting to hear what individual children had highlighted as problem areas as they were just the sames that I would have picked out for them.  This shows that they were probably thinking quite carefully and being honest!

We then had some brainstorming sessions, looking at what they knew already about Africa and what they wanted to know.  I also had a hypothetical question about how they would make an African child feel welcome in the class as a lead in for doing craft/art/music activities to tie in with the rich task and what they would do our World Book Day which is going to be tied to this rich task and will involve them reading their African stories to others in the school.

Their work in groups was very noisy, and for some people not particularily productive.   They were asked to assess themselves in their groups and they were rather more kind to themselves than I would have been.

Next we will be looking at conventions of non-fiction as I would like them in their groups to produce a booklet about something to do with Africa of their choice, so either concentrating on a country or an aspect of something like health.