Mondays are difficult!

18 02 2008

It was hard going today, I was saying at 3pm that it would be nice to have a support assistant on a Monday as I think that would help split groups up etc but unfortunately I don’t.

After playtime we had the laptops and I asked the pupils to go on and read the other schools in the clusters blogs and make sure they left some comments.  However this proved quite difficult as the laptops were really playing up and I would say the morning felt quite disasterous in the end.  They were having problems logging on and then getting onto the internet and by the time they were all engaged with the task it was time to stop!  I had wanted to go on GLOW as well but we ran out of time for this.  I am going to be able to buy three webcams to use with GLOW for video conferencing which will be really good.

In the afternoon they went on with writing their fiction stories in pairs.  I would say this is a case of extremes – either they are doing really well, or doing really poorly.  The ones doing poorly is a lot to do with who they are paired with, I felt myself groaning at who ended up together in some cases!  I found it hard to get round and help by myself yesterday so I am glad I will have my support assistant to help tomorrow, I know exactly which couple of pairs I am going to ask her to concentrate on and it frees me up for the rest of the class.  I don’t know what I would do without her.

We stopped before the end of the afternoon and started doing African flags for our display, this proved harder to organise than I thought as well as none of our atlas books had flags in them that the children could find so I ended up doing lots of searches on Google images.

All of the teachers met this afternoon that are involved in the rich task and most of us said the same thing – that the fiction work was not going as well as the non-fiction which was reassuring.  We also managed to share a few ideas for world book day.  I felt better after that was over than I did at 3pm!

First day out

16 02 2008

While I am being acting principal teacher I am only in class until 10.45am on a Friday and I could get used to that!  Mrs Bromley, who is in p.2 the rest of the week and will take mine on a Friday, came in with me until then to get used to the class and see what we are doing for our rich task.  As it is not that long since I was a student and did my probationary year I am used to having other teachers in the class with me and it doesn’t bother me.  In fact I am quite happy with any extra help!

The pupils worked in their pairs to plan their story and have now started writing it as a first draft.  A good thing about having someone else in the room is I try to do things properly and I remembered to do a plenary, which is something I forget to make time for.

We talked about how well they had worked together, or not in a couple of cases, and they had done really well today, in fact they left me open mouthed with their good behaviour this morning and I made sure I went on about how I was pleased I was with them.

I got to be ‘het’ from interval until lunchtime as the head and deputy were away which was exciting, although of course uneventful.  I did worry slightly that the fire alarm or something like that would go off!

I took the whole school for a hymn practice and I have to say I prefer taking ‘Star of the Week’, especially as the songs were quite high.  I had to tell p.2 to be quiet and some of them spent the rest of the time staring at me, seeming terrified!

I spent some time working on podium in the afternoon and got a great recording of some of the p.5 girls saying their Burns poems.  I am not sure how I am going to publish it though as you had to put in a password which I don’t have.  I seem to remember when I did the training there was a bit of an issue with it, depending on the computers you had or something so if anyone has any ideas that would be great.  I saved it on my flash drive and am going to see if I can still put it on the school website.

It is taking me twice as long as usual to write this entry as for once I have control of iTunes and I flick over and chose a different tune every time one finishes! My other half is on one of his crazy training runs for the 95 mile long in under 35 hours West Highland Race in June (or in his case hopefully under 23 hours) and I can be on the computer as long as I want without being pestered that its his turn!  My turn tomorrow, although its only a long run for a marathon!

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.