This is a new thing I want to try for my blog. A 5 in 5. 5 things on a particular topic that should only take about 5 minutes to read (Ok, I went a bit overboard this time but I got carried away!)
When I write posts on this blog (and let’s be honest, it’s not OVERLY frequent) I find it’s pretty much purely my advice or my thoughts. I find that odd because, in real life, I spend much time asking advice from other people and taking on board their ideas. That’s why, for this blog post I thought I’d share practice I’ve seen in other schools (whilst on placement), heard other teachers doing in my own school or just through Twitter or blogs. I can’t remember specifically where every idea came from so I just want to make it clear I did not come up with these. They are “magpied” 😉
Make songs from EVERYTHING.
This is quite a general one but I find it so effective, especially if your class respond well to music. As I can pick out chords on a guitar I generally write my own but even if you can’t play an instrument, you can still re-work existing songs. For example, we have our own class song, with remixed lyrics to Castle on the Hill by Ed Sheeran. I’m currently writing a song to go with our topic on teeth (in the theme of the 12-bar blues, get me). I know another teacher in my school uses song a lot and re-worked Adele’s Hello to teach them about perimeter and area (it was a treat). There are so many karaoke videos on YouTube with backing tracks if you can’t play an instrument and it’s just a really fun way of getting what would otherwise be quite dull facts or rules into the children’s heads.
2. Have a break, have a brain break.
Brain breaks are LIFE when you have a fussy class. We usually have one in between maths and English, but if we’re doing a particularly long piece of writing in English, we might stop halfway through to refocus the children. I struggled to think of some initially, but after Googling it, found loads! I wrote down the name of each one on a lollipop stick and get a child to pick one out. They’re quick, easy to explain and just give the children the chance to shake it off and refocus.
3. Ello’, ello’, ello’.
This is my version of “punctuation police” often seen in classrooms. Normally, children who are proficient in punctuation move around the room, checking for their peers’ capital letters, full stops etc. I want to build up to this but as we are only a week into term, I don’t know yet who would be suitable for this. So instead, I get my puppet flamingo to do the job for me. Yes, you heard correctly. Gloria is my fluffy flamingo puppet who sits on my arm and sometimes comes out of the reading corner for a wander. If she sees work without a piece of important punctuation…well. I’ll let you finish that sentence. Basically, her presence just reminds the children that they need to be putting in their punctuation, whilst bringing a bit of amusement to the classroom. I am sparing with when I use her and something like this may not work with upper KS2 – but my lot love it!
4. Using song lyrics for comprehension practice.
Comprehension, particularly PEE (point, evidence, explanation) questions, are so important now, especially moving into upper KS2 in prep for the SATs. However, it can be a bit dull. Spice it up by using song lyrics! I saw this on Twitter last year and thought it was amazing. Find some song lyrics (for example, the first verse and bridge to Castle on the Hill). The children, on the whole, will instantly become engaged as it is something they are interested in and know about. The question I asked with this one was “how do you think Ed Sheeran feels about his childhood?” They had to answer using the PEE structure. Obviously, you can’t spend the whole year just looking at song lyrics, but for initially teaching how to pull evidence from the text and cover the three stages, it’s great!
5. Musical Chairs.
My work BFF introduced me to this one for an observation and I’ve never looked back! I don’t know if he thought of it himself or if he saw it elsewhere but either way it’s great. The basic ideas is that of peer assessment. Halfway through the lesson as a mini-plenary, get the children to stand up and tuck in their chairs. Put on some music (I quite like this one here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcCHRW8G9yY) and get them to move around the room. When the music stops, they stop on the chair they are on, sit down and peer assess the work. If you have the time, leave a post-it note on each book and get them to write down two stars and a wish, or however your school mark. Great bit of AfL, generates good discussion, plus it doubles up as a brain break as they are physically moving. Everyone’s a winner!
I hope you enjoyed these ideas for lessons. I’ve loved using them and will continue to do so. Have you seen any little activities or ideas? Please share them in the comments!
I thought I’d write a quick post, seeing as tomorrow it’s BACK TO SCHOOL!
(So strange how, even as a 24 year old woman and professional, I call it back to school rather than work. Anyone else?) Five and a half weeks have passed and September is here. It’s rather aptly pouring with rain outside and it’s like a scene from “Gorillas in the Mist.” I’ve got my cinnamon candle burning, jumper on and fairy lights twinkling and it does feel very “back to school” and autumnal. Cosy.
I’ve had a busy summer – there have been very few days where I haven’t had some sort of plan and that’s the way I like it. I’ve caught up with old friends, continued seeing newer ones, visited lots of places in my lovely little car. I’ve found some new passions (new National Trust member over here!) and continued to develop old ones. I’ve written LOTS: songs, poetry, stories. I’ve played a lot of guitar, which is one of my biggest enjoyments. I started a bullet journal (the latest entry is actually the featured image for this blog). I’ve explored lots of old houses and immersed myself in history. I’ve eaten a LOT – many trips to restaurants and cafes with friends, lots of baking, LOTS of Indian takeaway (oops). I’ve done much more yoga and mediation and reaped the benefits, however short-term. I’ve drunk a lot of green tea (and quite a bit of wine). I’ve spent time with my family. I’ve spent rather a lot of money (oops again). I’ve watched copious hours of Star Wars films with my brother.
When I think about it I have done a LOT. I’m writing this to remind myself of that because, it’s easy to remember the slightly less positive moments and feel sad that that was my summer. But it wasn’t – I did so much! I’m so glad I filled my summer holidays with lots of fun things. I am looking forward to going back to work though – starting with a new class of cherubs, seeing my work family again who I love so much and generally getting back my routine!
I hope you all had wonderful summers and filled them with your passions and things you love. Good luck starting back and stay strong – you are all amazing!
Day Two of the holidays: still can’t believe my first year of teaching is over (probably because I just spent the whole day moving classrooms, ha!).
I am now a RQT. A recently qualified teacher. I PASSED MY NQT YEAR!!!
Safe to say, it was certainly the hardest year of my life, in many ways. Not just the pressures of a new job (which as you will know if you teach, are EXTREMELY pressuring) but I also had to deal with some pretty life changing events in my personal life and battle some demons. It’s been incredibly tough and there were so many days where I didn’t think I could get through. I definitely thought there was no way I could complete the year, keep up with the demands of the job, get all my books marked, actually help these children achieve. But they have: they’ve all grown in various ways and I couldn’t be any prouder of my children. I feel very blessed to have had them as my first class and I will miss them dearly.
I feel like there are lots of posts out there giving advice on your NQT year but I don’t want this to be one of those. ( I may put out a request for any questions about NQT years on Twitter soon and write one). This is more a reflection for me and trying to come to terms with everything that has happened. It’s quite overwhelming to sit back and think about it.
There is no doubt in my mind that I would not have got through my NQT year without the support of many amazing, selfless people. My family have been amazing, helping not only with advice but with cutting out lettering, proof-reading reports and all the other random things a teacher needs help with. LF, my year group leader, has been a constant pillar of support even when things have been extremely tricky in her own life. VM has brought so much laughter and fun to my year, always lightening the mood and putting things into perspective. KR has been a steady source of advice and wisdom and I’ve learnt a lot teaching alongside her. My TA has saved me in countless ways and I certainly would not have made it through the year without her and her organisational, Mummy ways. NL has been a source of laughs and distraction (good ones). TJ has changed my life in many ways and given me a whole new outlook on things. I definitely would not have survived this year without him.
I feel positive about next year. I know it is still going to be very difficult – new class, more children, greater responsibility and new challenges. But this year has been extremely tough and yet, when I look back I don’t necessarily remember the late nights marking until 11pm, or the meltdowns over planning or the stress of getting children to expected level, nor the worry about your children’s personal situations. What I do remember is the funny moments with my children, the times I got up on the desk and danced around (don’t tell Health and Safety), the times I laughed until it hurt with my colleagues: mainly though, the times when I just knew everyone was there for me, no matter what. I’m looking forward to making more of these memories next year.
I really enjoyed writing my last blog post about Friends and teaching, so I decided it was time for another. Enjoy…
That one member of staff who keeps taking your stuff.
They do it on the daily. They take your prized resources, sometimes without asking. Where’s all my newly ordered tissue paper gone? Oh yeah, them. My valuable red paint collection? Yep, them again. Glue sticks? May as well kiss them goodbye forever. It’s OK though, because you do it back. And you love them. They get away with it.
2. When a child finally gets that tricky concept you’ve been working on forever.
Whether it be long multiplication, short division, apostrophes for possession or using commas to mark clauses (writing out the statements makes them sound even more ridiculous), when a child finally understands something, it’s like the seas have parted, the mist has cleared and you’ve actually imparted some knowledge. You are offically the Best. Teacher. Ever.
3. When you get that new room feeling.
The new class lists are out. You realise you’re moving year groups. This must mean…a new room?! And you’ve got the spacious, bright one with the good view? Compared to your hole this year, you are living the dream. I’m a teacher and welcome to my crib…
4. Waiting for children to stop talking.
You’ve done your countdown. You’ve clapped. You’ve rung a bell. Yet, there will always be someone who thinks it’s still OK to carry on. We shouldn’t be sarcastic but…
5. Finding activities which not only engage but actually WORK.
It’s the best feeling, stumbling across something which not only helps you teach (and helps them learn) but which your children LOVE.
6. The Sports Day competition.
It’s the Sports Day time of year again and so time again for teachers everywhere to pretend they don’t care about the teacher race. Statements of “I’m going to purposely go slow because I don’t care,” and/or “I may just walk it to show it’s the taking part that counts,” will be echoed around every staff room. Bonus points if you hear a “I’ve hurt my back so I don’t think I’ll be doing it.” Then of course, you realise everyone is really competitive and actually wants to win.
7. When your children try to “up-level” their vocabulary.
Bless them, they love their thesauruses. And they are trying really hard to impress you. But for the love of God, “glamouring” still isn’t a word. And no you can’t use “plz” in your work – that’s not even a word!
8. When it all gets too much.
You’re TA-less again, you’re trying to teach 2-step word problems, you’re desperate for a wee, there’s thunder outside and everyone loses their minds, a pencil pot gets knocked off the table, a child starts crying because their fingers hurts and YOU JUST CAN’T HANDLE THE MADNESS (except of course, you do because you’re a teacher and you’re a superhuman.)
9. Getting territorial about the staff room fridge.
Labelling everything you have down to the last piece of tupperware.
It’s 3.30pm. You’re seven cups in. Extra strong. Your physically shaking. Head is aching. You can smell colours. But it’s OK because it’s going to get you through tonight’s stack of marking.
I hope you enjoyed! I love doing these. Until next time…
Ah, displays. The bane of some teacher’s lives. Fun for others. A chance to showcase your creativity, share children’s learning and transform your classroom into your own personal space. This sounds quite idealistic as, in reality, getting a Pintrest-worthy classroom is HARD WORK. And TIME CONSUMING. And EXPENSIVE.
Regardless of this, I do enjoy a good display. I think it can make the classroom become such an interesting space and children respond really well when their learning environment is interesting and varied. As the school year is now reaching its home straight, I’ve learned a few things this year that I thought could help any new teachers (and which will hopefully help me next year!)
Don’t be too ambitious for every display
As mentioned previously, displays can be hard work to create initially and to maintain. My school have a policy for what must be included in the classroom and trying to upkeep a Maths and English working wall, Home Learning Board, Progress Board, Personal Bests, British Values, Topic, Learning Powers and numerous others is tough. Of course, I want all my displays to look decent but I had to be realistic last summer when I was starting completely from scratch in an empty room. I made sure I had up all the displays needed but focused really hard on two displays, max. Now, it’s my topic display that tends to get the most treatment, becoming a real focal point for the room. It doesn’t mean the others are neglected, they’re changed regularly, but means that I don’t completely burn myself out!
2. Get help!
Whether its friends, family, work colleagues – get help! Have you ever tried to back a board solo? It’s up there with flying the Millennium Falcon. If at all possible, get someone to help you out, whether its laminating and cutting out lettering (takes so much longer than expected), backing boards or stapling. I’m lucky to have an amazingly creative and committed TA who helps me with my displays and, to be honest, the amazingness of them is all her. It’s also surprisingly fun. Doing a display with a work colleague last term turned out to be one of the funniest times I’ve had in school.
3. Pintrest is your friend, not your Bible…
I’ve done it. We’ve all done it. We take a quick glance on Pintrest to get some inspo’ for our next display and suddenly we’re 47 boards deep with hundreds of pins and feeling like Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. But it’s not realistic. Those people on Pintrest with perfect classrooms either have too much money, too much time, or both (lucky ones). Use it for inspiration by all means, but don’t feel too depressed that yours doesn’t look like it. I mean, the pile of papers at the back of my room and the mound of work on my desk could become good Feng-Shui one day, right?
4. Save things!
It can be quite tempting when taking down an old display to rip if off and throw it away, forgetting about it and focusing your attention on the new one. STOP! Unless something is literally falling apart, save it. Lettering takes so long to prepare and its wasteful to throw it away. My TA made up some box files labelled with each topic (told you she was amazing) and I put everything in there. Anything that doesn’t fit (like large banners or pictures) goes in folded sugar paper, stapled and labelled. It takes a bit of time to pack away but just think of the time you’ll save next year! You’ll be absolutely winning at display life.
5. Get the right balance
This is one I want to improve at next year. The guidance from our school is that displays should have a good balance of children’s work and printed out resources. The temptation to “over-Twinkl-fy” displays is tempting. Don’t get me wrong, I love Twinkl and my platinum subscription is highly adored (and abused, by my colleagues 😉 ) but I try to make sure what I print is meaningful and I rotate things on working walls as often as possible. It can be hard to get children’s work up regularly as, again, it is time consuming to select, photocopy and back but they do love it. One of the displays my children commented on the most was my outdoor one about Spring which had photographs of them and examples of work and they loved it!
6. Don’t overspend
I do dread to think how much I’ve spent on school things. It’s not right really, but we all do it because we want our classrooms to look nice. To be fair, we spend a LOT of our lives there! It doesn’t have to be overly expensive though. Always check in school first if there is anything that can be ordered there. If not, Poundland is great for display stuff (and as my mum continually reiterates when shopping there with me – “it’s only a pound?!”). Amazon is also a winner and charity shops are the obvious but useful choice. Also, ask other teachers if they have anything they no longer need or something you can borrow for your topic. There’s so much stuff lying around in cupboards, forgotten about! Take advantage and go on the scrounge. No shame, here.
6. Finally, take a picture of your completed display.
Sounds simple, but taking a picture of the completed display should save you time next year. It may seem obvious to you how the display has gone up but after a year of rotating displays and all the other stuff teaching brings, I imagine it’s easy to forget. Taking a picture gives you the chance to remember exactly how it went up, (and also show them off to your friends 😉 ).
I love seeing other people’s displays and classroom organisation, so please share any pictures or tips you might have! I’ve posted a few pictures of my classroom below and some displays I am proud of. I hope to add to these next year now that I have a bit more experience!
I’m going to leave out the standard spiel about how it’s been ages since I last blogged – we all know that. I still want to keep blogging something which is completely un-forced and this morning I woke up with an urge to get back online and post something. It took a while to think of something but at the time I was watching one of my favourite TV shows and thought: why not? So here it is. 10 times Friends perfectly, and unknowingly, reflected life as a teacher. Just for fun. Enjoy!
The end-of-holiday denial.
What do you mean we go back tomorrow? No we don’t?! Don’t be so ridiculous! We’ve only been off for a few days, surely?!
2. We were on a break…
No, I haven’t done all my planning. Or my assessment. My data? Not quite. And no I haven’t thought ahead the next two terms. Nor are my displays done. IT WAS THE HOLIDAYS!
3. Getting into work and finding out you’re TA-less.
Your TA is so amazing, they’re quite often called away to cover classes/lead extra intervention. Great for those other children. Sucks for you without your partner in crime 😦
4. Sorting out your squat of a stock cupboard.
At least you tried? Back it all goes for another term.
There’s no milk in the staff room. Left your badge at home. Computer wouldn’t switch on. To top it all off, the photocopier jams after waiting in the queue for ten minutes. Your. Life. Is. Stress.
6. The ongoing battle to improve your class’ presentation and general tidiness.
Underline. Yes, with a ruler, not your finger (actually happened). No, please don’t roll your book up. Don’t scribble on the front of your book. Don’t leave the lid off the glue. Please be careful with the display boards that you don’t rip the borders. Please don’t draw on the table…etc, etc, etc.
We try our best and the children learn. But I can’t feeling like this sometimes.
8. Your militant time management. All. The. Time.
I’ve got exactly 38 minutes until lunch is over. That’s 20 minutes to mark, 10 minutes to prep for this afternoon. 5 minutes to eat and 3 minutes to wee. Sorted.
9. Repeating yourself. Again and again and again…
Yes, it is the long date. Like it is every day for English. Yes, it needs to be underlined. No, we’re not doing PE today, I said that at the start of the day. Yes, you need to have started by now…
10. The “we made it!” feeling you share with your colleagues.
Whether it’s the end of the day, end of a long week or the end of term – you made it and you made it together. (Relatively) unscathed, children happy. Best. Feeling.
There are so many more – maybe a Part 2 is in order? Hope you’re all doing well going into the last term! Where did that time go?!
I’m not sure if anyone even looks at my blog anymore – I know I haven’t looked at it for a good few months! Life as a teacher has taken over and, to be honest, it’s left little time for anything else. I think the idea of being a regular-blogging teacher was too ambitious for me, especially in my NQT year. Lots of you manage it and hats off to you, but it’s proved too much for me!
Regardless, I knew I still had to do my end of year blog post – it’s turned into quite the tradition after three years. I love doing it – there’s something very therapeutic about reflecting on the year.
2016 has been a bad year for some but I know that I am extremely fortunate to have had the year I have. I am in relatively good health, I still have an amazingly supportive family and I have some amazing memories from this year. I got engaged – a massive personal milestone. I graduated from University with a First Class Honours degree, something which I worked so incredibly hard for. I gained my first teaching post in the only school I’ve ever truly wanted to work at. It’s in that school that I have met some amazing people, some who I count as great friends. They have pulled me through many things already and it is hard to believe I have only known them for a few months. I am so grateful to have them in my life. I’m not sure I’ve ever laughed as much as I have with them.
A term down of my NQT year and it has flown by, yet, it has easily been the hardest time of my life. Teaching makes you question so many things – about yourself, about the world, about people and it can be hard to look past all that and focus on the most important thing: the children. Many times it has clouded my judgement, made me doubt myself, questioned my ability to perform the job and wonder why things are the way they are. I have spent more hours at school or working than I have seeing my family. Arguably, my fault, but at the moment I cannot see a way to balance the load. I’m sure, in time, it will happen but for now I am doing everything I can to just stay afloat.
It’s a hard time to be a teacher. It feels like everyone is against you: that all that matters is the figures you type into your data tracker, that all politicians think you are useless, that the negative connotations surrounding teaching are all-consuming and that there is no joy left. As a relatively new teacher I have been told I am yet to have been worn down and that it will happen. Maybe so. I’m trying to keep a positive view and ultimately, I love going to work and teaching my children. In no way is it easy or straight-forward, but it is still the job I have loved doing most (and I’ve done a few) and I’ve never gained so much satisfaction from a job. I’m looking forward to seeing my children again and moving onto the next phase of the year.
My biggest lesson from this year has to come, surprisingly, from something outside of my career. The concept of trust and loyalty, reliability and honesty. It’s seriously opened my eyes, in the way that no matter how much you think you trust someone, how close you are to them, the memories and history that you share – sometimes none of this is enough. People can always let you down. Despite how heartbreaking the experience was, I thank them for it as it’s made me learn to always expect the unexpected. Sometimes, people just aren’t what you thought they were. Someday, they’ll look back and realise what they’ve done and maybe they’ll figure out that it wasn’t right. But they probably won’t. Either way, you survive, move on and grow from it.
Resolutions for 2017? I’m not really a resolution type person. Not in the “I will go to the gym more” or “I will eat less chocolate” way. My main focus is going to be on my mental health, something which I’ve pushed to the side lately. It’s all very well looking after your physical health and your body, but that won’t be any good if your mind isn’t healthy too. But then, it’s not really a New Year’s resolution. I actually want to keep it up past the second week of January…
I hope your year has been wonderful. As mentioned in the beginning, I want to reiterate that I have actually had a great 2016. There were bumps in the road but that is what makes life. I am in a career I’ve wanted for a long time, in an amazing school, working with incredible people and I have so much to look forward to 🙂
As for my blog – who knows? This blog will always be special to me. It’s a great reminder of my journey. I’m not sure whether the name “from campus to classroom” is still relevant now I’m no longer a student but it’ll do for now. I am putting no pressure on myself to blog. I just like knowing it is still here for whenever I want to share the next important part of my life. Watch this space 🙂
A week ago I had my first INSET day as an NQT and now I’m into my first full week of teaching. I won’t lie – my brain is completely baffled at the sheer volume of information I’ve processed in the past week. There is SO MUCH. To know, remember, learn, retain. But I expected that, and I’m working hard to take it one step at a time.
Alongside the steep learning curve, I have loved it. It is everything I thought it would be and more. My class are lovely, the school is incredible. It’s such a positive, forward thinking school and it’s instantly obvious that the children come first in everything, which is great. The staff are such an incredibly supportive bunch of people who, even when they are running around trying to sort their own classes, or horrendously busy with something, will stop to help you out in an instance. I feel lucky to be part of such a great staff team and feel like I’ve known some of them for a lot longer than I actually have.
The workoad is already enormous but I’m trying to keep calm and focused and just doing what I can. For example, I didn’t complete my maths marking today and I was tempted to bring it home. However, I’d been in since 7am and had spent after school marking English – so I walked away. I’ve only got one pair of hands. I can do it in the morning. My evenings are going to be mine and mine only wherever possible
This is is just a quick post to check in and say I’m alive and loving it. Maybe a more fancy post will come soon.
I hope everyone else has had a great start to the term 🙂