5 in 5 – 5 ways to get children’s attention in your classroom!

Getting children to stop and listen, especially if they’re engaged and engrossed in their activity (which, let’s face it, they are because you’re awesome at planning) can be a tricky ordeal.

The worst thing is to get into some sort of shouting match over the top of children’s voices. On the other hand, it’s also not so great to be loud if they’re working quietly and just calmly want their attention for two minutes. Here are five tried and tested methods to get your children to stop and listen! I think it’s good to use a combination to keep them (and you) on their toes!

  1. Tambourine/Triangle.

Using a musical instrument can be effective because it’s clear immediately it’s not your voice and will stand out. I shake a tambourine which can be heard over slightly noisier classrooms. My colleague uses a chime which is loud, but is also great if they’re quieter and you don’t want to make them jump!

2. Clapping.

Clapping out a rhythm for them to copy is useful, as it not only does it mean they have to be quiet but they’ll have to put their pen/pencil down in order to do it properly (insist on this). I usually use this if I just want to pause them for a minute or two. Mix up the claps too – it’s easy to see who is listening and who isn’t!

3. Call and response.

So these are great! There are so many out there and I change mine up every half term to fit in with our topic. This term our topic was around food, so every time I called “okie dokie!” they would have to call back “arti-chokey.” This one is quite good as it means they immediately become quiet but they don’t necessarily have to completely stop an activity, perfect if they’re in the middle of art of something similar. Other examples are:

“stop right now,” – “thank you very much,”

“stop!” – “collaborate and listen,”

“everybody’s gone surfing” – “surfing USA!”

Make them as fun as you like!

 

4. Silent Simon Says.

Just start doing an action like tapping your head, making no noise. Move onto something else, then something else. Once one picks up on what you’re doing, others will follow. And it soon becomes a competition. It’s also very clear to see who is paying attention and you can dish out the praise like it’s going out of fashion. Quiet and positive behaviour management. #teacherwin

 

5. Countdown.

I like using countdowns when it’s not too noisy – for example if they’re having a minute of partner talk and know that they will have to be stopped soon. It sets them an expectation but also means you don’t have to raise your voice too much. 3,2,1 usually works.

 

Hope you like these five methods for getting quiet. Even with the best of intentions, sometimes there will always be children who don’t stop but mixing them up keeps them on their toes and coupled with really strong positive behaviour strategies and rewards, they can be really effective! Do you use any other strategies? If so, please share!

See you soon!

Kate xx

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5 in 5 – 5 more times Friends reflected life as a teacher.

  1. Dreaded Duty Day.

It’s your Duty Day. And it’s raining. Again. BUT, not enough to get all the children inside….

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2. Every time you go out with your work friends.

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And yet, you still do.

 

3. ??????

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Or “Miss” or “Sir” or the dreaded tap.

 

4. People who take your glue sticks and don’t GIVE THEM BACK. 

(This can also apply to any other stationary item you enjoy.)

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5. When it’s nearing the end of term…

Or the week….or the day…

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See you soon!

Kate xx

 

Quickie Update. 

TGIHT (that stands for Thank God it’s half term, by the way).

Yes, we made it and it does feel a slight relief. The first half term has been tough but the initial difficulties are over and I’m really starting to settle with my class. I plan to blog a couple of times over the holiday so won’t go into detail now – just know I’m here and I’m hanging on in there! 

I do have to say that I’m overwhelmed by the response to my last blog post about mental health (check it out if you haven’t already). It was my highest viewed post and I’m so glad because it is SUCH an important topic. I received so many messages of support and agreement and it was just really great. So thank you 🙂 

I’m off for now but just wanted to say well done for making it. Holidays have been the toughest times for me in the past (see last post to know why) but I’m really trying to shift my mindset and stay positive, spending the time to do things that I enjoy and help me as a person. Go me!

Speak to you soon!
Kate xx

It’s time we talked….mental health.

This is going to be a long one, so make yourself comfy…

This is such a taboo subject generally, but in the past few years its become more and more acceptable to talk about it. Mental health. Automatically, one goes straight to depression and, while this is a huge proportion of mental health issues, there are many others that can exist without it, but also often alongside it.

Mental health in teaching is something which I am really passionate about. I think it’s what drove me to want to become the health and well-being coordinator for my school. I’m not naive though – I know it’ll take more than a few well-meaning questionnaires and some staff socials to tackle the issue. Despite this, recognising, understanding and consequently improving mental health is still something which is top of my priority list.

I am positive my passion for this drives from my own personal experiences. I experience anxiety myself (I don’t like saying “suffer”, it sounds too negative). Whilst it’s only become particularly prominent, to the point where it’s altered how I carry out my day to day life, in the past two years, I believe I’ve always had an anxious personality, which has pre-disposed me to experiencing the feelings and emotions I have done/still do. It’s something which can be caused by many things: social situations of which I have little knowledge or control over can spark it off, anytime I feel like something is out of my control and it leads to serious overthinking. The way it can affect me is mentally (the overthinking), physically (headaches, dry-heaving, panic attacks) and generally makes me feel drained, overwhelmed and tired. At its peak, I would probably have a few anxiety attacks a week and I would feel constantly exhausted. I lost 3 stone and just didn’t feel myself. It was a time of great change, for numerous reasons, not to mention I was smack-bang in the middle of my NQT year. It was at this time I think I realised I’d hit breaking point, and it was at this time that I reached out for help.

I’m aware this all sounds a bit “woe is me” and, while I’m determined to be honest about things, I’m happy to say that I am getting better. By no means has it disappeared and I think anxiety will always be a part of me, but the depressive episodes have passed and I feel generally more positive. What I find most interesting about this though, is the link between my mental health and my job. As you most likely know if you are reading this blog, teaching is HARD. There are lots of links between teaching and poor mental health and I wanted to find out why this is. I sent out a plea on Twitter and was overwhelmed by the response. Here’s what you had to say:

Interestingly, a lot of the people who replied said their mental health wasn’t caused directly by teaching, but was more exacerbated by an already underlying condition. There is no doubt that there are hundreds of jobs which are stressful, but it cannot be denied that teaching is incredibly stressful. Wasn’t it Dr Tina Boogren who said “teachers make more minute by minute decisions than brain surgeons…and that is why you’re going home exhausted every day.”? Apparently an average of 4 a minute. I thought about this when I was actually at work the other day and it is so true! They may not all be life changing decisions, but it is still something which has a cause and effect and, therefore, you need to consider. Also, someone who would like to remain anonymous said that anxiety and depression can become harder to cope with as a teacher because you have to be in this constant state of “up”, smiley and happy and like nothing is wrong. It is really quite inhuman but it can be exhausting. On the flip-side, I used to find this constant requirement to be “OK” a saviour, as I had no choice but to push my emotions aside and be everything I could for my children.

Another common thread with mental health and teaching was the colleagues you have around you. An anonymous replier said that her condition was “exacerbated by poor leadership,” and someone else said they had “almost no support from SLT.” The people who said they have improved their mental health said they had “supportive colleagues” and “an incredibly human leadership team.” I completely agree with this. I work with the most wonderful people, many of whom have become close friends, and I know full well I would not have got through the past year without them. The impact of their constant support, with teaching advice, personal advice and often just a shoulder to cry on has been immeasurable. 

Of course, the workload has to be a factor. It is a nationwide issue which, at the moment, has no real solution. Someone mentioned that “it’s a really big issue” and I agree. When going into teaching, you’re told the workload will be tough but until you’re in it, you have no idea. I think a huge factor which also influences mental health is your overall personal situation. My colleague and good friend always says: “the thing with teaching is this, if the work is tough, but your home life is OK, it’s cope able. It’s when there’s issues in both that you really start to fall apart.” And she’s right. Should the smallest thing come out of line in your personal life, it makes it very difficult to juggle all the balls.

Sophie (@_MissieBee) made a very interesting comment which bucked this trend and I found it fascinating as I totally related! She said “I actually found school a comfort, as it would keep my mind busy.” I totally understand what she was saying. I’ve never admitted this to anyone, but I would stay ridiculously late at school because the thought of going home scared me for many reasons, and I’d find my mind was empty and that is when the overthinking would kick in. She also said “I would dread Fridays as it meant the weekend was approaching – and that meant nothing to keep my mind occupied.” I completely related to this and almost felt a relief I wasn’t the only one! I’d constantly be around people who were so excited for the weekend (“I can’t wait to spend time with my children,” or “Me and the husband are off for the weekend,”) but I used to dread them. The holidays were worse. I can remember the Easter holidays being particularly bad, probably the worse I’ve ever felt. Thankfully, I now look forward to my weekends more but that feeling is still there.

I guess it’s inevitable that, as in any profession, people are going to have mental health concerns. Instead of hiding away from it, or being ashamed I think it’s important to face up to it, talk about it and understand it is part of who you are. It doesn’t define you, but accepting it’s there is important. So how do we deal with it? Medication is one of the obvious choices, although a very personal one. Many people who DM’d me recommended therapy/counselling and I can vouch for this being very helpful, although it isn’t for everyone. @MissHoward4 said “yoga and mediation” which I also agree with! Many of you simply said taking time out for yourself, which is easier said than done, especially in your NQT year, but something which I’ve managed better so far this year. I have come to the conclusion that I am one human being with only so many hours in a day and I stand by that! Other common techniques included getting enough sleep, drinking lots of water and exercise. Again, all easier said than done but proven to help.

For me, it has been really therapeutic and quite overwhelming to get such a response to this topic – although quite sad realising there are so many other people going through this in and out of the profession. I guess it is about understanding you are not alone and there are always people there to help you. I can only hope and wish that if you are going through it you manage to find some acceptance and learn to control it, like I am in the process of doing now.

I thought I’d leave this post with a lovely comment my tutor from University DM’d me earlier today in response to my initial tweet, as I think it will apply to many of you reading this too. He said “stress and anxiety are common in the teaching profession, but I hope you make a stand and keep going. You are a natural and the children need you.” And they need all of you too!

Take care, share this post and share the love. You are all amazing!

Kate xx

PS Thank you enormously to every single person who messaged me following my tweet and for letting me use your comments in this post. xxxxx

5 in 5 – 5 more times Friends reflected life as a teacher.

This is one of my favourite posts to do now! Mainly because I love Friends so much and any chance to reference it in my everyday life makes me very happy. Enjoy 🙂 

  1. The struggle to get some children to apologise.

Say it like you mean it!!

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2. Just why?

Relatable to so many situations. You’ve eaten some glue? You’ve drawn all up your arm? You’ve ripped the rubber in half?

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3. Finding out the staff meeting is going to be a twilight.

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4. The homophone battles.

Oh the grammar fun we have.
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5. Printer woes – right before the bell.

We’ve all been there. The dreaded flashing red light of doom two minutes before the bell.

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Until next time!

Kate xx

Keeping learning fresh – 5 in 5.

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” 😉

  1. Make songs from EVERYTHING.

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Kate xx

Hello September.

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!

Lots of Love,

Kate xo

 

I MADE IT!

 

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.

For now – sleep!

xxxxxx

10 MORE times Friends perfectly reflected life as a teacher.

I really enjoyed writing my last blog post about Friends and teaching, so I decided it was time for another. Enjoy…

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  1. 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.

 

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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.

 

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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…

 

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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…

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

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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.)

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9. Getting territorial about the staff room fridge.

Labelling everything you have down to the last piece of tupperware.

 

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10. Never…

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…

Miss Bartlett x