My latest placement.

It’s been a while again since my last blog post! I totally admire people I see who blog every single day – that is complete dedication!

Last week I was on placement in a school for something my Uni does called saturation week and I thought I’d share with you what happened.

Saturation week is still in its development stage but has been designed to get student teachers into schools to develop a better understanding of foundation subjects in action. It falls in nicely with my current modules at Uni which are the non-core subjects. Schools participating in saturation week generally continue Maths and English teaching in the morning as normal, but then collapse their timetable in the afternoon to allow for a more thematic, project based learning approach. This gives us as students the chance to plan a scheme of work around a particular subject or theme, to deliver in a cross-curricular style.

I was placed in a nearby school which is the smallest I’ve ever worked in. Despite being a 5 minute drive from my town, it is what I would describe as rural. Having only 4 classes and surrounded by the most beautiful countryside views, I was pleased and excited that I was going to get a taste of a different kind of school.

We received our topic a few weeks before going in to placement and I was so excited that mine was around film making using iPads and other technology! Completely related to my specialism and what I am personally interested in. The task was to create a promotional video about the school which was to go on their new website, to be launched in the next few months. The video would be on the homepage and at the end of the week be shown to the whole school and parents in an assembly. No pressure then!

I felt really nervous on my first morning which I knew was silly, but I hadn’t been in a school since last November and sometimes when you’re in and out of lectures and seminars on campus you almost forget what it feels like.

The school is up off the main road, so the brisk walk uphill certainly woke me up! The school itself is lovely, really quaint and pretty. The small amount of staff created a friendly atmosphere, because everyone knows everyone well so I felt instantly welcomed. Plus, they have a school dog, a black and white spaniel who ponders around reception and curls up under the receptionist’s desk. Definitely a first for me and as a dog lover it was great!

I met my team who I would be working with that week and we had soon outlined what we needed to do. There was so much to consider: the children we were working with, what they would all do, what did we need to film, time constraints? The list went on. We were briefed on the 13 children we had been given to complete the project, including one child who was SEN. The SEN child was apparently an absolute whizz when it came to iPads and technology, yet really struggled to get his ideas down on paper. It was because of this that I really learnt how difficult but vital it is to differentiate tasks so that all children can stay involved and engaged. We assigned this child as the “chief cameraman” for the week. He loved having the responsibility and this allowed him to stay involved in activities that may have involved writing; instead he helped us edit footage.

As an introductory task to get to know the children’s names I thought doing a large mind map with all children involved would be a good idea. This way, the children could write down what they wanted in the film; after all it was for their school. I really wanted the children to take ownership over their film, be involved in the planning, filming and editing. We would just be there to ensure they were in the right places at the right time in order to complete the film in one week. Ultimately, it was their project.

We were advised by the school mentor of four children who would be particularly good to speak on camera as they were the most confident. We used these children throughout the week to create a commentary on areas of their school. We decided with the children that the best way we could fit everything in would be to try and follow a typical school day, and add in extra bits later on. As there were only four classes we visited each class in turn, and managed to get in extra things that make the school special, such as trips to the nearby farm to feed lambs, and gardening in their outdoor space.

Despite all the things we had to pack in though, a week is a long time and there was some empty lesson space that we wanted to fill. We came up with some activities that weren’t film based, but supported our project. At the beginning of the week we combined Literacy with a Media element by working with the children on creating their own storyboards. This was to try and develop some successful storyboarding techniques to show chronology of events of their film. The children loved it as they knew their ideas were being taken on board and used to create the film.

Another activity was also literacy based, but done at the end of the week as a form of reflection. We taught children how to create an acrostic poem and they could use either the theme of their school or the week in general to do it around. This meant our plenary for the week was conducted in a relaxed, informal style where the children were writing, drawing and colouring, whilst also discussing what they had done, enjoyed and would like to do again. We also had some physical evidence of work at the end to keep and put in our files, which was useful for my reflective learning diary.

The final task we did separate to any film making was creating a large banner to be used in the video. The banner would have the name of their school on, decorated by the children and we were also planning on painting the school crest. Another student at the school with me was an art specialist and she came up with the idea of backing fabric onto cardboard to create a more textured, painted look. This activity allowed us to explore areas of art such as mark making, colour mixing and patterns. But the main feature of the activity was that each child had their own letter and they were encouraged to be as creative as they liked. In the end it looked great and a particularly artistic child did an amazing job painting the school crest. It looks great in the video.

As the week went on we gathered more and more footage and it started to be edited down into a video. We were so lucky with the weather; after what seemed like months and months of horrendous downpours and wind, the sky was blue and the sun was shining so we could capture lots of outdoor learning and playtimes. Our school mentor checked in with us and was pleased with the progress each day, so we knew it was exactly what they wanted for their school.

I was planning on running workshops with the children on using the iPads and iMovie but I’m happy to say they were very clued in already! It demonstrated to me how intuitive iPads are as a device. Anyone who picks them up just has a go because they seem less scary than others you see covered in buttons and lights. A criticism may be that the camera itself isn’t the greatest quality but overall it did what we needed it to.

By Friday afternoon the film was edited down and transported (very anxiously!) onto a laptop and saved. We had done our reflections with the children who had all enjoyed their week and we told them how hard they had all worked. An assembly was held in the afternoon for the whole school, staff and students and some parents to “premier” the video. Luckily everyone loved it and said it really was a true reflection on the great things that happen at the school.

Even better was our school mentor is currently working part time at another school nearby and asked us if we would be interested in creating a similar film for that school if we have any spare time. So over the next few months we will be tackling a new project in a different school, which I’m really looking forward to!

Saturation week was great, because although I didn’t do what people would consider “proper teaching”, I got to work with a small group of children all week which meant I could get to know them well individually. I planned cross curricular activities using standard lesson proformas (which is great practice for my summer placement) and had to take differentiation into account which is also a valuable experience. Plus, I got to be a part of an exciting project, creating something that will help in promoting the school as a positive, great place to go to school. And to top it all off, I was graded outstanding at the end of it! J

Hopefully the video will be up in the next few weeks and I can share it with you.

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