Category Archives: Teaching

Read My Eyes: the challenge for EYFS

My name is Elijah. I am 3 years and 7 twelfths of a year old. I will be 4 years old very soon. You can come to my party if you like. There will be crisps. But I might get to eat them all myself. And all the biscuits. And cake. If you’re not allowed to come it’ll be coz there might be another lockdown for COVID. So, I’ll get all the food for me if there is another lockdown. And the pizza. That’s good but it’s bad as well. I’ll have no one to play with. Again. And I’ve started school I have.

I’m a bit annoyed you know, in my life I’ve missed approximately 28 birthday parties, 75 park visits, 36 playdays and a holiday to Mallorca. And I’m only 3 years and 7 twelfths of a year old. That COVID. What a pain. Nearly half my life has been, “can’t go out, won’t be meeting up, shouldn’t visit them”. I mean how am I supposed to work out how other people tick when I don’t get to see them?

And, I’m also supposed to be all ready for school but I’m not. Even though I’ve already started. By now I think I should be getting over myself, just a little bit, by my age. You know, beginning to realise there’s other people in the world too, apart from me?, and that they maybe deserve a turn on the iPad too? Or with the Lego.

I wanted to have a go at sharing or turn-taking ready for school but I didn’t really have the opportunity to practise. I really wanted to nail that. Mummy and Karl have been very busy on their laptops so they’re no help. Sometimes when they finish a Zoom call I hear a swear come out. Although my vocabulary is not as developed as I’d want it to be by my age, I do have a reasonable command of workplace banter, and corporate profanity. That might come in handy.

And fights. And arguments. I really really wanted to have a go at those before school, so I’d be top of my game in the playground and at my social skills. But there simply hasn’t been the opportunity due to pandemic restrictions on travel and socialisation.

What I really wanted to do was that thing where you have a tantrum but you moderate it a bit so it’s not full on. Not full on like if you’re in public, say in Sainsburys where you go all red-faced shouty and stiff and then maybe roll about in the cheese aisle while mummy tries to get you to stop, without drawing attention to herself and having to use firm if acceptable force on you.

And I only wanted a Lego dragon. And some Haribo.

That kind of tantrum, but, but in a more refined way now I’m nearly 4 and practising for school. I wanted to try that with a friend, to get ready for the proper real disagreements in school. I wanted my friend to take my toy – then I go all ‘that’s mine I’m having it back‘ Sainsburys style but toned down coz I’m nearly 4, but still impressive. And I wanted to see what happened next and how we’d work it out and both of us get a mini Magnum from mummy at the end for calming down and not putting her in an awkward situation. In the cheese aisle. But I didn’t have a chance to do that before I went to school.

And talking. Oh my word. I’d expect to be much further on by now. You see my problem is this: I’ve not had much talk to listen to (see above) and anyway the adults have had their mouths covered since April 2020. How on earth am I supposed to get my mouth doing all those sounds if I can’t see what it looks like. I’ve got good at reading eyes and eyebrows though. I know what ‘really?’ looks like and also I know ‘I’m rather annoyed with you for embarrassing me in Sainsburys no you’re not having a dragon. or Haribo.‘ and ‘I hate Zoom as much as I hate my boss‘. I know what eyes and eyebrows do for those things. I just wish I’d been able to see the mouth shapes that go with them.

And now I’m at nursery school. My teacher is doing a right grand job but some of the other kids here are giving her the runaround they really are. I mean I’m a bit behind I know but I can’t imagine what it’s been like for Kyra or Ollie. I swear they’ve not said a single word since they started with me a few weeks ago. And they get really arsy in the morning when their daddies try to leave for work. They cling on and do that ‘poor me how dare you do this to me call yourself my parent‘ routine.

Miss tries hard. I’m only guessing at this (she being an experienced nursery practitioner and me just a nearly 4 year old) but I think she’s prioritising our well-being which is exactly how I’d approach things. She’s gone and baselined us all and I think I did alright. I suppose I’ll be able to revisit her targets for me at my next appraisal. Kyra and Ollie ran off when she tried to talk to them.

But even though she’s jolly she is a bit jumpy. Like someone’s watching over her shoulder whispering that she should be moving us on faster when all she wants to do is give us a good start at a speed that doesn’t turn us off learning. Or make us go all Sainsburys.

I think I saw her crying in her car in the car park yesterday and talking on her phone. I hope she’s alright. She is very nice but she was very sad. I knew she was sad. I could see it in her eyes and her eyebrows but I really wanted to know what words the shapes in her mouth were making…

A Smart View of Intelligence

MI Around the World

In June 2008, I squeezed into a tiny New York conference room along with 15 other educators. Advocates of Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI), and drawn from all global corners, we’d gathered to share our work and record its impact. Our host was indeed Prof. Howard Gardner, and the result of that meeting, nearly a year later, was ‘Multiple Intelligences Around the World‘.

I sat with a Chinese researcher called Happy, and Joy, a school reformer from the Philippines. Always vigilant for a chance to lighten the mood, I introduced myself as ‘Mild Discontent’, just in from the UK.

During the morning coffee break I found myself alone in an elevator with Howard who had misplaced his name badge. I spotted it on the floor by his foot, passed it to him and, joking again (how did I even get a place at that table?) said, ‘I should keep this, put it on ebay, sell it so I can afford the flight home.’ Howard laughed then made a serious point. He explained, with the authentic humility for which he’s known, that he’s not the ‘edu-rock-star’ folks make him out to be. He has his critics, and it’s been said that MI is the most debated and least implemented of all educational theories.

Gardner’s work extends far beyond MI: Project Zero, creativity, leadership, influence, good work (the ethics of vocation), and recent studies of higher education. But still, his concept of intelligence – nearly 40 years on – splits the audience.

It’s a cognitive-contextual theory with detractors and devotees lined up on either side of the classroom. It goes like this:

  • everyone is ‘intelligent’ (as defined by eight criteria),
  • ‘intelligence’ is multiple and diverse (at least eight kinds, in fact), and,
  • anyone can become more ‘intelligent’ (with the right resources and experiences).

However, when the battle starts, a shared definition of ‘intelligence’ is usually absent from the debate. Both sides argue well, but about different things.

How to be Smart With Intelligence

If we want a smart view of intelligence, we must first define it. Then we’ll know exactly what we’re arguing about. How does your take on ‘intelligence’ match these:

  • The ability to achieve complex goals. Max Tegmark, AI Researcher.
  • The ability to solve problems and create products that have value. Howard Gardner, Psychologist.
  • The ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. Most dictionaries.

13 years after that meeting in New York, MI still smolders away, flaring up now and then: rediscovered by an energetic new cohort of educators or re-demonised by conservative strategists. ‘Intelligence’ is a word we should define and use with great care. Give it a scope that’s deep and wide and everyone can be part of it, everyone’s abilities can be valued. Restrict its reach and we’ll create an elitist, unhelpful and divisive world.

Everyone is intelligent; everyone is valuable; everyone succeeds.

Here’s one of my books from that time. Still relevant; more so now as the world demands diverse skills sets and flexible working. Feel free to pay £57 for it. Or 96p (plus P&P). I’m sure you’ll use your intelligence to decide.

A Balanced View of Bloom’s Taxonomy

The way it’s presented is not helpful. Nor is ‘taxonomy’, both inferring hierarchy, status; class- or even caste-defined thinking. ‘Low order thinking’ – knowledge and understanding; ‘high order thinking’ – application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation. Really? Is one kind better, worse, less or more than any other?

After decades of helping adults and children to think better, may I propose this:

All thinking is equal.

Knowledge

How on earth is this ‘low order’? Bottom of the pile?

Without it, nothing can happen. So often the battle ground of traditionalists and progressives – the former zealously guarding it as purveyor of cultural and historical legacies; a necessary handing down of national identity, threatened by ‘soft skills’ and ‘creativity’.

The latter cite the flexible-future workplace, technology and the need for innovative skill sets. Knowledge is changing and on tap – at the tap of a screen. Why fill up on facts?

Both sides cling to outdated, biased positions.

There’s a joy in knowing. There’s a joy in NOT knowing and struggling with the quest, using the skills of finding out.

Skills bring knowledge to life; knowledge gives skills purpose.

‘I know’ is so much more than ‘I know a fact, I can recall it for you here, in this exam.’

In James Cameron’s innovative CGI epic, Avatar, the ‘Na’vi’ people look each other in the eye and say, ‘I see you.’ They mean, ‘I know you. I really do know who you are and how we connect to each other.’

Understanding

In Robert Macfarlane’s magnum opus, Underland, the earth-beneath is exposed. Enchanting, horrific, illegal, deadly and magical, Macfarlane takes us into caves, sinkholes, abandoned military bases, forests, mines and the complex tunnel systems underneath cities. To really comprehend something, he argues, one must ‘stand under it’. Under-stand.

Knowing and understanding dance around each other. Try to pin them down with difference, it’s tricky. Understanding is ‘getting it’; relating it to other things; categorising, connecting, correlating. Really knowing. See? Knowing is understanding is knowing.

Think about someone you know very, very well. Say, ‘I know you.’ Say, ‘I understand you.’ What do you feel each time. There’s the difference, or the similarity.

Application

Equally important is doing something with what we ‘know’; with what we ‘understand’. We get up and act. We move, we talk, we persuade, we make, we fix. We have impact. They say knowledge is power. But application shows what that power looks like in the world.

Analysis

Let’s take it apart, look at the pieces, put them back together. What did we learn by looking deep inside? The components, the connections, the structure. Then we have…

Synthesis

…putting different parts together in new ways – making better things (or things better) – solving a problem, creating an object of value that has not existed before.

Evaluation

Finally, e-valuation – the ‘drawing out of value’. Asking how it stacks up against some agreed criteria; allocating worth accordingly.

There is no high- or low-order thinking, only different kinds, used for different purposes.

Does this idea resonate with you? All thinking is equal, if different? Let me know what you think…

Artificial Behaviour

House Rules

  1. Communicate Well
  2. Be Kind
  3. Trust
  4. Enjoy the Learning

I wrote these house rules what feels like decades ago, back in April 2020. They served me well during the rapid shift to online training. But, 17 months later, they work just as well face to face. There’s beauty in their simplicity and a power in their application: learners ask, “how are we defining ‘Communicate Well’?” “How do we establish ‘Trust’?” and thus, through a shared understanding, own their rules.

Back then, hauled kicking and screaming into grids on screens, it was easy to forget the basics. That’s understandable. A lot was happening. Our focus was on survival. But I’m curious why I thought to have ‘Zoom rules’ at all. My guess? I was trained well. It was automatic, second nature, to put something – anything – in place to frame the learning.

Augment or Replace?

Years of edtech growth happened in months. Yet even at pace, the competing forces of innovation and caution crafted something of value: Edtech does not replace teachers, it enhances them. Edtech does not ‘take our jobs’ it enriches them. Edtech does not disempower us; it puts wonderful new tools into our hands.

And here’s one that’ll get you thinking, especially if you’re in the business of nurturing new teachers. Meet Savannah, Dev, Ava, Jasmine, and Ethan, US middle school kids who are ready to help you learn the craft of teaching –

Provided by edtech company Murision, they are part of a “mixed-reality teaching simulation environment supporting teacher practice in classroom management, pedagogy and content”. Basically an AI-driven, virtual space where you can try things out, “learn new skills and craft your practice without placing “real” people at risk during the learning process.”

The Basics Remain

Virtual or real, the basics of managing behaviour in class remain the same:

“Here are the rules. Here’s why we have the rules. Here’s what happens if you do or don’t follow them. And here’s how we’re ALL going to make this work”:

  1. By communicating well
  2. By being kind
  3. By trusting
  4. By enjoying the learning

Training

No avatars in sight here, but I consulted on this Challenging Behaviour course and also contributed the video elements (minus beard). Do take a look and try out the interactive demo – if you’re starting your teaching journey or just want a refresher.

Recommended Books

I learned my craft from Bill Rogers’ material and Paul Dix’s approach is very effective. Get these two key texts at Amazon:

Learning Will Be Disrupted

Alice (name changed to protect identity) officially attends Greenfields Primary, an outstanding school (name changed to protect its outstandingness) serving a diverse suburban catchment. 12 months into our global pandemic, Greenfields was still struggling to adapt. Remote learning comprised worksheets emailed home; blended pedagogy was tolerated – for now – ‘until we can go back to how it was before’; CPD was on hold ‘while we cope with the disruption’.

Alice’s dad, Mark (you guessed it) is not happy. His company switched online 72 hours into the first lockdown and since then they’ve wrestled with new technology, struggled with diverse work patterns and been frustrated by shifts in customer behaviour. But they stuck with it. They innovated, adapted and exploited the disruption – because they had to, because they needed to, because they wanted to. And now, they’ve emerged more productive, more agile and more creative than before.

Alice’s dad is not happy because if he and his team can grow through adversity, why hasn’t his daughter’s school?

So he talked to his sister Beth, a teacher, about her school, Bluesky Primary.

Bluesky Primary is RI and hard at work fixing that. A week into lockdown they’d realised a different approach was needed. So, they wrestled with new technology, struggled with diverse work patterns and got extremely frustrated by shifts in parent and pupil behaviour.

But Bluesky stuck with it. They innovated, adapted and exploited the disruption – because they had to, because they needed to, because they wanted to. And now, they’ve emerged more productive, more agile and more creative than before.

They LOVE face to face teaching. They LOVE remote learning. And, heaven help us if another lockdown comes, they’re ready. They’ll just flick a switch and seamlessly go online. They’ve developed a blended learning handbook (not policy, big difference); they’ve empowered pupils to be online power coaches; and they’ve recognised how this disruption has shoved them all into their children’s futures – and where else should you be, as an educator?

So, Alice, disrupting the system, subverting the normal, pushing the boundaries, began to attend her aunt’s school, Bluesky, remotely. Why not? says her father. Please do, says Beth. Alice engaged with high quality interactive teaching, made new friends, embraced her future. She didn’t bother completing the worksheets from her official school.

What if your school was open to all children? What if the quality of your interactive live teaching and your learning management systems defined you, rather than the number of worksheets emailed home?

What if the learning economy was so disrupted that your catchment area was global?

The elements above are true, just synthesised from different contexts to make a point. Since March 2020 I’ve watched pandemic disruption amplify and accelerate diversity. Sometimes this is good (teaching becomes better and more effective); sometimes it’s not (children who were behind find themselves further adrift). But the most startling amplification for me has been how teachers and schools that were already forward facing (Bluesky) have really seized disruption, tamed it and used it; and how those that were not (Greenfields) have stagnated, and done nothing new, innovative or interesting for their children.

Chew these over in the staff room:
– What kind of school are you in today?
– Are you preparing your children for their futures or for someone else’s past?
– How do you view ‘disruption’?

5 Stages of Remote Teaching

The good news is you’re probably already at stage 4. Here are the five:

  1. Stability
  2. Survival
  3. Innovation
  4. Opportunity
  5. Enrichment

And here’s what they look like:

1. Stability

Remember stability, clarity, security? Early 2020? Feels like decades ago don’t you think? The curriculum was known and effective. Things were generally clear. We knew what to do, how to do it and (if we had the time to think about it), why we bothered. Concerns were: Ofsted, Year 9 (or Year 6), and keeping the staff room cup-washing rota viable.

2. Survival

March 2020. We fell off a cliff. Chaos. Completely unknown territory. We had no idea at all what to do. The curriculum became erratic or non-existent. We couldn’t get to it because of two barriers:

Technical: How do we/they get online and what do we press when we get there?

Pedagogical: How do we do what we did so well in class when all we have is a tiny rectangle in which to do it?

3. Innovation

OK. So it wasn’t good, but after the shock we took a peek at the new landscape and began to play around with our new tools: Zoom, Teams, Google Classroom, Jamboard, Mentimeter, Desmos. We crossed into the curriculum by using the barriers within our lesson design – a bit of technical skill, a bit of remote pedagogy, a bit of the literacy. The new gold standard was not wall-to-wall live teaching but creative learning design.

4. Opportunity

And here we are now, February 2021, about to return to school. We’ve worked hard, we’re exhausted, but we’ve learned so much about learning – because we’ve had to. The barriers are significantly thinner. Well done you.

But how will we preserve our learning back in school? How will we use this opportunity we’ve had to grow personally and professionally?

5. Enrichment

So here’s my hope for the future. A richer curriculum. See the grey rings? That’s a legacy of the barriers. A reminder that struggle teaches, failure strengthens and frustration breeds success. The curriculum can be enriched because of this lengthy, uninvited and exhausting training course on which we’ve all been delegates: COVID-19

How well do these stages match your own experience? Did you miss any? Squeeze others in between? Linger too long? I hope we don’t ever go back to stage 1, but at least if we do, this time there’s a roadmap.

Why You Should Not Teach Live Lessons

Before COVID, we educators and trainers had this:

And then, early in 2020, we didn’t. All we had was this:

A rectangle. Our laptop screen, monitor, phone or tablet. The space in which we had to teach, to learn, to train, communicate, have fun.

And then, once we’d picked ourselves up and dusted ourselves off, we made it work. Here’s what we did with our rectangles:

We opened up the world. We connected, we innovated, we created. We struggled, became frustrated and we persevered through fear, anger, and through a time of simply not knowing what to do – or how – and we got there.

But from the start, a dubious benchmark emerged. Teachers feared it, politicians didn’t understand it and parents used it as a yardstick (stick): The quality of online learning was sometimes judged – erroneously – by the quantity of live lessons.

Some folks embraced live teaching, others fought it – still do – but in my opinion the debate is mis-aligned. If we aspire to teach live online, replacing a day in school with a day on screen, then we miss a huge opportunity.

Puentadura’s model explains why. Aspiring to teach live is substitution. The professional focus is on replicating what you do in school. You’ll miss the vast opportunities that technology offers. You’ll not think to augment, modify or even redefine learning. You’ll fill your rectangle with the same pedagogy which pervaded your classroom.

I’m not saying don’t ever teach live. I’m saying that substitution is only the start of innovation. And if you want to improve your teaching, innovate with the tools that have come your way: Teams, Zoom, Connect, Blackboard, Basecamp, Slack, Padlet, Mentimeter, Desmos, Kialo-edu, Mural, Google Classroom, Remnote, Jamboard, GSuite Apps, Trello to name just 16.

Here’s the kind of blended approach I’m coming across in UK schools:

  • Confirm house rules and expectations (behaviour, interaction, technical).
  • Clarify risk assessment and safeguarding practices.
  • Begin the day with a live check-in and tasking session.
  • Set pupils to work, emphasizing the skills they’ll use to gain the knowledge required.
  • Open up themed breakout rooms where pupils can collaborate.
  • Open up a shared online space where learning is posted and where pupils get ideas.
  • Invite pupils to present their learning using a choice of five online platforms.
  • Schedule a short, interactive lecture from an expert in another part of the world.
  • Make yourself available for asynchronous chat support.
  • Take smaller groups aside for extra help, challenge or alternative provision.
  • Meet live at the end of the morning/afternoon to share work and to check out.

Please do teach live online if that’s your style or you’ve been directed to. But please don’t miss the wonderful opportunities to not teach live all the time that have appeared in our rectangles over the last year. Then maybe, when we do go back to school, vaccinated and resilient, we’ll be even better at what we do – adding value to the future.

www.thinkingclassroom.co.uk

Courses at Eventbrite

How to Blend Learning #1

The ‘blended’ in ‘blended learning’ means combining in-class with online teaching. It can be synchronous (live) or asynchronous. It’s touted as one way to be lockdown ready. I propose it’s the only way to be 21st century ready.

It’s not something to do ‘while we get through this’. It’s a permanent redefinition of learning. What it offers is long overdue: a necessary kick start to finally break from the educational practices that fuelled the first Industrial Revolution, to fully prepare students for the demands of the fourth. We need to get this right.

Photo by Anastasiia Chepinska on Unsplash

There are three ways to come at blended learning:

1. Plan learning for in-class then transform it to work online.
2. Plan learning for online then transform it to work in-class.
3. Integrate all learning spaces then plan the learning.

Embarking on 1 and 2 risks a frustrating ‘good enough’ short-termism. 3 lays deep foundations where learning is central, not the tools or methods of its delivery.

1. Planning an in-class lesson to work online prompts the search for web tools that will replicate face to face activities. This will only ever partially succeed. In-class will never be the same as online. We’ll never achieve the full authenticity of a classroom where we’re all breathing the same air.

2. Likewise, planning an online lesson to work in-class is equally doomed. The range and flexibility of web tools cannot be replicated in the ‘real’ world. Online collaboration, editing, access to information, creativity – these and more are in a completely different league to their in-class counterparts.

3. The third approach separates learning from the debate about online vs in-class. It challenges us to take a different, long term view:

Think big about how and where learning happens.
Take time to bring your philosophy of learning to life.

1 and 2 fuss about which mug to use. 3 considers the quality of the coffee.

Places where learning can take place are combined into a whole. School, library, bus, bedroom, street, in-class, online. Learning doesn’t stop with a school bell or start with a log on.

Online happens to be a place where we can collaborate and create. In-class happens to be a place where high quality discussion takes place. Research in the library; debriefs on the bus; texting in the street. Learning is bigger than school and bigger than online.

Effective learning is independent of the tools or spaces used to bring it to life. We all have a philosophy of learning. Mine cites eight evidence-based features that underpin learning design:

  • Relationships
  • Visual Thinking
  • High Order Thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Self-efficacy
  • Feedback
  • Active Learning
  • Peer Teaching

These are not tied to a room or a screen. We can build learning relationships online and face to face; we can think visually at a screen or in a forest; feedback can be verbal, written, emailed, texted or videoed.

Don’t get caught in the twin traps of, ‘How do I make this work online?’ or ‘How do I make this work in-class?’ Instead ask, ‘What is my philosophy of learning? Which principles work best?’ Then, looking at all the tools and resources and places and spaces available to you and your pupils ask, ‘How do I bring this philosophy to life?’

Thinking Classroom resources from September 2020 will help you to do this.

COVID-19 Back to School

I must share this with you; the unedited words of a teacher of just 4 years speaking from her heart; yet speaking pragmatically (14 ideas below) and, I hope, helpfully as we start to contemplate our ‘what nexts’:

Multiple Solutions to Future Worries

Anxiety is a funny thing. I guess as human beings we are known to be creatures of habit. During the first few weeks of lockdown, my anxiety was awful. My routine went. My habits were gone. I hated the idea of simply not being busy; not being in work – not having a set of goals to achieve and not seeing my friends and family. I have always been someone who thrives from being busy and being surrounded by people so when lockdown was announced, I felt lost, totally lost.

However, after a few weeks into lockdown life and with support from a coach provided by my headteacher, I soon began to get into the ‘Lockdown routine.’ I found ways to keep my anxious brain busy – running, reading, playing board games, mindful colouring in, walks and staying in touch with loved ones over the phone.

When my coach asked me a week ago how I would feel if we were told that schools were back open on Monday (hypothetically) and lockdown was over, I felt that familiar tightening of the chest and that unwelcome knot of anxiety was back in the pit of my stomach. I was able to list off my future worries and without realising, I verbally started sharing solutions to these hypothetical problems.

So I have decided to share my ‘future worries’ about returning to ‘reality’ in the hope that it could help you in some way.

Children struggling with social distancing

• Take the children outside and remodel the 2m rule using a metre stick. Reiterate to the children why keeping 2m apart from one another is important and how it makes a huge difference to ourselves and to all those around us. Reassure the children that social distancing won’t last forever and we need to show love, courage and trust by following these safety rules.

Praise children for following social distancing rules through verbal praise, stickers, vision points, etc.

• Ask the children to be creative and come up with their own strategies to help themselves and others to remember the 2m rule.

• Liaise with leadership if strategies are not successful and further advice/guidance is needed.

Wellbeing of the children

• Liaise with parents/guardians


• Seek support from leadership and DSLA’s.


• PSHE discussions with the class linked to feelings.

• Share own feelings with the class, explain that any emotion/s that they are feeling are okay and it’s how we deal we these emotions that is the most important thing.

• Share with children what I have been worried about (the things I’m writing about here) and how I have spent time thinking of how to find solutions to each of my worries – this activity could help show the children that you are showing trust by sharing your feelings with them so that they can share their worries too. Together you could then find multiple solutions to their present/future worries.

Children forgetting everything you’ve taught them

• Instead of focusing on what has been forgotten, focus on what has been learnt. Share and celebrate with children what new skills they might have learnt/developed during lockdown, e.g. baking, cooking, gardening, etc.

• Reflect with children what we are now even more thankful for now more than ever – school! – seeing our teachers/friends, family being safe and healthy. Get them to order what the most important things to us were before corona and what they are now – has anything changed, reflect on why.

• Share and celebrate home learning with the children and for those who haven’t been able to talk about what they are looking forward to the most now we are back in school.

Well-being of colleagues being low

• Redirect conversations away from COVID19 – Talk to one another about what positive things we have been doing to stay busy, e.g. baking, cooking, getting into fitness again, etc. Discuss what we are now looking forward to again.

• Be the one to bring the positive energy to the team – SMILE! But also know that it is okay to not be okay and to have key members of staff who you feel comfortable to go to.

REMEMBER!

If these strategies don’t have the desired effect, instead of blaming yourself saying,

‘I did this wrong’ or

‘that teacher is better than me because their children are better or they seem to be OK’,

rephrase the situation t
o,

‘that wasn’t the outcome I expected.’

From this you can remain positive and explore further solutions/seek additional support.

Holly Longley is a primary school teacher working in Hampshire, currently responsible for a Year 2 class. She’s offering her reflections here to help you think through the next few weeks and months. Whether her specific ideas work for you and your pupils is not the whole story. Holly’s advice is about the how as much as the what: Rather than stew on your future worries, write them down now and address them now. Be reflective. Be creative. Be ready.

Active Learning and The First Kiss

omar-lopez-716653-unsplashFirst memory? Emotionally significant? Powerful? You remember where you were; what happened; how it felt. Or at least you remember remembering.

First lecture? Emotionally significant? Powerful? You remember where you were; what it was about; the lecturer’s clothes. Really?

First film you ever saw at the cinema? Emotionally significant? Powerful? You remember the cinema, the film, the story?

First day of school…first this first that first other. What do we learn from firsts? And what have they got to do with Active Learning?

Our firsts, our lasts and our interesting-in-betweens are memorable because they are different; they involve a significant change. A first is a change from not having/being/doing to having/being/doing. When you start something there’s a change, a difference; when you end it there’s another change; something weird in the middle is a change as well. Change is difference; difference is noticeable; noticeable is engaging; and if you are engaged you are active. Firsts, lasts and interesting get your brain involved.

Active means involved – like you were with your first kiss. You noticed that, right? Remembered it? Learned it. Replayed it.

In formal learning, you’re active when you have control, ownership, when you can affect things. Sitting and listening to someone else’s choice of topic delivered in someone else’s style is not active. You make it active by acting: by walking out to go and find your own curriculum presented in a way that suits you more.

Passive is great for the teacher. Bad for the student.

Going active with learning is a risk. You have to trust your students to act well; act in their best interests; act for their learning’s sake. Much easier to control them than share the ownership.

Why don’t we do active learning? Top 3 answers:

  1. We don’t know what it is and why it’s better than what we do now.
  2. We’re scared we won’t cover the curriculum.
  3. We don’t trust our students to share ownership of the learning with us.

And the top 3 reasons why we should do active learning:

  1. Students deserve it – their future demands it of them.
  2. Research justifies it.
  3. It’s more satisfying for everyone.

And finally, 3 ways to do active learning:

  1. Ask students about really effective lessons (and do more).
  2. Ask students to prove to you that they’ve learned. Challenge them. Push them.
  3. Make students accountable for their success. It’s up to them, not you.
  4. Embed the unexpected and the surprising. Plan in firsts, lasts and interestings.