Tag Archives: INSPIRATION

Re-learning to be wrong: philosophy in schools and metacognition

By Peter Worley 

‘Metacognition’ is one of those words that gets thrown around a great deal in education circles, but if you ask what it means, very often you’ll be met with silence or stammering. Philosophy is put forward as an exemplar intervention for metacognitive development in classrooms in a recent programme for the BBC World Service:  and in a short BBC film (in which ‘The Happy Prisoner’ from my book The If Machine is being used). So, what is ‘metacognition’ and how does philosophy help achieve it?

In short, metacognition is when one reflects on one’s own thinking or learning process, evaluating and monitoring it. Put as simply as possible, one is not merely thinking or learning when one is ‘metacognising’, one is thinking about how well one is thinking or learning in order to improve.

The Education Endowment Foundation has conducted research into metacognition and ‘philosophy for children’, but no link between the two is shown or claimed in either piece of research, and, as far as I can tell (please correct me if you know this to be wrong!) there is no research showing the link between philosophy interventions and metacognition. However, intuitively, it would seem that philosophy is par excellence the discipline of metacognition; after all, philosophy has for millennia been associated with classic metacognitive attitudes: questioning assumptions, demanding critical analysis, changing shifts of perception (even when unwanted!), problematisation and so on. Though this may be uncontroversially the case with adult academic philosophy I think we should be cautious about attributing all these metacognitive attitudes to philosophy interventions with children. Only if we can show that these attitudes are actually occurring within the philosophy sessions in schools can we perhaps make the claim that philosophy in schools develops metacognition.

I think that if, during a philosophy session in a school, the children merely respond to a stimulus and then discuss it, sometimes disagreeing with other along the way, then I would say that this is not sufficiently critical for metacognition to occur in any significant or substantive way. So, the easiest way to observe and measure metacognition (though, not the only way) is to consider how critical thinking skills are being deployed.

The Philosophy Foundation and King’s College London are currently looking into exactly this: how doing philosophy develops critical thinking skills. However, we are not only measuring and observing what critical thinking skills the children demonstrate, we are also implementing a critical thinking intervention: we are teaching the children (aged between 8 and 11) certain critical thinking skills (e.g. counter-example, distinction-drawing and conceptual analysis) and seeing what they do, in philosophical enquiries, when they have those skills at their disposal.

Ahead of the research I have been running some preliminary ‘test’ sessions using the critical thinking intervention in my philosophy sessions in schools and I’ve seen some fascinating anecdotal results:-

First of all, the children love learning skills and being presented with content in philosophy sessions; something that is usually left out of standard ‘philosophy in schools’ approaches (including our own).

Secondly, contrary to my own expectations, it is not only the high-ability children that respond well to the use of critical thinking.

And thirdly, it changes the climate of the discussions from a ‘sharing’ emphasis to an ‘evaluative’ emphasis. This, for me, is the most important change. There has been a lot of ‘talking up’ of philosophy in these recent heady days of ‘post truth’, ‘fake news’ and ‘alt facts’, philosophy and ‘philosophy in schools’ interventions are seen as antidotes to this extreme kind of relativism or ‘epistemological authoritarianism’. But I would be careful about being too confident about philosophy’s role here. Indeed, philosophy in schools – when it is done well – can provide the children with the critical thinking tools for tackling misinformation and misleading rhetoric, but philosophy when not done so well it can, I believe, itself contribute to the climate of ‘post truth’. Every time a practitioner of ‘philosophy with children’ says that ‘in philosophy no one can be wrong’ or ‘in philosophy there are no right or wrong answers’ then, I’m afraid philosophy interventions become part of the ‘post truth’ problem. This is why I think, in order to genuinely show that philosophy in schools develops metacognition we need to start teaching children critical thinking skills and have them evaluate themselves and each other. As one Year 6 child said, ‘If the counter-example against what [another child] said is a good one then [the other child] has to change what they said; they have to be wrong’. If we want children to become better thinkers and to be able to tackle what’s coming their way in the media, on the internet, or from a campaigning government, then we need to reacquaint children with the (currently ‘dirty’) word ‘wrong’. They need to accept that they, their peers and their elders can all, quite appropriately, be wrong.

If you are a school that would like to be involved in our research then please contact us: info@philosophy-foundation.org.

Peter Worley teaches philosophy in schools every week. He is a Resident Philosopher at 6 state primary schools in London and he is the founder and CEO of The Philosophy Foundation (www.philosophy-foundation.org), a charity that specialises in philosophy in primary and secondary schools, based in the UK. Peter has over 20 years’ experience in teaching and regularly gives talks and presentations about philosophy in schools. He is a Fellow of the RSA and is a Visiting Research Associate at King’s College London.

He is the author of three titles for Bloomsbury Education, to find out more about any of them please click the jacket images below:

9781441155832978144117495617, 40 lessons to get children thinking Philosophical thought adventures across the curriculum

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My Favourite Childhood Book…

We all have one book that sticks out in our memories – one that set our imaginations wild and sparked a life-long love of reading. To celebrate World Book Day  2017 we asked a few Bloomsbury Education authors to talk about the books that began their reading journey…

Visit our online shop to find out more about the authors, their books and more!

Benjamin Hulme-CrossImage result for treasure island

Treasure Island was my favourite book when I was growing up. Buried gold; the original
pirate-rogue, Long John Silver; a mutiny; a young hero somehow defying death and a swarm of cut-throat buccaneers; and a treacherous parrot. I’ve never wanted to be part of an adventure quite the way I wanted to be on board The Hispaniola as a boy.

Ross Morrison McGill (@TeacherToolkit)

SophieImage result for sophie's world‘s World. It captured my imagination and rekindled my love for reading as a young adult.

Stephen Scoffham 

One of my favourite books was Rudyard Kipling’s Just So StoriesImage result for just so stories I was particularly fond of the story about how the elephant got his trunk. I think it appealed to me because of the focus on the naughty young elephant who got his own back on this uncles and aunts.  But there was a deep sense of Africa and the exoticism of distant lands which permeated the both the pages and, ofcourse, the illustrations.  Another
Kipling
story, in a different collection, which appealed to me enormously was Rikki Tikki Tavi, the heroic mongoose who fought with the snakes.  I identified whole-heartedly with Rikki and I thrilled as I read the account of his battles from which he always emerged victorious against the odds.

Joshua Seigal 

“My favourite book as a young child was There’s a Wocket in My Pocket by Dr. Seuss. My dad Image result for there's a wocket in my pocketused to read this to me and my sister in bed, so I associate the book with bonding. The book is full of weird and wonderful nonsense words too, and I’m sure that it helped fuel my subsequent love of language and wordplay. I also perceived a melancholy underpinning to the book – the illustrations seem to portray the protagonist as being all alone in a vast house, even though he is a young kid, and no reference is ever made to his parents or family. The story is told in the first person singular. I found this somehow sad.”Image result for famous five

Jon Tait

My favourite books that I read as a child were the Famous Five series. I used to love reading
them and imagining the adventures as if they were real life. It was a world that I felt I could dive into when I opened the books.

James Carter

The book that inspired me most as a young reader like no other was the TinTin book The Black Island. Why? It was THRILLING, a non-stop adventure.

It was FUNNY – The Thompson/Thomson twins are sooo stupid, especially as they are supposed to be policeman. And Captain Haddock – what a great name for a former ship’s Image result for the black islandcaptain! He was always get a little ‘tiddly’ shall we say and would begin saying such ridiculous things as ‘blistering barnacles’!

What’s more, it was totally and utterly MAGICAL. I wanted to jump into the world of that book and BE Tintin – have Snowy as my dog, and go on an adventure to a Scottish island where I would meet a g- I won’t say any more. You try it. You find out. But all TinTin books are fantastic. They’re wonderfully escapist stories, and have such fabulous artwork.And great, memorable characters to boot. I love geography and travel, so I loved the fact that TinTin travelled all over the world too – Tibet, Africa, South America, Australia, Russia – everywhere. Even the moon!

Judy Waite

I was horse-mad so Black Beauty stands out, but there were always ‘girl gets horse/girl wins horse/girl wins prizes with horse’ type books that I devoured. Especially the ‘girl wins horse’ one, as I’d entered a real competition to win a horse, run by a daily newspaper Image result for blackbeauty(which seems massively irresponsible these days). Anyway, I didn’t win so horse ownership remained an endless dream, and ‘girl wins horse’ allowed me to experience such joy vicariously.
There’s another book I remember. It was called Isle of Dogs and no, it wasn’t about a dockland area in London. It was about an actual island with dogs on it. The dogs were all pedigrees being transferred somewhere (by ship or plane, I can’t remember which) but a sinking/crash into the sea meant the humans all perished and the dogs swam to a remote island, and the story played out in a sort of doggy Lord of the Flies type of way. I was primary age when I read it, and at the time it latched into my imagination and took me over. I’ve never been able to find it since, despite various searches, so it clearly wasn’t a classic or written by someone well known. But whoever that author is, and wherever they may be, thank you!!

Jo Image result for the dark rising bookCotterill 

My favourite book was The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper. I was fascinated by the concept of the Light and the Dark and the battle raging through the centuries – and of course, Will is a fantastic central character, learning about his abilities and frequently in real danger. It kept me gripped and enthralled for many a night!

Saviour PirottaImage result for the silver sword

My favourite book as a child was easily The Silver Sword by Ian Serrallier. It was the first
story I read that had a multi viewpoint.  I’ve always been fascinated by World War 2 and this had a different take on the subject with children as the main characters. I especially identified with Jan, a misfit who was part rogue part hero. I still have The tattered copy I read in my collection.

Tony BradmanImage result for the hobbit book

My favourite book when I was young was The Hobbit. I loved the adventure of it all, that journey through strange, exotic lands that Tolkien describes so well it seems as if they’re real. And what a great ending! A huge battle with a dragon – I mean, what’s not to like?

Andrew BrodieImage result for Winnie-the-Pooh: The Complete Collection of Stories and Poems

As a young child, my absolute favourite book was Winnie the Pooh – my battered copy shows evidence of how much I read and reread it. I liked it so much for its gentle humour, which still appeals to me now.

Stephen Lockyer

Sly Fox and the Red Hen. When I was very young, my parents went Image result for sly fox and the red henaway for ten days to Canada, and some family friends stayed with us. My parents had hidden a present around the house for each of my siblings and I every day, with cryptic clues (I struggle with one packed lunch for my own children), and this book was one of my presents.

I remember it distinctly as being the first book I read on my own, and read it to everyone and anyone so much that I recited it back to my parents on their return.

This book started my love for books. And hens. But mainly hens.

 

Joshua Seigal on visiting schools as a poet

For me, the best thing about being a professional poet is not actually writing poetry. It is being afforded the regular opportunity to perform my poems to children, and to visit schools where I help them write their own. Here is a list of some of the most memorable things that I have experienced during school visits:

Experiencing a giant group hug whilst visiting a Reception class. The more I wailed “help!” the more kids joined in, and the more the teacher laughed.

The time a child told me that he lived in a buffalo. I was totally mystified, until it dawned on me later that he’d meant ‘bungalow’.

The time a child yelled out “custard man!” in the middle of my assembly performance. I asked him afterwards what he meant, and he didn’t appear to know. He simply blurted it out. This really tickled me, and I now regularly tell this story as part of my performance routine. (In the same assembly, another child asked me the bizarre question, “if you were a monkey, what kind of astronaut would you be?”)

Being presented with a ‘thank you letter’ by a group of year 2 children, in which they had spelt my name ‘Goshoowar’.capture-2

Teaching a child in Year 5 called Tyrone, who hated writing. After my visit, his teacher told me that he simply could not stop writing poetry, at break time, lunch time, and even in class when he was supposed to be doing other things. He simply had to get it out.

Teaching a girl in Year 7 called Precious, who wrote an amazing p
em about her experience as a black person. My workshop wasn’t on this theme; she simply wrote the poem in her own time and decided to show it to me. I entered it for her into a competition, where it was shortlisted.

Undertaking long-term work at Plashet School in East London. Last year I compiled a group of students’ poems into an anthology, which helped raise £500 for the charity Care 4 Calais.

Running a poetry workshop on the theme of ‘what if’. The intention was to write humorous and playful poetry, but the best thing about workshops is that students often deviate from what I expect, and come up with their own ideas (heaven forbid!). Here is a wonderful, and sad, poem produced by a boy called Giacomo in Year 6:

 

What If…

 

What if when I’m older I fail

What if when I’m older I don’t have

any money

What if when I’m older I get lost

and become homeless

What if when I’m older my wife

and children die in a fire and my

house has gone

what if when I’m older

my body gets cancer

what if when I’m older

I’m forced to fight a war

What if I’m in Afghanistan

And get killed at a firing squad

What if when I’m older

I never get married and live alone

What if I could stay a child.

Joshua Seigal is a poet, performer and workshop leader who spends his time visiting schools, libraries and theatres around the country and beyond. He has taken critically-acclaimed poetry shows to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, but usually ends up performing in front of his mirror, using a hairbrush as a microphone. He has managed to gain the minimal skills required to make his own website – www.joshuaseigal.co.uk.

Available from Bloomsbury Education:

I Don’t Like Poetry 

Little Lemur Laughing  (publishes 9th March 2017)

WHAT WOULD YOU ASK A POET?

How do you teach poetry?

Haven’t a clue – but I can tell you about some  really exciting poetry activities you can do with KS2 classes…

READ YOUR CLASS A POEM every morning. Every single morning. I know lots of KS2 teachers that do this and they say the results are manifold.

PUT ON POETRY CONCERTS/ASSEMBLIES – try whole classes performing poems such as Boneyard Rap (Wes Magee), Gran, Can You Rap? (Jack Ouseby), Little Red Rap/I Wanna Be A Star (Tony Mitton), Talking Turkeys (Benjamin Zephaniah), How To Turn Your Teacher Purple (by me..woops.).

twgsc-twitter-imagesv2-2WRITE POEMS AS PART OF YOUR CLASS TOPICS – poetry modules are great, but nothing beats writing poems for a real purpose – creating poems that express a subject matter that a class is enthused about and fully immersed in. Try shape poems (rivers, mountains, volcanoes, planets), kennings ( Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans), haiku ( rainforest creatures, sea creatures), and best of all free verse (memories, real events) – children too easily get stuck in the rhyme rut. And you don’t need to be an expert in all the various forms of poetry – just knowing a few is absolutely fine!

PUBLISH CHILDREN’S POEMS around the school, in the hall, on the school website. And I’ve noticed that children love nothing more than having to take a brand new poem of theirs to show the headteacher!

FIND A RANGE OF POETRY BOOKS – single poet collections and themed anthologies. Set up a poetry corner or poetry book box. Public libraries always have a great selection of contemporary children’s poetry titles – and Oxfam bookshops too are usually good for poetry.

PUT UP POETRY TREES IN THE CLASS/HALL – featuring poems by the children, or the children’s favourite poems.

PHOTOCOPY POEMS and put them all over the school, down the corridors  – even in the lo0s!

HAVE A STAFFROOM POETRY READING one lunchtime. Share adult or children’s poems you like.

INVITE A POET IN … why not? A poet will model how to read/perform poems to an twgsc-twitter-imagesv2-1audience, as well as how to run poetry writing workshops in a classroom.

What advice do you have for teachers?

Apart from buying my Bloomsbury teachers’ book Let’s Do Poetry In Primary Schools! as well as multiple class copies of The World’s Greatest Space Cadet (sorry, that was cheeky! ) – and apart from the activities I have recommended earlier, I would say just go for it. And maybe find a teacher in your school that enjoys doing poetry with her/his class. Find out what they do, and what the results have been.

Quite a number of teachers I’ve met in the hundreds of schools I’ve visited over the last few years have said how much poetry has truly revitalised their English teaching, and got the boys in their classes really motivated. What not to like?

And even if you don’t especially like poetry yourself – and you don’t have to – simply try and source some poems and poetry activities that your class could have fun with and be stimulated by. You might be pleasantly surprised by the results. Enjoy!

book-launch-3-002An award-winning children’s poet, James Carter travels all over the cosmos (well, Britain) with his guitar (that’s Keith) to give lively poetry performances and workshops. James once had hair, extremely long hair (honestly), and he played in a really nasty ultra-loud heavy rock band. And, as a lifelong space cadet, James has discovered that poems are the best place to gather all his daydreamy thoughts. What’s more, he believes that daydreaming for ten minutes every day should be compulsory in all schools.

The World’s Greatest Space Cadet by James Carter is available to buy here 

Follow James on Twitter @JamesCarterPoet

www.jamescarterpoet.co.uk

How I became interested in Geography….

Stephen Scoffham, one of the authors of Teaching Primary Geography, reflects on what geography means to him and how he became interested in it.

9781472921109

What is it that first attracted me to geography?  The simple answer is that I don’t really know. Some people seem to have a clear idea of what they are going to do in life from a very early age.  They want to be doctors, or vets, or to make lots of money in business.  I remember, as an infant, being asked what I wanted to do as a grown up.  I couldn’t really think of an answer but wriggled uncomfortably on my bottom instead.  ‘I want to be a train driver’ I finally blurted out without much conviction.  Fortunately, the teacher, Mrs Brown, seemed convinced.  In those days, when the railway engines were still driven by steam, being a train driver was a glamorous enough job which appealed to young boys.

Thinking back, perhaps it was looking at maps as we went on holiday by car which made me interested in geography.  And planning trips in the countryside must have nurtured my interest in the physical environment.  Also, my father, who was involved in planning in his role with the Local Authority, probably passed on his interest in design and architecture.  I know it sounds a bit naff but I remember enjoying colouring in maps and diagrams in my work at school.  At one point as an adolescent I spent a few weeks making a relief model of India during a spell of illness and forced convalescence.  This was a great hit and the geography teacher was delighted.  My model was proudly displayed on the wall of the geography room for quite a number of years after that.  No doubt it was discretely cleared away some time later when the builders came to redecorate. Anyway I don’t know what happened to it.

I studied geography at ‘A’ level (it wasn’t very well taught and I didn’t enjoy it that much) so I decided to branch out at university.  I opted for a general course which combined a number of subjects.  This was a bit of tricky balancing act as it meant switching from one topic to another and I didn’t have enough background knowledge to make sense of everything I was learning.  However, after three years I ended up with a sound degree and a specialism in philosophy and history.  Not a hint of geography at this stage.  Just a broad grounding in humanities which played to my interest in making links and connections.  I’ve been developing this way of thinking ever since.

On graduating I worked as a primary and secondary school teacher before becoming the Schools’ Officer for an Urban Studies Centre (community study base) in an historic town.  At the same time, I developed a career as a self-employed author of teachers’ and children’s books.  I gradually realised that my interest in the urban environment and outdoor learning was steering me towards geography.  I was also lucky enough to develop a long-term partnership with two local head teachers.  We began by working together on materials to support active learning in the school environment and immediate surroundings.  Then, after banging on many doors, we were appointed as consultants for a new school atlas series just as the National Curriculum was coming on stream. I moved into teacher education soon after that.  It has proved to be a wonderful and supportive professional environment ever since.

This latest book, Teaching Primary Geography, is also the result of a collaboration.  I first met the co-author, Paula Owens when she was a student in initial teacher education and we have both been deeply involved with the Geographical Association ever since.  Sharing ideas with Paula has been a really stimulating and creative process.  I always think that two minds are better than one and we are particularly proud of the way we have found ways to include sustainability and British values in each of the different areas of study.  We are both convinced that the curriculum needs to address contemporary issues.  Hopefully you will be too as you read through our ideas and suggestions.  Do let us know what you think.

pc403rzd_400x400Dr. Stephen Scoffham has published widely for schools and teachers in the field of primary geography. He is the editor for the Geographical  Association’s Primary Geography Handbook (2004, 2010), chief  consultant/author for the Collins Junior Atlas, UK in Maps and World in Maps and joint author of the newly issued Collins Primary  Geography textbook scheme. In 2014 he won an award for his work on  devising and Teaching Geography Creatively (Routledge), a  resource book for teachers.He is currently based at Canterbury Christ  Church University where he is a Visiting Lecturer in Sustainability and Education. You can follow him on twitter @StephenScoffham

tty7hjr7_400x400Dr. Paula Owens is an education consultant and author. Along with Stephen, she is the co-author of Bloomsbury Curriculum Basics Teaching Primary Geography. Her career has spanned teaching and leadership in primary schools and curriculum development lead for the Geographical Association. You can follow her on twitter @Primageographer

Bloomsbury Curriculum Basics: Teaching Primary Geography is available to purchase here 

 

Castles in the Air

Using the past as a springboard for young writer by Paul Mason

The idea for the book came while walking the grounds of Walmer Castle in Kent.  What would it be like, my daughter asked, to sneak in and live there?  I spent the afternoon taking in the thick walls, and deep, grassy moat; the Duke of Wellington’s bedroom with its camping cot, the row of cannons pointing out to sea, the pair of Wellington boots—scribbling down notes, possibilities, real detail.

A Gibbon quote comes to mind: “There is more pleasure to building castles in the air than on the ground.”  I often like to use one to inspire the other. The past can provide young writers with a powerful springboard.

I took a class to visit a scale replica of a steerage deck on an 1840’s immigrant ship. They perched on bunks in the dimly lit deck as it rocked back and forth, listening to the waves crash, the boards creak. They pictured the hard yards of the early settlers, and put down some evocative description.

Here in New Zealand, a trip to a marae can be a source of inspiration. The wharenui or meeting house often symbolises an ancestor–with a beam for the spine, rafters for ribs and the heart represented by a strong post.  Carvings inside usually tell stories of those that have gone before, great leaders and navigators. (Check the local tikanga or rules before visiting.)

Of course, the past can creep into the classroom too.  I once brought in an old travelling chest.  The students could look and touch the worn leather, but weren’t allowed to open the lid.  What hid inside? Who did the trunk belong to? Where were they travelling? What would they themselves pack in the trunk if they were going on a long journey?

An inquiry into family history began with a mini-museum of personal heirlooms. An old hat that belonged to granddad. A medal. A treasured photograph. The young writers made them breathe in poems and stories. Given the chance, castles in the air can begin here on the ground.

Paul Mason is a former primary school teacher. He writes fiction for Bloomsbury Education including the Skate Monkey series which has two new titles, The Cursed Village and Fear Mountain, publishing in January 2017.

Ten Stress Busting Tips From James Hilton

Welcome back to the start of the school year, we hope that most of you aren’t feeling the stress yet but it is always good to have a few tricks up you sleeve for when the pressure does start to creep up on you. Keep these top ten tips from James Hilton, author of Leading From the Edge, in mind and hopefully you’ll be able to help yourself feel in a better frame of mind.

 

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James Hilton is a former headteacher working as a conference speaker and author, specialising in leadership, stress management and positive psychology. He applies his experience of human leadership to inspire a wide range of clients including school leaders, the NHS, local government and businesses. James provides fresh insights into the challenges of leadership in the intense environment that is the modern workplace.

Bye Bye Billy – Creating Characters in Poetry

By Roger Stevens, poet and co-author of ‘It’s Not My Fault’

The summer holidays are here at last. And I expect you will all be outside enjoying the sunshine, running about in the fields chasing cows or investigating rocky pools at the seaside and hiding crabs in Grandpa’s shoes. Anyway, they are all the things I loved doing when I was at school. The only problem in the long summer school holiday was when my friends went away, to Spain or somewhere exotic like Bognor, and I was still at home. Then I had no one to play with. So I invented an imaginary friend. My imaginary friend was called Billy. He was very different from me. I was very good when I was a child and I never did ANYTHING naughty and I NEVER got in to trouble. But Billy was always getting up to mischief.

Bye Bye Billy

Roger Stevens

Billy left my bedroom in a mess
Billy hid the front door key
Billy posted Mum’s credit cards through the floorboards in the hall
Billy ate the last jam doughnut
Billy broke the window with his ball
Billy forgot to turn off the hot tap
Billy put the marbles in Grandpa’s shoe
Billy broke Dad’s ruler seeing how far it would bend
But now I’m twelve and Billy’s gone
I’ll miss my imaginary friend

The poem’s from our new book, It’s Not My Fault. It makes a good model poem. You could try it with your own children, nephews, nieces, grandchildren or neighbour’s children (when they get bored playing on their i-devices) – or with your class, back at school.

First, start with a few character details. When I do this in a class, often as a prelude to writing a story, I ask a series of questions and encourage the children to write the answers quickly, without thinking about them too much. Is your friend a he or a she? How old is your friend? Is your friend big, small, short or tall? Is your friend blond or dark? What hobbies does your friend have? Is your friend a human? What is his/her name?

Next, I ask the children to make a list of all the things that they would LIKE to do – but are not allowed. This works well either as a class activity, or in small groups, as one idea can spin off another idea. Encourage the children to be as naughty and outrageous as possible; although you will probably need to discourage violent or rude ideas. Tell them you are looking for “clever” ideas rather than simply introducing the word “poo” into the list whenever possible for cheap laughs. They could talk about things that actually happened in their own families.

Now choose the best of the ideas and write them in a list. Look at the list and rearrange the events in the best order. It might end with the most outrageous thing, for example.

My poem ends with the narrator growing up, and Billy leaving. And so you might discuss ways for them to end their poem. Finally, check for spelling and read the poem out loud. It should have a nice flow and sound to it.

And in the meantime, enjoy the sunshine, and chasing the cows. Have a great summer.

Not my fault.jpg

Herding cats whilst juggling with ferrets – why would anyone want to work in Early Years? Alistair Bryce-Clegg

Author Alistair Bryce-CleggYoung children are truly remarkable beings and masters of ‘the unexpected’. There is one thing that you can be certain of when you work in Early Years and that is, that you can never be certain of anything! Like the moment when you have them eating out of the palm of your hand, gazing at you wide eyed as you deliver pearls of wisdom, and then from amongst the crowd a hand slowly rises. You pause with anticipation, waiting for confirmation that you are indeed the World’s best teacher and that this child is going to utter a statement of learning and understanding – only to be met with the phrase ‘My Granddad’s dead’. Just three little words that can completely kill a moment! Of course no matter what you were talking about, it is not going to be as interesting as death. Usually at this point on your carpet, the children will engage in a ‘dead-off’ each of them trying to outdo the others with the deaths of pets and relatives. It takes a skilled practitioner to be able to Segway from death to ‘Five Little Speckled Frogs’. Difficult, but not impossible!

It is in the very impetuous and inquisitive nature of little children that their potential for learning lies. The more we learn to embrace and enhance their ‘uniqueness’, the more we can enable them to pursue their interests and engage in learning. After all, it’s high-level engagement that will result in high-level attainment. When children are happy and secure they can focus all of their energy on being inquisitive. If they are unhappy, upset or bored then their brains are more focussed on resolving those issues than on exploring the world around them.

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Sometimes as an adult, I think that we impose our agenda for learning on children a little too much and that this can result in children switching off, disengaging, fiddling with the person next to them – or usually in the case of boys – fiddling with themselves! The more experience I have in working across the very diverse Early Years sector, the more I am convinced that the more child- initiated we can make learning the more success that we will all have (children and adults).

As a teacher I was completely topic driven and I LOVED it! A topic meant that you could theme everything to one interest or subject and on the whole that made things significantly easier when it came to planning and resourcing. But… the problem with a topic is that it can be too focussed.
It is one thing when as an adult you talk to your children about a subject – a good Early Years Practitioner can make anything sound exciting (with or without the use of a feely bag and some whispering!). It is not the adult-led aspect of a topic that is the issue. It is what the children are expected to do when they leave the adult and enter the realm of their own learning. They may well have loved it when you were regaling them with tales of planets, rockets and space travellers but when they get to the malleable materials area – why do they have to make a planet out of dough? When they get to the junk modelling area – why do they have to make a rocket or complete a writing frame around a journey into space before having to paint stars onto black sugar paper with white paint?

As practitioners we need to think about why we create the areas of provision that we create and what it is that we want children to learn and experience as they work and play in them.
If we are encouraging our children to develop dexterity in the dough then does it matter if they don’t make a planet? If we are teaching them a variety of joining and construction skills in the junk modelling area, do they have to build a rocket? If we want them to mark make or write, do they have to write about space? Of course the answer to all of the above is ‘no’!

When we are planning for children’s learning we need to think of the topic as a stimulus or an enhancement to continuous provision. What is more important is that we clearly identify what it is that our children need to learn and then plan for how we can use our environment and their interests to teach them those next steps and allow them to consolidate and apply the new skills that they have acquired.

So next time you are planning a topic, keep it to your carpet session and your direct input. Plan your continuous provision for skill development and purpose and then enhance it with children’s interests, what you are teaching (basic skills) and what you are talking about (topic). That way you have the most potential to maximise opportunities for learning and engagement and keep fiddling fingers occupied!

Best Practice in the Early Years bookAlistair is a popular Early Years Consultant and ex-headteacher dedicated to helping settings enhance their EYFS practice. He works with individuals, settings and local authorities both nationally and internationally. His latest book Best Practice in the Early Years contains lots of activities and techniques written in his creative and witty style. Click here to find out more.

Where do good ideas for the classroom come from? Stephen Lockyer

Author Stephen Lockyer

I’m incredibly lucky in that my head buzzes with ideas all the time, like a creative tinnitus! That’s not to say all of them are good ideas by any stretch, but I’ve recently been exploring where good ideas come from, and think that they come from one of five key areas. The important thing to remember about ideas is that experimenting is the only way you can really see whether an idea has legs or not.

Upcycling 

I love upcycling – that is, repurposing something for another use. This can be done in many small ways (such as using clothes pegs and card for a Classroom Jobs list for example), or in a large way (tractor tyres + blanket = reading corner seat). I especially love repurposing one idea totally unrelated to teaching into something which contributes to learning. I rebuilt the Periodic Table in my classroom, putting our class values as the elements and so on. We could have made a list, but by using a familiar format, the children were exposed to this, and the conversations which sprung from this. Anything different from the norm is often more interesting (and more captivating for you).

Learning Lents

This is a favourite for forcing creativity and new ideas – ban something which you rely on! It sounds a strange thing to do, but really does make you think outside of your box. Imagine you rely on your IWB for every lesson, and then the bulb goes – what do you do to recover? Now put this thinking against all the other ‘default’ tools and routines in class. Here are a few ideas: No chairs for one day No photocopying Computers off No writing No numbers in Maths Choose one of these and see how you get on; it really is quite liberating!

Don’t reinvent the wheel, search online for it

We are enormously spoilt for the range of places we can now search for ideas – and you don’t have to dive in headfirst to make the most of the resources stored in the cloud (but it’s always good to give something back). The classic teacher’s resource search is TES Resources, but for more personalised help with ideas, ask on Twitter (using the hashtag #asktwitter) – you’d be amazed what responses you get! Pinterest is another good vault of ideas for teaching, often in the most surprising of ways, and it also works as a springboard for your own ideas too! Another growing source of feelgood ideas is www.staffrm.io, the blogging platform for teachers, which is growing daily with a wealth of good ideas on marking, planning, questioning, even creativity itself!

Read around your subject

It’s always good to read books specific for your subject specialism and age range, but don’t let this limit you. I’ve collected good ideas and generated lots of my own by reading around my interests too. There is a lot that Secondary colleagues can learn from Primary, and vice versa. Likewise, reading books completely detached from Education can contribute interest and curiosity, and solve problems you may have in the most unusual ways – a book called Smart Swarm for example helped me work out a novel solution to congestion problems in my school, even though it was about insects!

Cross swords together

Imagine completing a crossword on your own, with someone next to you completing the same crossword. How many more words would you get if you collaborated together? Likewise, the best ideas sometimes need to be talked about in order to float to the surface. Often, we can go to someone with a problem, and they are far more capable of solving it than us because they aren’t carrying all the aspects of that problem which we are. Likewise, generating ideas with someone else can be incredibly liberating and productive. I love coming with ideas, but really like playing around with them too – it’s very rare for a discussed idea to become worse in the process! My #100ideas book came from generating ideas in this way and many other ways. The most important principle is to try something out, even in a very small sense, and see if it improves the teaching and learning or not. Once you’ve tried it in one lesson or on one table, roll it out further. Play with it, adjust it and get feedback on it from the children and other adults that might be in your classroom. If it does make a difference to you, tell others! Avoid being an idea silo – become an inspiration station instead!

100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Outstanding Teaching

Stephen Lockyer is Deputy Head of The Mead School, Tunbridge Wells. He has been teaching for 14 years in a variety of schools and has a very low boredom threshold which drives him to make lessons exciting, stimulating and filled with learning opportunities! He set up SLT Camp – a CPD training weekend for teachers and has spoken at many Teachmeets. Follow him on Twitter @mrlockyer

Stephen’s latest title 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Outstanding Teaching is available now. Click here to find out more.