Tag Archives: national curriculum

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.

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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 

 

Number skills in the primary curriculum. Andrew Brodie

Andrew Brodie author photoThe new National Curriculum, together with the tests that are planned to accompany it from next year, places a much greater emphasis on pure number skills than has been seen for many years. The tests for Key Stages 1 and 2 will both include a test paper on the subject of ‘arithmetic’, a term that is not used in the National Curriculum itself and that hasn’t been much in evidence since the nineteen sixties. I keep having to remind myself that it is concerned purely with non-contextual number calculations.

For the last fifty years we have been urged to help children to learn number facts and number skills within the context of realistic mathematical problems – problems that can be related to the pupils’ everyday lives; problems that mean something to the children; problems that can be solved because there’s a desire to solve them.

Magnetic numbers
Image credit: John Crane Ltd

There is no doubt that contextually based learning is an educational utopia. But concerns have been growing – what if the problems we set don’t encourage the children to learn all the number facts they may ever need? What if the problems are actually too difficult for the pupils simply because the number facts they have practised are not easily retrievable from the depths of their minds?

Surely then, an ideal recipe for mathematical success has to be the solid acquisition of number skills coupled with the application of these skills in context-based, interesting and challenging problems. Is that what the new curriculum is designed to achieve? Will it achieve it?

problem-solving
Image credit: Hypnosis Power

I have been fortunate enough to be able to produce a wide range of educational books over the past twenty years, including many on problem solving. But the opportunities and demands of the new curriculum and the tests that derive from it have encouraged me to return to looking at pure number skills, an area that is of great interest to me.

When not writing, I spend a considerable amount of term working with students aged between four and twenty-two. Many of the pupils with whom I work are of above average intelligence yet still experience some difficulties with mathematics.

The difficulties encountered by some of the secondary school pupils and university students can be traced back to an inadequate grasp of fundamental skills, which could have been gained at the primary level. It is interesting to observe that these students lack confidence in their own abilities and are likely to make comments such as ‘I hate fractions’ or ‘I can’t do algebra’. When discussed closely, however, the reason why the student can’t find, say, the value of x when 3x = 24 is simply because he/she can’t remember how to divide 24 by 3 and can’t find a strategy for doing so!

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              Image credit: GETTY

In my view, the vast majority of children need to learn a wealth of number facts with some contextual clues to start them off. They need to recognize that 3 + 2 = 5 is a representation of a reality, such as three pencils together with two more make a total of five pencils, or that 3 x 2 = 6 could be a representation of three sets of two pencils making a total of six. But once shown the reality there is no reason why they shouldn’t learn all the facts that follow the same pattern. Once learnt these can be applied to a countless number of realistic problems and, ultimately, the fairly abstract concepts represented by algebra. If not learnt, however, the whole of maths is likely to become a mystery.

Let's Do Times Tables coverAndrew Brodie was a head teacher for twelve years after many successful years in the classroom. He began writing his best-selling educational workbooks in 1992 and since then has established himself as an author that parents and teachers have come to trust. Follow him on Twitter @AbrodieWriter

The most recent titles in his Andrew Brodie Basics series are Let’s Do Times Tables, covering ages 5-11. They are designed to improve children’s confidence with 100s of questions and reward stickers and also match the requirements of the National Curriculum.