Leicester University NQT Conference – Challenging the most able

Presentation at Leicester University NQT Conference, January 2017

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Presentation at Leicester University NQT conference on 18 January 2017. I was asked to speak about challenging more able pupils, but of course, bent the topic around to using ICT to challenge children.

#Nurture16/17 Getting my IT mojo back and looking after my staff.

Having written two Nurture posts in one calendar year, I managed to not write one at all on 2015-2016. My last school’s year was pretty hectic, my first full year as a phase leader, we gained over 230 children from Easter 2015 to October 2016. When I joined the school there was a 7 year plan in place to grow from a 2 to 3 form entry school, but local circumstances and our Head’s strong moral purpose that all children deserve a good education meant it all happened rather more quickly than we anticipated! Needless to say, taking on a phase leader role whilst still in class full time was hard work and I was fortunate to undertake an NPQML qualification along with another colleague in Foundation who was also new to her phase leader role. This helped enormously, gave us ideas to support us and the time to support each other. 

So looking right back to Nurture 2015 post, my 5 wishes for 2015 were: 

1. Start class blogging in my new school. I can’t believe how much I have missed having an online space for my class to share their work!

2. Continue to develop our CAS regional hub. We had a super launch, but the challenge this year is to embed the network and deepen the connections we started.

3. Begin my journey to becoming a Master Teacher of Computing through CAS.

4. Finish the couch to 5K programme for running and try to join at least one Park Run. Make running part of my week and keep it as a permanent form of exercise.

5. Continue to strive for some semblance of work/life balance. I’m much better than I was, but there is always room for improvement!

Taking into account the meassive changes in priorities that happened in the past 2 years, I’m pleasantly surprised that I’ve achieved many of these. The CAS hub is going strong, and now I have two other members of staff working with me on it, I became a Master Teacher of Computing and delivered training to my own staff and other schools, I completed couch to 5 K and I definitely have improved my work life balance. 

The main wish that didn’t get a look in was class blogging but something had to give! 

Looking ahead for 2016, I liked David Roger’s areas of focus: interest, practice and purpose.

#interest

I am in the very fortunate position of being a phase leader without a class responsibility this year. Given our massive and sudden expansion, our head invested in us as middle leaders to help smooth the transition to a bigger school and develop a wider spread of leadership responsibilities. After all, as LKS2 lead,  I now manage 7 teachers and 4 TAs, which is almost the same size of staff that was in the first school I worked in! It has been a brilliant opportunity and I have now have an amazing overview of all the children and staff in my phase. I have taught every class as I provide the majority of the covered needed in the phase and mentored an NQT. The downside has been that I haven’t been able to carve out as much time as I would like for computing and in particular the use of IT across the curriculum. I feel like I’ve lost my IT mojo but over the holidays I’ve realised it’s up to me to take the opportunity and get inspired! I have re-engaged with Twitter, by changing my client back to Echofon which pushes notifications and so I’ve been pulled back in. I’ve had a good clear out and cut down he number of people I follow and consequently my interest has grown and I’ve regained some of the joy that I know Twitter can provide. 

So I aim to:

  • Engage in Twitter and blog at least once a month
  • Attend BETT, the BETT Teachmeet and #camped17 (I’m assuming there will be one – if not I’ll be making sure I connect with the fab educators and families that usually attend as they are an amazing source of wisdom, silliness and inspiration)
  • We have an opportunity to replace our ICT suite with mobile devices which has set my tech brain spinning again…

#practice

My individual teaching practice has changed radically as I cover classes rather than have my own class responsbility. However, I did prepare assessments and the data returns for one of our classes last term so I haven’t missed out on everything! I have gained a wealth of experience by teaching a wider range of classes and this is something I want to develop further. 

So I aim to

  • Mentor is the NQT in my phase and develop my modelling skills
  • Run a lesson study looking at the use of technology across the curriculum with a focus on supporting our EAL learners.

#purpose

The moral purpose of providing a broad curriculum for all children in our school is very strong. We have a strong focus on the well-being of staff and I feel that this is increasingly important when demands from changing political agendas continually move the goal posts. 

So I aim to:

  • Maintain and develop our Staff Shout Out board to encourage a culture of caring for and thanking one another in school.
  • Look after myself and remember that at the end of the day teaching is just a job.
  • Nurture my staff by leading by example – turning email off at weekends, thinking about the impact of new ideas and new work on staff before committing to them. 

I’m optimistic about the coming year after a really relaxing holiday – bring it on! 

Report from CAS Leicester North Primary hub meeting March 2015

Report from the CAS Leicester North Primary hub meeting at Rushey Mead Primary School.

Tuesday 24 March 2015 : Rushey Mead Primary School, Leicester

Barefoot computing – Zoe Ross. How to use the resources available on the Barefoot project website to teaching the new computing curriculum in KS1 and KS2.

Zoe gave us a great introduction to the Barefoot site and in particular how each resource is linked directly to a statement from the computing curriculum. Each activity includes an explanation of the terms or concepts used so that you can check your own subject knowledge. Sign up for free to use the resources on the site. Barefoot are still offering FREE WORKSHOPS in your school until the end of this school year. Contact them to book one quick!

What will children be learning at KS3? Dave Abbott, Stonehill High School, Birstall.

Dave showed us what children will be doing in years 7 – 9. As a computing specialist, he was keen to support our use in primary of the correct terminology that so many of us are struggling to comprehend! He recognised that our teaching of the key concepts at primary was essential for him to progress computing at KS3 and was delighted to start seeing children who already knew what an algorithm was. Rather than teach specific languages, Dave uses projects, such as making games in Scratch to teach the principles of programming. Dave includes eSafety in his first term of teaching at year 7 and uses a video project to ensure that children can locate, transfer and save files using a USB, hard drive and online storage. Something that not every year 7 child can do but a real stand out message for us to start looking at teaching in primary school.

Schemes of work – led by Jo Badge, Rushey Mead Primary.

We discussed as a group the various schemes of work that we were using in the region and looked at a few other examples including Pete Richardson’s comprehensive WLD scheme (@primarypete_), Rising Stars switched on computing and the Somerset ELIM scheme. A valuable time for everyone to network and learn from each other, there was lots of great sharing going on!

We also gave out free copies of the Primary Quick start guide to computing which is a really useful guide to teaching the new computing curriculum.

Our next meeting will be on 10 June 2015. I hope you can join us!

My contribution to #Nurture1415

Having moved schools part way through the school year, I updated my Nurture13/14 at the end of the school year rather than the calendar year. My teacher brain just doesn’t work in calendar years anymore! However, in the interests of joining in the nurture project again, which I think is such a great idea, I’m here again to start a new post.

My 5 proudest achievements this year:

1. Moving schools at Easter, becoming lead for computing and being promoted to SLT after my first term in post.

2. Seeing staff using their new iPads in lots of new and exciting ways, especially when they thought I wasn’t looking!

3. Finding a new life/ work balance and beginning to develop a sense of proportion to my work. Actually starting running and being able to admit to it publicly… (see wishes!).

4. Proudly watching my twin daughters launch themselves into secondary school with such maturity, excitement and genuine enjoyment.

5. Being part of both #camped14 and #campedsouth. I’m continually grateful for the astonishing support I receive on twitter and it was wonderful to renew and strengthen online friendships in person this year. Both events have been hugely influential on my thinking and development as a teacher. Massive thanks to Alex, Dougall and Bill for their superb organisation and energy to make these events happen.

My 5 wishes for 2015:

1. Start class blogging in my new school. I can’t believe how much I have missed having an online space for my class to share their work!

2. Continue to develop our CAS regional hub. We had a super launch, but the challenge this year is to embed the network and deepen the connections we started.

3. Begin my journey to becoming a Master Teacher of Computing through CAS.

4. Finish the couch to 5K programme for running and try to join at least one Park Run. Make running part of my week and keep it as a permanent form of exercise.

5. Continue to strive for some semblance of work/life balance. I’m much better than I was, but there is always room for improvement!

#campEDsouth

Following on from the success of CampED14, Alex Bellars organised CampEDsouth for 24-27 October, 2014 in the New Forest. CampEd is like a weekend long teachmeet with lots of outdoor and practical learning and lots of space and time to talk with other teachers, and, importantly, meet and
play with their families too.

Having only just discovered how beautiful the new Forest was this summer on our way to the Isle of Wight, we definitely wanted to go back. We were a small but very lovely group this time but we had just as much fun and more cake than was probably healthy!

The usual wide ranging sessions were all inspiring :
Orienteering (great activity from Alex)
Lego (classic technique Lego from Penny)
Kano (raspberry Pi with an easy set up interface)
One in a million (science/genetics – finding how unique you are in a population)
Zondle (Jo Hughes showed us Zondle – online game system that lets chn play loads of games with same testing content – eg: spelling or maths)
Pond dipping

In between I discovered how Jo is teaching through a fascinating enquiry based method across her KS2 class (29 chn from yrs3-6!). She is passionate about the approach and I could see how it would work to support the wide range of needs in such a small school. Entirely child led, with individual learning targets every 3 weeks I could see how individualised the learning would be.

A massive thanks to Alex for organising the weekend and for his school, Ballard School, for hosting us.

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Phil Bagge Course notes: Scratch for programming in the new curriculum

screenshot of scratch
an example of scratch coding

I was very lucky to attend a full day course looking at Scratch programming with Phil Bagge today (29 September 2014).

Slides from Phil’s session are available at http://code-it.co.uk/smc.pdf and all his planning resources are available on his website.

We started by understanding what computational thinking was and some useful definitions of the trickier terms in the new curriculum. Algorithms and abstraction (I loved the example that abstraction is precisely demonstrated by the London tube map), generalisation, decomposition and logical reasoning. Interestingly, our staff had missed out logical reasoning when dividing up the curriculum as they did not understand it all. We discussed this and they saw that actually this was about questioning the children, getting them to predict and evaluate what they do. Once we started talking about it, they realised that actually this was something they, as teachers, would do naturally through their questioning. This is exactly the definition that Phil gave us! It is a skill that needs to be a taught so that children can do it alone as they progress through the school.

A great article on computational thinking By David Barr, John Harrison, and Leslie Conery.

Some lovely posters to display in the ICT suite to illustrate those tricky computing terms.

One of the best things that Phil did was point out the common mistakes and misconceptions children have when he has taught these lessons. To me this was massively valuable, if you know what sorts of mistakes children are likely to make, it helps you deal with them when or before they arise. It also draws your attention to key teaching points. He was also fantastic at modelling exactly how to do things with the children, including silly voices, physical demonstrations and explaining why some of his modelling was so important. Proper meta-teaching!

For KS1 Phil recommends using the Scratch Junior app on iPads. It is free and does sequencing and repeat really well with very little written language and is highly visual.

For younger children, start with scratch 1.4 (drawing is easier for the younger children), then can graduate to scratch 2.0. Lego WeDo is a nice way to integrate physical control with scratch.

We were working with Scratch (we used version 1.4 but you could just as easily use scratch 2.0)

The Scratch projects we worked through from his computer science planning ideas.

1. Smoking car

Top tips for getting started:

  • Always get into the habit of renaming the sprites – so car, not sprite1.
  • Always model moving the blocks carefully to get them to snap together securely, making a big show of the white snap together line that appears under the blocks. It will pay off later when programmes are more complex and make children think more carefully.
  • When selecting a key – make the class read it aloud together, so that chn understand the action. Point out very carefully that the ‘1’ key is on their keyboard! Make a big point of showing the snap together line. Encourage the children to think what they putting together.
  • 10 steps  =  10 pixels
  • Always get children to test what they have done.
  • Use extension tasks for those children who want to experiment and challenge themselves.
  • Steering – use point blocks because they are always up, down, right left (see the drop down arrow to get degrees for angles for left, right etc).
  • Use zoom feature on your data projector to show the elements to the children.
  • Stage – allows you to programme the background. Makes sprite code disappear – it is not lost!
  • Use whiteboards for children to think through their actions – planning a route for a child to draw out how the car can get along the road (arrows and write down the directions – worked much better!).

2. Music Machine

Super way to introduce loops and repeats – fits with music really well and children can see the point of introducing loops to repeat sections of their music. Put one repeat inside another and ask children to explain to a partner what they will hear before they test it.  Can they predict what will happen?

  • Add the random number chooser in to the select instrument and the sounds will change on each play.
  • Import some loop sounds to show how they can be running underneath any other loops you are using.
  • Programme a button that you have drawn to play notes for a set number of beats, including decimals. Great for demonstrating that two tenths are smaller than five tenths! It sounds shorter – relate to a decimal number line.
  • Take actual music notation and provide a code so that children can convert notes to the numbers, show children that there is a difference between crochet and minims. Music notation is the algorithm that you can convert into a programme by decomposing the notation into pitch and timing and finding repeats.

3. Maths quiz

Uses sensing and selection. Make sure children understand the if/=/then/ else. Show some real life examples (if I get a cold then I will start sneezing).

Use variable to create the score. Then model how the score changes (how the variable changes) by having a child hold a pot and put pens inside to represent the score. At the end the child says what the final score is by looking in the pot and counting the pens.

4. Counting machine

A nice way to look using variables in a real life situation. Extensions – can you make it count faster? Count in 2s? Count backwards from 1000? Count in tenths?

Can you make it count to any number you input?

Make a thirty second count down timer to use in the classroom for our tidy up time! Can you make the timer count down from a time chosen by the teacher?

5. Working with variables (perimeter lesson)

Explain what variables are – moods are variable, the weather is variable (changes). Introduce the idea for what might vary in science (temperature).

Teach children that in a multiplication sum a different symbol is needed to replace the ‘x’ (*).

Create a menu that children can choose 1 for a triangle, 2 for a square using if/then and loops.

6. Games – Slug trail

Use the forever loop to keep the slug moving permanently. Make it move more slowly by decreasing the number of steps it travels within the loop. Again, it is a great idea to model this physically with the children by reading out the blocks and moving across the floor.

A handy hint, to get the slug back off the edge of the screen, right-click on the sprite on the bottom of the screen and use ‘show’.

Draw lines using pen down – point out to children that it is more efficient to put the pen down before the loop starts. Ask chn to draw a background with a path for the slug to move along, code the slug so that it if touches the background colour (goes off the path) it makes a horrid noise and says ‘uh oh!’.

Overall, it was a super day. lots of information and practical hands on activities packed in. Clear ideas on progression and really clear modelling of exactly how to teach programming to children.

Introducing the new computing curriculum as a new Computing Subject Leader

At Easter I moved schools and took on a new role as Computing Subject Leader at a large Leicester city primary school. Some time had been set aside at a twilight session on the new curriculum to talk about the Computing Curriculum. The school have been trialling the new curriculum for foundation subjects this year and my role was created when staff realised that they need some support to help implement the new computing curriculum.

In the twilight session, I wanted to demystify the curriculum (and some of the jargon in it), provide staff with an overview of the aims and give them some resources to take away that they could use. I used the excellent Naace / CAS computing guide as a foundation, drawing on their separation of the curriculum into three main strands, digital literacy, information technology and computer science. I wanted to reassure staff that they already knew how to teach much of digital literacy (esafety) and information technology (content creation and analysis) strands so that I could focus on the computer science strand. I also wanted to show how staff could do computing without using a computer, as I hoped that this would demonstrate it isn’t as scary as it first seems and give them some practical activities that could also serve to develop children’s spoken language.


I used @RevErasumus staff meeting notes as a guide to get me started and included two practical activities for staff to try. The first was a KS1 algorithm lesson from Phil Bagge – the human crane. To show progression in algorithms, I then used Phil’s Sandwich bot, where he makes a jam sandwich following his children’s instructions very literally and much hilarity (and some very serious learning! ) ensues. I’ve written about the impact of using activities that don’t involve computers on Staffrm as the feedback I had was fascinating.

Next, for a KS2 activity, we looked at how search algorithms rely on data being sorted. Following inspiration from a great live demonstration at #camped14 by Catherine Elliot (@catherinelliott), I got staff to do a bubble sort based on height. By making them stand on a bench, you can only get into order by comparing pairs of people and swapping places one pair at a time. A great illustration of how a bubble sort works and followed up by the amazing Hungarian Folk Dance version!

At the end of the meeting, I gave out a skills audit (a version for teachers and a different one for teaching assistants), a curriculum review form and a pupil questionnaire.

Finally, I have to say a big thank you to a colleague who helped me put all this together. Just after I had finished meeting with my Head teacher about where to start on computing curriculum for the school, she went on to meet with a deputy from a local infant school who was looking to work with us as a partner school for her NPQH project. Serendipity struck as she was also the ICT lead at her school and so my Head suggested that we work together on the curriculum. I have so enjoyed working with her, we’ve bounced ideas off each other, she has a been a great critical friend and our different skills fitted well together.