#camped14 An extended teachmeet with space to think

Science at camped14

I was still a PGCE student when I persuaded the family to go to #camped12. Learning and sharing in a field, it was a fantastic experience that at the whole family really enjoyed. They took no persuading to go to the second #camped, and for me it was even better than the first. Apart from the fantastic range of activities, beautiful and inspiring venue and the gathering of some amazing people and their families, the best part about camped14 for me was the space in between the sessions.

It may have only been a 4 week half term, but moving schools has had a huge impact on me. Going back to family camping after a 2 year break (PGCE and NQT years took their toll on my energy levels!) meant concentrating on the basics – getting the tent up quickly to avoid the worst of the rain, slowing down and taking time out to just sit a while and wait for the kettle to boil on the gas stove, stopping to talk to my daughters and husband. Camped provided the space to talk through the changes I’ve experienced in the past two years with colleagues and mull over some of the challenges still ahead was invaluable. The wisdom and practical experience of twitter friends has given me a raft of strategies, ideas and practical tips to get me started as an effective Computing Lead in my new school. I already know that that space to chat, ask questions, think aloud and reflect will impact on my practise. Of course, it helped that the whole weekend was huge fun, with belly laughs, good food and fabulous music too!

I’ll post separately about the workshops and activities, as they are important in their own right and I need to get them noted before I forget! BUt I felt it important to note the impact that this weekend has already had on me and send a massive thanks to Dughall McCormick  and Bill Lord and everyone else that helped to put the weekend together and make it such a success. I really hope that there is another CampEd, it’s a valuable space to have in the diary for any educator.

Leicester Teachmeet #TMLD14 QR codes for paired reading

My presentation for Leicester Teachmeet on 18 March 2014 at CrownHills School, Leicester. This was based on a teachtweet video I made earlier this year. I added a little extra about teaching algorithms too.

Livestream recording of the teachmeet now available thanks to Leon @eyebeams

This was an idea that David Mitchell described that he used in school, I tried it this autumn, and it worked really well!

QR codes and paired reading

During daily guided reading with my year 4 class, which I run as a carousel of activities, my children can use the class iPad on a rota. A different pair of children each day get to use the iPad with a focussed task. During the first half term of the school year, their task was to find a book from our year 1 classroom and record themselves reading it (with good expression!) using Audioboo (a free sound recording app).  They photograph the cover of the book and publish the recording. The Audioboo recording is set to publish directly to our class blog (in Audioboo settings set to publish to your blog). We then make a QR code to link to the blog post and print out a copy. The paper QR code is stuck into the book and placed back in the year 1 classroom. The year 1 children can use their class iPad to scan the QR code and listen to the story book being read aloud.

Example – Where’s my teddy? Read by Eden and Lewis.

screenshot of blog post audioboo player

Slides on Google


Audioboo app: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/audioboo/id305204540

QR code reader app https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/qr-reader-for-iphone/id368494609?mt=8

QR stuff screenshot: http://www.qrstuff.com/

iPad image http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPad_Mini

Audioboo image http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8096/8545410166_5e15c53777_z.jpg


I will soon be changing schools, starting at Rushey Mead Primary school as ICT lead after Easter. I am very much looking forward to the challenge and for my interview lesson I taught a group of year 5 children how to write an algorithm. The main idea was to show that although the new ICT curriculum has a lot of technical language in it, some of it can be taught from what teachers already know how to do well. Algorithms are basically instructions. I used padlocks and a mixed set of keys to get the children to write some instructions on how to choose a key to open the padlock. They included a decision (does the key fit?) to make the change from simple instructions to become an algorithm.

I was directed (by lots of lovely people on twitter) to several great resources whilst researching the lesson:

Phil Bagge’s Code it.

A treasure trove of planning, ideas, videos and very practical help for anyone worried about the new computing curriculum. If you haven’t seen sandwich bot, you are missing a treat!

Computer science unplugged

Teaching computing without a computer. Does what it says on the tin🙂

This started me thinking about cross curricular links, with maths and science. I’ve started to work computing language into my maths lessons, to get children to realise the connections between sorting and maths. We were playing 20 questions to guess a number (is it odd? does it have 3 digits?) and I pointed out that Google search works by a process of sorting that many of the children resorted to. They realised that if they knew it was a 3 digit number, they could ask if it was bigger than 500 and narrow down the search options quickly, by picking the mid point to ask about each time (is it bigger than 250?). Branching databases in science are another perfect opportunity to link to computing.

Teachtweet: QR codes for paired reading

This is a video presentation I made for the #ukedchat Teachtweet online meeting on 16 January 2014.

This was an idea that David Mitchell described that he used in school, I tried it this autumn, and it worked really well!

During daily guided reading with my year 4 class, which I run as a carousel of activities, my children can use the class iPad on a rota. A different pair of children each day get to use the iPad with a focussed task. During the first half term of the school year, their task was to find a book from our year 1 classroom and record themselves reading it (with good expression!) using Audioboo (a free sound recording app).  They photograph the cover of the book and publish the recording. The Audioboo recording is set to publish directly to our class blog (in Audioboo settings set to publish to your blog). We then make a QR code to link to the blog post and print out a copy. The paper QR code is stuck into the book and placed back in the year 1 classroom. The year 1 children can use their class iPad to scan the QR code and listen to the story book being read aloud.

Example – Where’s my teddy? Read by Eden and Lewis.

Slides available on Google 


Audioboo app: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/audioboo/id305204540

QR code reader app https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/qr-reader-for-iphone/id368494609?mt=8

QR stuff screenshot: http://www.qrstuff.com/

iPad image http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPad_Mini

Audioboo image http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8096/8545410166_5e15c53777_z.jpg

Association for Science Education conference and primary teachmeet #tmase @thease #aseconf

Great example of using lists of vocabulary to go and find real examples outdoors. Children use laminated vocab lists to go and find examples to take a picture with all the and put into a pic collage and label up. From @drbiol .
Natural dyes on wool (easier than cotton, no pre wash). Boiling water, fix with vinegar or salt. Could investigate different methods, quantities and materials.
Use playground to look for materials and then what is growing on them.
Top trumps for energy sources – free resources form centre for alternative technology. Compare different forms of alternative energy. centre for alternative energy

I just went around the Association for Science Education conference’s free exhibition but found plenty of ideas:
Collins had their new science curriculum materials so I had chance to be be talked through the evaluation pack (saving me reading it in detail!)
The Met office had some great resources that I hadn’t managed to of find on their website that will be useful for science and maths:
– Daily (mon to fri in term time) child friendly weather forecast
– WOW weather observations Website- upload your own weather station data and compare to other places in yeah world – fabulous for real weather data for using in the he new maths curriculum (time graphs).
make you own weather forecast kit – we are going to a do a weather forecast in French this term, so we can use these resources to help make our filmed forecasts look really professional!

British model aircraft association – some wonderful resources for making model aircraft and a competition for us to enter to give some real life purpose to our fight and flight theme after half term. fly your plane



Reflecting back and looking forward #nurture1314

Updated July 2014, updates in bold

I’ve been very inspired by the #nuture1314 posts this week (see a lovely stories collection of tweets and links to other posts), from an idea last year (I think originally from @chocotzar, #nurture1314) the format seems to have taken hold, so here are my 13 reflections for 2013 and 14 aspirations for 2014.

I used to really enjoy the formal written reflections we did during my PGCE and reflection is one of the tools I felt I really got to grips with to help my teaching when I was a student. During the hustle and bustle of life at school it is pretty difficult to reflect as deeply as I did then. I find my commute to and from work is a good place to think about specific lessons, or children and plan some next steps, but a chance to sit and think about a whole year of teaching is a rare event and feels very exciting!

13 reflections from 2013:

1. Passing my NQT year. I’m pretty proud of that, coming into teaching as a novice having been used to being an expert in my previous profession was a steep learning curve, professionally and emotionally.
Still feel I’m learning something new everyday!

2. I’m pleased to have put some of my Google teaching experience into action, setting up Google Apps for the school, getting started with class blogging last year, carrying on this year with my new class and trying our hand at two rounds of Quadblogging. I’ve redesigned the new school website started last year on google sites and set up a self hosted installation of WordPress for us to develop our blogging as a school in the future. Major highlights here include having THE @deputymitchell come to start the whole staff on our blogging journey and our most read (over 1000 views) and tweeted post asking my PLN to respond to a survey so we could do some real life data analysis in numeracy.
3. I took my first tentative steps into subject leadership, with my science background being put to use as Science subject lead. I’ve enjoyed starting to make links with other science leads and educators on twitter, and even meeting some in person (the lovely @boydon1967) at a regional ASE meeting.
I moved school at Easter so now I am Computing Subject lead which I am really enjoying getting my teeth into.

4. Although it seems an eon ago, I survived my first Ofsted last January. I was brave enough to ask them to come and observe me a second time, having had a very short observation in guided reading, I wanted some feedback on a more standard lesson, and getting a ‘good’ from them for my literacy lesson was worth the nerves.
5. The summer holidays this year were just blissful. Hot sun, time with friends and family, catching up on the life I felt I’d missed out on in my NQT year.
very much ready for the summer holidays again…

6. Although I tweet far less often than I did before I was teaching, twitter is probably even more an essential part of my day than before. Always informative, supportive and inspiring, I value my PLN every day.

if anything my PLN has strengthened further this year, especially after Camped – see below.

7. I finally started going to yoga classes in the Autumn, something I’d promised myself I’d do for years. The classes are well worth the effort of getting out of the house and have really helped me to try to keep work and life in proportion.
8. I’ve a photo of my first class on my study wall. It is so lovely to see them developing in school and know that I have taught them.
9. I’ve survived two terms with 37 then 36 children in my class. I’ll be going back to a class of 35, I’m hoping those two less books will help with the marking mountain😉

At my new school I have 29 children in a year 5 class.

10. I couldn’t have made it this far without the support of my family. Especially my daughters and husband who are always there with a smile and a cup of tea. My Mum and Dad have been just as supportive, regularly turning up to garden, wash or iron just when I need it most. No idea what I would do without them.


11. I’ve managed to keep in touch with most of my friends, though many I haven’t seen anywhere as often as I would like. When I have seen or spoken to them, they have been amazing.
12. Thanks to old university connections, I’ve started some consultancy , a small project for some educational materials for schools visiting Rockingham village hall. It has been fun to think of something different and use my teaching knowledge in a different way to offer advice and practical experience to the project. I’m grateful to Zara Hooley for the opportunity.

This was a super project. I’ll be working with Zara again this year, but this time to raise some chicks in school, another of her many talents!

13. The last two weeks of the Autumn term are an experience that I would rather not repeat. Difficult circumstances showed me just how strong our staff was and I was thankful to be working with such generous and caring people.

14 things for 2014

1. Keep up my Yoga classes. An hour and a half once a week to chill out.

I did well with this in the winter, which is when I need the exercise the most. Moving to a classroom up 4 flights if stairs has given me plenty of exercise since Easter!

2. Join the Association of Science Education, attend some of their regional committee meetings and continue to network with other science leaders there. After July I will apply to be a Registered Scientist (Rsci) using the fast track system, putting my degree and PhD to use!

I joined and had completely forgotten about the Registered Scientist, will try and get this done in the summer!

3. Find out if there is a still a vacancy on our school governing board, and see if I can apply.

I moved school and so didn’t pursue this.

4. Continue to develop the use of blogging in class and to encourage more children to post from home or start their own blog. I’ll be running an ICT club this year, and would like to focus it on helping children set up their own blogs. I’m wondering about inviting parents to join us, as I know that many will want to know that their children are working safely online.

ICT club was great fun, I have signed up to run one in my new school in the Spring. This may be code club, or an attempt to resurrect some antique lego mindstorm equipment.

5. To make better use of our school iPads in class. I already have a daily task for the children to do in rotation during guided reading, initially it was reading a book for KS1 and recording it on audioboo, making a QR code and putting it in huge book so the children could listen to it. Then we have moved onto allowing them to do some free writing and I’m determined to use this time to develop some other skills over the year. This little and often daily approach has really helped when we’ve used these skills in other lessons.

Will be applying this principle with my new class in the new year.

6. Use Coveritlive to develop writing with my class and widen their use of vocabulary. We used it for a hot seating style session before Christmas and I got a glimpse of the power it could have.

This will be on the to do list for Spring.

7. Plan and execute our whole school Science day in April. Based on forensic science, I’ll be roping in my husband to add a real genetic scientist in to the mix, with DNA extractions and a taste of university aspirations for our children that school.

Science day was great fun, despite the fact that the company we had booked didn’t turn up! Fortunately, my husband was already there so did a little extra and meant that at least KS2 had an outside visitor.

8. Book as many holidays as we can! I’ve learned that the first weekend of each half term needs to be spent away with with family to switch off from the term.

we went away at Easter, Half term, last weekend and have 2 weeks booked in the summer as well as another Camped lined up in October!

9. This year my twin daughters will start secondary school. A big step for all of us!

Delighted to report that they loved their transition days last week.

10. Get to grips with the new Science curriculum and help other members of staff in school to do the same.

Working through the curriculum for both keystages has stood me in good stead for moving year groups. I’m now doing the same with the computing curriculum and have led my first staff meeting.

11. I start teaching the New maths curriculum after Christmas as my year 4 children will be the first to be tested under the new curriculum. Not so much of an aspiration as a reality!

More to come…

12. Grow more veggies in the garden.

I tried! Planted plenty but not much success yet…

13. Go to #Camped14 and talk to more people than I did at #camped12! If you haven’t heard of Camped, it is like an extended teachmeet/sleepover. Great fun and a great place to meet people that you’ve only ever tweeted with!

CampEd was amazing. I’ve blogged about it.

14. Attend and present at a teachmeet. Having organised a national one in my PGCE year, I would like to get back into the local teachmeet community as it is a super place to be!

Presented at our local Leicester Teachmeet. Must try to host one…

Beginning my second NQT term

Yawning koala bear by National Media Museum
No known copyright restrictions

I’m not going to apologise for the lack of posts over the last two months, my first term as an NQT has been pretty overwhelming. The TES New Teachers supplement this week struck a resounding chord this morning. Phil Beadle has one of the best descriptions I’ve read of what the teaching workload entails:

“You are trying to do a job in which the amount of work you have to do is obviously not possible in a normal person’s waking hours… There is no other job that routinely and blithely expects you to run yourself so far past the point of exhaustion that you look back on exhaustion with overly fond eyes.”

So, here I am. I had a proper break at Christmas and managed to spend a considerable block of time planning and thinking. This has bought me some time in the rush of the first week back and I have resolved to keep ahead of myself. I’ve mapped out when I should do the rest of my planning for the rest of this (very short!) half-term and so my diary popped up this morning and told me what I needed to do.

There is little time to stop and think, let alone reflect in the week. I used to enjoy writing weekly reflections on teaching practice and realised how they improved my teaching. So, I’m back here, thinking aloud.

My two main targets for myself this half term are:

  1. Improve my maths planning (and hopefully become more comfortable with it, it is a very painful process at the moment!).
  2. A focus on behaviour and raising expectations for quality and quantity of work.

So this week:

1. Maths – I have been very slow to work with groups of children in a focussed way, this is finally kicking in properly  this week and it has made a massive difference to my understanding of what the children need. I can see that I overcomplicate my planning, teaching and activities. For example, on Thursday, I was teaching written addition methods, the middle attaining children used a Google maths map I made to find sums to do (based on Tom Barrett’s collaborative maps). Whilst they loved exploring the map, they struggled with maneuvering effectively to be able to read the questions, and only one pair managed to do more than two sums in the time we had which clearly didn’t make for much time for learning the written method. In contrast, yesterday I was teaching written methods for subtraction and used a simple table of distances of cities from Leicester with a few questions where the children had to subtract on distance from another, then write a question of their own and swap to try someone else’s question. This worked much better, there was more work completed and when marking I could see which children had understood the method (counting on) and which needed more help. It is slowly sinking in that I need to narrow my learning objectives and the narrow the task to fit it (something my mentor has been trying to tell me for some time, but now I’ve finally seen what she means in action it will hopefully click).

2. Behaviour – this has been along hard slog for me and will continue to be for the rest of the year. I am trying to accept this and steel myself to the relentlessness of it. Over the holidays I thought a lot about how I have much higher expectations of  my own children than I do of the children in my class. Having twins meant that I quickly had to  learn to make rules and stick to them. I realised I had fallen into the trap of thinking that it is too hard to expect the children to do X or Y and I would work up gradually to it. I would fix it later, it would do ‘for now’. I never did that with my own children, they were expected to behave in the way I wanted and there was never any compromise, I did it there and then, I didn’t put it off. Why have I been different with my class? I’m not sure, but something clicked over the holidays and I tried to start the new term as I meant to go on, with high expectations and no excuses. I know it will be difficult to stick to, but I also know that they have improved already and we can only keep getting better. I am responsible for how they behave.

(I should perhaps say that I am not dealing with any severe behaviour problems, and I am well aware that behaviour is very subjective, and as NQT I realise that I will be learning about this for years to come. My class have a lot of low-level disruption, are very good at talking and very noisy during transitions. Standards for behaviour in my school are high and when I compare my class to those around the school I can see we have a lot of work to do.)

In terms of surviving to Easter, I’ve booked the first night of half term away with my family visit Stratford on Avon and take the girls to their first RSC production (The Winter’s tale).  We have our oldest friends coming for lunch next Sunday and my parents are coming to watch our daughter in her ballet show the weekend after. My mum is retired teacher and even though she lives 120 miles away, has regularly booked herself in to visit us. She turns up, cleans the house, does all the ironing and puts a week’s worth of delicious home cooked meals in the freezer just at the points when I thought I couldn’t go on. She is amazing. My husband deserves a mention too, he has taken over the large majority of the child care, all the grocery shopping and most of the washing with out a fuss and without complaint. He is beyond amazing.  So, I have lovely treats to look forward to, a great support network at home, purposeful days that I can take ‘off’ and spend time with my family, allowing me to work the rest of the time knowing I will get a proper break at least once a week.

Finally, I think the time has come for me to admit that I find being a novice incredibly hard. Much harder than I  was prepared for. I was very good at my job before, I was used to praise and thanks on a daily basis. Teaching is an incredibly lonely profession and there is something that doesn’t go well or right every day, or many times a day. I am very slowly learning how to be resilient and cope with this, and while my ability to be self-critical is essential to my improvement and development as a teacher, I have a tendency to dwell on my failures too long instead of learning from them, moving on and trying again. Blogging is a way for me to try to record my successes, and exorcise the problems in public so they don’t eat away at me. I’ve been conscious that I have felt I should spend my time working on other things at the weekends and not blogging. This has been an hour spent thinking about my teaching this week. I think it is worth it. Time will tell.

One iPad, 36 children and a wireless connection to one whiteboard

I read a great post about how to make the most out of using one iPad with a whole class of children. I have 36 year 4 children and my own iPad, so I wanted to make the best use of it that I can. I started by introducing it in guided reading, and this week is book week, so it was an ideal time to try some new things. Over half term I had the chance to do some research on how to use the iPad with our interactive whiteboard (or any PC/ dataprojector combination!) having had some problems connecting using a VGA cable directly to the whiteboard. Inspired by David Andrews to try a wireless solution (also called ‘mirroring’ as whatever happens on the iPad is shown on the whiteboard), I starting looking at the options.

There are two wireless solutions to be able to connect the iPad to a dataprojector. Reflection and AirServer. There is a really useful comparison of the functionality of the two, which I only discovered after I had got reflection installed. We will soon be rolling out iPads into all our classes, so AirServer may be a better choice across the school network, but for now I’m using a single license of Reflection. Both work out cheaper than the other option of buying individual Apple TV units to connect to your whiteboard and work on Mac or PC.

Reflection worked really well, and the mirroring is easy to work over airplay. Just double click the home button and scroll across to find the mirroring icon, select it and turn mirroring on. That’s it, the ipad appears on the whiteboard to gasps from the children and you are good to go. It carries sound and video as well, so you can listen to recordings that children have made, or watch videos with sound which plays directly through your whiteboard speakers.

To start us off, we read a from a free eBook using the iBook app (see our class blog post). I gave one of the children on the carpet the iPad and the rest could watch on the screen. I explained that as we were reading the child could click on words to find out what they meant. We read aloud together and the child with the iPad immediately decided which words he didn’t understand and started to click on them. We then decided on a definition we understood and the child wrote a note explaining it in their own words. Other children offered advice on how to use the iPad, how to correct spelling and use the autocorrect. It was brilliant to see them working together and leading the pace of what we were doing, a great experience for me to step back and let the children take control.

iBook annotations
screenshot of iBook annotations

The notes from the iBook can be emailed, but I found that only the comments the children had written would be included in the emailed notes, not the underlined words from the text, so instead I have taken a screenshot. I had made a link to the blog post using a QR code and add it to our reading display, so the children can use the iPad and a QR code scanning app to take them directly back to the original post to remember what else we did that day when we were reading the book (a great idea adapted from John Sutton’s post about supercharging your class blog) . As David Mitchell points our, this is a brilliant way to link any digital work the children do to the physical environment of the classroom through displays or in their books and I’ll be adding QR codes to our displays whenever we have digital content to enhance it.

QR code link to blog post
QR code link to blog post

I made the QR code by using a neat trick on the the goo.gl link shortener to make the short link http://goo.gl/jy6h2 I then just added .qr to the end http://goo.gl/jy6h2.qr which makes generates the QR code image, right clicked and saved the image to a file for printing.