Monday, 31 October 2011

How is spelling taught in your school?

I have just been to an excellent course on phonics and spelling but it has left me with the question of how is spelling taught in other schools?
At my placement school they teach spelling in KS2 by giving children a set of 10 words a week with a test at the end of it to see how many they have learnt.
However at the course they said that this was an outdated style of teaching and it should now consist of children being taught basic rules of how to spell words and applying them. They should learn things like common prefixes and suffixes to help them out.
It is suggested this is done with five short 15 minute sessions every two weeks.
It seems a great way of doing it and from what I have seen, spelling is one of the areas which children struggle at my school.
I would be grateful if others commented how spelling is taught at their school and what works best for them.
Thanks in advance

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Back to School

So the holidays are over and its back to school again tomorrow but finally I feel refreshed and ready.
It took me almost the whole holiday to get over my illness and I could literally feel my body say 'finally, let me have a rest!' but now I feel recuperated again.
It's a good job to because this half-term looks much harder than the last. Next week I am on a Year 6 field trip, then the two weeks after is my first teaching practice.
Add to that a scary amount of reading and I think my body is going to take another battering.
At least this time I can repay it with a massive Christmas dinner in eight weeks time!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

How to 'switch back on'

The half-term has been great and really given me a time to relax but now that it is getting close to Monday I am finding it really hard to 'switch back on' to teaching.
I find that I am making any excuse to pospone work (even writing this post is putting off lesson planning) and I need to get back into the right frame of mind.
Of course I have still done a lot of work during the week but it has always been when I feel like it so it hasn't seemed like I have been working at all.
My intention was to work hard yesterday, which didn't happen, and to work for three hours today before the football started. Well it is now less than two hours until football begins so that has been dramatically cut as well.
I know when I am back in school it will be fine but I need to nail down so I do not enter for my first lesson unprepared.
Lets hope writing this all down will kickstart me back into working mode.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Half term!!!

It has finally arrived and so far I am really enjoying the break. I was able to completely relax during the weekend, forget about the course and recharge my batteries.
But now it is back to working and today I have set myself the challenge of completing the 2,500 words I need to write for Assignment two. It is a big ask but I am soldiering through it and hopefully it can be done so I can put it behind me and tackle the mountain of half-term reading I have to do.
Because of this and trying to fit the rest of the things I want to do during half-term into the very short week there will be limited blogs on this site until I return to school on Monday.
I will do my best to put a couple up this week but for me it is important to get as much rest as possible so my blogging time will be turned into relaxing time.
I'm sure everyone else on a PGCE will feel the same need to relax as I am feeling now so good luck to you and enjoy the so called 'break'

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Parents evening

Just got back from my first taste of parents evening and must admit it wasn't as scary as I thought.
The class teacher obviously did most of the talking but I did manage to chip in with a few comments and all the parents seemed to be nice and supportive.
Think we are lucky at our school as the parents really want to help out and most asked what more they could do at home.
But I learnt a lot from the experience, in particular how important it is to plan what you say beforehand. My teacher had a general comment, literacy, maths and homework comments all prepared so it gave the evening a structure and looked very professional.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

QTS tests all passed and out the way :)

It feels more of a relief than an achievement but I have now passed the QTS literacy, numeracy and ICT tests and am in a situation where I can say to others - don't worry about them!
I took the plunge and did all three in a row and would recommend for others to do that as it just gets them out of the way in one go.
I didn't find them as hard as the practice tests on the TDA, although that's not to say I got everything correct.
Luckily for me, maths and English are two of my strong points so I didn't find I had to revise much at all but I can see that revision could be key for those who find it harder.
Especially in maths, there is a lot of questions that cover a broad range of skills so definitely complete all the practice tests and take a look at where you have gone wrong. If you do this you should be fine as there was nothing in the actual test that isn't covered on the online practices.
The biggest let-down for me though was the quality of the literacy test. English, and especially punctuation, is something I know inside out and I got myself feeling constantly frustrated by the poor text, which on numerous occasions contradicted what I had been taught and been using in my previous roles.
If this is the same for you then just learn to practice the test. Things such as every word of a job title being capped up just looks wrong to me (caps are something to be used sparingly as they disrupt the flow)  but that was four of the marks on my paper. 
But good luck to those still waiting to take the test and don't worry about it - there is much more important things to worry about this year!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Struck down by illness again ...

I have not even reached half-term and yet already I am feeling ill for the second time, which in turn is making me feel really demorilised.
I already learnt from my previous illness that teaching is probably the worst profession for being ill as you just have to soldier on as if nothing is wrong, even though you are wasting away inside.
The only saving grace is that half-term is on the horizon. I have never counted down to a holiday like I am to this one and I am not even going away. Seriously I think I am more excited about this 'week off' than I have been about any of my adventures around the world. Roll on the weekend!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Will I ever get my old dreams back?

It has been more than six weeks since I started and I don't think there has been a night that's gone past without me dreaming about school. Lesson plans fly through my head all the time and every night I just seem to dream about how I will carry these out.
So I want to know, will I ever have a proper dream again? Do these dreams become less often as it would be nice to dream about something completely different for once.
It isn't a really bad thing but would just like to know from someone who has done it all before as to whether you ever stop thinking about school?

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

An I love teaching day :)

Today was definitely one of those days that makes you think all this hard work is worth while and you come home loving teaching.
All I wanted to do when I got home was blog about it because I enjoyed it that much!
It all started with my first ever maths lesson, which I was so nervous about (especially after the disaster of my first literacy lesson). But I managed to take in all the feedback from that, put it into practice and the outcome was amazing.
All the children were listening, the classroom was a quiet place (although not too quiet) and the children were enjoying their work. The feedback was brilliant as well and instead of concentrating around me like before, it was about how I could set differentiated work so the children got more out of it.
Then came the unexpected call to cover a teacher during their PPA. Without time to think about it, I was cast into the ICT room and with a largely unfamiliar class I was able to control them and guide them in the right direction, I was really beginning to feel like a proper teacher!
With my confidence high I knew my literacy group work would go well but I didn't realise how well it would go.
The children were engaged all lesson, coming up with brilliant ideas and really pushing themselves.
This was topped off by the feeling of really getting through to one of the more problematic children.
At the end they were so proud of their work, saying how much they had enjoyed the lesson and what a nice surprise it was for them to do that amount of work in one literacy lesson.
Add playground duty and after-school football to that list and it all made for a very busy day but without doubt, the best day so far!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Pre PGCE reading

Someone has asked the question how much reading should you before your PGCE course, and at the risk of getting wrath off of lecturers this is what I have found so far in my experience:

I would say don't bother with reading loads of books before you start. I read a general how to be a good primary teacher one and looking back it wasn't beneficial at all.
I find the key to reading is being able to relate it to how you could use it in your classroom but before you start you can't do this. Because of this I can't remember anything that was in that book.
However what it did do was get me in the right frame of mind to get ready to learn again, I had a year gap between uni and my PGCE so that was useful for me.
If maths or literacy is a struggle though, brush up on your GCSE knowledge as you have to pass a QTS skills test which I haven't done yet but looks quite hard.
During the actual course there is a lot of reading but it isn't overwhelming, yes you can read every book under the sun but if you stick to what is asked and maybe a couple of others you find interesting you won't find your life overtaken by books (well not textbooks anyway).

Thursday, 6 October 2011

I survived! First literacy lesson is now done :)

The kids may have done their best to knock me down but I have come out of my first full literacy lesson still standing.
I will admit it wasn't the best lesson and definitely didn't go as well as I had hoped but there were a lot of positives and so many mistakes to learn from.
You always get told you learn more from your mistakes and I think I will find that out more than ever this year.
The start of the lesson was a nightmare as it came just after an argument with four of the hardest girls in the class which took the teacher half an hour to sort out.
Partly because of this but mostly because of my unclear instructions it took so long to get to the carpet and most of the time I was teaching the children were talking (apparently more than I noticed).
So off they went to do their work and up the noise level went. At this point to say the lesson wasn't running smoothly was an understatement.
However I managed to do what I thought would be one of the hardest skills and grab the lesson from the brink of failure.
I took them back to the carpet for the second half of the lesson, explained in no uncertain terms that their behaviour was simply not good enough and I expected.
This grabbed their attention so I could explain what they were doing for the remainder of the lesson and that went much smoother.
Then the plenery was great, my mento praised my choice of question and how they answered it, with all of them listening carefully.
But talk about a lesson of ups and downs to start off my teaching career. If the rest of the year is going to be anything like that lesson then I have quite a ride ahead of me

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Such a good training day

Today was one of the few training days we have as part of the course and wow, it was good!
There were so many bright ideas given to us that are so simple but so beneficial to the children, whether they are whole lessons or five minute fillers.
The lecturer went through such games as word tennis, alienation phonics, spot the difference (using text), missing item passages and loads more word games.
All were designed at increasing the children's word voacublary and all were really fun (even for us!)
That was followed by assessment for learning where we got given so many helpful hints to bring to the classroom.
Such things as talk partners, using lollypop sticks and even as simple as interactive displays for helping learning.
There is another training day tomorrow, I hope it is just as worthwhile!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Reading tip: Get The Behaviour Guru by Tom Bennett

It is literally the best academic book I have ever read and is a must for all trainee and NQT teachers as it gives so many tips and real life situations on how to handle a class.
Tom Bennett writes it in such a way that he speaks to the reader and makes it so easy to go through pages and pages without even realising it. He has done it so it is his own opinion and uses examples of what has worked for him.
In fact it begs the question that why isn't every book written like this?
I read text books because they are written by experts, people with experience in the field and so I want their view, not a winded up version hiding behind a million references in case it offends someone.
I would much sooner read what somebody has interpreted from their reading and experience rather than battle through the drivel of overcomplicated words with brackets every line citing some author I have never heard of, just so it doesn't look like it is the authors point of view.
One thing is for sure, if all books were written like this one, it would make the endless reading lists a lot easier and more entertaining to get through. It would also make them more beneficial as I have remembered far more from reading the first 50 pages of this book than I have any other book this year.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

A new beginning

Last week was not good for me, I felt ill, I was tired and my performance as a teacher dropped significantly but it was just the kick up the backside I needed to push myself forward.
It is a new week and a new me. I am going to more authoritative, more assertive and more self-confident in myself so that I can push onto that next step.
The first couple of weeks I did fine but I want to do more than fine now, I have had time to settle in and now it is time to become good, pushing for even better.
My mentor noticed a slip in my standards last week and ill or not, that is not acceptable so it won't happen again!
And this is the perfect week to put things right. I have a reading day tomorrow, followed by two university training days so in affect it has given me a week out of the classroom, a week away from the children so I can come back on Thursday with a new front. A strict front.
As part of a new me, I am going to try and ban tv in the evenings (except football) to concentrate on my work. Get a massive head start in assignments etc and spend my spare time watching Teachers TV and scrolling the internet for good ideas. Or of course do the extra reading every PGCE student should be doing!
Tomorrow is day one, lets see how long this intention can last.