Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Strike day as a student

For those of you who don't know, PGCE students have no say in whether to strike or not as we are not employed members of staff and so for us it is a normal working day.
Well I say normal, my reading day has had to be switched to today so I don't miss out on a day at school so for me it means the hard work continues.
Today I need to start and finish a 2,500 word assignment and plan two observed lessons (one tomorrow and one Friday). I began work at 9am and am already 1,500 words in so it has been a good start but there is still a hell of a lot more to do.
On the controversial matter of strikes, I have the upmost respect for all of those fighting for the future of the profession and to save the pensions of all teaching. I do not necessarily think striking is the best way to go about it but I think in this situation I can see the logic of joining all the other public sector workers.
In a perfect world I think the boycott should be against things like the added paperwork given by the government, something which takes up as many hours as a days teaching but has less impact on the children.
But in this situation it is power by numbers and so I can see the logic on joining in with one day of mass walkouts.
I just hope the stigma of the profession is not dented and people begin to understand what is at stake for everybody in teaching.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

A good start to Year 1

Today was my first day in Year 1 and overall I would say it was a good start.
I still need a lot more practice until I will be as confident with this age as I am with my Year 4s but I can see myself teaching this level - an improvement from a couple of months ago.
The biggest problem I found was keeping their attention, even the class teacher found it hard to get everyone looking at her and she has had years of experience. It just seems at that age it is a near impossible job.
However, spending the day with them and seeing how the lessons are run has given me more confidence about my much feared six week placement next term and that can only be a good thing.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Nerves about moving to Year 1

My teaching practice is now officially over so tomorrow I start my time in the alternate Key Stage and I am slightly scared.
It is a big jump and the children seem so young. I am sure I will get used to it and in the end enjoy it but at the moment I am nervous about the transition.
Luckily I will only be observing this week so get a chance to practice adapting how I interact with the children and hopefully by Friday I will be much happier in this age group

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Why is it so hard to work on a Sunday?

Am I the only person who struggles so much to get motivated to work on a Sunday? It seems every week I put it aside to get a start on the huge pile of work I have but always struggle to get myself motivated.
I have been infront of my computer most of the day and have done a fair bit of work but I am sure I could have done a lot more if I settled down better. Instead I seem to be taking it at a leisurely pace, doing about enough but not as much as I had hoped.
For instance, today I have planned two lessons (one observed) and a science experiment for my assignment but I had planned to complete lesson evaluations and started my teaching practice folder as well.
I guess it all means the evenings will be hard again this week :(

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The workload is just getting stupid now

I would love to challenge the people who come up with the plan for a PGCE to practice what they preach and complete a whole year of being a trainee on their course.
It has been getting silly for some time but the next two weeks just seem to have tipped over the edge to stupid.
It is not the hard work I am complaining about but the logical thought in how it is set up.
There is 11 school days before, as a course, we break up for our reading week, followed by Christmas. Two of these are reading days and one is my final TP day and one is a review day leaving seven days. In these seven days I need to spend five in the alternate Key Stage, leaving two in my home class, which again seems fine. That is until they decided to cram three more observed lessons into these two days (which are split throughout the two weeks). So what that means is I will be going into the class, effectively clueless about how each lesson fits into what they have been doing and it will be so hard to follow their learning on lesson by lesson.
So I ask why the need for these three more observed lessons, they are hardly going to improve the teaching when they are scattered about so badly.
Also add on top of this an assignment that is 'conveniently' due in before our reading week and the timetable simply looks bizarre.
If a lecturer is reading this, please give me a reason to put me out of my misery as to why it is a good idea to structure it like this.
Because to me the logical thing would be to extend TP1 or include more observed lessons during TP1, have a full week, or two weeks in Key Stage 1 and have the assignment hand in AFTER the reading week!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Drowning in work

This week the work has just hit me and I have ended up spending nearly every waking hour planning, evaluating and making resources.
It is only Tuesday and I am absolutely exhausted so for that reason this blog will be really short and to the point.
My observed lesson on Monday went really well and will blog about this at a later point when I have more time.
I am loving being in charge of the class and feel the children are seeing me as a joint teacher rather than a teacher who steps in occasionally to take a lesson.
The pages and pages of plans are getting disheartening but I am battling through them.
And finally evaluation forms seem to be flooding out of my ears, I have done seven already this week and still have a couple more to do but I realise they are important on improving as a teacher so am putting the work into making sure I think about where the lessons have gone well and bad.
Now just roll on the weekend!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Half way through TP1

Half of TP1 is now over and so far it has been a massively worthwhile experience.
In the four days of teaching I have felt myself grow and develop as a teacher and have thoroughly enjoyed being the one in charge.
I have had the chance to lead whole mornings without my mentor in the room, giving me the freedom to express myself more and be that more dominant figure in the classroom. I often find I feel second rank when the class teacher is in as it is always her in ultimate charge but when I was left to my own devices it forced me to come out of my shell.
This will be tested even more next week as I take control for two full days (one of which my mentor isn't in school at all for).
But despite the positive first week, I know the hard bit is still to come. Due to having an INSET day and a lack of cover I haven't had any formally observed lessons, meaning I have three next week! These are how my TP1 will be marked so it's fair to say I am feeling slightly nervous at this point.
To help I have once again designated this as a working weekend and have already done most of the planning I can at this point, leaving me tomorrow to spend good time planning for Monday's observed lesson.
It is learning the six times table so tonight's job is to make a counting stick - a task which can easily fit in with Saturday night TV.
For those wondering about the workload there is a hell of a lot but I am still yet to work late into the night. My days have generally consisted of leaving for school at 7.30am, getting home about 6-6.30pm and then working through until around 9pm - apart from Friday, that was a well deserved night off!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The joys of PPA

I sit here tonight happily blogging away knowing that I have planned all of tomorrows lesson and marked all my books, all before 8.30pm and it is all thanks to PPA.
As part of my teaching practice I am entitled three half days of PPA, one of which I had today and managed to get so much done.
All the marking was completed, I evaluated my two lessons of the day and planned one for tomorrow.
It meant that after a long staff meeting, all I had to do was plan a single lesson for tomorrow and then put my feet up.
It is a treasured rest and I am enjoying every minute of it as I sit here in the comfort of my own bed.

The start of teaching practice

As you can probably tell from this post being written at 7am, time is a very valuable thing during teaching practice and there isn't much of it that goes spare.
However after day 1 I have been able to fit all of the necessary work into the waking day and have not had to stay up late at night to plan which is a definite bonus.
It means I am still waking up refreshed and ready for the day ahead.
As for the lessons, it was a mixed bag again - which is fast becoming the story of my PGCE.
Maths was pitched too high for them and they really struggled to understand the concept, meaning my timing went out of the window and the lesson didn't go particularly well. This thought was followed up by my mentor explaining it was probably a good job that wasn't an observed lesson.
But then literacy in the ICT room went better, not perfect, but better. Children stayed on task and apart from a couple of exceptions all managed to get the work completed on time.
Today is a little easier, I only have guided reading and a topic lesson (again in the ICT room) but my aim of the teaching practice is to improve each day so it means I will be putting just as much effort into the shorter space of time.
Also very much looking forward to my PPA time to get a head start on tomorrow's planning!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Preparing for teaching practice

With my teaching practice (TP) coming up this week I was worried that I would have so much to do this weekend that I just wouldn't fit it in but so far I am pleased to say that is not the case.
In fact I was so conscious of starting TP that I cancelled all my plans for the weekend just to concentrate on planning.
But what I have found is that I have had a fairly relaxing day, taking my work at a slow enjoyable pace and already feel ready for it to begin.
I have basically planned three of the five lessons I can do at this stage, come up with my reward strategy and created the resources to implement them. It means I just have two more lessons to plan tomorrow and it has dramatically reduced my fears of being overworked during the next two weeks.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Finalised rewards strategy

Firstly, thank you to everybody who contributed to my rewards strategy and all the advice that was given. I have taken it all in, had my idea approved by my mentor and here is the outcome:

I have kept the idea of having points per lesson but after the feedback I have made it much simpler. So now there will be a visual pointer, which will be aimed at either 0,1 or 2 points. Each lesson it will begin at the one point mark but if children begin to go off task, noise levels get unacceptable etc. I will move it down to 0. This will be done after a warning so the children know what it is for. They will then have the opportunity to improve and earn the point back.
Alternatively if the children contribute really well to the lesson and produce excellent ideas then they will move up to two points, or even be awarded a bonus point.

At the end of each lesson the points that they finish to will be added to a visual chart on the wall. This will be going up the wall and the point that they are on will be shown by a rocket (to fit in with the space topic). As they go past certain points (e.g reach 15) they will be have achieved a reward and this reward gets better as they move up the scale.

I will try and include a picture when it is all in place so you can see the visual aspect of it and will blog about whether it worked after my first teaching practice.

A day of two halfs

If ever there was a day to sum up the highs and lows of a PGCE it was today. My maths lesson was simply a lesson from hell, it went absolutely awful and left me wanting to hide away in a ball not speaking to anybody but this was followed up by a literacy lesson, which I think was the best teaching I have ever done and left me proud to be on the path to gaining my QTS.
I had spent hours planning it and getting the classroom set up but it was all worth it as it flowed perfectly and the children were engaged, enjoying it and actively learning.

Having read Shirley Clarke over the weekend I took the decision to ditch my usual regime of explaining the WALT, success criteria, then do 15 minutes input and leave them for 25 minutes on a task.
Instead I got them engaged instantly with an activity linked to the session, explained how it fit in to what they would be learning and then gave them small, 10 minute tasks for the rest of the lesson. The result was a smooth flowing, fast paced lesson where all the children came away with something from the lesson. I also ditched the carpet time and taught it all with the children at their tables.

All this meant that for the first time on the course I had found my teaching style, I was free to walk around the room and use my body language to add to what I was saying. I was able to show the enthusiasm I had kept inside me for too long and really 'put on a show'. I loved it!

Maths on the other hand was another issue, the work was too hard and from a class of 31 children I could not honestly say a single one understood the lesson. But like all things, I have learnt from it, realised I need to create the work to aim it at their level, rather than use prearranged worksheets and I need to be FULLY prepared for everything - it has made me realise being ready is not enough, you have to have covered every possible angle before you can deliver a decent lesson.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Falling out of love with all the reading

It's nine weeks in and the reading is finally starting to catch-up with me. I am far too often thinking what is the point in reading this? Or there has to be something more useful for me?
I think it has all come about because I have been finding more and more useful books during my independent reading and I am taking my time up with these rather than the course books.
It has resulted in me leaving reading lists unfinished and boxes 'unticked'.
However I am yet to decide if this is a bad thing or just a development of me as a teacher. I have not cut down on the amount of reading I just keep finding more interesting books that I can use.
For example Shirley Clarke is not part of our reading list and yet I got more from her book than I have from the rest of my reading put together.
So now I have found myself at a crossroads, do I spend the time reading to complete a reading list or do I change tactic and read what I feel will benefit me the most?
I'm sure the ideal choice will be read them all, or meet half-way in the middle but I am really struggling to get motivated to read outdated theories at the expense of quality new ideas.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Reward strategy idea

As stated on Twitter on Friday I have been given the task of creating a reward strategy to implement during my two week teaching practice coming up and would like feedback from teachers as to whether they think this will work.
My idea is to have a whole class points tally (which will be displayed on a rocket as our topic is space) with the more points the children get, the better their reward. It will be on a continuum with for example 10 points equals an additional fun game, 20 points five mins golden time, 30 points five mins extra play etc and wherever they get to in the two weeks will be their reward.

Points will be given out depending how the class behaves in lessons. My idea was to have a four point scheme per lesson. The whole class would start with three points each session and depending on how they behave will depend how many points they get at the end. If they are really well behaved and put in maximum effort then they will gain an extra point and have four points towards the total. However if there is points in the lesson where they go off task, misbehave etc I will drop them down to two, one or zero points depending on how bad it is. However the important point will be stressed that through good work they can get these points back before the end of the session.

I hope that makes sense and I would love any feedback or improvements that teachers could think of.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Want ideas? Follow ukedchat on Twitter

Every Thursday night ukedchat holds an hour long session where teachers give brilliant ideas on how to help the children's learning and is such a useful tool for all PGCE students and teachers alike.
I took part in my first session this week and gained five really useful points that I could put into my teaching and will do over the next week or so.
To follow the chat, simply find ukedchat on Twitter and log on to their screen at 8pm every Thursday. They also have numerous tweets throughout the week giving great ideas.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Must have book - Shirley Clarke

I am only 10 pages into Shirley Clarke's book but I have probably got more out of it than all my reading so far, it is simply a must-have for all student teachers.
Its title is Formative Assessment in Action and goes through exactly how to put AFL strategies into your teaching.
Our course is always explaining how important these strategies are but as yet has failed to really tell us how to put it into action.
Well Shirley Clarke does this perfectly and I genuinely think it will improve my teaching no end.
She also has another book Active Learning Through Formative Assessment which I have already ordered and look forward to reading.
This really is a great book to buy!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Ideas needed for a reward system

With my TP1 just two weeks away I have been given the task of implementing a new reward system for my lesson and was wondering if anybody has any tips that have worked for them?
My tutor suggested using a marbles jar, where children are awarded a marble for good work, which they put into a jar and aim to fill the jar.
However I think there are better options out there and want to hear as many ideas as possible.
The rewards available will be things like five minutes extra golden time, more play time, that sort of thing.
I have had a couple of thoughts which I will post on this blog over the weekend but want to see if anyone can suggest alternatives before I say what I have come up with.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Joining in extra-curricular activities

A little tip to all who are doing a PGCE and those looking to do one next year is join an extra-curricular club.
I volunteer to help out every week at the school's football club and love it, it gives you a great opportunity to se the children in a different light and out of the classroom.
It doesn't take up too much time - just an hour a week, but it is also something that can be put on the CV which I'm sure could become invaluable.
Most schools have a huge variety of clubs, whether it is sport, eco, school-council or art, there is probably one to suit everybody.