I had my thoughts before the test came out today, I thought: this is going to be easy, we’ll nail this. I thought: What a horrendous amount of time, money and energy to be spent on what is ultimately a guessing game – it could have been written in Spanish and the children would have still scored decent points just from ticking boxes. I thought: Is this really helping our children to improve their writing?
Admittedly, they all sound fairly negative thoughts. Grammar is important! Nothing frustrates me more than seeing signs for ladie’s clothes and garages offering MOT,s – on Sunday’s too! So, yes, grammar is important. But what exactly is it that’s important? Knowing an abstract noun from a common one? Knowing the difference between a phrase and a clause or where to use inverted commas (which, I was always led to believe were ‘single’ marks not “doubles”…)
More important than knowing these things is understanding these things. Having the ability to use them in writing, to use punctuation and sentence order to make writing more playful, more exciting is key. When we first sat the practice paper a few months ago, my group all scored very highly. Much higher than I at first anticipated. Then came a question asking the children to punctuate two simple sentences with capital letters and full stops. They failed! They could not do it. All our work on subordination and dashes and the use of commas to embed a clause/phrase had not worked. They weren’t able to punctuate a sentence with the most basic of marks. Why? Because this was application and not knowledge. Not box-ticking.
Our year sixes sat their grammar test today and, although I never really looked (I never look at a paper once they’ve finished it – no point), I could tell they were buoyant about it, they felt positive. A small selection of children sat the level six paper in the afternoon and, dare I say it, enjoyed the grammar test. It is a very mechanical process, almost mathematical one of them said. The additional task to prove if they could apply it however, was one of the most boring and 2-dimensional pieces I’ve seen for some years. It gave no scope or range for them to be able to show flair and creativity. A real shame.
The upshot of all this… my views are that many children up and down the country will score highly, they’ll prove that learning grammar as knowledge is not a bad thing – tick for Gove. ‘Ooh, you see, it’s not so bad; let’s have it every year.’ The spag test this year doesn’t count to the overall English level, just RAISEonline. I think next year, it will.
I floated the Alice in Numberland maths project pack on the TES website but have also placed it here – I have had many people asking for it so they can tailor it to their own class/group that I thought it would be easier to put here.
By all means, take it. Use, abuse, distribute. I only ask that you leave a comment below or on the TES page.
I love a bit of Shakespeare. Even more so when I can see that a group of junior school children are equally lapping it up. To end last week, we had a debate: Who is responsible for the death of King Duncan?
We spent some time looking at persuasive language and how to structure a one-sided argument. We also looked at how to counter an argument; the vocabulary used and the way in which you could pick at your faults and negative aspects if you can then use them to strengthen your original case. The children already knew the story of Macbeth very well by now and used the Andrew Matthews’ Shakespeare stories as our text – very useful, even in KS3, I think.
After looking at the evidence, my group decided that four possible people were responsible: the meddling, deceitful wyrd sisters, the manipulative Lady Macbeth, the heroic-but-flawed Macbeth or the dopey guards…
They each had their own group (a 4-sided dice determined their fate) and they had to put together an argument for their ‘client’. They had two tasks: prove their client’s innocence and pin the blame/responsibility on someone else.
The TA took a small group of three to be the judge and jury. They had to listen to all the evidence before them (they were not allowed to take anything not heard into consideration – even though they knew it from the story) and had to listen to how persuasive they were too. Finally, behind closed doors, they made their decision.
This year, Lady Macbeth was found to be responsible. In previous years, it has been Macbeth himself and the Witches.
Such a fantastic few lessons, the children learnt so much, enjoyed it tremendously and were brilliant on the Friday.
Technically, not the #batttman, there are two of us: myself and Stephen Lockyer – a twitter pal that I have befriended recently. We thought about creating an account on twitter called battt and since its birth, has been pretty well received.
I hosted my first ever #ukedchat the other night (Valentine’s Day – madness, I know) and was extremely happy with how it all went. I think the thing that has stunned me more than anything else is just the sheer almost viral spread that has happened since we began. So many people are taking on other battt identities in their countries and are hashtagging battt even without us being mentioned – I mean, that’s pretty big. Great stuff.
I have reposted the #ukedchat post from the battt site here.
Last Thursday – that’s right, Valentine’s Day was my first stab at hosting #ukedchat. Stephen has hosted before but I was a newbie. We ran it as @battt and it was bonkers. So many tweets in such a short time period just about turned my phone, laptop and fingers into a blurry mess. It was great though, lovely to see so much interaction and enthusiasm from so many educators out there. @ICTmagic has placed the summary HERE in the archives but I thought I’d include it here as well. Double whammy!
Session 138: The Wonders of Twitter for Teachers
“What’s the point of twitter?”
“I haven’t got a smartphone, I can’t use it!”
“Why do I want to follow Stephen Fry and Justin Bieber?”
“I haven’t got time, I’m too busy marking or searching for resources?”
“What do you mean, ‘ask other teachers’?”
Ever heard any of these questions or statements? Ever been the one asking them?
For the uninitiated or unaddicted, Twitter is just another social network for people to lose themselves in; just like Facebook but without the photos of somebody’s dog or precious children. Twitter is so much more than Facebook, so much more than just random people’s streams of consciousness – yes it is that, but it is more.
I signed up my teacher account just over a year ago (with the arrival of my new smartphone) and have been staggered by the help, followers and general networking that I’ve achieved in that time. It was through twitter that I stumbled upon a like-minded educator called Stephen (@mrlockyer) we very soon hit off a bustling bromance and put together an idea called BATTT – Bring A Teacher To Twittter. The principle is very simple, as the twitter bio states: Bring A Teacher To Twitter. It’s simple: invite one of your teacher friends to Twitter, guide them, help them – let them loose.
We set up a twitter account (@batttuk) and a blog and set about trying to engage with teachers, getting them to cajole, interest, bully and tempt fellow colleagues into joining twitter and seeing its impact. I have used it so many times to ask for help, to see if anyone has a wheel so I don’t have to reinvent one myself or to offer help and wheels of my own.
We have been delighted by the success of battt so far; hundreds of people are following @batttuk and are now trying to set up their own versions of battt in their country – see here.
Lots of new teachers have been introduced and are actively engaging in twitter and blogging but we need to keep encouraging them, RT their work, introducing them, helping them – in short, doing all the things we said twitter was great for in the first place.
1: Lead them to water.
2: Get them to drink.
3: Get them coming back to the water to drink themselves.
4: Watch with joy as they lead others to water.
This is the basic principle of any evangelising, which is what we’re doing.
Both Steve and I were really impressed with the chat on Valentine’s night and the amount of people sharing their newbies and helping others. We did feel that the sheer volume of tweets and pace on the night was high – too high for a newbie, possibly mind-blowing. That’s why it is so important to keep coming back to any new teachers we have set up, keep encouraging them and making sure that it doesn’t just become another social network or a digital stream of consciousness but something with purpose.
Some notable tweets – there were so many, to be honest.
Ben Waldram is an assistant head at a junior school in Derby, he loves his job and is in charge of ICT; Y6 transfer & transition and SATs arrangements; CPD; AG&T; children’s camps; Y6 business projects; Investors In Pupils – Jobs; a hundred other things and the Fridge. He has a wife and two (and a half) children and likes tea.
He also eats more kebabs than he should
Stephen Lockyer is a Deputy Head in the south of England, is a father of four and adores innovation, creativity and lifelong learning. He is mastering the ancient art of Timetabling, and sees Technology as important, but not as vital as it may at first be seen. He is distinctly smaller than Ben Waldram, and only met him through Twitter.
I attended my first BETT show on Friday and saw so much, it was great to see such passion and enthusiasm for education. Sure, there were stalls trying to sell me bespoke furniture or showing me new and expensive ways of using old and dusty stuff, but, that aside, there was more than enough to enthuse and captivate me.
On the day, my mini-highlight was seeing @ICTevangelist and @ICTmagic facing off to show us a collection of brilliant sites to use. Some of them will be used by my children in the very near future – that, I am certain of.
As good as BETT is, for me the real buzz and learning took place in the evening. As 300 educators piled into the Platinum suite for an evening of presentations, laughs and networking.
The many talks were great, I soon lost track of how many people I needed/wanted to thank, talk to and my notes soon got blurred into a digital pad of ‘to-dos’.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first presentation with @mrlockyer and enjoyed the thrill of amusing people and giving a push to our new venture: battt (bring a teacher to twitter).
One of the strangest things, especially for a BETT newbie, is to meet with people I’ve been tweeting about and to for so long. There is that bizarre feeling of recognition and companionship with people I’d never actually met (well, a few).
For those of you, that I’d met and chatted to, I thank you. You made my first BETT memorable indeed.
I am excited to go and implement some of the things I have seen and to continue tweeting with you.