Tuesday, 6 December 2011

100WCGU wk22

Now for this week. Very simple:
…is it me or are bells ringing?….

My 100WCs have tended to be either serious, or sad. I thought that I would attempt to do something slightly more interesting. I must say that the original draft for this challenge was over 300 words, so a lot has been removed, but I hope enough has also been left for people to fill in the gaps for themselves.

"Boy," growled the stranger, "get to the bell tower and tell the monks to ring that bell for all they've got. I'll to the rest." He narrowed his cold, blue eyes and in that moment, the boy didn't know who he was more afraid of. He nodded vigorously and ran.

The stranger turned his back to the boy and stood resolutely at the foot of the bridge, arm casually resting on the hilt of his sword, staring at the enemy. The attackers smirked and drew nearer, almost surrounding him. Without a hint of fear, the stranger smiled,
"Is it me, or are bells ringing?"

He charged.

Monday, 28 November 2011

100 WCGU wk 21

This week's challenge is a picture prompt. I quite like picture prompts, they allow so many tangents.

Our classrooms are windows. Children's views are shaped by the pictures we paint, the opportunities they envisage. We are responsible for the window's upkeep: treat it with consistent care and attention and it will open seamlessly to worlds that are beyond their wildest dreams; leave it untouched and those worlds will remain forever out of reach. 

The window is open to the world to view, some outsiders simply point out what is missing from times they spent inside. Others like to castigate and deride. Most smile knowingly, remembering with fondness the people who opened windows for them. People like us.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Between Earth & Sky

I found this chapter I wrote a while ago, for a book that has never been finished. I would really appreciate some feedback.

I've uploaded it as a pdf, which is to protect the original work (just in case I ever finish it!).

100WCGU wk #20

The prompt this week is to use at least one of these for inspiration.
…the powers that be  /  the apple of his eye  /   the writing on the wall…

It was early in the Autumn
When she took herself away.
The trees in our orchard cried leaves for her;
She was the apple of their eye, their Mistress.

She said it was, "Inevitable".
Powers that be had deemed it so and so it was
Fruitless to pursue it.

Her one way trip.

The marks of her passing are writ large on the cold orchard walls.
They are writ larger, though, in me.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Homework isn't all bad

On Tuesday, I set the class a task for homework.

Build a rocket or spaceship

Simple, right? Well yes and no. I asked them to spend two weeks and they weren't allowed to cop out and buy a kit, they had to make it - the more homemade the better. There was also a catch to it too, Tuesday next week (29th November) we would have an after school gallery where parents will be invited to attend and see their child's work.
But wait! What about those who have obviously had help? That's allowed - as long as they admit it. There's this stigma attached by some educators to homework because of the notion that parents 'interfere' with homework tasks, so the work isn't a true reflection of the child's capabilities.

I'm really looking forward to bringing the parents into our class and letting them share what we do. Transparency is very important to me as an educator and engaging the parents by enthusing their children is the best tonic for our jaundiced education system.

I'll post photos and get the class to add blog posts in a few weeks. Fingers crossed people turn up!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Lest We Forget

This week's 100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups has an apt prompt this week.

Lest We Forget

My grandfather fought in The Great War. He signed up at 15, forging documents to do his duty. He spoke to my father about the tremendous guilt he felt about the things he did in order to survive. He was a kind and patient man, a quiet man with quiet ambitions. I never asked him about the war. In a way, by not asking I was honouring what he did. He knew he was lucky. I think that was possibly the heaviest of his burdens.

Under the clouds of war, humanity hangs on a cross of iron.  ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

Power to the People

I set up a Linoit page on my class blog, asking for the children to come up with things they wanted to learn about in the upcoming weeks.

I must admit, I expected the ideas to be a bit naff, like "Let's build a rocket and fly to the Moon for lunch." etc.

How wrong I was.

Here are some examples of the ideas they came up with:

I was so impressed with the quality of the ideas that they had, that this Wednesday afternoon, we are going to pick the best ideas and put them into the topic for this term. 

Power to the People. 

Friday, 28 October 2011

Space & Aliens

After a conversation on Twitter with a few people (specifically Nicki Allman & Dawn Hallybone) I had some help in brainstorming things I could teach over the next few weeks.

I should mention at this point, that I've not taught so far this academic year, due to breaking my leg just before the end of the summer holidays, so I still need to get to know the class. Nicki very generously sent me some fabulous plans for work based around Dr Who (the BBC Schools links are here). I'm definitely going to do a few weeks based on that, but I felt I needed a buffer, or a 'getting to know each other' week - but one that would allow a good deal of learning to take place.

I've created a topic plan for a week's worth of lessons (not including Maths, which I keep as stand-alone lessons) based around the book The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers
Please bear in mind that there are gaps & not a lot of detail, but if you can pinch an idea or two, then please feel free to. You can access the doc here.

Monday, 24 October 2011

100 Word Challenge week 16

Both images courtesy of Julia Skinner's blog http://jfb57.wordpress.com

This week's 100WCGU has to use the following picture prompt from the view of vegetarians. I couldn't decide what to do, so if you'll forgive me, I've attempted it twice. Good luck to me...

Attempt Number 1:
Vegetarian:(waving leaflet) "Do you know that McDonalds bid against Pedigree Chum for their meat consignments?"
Me: "Actually yes, I did."
Vegetarian: "And that there's more chicken in the packaging than in the nuggets."
Me: "I wouldn't be surprised."
Vegetarian: "You should try mung bean burgers. They're scrummy."
Me: "Why? I like the other sort - with meat."
Vegetarian: "That's disgusting. Do you know how many cows died to provide meat for your burgers last year?"
Me: "No, but..."
Vegetarian: "..7 million- and that's just the UK! Do you want to sign my petition?"
Me: "No, I want a Big Mac."

Attempt Number 2:

My wife is a vegetarian. She had never eaten meat. Her sister was the militant; forcing the family to become anti-establishment foodies, spouting the cause in favour of free-range goats & McEvil McConsumerism. Everyone else grew out of it, but Pam, well, she was institutionalised. She told me that it was the chew

"Nothing vegetarian has the resistance of a good slab of beef." 

I tried everything to cure her, but she resisted. Imagine my surprise when I came home to find her tucking into a corned beef sandwich. All it took was a dose of pregnancy. 

6 weeks left.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

ICT Self Assessment booklet

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across ICT Teaching & Learning Framework 2011, which was written by Matt Lovegrove and included contributions from Steve Greenfield, David Sheppard & Claire Waite.

Here is the Framework which can be found on his blog.

The beauty of this work was that it was licensed for sharing, remixing and adapting. This is exactly the type of thing we should all be doing in my opinion and I must sincerely thank those who wrote it for saving me a tremendous amount of time by not having to write my own.

What I did do, however, was to create a self-assessment booklet that can be used in conjunction with the framework.

I hate assessment, but this book allows the children to assess their learning at the end of the week. I've factored in time to my timetable to allow reflection. This, in turn, feeds into my planning & because it's done on a weekly basis, it's easy to keep on top of and lasts about 20 mins.

Here's an example copy of what I've done. Please help yourself to the word docs at the bottom if you want to amend and change things.

If you can't see the box below, please use this link to access the files

Monday, 17 October 2011

100 word challenge

Little puffs of brown meander their way to the hardening ground. The vibrant colours of endless summer have abandoned the world. Muted, the autumn leaves lead us inexorably towards the bleakness of winter. Our world is numbing. Fingers creep inside pockets. Coat buttons are done up. Smiles become grimaces.

Spelling Clouds

I hated learning spellings as a child. My mother would despair of me, because I would learn 7 of the pre-requisite 10 weekly spellings, as I figured out that my teacher would accept 7/10.

I hated the boredom associated with lists. Some people thrive on lists (my wife is the casing point) but I am more visual.

It was a tweet from @halfpintgill that sparked my interest.

I thought that was a fabulous idea - and one that I could turn into an ongoing record for the children.

At my school, we use Learning Logs for our homework, as a lot of schools do. I encourage the children to complete the work in a lot of different ways, online, through models, practically and so on.

This is an 'add on' to their homework where we will create a word cloud of the half termly spellings, where each week they gain another part of the puzzle. The idea is they can see their knowledge building 10 words at a time and can identify the amount of work that can be built upon gradually. 

All I ask is that they learn the spellings and create at least 5 sentences that incorporate as many different words as possible.

Here's what I mean:

In class, I separate children into 3 spelling groups in the traditional mode. Each group would be given their spelling list as a small image 5cm x 7cm (ish), that could go into their learning log on a designated spelling page.

Each week, the design is different, so that a collage of spellings can be created over time that will be eye catching. 

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Independent Learning

This evening on #ukedchat, the discussion was about 'independent learning' or 'IL' and it's importance in the curriculum.

In my opinion IL is an umbrella title, one so multi-faceted that we probably need to invest a lot of time determining the rationale behind it.

One point that came across was from Miles Berry that Independent Learning is something innate, present from birth as a survival mechanism so teaching it is contradictory. This is something that I agree with and yet we are in a system that has institutionalised our lives to the point where children are taught out of this. They become so reliant on being told what, when and how to do things, that they forget what they are genetically programmed to do.

And there's my mistake. I'm talking about these children in the third person. The point is that we have all fallen into the habit of providing knowledge as teachers. There is no blame associated with this, we are as caught up in the status quo as they are. We know, however, that we need to change and this evening was so refreshing to be able to see so many educators out there are changing or challenging the regime.

Independent Learning Opportunities in my class.
In April of this year, I created a Project Day. I looked at the work that Oliver Quinlan had been doing, to great success, at Robin Hood Primary School with his Year 4 class. I liked the independence they showed and the desire to see things through.

I spoke to my class, explaining that they could do whatever they wanted to do as a project, providing that they could produce an end product - and by that I mean that they could reach their goal in a day.

I provided a Project booklet, as a guideline, (which once I find on disc I will upload) and explained that the children had to book adult help. My teaching assistant & I blocked out 20 minute sessions and left the blank paper on the wall.

Creative Commons LicenseMy Project Book by Jim Maloney is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

If they didn't plan for help, they wouldn't get it.

The result was that the children went away, thought about what they wanted to learn, planned a learning journey, resourced the project themselves, showed time management skills, identified areas where they needed support, problem solved, adapted, communicated but most importantly, learned. Not just about the project, but about themselves as learners. They identified skills they didn't think they had and fell short of things they took for granted.

Here are some photos of the kids in action and a link to their comments on last year's class blog.

One child chose to compose and perform his own song.

Cakes created in an Easter basket. They were good.

snake skin modelling

Art Attack style fish tank.

A model of the Windmill in Staining. Detailed down to the door colour

Working on each other's project, to help everyone to finish

A wooden model of the Empire State Building. Eventually!

Book about his pets

Stop Motion animation

Water scenes.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Education & me. How we didn't get along

My father rang me up last week and explained he had found my old school reports and would I like to keep them. My reaction was adamant. No. Never. Full stop.

There are reasons for this instant decision. I did not do well academically at school. My reports are littered with examples my failures punctuated, rather unceremoniously with pompous and sardonic comments that did not, in any way, show who I was then, or am now.

That got me thinking. I was fortunate to go to a rather selective (and expensive) private school. I was told that it would provide me with a platform for the rest of my life. The school did provide good, solid ‘sit up’ education; I learned the classics, took 3 languages and played sport using facilities most people would give their right arm for. But by the age of 17, I was failing in every imaginable way.

I found that the education system I was in required a level of self discipline that I just didn’t have. If there was a crack connecting Set 1 and Set 2, I would seep through it into the next level and so on. I continued to seep until I hit the water table in Set 6. It was not for lack of ability. Teachers would mutter that I was ‘wasting my talents’ and ‘wasn’t it a shame’.

At 17, I made the decision to leave the school where I was, at that time, only studying 2 A-Levels (although studying is perhaps the wrong word) and moved to another school. Actually I decided to move to another country, in another continent.My father was working in Abu Dhabi and I applied to Dubai College. The condition of me going there was that I drop a year and begin my A-Levels again.
In my opinon, doing this demanded a tremendous amount of inner strength and a desire to not fail anymore. It is as if my educational gag-reflex had suddenly kicked in. Here was a kid who could have continued to coast, done nothing and gone nowhere, a product of a spoiled, Public School education, but I knew it wasn’t right.

Knowing something isn’t right and being able to change, however, is an entirely different proposition. In the film The Day The Earth Stood Still, John Cleese’s character said that ‘it is only at the precipice, that we change’. I didn’t change when I moved schools. But I moved to a system that would not allow me to fail. The teachers there spent hours (unpaid) tutoring me and motivating me and, from my teenage perspective, punishing me. They would not allow me to stand on the precipice unsupported, they tied a rope to me and said, “Go on then, if you’re that determined to mess it up but we’ll only pull you back afterwards”.
I couldn’t understand why they did this$ I didn’t know why they’d be interested in a kid like me who broke the rules, picked fights, was rude, argumentative, lazy and, in all honesty, a tosser. 

Now I do.

This self-destructive pattern is one that I see in every classroom I go into. There are children who have ability – and intelligence – but who lack the discipline to get what they need out of it. So the question I ask myself is, was it my fault I failed so spectacularly, or was it the fault of the system that I was allowed to?

As a teacher, I tell the children that I struggled at school. I tell them about my mistakes and we talk about how I should have done things. It grounds me, as a person, to hear them, at 9, extrapolate how I should have acted. It also enlightens children who see themselves in the same way that I used to as a child.

I could come up with a condition, like ADD, I do fit the profile, but I rather like Sir Ken Robinson’s approach to this ‘epidemic’. It’s a fallacy. I simply wasn’t saved in time to achieve my academic potential. But I was saved in time to realise that I could achieve something if I worked hard. After becoming a teacher, I have worked hard, but I’m always conscious of addressing the needs of the children I teach as individuals, not as a class. That way, they’ll look back as adults and realise that I caught them just in time.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

100 Word Challenge (this one has a ring of truth to it..)

"Now children," began Mrs Jobs, smiling, "today we have a very special visitor. His name is PC Harvester and he's going to talk to you about car safety."

“Reme...” As she spoke, the door opened and PC Harvester walked in.

"Good afternoon, children." exclaimed PC Harvester. "I have a question. Does anybody’s Mummy or Daddy drive quickly?"
Hands shot up and a voice from the back squeaked,

"My daddy drives fast, he has a Ferarri."

"Golly," said PC Harvester, "and does your Daddy wear his seatbelt?"

"Only when the bas***d coppers are around."

...out of the mouths of babes...

Sometimes we need to step back in order to move forward

It's been a while since I put fingers to keyboard and wrote something on my blog, or any blog for that matter. I think it has less to do with workload & more to do with overload.

Social Networking on various levels had begun to take over my approach to a lot of things, most noticeably my work, but it had begun to encroach on my personal life as well.

Frank, educational discussions were taking place after clocking out time, I would lie awake at night and follow a hashtag stream from an earlier Twitter debate. I would be sitting on the sofa with my wife, ostensibly watching the TV, but my head wasn't. I was actually becoming so obsessed with all things that were educationally cutting edge, that I was beginning to neglect my marking, assessment and correcting my planning where necessary. In essence, my desire to push the boundaries was threatening to impact on the children in my care.

But how did it get to this? Honestly, I don't know. I suppose I was trying to keep up with the Jones to a certain extent, but more than that, I allowed myself to open up to too many possibilities at once and as such I lost my way.

I've spent the last 3 - 6 months figuring out what I want direction I want my teaching to take, where I see myself being a few years down the line and I guess I need to fettle my interests a bit in order to come out of the other end a better and more accomplished teacher, learner and leader.

Monday, 28 March 2011

NZUK - Kids obsessed with my messy desk

After a request on Twitter for a link up with an Australasian school, my class have been linking up with Class 3 from Taupo, New Zealand.

So far we've been exchanging videos using Dropbox & messages using Edmodo, but we're beginning to build a relationship up with each other now. Something that I think the children are going to benefit from, long term & something that will help to broaden my horizons, as a teacher & leader.

Watch this space for more info.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Put your dreams in a box,
Tuck them under your bed
Away from sunlight.
You don't want them to spread.

Leave them there, out of sight.
Touch them not. Put aside
All your longings and wishings
And feelings you hide.

But I am the selfish, selfless man
Who returns to his dream box whenever he can.
Who looks at old visions each night, before bed
And tucks them up carefully, then faces ahead.

I am tired. I am worn down.
My dream days are dead.
So I'll leave my dream boxes here,
Under my bed.

Perhaps a stronger person will find them.

© J. Maloney February 10th, 2011

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Class Blogs Wiki - linking classes together

I was looking for inspiration for my class blog. One of the children had written a story and I posted on twitter.
Richard, a boy in my class who was 'allergic' to writing in detail, had posted a story off his own back and was developing his own style. I wanted to share this - for him.

He isn't the most confident of children and I knew that if he felt that he was valued as an author, it would encourage him to write more.

I didn't expect 13 comments. The response was overwhelming and it got me thinking. We should do this more as a class, but I only know a few blogs made by other schools.

So I tweeted again, using a hashtag of #classlinkup to encourage other teachers to share their blog addresses and therefore provide a comprehensive list of blogging schools for everyone to use.

This was taken up by a lot of people, who added their own class blogs to the list.


Then a chance comment by Oliver Quinlan @oliverquinlan got me thinking. I know there are lots of people out there who share and communicate with others well. But what about those who are like me? Willing and wanting to share, but not sure where to start.

So I made a wiki. It's called http://classblogs.wikispaces.com and it's only been going a few hours. The idea is that people all over the world can add their class blogs to it, and it'll make it easier to search for a specific year group, or topic.

If you want to add your school to the wiki, please do so. But can I ask a favour too? Please can you add a badge to your site, showing that you're linked to the wiki?
All you need to do is go to this page past the large image badge into a text box on your blog. Linking up will make us connect our children's learning.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I can't wait to see you added to the wiki.