Thursday, 15 May 2014

Don't be a kangaroo!

Testing is finished!

We are done! 

All of everyone's hard work (children and adult) from the past four years, summed up into 5 different test papers, each over and done with in less than one hour. This morning, I couldn't help but feel a little disheartened (although proud - very proud!).

However, this afternoon, a great gang of college kids came to school to do some sporting activities with our exhausted kiddies, which they loved. As the afternoon progressed and I watched them laugh, run, tease, lead, play, talk, plan, win, lose, comfort, encourage, support, strategise (and enjoy themselves), I started to change my point of view.

What will be will be, and I'm sure they've done brilliantly. But... regardless of the results, all that work has not been in vain, nor does it stop now. Everything they have learnt will go with them into the next stage of their life and we now get to spend the final 8 weeks valuing their other skills.

How sad for O, that she worked so hard but still struggled all this week. That she spent the year losing confidence but gaining in fear about what was coming. That she forgot what a great leader and friend she is but remembered that she didn't know her 3x table.

Well now it's time for a change. Time for her, and all the others, to shine!

My colleague sent me a link to this beautiful video:

It absolutely sums up what the next 8 weeks need to be about. Remembering that all children are unique, talented and special and that our success is not determined by our ability to write an essay, comment on an author's use of imagery or multiply 29 by 316.

Instead, our success is measured in myriad ways. Ooey Gooey sums it up nicely here and, in the meanwhile, I am so, super excited about our summer curriculum and giving them all something to be excited, proud and successful in!

And now, a special note to any of my kiddies, who are reading this...
Well done all of you, so much, on everything you have achieved this year. It has all contributed to making you the wonderful, funny, kind and dedicated young people you are today, and I can't wait to share our final few weeks together. Let's make them the best yet! 
Love from Miss O 

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Sorry seems to be the hardest word...

Every class has one. Let's call him Fred. The puppy-eyed, angel-faced, 'wouldn't-hurt-a-fly' Fred, who "would never have pushed little Timmy down Miss because that would be a bad thing."

As soon as your back is turned, thud goes Timmy.

Well, my Fred definitely didn't push Timmy over today, or call him names, or snatch the ball from him. No sirree!

Luckily, I had spent last night reviewing our Behaviour Management Policy and looking around at a more meaningful way to deal with inappropriate choices. Joelen, from cuppacocoa, explains it beautifully in her post: A Better Way to Say Sorry. Her post gave me lots of ideas, particularly about following through any incident with a chance to properly apologise.

A proper apology doesn't mean saying "Sorrrrrryy" or "Soz" or "Sorreeeee" or any of these permutations. It involves:

1. Taking responsibility for what you did... "I'm sorry that I..."

2. Understanding why this was wrong... "This was wrong because..." (note - it is not wrong because you got caught or 'Shouldn't have,' or because you're being told off!)

3. Explaining how you will change your actions in the future... "Next time, I will..."

4. Asking for forgiveness. As Joelen put it:

This is important to try to restore your friendship. Now, there is no rule that the other person has to forgive you. Sometimes, they won’t. That’s their decision. Hopefully, you will all try to be the kind of friends who will forgive easily, but that’s not something you automatically get just because you apologized. But you should at least ask for it.

Anyway, I really liked her approach.  I love that it actually made the children think about what happened, their choices and the consequences of those choices. So when Fred knocked Timmy down and proceeded to tell me that he hadn't done anything wrong, I took him slowly through the apology procedure.

I actually used this program from Kids Skills...

... which took us through the whole process and made it very clear.

After a really formative, restorative and useful discussion, Fred had produced this:

Now Fred is quite a lad and I tried to make it very clear throughout the apology-writing that, this time, he did not have to actually give it to Timmy but that we wanted to think about his actions.

Imagine my pleasure and surprise when, at the end of the exercise, he desperately wanted it printed and to present it to Timmy. I could not have been prouder!

This strategy is now going to become an integral part of our behaviour management in Upper Phase and I cannot wait to see how the children take it on!

I'm currently setting up next year's planner and think I'm going to include a tracking section for apologies and behaviour management, that way I'll be able to see how much progress they make over the year. I'll post it here along with my new planner review as soon as it arrives!

Thursday, 17 April 2014


In the spirit of using this blog to celebrate all the greatness in my life, I just had to share this JibJab video I made of my wonderful family - all except my Papa unfortunately (it would only let me have 5 people so I made it for him instead!) - being Happy! I love it! Enjoy :)

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Science Week!


I have decided that I love the Easter holidays. Not like. Lurrrve. If I could, I would fill the room with little heart bubbles.

I love that:

  • I get to spend time with my family (especially my Maman this time round - it was so lovely!);
  • I get to spend time with MJK;
  • I have time to mindlessly catch up on my favourite shows (seasons 1 'thru' 5 of the Good Wife anyone?!);
  • I have time to do some work and that...
    • This work does not need to be frantically catching up or preparing for the next observation or marking huge piles of books or worrying about testing;
    • This work can focus on reading up on other people's ideas;
    • This work can be creative;
    • This work can definitely involve ideas from Pinterest!
I love this holiday!

As part of all this creative fun, I've been focusing on/playing around with 2 things mainly. Firstly, our Science Week!

We're running this straight after SATs. I am so excited! The kiddies deserve a treat after all this push and I can't wait to share some of the amazingly fun activities with them. They will include:

Cholera day!

I know. The look on your face is probably exactly the same as the one my colleagues pulled when I told them! But it's going to be awesome! It is the brilliant idea of my co-blog-author, Miss Helen Peck and she is a scientist extraordinaire so.. 'ya know. 

They are going to be Victorian children living in Soho at the time of the big outbreak (August/September 1854) with a character card each and spend the day in role working out the cause of the disease. Drs Snow and Farr will each be presenting their theories and the children will have different sources (interactive, fun, drama-based sources!) to work out what is happening. I can't wait! If you're interested in having a go yourself - click the screenshot for the download of the plan.

We'll then have a day focusing on each of the following scientists:
  • Marie Curie
  • Isaac Newton
  • Galileo
  • Charles Darwin
(I am super excited for Darwin Day but keeping the lid closed on that for now! Be prepared for greatness!)

Anyhoo, lots going on that I'll share with you in the upcoming weeks! I'd like to leave you with the the song we made to arch over all our topic - there was much hilarity in trying to come up with some of the lyrics! For a while there, we got a little stuck on Marie Curie with...

"Won Nobel Prizes,
Then my husband dies-es'.

Glad we managed to step away from that one! Anyhoo, as we learn about one scientist, we'll learn their verse/chorus. I encourage you to sing along out loud rather than just in your head! 

{sings} "I throw my hands up in the air sometimes, singing Ayo! I'm Galileo!"...

Thursday, 10 April 2014

8 months later...


Well, firstly I'm...

I started this blog in the summer term with full intent, dedication and excitement. Unfortunately, I slacked terribly and dropped everything waaaay back in August! Who does that?!

Anyhoo, I'm back, on Spring Break (or Easter holiday as we call it in good ol' UK) and eager to get stuck back in. I've just ordered my new Erin Condren Life Planner (eeeek!!) and am so super excited to receive it and get my life back in organised mode - hence trying to catch back up with this blog.

Against better advice, rather than making my blog topics teaching only, I'm going to use it as more of a catch-all to focus on my new goal of spending as much time on my wellbeing, health and loved ones as I do on my job. Incidentally, I'm hunting for a snazzy, catchy phrase to sum that up and use as a mini-mantra to keep me on track. What do you think of these?

I wonder if 'you matter' is perhaps a little self-involved? 'A lovely life' seems so apt though - that is what I already have and what to change my choices to make even lovelier!

If you have any ideas, please do post them in the comments below. I'd love some feedback and thoughts!

I'm now going to tail off to clean my kitchen - step 1 in making better home choices :) I've actually been following FlyLady's website recently and my lovely Maman and I have prepped everything ready for a fresh start for zone cleaning. Let's go!

Chat very, very soon.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Hello Blogosphere, 

I am joining my friend, and amazing teacher ( see evidence of amazing stuff below) Claire in creating this blog. If you have already started following the blog you will notice that I have been extremely poor at actually taking all... so far. 

Let me remedy this situation. I have just completed my teacher training and am setting up my classroom for the first time. My school is an official Beach school and my class is called Sharks, so I have gone for the surprising theme of....The Sea! I'm so original!

Having spent 2 years as a hard done by teaching assistant ( joking, I loved it) I have had a lot of time to think about my first classroom, having watched several teachers try different approaches both to classroom organisation and decoration. I thought that this time had me well prepared for my own class but I found myself several weeks ago standing in an empty room with NO ideas what to do first. 

I want my room to be inviting and warm and have lots of access to the display boards as I try to use these as active, fluid, boards instead of static displays. 

Here are pictures of my first attempts to create a theme and to bring a room together ( not yet finished) 
More pics and info to follow, as term begins.

( Newly Qualified, Tiny Bit Terrified) 

Friday, 9 August 2013

Learning and Working Walls {PROJECT CLASSROOM SERIES}

So the holidays are over and it's time to get back to it. Although, I must say, I'm super excited! How lucky am I to have a job where I can't wait to get on with it. I am really privileged :D

For those of you who have been following my classroom thoughts, I'm running a short series this summer aimed at improving the use of my room, ready for when I can get there (only 2 days left now!!).

Today, I'm going to think about my learning and working walls. I don't know if many of you Stateside folk refer to Working Walls but we use them here as workshop displays that might involve anchor charts, key vocab, photos and images, really anything that supports the children and documents/guides their learning journey in a unit or topic. I love using them and we draw on them daily with the kiddies but I think they need sprucing up this year, especially my Learning Wall. My Learning Wall is where I display objectives, success criteria and examples of great learning for each lesson or session. In my school we use some acronyms for these three aspects:

WALT - We Are Learning To... (learning objective)
WILF - What I'm Looking For... (success criteria)
WAGOLL - What A Good One Looks Like (example of great learning)

I love using these abbreviations as, once the children know exactly what they mean, they are quick, short, sharp ways to refer to our learning expectations and they children use them in the self and peer-assessment all the time. It's so sweet to hear them talking about the great WILF that they've seen their friend use. What little sponges they are!

Our acronyms, especially WAGOLL, which made me think of a waggly-tailed doggy straightaway, led me to create our 'Learning Family': WALT (boy), WILF (girl), WAGOLL (dog).

They live in WILF's house, which is built on the 'Foundations of Writing':

1 - CIFS (What a sentence needs - Capital, Information, Full Stop, check for Sense)
2 - Handwriting
3 - Spelling
4 - Layout

... And the specific success criteria for the lesson go in the blank space of the house (I have it cut out and stuck to my whiteboard - that version is available on TpT alongside a template for printing it onto post-its for the kiddies' books).

Woo! What a ramble! Sorry about that - it's quite a thing to explain. Essentially, my Learning Wall is based entirely on these three acronyms and the little system we developed as a class around it. (The idea of WILF's house came about through one of my children, whose dad is a builder, once we'd discussed Foundations of Writing as a standalone idea - what a smartie!) Thanks to Scrappin' Doodles for her lovely graphics, which helped me to jazz up our class system!

Sooo.. let me (finally) get down to it. Here are my Learning and Working Walls as they stand:

My Learning Wall:

- Love the Miss Othacehe stickers above my desk. They mean that the kiddies never have to ask how to spell my rather tricky name and I can claim this little corner as my own. A little selfish perhaps, but necessary!
- Bright rainbow border with white backing - nice contrast here :)
- Space to store my anchor charts behind where my flipchart normally sits - great hidden storage!
- The marking scheme (available as a freebie at my TPT store if you fancy it) and Think About The... QUACK poster are useful to have on hand during every lesson, this location suits them fine.
- The big 'What Will I Hear You Saying' and 'What Will I See You Doing' buttons that help us build WILF/success criteria. Great to hear the kiddies using these phrases to guide their own learning!

- The super messy/cluttered approach :( It really distracts from the focus.
- No clear space for WALT. You can see I tried to create a section for WALT and WILF at the start of the year (before my new scheme and design) but they were just too small. I really want a large, dedicated strip at the top next year I think.
- Lack of border/jazzing up of any kind on the flipchart. It looks so bland and blends horribly into the rest of the board. Considering that this is where the main part of our learning happens, it needs to draw the eye.
- No clear separation between my teacher area (Thank you cards, documents pinned up, hanging file organiser) and the Learning Wall. Possibly confusing for the kiddies when they're trying to find the information they need.

And now for my Working Walls:

- The five blocked-out areas for the different strands of Maths that we teach, helps to make it clearer for the kiddies.
- The 'Questions, Comments, Ideas and Thoughts' posters to link to our Stop! Think! Jot! process in reading comprehension. (A fab idea which I 'borrowed' from Nancy @ Teaching My Friends - stop by and check out her blog - loads of great ideas!)
- The range of materials on display - I count anchor charts, images, diagrams, key vocab, examples of work, posters, pictures from the text, number lines, vocal prompts, post-its and exit slips. Pheww!

- The two completely clashing designs and backings. This was due to a last-minute inspection visit, where we were required to redo our displays into the 5 strands in the second to last week of the year but I still really hate it. Consistency! If in doubt, think 'What would Schoolgirl Style do?!' :D
- The unbacked, poorly-photocopied images on the Literacy board. Although WWs should be quick, this just looks scruffy.
- That my Reading and Writing boards have become one. We use a brilliant scheme (has revolutionised my Literacy teaching!) called Read Write Inc. to teach Literacy, which is based on one week of reading-focused activities followed by one week of writing focus, which works really well to develop a sense of the text and writing skills but means that I have condensed those two displays into one this year. It hasn't worked. Must make sure I have one board for each Literacy aspect next year. I really missed having it. :(

That's it! What an essay! As a thank you for reading, help yourself to a freebie of the Learning Family to adorn your own walls. 

Finally, I love reading your comments - let me know of any suggestions you have for my walls. :) Your comments and ideas would be really appreciated!

See you soon!