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 part...at 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!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Holiday Snaps and Freebie!

Hulloh! I'm baaack!

After 2 wonderful weeks of sunshine, sangria and fabulous times, I'm now home. Apologies for the long absence, especially so close to my blog 'd├ębut' but in all honesty I feel no regret, the holiday was just fabulous! I thought I'd take the opportunity to share some snaps and highlights and so give you my first little hello from the real me! I'm also going to take this opportunity to link up with Blog Hoppin's Teacher Week: Meet the Teacher...

...and hope you enjoy some insight into the behind-the-scenes of the blog! Here goes:

MJK welcoming me to the Puerto Banus harbour. What beautiful weather after grimy UK!

No judging - my family and I play tabletop role games when we're on holiday. It's so much fun! This time, my sister and her boyfriend got a little too much into their character: Shikage, and went all out with their costumes! He even made origami Ninja Stars!

Some of my 'beautiful' family gurning at me on a night out for a yummy dinner (see the yummy dinner below!)...

Yum! The.. best.. paella.. ever!

On the final night, we had a disco party. As MJK and I forgot to bring costumes (hits forehead), he decided to don one of my maxi dresses. There ensued much mirth and merriment! :)

The next stage of our holiday was in the county of Bouillon, Belgium. We went on a little wander around this beautiful town...


The view from the chateau was incredible!

 What a sweet set of in-laws I have too :D

The town was so wonderful, we went back the next day for more...

The best moules-frites I've ever had (which is saying something as I'm french!) and...

swan pedalos!!! Luckily, I didn't have to pedal, the men took care of that :)

We finished off our two weeks with a romantic 3-day break in Amsterdam. It was my first time but MJK had been several times before. I think he enjoyed playing tour guide a little too much. He even had the accessories down...

Luckily, we protected ourselves from the rain through other means!

 Yummy waffles (we had 2 - very greedy!)

At the Amsterdam Museum above a 'Walk on Art' carpet. Tens of individual squares of art from different local designers printed into a long runner carpet. Fabulous!

 Beautiful little sets of bowls at the market. How I wish we had a car with us :(

 Croquettes!! These and Febo fed us for the three days pretty much.

Delicious lattes at a bar in the Red Light District. I love that they were served in glasses!

After three brilliant days (and lots of googly-eyed stares at the sights of the city) it was time to go home. MJK, ever the sailor at heart, was super excited to see our boat...

Isn't he cute!? The boat was fabulous but the most glorious view was that of England in the morning as we came into harbour.

As they say... "There's no place like home."

Hope you enjoyed this little insight into my life and that you accept my apology for my digi-absence. :) As a little thank you for reading, take these Guided Reading Rotation cards that I made in my first few days of holiday. I'm looking forward to using them in class (I get into my classroom on Monday!!!) and hope you enjoy them too!

UPDATE: Just remembered that I got the inspiration for the cards from 4th Grade Frolic and her oh-so-generous Facebook Fan Freebie of a Daily 5 Rotation board. Big thank you to her for all the ideas and inspiration. Head on over and check out her fab Classroom Reveal that she's just posted. Super jealous!