Friday, 1 June 2018

Preparing for learning over Summer

It is hard to believe that it is nearly the end of the school year. It has been a busy and productive school year, with all students having had access to a wide range of exciting, challenging and stimulating learning activities.

It is natural for parents to want this momentum to continue and they
are often anxious about how they can support the progress that their child has made over the year, during the Summer break. My clear advice is: don't panic about this!

Like us, children need a break to refresh and relax, kick back and focus their energies into other, also productive activities that translate into learning. Summer is often the time when our students travel, so naturally are learning about other cultures. It may be that they are at the beach, so are learning about water and sun safety. Most likely, they are spending the Summer with family members and this opportunity to develop relationships and spend time together is rich beyond words.

The only other advice I would give is to ensure that you keep your child reading. Read
with them, to them and let them read to you. Discuss their book with them- talk about the characters, plot lines, sub plots, themes and so on. For our younger readers, we often do see a drop off in reading levels because of not practising reading. This is not a huge concern for us as they do always catch up. But- we would rather see the time taken to catch up to instead develop them further as a reader.

Summer is a wonderful time to extend learning beyond the classroom with their most important teachers- their parents and family! If you have any concerns about this at all, please do talk to your child's class teacher.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

How do we decide on class groups?

It is that time of the year again when we are busy planning for the new academic year. An important part of this is to allocate the new class groups. This can be an anxious time for parents as they wait to learn who their child's teacher is and who their classmate's will be.

I understand this, so I thought it might be timely to let you know a little about the process.

Firstly, at Bradbury, we see social development as an important aspect of learning. Our students need to know how to make friends, to mix with a variety of people and be comfortable doing so. They also need to opportunity to be moved away from social situations that are not healthy for them. When I first arrived at Bradbury, classes were not mixed up at all. This meant that the students your child started school with in Y1 were the children that they graduated with in Y6. For me, this did not resonate as being in the best interests of all.

This was because over the years, some classes had become  imbalanced as the practice of filling places as they were available was implemented. Also, and really importantly, some children who did not 'fit in', were different in some way or who had fallen out with other members of the class spent many years in lonely social isolation. Mixing up classes annually was a way to overcome this and give all children the opportunity to make new friends as well as learning to keep and maintain already established friendships if these children were not already in their class- remembering that 25% of the original class is with them in the next year.

This is now an established part of our practice here at Bradbury. As you know, feedback from parents is sought to help us when making decisions around where to place your child. This is not a request for a particular teacher, but input into the social aspects of your child's life- such as letting us know if there other children that your child would be best separated from for a variety of reasons.

Teachers will meet and initially, we use a computer programme to sort the students of each year group into four new groups. Teachers are able to add parametres so that the initial sorting is somewhat targeted eg gender balanced. These new groups are then individually examined to ensure that we think they will be a workable social and learning group. It is important to know that at this stage, no teacher is allocated. The teachers look at any parent feedback (often, this is confidential to just myself and the phase leader, so it may be just us cross checking) as well as feedback from the teachers, for example, the Head of IN.

Once this is done, the lists are checked and rechecked many times to ensure that we are confident that the mix will provide optimal learning conditions for these
students. They then come down to the SLT and we all have another look at it. Once we are sure that we are happy with them, teachers are allocated to each class. They may be different teachers than in the current year group, one reason why parent are not able to request a specific teacher.

In this way, I can confidently say that the placement of each and every child at Bradbury School is well considered and thought about...Just one reason why we do not change placements after they are published.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Class assemblies are a great stage for learning!

I have just watched a Year 2 class assembly. I am always blown away by what articulate, confident and poised students we have at Bradbury. I remember these children's first days at school and it is a real credit to their Year 1 and current teachers and to their parents, that these little ones have come so far in their learning. I'm not just meaning academic learning, but social and emotional as well.

One of our IB Learner Profile traits is to be courageous. I know many adults who would not even contemplate standing up in a hall full of adults and children and talk, let alone sing and dance! And yet our youngest students are able to do this with ease.

This is about preparing our children for their future. We know that many of them will enter into careers that have not even been invented yet. Who would ever have contemplated 'blogger' as a profession 10 years ago? While we do not have a clear understanding of the knowledge they will need for their future (think about how emails have changed the need for knowledge around how to correctly format a letter) we do know that skills such as cooperation, collaboration, problems solving, and conceptual thinking will form a big part of the requisite skills. Along with this is the need for resilience and the ability to see things as a possibility, rather than a limitation.

This is the mandate for us as educators, educating our children who will be our world leaders, politicians and teachers of the future. They need to be able to think with flexibility and agility and to have strong sense of self efficacy.

How does this relate to class assemblies? Each small aspect of life that we teach to our students builds for them a strong future. This morning, our students told us about how they see our world in 2038. They told us that the oceans would be clean because of our actions today in 2018- no more single use plastic! They told us landfill would be reduced because we would need less clothing.

This tells me that maybe the most important thing that we are teaching our children is a sense of optimism and hope...based on our actions, no matter how small today. So... maybe
 no need to use that green plastic stirring stick at Starbucks!

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Planning for learning

Teaching is an amazingly positive profession and I have always been thankful that I made the choice to become a teacher, at the tender age of 16. At that age, I had no idea about what a challenging (but always positive!) profession I had chosen. It requires many complex skills and a deep level of understanding on so many levels. In any one day a teacher can be, in addition to their teaching role, a social worker, counsellor, coach, guide, administration worker, decorator, artist, chaperone, monitor...

One of the most important professional undertakings of a teacher is to plan their lessons so that each student in their care receives a quality education, one that also nurtures, challenges and extends them.

Typically, teachers plan on three levels:

Long term plans (LTP)- these are often in the form of the curriculum and  learning outcomes at each level on a continuum basis. At Bradbury, these take the form, for example of our Scope and Sequence documents, or our Programme of Inquiry (PoI) overview. These are 'big picture' plans and are broad and generic.

Medium term plans- these are based on the Long Term Plans and outline the intense learning for a shorter period of time, maybe a term, or perhaps over one Unit of Inquiry. These will give a more detailed breakdown of how the learning outcomes will be addressed. They are still fairly generic, although maybe personalised to a year group. These are usually worked on collaboratively. They are expected to include a sequential/developmental build-up of skills i.e. a progression of skills over a period of time based on the Bradbury School and ESF continuums.

Short term plans- this is where the real personalisation of deliberate teaching to meet individual needs occurs. These are completed by each teacher for each area of the curriculum, for example, literacy and maths. In these, learning objectives are clearly stated along with the learning activities, which need to match/reinforce the learning objectives – these may be current objectives or be for maintenance and reinforcement. They need to detail differentiation strategies, showing how different ability levels, learning styles or flexible groups of students are catered for. They also need to include the assessment strategies to be used, resources, how the EA will be used, and need to be completed weekly showing learning activities for each day. These can be modified throughout the week. Teachers can record their planning, to reflect individual preferences. They are detailed, precise and specific plans that require lots of professional knowledge to 'get right'.

In order to achieve all of the above, a good working knowledge of developmental stages of growth- both physical and cognitive, in depth curriculum knowledge and high level pedagogical knowledge is necessary.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

The importance of feeling proud

All of us, no matter our age, like to feel good about ourselves and that we have degree of control over our lives. This includes our attitude to how we see ourselves as learners and our ability to achieve or accomplish the tasks we set out to do- our self efficacy. A strong sense of internal control helps us respond in an appropriate way to negative events. This also relates to our ability to be resilient.

We want our children to have a positive self efficacy around their attitude to their learning, to feel that they can learn and can achieve their dreams and goals. One way of doing this is to ensure that they have something,  even just one thing that they can do well and are proud of. I mean, that they can do genuinely well.

Something that they have worked hard at, have practiced, honed and can deliver on. Not something we tell them they are good at, just to make them feel good (although encouragement has its own role to play!) This is important because it is all too easy to count up the things that we may not be good at, which may result in us feeling bad about ourselves.

I once heard that one thing that we are good at, our 'proud thing', called a compensation factor. The idea was that this one thing (there may be more, of course!) is our compensation for when we come across something we know that we are not good at. The internal dialogue would go something along the lines of : "well I know I am not good at X, but that's ok, because I am good at Y".

In my own family, I have a sister who excelled at sports when we were children. I did not. Where she won, I lost, time after time, year after year. However, I had a love of art and was good at it, winning competitions and pursuing it to a tertiary  level. Art was my compensation factor.

I have to say that I would have preferred to win a race rather than lose it, but I knew there was something else that I was good at and that losing a race was not the sum of me- it was just a small part.

I would encourage you to seek out and find your child's compensation factor if you don't already know it. It may not be something you want them to be good at or can coerce, it will be something that they love to do and are passionate about.  Art remains a love and passion of mine and as I have grown older I have added lots of other compensation factors to my life...although I would still lose every race I competed in!