Monday, 11 November 2013


Well, today was one of the academic year's five CPD days.

One of the children in my class asked me, "Miss, what insect will you be on Monday?"
Me, "Um, well, I wasn't planning on going as an insect! Why did you  think I might be?"
"For the insect day of course!" came the reply with an incredulous look .

The penny (finally, it was Friday!) dropped. "Ah, I see ! Sadly it's not an INSECT day but an INSET day, when we go to have some training to help us become even better teachers. Although an insect day does sound fun!"

What other job are you going to have that kind of conversation in? None that I can think of other than teaching.

Well, after this morning I wish it HAD been an INSECT day. I'm sure I would have (flown) come away with some ideas.

I'm not going to name names but the morning speaker who had come very highly recommended spent the whole time telling us one anecdote after another. All very interesting (less so after break when we had no biscuits! Sealed its own fate by that time) , very interesting , but nothing new, nothing not heard before. SO, why on earth waste all that time when he could have spoken for an hour (tops) and we could have had productive follow up discussion straight after. Instead a whole morning.

I've got the task of organising a cluster INSET next year. Perhaps we should have an insect day instead?  No, I am joking- although it is almost worth a typo on the invites to see if anyone notices/comments!

INSET days must be purposeful, enthuse us and most importantly give us time to have meaningful professional dialogue. Today's session COULD have been so much more useful with a few tweaks.

These points I have taken away for future INSET sessions- would welcome comments/ suggestions:

1) Not seat delegates in rows
2) Not have more than an hour of being talked to (at)
3) Provide biscuits! (Yes, it does matter- fruit if we're being healthy although they're even worse for your teeth than biscuits with all that acid! )
4) Not try to reinvent the wheel- in one day that's crazy and been done too many times already, but avoid anecdotes and try to give teachers  things that they can actually go away and try in their classes.

These are some other blog posts which share how INSET can be ineffective. I look forward to writing about how the next one is better...

Friday, 30 August 2013

Calm down Jar

I came across this idea on Pinterest and have made a couple for the start of the new term.

There are loads of different webpages with these on; here is how I made mine.

Jars- didn't think that glass jam jars would really be suitable to give an angry/upset child so found some plastic ones on the web (300 ml seems a good size for little hands) which are "leakproof and unbreakable" ... we'll soon see.

Tried PVA glue- bad move as made the water opaque. So went for glitter glue (whole tube) some more glitter and some little beads and confetti (the type you get in a card shop made of plastic- not the wedding one HA!)

Then added a glug of glycerine (about 75 ml to the first jar which makes the glitter fall very slowly) and topped up with tap water right to the brim. Gave it a good shake and am pleased with the results.

Think I am going to superglue the lids on to be extra secure.

Plan is to use with children who are angry/upset...I have a couple of children starting with me next week who can find it difficult at times to calm down and this is something I haven't tried before. It certainly is very pretty when the glitter swirls around and it takes a few minutes to settle so not so long that it will become boring, but hopefully long enough to come down from seeing red.

Didn't have food colouring so used fountain pen ink which has given a more subtle colour. Not sure red would be a good choice!

Will blog once I have used them and share how they worked...

Monday, 5 August 2013

Job sharing in Primary- Making it work.

I have been working as part of a job share now for two and a half years. I’m still finding my feet with it but am writing this in the hope to help others who are thinking about it or starting. At the end of my first full year job sharing I blogged about how it had gone

I have really enjoyed this year- no irony in that statement at all. Even with a large class (35 at times) with the huge pile of marking, extra parent sessions, reports… There is so much in the press about teachers leaving the profession  Working part time for me has been the most positive step I have taken in my teaching career for some time. 

So, what works well in our class? Key has to be the communication. I have read about some teachers who are lucky to have some time each week when they are both in the class. Budgetary constraints don’t allow that at my school, but we do talk.
And talk.
And some more!

 We keep a book (filled two this year) in which we leave copious notes for each other. We talk on the phone at least twice a week. Oh yes, emails too! And the odd text.  Without that level of communication I can’t see how it could work effectively.  All the children and their parents know how regularly we talk about the class and this has helped us to build strong and positive relationships.  In an ideal world we would have one TA in the class who could be a consistent presence, but there are two of them as well! One works Monday and Friday, the other the middle part of the week.

We are very different in our personalities, in our teaching styles, in our interests. But what we share is our passion for teaching, for helping children to achieve their potential, to build their confidence and self esteem, to enable them to believe in themselves and to be proud of themselves, our class, our school.  We work in a school with a really well put together behaviour policy, that helps too.

When it comes to how we plan and deliver the curriculum that has been a constantly evolving process. Some subjects are split between us which works well. Maths and English (I know the terms are Literacy and Numeracy but I have a pet hate for those and insist on calling them maths and English !) Anyway, for the English this year I taught the majority of the genre work while my partner concentrated on the SPaG. This was commented on favourably by the subject leader during the course of the year through lesson observations and book moderation. We made good use of AFL so that areas that came up in my teaching needing reinforcement could be covered discretely and I would have a “zero tolerance” approach for the focus area each week. With the increased emphasis on SPaG we will definitely be carrying on with this next year. Of course there are also lots of opportunities for writing across the curriculum and we follow the Pie Corbett approach to non fiction writing and include all 6 areas each year so these are split between us.

Maths has been much more of a challenge. In the first year of job sharing we started by splitting the curriculum so that I did all the number work and my partner did all the shape,space, measure, data. This worked fairly well but my partner felt that she didn’t have enough knowledge of their ability in number.  We then tried to work as one teacher with one of us leaving plans for the other. It was a nice idea but planning for each other was very time consuming. This year we used the unit plans from the strategy and split the five units between us each term so that over the course of the yer we had both taught everything. This worked fairly well but is not the most consistent way for the children who would be doing one area Mon/Tues and another on Weds-Fri.

How are we going to organise it for this year? Not totally sure at the moment. Progress in maths was less than it was for reading and writing which would indicate that we need to look at how we are planning and teaching the subject. There have been some interesting ideas on twitter about planning the maths (   Having asked the twittersphere’s opinions it seems that the number/everything else split is the most popular…

Why am I blogging about this? Partly to share what has worked well, partly to find out how others are making their job shares work well. It’s a constantly evolving process. Being able to communicate well, trust each other, share similar values are all key points. Most classes have at least one teacher with PPA cover so job sharing is more common than one might initially think. Having someone who knows the children as well as you is a real bonus.  

Challenge for next year is to get on top of the maths and be as effective as we possibly  can. Anyone who has any tips to share please do so. 

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Grouping children in class.

 Last year I wrote about my experience of my first full year job sharing
Here we are a year on.  So, how did it go?

Teaching children for two consecutive years certainly has its advantages. I knew those children very well- knew exactly what they needed to work on to make good progress and make good progress they certainly did.

Whilst analysing the data it soon became clear that the year five children had made excellent progress, but the year four children slightly less so. Interestingly some of the more able children had made less than expected progress. Why should this be?

One reason could be that I focussed a lot of my guided teaching time on my most able children (as laid out in our SDP). Sure, they got good results but this has made me think carefully about how much time I devote with each group. With another large class next year (33 year 4/5 ) it will be a challenge! Ideally I would spend the same amount of time with each group but as any teacher knows that is easier said than done. Yes of course my weekly overview would structure who I would work with and when, but when using AFL and changing plans to best meet the needs of the children the groups themselves are changing .

Could the fact that the younger children in a mixed age class can feel eclipsed by the older ones and does this inhibit their progress? Certainly the majority of year five children  I taught this year made a lot more progress than they had the previous year when I had taught them as year fours.  Was this all down to the fact that I knew their skills so well? That they were so confident in the class set up that they were able to flourish? That being the older ones in the class gave them a heightened sense of responsibility which in turn improved their capacity for learning? 

This September I will again have a y4/5 class  and be carrying on with 14 children from the 12/13 academic year.  It will be a challenging year with a large class, a lot of children on school action and school action plus (just like any other class) along with the fact that my job share partner has moved on and a new appointment will be made.

So, what are my priorities? 

First of all consistency is key so should my temporary job share partner not continue, it will be all about making a new partnership work effectively. Although new to job sharing I feel that it has been a very successful partnership ; I will blog about it over the summer.

Secondly grouping the children in mixed ability groups most of the time. I use working partners (thanks to all the brilliant AFL resources by the wonderful Shirley Clarke and have groups of children needing interventions as appropriate. I am thinking of having discrete groups of more able in maths/english (still focus on the SDP) but the rest of the groups to be mixed.  I have always used a variety of grouping methods but gone back to traditional ability groups for the majority of maths and english lessons.  Will it work? That’s the challenge.

So I would really like to research a bit more about grouping the children. All my colleagues favour ability grouping. I’ve always played it safe with grouping in abilities for the majority of maths and english lessons.

I make good use of scaffolds, TAs, top tips, success criteria and various other methods to enable children to access their learning. But when the children do work in mixed ability groups (always for science and practical subjects) there is so much more of a buzz going on.

Have you moved away from ability groups? How did you find it? What worked well and what didn’t?

I will blog about how it goes once the term is underway.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Be a sticker not a quitter.

The angle was very acute.

This is the prompt for the 100wc this week. However, I have decided to write something else completely!

Be a sticker not a quitter

I have this written in my classroom above the board and it is something I find myself saying over and over again. As a primary school teacher not a day goes past that a child doesn’t find something difficult until that magical light bulb moment when you and they know that they have grasped the concept. It doesn’t matter whether it is being able to spell a word, make a prediction, work out a calculation, interpret a chart, spot the mistake , tie a lace… each and every step along the path to learning is important.
I feel it is vital to give children the confidence to have a go, even if they are not sure if they will be right or not, so that they can experience the pleasure that comes from success. And to learn to cope when things don’t go their way.  It seems that more and more this “stickability” doesn’t come naturally.
So, have I got a solution? I try to have an ethos in my class where every child feels safe and secure to have a go. We make good use of working partners and I have been totally sold on the use of lolly sticks (or similar) to choose children rather than hands up. Even the least confident children in my class will have a go and take part. Now that , in my opinion, is what teaching is all about. Empowering children to have the confidence to ask questions, want to find out more, not be afraid to have their own opinions.
I have been busy trying to organise a project involving all the local schools and have had to write a lot of letters, make a lot of calls and write a lot of emails . But, it is all starting to come together now.  
So, whatever comes with new curriculum proposals, I will keep true to my class mantra. If only the “powers that be” could remember that it’s all about the children, that it’s our job as educators to enthuse, engage, inspire a love of learning. Give them the tools to be able to find out more.

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” Plutarch.

Amen to that. 

Monday, 17 June 2013

If at first you don't succeed...

I am  in the process of organising a joint cluster INSET. Very exciting. Just waiting for funding confirmation from the AZSTT.
Have lots of great people lined up to speak, but am really hoping to book Simon Mayo.
I have written to him six times (and counting) and emailed a similar number of times.
I will keep trying and hope that I will get a reply. I am ever the optimist!

Now let's try this way!

Dear Simon,
I have written to you regarding a request to speak at a forthcoming conference involving the ten primary schools in our area and the secondary school.
I am a member of the AZSTT (Astra Zeneca Science Teacher Trust) and am presently putting together a bid to secure funding for exciting curriculum development plans for the 2014-15 academic year.
To start the year off I am planning an INSET for all involved and would be delighted if you could consider being one of our key speakers.
I am also an ASE member but am unable to make the conference later this month where you are speaking.
I know you are a very busy man, but would be very grateful if you could spare a moment to let me know if you would consider this.
I can provide you with any further information that you need and remain hopeful to hear back from you. I am about to post another letter to you also so I hope that somehow a message makes its way past the people who deal with your mail /emails and so on. 
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and I hope to hear back from you.
With kind regards
Mrs Halford

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

100 words week 92

This week’s prompt from Julia is, “Yellow”
Now, I haven’t done one of these for a while so it’s time I did something about that. So, yellow…

 Well, I like custard (a lot) and that’s yellow. I could write a poem about custard. Perhaps not.
Mustard, that’s yellow. Or brown, or speckled. I bought a red one in France once (rather delicious; must have been the wine in it...) Where was I? Yellow.
Custard, mustard. Could be a poem in that…
 The sun, that’s yellow; had almost forgotten what it looked like until the weather bucked up. Loving it. Although it won’t be long before someone starts moaning about it being too hot/dry. Ha!
Cheese, that’s yellow. Sometimes, although I can think of more that aren’t.

Back to the drawing board.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

100 words week 86

It has been a LONG  time since I blogged last- since Grandad died actually.
I still feel sad that he died just as we finished his memoirs and have had a bit of a writing block since.
So, I am going to have  a try with this week’s 100wcgu and see if I can get back into the swing of it.

I have been reading through my nanowrimo and am finding it incredibly hard to edit as some parts just annoy me as they don’t say things the way I want them to. I suppose I just need to persevere.

If I feel brave enough I might post a few extracts on here but not til I have done some more editing.

In the mean time here is my effort with the prompt, …the queue was so long…


“Come on!” Jess hissed under her breath, checking her watch for the umpteenth time and going nowhere fast. She was running late, as usual, and nobody was moving.

Who were they trying to kid with those ridiculous queue barriers?

Such a waste of time.

 It was far more fun in the old days when you used to try to second guess which queue would move first.


What fun was there in this system? The queue was so long that it actually went out onto the street.


When the alarms went off Jess just knew that it was going to be one of those days...


Thanks for taking the time to read. I will endeavour to resume blogging on a more regular basis!!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

100 words week 74

This week’s prompt was... “the extreme weather meant” Read the details here at

I tried to include it in a travel bulletin but that didn’t work so I have used it as the prompt rather than included in the text. ( That’s allowed isn’t it?!)

As I sit here this afternoon the snow has started again and it makes a very pretty sight. Snowflakes really are exquisite. I took some photos in the snow at the weekend but wished I had remembered my tripod to capture the true beauty of the snow. I don’t think any jewel can compete with a snowflake. I’ve never seen one to do so. Their beauty is partly in their transient nature I feel. 

I have recently changed my car to a little sporty number and as the snow is now falling rather more heavily am feeling a little anxious about driiving to collect my lad from after school sports. I think it will be a rather slow journey (and definitely no roof down!)

Anyway, here is this week's effort.

I am so so pleased to have finished my Grandad's memoirs with him. I have been reading them and listening to his recordings . How lucky to always have those memories .

I'll have a read of the others later; find them at

Here's mine

..the extreme weather meant...

Shifting into gear Mike cursed loudly as he caught sight of the time. An hour of his life wasted in a meeting that hadn’t gone anywhere and, to top it all off, the relentless rain had turned to a swirling blizzard.
The BMW’s rear wheels span uselessly and he switched off the engine. He pressed his forehead against the wheel and tried to clear his mind. He knew exactly what Veronica would say, how she would look at him.
And how guilty he would feel.
The phone buzzed angrily and Veronica’s face lit up the screen ,her cold eyes staring. He gently traced the curve of her face before pressing, “END.”

Sunday, 20 January 2013


I'm writing this as the sad  news of my Grandfather's passing hasn't yet fully sunk in.

I'm sad of course, but like to think that he is with his beloved wife again and it gladdens my heart to imagine them together.

The project we began to write his memoirs was completed shortly before Christmas and for that I can take some comfort. We will always have the record of his life to remember him by. He did so many things that he had not really spoken of.

Here are a few extracts:

"I don’t know anyone on active service who wasn’t scared stiff when they had to go into battle or face the foe, no matter what anyone said.  We are not all heroes, no one is really. You do what you have to do and that is that."   
 This was written about his service in WW2. To imagine what it must have been like for those young men.. To me, they were all heroes to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude and without whom I probably wouldn't be writing this! 

"We had physical training by a warrant officer called Matt Busby. All PT instructors were given the rank of warrant officer and most of them were former footballers. Matt Busby became manager of Manchester United and was eventually knighted. He was a delight to know and a good PT instructor."
Grandad was an incredibly modest man. He never bragged about things he had done, places he had been or people he had met over the years. This is just one example of what a fascinating life he led.

"People meet up in all sorts of circumstances and it was quite fortuitous really; we had both been invited to the same function and perchance we met. When we met I found she was a very intelligent girl, up for a bit of fun... I knew then that I had met somebody special"
This was about his beloved wife, my Gran. 

"She has been much missed by all the family and she was well loved by them and loved them all. There is not a day goes by that I do not think of her as I was so fortunate to have such a loving wife and mother of my children."

RIP dearest Grandad.
Much loved and will never be forgotten

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Happy new year and return to 100WCGU


It's been a while since I last blogged. 
I have completed my Grandad's memoirs- hurrah. He was delighted with them so I am very pleased to have achieved what I set out to do. It has been wonderful finding out so much about him and his time in the war and his working life. I hope the rest of the family enjoy it.
Term starts for me tomorrow and I have just about got the planning finished. I never plan too far ahead as it changes on  a daily basis depending on the needs of the children; but it still takes what seems like an age.
I am now going to edit my nanowrimo in earnest and see if I can manage to get a few more of these 100wcgu completed now. 
I also must get the decorating done. My lovely hubby and son worked out that if I keep on the present rate it will take me nine years to finish so I need to hurry up a bit!! Will do some after lunch...

Anyway, enough prevarication.
This week's prompt from Julia is
 ... you said you’d do WHAT?….
 Read all about it at 

Here is my effort. One of my aims this year is to tell less to the reader! I will try. 
Feedback is always welcomed- (comments are moderated to avoid spam) If you don't like it please tell me why!!
Read the rest over at


Clouds of smoke swirled as Big Jake exhaled. He stared penetratingly at Mickey.
“You said you’d do what?”
“Well, uh, I sorta thought it would help the guys.”
“You did, did ya?”
“Jonny said he’d help. ”
 “Hell no, it’s the first I’ve heard of it Boss. We gotta cut him loose, know what I mean?”
“Now c’mon guys, it’ll be cool. We’ll be outta there before you know it. All I need is...”
Big Jake leant forward and blew a cloud of cigar smoke in Mickey’s face. “All you need kid is to go back and tell them you’re not gonna do it.