Sunday, 11 September 2016

Gopher science labs

Gopher : small , burrowing rodent .

So, what's that got to do with science?  Well, the Royal society of Biology  offers small grants to support transition between secondary and primary.

Further details Here

Now, generally secondary teachers apply for this, but I wasn't letting that stop me. I drummed up support from my local schools and applied.

Hey presto, grant received. Thank you again Royal Society.

After lots of emails we managed to fix a date and our local secondary school trained up some year 9 students to deliver a series of fun activities to year six pupils from the feeder primaries.

See some pictures Here

I will shortly be leading a staff meeting to share the experience and hopefully encourage others to apply for this wonderful opportunity.

Students teaching students.
Cross phase links.
Transition opportunity.
Fun science.

I'm still not sure what it all has to do with gophers, but it was certainly a great experience.

Why don't you go for it this year?  😉

Applications close end of this month.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Great way to start the year

I felt compelled to write this as soon as I came home; I have spent one of the most enjoyable days with my class today thanks to the BRILLIANT resources from  the ASE.
' Why you'll never catch smallpox'

My Year six class were captivated from the moment we started.
It certainly helped that the village our school is in is where Benjamin Jesty lived (see . Another session or two could follow up as to why he isn't as famous as Jenner.

There are enough activities to fill a week or a half term, but I had chosen just the 'Speckled monster' resources . At the summer PSTT conference ( see ) the resources had been introduced and the suggestion made that this would work well as a stand alone exercise.

We began with a chat about microbes and watched a cartoon about how germs from a sneeze travel ( 'That's so gross, I'm always going to keep my hands clean!' exclaimed one of my class)

We then watched the excellent film, James. Quite hard to watch at times, but sparked loads of discussion .

We used the concept cartoon to channel ideas and then embarked on the role play. I have fewer than 30 in my class so they had brought various toys in to make up numbers. Much hilarity as these were allocated as grandmothers, sons, butlers and others.

The children threw themselves into their characters and we're trying to guess who would 'get the pox'

We have recently introduced various signals across the school for behaviour management and these were indispensable as I could leave them to immerse themselves and quickly get their attention for the next part of the scenario.

Small pieces of wool were tied around little fingers of sufferers ( again much hilarity when this was a toy!)  The 'graveyard' was used to map the village and observe proceedings. Children were discussing where they thought the next victim would be, who would survive and so on. They were sceptical about the wood lice charm and agreed that they were pleased that such superstitions don't still exist. ( (Although , later in the day some of the children told me about various superstitions they had heard)

When we came to the end of the scenario there were cheers for the survivors ( funnily one of the tiniest toys that had been brought in!) and lots of talk about why that could have been.

The teacher PowerPoint was brilliant at keeping discussions on track.

We spent the whole morning on this , drew line graphs , looked at genuine case studies from Jenner's diaries and discussed how the language was different. We will spend a little time tomorrow to finish machine up the case studies.

The resources are all here :

A fabulous way to start the year off and great for team building. The resources are so accessible and totally age appropriate for my year  six class.  Curriculum constraints are such that time won't allow for a lot more , but the activities could easily be stretched out for longer . We have no internet in school at the moment , else I would have gone straight onto biography work. However, I shall return to this later in the term.  I would definitely use this to start the year off again .  Personally I like the fact this can be used as a stand alone and feel inclined to use it in the same way as it made such an impact . I can then revisit aspects as appropriate.

Check out the resources and see a different way of linking science, history, maths, English, drama, pshe.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Final day of Space Camp

Day five
Dan talked about camp opportunities for visually impaired students. Lots of wider full opportunities for disadvantaged students.

We then watched a film in the IMAX about future plans for Mars exploration ( narrated by the lovely Patrick Stewart) . After that time for gift shop.

Evaluations and post event questionnaire were next.

Opportunities that space camp has offered came next, then ablative shielding. We had to make a shield to protect an egg from five minutes of welding torch. Our team was successful.
We had a range of materials... Foil, mesh ( steel and copper) filler , card, cork, pasta sheets.

Here's our team's

Ablative shield

This was followed by graduation rehearsal!

We then listened to ....who wrote 'Rocket Boys' ( later a film based on the book, October Sky, was released) . Another example of what can be achieved if you 'Dream big!'

Graduation followed with awards for teams who had won missions and engineering challenges.

The evening closed with a meal and live band. I can count myself among the few who have danced under Saturn 5!

Have made great links with international teachers. United in our desire to make learning experiences relevant, stimulating, character building and fun, we will share how we take this collaboration forward.

Here are some other videos
Using the 1/6 chair Moon walk

Launching rockets Rocket

Mission simulator Capcom

Monday, 20 June 2016

Space Camp day four

Day four

Day begins with a simulation for a mission based in the past . Shuttle launch. We are representing Kennedy Space centre ( largest single storey building in the world , if no air con it would have its own climate with clouds!) . Also represent Houston and the Marshall operations centre. Their job was to monitor the astronauts and take once from Houston if their was a problem .
Our shuttle is called Atlantis which we will launch and dock with the ISS.
We have a training session in the morning and full mission in the afternoon. 👍
Rocket launch outside. Number 8
Following that , we did the 1/6 chair which gives an idea of what it is like to be in a low gravity environment.

We completed the mission. Our team were successful in docking and undocking the shuttle, but unfortunately crashed on landing. Oops! Houston, we have a problem

We listened to Honeywell ambassadors and completed activities on nano science.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Space Camp day three

Started with the mission. We were successful in our mission to swap a team on a lunar mission. Teams swapped and safely returned to Earth after experiments

After that we went on the space ride...scary!

Next rover and lander mission
 Have to protect an egg using materials provided. We have a budget and limited resources. Lander has to be dropped , rover transports the capsule. It will be dropped from the second floor of the building! All resources will be on the google drive.

After that we had lunch and then a trip in the cactus to the lake. There we took part in a range of activities .first was the zip wire. This was to simulate a crash landing in water. You climb a tower ( after being strapped in) and are then strapped to the zip wire. When clear to go you whizz down backwards into the lake which is a refreshing tonic to the heat. Once you have been un clipped you swim to the side where you clamber out.
The next activity was a simulated helicopter crash. Six in the dome which is plunged into the water and fills with water. The team leave via the door , one by one, and swim to a designated area. The whole team then swim to the landing area where one by one you climb into a landing net, are raised up and climb out.

Return to the centre and hear from Honeywell ambassadors. These are teachers who have previously attended space camp and share some of their activities.

First, Nadia from Romania. (11-18 physics teacher ) . She talked about activities she has carried out with her class. Also links with other schools in Europe . She has produced some resources to teach nano science. She also talked about ways that she has developed methodology in teaching to make mathematics more accessible.

Second ambassador talked about how he has used team work as his focus. Introduced a game called kahoot that can be used for multiple choice games. Discussed a range of team building games that he has used with children.

One of the main things that I have found from this experience is how similar our experiences are- assessment , funding, parental support, status of the profession. These were all shared. Interestingly there were no teachers from Finland, but this is a country recognised as having high standards and a well respected teaching profession. I would have loved to have had a conversation about this.  However, I have been privileged to speak to teachers from U.S.A. , Croatia, Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, Kenya, Turkey, Portugal, New Zealand, China, Romania, Germany, Canada. There are 25 countries represented in the group this week, but we are in smaller teams so I have not been able to talk to everyone! The team work, collaboration and shared passion to raise standards, to make teaching accessible and creative are something that the policy makers for the education systems in our countries could benefit from seeing.

Space Camp day two

Day two

 Team building activities at area five. Moving toxic waste without touching the bucket, balance board and confusion maze where we had to get across using three planks.
Team building
Team building 2
Team building 3

Followed by talk about ARISS communication wth the ISS via radio. Gives opportunities to talk to astronauts. Plus video from Tim Peake.

Rocket making. With high speed instructions! Will be lanced on fourth day. Good reminder of what it is like to be a learner.

G force spinner. Strapped in and spun to 4G . Very strange and not very pleasant feeling at all. But I did it!

Mission patch activity . Team activity to make a logo to represent the team. We have to create a patch that defines us as a team. Chosen a hexagonal outline which will include the six countries represented by our team .

Now space mission...

I am CAPCOM. This means that I communicate between places to tell the right team people what to do
We are doing a simulation set in the future where we have to swap over astronauts who have been on Mars with replacements.
We have a script to follow, but anomalies can occur. I am the only one on base control who can communicate with the module.  Did a practice run...hard to follow all the instructions and keep to time. Have to switch between channels and listen to what's happening in each section. Really interesting. Look forward to the full activity tomorrow.

Then feedback to each other on how to use activities in our classrooms.

Science on orbit.
How the ISS operates. Life size scale replica of the ISS. Fascinating insight into life onboard.
On board the ISS
Robotics workshop

Using Lego to make robotics. See some pics. Two wheels and 'make it easier to turn.
Now programming. Using a Lego programme which has drag and drop icons to make a programme that will move the robot.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Space Camp USA

Day one

I hadn't realised how significant Hunstsville was in the whole space programme. This is the place that the engines were developed and built for the first missions to space...those which flew unmanned, and those with chimps. Probably the most famous of all , the Apollo missions, all as a result of the work carried out in this once small , cotton trading town. President James Kennedy visited Hunstville and gave his pledge to support the Amercan mission to send a man to the moon.

It's somewhat surreal seeing the huge rockets reaching to the sky, but incredible to see the enormity of it all close up.

This is where I am staying :

First day included seminars from Ed Buckbee, part of the team who trained the astronauts on the NASA space program and Astronaut Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger. She was on the I.S.S in 2012 and had taken part in space camp here in Huntsville as a child!

Here's her presentation

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Space camp

I'm waiting for the final transfer of my adventure to the Honeywell Educator's Space Academy. (HESA) I will be joining 100 other teachers from around the world for five days of cpd based around STEM subject teaching through space education.
I will be making a video diary and am hopeful that the ideas gleaned will heavily influence my teaching next year... I have been drawn onto the maths and English wheel ( hard to ignore, even more so in year 6) . Perhaps next year there will be fewer changes (!) and I can be more creative in my approach. That's my aim...

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Teacher reference group. Are you listening?

Earlier this year the DFE invited teachers to apply for the new teacher reference group.

My initial reaction was "Fantastic, a real chance to have our voices heard."

I duly filled in the  application form and waited ( and waited) to see what would happen.

Well, I was interviewed and joined the 20 other new members at a meeting last month.

A fabulous group of teachers all keen to share what is and isn't working in schools at the moment. Ms Morgan made a (brief) appearance , Nick Gibb stayed a lot longer and genuinely seemed to be interested in what we had to say .

Now what?!

The answer seems somewhat elusive .

I think the idea behind the TRG is excellent...for far too long education ministers and civil servants with a range of backgrounds ( few from education ) come up with ideas that have enormous impact on the teachers in our country . And the teachers have little or no say . Could this be a step in the right direction? I really hope so.

Here are some ideas that I think will help move things in the right direction. I am a primary school teacher and fully appreciate that there are issues regarding curriculum and assessment changes for GCSE and A levels and apologise for not including these, but they are of course enormously important and must be addressed.

1) The DFE should take time to respond fully to the NAHT letter regarding this year's KS2 SATs.
2) The DFE should respond fully to the questions raised about the proposed resits for Y7 children.
3) A promise to gve schools far more notice about changes. More importantly, adequate time to implement.

I have just been invited to a meeting with the headteacher reference group to discuss KS2 assessments. I tweeted about this to invite opinions that I could take along. Crikey, hundreds of responses flooded my timeline. Such enormous strength of feeling must be fed back to the DFE and I will do my best to do so.

Will they listen? Will it make a difference?

I hope so.

Watch this space.

Meeting on June 27th...

Monday, 21 March 2016

Assessment without levels- what do the children think?

So much talk about the impact of the new ‘assessment beyond levels’ .  So much confusion over the new expectations and interim assessment guidelines.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with the constant stream of news updates/myths/scaremongering. 
What about the children?
In particular, the ones who are going to be taking the SATs in a few short weeks? How do they feel about all of this?
 I decided that to directly ask my class would not be the most useful way to go about this- and it is my job to protect them from all the changes and concentrate on the job in hand- teaching them! Helping them to improve and be the best they can be.
Instead I have talked to some Year 6 children about what they enjoy about being in Year 6, how they feel about the tests and the changes from levels to the new system.
This is a summary of their main points.


What is good about being in Year 6?
Being the oldest
Having more responsibilities
The tests
Getting to spend time at the secondary school to find out what it is like
The teachers

What isn’t so good about Year 6?
More homework
Worried about secondary school
Having lots of jobs to do
Last year at my school
Harder work
The tests

How do you feel about the changes?
I like the work being harder
I was in a year 5/6 class last year and we are doing more than last year 6 did
Too many spellings
I don’t like all the SPaG work
I used to know what level I was and what I needed to do to get the next one. I had a list of the things I had to work on. Now there aren’t levels (but some of the teachers still use them) I don’t really know how well I am doing. I know how many marks I get, and I try to get more next time, but I don’t know if that will be enough.
It’s annoying because the teachers don’t really know if we are doing well or not.
Well last year my friends knew what level they were and what level they were going to try to get to. This year none of us know what level we are. I know what I can and can’t do well. I’ve got a list of things to do to help me improve, but I don’t know how well I’m doing compared to my friends who have gone up to secondary school.

So, what has this told me? That levels were used to let children know how they were doing and where they needed to go next, that the children actually quite liked them. 
Has it told me anything I wasn’t expecting? Not really, but it has further highlighted the enormous impact that constant interference from ministers has on our education system. As a teacher, it is my job to teach my class to make progress, to build and develop existing skills, to learn new ones, to become independent thinkers, to question, to be curious, to have a thirst for knowledge and learning, to have the tools they need in order to be ready and resilient when taking on challenges.  (There are of course lots more , but these are the ones that spring most readily to mind). Not forgetting time to have a bit of fun in between all that too !

And that it is unsettling for the children who , despite the very best intentions of their teachers, are anxious about how well they are doing. I’m doing all I can to reassure my class about their progress, where they are , what they can /can’t do, what they need to do to make progress- all the things that teachers have always and will always do. But, it’s tough on this first group of Y6 children in particular. 

So, what is the answer? Say that everyone has met A.R.E (whatever that ends up looking like?)
Saying that no one has?
Thinking of a number and saying that a random % has? 
Exactly- none of these are satisfactory solutions.
 Chucking the whole lot in the bin?

Honesty and consistency is what is needed. The new A.R.E is NOT (despite what some have said) ‘roughly equivalent to a 4B’. They are more like a level 5.

One clear message needs to be given to ALL schools to clarify this. Teacher assessments are fairly/completely (select preferred option) meaningless with no idea of thresholds and are a guess at best.

I would like to think that things will get better. In the meantime, like every other year 6 teacher I shall carry on helping my class to be the best that they can be and keeping it real.  There is so much more to life than SATs. :-)

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Drama and Science

Since moving into Year 6 I have been determined to give the children plenty of opportunities for creativity. This has always been high on the agenda, but with new curriculum and assessments it has become even more important.

These are some of the most successful activities I have carried out so far this year.
Please try them out and feedback. I will endeavour to take photos next time so that I can include them. We were too carried away with what we were doing to remember to take photos!

1) The circulatory system.

I did this with my whole class as I am lucky to have a very small group of 20. With a larger class I would split it as follows:

2 children- lungs. Holding a container with red counters (or similar)

2 children heart- could make a 'bridge'

2 children- body. Holding a container with blue counters (or similar)

Rest of group- blood cells, start off at body with blue counters.

Children process round the body, through the heart, to the lungs where the counter is swapped to show the exchange of gases, back to the heart, round the body where the blood becomes de- oxygenated, back to the heart and so on.

Could have a couple of children beating out a rhythm on drums, or play a suitable tune to keep in time too (I especially like Mr Parr's heart song which you can find  here   or  for lots of others click here )

2) Pollination 

Again this can be done with the whole class or groups. No fancy equipment needed, just some space.

Some children- flowers- they need yellow counters/stickers etc. to act as pollen

Fewer children- bees/butterflies (or bats if you have been looking at a range of pollinators!)

Pollinators move from flower to flower, collecting and depositing the 'pollen' as they travel. This demonstrates how pollination occurs.

3) Electrical circuits

All you need is a group of children and a piece of thick cord long enough for everyone to hold when it is in a loop.

The loop is held gently by all (health and safety not to grip too tight to avoid burns)
One (or more) act as the cell and gently pull the cord to demonstrate the flow of electrons in a circuit. The more cells, the more energy . The fewer cells, the lesser the amount of energy.
The others can demonstrate resistance by holding onto the cord more tightly; this makes it harder to move the cord round the circle. If the cord is cut, the circuit is broken and the energy cannot flow all the way around.

4) Not so much drama as freeze framing . Light

Groups of children use string/wool to show the path of light from source to eye . For example one child acts as light source, string goes to object (child two) and then to observer (child 3) . This can help to show how light travels in one continuous line that is reflected from the object to the eye.
 Other groups can then narrate the path of the light.